The Challenge of Being One

090613_Rabbi_Mitchell_WohlbergThere are approximately 14 million Jews in this world, among whom about one million consider themselves Chasidic. The Chasidim are separated into 30 different sects, or dynasties. Three of the most significant
dynasties — Satmer, Bobov and Vizhnitz — are split in half. Each one is divided within a family, whose leaders are either brothers or close relatives who often don’t even speak to each other. So, if that is what it’s like in just one narrow corner of the Jewish world, what is one to say of the broader Jewish world? The fact of the matter is, within most every Jewish community there are strong divisions and conflicts.

We are one? No. Not at all. All we can really say about the Jews is: We are one of a kind.

The truth is, there have always been divisions among our people. What makes today’s divisions more dangerous is that frequently they have come about because extremes within Judaism operate on the assumption that those with whom they disagree will disappear. In the early 1980s, when the Reform Movement voted to accept patrilineal descent to identify a Jew, this caused an irreparable division among our people. It was thought by many Reform leaders that ultimately their decision, due to pressure, would be accepted by Conservative Judaism and that those “old-fashioned black-hat Jews” would eventually be swallowed up and disappear in modern America. That has not happened. Similarly, there are elements within the Orthodox community who attempt to deny the existence of Reform and Conservative Judaism, operating on the basis that given the rate of
intermarriage and assimilation, those Jews will eventually disappear. That is not going to happen.

We may as well get used to the fact that come what may, we’re all going to stick around. That’s what history teaches us … that’s one of the things that make the Jews one of a kind.

As long as we’re going to have to learn to live with each other, we might as well accept the reality of the words of the famed Maharal: “If the thing is impure it is impossible that it will not have some purity within it. Likewise, if the thing is pure it is impossible that it will not have within it some impurity. And man, too, is variform in thought … it is impossible that all human thought will follow one path.”

With this in mind, I have always been guided by the principles that: Judaism may not be pluralistic, but Jews are.

We can disagree without being disagreeable.

Every Jew has the right to be wrong.

Let God judge, we are not His policemen.

Like it or not, we need each other.

All of the historic accomplishments of our generation — the re-establishment of the State of Israel, freedom for Soviet Jewry, the establishment of day schools throughout America — came about because Jews of all backgrounds stood united.

While there does seem to be a major divide separating the Jews from Park Heights Avenue from the Jews from Owings Mills, on Mount Royal Avenue — at The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore — we all come together as one. There, we are one.

If we can do it there, why not everywhere?

Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg is spiritual leader of Beth Tfiloh Congregation, a Modern Orthodox synagogue.

Uncompromised Commitment

090613_Rabbi_Moshe_HauerTo grasp the Orthodox perspective on Jewish unity requires an appreciation of two fundamental Orthodox beliefs, one of which challenges our religious unity, the other of which strengthens our national unity.

1. “I believe with a complete belief in the divinity and the immutability of the Torah.”

This is a fundamental religious assumption of Orthodox Jews. It is a simple restatement of the eighth and ninth of Maimonides’ 13 Principles of Faith.

Our belief in the divinity of every word of the Torah defines our mission and fuels our passion for living a fully observant life, with all the sacrifice that entails. It explains how hundreds of thousands of Orthodox Jews not so much as flick on a light on Shabbat, carefully monitor their food’s kashrut and sacrifice financial stability for the sake of their children’s Torah education.

This perspective informed Jewish learning as practiced by the Sages of the Mishnah and Talmud, by Rashi and Maimonides and by subsequent generations of Talmudic and halachic scholars and laymen. Classic Torah study was a process of exploring and analyzing the Torah as a God-given document. New situations and applications required discovery of how the divine, unchanging principles were to be applied, and these applications were endlessly debated, leading to an infinite plurality of halachic opinions. But aside from marginal movements such as the Saducees and the Karaites, within the community of Torah study there was no consideration of whether the divine, immutable principles should be rejected or changed. And this approach is alive and well in the contemporary Orthodox community, in its yeshivot, synagogues and homes.

This belief makes religious unity among today’s different streams more than challenging. While we are people of the same Book, we are not on the same page. The non-Orthodox approach to Torah functions without these cardinal assumptions, making its mandates less compelling and its principles subjective and changeable. While there are certainly religious matters we can agree upon, the basic assumptions are fundamentally different, creating a religious gap very difficult to bridge.

2. All Jews are responsible for one another; a Jew is always a Jew, even if he does not practice his faith.

It is a fundamental Jewish belief that Jews are absolutely connected to one another. This connection must express itself in an uncompromised commitment to each and every Jew’s well-being.

Orthodox Jews are avid students of Jewish history, ancient and recent. We do not study history academically, but as the story of our personal identity. We see ourselves as the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, of Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah. We see our past and our future in the land of Israel and raise our children on Jewish stories and on a steady awareness of current Jewish events.

