Take Note

Input by the five Northwest neighborhood groups on what they consider most important to their communities will be seriously considered by Baltimore City.

Input by the five Northwest neighborhood groups on what they consider most important to their communities will be seriously considered by Baltimore City.

More than 1,000 Northwest Baltimore residents packed into the Cross Country Middle School auditorium Wednesday, Oct. 16 to voice their opinions on what they consider most important in their neighborhood.

The event was organized by a joint effort from Baltimore City and the five Northwest neighborhood groups. Each resident checked in at a table, where they verified that they live in the area and received a strip of seven stickers. They were then directed to the auditorium, where they could place their stickers beneath any of the 26 recommendations for how to spend the Strategic Neighborhood Action Plan money acquired from slot machines (see recommendations below).

While the sticker balloting will not directly affect where the funds are directed, Kate Edwards, community planner for West and Northwest Baltimore, said the input will be taken into consideration as the city and the major community groups make their final decision this winter.

“It’s incredibly important to get as much input as possible,” said Edwards.

While working with the five Northwestern neighborhood community groups ensures the city gets a lot of the community opinion, hosting an event such as this, where any Northwest resident can come and speak for himself or herself, allows for broader opinions and insight.

“Here, they can identify priorities,” she said.

Twenty minutes into the event, organizers ran out of stickers, and residents were told to start signing their initials under the initiatives they considered to be most important. While some people in attendance found this a nuisance, most saw it as a measure of the meeting’s success.

“We warned them to come with enough stickers,” said Avrahom Sauer, of the Cross Country Improvement Association, comparing the turnout to a World Series sweep for the neighborhood associations charged with getting out word of the meeting to residents.

“When [Northwest Baltimore residents] are truly given the opportunity to speak out, they’ll take advantage,” said Sauer.

Mount Washington Improvement Association Honorary Director Mac Nachlas agreed that the turnout was indicative of how involved Northwestern residents are in their community. The five neighborhood organizations “are representative” of the people in the neighborhoods, he said.

The groups working on the 26 recommendations tried to really encapsulate what their residents cared most about, said Nachlas.

Representatives from different Northwestern neighborhoods had narrowed a much larger list down to the 26 laid out for their neighbors, and that involved a lot of looking at the bigger picture, he said.

Nachlas added that the neighborhood groups did not pick initiatives that would help only their territory but instead came together with the city to identify recommendations that would benefit all different parts of the Northwest.

Chaim Rubenstein struggled to pick which recommendations he thought were most important.

“I wish I could fund all 26,” he said, adding that he spread his stickers among improving safety, parks and housing in the region.

The large turnout reinforced the faith Rubenstein has in his district. “People in the Northwest care a lot about their neighborhood,” he said.

Located on the outskirts of the city, Northwest residents choose to stay in the city rather than to move just a few minutes away to Baltimore County, Rubenstein said. “We’re staying in the city because we care about the city,” he said.

Corinne Borel was happy to have the opportunity to chime in on where some of the SNAP funds should be directed, but she was worried about the funds’ dependence on slots. Some of the recommendations presented seemed more like necessities, she said, adding that she was disappointed to see them treated like “frills.”

“We are very pleased that the community prioritized safety as a key priority,” said a statement from Shomrim, pointing out that Recommendation 24 advocated for the strengthening of support for volunteer safety groups.

The public safety organization sent out an email blast a week before the meeting encouraging residents to attend the meeting and to support Recommendations 23 and 24.

“Clearly this community came out and said that safety is important to them,” added Shomrim Vice President Ronnie Rosenbluth.

Other recommendations that received a lot of resident support were 1, 4, 11, 13, 14 and 15.

Polling was also available online for a more extended length of time. Stickers and online balloting will not be tallied for a couple weeks, when all input has been collected, said Edwards.

