Local News

The Jewish Community and Freddie Gray Protests

‍‍2015-04-27 17:52:10 - כח כסלו תשעה mshapiro

Thousands of people chanted and waved signs as they marched from West Baltimore toward City Hall Saturday afternoon, in a mostly peaceful demonstration to protest the alleged mistreatment and death of Freddie Gray and demand increased police accountability. Gray, 25, was arrested by Baltimore police on April 12, and sustained severe injuries of unknown origin and then died one week later.

Toward the end of the protest route a few hours later, the dispersing crowd turned violent. Police cars were vandalized with trashcans to cheers from the crowd, business’ windows were broken and cars stuck in traffic were damaged.

“We have seen the vast majority of the protesting [and it] has been incredibly peaceful,” said Molly Amster, 31, Baltimore director of Jews United for Justice, who participated in city protests all week long. “It’s fraught with anguish and anger that is justified. But I’m surprised and frustrated by the portrayal of the protesters in the media. It continues to stigmatize and perpetuate the portrayal of people of color in the media.”

“I think that the ongoing terrorism of black communities, Sandtown in particular, the most policed neighborhood in Baltimore, that’s not something that we as white people, the vast majority of the Jewish community, don’t experience that,” said Amster of the West Baltimore neighborhood and home of former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, which is approximately 99 percent African American. “But I don’t think it’s anyone’s place to say what’s an appropriate way to demonstrate their rage and anger at the system that is oppressing them.”

Rabbi Ariel Fishman, his wife and their son walked back from Lloyd Street Synagogue Saturday mid-afternoon to Judaic Heritage, near University of Maryland Baltimore, where he is director.

“We decided to walk down Lombard thinking we’d be off the main Pratt Street protest traffic but still saw tons of people pouring out,” he said, noting that some wore anonymous Guy Fawkes masks. “It didn’t feel unsafe, but there were a lot of people moving out of that area.”

“Some of the people had a pain and sadness on their faces,” said Fishman. “I always think of what MLK said, ‘Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.’ And that resonates with Jewish ethics, to love all people, love all creation. It’s a concept that has a firm hold in Jewish tradition.”

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Shave and a Haircut

‍‍2015-04-24 09:30:08 - כח כסלו תשעה lbridwell

Dawn Koslowski is the owner of 18|8 Salon, which opened in Quarry Lake last month.  (Marc Shapiro)

Dawn Koslowski is the owner of 18|8 Salon, which opened in Quarry Lake last month.
(Marc Shapiro)

There’s a new salon in town, and while clients can go there for face treatments, manicures and pedicures, waxing and hair coloring, the target audience may surprise most.

18|8 Fine Men’s Salons opened on March 13 in Quarry Lake, bringing the comfort and style of a beauty parlor to Pikesville’s male population.

“I felt like this area needed something like this,” said owner Dawn Koslowski. “Guys don’t really have a place to go to feel comfortable.”

While non-Jewish and non-Orthodox clients filter in, 18|8 won’t be seeing any Orthodox clients, at least until after everyone’s done counting the omer. During the period between Passover and Shavuot, many have the custom to not cut their hair.

Koslowski hopes to cater to the Orthodox community once the restriction is up, as she is looking to add a male barber to her staff, which is currently all female.

The salon, headquartered in Irvine, Calif., offers haircuts and styling, shaves, scalp and face treatments, manicures and pedicures, waxing (nose, ears, eyebrows and back) as well hair coloring, grey blending, beard coloring and highlights.

“I feel like men get left out in our profession.”

“I feel like men get left out in our profession,” said stylist Brittany Feglar, noting that it’s a longer experience at 18|8, as opposed to some barber shops that quickly cut hair. “They feel more relaxed here.”

Koslowski, who was a commercial lender prior to opening this franchise, said she was drawn to the area, having served a lot of clients in Pikesville as a manager of the Bank of America branch on Smith Avenue. Her ties to the Jewish community go back to what she calls her “first real job” when she worked at the National Reference Press under Howard Friedman, who has chaired The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore and AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee).

Although she was raised Lutheran, within the last month, Koslowski discovered her family was Jewish on her father’s side. Her brother was at a Holocaust memorial in Germany and saw the family name on a list of names. Through DNA testing, she and her brother were able to figure out that they have a Jewish side of the family.

Although it’s a recent discovery, Koslowski thinks it’s no coincidence she’s been drawn to the Pikesville area. And she has at least a handful of satisfied Jewish customers, including William “Billy” Yerman, who knows her from when she was his banker.

“She’s created a really nice, unique atmosphere. It’s nice for men to have a place where you can go drink a beer and watch a game while getting a haircut and shave,” he said. “It’s more of a destination kind of experience as opposed to jump in, jump out.”

Koslowski said being a franchisee will allow her to pursue more nonprofit work. She currently sits on the board of the YMCA, is involved in the Ravens Roost and does the Polar Bear Plunge every year. She has also done work with the American Breast Cancer Foundation as well as Big Brothers Big Sisters. She plans to get the business involved as well.