As such, a large part of the foundation of our identity as Jews is not how we live our lives because we are Jews, but the appreciation of our roots and history and what makes us Jews. This is something we share with every member of our people.

The Orthodox community prides itself on its uncompromised commitment both to our Torah and to our People. I hope and pray that all of us throughout the broader community can strengthen Jewish unity by enhancing the Jewish identity and commitment of our respective communities.

Rabbi Moshe Hauer is spiritual leader of Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion, an Orthodox synagogue.

Worldwide Sukkah Directory

A world-wide registry of Sukkahs has been set up, and is listed online at localsukkah.org.

The directory has been designed for Jews to locate a Sukkah near to them, so that they can go there to eat. The idea of this service is not to list every Sukkah, but to try and have a Sukkah listed for every area in which Jewish people may find themselves during Sukkot. The main focus of this service is to enable people who work on chol-hamoed to eat lunch in a Sukkah that is close to their place of work. As all listings are confirmed annually prior to publication, the benefit of the list is that users of it can be almost certain that the Sukkah that they wish to use is indeed available prior to heading there. The list also includes details of numerous Sukkahs that would otherwise remain unknown to many users of the list.

The service is also available via Android and Apple apps.

If you have a Sukkah that you would like to register, email details to register@localsukkah.org.

 

This Past Year In The Jewish World

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From wars and elections to scandals and triumphs, a look at some of the more dramatic events of the Jewish year 5773.

September 2012
• Islamists throw a homemade grenade into a Jewish supermarket near Paris, injuring one. The incident is part of a major increase in attacks on Jews in France in 2012.

October 2012
• William Herskowitz, a member of an internship program in Israel for American Jews, shoots dead a hotel employee in the Israeli resort city of Eilat and then kills himself following a standoff with police.

• Arlen Specter, the longtime moderate Jewish Republican senator from Pennsylvania whose surprise late-life party switch back to the Democrats helped pass President Barack Obama’s health-care reforms, dies at 82 following a long struggle with cancer. During his time in the Senate, Specter offered himself as a broker for Syria-Israel peace talks and led efforts to condition aid to the Palestinian Authority on its peace-process performance.

• Jewish groups pull out of a national interfaith meeting meant to bolster relations between Jews and Christians following a letter by Protestant leaders to Congress calling for an investigation into U.S. aid to Israel.

• Alvin Roth and Lloyd Shapley, American economists with ties to Israeli universities, win the Nobel Prize for economics.

• The Israeli Knesset votes to dissolve, sending Israel to new elections for the first time since 2009.

• Women of the Wall leader Anat Hoffman is arrested at the Western Wall and ordered to stay away from the site for 30 days after attempting to lead a women’s prayer group at the holy site in violation of Kotel rules. The incident, which is witnessed by dozens of American participants in town for the centennial celebration of the women’s Zionist group Hadassah, stokes outrage among liberal American Jewish groups.

• Israel, a heated issue throughout the U.S. presidential campaign, is mentioned 31 times by President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney at the final presidential debate, which was devoted to foreign policy and held at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. Both candidates sought to score points on the issue, but actual policy differences seemed to be in short supply.

• With a charter flight of some 240 Ethiopian immigrants, the Israeli government launches what it says is the final stage of mass immigration from Ethiopia to Israel. The following summer, the Jewish Agency announces that the last Ethiopian aliyah flight will take place in August 2013.

• Hurricane Sandy hits the East Coast, killing more than 100 people and causing an estimated $50 billion in damages. The populous Jewish areas of New York and New Jersey see extreme damage, and a Jewish man and woman are killed by a falling tree in Brooklyn. Synagogues and Jewish organizations nationwide join efforts to raise money to help victims of the super storm.

November 2012
• Moscow’s Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center opens to great fanfare.

• President Obama is re-elected, with exit polls giving the incumbent about 68 percent of the Jewish vote — down from the estimated 74 percent to 78 percent in 2008. Many of the campaign battles between Jewish surrogates were fought over Middle East issues, but
surveys suggested that, like most other voters, American Jews were most concerned with
economic issues.

• Major League Baseball player Delmon Young pleads guilty to misdemeanor charges related to an incident in New York in which the Detroit Tigers’ designated hitter yells anti-Semitic slurs at a group of tourists talking to a homeless panhandler wearing a yarmulke. Young is sentenced in Manhattan Criminal Court to 10 days of community service and ordered to participate in a mandatory restorative justice program run by the Museum of Tolerance in New York.

• After days of stepped-up rocket attacks from Gaza, Israel launches Operation Pillar of Defense with a missile strike that kills the head of Hamas’ military wing in Gaza, Ahmed Jabari. In all, six Israelis and an estimated 149 to 177 Palestinians are killed during the weeklong exchange of fire. Egypt helps broker the cease-fire between the two sides.