See The 26 Recommendations

Heather Norris is a JT staff reporter — hnorris@jewishtimes.com

Conversation Of The Century

At 100 years old, the Conservative movement feels it still has the juice to be “the vital center” of the Jewish religious world. And during its three-day Centennial conference this week, the movement’s rabbis and members, along with a large cast of idea people and performers, constructed an ideal Conservative Jewish community at the Marriott Waterfront Hotel overlooking Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

Billed as the Conversation of the Century, the conference drew 1,200 people from places like North America, Israel and Britain to Charm City; roughly 85 Conservative leaders from the Baltimore area attended.

That conversation, which attendees described as plugged with creativity and dynamism, took place less than two weeks after the release of the Pew study of American Jews, which initially caused shock with its statistics on dropping affiliation and high intermarriage rates. Scarcely a speech, workshop or discussion at the Conversation of the Century finished without the word “Pew” mentioned as a reference point.

“Together, we’ll take a close, honest look at the sobering findings of the new Pew study,” promised Rabbi Steven Wernick, CEO of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, as he opened the conference on Sunday.

The Pew study, which Rabbi Steven Schwartz of Beth El Congregation said should serve as a “wakeup call,” found that only 18 percent of American Jews identify as Conservative, down from 43 percent in 1990. And Conservative Jews are older on average than Reform or Orthodox Jews and more likely to leave their movement than Jews from either of the other two major denominations.

A few minutes after Rabbi Wernick spoke, Chancellor Arnold Eisen, of the Jewish Theological Seminary, described how his students have been “energized” rather than discouraged by the Pew report.

“They’re challenged to reach out to their cohort,” he said.

“I heard someone say, ‘poo on Pew,’” said Leslie Lloyd, president of Shaare Torah in Gaithersburg, during Sunday’s lunch break. “Look at these energized people,” she said of the crowd passing by her. “Here’s where the quality is. Here’s where the engagement is.”

Eric Ellman of Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Potomac agreed about the high quality and motivation of his fellow participants. Like Lloyd, he attended the Shabbaton before the conference. With its five types of worship services, nonstop study and discussion sessions, and the enthusiastic participation of 100 members of the USY youth group, the Shabbaton and its “energy, passion and ruach [spirit]” were like a tonic for the deflating statistics, Ellman said.

But, he noted, “This is an echo chamber. The Pew report is doom and gloom. It’s just here that the future seems bright.”


Increasingly, the conversation over Conservative Judaism is about a product in search of consumers.  A listener couldn’t help imagining a wholesale
exodus from the synagogue and into the market square, where rabbis from the various Jewish movements stand at stalls and hawk their wares to passers-by.

“We have the institutions and the people to provide these goods,” Eisen said in his speech, and Rabbi Wernick predicted that a “turnaround” will take place for Conservative Judaism “by building a big tent, a free market of ideas, inspiration and action.”

In his opening address, Rabbi Wernick said the movement would reverse the “narrative of decline” suggested by the Pew study by “affirming three pillars of Conservative Jewish life: kehillah, tradition and renewal.”

United Synagogue was founded in 1913 by scholar Solomon Schechter to pursue a new idea at the time: a Judaism that preserved tradition and embraced modernity. Schechter’s vision was a big tent that included Modern Orthodoxy.

From the tension at the core of Schechter’s idea, the Conservative movement was born as a liberal alternative to Orthodoxy and a traditional alternative to Reform Judaism — “the vital epicenter of contemporary Jewish life,” as Rabbi Wernick called it.

Now, with the movement losing to the left, right and indifferent, it is looking for ways to compete in the new Jewish marketplace.

The movement has been moving away from the emphasis on the synagogue — a physical structure — and embracing the idea of kehillah — a community of people. “Holiness is heightened in kehillah,” Rabbi Wernick said, “in a spiritual, caring community.”

Tradition, the second pillar, is alive, he said. “Our tradition lives” because it is “renewed by us every day,” renewal being the third pillar.

Eisen said to thrive, Conservative Jews will need to stretch. In words that echoed the immigration debate and implied non-Jews, he called on the movement to “stretch our boundaries wider” by welcoming others “regardless of where they come from. They bring us gifts that we would not have without them.”

He said the movement must “stretch beyond the status quo of the synagogue” to become a Judaism that is part of the everyday world.

“There’s no surprise that more Jews say they’re without religion” Eisen said. “They think religion means rejection of the secular world — where all of them live.”