Being a franchisee gives her the rights to open three salons in three years. Koslowski is eyeing the Hunt Valley area for a second salon and perhaps Baltimore City for a third.


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My Vote, Our Israel

‍‍2015-04-23 09:30:04 - כח כסלו תשעה ebrown

The second World Zionist Congress was held in Basel, Switzerland in 1898. (Public Domain)

The second World Zionist Congress was held in Basel, Switzerland in 1898. (Public Domain)

The deadline is rapidly approaching on the other Israel election.

April 30 is the last day eligible U.S. voters can cast a ballot for representation to the 37th World Zionist Congress, the legislative branch of the World Zionist Organization, which meets every five years to decide matters related to global Jewry and Zionism and oversees the budgets of several high-profile agencies in Israel.

The Zionist Organization (now known as the WZO) was formed in 1897 by Theodor Herzl at the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland. Since the founding of Israel in 1948, the WZO’s mission has evolved. Combined with the Jewish Agency, WZO is the official liaison between the Jewish diaspora and the Israeli government.

The WZO founded and oversees the multimillion-dollar budgets of the Jewish National Fund and the Jewish Agency. Apart from the iconic tzedakah boxes and tree-planting initiatives, the JNF is a major landowner in Israel. Likewise, the Jewish Agency, originally conceived to aid new immigrants, has expanded to funding Jewish educational programming worldwide.

More controversial, the WZO has a Settlement Division that is funded by the Israeli government and is not subject to Israeli public disclosure laws. The division’s offices were raided by Israeli police during a corruption investigation last December, resulting in the passage of a resolution that would put the division totally under WZO’s control and force budget disclosure.

Few of the potentially millions of eligible American voters participate, even though the bar to cast a ballot has been set incredibly low.

To cast a ballot in the election, which in America is managed by the American Zionist Movement, voters must be Jewish, a permanent resident of the United States, at least 18 years old, cannot have participated in the most recent Israeli election and must subscribe to the Jerusalem program, a document that stands as the official platform of the WZO and outlines the objectives of the Zionist movement.

For $10 — or $5 for those age 30 or younger — eligible American participants can register online at myvoteourisrael.com and vote for one of 11 slates vying for seats in the WZC.

The WZC is comprised of approximately 500 seats. The largest share, 190 seats, is reserved for Israelis, and representation is determined by Knesset elections. The United States is allotted 145 seats, which are divvied up in accordance with election results. The remaining 165 seats are divided among the rest of global Jewry.

Squabbling between right-leaning and left-leaning slates began early in the election cycle. The Zionist Organization of America filed a complaint against HaTikvah, which includes leadership from J Street, the New Israel Fund and Americans for Peace Now, seeking to bar them from running over accusations that some members support the boycott, divestment and sacnctions (BDS) movement. HaTikvah officially opposes BDS, and the complaint was dismissed, but Morton Klein, national president of ZOA, has appealed to the Zionist Supreme Court.

Looking to bring unity among Jewish Zionists is the Zionist Spring slate, which features many Baltimoreans, including Jay Bernstein and Baltimore Zionist District Chairman Jim Schiller.

“[We are] the only organization that is nondenominational and apolitical,” said Schiller. As proof, Schiller points to three Baltimore-based rabbis who are listed on the Zionist Spring slate: Rabbi Steven Fink of the Reform Temple Oheb Shalom, Rabbi Ronald Shulman of the Conservative Chizuk Amuno Congregation and Rabbi Chai Posner of the Modern Orthodox Beth Tfiloh Congregation. Their slate is supported by the BZD, the Bnai Zion Foundation, the World Confederation of United Zionists and Young Judaea.

“Our agenda is looking for the promotion of Zionism, Jewish unity, Israel advocacy on campus — basically trying to make Zionism more relevant,” said Schiller, who, as a former board member of the Jewish Agency, is intimately familiar with the WZO’s function. “There are so many common issues that unite the Jewish people we don’t have to discuss the divisive ones.”

Aside from the usual rallying points of combating anti-Semitism and promoting youth involvement in Israel, Zionist Spring is calling for increased budget transparency and the direct election of the WZO chairman by WZC delegates.

Rounding out the rest of the slates are: Mercaz USA: The Zionist Arm of the Conservative Movement; Alliance for New Zionist Vision; American Forum for Israel; World Sephardic Zionist Organization — Ohavei Zion; ARZA: Representing Reform Judaism; Herut North America — The Jabotinsky Movement; Green Israel: Aytzim/Green Zionist Alliance/Jewcology; Religious Zionist Slate: and Vote Torah for the Soul of Israel.

Twenty-five percent of each slate must be set aside for delegates under age 35, and 30 percent of each list must be women.

The 37th WZC will convene in Jerusalem in October.