• A constitutional court in Poland bans shechitah, Jewish ritual slaughter, along with Muslim ritual slaughter. An effort in July to overturn the ban fails.

• The decision by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi to grant himself near absolute powers dismays U.S. and Israeli observers just days after Morsi is lauded for helping broker a Hamas-Israel cease-fire. Morsi backtracks in December, but the move helps stoke popular discontent in Egypt with the country’s first democratically elected president.

• The U.N. General Assembly votes 138 to 9, with 41 abstentions, to recognize Palestine as a state. Passage of the resolution, which does not have the force of law, prompts condemnations from the United States and warnings of possible penalties, but none are invoked. Israel responds with its own dire warnings and announces new settlement constriction in the West Bank. Over the course of months, the change in status in the United Nations proves largely irrelevant.

December 2012
• After months of occasional cross-border fire on the Golan Heights, including errant Syrian and rebel shells landing in Israel, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the Syrian government is violating a 1974 disengagement agreement with Israel by deploying military equipment and troops over the cease-fire line.

• Ahmed Ferhani, 27, an Algerian immigrant living in New York, pleads guilty to planning to blow up synagogues in New York City.

• In a case that ignites passions in the Haredi Orthodox community in Brooklyn, Satmar hasid Nechemya Weberman, an unlicensed therapist, is found guilty on 59 counts of sexual abuse. Days later, a Chasidic assailant throws bleach in the face of a community rabbi, Nuchem Rosenberg, who advocates for victims of sex abuse. In January, Weberman is sentenced to 103 years in prison.

• German lawmakers pass a bill enshrining the right to ritual circumcision but regulating how circumcisions are to be conducted. The law displaces a ban on Jewish ritual circumcision imposed by a court in Cologne in June.

• Yeshiva University President Richard Joel apologizes for alleged instances of sexual misconduct and harassment by two former faculty members — Rabbis George Finkelstein and Macy Gordon — at the university’s high school more than two decades earlier.

• Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, the leader of one of London’s largest congregations and a former chief rabbi of Ireland, is named Britain’s chief rabbi-designate. This fall he is to succeed Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, who has served in the post since 1991.

• Numerous Jewish groups call for stricter gun-control regulations after a gunman kills 20 first-graders and six adults in Newtown, Conn. The youngest victim is a 6-year-old Jewish boy, Noah Pozner.

• New York businessman Jacob Ostreicher, who has been jailed in Bolivia without charges for 18 months, is released on bail but still barred from leaving the country. A Haredi Orthodox father of five and grandfather of 11 from Brooklyn, Ostreicher was arrested in June 2011 by Bolivian police over allegations that he did business with drug traffickers and money launderers.

• A Paris court orders Twitter to monitor and disclose the identities of users from France who posted anti-Semitic comments online, including Holocaust denials. Twitter later appeals the decision but loses, and the U.S.-based company complies with the demand in July.

January 2013
• Video emerges from 2010 of Egyptian President Morsi — then a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood — calling Jews “bloodsuckers” and “descendants of apes and pigs.” Morsi tells U.S. senators that he gets bad press because “certain forces” control the media.

• President Obama nominates Jacob Lew, his chief of staff and an Orthodox Jew who frequently serves as an intermediary with Jewish groups, to be secretary of the treasury.

• Binyamin Netanyahu wins re-election as Israel’s prime minister, but his Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu faction suffers significant losses at the polls, falling to 31 seats. The big winners are two newcomer parties: Yair Lapid’s centrist, domestic-focused Yesh Atid, which comes in second with 19 Knesset seats, and Naftali Bennett’s nationalist Jewish Home, which wins 12 seats. Both later opt to join Netanyahu’s coalition government, which takes nearly two months to assemble.

• Iran and Argentina sign an agreement to form an independent commission to investigate the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people and was blamed on Iran. Argentinian and American Jews denounce the agreement as a farce. Iran’s parliament has yet to sign off on the pact.

• Amid concerns that Syrian President Bashar Assad may be transferring chemical weapons to Hezbollah, Israeli planes bomb a Syrian weapons transport on the Lebanese border. It is one of several Israeli strikes in Syrian territory during the year.

Looking Back On 5773

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The year 5773 was packed with successes and challenges. At the Baltimore Jewish Times, our team of reporters wrote 889 articles about the happenings in this community and the rest of the Jewish world.Before Rosh Hashanah starts next week and we move on to 5774, here is a look at the top stories from the past year.

September 2012 — French Railway Won’t Run Here
The Maryland subsidiary of a French company accused of not fully acknowledging its Holocaust complicity did not receive a $204 million contract with the state railway. Keolis Rail Services America, a subsidiary of the French rail company known as SNCF, was among the firms beaten out in the bidding for a six-year contract to run two commuter lines.

