Jewish Future

‍‍2013-12-23 14:51:32 - ז טבת תשעג eclare

From the earliest moments you begin teaching your children life skills and values. Like brushing your teeth and being kind to others. Like reading and sharing toys. You teach them to drive and you teach them to have concern for those less fortunate. You do your best to teach them to be good people.

As they grow, you do your best to instill your beliefs and better understand their interests and concerns for the world around them. You might share stories at the Shabbat table and perhaps you get involved as a family in local charities or Mitzvah Day.

In school and at home, Jewish children hear of the importance of tikkun olam, repairing the world, and tzedakah. You watch with pride as your children carry coins in their pockets to drop in the pushke at school. Where do these small acts and conversations lead you in teaching them goodness?

As your children get older, you may encourage them to donate their own time and money to help those causes in which they believe. But you know the greatest lesson is the one you demonstrate.

Jewish Baltimore has a place where a little tzedakah and volunteerism have a tremendous impact on those less fortunate, the elderly and children in need.

One of the easiest ways to teach a little tzedakah early on is by getting involved with The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore and making a first time gift in your child’s name. For as little as $5, you can begin a Jewish legacy for your child in Jewish Baltimore. And you can get hands-on with the Jewish Volunteer Connection or Mitzvah Makers on the Move.

That donation, which goes towards The Associated’s Annual Campaign, will have a direct effect in the areas you and your children care most about. Together, you might choose to donate new toys or winter coats to our Chanukah Closet or give a gift that helps winterize homes for seniors.

Your gift will support The Associated’s 14 programs and agencies, and show your child the reach of a single act of kindness. You can make your gift online today at and visit for ways to get involved.

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Date Night

‍‍2013-10-30 16:40:18 - ז טבת תשעג ebrown

rabinowitz_elishevaWhat is the key to marriage? The answer, according to John Mordecai Gottman, a professor emeritus in psychology who is known for his work on marital stability, is friendship. Therefore, you might ask yourself, “How can I keep, build and maintain friendship in my marriage?” One method is to make time for each other with date nights. Here are some things to consider when planning a date night, based on discussions I have had with couples I counsel.

How often should you go on a date?
Some couples may prefer frequent, short dates (about a half-hour) to reconnect instead of a longer date, which might be a few weeks away.

Discuss with your spouse how often you want to plan date night and make it an appointment on your calendar. I find that couples who establish date night as an appointment are more likely to keep the time set aside for themselves. I explain to couples: “Just like you don’t cancel a doctor’s appointment, you need to ensure you keep this appointment, too. Your relationship is just as important as any appointment.”

How can you ensure the date is productive to the relationship?
I recommend that couples turn off their cell phones because then they can focus on each other without interruption. If children or someone very important needs to reach you, I suggest setting up a code ahead of time to indicate that the call is urgent, such as texting “311.” (“I can’t find anything I like to eat in the house” is not urgent.)

Also, I recommend that you plan the date, so you can have fun and connect. When couples get in the car and start discussing where they want to go, this can lead to frustration. Stay away from: “Where do you want to go?” “I don’t know.” “Where do you want to go?” “I don’t know.”

In addition, I suggest that you agree to leave the business issues at home and make your date a time to bond.

Some of the biggest challenges on a date are time and expense. Babysitters can cost an average of $10 per hour. When added to a $30 dinner, a date can be cost-prohibitive. Ideas?
To save money, find a friend that you trust. They can watch your kids twice a month, and you can watch their children in exchange.

Also, not all fun costs a lot of money. Go on a hike or take a long drive. The possibilities are many.

The bottom line is that you make your marriage a priority by taking time to nurture it.

Lisa (Elisheva) Rabinowitz is a local licensed clinical professional counselor. She can be reached at 410-736-8118 or Her suggestions are for couples in healthy relationships and exclude those in abusive relationships.

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Ask Mesila

‍‍2013-10-30 16:40:07 - ז טבת תשעג ebrown

Q: True or false? It is dangerous to encourage people to live with a strict budget. Recording every penny and constantly staying within a predetermined budget causes tension in the home.

A: We disagree. Our experience has demonstrated that in homes with a budget, money is less of an issue than in homes where spending limits are only loosely defined.

This should come as no surprise. Structure creates freedom. For example, in a home where there are no rules or limits, are children happier? In a lawless society, is there less interpersonal conflict? Of course not. Both children and adults crave the security of knowing what is acceptable and what is not.

The need for clear limits applies to money matters, too. In a home where budgetary limitations are not clearly defined, there is more room for disagreement and squabbles over how money is to be spent. When reasonable, predetermined spending limits are in place, people can spend money without fear of a backlash from their loved ones — or from the bank.

Yes, there is definitely a measure of discipline and self-control involved, but there hould be no financial power struggles. Instead of husband, wife or parent having to say, “no,” the budget becomes the authority that decides whether money is to be spent or not.

Consider the following scenario:

Mr. Cohen decides one day that he needs a new car. Mrs. Cohen thinks the old one is just fine and that they cannot afford a new one right now. If the Cohens have a budget, the decision whether to purchase a new car can be made objectively. The issue of “Can we afford it?” should be an easy one to resolve, since the family’s financial balance sheet will clearly indicate if money is available for this purpose.

If the Cohens do not have a budget, the decision probably will be made based on emotion.

When husband and wife decide ahead of time where they want their money to go, they are, in effect, eliminating possible sources of friction down the line. Once a year, or once every few months, when they readjust their budget, they can discuss how they want to spend their money. The rest of the time, money should be a non-issue.

A home is in many ways similar to a small business. At Mesila, we advise businesses to view their finances as a cake. The last, and most important, piece of cake is the profits. Unless business owners carefully plan for that last piece of cake, the cake will disappear quickly, and they will be left holding an empty tray.

