Taking Stock

FTV_Terrill_MarcAs The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore readies for our Annual Meeting, marking the completion of another fiscal year and Annual Campaign, it is the appropriate time to glimpse back on the months that have passed. Through the year, we have had to navigate times of both challenge and jubilation.

It is hard to believe that it was a year ago that three Israeli teens were kidnapped while hiking near the West Bank. The ensuing search for the missing boys and the later tragic discovery of their bodies united the Jewish world in collective despair and mourning.

And, the realization of this national trauma put Israel and the region back into a familiar place of war and unrest. Rockets fired from Gaza on civilian targets, IDF responded and so on and so on. It was a long summer, to say the least.

Aside from hopes and prayers for peace and understanding in the region, our Baltimore Jewish community rallied with impressive human and financial support for Israel’s most vulnerable. We had a role to play and we did. Elderly were tended to, children received needed trauma counseling and the most pressing needs received the full heart of world Jewry.

Our concern for our global family also extended to those caught in the crossfire of political unrest in Ukraine. Through the work of our overseas partners, we were and are a lifeline to many who literally have no other source of support. Because of the strength of our Annual Campaign, we were able to ensure that those who require a caring, loving hand have one in The Associated system. We fed, clothed and provided relief to the poorest Jews on the planet.

Here at home, we were able to answer the immediate needs of our community and plan ahead for future generations based on the strength and wisdom of our centralized system of giving and collaboration. The Associated is dedicated to uplifting the vulnerable and inspiring a deep connection to Judaism, Israel and each other.

Because of the work we have done collectively as a community this past year, we are able to provide enriching Jewish programs for families with young children, meaningful Israel experiences for teens and young adults, rewarding summers for our campers, diverse Jewish opportunities for our college students, strong education for students with special needs, safe haven for survivors of domestic violence, career counseling for those in search of jobs, dignity for our oldest residents and so much more.

And we remain committed to tikkun olam, repairing the world. When there is an opportunity for the Jewish community to step forward and be good neighbors to all who live and work in Baltimore, The Associated and our community are present.

We could not accomplish any of these great strides for our community in isolation. It is thanks to thousands of generous donors and volunteers and partner organizations that we are a strong vibrant community and that we look optimistically toward an even brighter tomorrow. Through collaboration, cooperation and commitment to our sacred legacy, I know that the future years will be met with the same resolve as this one. Thank you! Enjoy the summer!

Marc B. Terrill is president of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. Help celebrate the end of the campaign year with The Associated on June 24.
Visit associated.org/annualmeeting.

What’s Wrong with This Picture?

Combining the June 12 JT’s “Triple Crown Jockey Sought Help from Higher Authority” (The Seen) with Rachmiel Gottlieb’s Your Say letter, “American Pharoah and Jewish Law,” yields an interesting question.

As Gottlieb noted, the Fourth Commandment says that a Jew’s livestock, as is Ahmed Zagat’s horse, is to rest on the Sabbath. By competing in a Saturday race, the horse, as well as Zagat, was violating the Sabbath. The jockey, then, sought the Rebbe’s blessing for success in an enterprise that publicly violates the Sabbath! And for those who argue that Zagat does not own American Pharoah, rather that a corporation does, Jewish law does not recognize the existence of corporations, just partnerships.

Embracing Your Jewish Identity

The cheer “Identity, identity, who am I? A BBG” has become prominent in every BBG’s life. (BBG is the girl’s division of BBYO.) Being Jewish isn’t just a phrase, it’s who you are. From May 15 to 17, more than 60 Jewish teens from BBYO Baltimore Council had the opportunity to go to this year’s Council Convention at Camp Louise. The teens definitely cheered this cheer loudly, and this time they took it to heart.

Being Jewish hasn’t always been easy for me. My middle school had just four Jewish kids including me. I didn’t know quite how to encompass my heritage. But when high school rolled around, I became a part of BBYO. BBYO has given me so many opportunities to embrace my Jewish heritage. Council Convention was one of them.

We passed around a house made of paper and talked about when we felt most welcomed. We then signed the house with our names in a heart: BBYO is our heart and home. Some girls mentioned how they felt welcomed when they traveled to Israel. When one girl visited, she was extremely nervous, but as soon as she walked in the door of her host family’s home, she was treated with the utmost respect and hospitality. The family embraced her with open arms. This is what BBYO continually does for me.