SNCF trains transported 76,000 Jews and other prisoners from the suburbs of Paris to the German border from 1942 to 1944. The company was paid per head per kilometer, according to reports.

Holocaust survivors and their advocates contended that the company had failed to act quickly enough to make its archival materials accessible to researchers and was making the moves only to gain lucrative rail contracts in the United States.

The decision came months after a 2011 bill was passed that stopped any Eastern European transportation company from being awarded state contracts until the state archivist agreed that those companies had fully disclosed their World War II-era activities in the deportation of individuals to extermination camps or death camps.

October 2012 — Politics and the Pulpit
In October, a month before the presidential and local elections, Marylanders were focused on several state referendums. A heated debate in the Jewish community focused on Question 6, a referendum to legalize same-sex marriage, and Question 4, which provided in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants.

Reform synagogues such as Baltimore Hebrew Congregation and Temple Oheb Shalom displayed signage encouraging support for marriage equality, while Bolton Street Synagogue organized phone banks and door-to-door canvassing to encourage community members to vote for Question 6. In his Rosh Hashanah sermon, Rabbi Ron Shulman at Chizuk Amuno Congregation alluded to Questions 4 and 6 when he told congregants: “Immigrant children raised in America deserve their place. Same gender couples deserve marriage equality. We can’t deny others what we insist on for ourselves.”

In sharp contrast, the Rabbinical Council of Greater Baltimore, the Vaad Harabonim, reaffirmed the Torah’s unambiguous stance in opposition to such unions and encouraged community members to vote no on Question 6.

November 2012 — A Century of Progressivism
In November, The Park School celebrated its 100th anniversary with special events, exhibitions and its traditional auction to raise money for the school’s financial-aid program. The school, located on a 100-acre campus off Old Court Road, continues to be a mecca for progressive education, a model for diversity and a place where students from fourth-generation legacy families mingle comfortably with newcomers. Happy Anniversary, Park!

December 2012 — Still Everybody’s Buddy
After 18 years serving as the Greater Baltimore Jewish CommunityCenter’s executive director, Louis “Buddy” Sapolsky announced that he was stepping down from the role.

More so than for his title alone, Sapolsky, 68, is being remembered for the countless contributions he made that set up the JCC to be sustainable, vibrant and significant for years to come.

“He is known and respected for his ability to focus on the big picture of planning for JCC success while never losing interest in the details,” said Rabbi Lawrence Ziffer, executive vice president of the Macks Center for Jewish Education. “He has demonstrated to the community that the JCC is capable of changing with the times and meeting the ever-changing needs and interests of a vibrant community.”

Sapolsky tirelessly worked to upgrade the center’s facilities and put into place programs such as Israel’s 50th anniversary celebration, Jerusalem 300 and the JCC Maccabi Games and ArtsFest.

In 1995, when Sapolsky started at the JCC, there were 8,000 members. Today, there are 17,000.

“If we hadn’t changed the facilities, we wouldn’t be around today,” Sapolsky said. “We live in a consumer-driven word, and there is no loyalty to organizations anymore. We have to run it like a business, be strategic. … We always need to stay ahead of the curve and try to see around the bend.

Staying still is going backward and not a viable option.”

January 2013 — Day School Teacher Charged With Abuse
Physical education teacher Foye Minton, at the now closed Day School at Baltimore Hebrew, was arrested and charged with child abuse of a former student.

The student, now 20, told police that Minton’s alleged abuse began when she was a minor while enrolled at the now defunct Shoshana S. Cardin School. Minton was the school’s dean of students and its director of athletics at the time. He previously worked at the Boys’ Latin School of Maryland.

After the charges were filed, Minton claimed the relationship was consensual, and his attorney, Adam P. Frank, offered the following statement: “Any sexual involvement with the alleged victim … occurred when she was over the age of 18 and with her parents having full knowledge of the relationship throughout.”

According to reports, the abuse continued for about four years, and the victim told police that Minton repeatedly attempted to contact her after she severed the relationship. Maryland law prohibits adults in a position of trust, authority or guardianship (such as a teacher) from having a sexual relationship with a minor, regardless of consent.

David Prashker, then the current head of school at Cardin, declared his desire to cooperate fully with the investigation.

Said Barbie Prince, who was head of school at the time of the alleged abuse, “If I suspected anything inappropriate, he would not have remained an employee.”

Jumbled Start

083013_jumbled_startEntering his fourth year as a high school social studies teacher for Howard County Public Schools, Jared Ettinger has already come up with a suitable metaphor for his job.

He likens the school year to a marathon, and this year, because of the High Holidays falling just after Labor Day, the marathon’s timetable will be interrupted, albeit just a tad.

Although Howard County schools (like Baltimore County) began Aug. 26, the coming week is littered with days off. Schools are closed Monday for Labor Day and then Thursday for the first day of Rosh Hashanah. And, although it is not a scheduled day off, many parents hold their kids out of school Friday for the second day of Rosh Hashanah services.