The second World Zionist Congress was held in Basel, Switzerland in 1898. (Public Domain)
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‘Exit Berlin’ an American Story

‍‍2015-04-23 09:15:48 - כח כסלו תשעה ebrown

“Exit Berlin” tells the story of American-born Arnold Hatch (above) and his German cousin, Luzie Hatch (below), as they try to help family  still in Europe during World War II. (Photos Courtesy of Exit Berlin)

“Exit Berlin” tells the story of American-born Arnold Hatch (above) and his German cousin, Luzie Hatch (below), as they try to help family still in Europe during World War II.
(Photo Courtesy of Exit Berlin)

As director of the American Jewish Committee’s Archives and Records Center, Charlotte Bonelli is often offered collections of records and letters. They don’t always pan out, so when she was offered Luzie Hatch’s letters, her inclination was to pass.

But at the urging of an estate executor, Bonelli took a look at Hatch’s collection. Hatch, who worked at the AJC most of her life, had an amazing story, having fled Germany in the late 1930s with the help of an American cousin she’d never met and then corresponded with her German relatives to try to help them during the war. But what she left behind was different.

“[The executor] gives me this big binder of letters that’s just bursting, and I start to turn the pages and I start to notice something very unusual, and not only that the letters she received are from Shanghai to Germany, but often, not always, there was a carbon copy of her outgoing letter,” Bonelli said. “So I realized this is two-sided correspondence, which you expect in business or government collections, but for a personal collection from this time period [it] is so rare.”

With letters in tow, Bonelli authored “Exit Berlin: How One Woman Saved Her Family from Nazi Germany.” She spoke at Temple Oheb Shalom Monday night about the book, which sheds light on what American families went through during the Holocaust through two interesting, and sometimes opposing, characters: Arnold Hatch, an American-born industrialist, and his cousin, Luzie, who is trying to settle in America and help those still in Europe.

“It’s a very delicate situation. She’s in her 20s, she’s overwhelmed by the city, she’s trying to look for a job, and she’s sandwiched between his caution and [the] increasing desperation from her relatives in Germany,” Bonelli said. “‘Exit Berlin’ is a dance between these very different two individuals, this newly arrived young German woman — she’s single, she’s financially struggling — and her American-born cousin, who’s Ivy League educated and has a factory. He’s used to getting things done his way, and they’re trying to deal together with these relatives back in Germany, and they don’t always see eye to eye.”

Luzie Hatch (Photo Courtesy of Exit Berlin)

Luzie Hatch (Photo Courtesy of Exit Berlin)

When Luzie arrives in the United States, she and Arnold are inundated with requests to help others. But because the relatives in Germany didn’t know English, and Arnold didn’t know German, Lucy became their translator and advocate, Bonelli said. Arnold wrote more than 80 letters.

“It was the first time I ever saw this from the viewpoint of an average American family,” she said. “While he did not rescue everyone, you cannot say he turned his back.” Arnold wrote bank officials, immigrant aid societies and court officials. “He always had a letter to write,” Bonelli said.

For attendees at the Oheb Shalom presentation, it showed a side of the Holocaust not often talked about.

“It re-enforced [America’s] inadequate policy to save Jews,” said synagogue member Yuliya Klopouh. “The American government refused to recognize it, which bewilders me.”

Synagogue member Bonnie Block said it really humanized the American side of the story for her.

“I really saw the perspective of being in the heart and soul of an American Jew who was here whose family was there,” she said. “I could really superimpose myself over everybody [Bonelli] mentioned.”

Sally Fink, the synagogue’s director of lifelong learning, said bringing Bonelli in for a Yom HaShoah commemoration event was a no-brainer.

“I think it speaks to the story we haven’t heard before,” she said. “It sort of brought the pond closer.”


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Bais Yaakov May Sell Owings Mills Campus

‍‍2015-04-22 16:27:52 - כח כסלו תשעה lbridwell

Citing growth in enrollment, Bais Yaakov School for Girls officials said the Jewish day school could sell the Owings Mills home of its elementary school and expand the Smith Avenue campus now housing its middle and high schools.

“We’d like to do whatever we can to make it easier for our parents,” said Sandy Nissel, the school’s chief operating officer.

That may mean selling its campus on Park Heights Avenue, which also houses Bais Yaakov’s pre-kindergarten classes. The school’s overall enrollment has steadily increased over the past several years, Nissel said, with more than 1,450 total students, including about 675 at the Park Heighs campus.

“One of the options is to consider selling it,” Nissel said of the Owings Mills property. “There’s no sign up in front of the property, but if it’s right for the school, we will do it.”

He added that the school is not aggressively marketing the property.

Bais Yaakov is exploring ways to get more classroom space, Nissel said. According to a news release, the school’s board of directors established an exploratory committee more than two years ago to plan for the school’s growth.

While additional construction at the Smith Avenue campus is possible and preferable because of its proximity to the Orthodox community, there are issues with traffic, parking, campus access and outdoor fields that may make expansion difficult, the release said. Other options, as yet unspecified, are being explored.

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