I want others to know that being Jewish shouldn’t be something to hide. I know that when I was in middle school, I was hesitant to share my thoughts about religion. I was even worried about inviting my friends to my bat mitzvah, but they ended up being very supportive, and I am eternally grateful. But, to the Jews who don’t have the kind of friends that I had in middle school, I want them to know that in BBYO, you can embrace your Jewish identity to the fullest.

Unfortunately, Jews in some other countries are not as lucky as we are. They are constantly fearful of being caught with a Torah in their hand or a yarmulke on their head. In places such as Turkey, where anti-Semitism exists, Jews take many precautions to hide their identities.

It is gatherings such as the Council Convention that make me feel proud to be a Jew. When I’m in the middle of a cheer circle, screaming BBG spirit songs at the top of my lungs, I know, more than the fact that my throat will be sore the next day, that I am a part of something bigger than myself. And that feels pretty good.

Being Jewish is so much more than synagogues and matzo ball soup. Being Jewish can be anything you want it to be. I love being Jewish, and I embrace that every day of my life. I want to make sure that others are doing the same.

Sara Rike is a freshman at Franklin High School and a member from Orali BBG in the Northern Region East: Baltimore Council. To learn more about BBYO, contact Danielle Hercenberg, BBYO Baltimore Council regional director, at bmore@bbyo.org or call 410-559-3549.

Spark that Ignites

Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief

If you’ve been lucky enough to grow up in a family led by an artist, as I have, then you know that the power of art to transform acts not only on those who passively behold it, but perhaps more profoundly on those who create it.

Such is the story of Baltimorean Arnold David Clapman, a curious musician who has played with and for the greats, but discovered who he truly is returning five years ago to the city he hadn’t called home since 1962.

The journey back, as you’ll read in this week’s JT, had Clapman’s proverbial tail between his legs. But the Weinberg House is now a regular fixture of the resident’s social — and musical — scene, and for those who know him or have heard him play, Charm City is a richer place because of him.

Today, Clapman is living the very Jewish ideal of being an agent of change.

“Music is at the core foundation of Judaism. … That’s the spark that ignites when everything of consequence takes place,” says Guitars of Pikesville owner Joshua Polak. “It’s at the core of who we are. I’m not just talking about music, I’m talking about any sort of artistic expression where all artists find ourselves.”

Clapman discovered his calling and through it, found himself. That’s an inspiring lesson for life: Other traditions place an emphasis on contemplative journeys faced alone, that one’s true spirit emerges when he is walled off from the world outside. The Jewish worldview, on the other hand, demands engagement with the world, entangling oneself in the demands of the moment, in the needs of others. It requires a creative mindset, a dedication to improving the ground on which you stand and the people with whom you interact.

The reward in the midst of this transformative journey is true self-actualization, the idea that you — along with everyone else — serve a crucial role of infinite importance.

It’s a message that has bearing on our interpersonal relationships and on our relationships with our inner selves. And, projected more broadly, it implies that efforts to build actual or symbolic walls are ultimately designed to fail.

We can see this at play locally, where communities that have walled themselves off — or have had figurative walls built around them by others — are stagnating. For the last couple of years, city planners across the United States have been touting the benefits of zoning that creates mixed neighborhoods made up of high, middle and low-income housing, with all three taking up space on the same block or in the same development. But in the areas of Baltimore ravaged by the late-spring riots, along with the lack of jobs, there was little in the way of the kind of forward thinking that comes from people of different backgrounds and experiences interacting together as a community.

On Monday, Gov. Larry Hogan took the occasion of a celebration of private funds reinvigorating the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center in West Baltimore to announce $3.3 million being made available by the state to provide summer jobs to the city’s youth. It wasn’t so much the idea that the state was funding community projects — it should — that was inspiring. The real news was that a fire dispatcher got local businesses and organizations,including the Baltimore Jewish Council, to add to his contribution of $30,000 to the center for technology improvements.

The action is emblematic of the kind of “we’re all in this together” mentality that will transform our community, and the kind of spirit that animates Clapman and so many other people of goodwill who call Baltimore home.

jrunyan@midatlanticmedia.com

Diane Rehm’s Loyalty Oath

Diane Rehm, National Public Radio host  (BILL GREENBLATT/UPI/Newscom)

Diane Rehm, National Public Radio host
(BILL GREENBLATT/UPI/Newscom)

Public radio host Diane Rehm is known for running a genial, intelligent and well-informed talk show. But during her interview with Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders last week, something went very wrong. Prompted by a listener’s post on Facebook, Rehm stated that Sanders, who is Jewish, had dual citizenship with Israel.