The closings create a jumbled start for teachers and students looking to shake off the summer rust and get into the flow of the school year.

“If the school year is like a marathon, that first week or two is basically like our stretching. We are just getting warmed up, just getting to know each other,” Ettinger said. “From a teaching and learning standpoint, it obviously disrupts any flow or rhythm you may be getting in to.”

He explained, though, the holiday falling early in the school year may actually be the most opportune time.

“I personally feel that if there is any time to have a few days off for the holidays, that this is the best time,” Ettinger said. “Once you get into the heart of the school year, that’s when you don’t want interruptions.”

Although classrooms may just be in the ice-breaker phase of the year, Leah Fishman, a rising sophomore at The Park School, said that she doesn’t want to miss out on classes by attending shul on Friday. (Park’s school year begins Tuesday.) She explained that at Park a lot of the homework is directly linked to topics examined in class.

“Park is very big on classroom discussion and of going over things verbally. By missing class, you miss a lot of important information,” Leah said.

In addition to having to make up class notes and the ensuing homework, Leah also said that the choppiness early on in the calendar will make it a little more difficult to get acclimated in the classroom setting.

“I think because it’s the first week of school, things are still kind of weird with everyone trying to get situated,” she said. “It will prolong the time it takes to get used to new classes and the dynamics of classes and getting to know teachers and their expectations.”

While all teachers have differing views on how to handle missed time from students, particularly when it occurs in a large group during a holiday, Steve Kronberg has his own general rule of thumb.

“If less than half of the kids are there, I don’t do anything that needs to be made up, whether that means showing a movie or utilizing some type of basic enrichment activity,” said Kronberg, in his 13th year teaching in Baltimore County Public Schools.

Kronberg has also noticed the trend of when the first day of Rosh Hashanah falls on a Thursday, even non-Jewish parents will keep their kids out of school the following Friday, assuming that because attendance will be low, their kids won’t be missing out on much.

“To a lot of parents, it’s the perfect time to take a four-day weekend,” Kronberg said.

However, once the days off are behind them, Kronberg said it’s time for both students and teachers to settle in and get ready to truly begin the year.

“Now we know what the expectations are, we know what a work day is going to be like,” Kronberg said. “Now it’s time to get the job done and be ready to rock and roll.”

David Snyder is a JT staff reporter – dsnyder@jewishtimes.com

Calendar Conflict

Stony Brook University last year changed its calendar, no longer closing for the High Holidays. Although many objected, the university stuck with its decision. (JeanClaude47/Wikimedia Commons)

Stony Brook University last year changed its calendar, no longer closing for the High Holidays. Although many objected, the university stuck with its decision.
(JeanClaude47/Wikimedia Commons)

The 2012 High Holidays were unlike any others in the history of Stony Brook University.

Last academic year, for the first time, the school held regular classes rather than suspend them during traditional Jewish and Christian holidays. The change was made “to ensure that some religions [were] not given preferential treatment,” according to Dean of Students Jerrold L. Stein.

While Stony Brook’s decision did bring it in line with the majority of American universities, which do not cancel classes for religious observance, the change drew the ire of many in the New York school’s campus community.

Jewish, Christian and Muslim officials from Stony Brook’s Interfaith Center sent a letter to University President Samuel Stanley saying changing the calendar was “ill advised.”

“Eliminating major religious observance for this calendar will damage the university’s image and reputation,” the letter said.

Yet Catherine Duffy, assistant to Stein, said the informal reaction from students on campus was a sense that they “understood” the change.

“If a student has a religious need, of course they will be excused [from class],” Duffy said. “But [the university] did not want to alter the whole calendar.”

“Everyone knew their own religious observance would not be impacted because the students would be excused if they have to miss class because of a religious observance,” she said, explaining that there was “no uproar” on campus.

How do other universities treat religious holidays?

To better understand how universities accommodate students’ religious observance, this reporter looked at the policies of some major institutions. Virtually all schools enable students to observe religious holidays without academic penalties.

Princeton University has “very few holidays other than its formal break,” Susan Johanesen, executive assistant to Hillel Director Rabbi Julie Roth, said.

“The calendar has been the same forever,” she said. “Princeton has very few times when it suspends classes.”

Johanesen noted that the university’s Office of Religious Life (ORL) sends a listing of all holidays to university professors. Observant students are allowed to miss class and make up a test.

“The ORL helps adjust classes and assists professors in understanding the importance of observance. [ORL Director] Dean Alison Boden has been that way for a long time,” said Johanesen.

The University of Wisconsin states that it “seeks to be sensitive to the needs of individual students.” Accommodation for religious practice is based both on the law and on the school’s stated policy: A “student’s claim of a religious conflict, which may include travel time, should be accepted at face value. … There is no practical, dignified and legal means to assess the validity of individual claims.”