The family-finances cake also needs to be apportioned carefully so it does not disappear. A smart parent knows better than to cut big pieces of cake for a few of the children and leave nothing for the rest — he or she will divide the cake in a way that ensures that there will be enough for everyone.

Similarly, the only way to divide the family’s income pie fairly and effectively is to do so ahead of time, setting aside money for basic expenses while allocating reasonable amounts for the needs of individual family members and the family as a whole.

The smart parent will also make sure to leave a bit of cake at the end.

Of course, in order for a budget to contribute to the harmony in the home, it has to be realistic and somewhat flexible. If unbudgeted-for expenses continually arise, or if routine expenses consistently exceed their budgeted allotment, those are indications that the budget is too austere and needs to be reworked. Jt

This column is a regular feature written by Mesila financial planning and counseling experts, Email questions to

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What Is Love?

‍‍2013-10-03 15:12:23 - ז טבת תשעג ebrown

rabinowitz_elishevaWe say “I love you” or “I love (fill in the blank)” so casually in our everyday lives that it becomes empty and insignificant. Many people say “I love pizza,” “I love brownies,” “I love working out (or maybe not),” “I love my car,” and recently I heard a teenager tell someone she had only met a few days prior, “I love you so much.” I wondered to myself, “If they just met a few days ago, do they really love each other, and do we really love all of these things?”

When I began to ponder why we use the words “I love” without meaning, the following came to mind:

> Movies: Boy meets girl, they fall in love, something monumental happens, and they live happily ever after. We see it so much, we believe it is real. We can tell ourselves that this is just a movie, but it skews our perception. What are our expectations when we are looking for the right one? Is our decision based on physical appearance, money or other qualities? And when times get tough (and they will), what do we hope will happen (someone will save us)?

> Music: Many people listen to secular music several hours a day. Many of the lyrics revolve around love: “All You Need Is Love” (Beatles), “As Long as You Love Me” (Justin Beiber), “Love Will Keep Us Together” (The Captain and Tennille), “Love The Way You Lie” (Rihanna) … and the list goes on.

As a therapist and mom, it saddens me to see the songs that have provided generations with a fantasy of love.

When I ask clients about how they first met, frequently I hear stories such as: “It was love at first sight;” “I fell in love after just a few dates;” and “I knew she was the right one as soon as I saw her.”

These descriptions do not hold true for all my clients, but these descriptions do sound like they are out of movie scripts. After these couples get married, they are frequently surprised when reality hits. We have to pay the bills, we have to stay up all night because the baby is crying, we are upset with each other because we have a difference of opinion, we gained 20 pounds, or we went bald. Many people are unaware of what it takes to stay married. Frequently, couples don’t discuss the everyday challenges, the ups and downs and the frustrations because love will solve everything. It does not work that way.

So what is love?

I can’t define love for you, but usually it doesn’t develop (referring to the songs with a love theme) in five seconds, it doesn’t work if you lie, it’s not healthy if you are addicted to it, and you can lose that loving feeling (but that doesn’t mean the relationship is over). Relationships take work, patience, compromise and giving to one another to develop and maintain a loving bond.

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‍‍2013-10-03 15:05:33 - ז טבת תשעג ebrown

2013_meredith_jacobs_smOn my daughter’s Twitter feed the Monday after the Navy Yard shooting: “Enough. #DCStrong.”

I felt proud at her outrage and also sad because this is yet another in a long line of national violent tragedies our children have grown up knowing. Our children, who were babies, preschoolers during 9/11 — is this to be their generation’s moniker? Here is a sampling of national violent
attacks during their lives:

Columbine in 1999; 9/11 in  2001; the Beltway snipers in 2002; Virginia Tech in 2007; the Holocaust Museum in 2009; Tucson in 2011; Aurora and Newtown in 2012; and this year, Boston and the Navy Yard.

I thought about when I was growing up. I’m certain there was violence and horrible things in the world. I remember my teachers writing on the chalkboard the number of days the hostages were held in Iran. My high school science teacher turned on the television in our biology classroom when President Ronald Reagan was shot. When Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, carrying a planeload of students returning home from their junior year abroad, I gathered with my college roommates, all of us also in our junior year, and cried.

I’m certain there were more, but unlike our children, I didn’t have Twitter or Facebook to flood me with a constant stream of news. It’s overwhelming and somewhat distancing. Desensitizing. Our parents were able to shield us. News was on television at 6 p.m. or in the newspaper — vehicles far too boring to catch our childhood attention.

I asked my son how he felt about the shootings. He told me that it feels like it’s just one more. In a few months, there’ll be another.

It reminded me of something my daughter had written for the New York Jewish Week in its “Fresh Ink for Teens” blog: “We are the future but not if we are the targets.” She was struck by how often the victims were children.

It was soon after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn., that she wrote about how often she has gathered at school for moments of silence, how often she has heard rallying cries of reforming gun control and increasing resources for those struggling with mental illness and how often time passes and people move on.

Is it our new way of consuming news? Our attention is caught only by what happens to be trending at that moment.

Sofie wrote: “It was OK for us to blindly hope when we stood in a circle around the American flag in first grade, but we’re too old now to put our fate in other people’s hands. … But maybe this is our rallying cry. Maybe out of our sadness, anger and fear we open our eyes, become aware and create movement and proactive change regarding gun control and the treatment of mental-health illnesses.

“Faceless terrorists scare me. Burning buildings scare me. Evil gunmen scare me. But what scares me most of all is the idea that the only reaction from Newtown will be blind hope.”

Less than a year later, we’re here again. How many more tragedies will cut through our children’s lives before we truly do something? We can’t wait for them to grow up. It’s not enough to throw a Twitter hashtag or “like” a post and think we’ve done something meaningful. We need action and
reform. And we need it now.


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