And Conservative Jews must “stretch our capacity of sacrifice, in “money, time, self-confidence and in public pride of who we are,” he said.

In her keynote address, writer and educator Erica Brown nailed Conservative Judaism firmly in the market place, when she summoned the ghost of Steve Jobs. She criticized the Jewish community for spending “a lot of time catching up and not a lot of time forecasting.”

In contrast, she quoted Jobs as saying: “Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they know it.”

“Our task is much the same,” Brown said.

Brown, who is scholar-in-residence at the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, did not say how the Conservative movement might accomplish for itself what Jobs did for Apple but suggested the movement needs some “destructive innovation. The slogan has been tikkun olam” — repair of the world, she said. “I say, go out and do a little damage.”


At some point it became an immutable Jewish tradition that on the anniversary of the death of a loved one, the synagogue will send a reminder notice with an envelope asking for a donation. One rabbi in Canada decided to try something different: He called his congregants on the yahrzeit instead of sending them mail. And he didn’t ask for money.

Attendance at his synagogue went up.

Educator and author Ron Wolfson told this story during his keynote address Monday to illustrate the importance of personal relationships.

Sen. Mikulski, Rep. Sarbanes Back Brown For Governor

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown received a pair of major endorsements in his bid for the governor’s office earlier this week when Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski made her support public on Sunday, Sept. 23 at a campaign rally in Silver Spring and Congressman John Sarbanes followed suit Monday with his own announcement.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski has endorsed Anthony Brown for governor of the State of Maryland.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski has endorsed Anthony Brown for governor of the State of Maryland.

Mikulski and Sarbanes are the most recent in a line of Brown endorsers that includes Governor Martin O’Malley, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, Representative Elijah Cummings, Representative Donna Edwards, five Maryland state senators, nine state delegates, more than 100 elected officials from across Maryland and numerous organizations.

“I support Anthony Brown because I’ve worked with him for 15 years, watching up close as he solved the most pressing problems facing Maryland families and women. I see in Anthony the fantastic values I most admire – he’s honorable, he’s patriotic and he’s willing to tackle the tough issues,” Mikulski said in a statement at Silver Spring’s Civic Building at Veterans’ Plaza.

Citing Brown’s work with veterans, health care and job creation, Mikulski told rally attendees that Brown has her full support. “Anthony Brown can count on my support because Maryland can count on Anthony Brown,” she said.

In addition to being the longest-serving female in the history of the U.S. Congress, Mikulski, who grew up in East Baltimore, has a history of working closely with the Jewish community in Maryland. In 2006, she was awarded the Friend of the Synagogue Award by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America for her efforts in working to protect non-profit community institutions and her support of the Jewish community. In 2012, she, along with two other senators, introduced legislation that would support programs to assist aging Holocaust survivors.

Sarbanes - Sept. 24, 2013

Congressman John Sarbanes joined Sen. Barbara Mikulski Monday in supporting Anthony Brown for governor.

Sarbanes, who represents Maryland’s third district — an area that zigzags from Baltimore to Annapolis — pointed to Brown’s military service as an example of his values.

“The Lieutenant Governor’s service to our country in the U.S. Armed Forces — most recently in Iraq — has set a powerful example of sacrifice and commitment,” said Sarbanes in a statement, adding that Brown is a proven leader who will “help keep Maryland’s recovery on track.”

With the governor’s office’s recent announcement that the state’s job base has returned to pre-recession numbers, jobs will no doubt be a major point in Brown’s campaign.

Brown, who announced his candidacy in May, and running mate Ken Ulman, will face Attorney General Doug Gansler and state delegate Heather Mizeur, neither of whom have announced their running mates yet, in addition to Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger, should he decide to run, in a June 24, 2014 democratic primary.


Locked In: Curfew Proposition On The Table For Baltimore City

The proposed changes to the teen curfew in the city of Baltimore don’t have much support in the city’s District 5 office.

Rikki Spector says that for Northwest Baltimore she does not see an advantage to a teen curfew.