Wisconsin cautions that mandatory academic requirements “should not be scheduled on days when religious observances may cause substantial numbers of students to be absent from the university.”

The school does require that students notify the instructor within the first two weeks of class of the specific days or dates on which he or she requests relief.

Indiana University’s policy is to accept student claims of religious need on “face value;” attendance of religious services or events need not be proven.

On the West Coast, the University of Washington “Holiday Policy” suggests to faculty that “traditional observances, and major days of religious significance” be considered when “developing class syllabuses and planning for examinations.”

Academics are not the only aspect of university life affected by the requirements of religious observance. The University of California has had a policy since 2007 ensuring that religious holidays do not conflict with residence hall move-in days.

The University of Arkansas says students are “expected to provide instructors with a schedule of religious holidays they intend to observe in writing.” The university handbook explicitly states that it “does not observe religious holidays.”

Syracuse University does not suspend classes for Jewish holidays or those of any other religion. The university, however, “recognizes the diverse faith traditions represented among its campus community and supports the rights of faculty, staff and students to observe according to these traditions.” Students are asked to “consider their need for accommodation for religious observances as they plan their schedule each semester.”

North of the border, at Ryerson University in Canada, instructors are encouraged “to bear [religious observance] in mind when preparing their courses and to accommodate any student who cannot attend class due to religious observance.” Ryerson provides a “religious observance acc-ommodation form” students submit to instructors.

Why was Stony Brook’s calendar changed?

The current student population at Stony Brook, based on a demographic analysis of the 2009 incoming freshman class, shows Catholic students as the most significant minority at about 30 percent, with Jewish students amounting to 6.2 percent and a Muslim contingent totaling 6.6 percent.

Stony Brook issued a statement saying that student complaints “prompted us to look into an alternative academic calendar.” A “calendar committee” formed during 2011 recommended the changes. According to its statement, the university recognizes “the significant role of religion and faith in the lives of our students, faculty and staff and will ensure that no member of our community is compelled to work, teach or attend class in a way that impacts theirability to practice their faith.”

University spokeswoman Lauren Sheprow said that “the president of the undergraduate student government and others in the administration at the time were on record as being in favor of the calendar changes.”

The university calendar is now completely secular — with the exception of closure on Christmas. When it was proposed in March 2011, the calendar change engendered protests from nine New York state senators, led by Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. He asked Stony Brook to “re-examine your process and implement a policy that takes into consideration the best interests of students and faculty across your campus.”

Norman Goodman, a sociology professor at the university, said Stony Brook’s decision “does not take into account the variety of needs of faculty and students, and it shows no respect for religion.”

“I’m concerned that fellow faculty members and students who are observant will be put at an unnecessary disadvantage,” Goodman said.

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a conservative Christian organization, came to the defense of the long-existing university calendar and urged Stony Brook to reconsider the calendar changes.

“Refusing to accommodate religious observances now after many years of previously doing so strongly signals to current and prospective students and their families that Stony Brook’s once welcoming approach to students of faith has changed,” an ACLJ letter said.

The Stony Brook administration defended its decision adamantly. Vice Provost Dr. Charles Robbins told Fox News that the change would increase “fairness to the entire student body.”

“Our goal is to maximize available class time for all of our students and to really make a calendar that’s predictable and standardized,” he said.

Maxine Dovere writes for JNS.org.

Honey For Your Boo-Boo

083013_honey_boo_booAnyone who’s attended Jewish preschool knows that on Rosh Hashanah we eat apples and honey to symbolize our wishes for a sweet year.

“Just as we do on Passover with the Seder plate, on Rosh Hashanah, we also eat symbolic foods. It’s not a law, it’s a folk tradition,” said Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin. Like honey, she added, the apples we eat also symbolize sweetness and abundance and evoke a sense of health and goodness.

Moses was said to have been conceived in an apple orchard, and honey is mentioned in the Song of Songs, said the rabbi.

Honey, she added, is a preservative and may also symbolize the fact that Torah and the Jewish people aren’t fleeting; they have longevity.

But honey’s importance is not only symbolic. Even in ancient times, it was recognized for its healing properties. Nowadays, those properties are once again gaining attention for their medicinal uses.

“The best science [supporting the medicinal use of honey] is in wound healing,” said Chris D’Adamo, Ph.D., at the University of Maryland Medical Center School Of Medicine. “Science has shown us that honey contains a variety of anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties that help with healing.”

D’Adamo said that local honey is also useful as a treatment for seasonal allergies.

“It’s best to use local honey because honey from your own area will give you a little bit of exposure to the allergens that are causing the allergy symptoms. Some people eat the honey, and some mix it with warm water or tea,” he said.

Honey has also been found to be extremely effective for reducing acute coughing in children.

