Local News

Ground Incursion Hits Home

2014-07-24 10:03:25 lbridwell
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Jordan Low, a 2013 Beth Tfiloh graduate, was hospitalized for smoke
inhalation after helping his unit escape a burning building in Gaza.
(Provided)

The human cost of Israel’s ground incursion in the Gaza Strip hit close to home in the United States this week, with a Beth Tfiloh graduate hospitalized and Jewish communities in Los Angeles and South Texas losing members in the fighting.

Among the wounded was Baltimore native Jordan Low, a 2013 graduate of the Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, who was hospitalized for smoke inhalation after helping his company escape from a burning building.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, 25 soldiers have been killed since July 17 as of publication. On Monday morning, five IDF soldiers were in serious or critical condition, 15 were in stable condition, and 40 were seeking treatment for injuries, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz. The Palestinian death toll had reached 565 by press time Monday since the launch of Operation Protective Edge, according to Gaza health officials.

In Baltimore, the Beth Tfiloh community has rallied behind Low with phone calls, prayers and volunteers to visit him, according to Zipora Schorr, the Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School’s director of education.

“He was quite the hero according to his dad,” Schorr said. “Until everyone escaped from this burning building that was hit by Hamas, he held the ladder until every single guy got out safely, which is why he was so affected by the fumes.”

Jeffrey Low, Jordan’s father, was flying out to see Jordan with his younger son, Josh, 15, on Monday evening. Low spoke to his son’s doctor Monday morning, who said his blood pressure and other health indicators were good.

Jordan Low’s company, Golani Brigade’s Unit 51, was searching for arms on the second story of a Hamas building in Northern Gaza when Hamas fired two rockets at the building and it burst into flames, Low said. All 15 soldiers, four of whom received serious injuries, were airlifted to a Tel Aviv hospital, he said.

“Jordan going into the IDF … I couldn’t be more proud of him,” Low said. “He’s in Israel and doesn’t have to be there. Being a chayal boded [lone soldier] is highly coveted, and I think those things show the kind of young man Jordan is.”

Two American soldiers and members of the Golani Brigade, Max Steinberg, 24, of Beersheba and Los Angeles, and Sean Carmeli, 21, of Raanana and South Padre Island, Texas, were killed Sunday. They were among 13 Israeli soldiers killed in heavy fighting in Gaza City’s Shujaiya neighborhood.

Israel’s stated objectives in the ground invasion are to bring a sustained cessation to missile fire from Gaza and to root out the infrastructure that Hamas has used to build up its weapons cache.

“Operation Protective Edge will continue until it reaches its goal,” read a July 17 statement from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that announced the invasion, “restoring quiet to Israel’s citizens for a prolonged period, while inflicting a significant blow to the infrastructures of Hamas and the other terrorist organizations.”

The Israeli ground invasion of Gaza — its first since 2009 — aims to destroy Hamas’ underground weapons stores and its network of tunnels in Gaza, which it uses to transport arms and personnel. The invasion started after a week and a half of Hamas missiles and Israeli airstrikes, along with failed efforts to reach a cease-fire.

President Obama told Secretary of State John Kerry to push for an “immediate cessation of hostilities” in the Gaza Strip.

“As I’ve said many times, Israel has a right to defend itself against rocket and tunnel attacks from Hamas,” Obama said Monday in a brief news appearance as Kerry headed to Egypt to attempt to broker a cease-fire.

“And as a result of its operations, Israel has already done significant damage to Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure in Gaza. I’ve also said, however, that we have serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives. And that is why it now has to be our focus and the focus of the international community to bring about a cease-fire that ends the fighting and that can stop the deaths of innocent civilians, both in Gaza and in Israel.”

Obama said he wanted a return to the truce with Hamas brokered in November 2012, but Hamas has rejected such a return. Hamas has added demands including internationally monitored border crossings, prisoner releases and Israel staying out of Hamas-Palestinian Authority unity talks.

On Monday, Israeli troops killed 10 terrorists who infiltrated Israel through a tunnel from northern Gaza.

The terrorists emerged from the tunnel Monday morning into Southern Israel between two kibbutzes near the border with Gaza, the IDF reported. The IDF said its radar captured the infiltration.

One cell of infiltrators was struck by Israeli airstrikes, the IDF said, and a second cell was killed in a gunfight with Israeli troops.

Residents of the two kibbutzes, Erez and Nir Am, and some surrounding southern Israeli towns were ordered to remain in their homes with the doors locked for several hours on Monday morning as the IDF searched for more possible infiltrators.

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State Highway Administration Repairing Beltway Bridge

2014-07-24 10:00:35 ebrown

Motorists traveling on Park Heights Avenue should prepare for temporary and long-term lane closures until fall 2015, as the Maryland State Highway Administration makes repairs to the bridge that carries the street over I-695.

The $5.6 million repair includes removing and replacing the riding surface and concrete sidewalks, replacing a steel beam that was damaged by trucks, replacing the overhead bridge lighting with light poles, rehabilitating the concrete supports and abutments at each end of the bridge, cleaning and painting the steel and reconstructing the pavement on the approaches to the bridge, according to an SHA news release.