“No, I do not have dual citizenship with Israel; I’m an American,” Sanders, an Independent senator from Vermont who caucuses with Democrats, replied. “That’s some of the nonsense that goes on in the Internet. But that is absolutely not true.”

Rehm then asked the Vermont senator: “Are there members of Congress who do have dual citizenship or is that part of the fable?”

The Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish groups have properly blasted Rehm for the exchange. The question of dual citizenship is akin to the charge of dual loyalty, of which Jews have perennially been accused. Rehm fed into that canard, and put Sanders in the position where he had to restate that he is an American and had to reaffirm his loyalty to our country. By doing so, Rehm ventured into the dark territory of conspiracy theorists. She should have known better.

Rehm has apologized for, among other things, stating Sanders’ dual citizenship as fact rather than posing it as a question. And she said she regretted not going with her gut instinct when the listener’s Facebook post looked suspicious. The list of members of Congress with dual citizenship that the listener referred to was, in fact, a hoax. “I should have probed further. I should have looked into it myself when the doubts came into my own mind,” she told NPR ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen. But she didn’t, and that’s a shame.

We’ve come to expect conspiracy mongering from talk radio and from the fringes of the American left and right. But for it to come from an otherwise reputable host on public radio was jaw dropping. Whether Rehm’s fact checkers are at fault is not the point. That she presented a conspiracy theory as a legitimate topic of inquiry — forcing Sanders to respond — reminds us that being intelligent and well- informed does not immunize a person from being misled by the convoluted logic or made up facts of anti-Semitism. The fact is, Rehm chose to launder hate speech and attempted to pass it off as intelligent discourse. That is as sad as it is dangerous.

Count Blessings We Have Levinson

I am writing in response to the JT’s June 5 cover story “The Cost of a Dignified Burial.” At a certain point, the article seemed less about Jewish funerals in general and more an opportunity to focus on our local Jewish funeral home. I regularly provide rabbinic support to Sol Levinson & Bros., and there is no praise high enough for the compassionate and professional care they extend to bereaved families. From the directors who meet with families to the men and women in the back rooms and back office, I am continually impressed by the outstanding staff at Levinson’s. I know from firsthand experience a family facing financial difficulty will find that Levinson ensures that the needs of the deceased are met with dignity. It is also interesting to me that your reporters relied so much on the Jewish Funeral Practices Committee of Greater Washington for their story. Anyone who remembers the reason for the founding of that committee in Washington appreciates the absolute professionalism encountered here in Baltimore when working with Sol Levinson & Bros. On a more personal note, my mother’s funeral in North Florida was conducted out of a chapel owned by a huge multinational corporation. My family did not opt for limousine service or a fancy casket, and the fees for her simple graveside service exceeded $10,000. Baltimore’s Jewish community should count its blessings that a local family with strong local commitments is at the helm of Levinson. Otherwise, we might need our own Jewish Funeral Practices Committee here in Baltimore.

Israel: A Trip Worth Taking

The picture of the young man in Israel (our grandson) that was included with the JT’s May 29 story “Dollars and Sense” was outstanding. It shows reflection and dedication, and it is wonderful that our young people have the chance to visit there. We hope all the students who have visited — or will visit — learn about that interesting country.

Rabbi Riskin Under Fire

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Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Riskin is a well-respected and accomplished modern Orthodox

rabbi. In the 1960s and ’70s he was among the leading voices in the Soviet Jewry movement and led the Lincoln Square Synagogue in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, a hub for the area’s young modern Orthodox population. He made aliya in 1983 and became the chief rabbi of Efrat, a large settlement outside Jerusalem that he helped found. His municipal chief rabbi position is a government job, under the jurisdiction of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate.

Riskin has been an influence in a brand of Orthodox Judaism that, while conservative by outside standards, is progressive in the Orthodox world particularly in the areas of women’s rights and conversion. He has taken positions on issues that are at odds with those of the Chief Rabbinate’s haredi leadership. And now, the Chief Rabbinate appears to be trying to silence him.