“Serve it straight from the spoon,” said D’Adamo. “It will coat the throat, and it provides better relief than many cough medicines.”

While all honey contains nutrients and enzymes, D’Adamo recommends using raw honey to treat symptoms.

“The honey in the little bear container is not as good as raw honey because it’s been highly heated and filtered. A lot of the good stuff goes away in that process,” he said.

D’Adamo also suggests substituting honey for sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin.

“Honey has health properties and is better understood than these other sweeteners,” he said. “But don’t eat it by the gallon.”

Although some practitioners are currently recommending honey, bee pollen and even bee stings as treatments for ailments such as arthritis and multiple sclerosis among others, D’Adamo said, at this point, not as much is known about the effectiveness of those treatments.

Natural Beauty
According to the National Honey Board, honey is one of Mother Nature’s best-kept beauty secrets. Folklore tells us that beauties as notorious as Cleopatra used honey on their skin to maintain moisture and kill bacteria.

“Honey is a humectant, which means it attracts and retains moisture. This makes honey a natural fit in a variety of moisturizing products including cleansers, creams, shampoos and conditioners,” the Honey Board said.

For more about the use of honey, and some sweet recipes for skincare products made from honey, visit honey.com.

Simone Ellin is JT senior features reporter — sellin@jewishtimes.com

Sticking With Tradition

083013_sticking_with_traditionHere’s the buzz about Rosh Hashanah: Beyond a congregation or family, it takes a hive to have a holiday. You may have your tickets, new dress or suit and High Holidays app, but without the honey in which to dip a slice of apple, where would you be?

We wish each other “shanah tovah umetuka,” “have a good and sweet New Year.” To further sweeten the calendar change, we eat honey cake — even Martha Stewart has a recipe — and teiglach, little twisted balls of dough boiled in honey syrup.

Little do we realize that to fill a jar or a squeeze bottle containing two cups of the sticky, golden stuff, a hive of honeybees must visit five million flowers.

For most of us, the honey seems a somehow natural byproduct of the cute, bear-shaped squeeze bottle that we pick up at the store. But for beekeeper Uri Laio, honey is like a gift from heaven. His motto, “Honey and Beeswax with Intention,” is on his website, chassidicbeekeeper.com.

“Everyone takes honey for granted; I did,” said Laio, who is affiliated with Chabad and attended Yeshiva University in Jerusalem and Morristown, N.J.

Not wanting to take my holiday honey for granted anymore, I suited up along with him in a white cotton bee suit and hood to visit the hives he keeps near the large garden area of the Highland Hall Waldorf School, an 11-acre campus in Northridge, Calif.

After three years of beekeeping — he also leads sessions with the school’s students — Laio has learned to appreciate that “thousands of bees gave their entire lives to fill a jar of honey.” In the summer, that’s five to six weeks for an adult worker; in the winter it’s longer.

It’s been an appreciation gained through experience — the throbbing kind.

“It’s dangerous. I’ve been stung a lot. It’s part of the learning,” Laio said. “The first summer I thought I was going into anaphylactic shock,” he adds, advising me to stay out of the bees’ flight path to the hive’s entrance.

Drawing on his education, Laio puts a dab of honey on his finger and holds it out. Soon a bee lands and begins to feed.

“Have you ever been stung?” he asks.

“A couple of times,” I answer, as Laio uses a hand-held bee smoker to puff in some white smoke to “calm the hive.” After waiting a few minutes for the smoke to take effect, and with me watching wide-eyed, he carefully pries off the hive’s wooden lid.

Half expecting to see an angry swarm of bees come flying out as in a horror flick, I step back.

“They seem calm,” said Laio, bending down to listen to the buzz level coming from the hive. “Some days the humming sounds almost like song.”

The rectangular stack of boxes, called a Langstroth Hive, allows the bee colony — estimated by Laio to be 50,000 — to efficiently build the waxy cells of honeycomb into vertical frames.

As he inspects the frames, each still holding sedated bees, he finds few capped cells of honey. The bees have a way to go if Laio is going to be able to put up a small number of jars for sale, as he did last year for Rosh Hashanah.

According to Laio, hives can be attacked by ants, mites, moths and a disease called bee colony collapse disorder that has been decimating hives increasingly over the last 10 years.

Pesticides contribute to the disorder, as well as genetically modified plants, he said.

Underscoring the importance that bees have in our lives beyond the Days of Awe, Laio calculates that “one out of every three bits of food you eat is a result of honeybee pollination.”

Laio practices backwards or treatment-free beekeeping, so called because he relies on observation and natural practices and forgoes pesticides or chemicals in his beekeeping.

The resulting wildflower honey — Laio hands me a jar to try — is sweet, flavorful and thick, tastier than any honey from the store.

“Honey is a super food. And it heals better than Neosporin,” Laio said. “In Europe there are bandages impregnated with honey.”