The project should be completed by fall 2015, weather permitting.

The bridge will remain open to vehicles and pedestrians throughout the project, which began last week. Crews began single-lane closures on the bridge last week between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, with closures ending the following morning. Single-lane closures on I-695 under the bridge will occur between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday and between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Friday.

Nighttime single- and double-lane closures on I-695 will occur between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, with closures ending the following morning.

Beginning this fall, one lane in each direction will be closed 24 hours a day until the project is finished.

“SHA encourages drivers to plan ahead for extra commuting time on Park Heights Avenue and drive with caution in the I-695 interchange work zone,” SHA district engineer David Peake said in a statement. “Pedestrians should also look ahead for changing traffic patterns in the work zone and stay within the designated crossing area on the bridge.”

For questions about the project, contact SHA’s District 4 Office, Construction Division at 410-229-2420, 866-998-0367 or shadistrict4@sha.state.md.us.

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And, the Price is Right

2014-07-24 10:00:27 lbridwell

Meat lovers rejoice, because there’s a new kosher game in town that rivals in both price and quality the wood-paneled, white-tableclothed varieties that have for years plied their trade in offering decidedly treif hunks of juicy steak.

The brainchild of Accents Grill and Cocoaccinos owners Lara and Larry Franks, Serengeti aims to do for Baltimore kosher cuisine what such establishments as Ruth’s Chris and Capital Grille have done for everybody else; its mission is to be no less than the final authority when it comes to competitively priced, high-quality dining that, while offering gourmet flavors, focuses on, as Lara Franks said in her South African lilt, “giving diners a healthy portion of protein at a good value.”

With a décor heavy on earth tones and angular designs and metal antelope heads hung on the walls, Serengeti evokes the spirit of an African hunting lodge or a rustic cabin. On a recent Wednesday evening, the place was packed, and a hurried Franks, who serves as hostess, revealed that the indoor location — the OU-supervised restaurant sits behind Accents in the Atrium mall at the Greenspring Shopping Center off of Smith Avenue — has had steady dinner and lunch crowds ever since a soft opening in late June. Reservations, she said, are highly recommended.

That the restaurant gets by essentially on word of mouth — Serengeti is just now beginning an advertising campaign — is a testament to the niche its owners identified several years ago, said Phil Rosenfeld, who manages the front of the house. “The idea is a classy steakhouse, something that was missing from the Baltimore kosher scene.”

Appetizers run from $7.50 for the soup of the day — it happened to be beef brisket split pea this particular night — to $17 for what Rosenfeld said is the restaurant’s most popular dish, a plate of sweet and spicy bourbon-braised short ribs served over creamy grits and topped with crispy onions. The meat, offering a substantial dose of smokiness with a hint of spice against a background of peppercorn, falls off the bone, while a tuna ceviche tower ($12) presents alternating layers of diced raw fish on “crackers” of tortilla chips and dollops of avocado cream.

For the main course, the Franks, along with Chef Daniel Neuman — a returnee to Baltimore after stints in New York kosher catering outfits — are taking an all-encompassing approach. Their menu leans heavy on steaks to be sure — grilled rib eyes can be ordered on the bone or boneless in both 12-ounce and 16-ounce cuts, spice rubbed or accompanied by one of three house sauces — but diners can also choose from braised lamb shank with red wine reduction ($27), a fish dish, two chicken entrées ($18), a vegan lentil shepherd’s pie ($18) or four entrée-sized salads ($15-$25). The chili-rubbed seared steak tournedos with peppercorn sauce ($42 for 16 ounces/$32 for 12 ounces) comes as thick as any chophouse filet and just as tender, while the grilled honey chipotle marinated rib eye steak ($32 for 16 ounces/$25 for 12 ounces) evokes images of Texas ranch hands enjoying a meal of well-deserved barbecued sustenance after a hard day’s work.

Eight different sides can be ordered al a carte and sandwiches include lamb burgers, hamburgers, grilled chicken and veggie varieties. Desserts run between $6 and $9.

A prix fixe option, at $50 per person, includes an appetizer, salad or soup, entrée with a side and desert.

For his part, Neuman relishes the chance to interact with his diners one on one, although he admitted that the cooking arrangement has taken some getting used to as both Accents and Serengeti share the kitchen.

“I’ve got two lines here going on simultaneously!” he shouted as assistants and wait staff scurried to and fro. When he was reminded that hotels and cruise ships frequently have multiple restaurants using central cooking facilities, he laughed: “Cruise ships! They have bigger kitchens!”

Franks, who got her start in the restaurant industry by running corporate lunch counters and catering kitchens in Southern California, said her foray into kosher dining and move to Baltimore a decade ago has been interesting. She and her husband preside over an ever-expanding empire of restaurants and, judging from the mix of people, Jewish and non-Jewish, patronizing their newest establishment, they seem to be answering a need. Less than a month since opening, some patrons have already become regulars and order without the help of the menu.

“When we designed this, we made sure that we were comparable and competitive to the non-kosher steakhouses in the area,” said Franks. “We know what the standard is on the open market and we’re going to deliver that same quality.”