Riskin recently turned 75. Under a little-used rule, any extension of a municipal chief rabbi’s position beyond that age requires the Chief Rabbinate’s formal approval. Riskin has been summoned to a hearing on June 29 to discuss his reappointment.

The Chief Rabbinate has been the subject of much discussion in the Diaspora and in Israel over its control of personal-status issues for Israelis in such areas as marriage, divorce and conversion. It is also charged with the supervision of Israel’s holy sites. Over the last several years, it has been accused of intolerance toward pluralism, of de-legitimization of non-Orthodox streams of Judaism and of injecting politics into religion.

In a similar vein, critics accuse the Chief Rabbinate’s treatment of Riskin as driven by purely political concerns and part of a larger effort to address dissention in their own ranks as well as the growing influence of leftwing expressions of Judaism in Israeli society.

If there are legitimate reasons to question Riskin’s capacity to continue to serve in the municipal chief rabbi position he has held for more than three decades, those concerns should be fully considered. But if the invocation of the obscure rule of procedure is part of an effort by the Chief Rabbinate to silence debate over its controversial haredi-led policies, the effort to remove a lion of the modern Orthodox movement for something as petty as his age will likely be a major misstep.

 

American Pharoah and Jewish Law

The JT’s June 5 editorial “The Crowning Glory of American Pharoah” describes owner Ahmed Zayat as “… deeply religious, observing Shabbat even on the days his horses race – he apparently stays with family and friends in hotels near race venues, arranges catered kosher Shabbat meals and walks to the races – is a testament to the fact that in today’s world, religious conviction needn’t stand in the way of accomplishment.” Really? The Fourth Commandment stipulates that one’s livestock, as well as one’s family, is to rest on the Sabbath. (All Triple Crown races are run on a Saturday.) Moreover, according to the Shulchan Aruch, any profits made on Saturday must be ceded to a non-Jew — at least, this is the convention observed in contracts between Jews and non-Jews in the matter of the ownership of property and usufruct. Therefore, the lavish Triple Crown purses, halachically, can/should pass to a gentile.

Open Letter to Tom Brady, Master of the Inflated Lie

Dear Tom: I came to the United States after a childhood spent in hero-worshipping British soccer players. Whether from Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United or Arsenal, these teams contained individuals who were nothing less than divinely inspired in their extraordinary athletic abilities, heroic gamesmanship and the adulation they inspired because of the stratospheric standards of play that they brought to the game.

Then I came to America, and I saw American football. At first, I viewed this sport as a game fit for elephants and bears. I just couldn’t understand how anyone with a slightest sense of athletic ability could ever call this game a sport. Not only did it welcome an entire litany of physical violence, which, out of the field, would have created a rap sheet of creative assaults as long as your arm, but it also seemed to stop every few moments just when you thought something was actually moving.

And then, Tom, I watched you and the Patriots. Already a rising star, not only in American football, but also in the eyes of those who knew of your great potential, discipline, uncommon abilities and great athleticism. And not just in the football world, but in the greater ESPN world of sports everywhere. I saw how people worshipped you, elevated you, spoke with such esteem about you. I became a great fan of yours and an even greater fan of the Ravens. You made me a believer, and for this you were my secret tutor and teacher.

But now you entered the very sordid and sorry world of cheating. The scandal of Deflategate is possibly the most insignificant, stupid and, at times, laughable incident to hit sports news in a long, long time. After all, it’s not wife beating or criminal assault. And, Tom, as you yourself admitted: It’s not ISIS.

But it is the need for even a most adulated player to do something illegal in order to attain a high level of adoration even at a cost to standing, character and integrity.

You have it all, Tom. Did you really have to demean yourself, put your entire life’s sports successes in such jeopardy as to do this and then lie about it? In this regard you are no different from anyone else. Despite it all, you just showed how low you have come from the extraordinary heights of adulation to the ordinary depths of self-preservation. You have now not only a very questionable record on which to hoist your life, but now the question is: Do you
deserve to be called a Patriot? For in this behavior, you have acted in the most unpatriotic of ways.

I do hope that my own personal sports hero, whom I have virtually ebraced and followed these past 20 years, tennis star Roger Federer, allows me a lifetime of adulation as a true hero, who never compromises that admiration and hero worship by an act that will deflate my esteem.

Tom Brady, you have so much more to learn.

Rabbi Chaim Landau is rabbi emeritus at Greenspring Valley Synagogue.