Rikki Spector says that for Northwest Baltimore she does not see an advantage to a teen curfew.

“I don’t see any advantage,” said Baltimore City Councilwoman Rochelle Spector, adding that she will learn more about the proposal when it reaches the hearing stage. “I’m not sure that it’s building a better mouse trap.”

If approved, the new curfew, proposed by City Councilman Brandon M. Scott earlier this month, will change the times at which young people must be off city streets to an age-based system. Children under the age of 14 would have to be indoors by 9 p.m. year-round. Teens between 14 and 16 would have to be in by 10 p.m. on weeknights and 11 p.m. on weekends and during summer. The maximum fine would also be increased to $500.

Curfews are not new to the city. Current law mandates that all people under the age of 17 may not be in any public place or establishment after midnight on weekends and 11 p.m. on weekdays. It is also unlawful for any parent or guardian to knowingly permit his or her child to violate this curfew. Those minors in violation of the curfew may be detained by police, but not arrested, and no mark is made on their criminal record. Parents or guardians in violation of the subtitle may also receive a fine of up to $300, imprisonment for a maximum of 60 days, or sentenced to community service.

The proposed system would allow minors and their families to avoid a civil citation by attending a family-strengthening program.

In her district, District 5, The Northwest portion of the city, Spector said juvenile behavior has been a problem, but she is wary of an across-the-board fix to a complicated problem. With organizations like the Northwest Citizen’s Patrol and Shomrim, along with the local police precinct, Spector said the situation in her district is better than that of many other regions of the city.

“When we identify an area or situation, it really gets focused attention and resources,” she said.

Exceptions would remain in place for minors accompanied by a parent or returning home from work or a school or religious function.

Baltimore has gained national attention over the years for its murder rate, which rests at the 6th-highest in the U.S. among cities with populations of 100,000 people or more, according to FBI data. According to the city of Baltimore’s Comstat data, Baltimore Police have made 32,718 arrests in 2013 and of those, 2,487 (7.6 percent) were juveniles. While this figure is almost identical to the rate in cities like Washington, D.C., where 7.3 percent of 2012 arrests were juveniles, part of Councilman Scott’s motive behind his proposal is to help reduce truancy in the city schools and improve student performance, he told Nathan Sterner on 88.1 FM’s “Midday with Dan Rodricks” last Tuesday.

Said Councilwoman Spector: “Police can’t be the answer to parents or those who are responsible for these children.”

Gansler Releases Twitter Video Before Announcement

Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler released a gubernatorial campaign video via Twitter on Thursday, Sept. 19, ahead of his official announcement on Tuesday, Sept. 24.

His challengers include Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and running mate Ken Ulman, who currently serves as Howard County Executive, and state delegate Heather Mizeur, a democrat who represents the 20th District in Montgomery County. Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger (D-2), who also served as Baltimore County’s executive from 1994 until 2002, is considering running.

While cyber security is a big issue for Gansler, his spokesman said this video, which is posted on YouTube, shows social media in a positive light.

“There’s an acknowledgement that social media and online platforms are incredibly valuable tools for getting out your message,” Bob Wheelock, Gansler’s spokeman, said.

The video is an effort to try to reach a broad audience and a younger audience, he said.

The video starts with a segment on Charm City Lacrosse, an organization started five years by Gansler as a program for inner-city youth who wouldn’t necessarily have the opportunity to play the sport. A participant says “Coach Doug” was encouraging and helped instill confidence in the players.

The video feature testimonials from police, domestic violence advocates and elected officials. It talks about how Gansler changed the way the court system handles domestic violence, his record in marriage equality – he was the first elected official in Maryland to endorse it – cyber security and his going after predatory lenders. It ends with Gansler talking about helping working- and middle-class Marylanders, jobs and ensuring children have equal education opportunities.

“I think that’s what government’s supposed to do: to help create a level playing field so all people in Maryland will have access and the opportunity to excel or to reach their potential,” he says.

Police Investigating Social Media ‘Predator’

092013_cybercrimeBaltimore County Police are investigating a complaint involving an unknown person who has engaged in sexually explicit video chats with two teenage girls.