He said it takes a certain type of character to be a beekeeper.

“You need to have patience. Be determined. Learn your limitations. Be calm in stressful situations,” he said.

“People are fascinated with it. I can’t tell you how many Shabbos table meals have been filled with people asking me about bees.”

On the Sabbath, Laio likes to sip on a mint iced tea sweetened with his honey — his only sweetener, he said.

“In the Talmud, honey is considered to be one-sixtieth of manna,” said Laio, referring to the “bread” that fell from the sky for 40 years while the Israelites wandered in the desert. “The blessing for manna ended with ‘Min hashamayim,’ ‘from the heavens,’ and not ‘min haaretz,’ ‘from the earth.’”

With the honey-manna connection in mind, especially at the Jewish New Year, Laio finds that “all the sweetness, whatever form it is in, comes straight from God.”

Edmon J. Rodman is a JTA columnist — edmojace@gmail.com

Retrospection & Introspection

083013_retrospection_introspectionWhat do the Hebrew month of Elul — the month leading up to Rosh Hashanah — and the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur have to do with yoga? They all give the opportunity to reflect, be introspective, consider the past and think about the future with all of its wonderful possibilities.

On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we think about the past year. The opportunities we took advantage of and those we inadvertently let get away. We reflect on all the blessings that have come our way, we consider all the good we did for people and the golden opportunities we let slip away. It is truly a time for retrospection and introspection.

So goes the practice of yoga. Yoga gives us the personal time to be introspective. It gives us the chance to be mindful and to think about our bodies like no other exercise routine. As we go through a yoga practice, we do a series of poses, which connect the mind, body and soul. Through breathing exercises and poses, we are given the opportunity to connect with ourselves. It is called a yoga practice for the very reason that as we
go through the practice we become better at making the connection.

In yoga, meditation, mindfulness and concentration are all companions in the same process that leads inward to the center of consciousness. By working with both mindfulness and concentration, the three skills of focus, expansion and non-attachment all come together. The mind is trained to be able to pay attention, not being drawn to here and there due to external stimuli. The ability to focus is accompanied by a willingness to expand our consciousness, and it goes along with our ability to remain undisturbed and unaffected by thoughts of the mind.

Nutrition, the science of eating, is very similar and encompasses some of the same principles. Part of enjoying our food is being mindful. In this day and age, multitasking has become a necessity. We typically have to engage in many tasks at the same time to accomplish the myriad of goals we’ve set. However, when eating a delicious meal, it is important to enjoy the whole experience, to be mindful when eating. How often do we consume a delicious meal — whether it be a perfectly grilled steak or a wonderful piece of homemade apple pie or even a bowl of shredded wheat with raisins and nuts — and shortly after the experience, we are not even able to identify the contents of the meal? It is important not only to eat the meal, but also to experience the meal.

Using the five senses, with the example of the apple pie, what does it look like, what does it smell like, what does it sound like when taking a bite, what does it feel like on the tongue, and how does it taste? Only after using all the senses can one truly experience the food. Experiencing the food is an important aspect of making the food count, helping in our quest not to overeat.

Next time you are getting ready to enjoy that delicious rib steak grilled to perfection, take a deep three-part breath, filling up your belly, ribs and heart (called dirgha breath). Enjoy the sight and smell of the steak and enjoy every last bite from beginning to end. You won’t forget it for a very long time.

Keeping with the theme of Rosh Hashanah and the opportunity of reflection on the old and on what is ahead, here is a wonderful new tool for food preparation, called the Spiralizer. There are many types available, but the one I recommend for the best price can be found on Amazon.com. Using a Spiralizer to create raw vegetable pasta is fun, quick and easy. Zucchini, cucumber, turnip, carrots, radishes, sweet potato or any combination of your favorite raw vegetables work. It is also so wonderful for those who need to avoid gluten but still like the noodle.

There are many unique and out-of-the-box healthy recipes that are now possible with so little effort. Many different ingredients can be added to the vegetable noodles; experiment to your taste.

Wishing you a happy, healthy New Year filled with lots of yoga, healthy delicious food and, above all, wonderful thoughts of the mind, body and soul.

Vegetable Noodle Sauce
Ingredients:
A few tablespoons of olive oil or mashed avocado
A teaspoon of lemon juice
Sea salt
1 tablespoon of non-nutritive sweetener (for example, agave nectar or stevia powder)

Directions:
Mix together and then eat the sauce raw. Can also brown the dish in the oven or fry it.

Adriane Stein Kozlovsky is a licensedregistered dietitian in private practice, working with individuals, groups, corporations and nonprofits for the past 30 years. She recently completed a 200-hour yoga teacher-training course at the University of Maryland and is teaching individual and group yoga classes. For more information, call 410-870-LIFE (8433) or visit ChaiLifeNutritionForU.com.