Serengeti is located at 2839m Smith Ave. in Baltimore. For reservations, call 410-413-6080.


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Boys’ Night Out

2014-07-24 10:00:26 ebrown

The grills were fired up and the strong smell of Scotch filled the air on a recent Sunday, as approximately 150 Jewish men spent the evening with the Etz Chaim Center for Jewish Living and Learning to “raise the steaks.” Literally.

Raise the Steaks II, held at Bruce Sholk and Beth Kaplan’s private Baltimore estate, celebrated Etz Chaim’s impact on the Baltimore Jewish community. The lavish evening affair featured a steak barbeque, live music, wine tasting, local microbrews and a Corvette car display. With corporate sponsors Quarry Wine and Spirits, Union Craft Brewing, DC Dental, Purgistics, Allstate, Northwest Savings Bank, Shimmy Braun and LA Properties, the one-night-only event was meant to bring out both current and future heavy-hitters.

“We planned the Etz Chaim Raise the Steaks event to engage the next generation of donors,” said Rabbi Yisroel Porter, director of Etz Chaim Owings Mills. “We wanted to throw a benefit that would attract a broad audience and find common ground across generations. I mean, steak, beer, wine — can’t go wrong with that recipe, right?”

With a mission to attract Jewish students from every walk of life, Etz Chaim works to cultivate Jewish learning and identity in a non-threatening atmosphere. It offers guest speakers, Shabbat dinners, Israel tours and community-based programs.

“We are a people with a mission,” said its executive director, Rabbi Nitzan Bergman. “We have a purpose, a homeland and, ultimately, a Jewish identity. I love the members of the Etz Chaim community, and I want to continue doing more good work.”

The July 13 affair kicked off with a Scotch and bourbon tasting for donors who had contributed at least $360 to the organization. Other guests arrived for the dinner that followed. Italian glassblower Gianni Toso was among those who joined the festivities.

“When I moved to Baltimore, I wanted to find a Jewish community,” said Toso. “I started going to Beth Tfiloh, and soon after, I met Rabbi Porter and Rabbi Bergman. I think the two have done a wonderful job, and I have given them artwork from my studio. I’m thrilled to be a part of this special group.”

Between the main course and dessert, a series of Etz Chaim speakers provided insights on the organization as a whole. Following opening remarks from Porter and a gift presentation for hosts Sholk and Kaplan, the microphone was handed to a number of Etz Chaim enthusiasts who discussed their relationship with the organization. Marcus Rothberg, 27, a former skydiving instructor with an engineering degree, emphasized how his relationship with Etz Chaim led him to a life-altering decision.

“Etz Chaim means the tree of life,” he said. “I am looking at the roots of this organization right now. I always dreamed of going to Israel. Etz Chaim provided me with the golden ticket to go. I have now decided to make aliyah and become a tour guide in Israel. Etz Chaim has changed the entire course of my life.”

After Rothberg’s testimonial, several tables of men broke out in song and dance. As the dessert buffet opened, raffle winners claimed prizes including a Baltimore tour for two on a private plane, a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from Covenant Winery, two tickets to an Orioles game, a 15-year old bottle of Tomatin Scotch, two round-trip tickets to Atlantic City or New York, free dry cleaning and one airplane ticket to anywhere in the United States.

“The Raise the Steaks event, like last year, came out great,” proclaimed Porter. “Events like these showcase the past, present and future of our organization. Everyone had a wonderful time, and I believe Etz Chaim is growing stronger and stronger every day.”

Allie Freedman is a local freelance writer.

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12-Year-Old Makes Video for Humane Society

2014-07-24 10:00:22 ebrown
Max Sternlicht (provided)

Max Sternlicht (provided)

An aspiring young filmmaker made an online video for the Baltimore Humane Society that drew more than 1,000 views in its first week.

“I love animals and I wanted to find a way to help, and my favorite hobby is filmmaking,” said 12-year-old Max Sternlicht, whose mother volunteers at the Reisterstown no-kill shelter.

Max, who will be in sixth grade at the Gilman School in the fall, spent about a week at the shelter, taking about four hours of footage each day.

“I had an outline in my head and tried to follow it as much as I can,” he said. It took about a month of after-camp editing to get the video together.

“I’ve been getting a lot of friendly feedback,” he said. “Someone from the Middle East commented on my video a few days ago, so that was pretty amazing. Someone from the other side of the world liked my video.”

Max, who also sold lemon sticks at a stand at last year’s DogFest to raise money for the Humane Society, plans to film a video at DogFest this September.

The young filmmaker has been making movies since kindergarten, when he started filming his toys on camera. In first grade, he started making videos with his friends dressing up like Star Wars characters, and by third grade he had learned how to make films with Lego stop-motion. He made a Gilman-centric music video with Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy,” called “Gilman Happy,” which took first place in the Gilman Film Festival. He’s also written screenplays in recent years.

“I either want to be a filmmaker or cardiologist,” Max said. “I haven’t decided which one.”

The Baltimore Humane Society, located on Nicodemus Road in Reisterstown, is an independent, no-kill shelter, which offers veterinary care, a pet cemetery and grief support services.

Watch Max’s video.

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