The girls, who are students at St. Paul’s School for Girls and live in Reisterstown, reported the incidents to the school, who notified police on Friday, Sept. 13. Officers came to the school and spoke with the girls and their parents.

“A sexual predator has contacted over 50 of our upper-school students. These contacts and encounters are on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Vine,” Penny B. Evins, head of St. Paul’s School for Girls, said in a statement. “This person is calling himself J.P. Smith, Brian Pond, JPL42 and MatLax.”

According to police, one of the girls accepted a “friend” request in the summer of 2012, as well as video chat requests from the suspect. The second girl accepted the request last week. Both told police they viewed explicit messages from the suspect and entered chat rooms where he engaged them in explicit conversation.

Police are trying to identify the suspect, whose age is unknown, and determine if a crime was committed. Police said there is no indication that he made, or tried to make, physical contact with the girls. The suspect’s gender has not been confirmed by police.

Neighboring schools were also notified of the incident, and several emailed parents, including Carver Center for Arts and Technology Principal Karen Steele and Jemicy School Head of School Ben Shifrin. While it is unclear if, and which, students from other schools were contacted, Steele said Carver students could be among that group.

“As we all know, technology opens up wondrous possibilities and opportunities, but with that comes the potential for some to use it for less noble purposes,” Steele said in an email to parents. “Though we would all wish that our students could be completely shielded from the dangers of the world, we also know that is unrealistic.”

She called it a “teachable moment” and encouraged parents to discuss the incident with their students.

Nancy Aiken, director of CHANA (Counseling, Helpline and Aid Network for Abused Women), said it’s important that the students know they didn’t do anything wrong.

“I give the students credit primarily, but I also give the school credit that they were seen as a safe place for students to tell,” she said.

It’s important that parents and faculty respond to any kind of “grooming,” the process in which predators set the stage for a sexual encounter, as early as possible, Aiken said.

Police advise children not to accept “friend” requests from strangers, open email from strangers or engage in video chats with strangers. They also recommend that parents use social media privacy settings on their children’s social networks.

Evins’ letter had similar advice and also recommended students not post anything inappropriate on social

“Our most important job as educators and parents is keeping our children safe,” Evins said in an emailed statement.

According to the email from Jemicy School’s Shifrin, some students at Garrison Forest School reported being followed in Instagram and Snapchat by a user with the name EMJAMLI, who is commenting on their pictures.

In a separate incident, an unidentified woman tried to lure a Bais Yaakov middle school student into her car at a bus stop on Thursday, Sept. 12. The student ignored the woman, ran home and told her parents, who notified Shomrim and Baltimore County Police, according to an email from the school.

“We do not know if the person knew that this was a time when Bais Yaakov students would be getting off the bus on the way home or if they just happened to be there,” the email said. “Either way, parents are advised to direct their children how to respond if such a situation should ever arise in the future.”

Bringing Health Care To The People

Joe DeMattos says the Affordable Care Act will begin correcting disparities  in the health-care system.

Joe DeMattos says the Affordable Care Act will begin correcting disparities in the health-care system.

As the Affordable Care Act is implemented nationwide, millions of uninsured Americans will have a variety of health-care options to choose from. A healthier, insured population will bring a myriad of short- and long-term benefits to Maryland and the U.S.

“Think of the [Maryland Health Benefit Exchange] as Travelocity or Expedia for health care and new health options that are available,” said Joe DeMattos, president of the Health Facilities Association of Maryland.
The hurdle, however, is getting the word out and explaining a complex system to a diverse population that has little or no experience with health insurance.

“There has to be a lot of outreach, and you have to meet the people where they are,” said Tracey Paliath, director of economic services at Jewish Community Services, one of many organizations that will be helping the community understand the new options.

It is estimated that about 800,000 people, 14 percent of Maryland’s population of 5.8 million, are uninsured.

Earlier this month, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Maryland Health Connection, the state’s online insurance marketplace, announced a statewide, multimedia marketing and outreach campaign. The goal of the campaign is to inform Marylanders about the importance of health coverage, plan choices and financial assistance available during open enrollment, which begins Oct. 1 and ends on March 31, 2014. Those who enroll before Dec. 18 will have coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2014.

In addition to radio, print and television advertising, the effort includes a social media campaign and partnerships with the Baltimore Ravens, Giant and CVS. An estimated 180,000 people are expected to enroll in qualified health plans within the first year, and another 100,000 are expected to enroll in Medicaid as a result of the program’s expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

Nonprofit HealthCare Access Maryland is tasked with reaching and signing up uninsured Marylanders in Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Anne Arundel County, approximately 217,000 people.

Kathleen Westcoast, HCAM’s president and CEO, said the goal in the first year is to sign up 18,000 to 20,000 people in the city and about 15,000 in the county. To do that, HCAM and its 16 partners have hired about 107 navigators and assisters. Navigators can sign people up for health plans and Medicaid and assisters can sign people up only for Medicaid. They will be setup with laptops and Internet connectivity throughout the area, so they can register people wherever they are; the community partners will help
determine where the navigators and assisters go.

“We’re relying on organizations that have expertise and tentacles into their communities,” Westcoast said. “We want to tap into their knowledge and expertise.”

Although not a formal partner, JCS is working with HCAM to get the word out in the Jewish community.


Barbara Gradet says health-care changes are long overdue.

Barbara Gradet says health-care changes are long overdue. (Photo Kirsten Beckerman)

“We want to be trained because we know a lot of people will turn to us,” said Barbara Gradet, executive director of JCS. “The resources are out there, but we need all hands on deck.”

She said JCS has been thinking of ways to use JCC facilities as well as its staff to carry out HCAM’s mission.

Paliath, JCS’s director of economic services, said it’s important that the information comes from within the Jewish community since most prefer to get their human services needs met in a Jewish context. To that end, she envisions JCS benefits counselors as well as organizations such as the JCC, CHAI and the Baltimore Jewish Council working on outreach. In addition, synagogues will be contacted to see how the JCS can best work with them to get the word out. The idea is to make sure no segment of the community is left untouched.
“Not everybody who is a member of a synagogue is a member of the JCC,” Paliath said.

The Baltimore Jewish Council held an interfaith informational session in May at the Weinberg Park Heights JCC, where almost 200 leaders across the religious spectrum heard from Congressman Elijah Cummings, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Joshua Sharfstein and various other officials.

“I think everybody is looking for ways to get the information out, the correct information and how to best access the exchange,” said Cailey Locklair, BJC’s director of government relations.

Support for universal health care in the Jewish community goes back long before the Affordable Care Act. Locklair said the BJC adopted a congruent policy in the early 1990s.

“The Jewish community felt it was important to ensure that those, regardless of ability to pay, would be able to access a health-care system,” she said.

She said the BJC will tap into its existing network to implement more community-based health programs to ensure uninsured Marylanders get primary care, one of the most important types of preventative care.
DeMattos, whose organization advocates for long-term care providers, said the Affordable Care Act will begin correcting disparities in the health-care system.

“The exchange and the beginning innovations of the Affordable Care Act expand access to care and provide a standard for credible coverage, but that’s only part of the equation,” he said. “The other part of the equation is increasing the overall wellness of a broad cross-section of Marylanders and Americans. We still, today, have incredible health-care disparity amongst different income and ethnic groups.”
Gradet believes these changes are long overdue.

“This country has been struggling with health care a long, long time, and it’s kind of embarrassing where we are in the world,” she said. “With developed nations, we’re way, way behind.”


How The System Works>>

WYPR Series Examines Obamacare and Its Local Impact>>

How The System Works

The Affordable Care Act mandated that states start their own health exchange systems or participate in a federal exchange. The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange (MHBE) was created on April 12, 2011, as an
independent, public corporation responsible for developing and operating Maryland Health Connection, the marketplace.

The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange’s nine-member board includes board chair Joshua M. Sharfstein, secretary of Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; vice chair Darrell Gaskin, associate professor, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Therese Goldsmith, commissioner of the Maryland Insurance Administration; Ben Steffen, acting executive director of the Maryland Health Care Commission; Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association;?Jennifer Goldberg, assistant director of Advocacy for Health Care and Elder Law, Maryland Legal Aid Bureau; Enrique Martinez-Vidal, vice president for State Policy and Technical Assistance, AcademyHealth and director of State Coverage Initiatives; Thomas Saquella, former president, Maryland Retailers Association; and Kenneth S. Apfel, professor of practice, University of Maryland School of Public Policy.

The Maryland Health Connection is open to all uninsured Maryland residents, including those with pre-existing conditions. All Americans 18 and older are required to have health insurance beginning in 2014 or pay a fine.
There are 216,587 uninsured residents ages 18 to 64 in Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Anne Arundel County, which is the area Health Care Access Maryland is tasked with reaching. Of those individuals, 33.1 percent have incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty line, 48.5 percent have incomes between 138 and 400 percent of the federal poverty line, and 18.5 percent have incomes above 400 percent of the federal poverty line.

Under the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, which is a form of free health care, was expanded to cover all adults under the age of 65 with incomes of up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, which equates to about $32,500 annually for a family of four. Those making below 400 percent of the federal poverty line, which is about $85,000 annually for a family of four, may be eligible for subsidies.

Maryland residents will be able to use marylandhealthconnection.gov to compare plans, enroll in plans and find out if they are eligible for tax credits or public health programs.

Under the law, plans must cover a wide variety of services, including doctor visits, hospitalization, emergency care, maternity care, pediatric care, prescriptions, medical tests, mental health care and substance abuse treatment. The plans must also cover preventative care at no extra cost, including flu and pneumonia shots, birth control, routine vaccinations and cancer screenings, which include mammograms and colonoscopies.

Maryland Health Connection will offer 45 different medical plans from companies such as CareFirst, Evergreen, Kaiser Permanente and UnitedHealthcare. Of those, 36 of the plans include pediatric dental benefits and 24 offer statewide coverage. There are 20 standalone dental plans from Delta Dental, DentaQuest, Dominion Dental and United Concordia. Twelve of the plans offer family coverage, and eight of them offer pediatric dental benefits only.

According to figures provided by Maryland Health Connection, premiums can range from $73 for a 20-year-old single non-smoker to more than $2,000 for a family of four with varying deductibles. The plans will be categorized based on how costs are shared and will be known as bronze, silver, gold and platinum plans. Bronze plans will have lower premiums and higher deductibles, with silver and gold in between.

Changing With The Times

The University of Maryland Hillel was one of five Hillels nationwide to earn a 2013 Vision and Values award from the organization’s national office.  (Provided)

The University of Maryland Hillel was one of five Hillels nationwide to earn a 2013 Vision and Values award from the organization’s national office. (Provided)

“I ate my meals there.”

That phrase, or some version of it, is usually the first thing that comes to mind when past generations of University of Maryland students conjure up memories of their experiences at the school’s Hillel.

Still, eating kosher food is not all Hillel provided. For decades, the Jewish campus hub has offered Shabbat and holiday services, social get-togethers and access to religious leadership. However, until recent years, there was one thing in common about all those opportunities: They physically took place at the Hillel.

“We didn’t go places. Whatever we did, we did there,” said Sarita Sragow, Maryland Hillel’s student president in 1962.

Said Mindy Shapiro, a UMD student from 1979 to 1982, “I think that back when I was a student, there really wasn’t this consciousness yet of taking Hillel out of the building.”

Well, there certainly is now.

The approach of making Hillel a more expansive initiative may be most evident in the organization’s Shabbat Across Maryland, which encourages students to take part in Friday night services wherever they are.

That’s not to say the Hillel building is rendered obsolete. More than 500 students flock to Hillel’s south campus headquarters for Friday night services. However, at the same time, hundreds more are lighting candles and ripping challah in frat houses, freshman dorms and off-campus apartments.

“It’s an amazing form of expression. We are not worried about people coming to a building. We want to engage students where they are,” said Ari Israel, in his 11th year as Maryland Hillel director. “It’s not our way or the highway, there are multiple ways. … We don’t think of Hillel is a place to go. We think of it as who you can become.”

It’s that type of forward thinking that recently made Maryland Hillel one of five Hillels nationwide to earn a 2013 Vision and Values award from the organization’s national office. The honor is given to Hillels that have taken innovative steps to achieve the vision of inspiring Jewish students to make an enduring commitment to Jewish life, learning and Israel.

Maryland Hillel endeavors to reach this goal through its more than 30 student groups and 10 fellowship programs. It engages in community service projects and offers Birthright and other international trips. Students are encouraged to get involved through Facebook, Twitter and blogs. One doesn’t have to walk across Route 1 to fraternity row (Hillel’s initial location before relocating to its current dwelling on Mowatt Lane) to find out what’s going on.

“The concept of community is very different [than in the past],” Israel said. “People can identify as a part of something from their dorm room behind their computer screen, and they don’t have to physically go somewhere; so we have to be present there as well, and we are.”

And, as always has been the case at UMD, there is a deep pool of Jewish students to engage and inspire. Of the approximately 26,000 undergraduate students on campus, around 5,800 (22 percent) are Jewish. UMD has never lacked a Jewish presence, but in most recent years, it would seem that footprint is being maximized to its fullest potential.

Why do so many Jewish students view the university as a destination school? That reason hasn’t changed. UMD has always been a comfortable, welcoming place for Jews, and a lot of that has to do with the working bond between university and Jewish leaders.

Take for example the problem created by Rosh Hashanah falling early in the school calendar. The holiday commences two days after fall classes begin on Sept. 3. Customarily, the two weeks following the start of classes mark an “add/drop” period where students who are waitlisted for classes must “check in” online every 24 hours to remain eligible for the course.

Students observant of the holiday would not be able to access their computers during the first two to three days of that period and thus could miss out on the classes they want. But, Maryland Hillel worked with the university’s provost office to disable the add/drop period until after Rosh Hashanah ends.

It’s making these kinds of accommodations, Israel said, that draw in Jewish students from all over the country. And, that’s in addition to the strong base of Jews who enroll from the nearby Baltimore and Washington, D.C. metro areas. (Maryland boasts more than 1,000 Jews from Baltimore alone.)

It’s the local foundation, Israel added, that in part helps keep UMD as a top choice for Jews coming out of state.

“I use the expression it takes a minion to make a minion,” he said. [Students] want to appreciate that there is a strong Jewish community that will enable them to grow Jewishly and be comfortable.

With so much on-campus participation, Israel described Hillel’s facilities as “bursting at the seams,” and said that multimillion-dollar plans are in the works to either expand on Hillel’s current location or build a new center elsewhere.

Either way, Maryland Hillel will continue to establish itself as one of the premier college campuses for vibrant Jewish life, whether it’s in the Hillel building itself or somewhere outside of it.

Sragow, who now lives in East Brunswick, N.J., summed up the university’s ever-expanding appeal.

“There are kids from here who go to Maryland … because it is a bastion of Judaism on a secular college campus,” she said.

Meet Rabbi Moshe

Ohr Chadash Academy students will also meet a new administrator at the start of the school year. Following the retirement of Rabbi Akevy Greenblatt, Rabbi Moshe Margolese, who was hired to serve as the dean of students, has taken on an expanded role.

“The Board of Directors felt a need to “secure additional strong administrative and student leadership support,” said board member Terri Rosen, explaining that OCA hired Rabbi Margolese in the middle of the summer.

“Rabbi Margolese … is well known to many in Baltimore for his exemplary and innovative work directing programs and leading young people in day school, yeshiva and camp settings. His Masters in Educational Administration, as well as his 10 years of experience working with parents, teachers and students, position him securely to guide OCA,” Rosen said.

Rabbi Greenblatt, according to Rosen, resigned three weeks prior to the start of the school year, leading to Rabbi Margolese’s expanded role. In addition, a group of other in-house professionals will have expanded duties.

“It is a very strong team,” Rabbi Margolese said. “The board is very involved and positive and eager to participate. … I am really impressed. … I am a dedicated, caring and committed person, and I will do my best [to lead the school.]