Fresh Perspective

Josh Bender and Andrea Cheatham Kasper will be two new faces at Krieger Schechter Day School this year. Head of School Bil Zarch says he and the KSDS leadership see them both taking active roles in moving the school forward. Photo by David Stuck

Josh Bender and Andrea Cheatham Kasper will be two new faces at Krieger Schechter Day School this year. Head of School Bil Zarch says he and the KSDS leadership see them both taking active roles in moving the school forward.
Photo by David Stuck

Krieger Schechter Day School will be starting its school year with two new faces in the halls, and they come in the form of high-level staffers. Josh Bender has been hired as the new head of the lower school and Andrea Cheatham Kasper as the director of teaching and learning.  The moves come one year after the retirement of longtime head of school Paul D. Schneider and the appointment of Bil Zarch in his stead.

For both positions, said Zarch, KSDS went on a national search. Bender, he said, “just stood out. There was something about him that we all felt he was going to be a great match.”

Kasper, said Zarch, “is a rising star.”

Bender took over the position from Sandra Medoff, who retired at the end of the 2012-2013 school year. Bender has worked in Baltimore before, as head of the religious school at Beth Am Synagogue downtown. For the last six years, he has been working as the director of education at Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C. He is also a graduate of the then- Baltimore Hebrew University.

Bender recently was accepted into the Day School Leadership Training Institute at Jewish Theological Seminary.

“I am coming into a very successful school community that is so committed to education and Jewish community,” Bender said. “The level of dedication, commitment to everyone in the school is incredible.

Bender said he is taking his first year to focus on listening and learning. He plans to get to know the students and staff before moving too many new initiatives forward. But, he said, KSDS will implement some new professional development opportunities, launch a new social/emotional curriculum and do some work surrounding improvement of the school’s prayer experience. Bender is also bringing a program he calls Ta’am Shabbat (Taste of Shabbat), which will bring the school community together around Shabbat preparation.

Said Bender: “I feel more than anything incredibly fortunate to be part of this community.”

For her part, Kasper is also feeling fortunate. She was tapped for her position — a new position — by Zarch, who had worked with Kasper at his previous position in Boston. For the past five years, Kasper has been living with her family in Iceland and working on a Ph.D. in Jewish education. She said her role is “a large job, with many, many hats” and will focus on creating educational alignment between the curricula of grades K through 8. According to Zarch, there are 353 students enrolled in the school for the coming year.

Additionally, she will try to create what she terms “a learning community” at KSDS, helping teachers and parents gain a clear understanding of “what does good teaching at KSDS look like.”

Zarch said that Kasper impressed him and other school leaders with her deep knowledge of education and her desire to constantly improve her practice. He noted that Kasper is fluent in three languages — English, Hebrew and Spanish — the three languages taught at KSDS. Additionally, she has taught in Jewish and secular school systems, making her well versed in both equally important aspects of the KSDS education.

Zarch said Kasper will work closely with the teachers, invested in their growth.

“We are really committed to looking at how we can improve our practice,” he said. “When teachers are feeling like they are getting their needs met, it improves what happens in the classroom. There is a direct correlation.”

Said Kasper: “I am really excited about the ideas of innovative education and entrepreneurial education. … My work in my doctorate is all about educational leadership, and I am especially interested in institutional changes, in organizations and how they evolve and move forward their cultures.”


An Excellent Jewish Education

Sara Itzkowitz (left), Rabbi Chaim Amster and Ahuvah Heyman are three professional leaders growing Bnos Yisroel from great to even greater. David Stuck

Sara Itzkowitz (left), Rabbi Chaim Amster and Ahuvah Heyman are three professional leaders growing Bnos Yisroel from great to even greater.
David Stuck

When you walk into Bnos Yisroel there is a sign that reads, “Teaching students, not subjects.”

And that message says it all.

According to Rabbi Chaim Amster, director of development, since the all-girls school was founded in 2000 it purposely kept itself on the sidelines, growing “very quickly but quietly.” As the school prepares to open later this month, it boasts 460 students in grades kindergarten through 12.

Like most schools, explained Rabbi Amster, Bnos focuses on knowing and caring for every student. However, he said, what is different about Bnos is that the mission “permeates everything that we do. … The principal, coordinators, teachers, specialists, assistants and staff in the office — everyone has the same goal and vision for how they would like Bnos Yisroel to look and to affect the children.”

He said individual attention is not only the focus, but also the reality of the school.Parent and board president Jason Reitberger has had three daughters enrolled at Bnos since its inception. He echoed Rabbi Amster’s sentiments and said he has witnessed how the faculty and staff enable each student to maximize her potential.

“Its quest for academic excellence is something that was very important to my wife and me,” said Reitberger. “The success, in and out of the classroom, that my girls have experienced is a testament to the fact that [the school is] succeeding in its mission.”

Rabbi Moshe Hauer has consulted with Bnos. He described the school as “not just an institution, but a family.”

Reitberger said he has watched as the school grew from what he called “a mom-and-pop operation” into a top-notch institution “with sophisticated professional leadership supported by an active and engaged board of directors.”

Over the last year, explained Rabbi Amster, the school has been working closely with The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore to further its sustainability and success. Rabbi Amster noted that through The Associated Bnos took part in the Yeshiva University benchmarking process, which evaluated the school’s operation. It was found that enrollment is strong, tuition income was stable and overhead expenses were minimal. This was good news, he said. The program also recommended ways that Bnos could improve, which included greater fundraising and strengthening its board.

Last year, he said, the Bnos annual campaign increased by 70 percent and constituted 620 donors of whom about 100 give more than $1,000 annually.

“This last year, the budget was about $3.25 million. We receive approximately $2.25 million from tuition and fees, which leaves $1 million [to raise]. We get about $230,000 from the Associated and about $130,000 from the Weinberg Foundation,” said Rabbi Amster. “Then we get about another $250,000 from other foundations, including government grants. Add in the $400,000 from the annual campaign, and we have a positive cash flow.”

This situation, as has been reported through the media, is an anomaly.

Despite the successful model, Bnos plans to keep small. Reitberger said this allows every child to be noticed, appreciated and given the tools to succeed.Reitberger said the school has paid attention to the data, however, and recognizes that the Baltimore Orthodox community is growing. According to the 2010 Greater Baltimore Jewish Community Study, Orthodox households average 3.5 persons, but 4.9 persons if there are any children in the household.

“We take the needs of the Baltimore community very seriously,” said Reitberger, “and understand our place in supporting its growth. Our board has recently established a task force to address this critical issue internally, and we anticipate working with the other schools in the community to ensure that every child can access an excellent Jewish education.”

Said Rabbi Hauer: “I look forward to seeing [Bnos] continue to flourish in the heart of our community.”

Science. Technology. Engineering. Math.

Elliot Lasson says day schools need to focus on STEM subjects to ensure students have the opportunity to enter an ever-growing work arena. (Photo by Justin Tsucalas)

Elliot Lasson says day schools need to focus on STEM subjects to ensure students have the opportunity to enter an ever-growing work arena.
(Photo by Justin Tsucalas)

Science. Technology. Engineering. Math. Four words that make up an acronym that has become pervasive in the world of education. Day schools and yeshivot, according to Elliot Lasson of Joblink of Maryland, Inc., “have a responsibility to legitimately and adequately expose students to science and math classes so that they will at least consider those majors in college.”

Lasson said that he sees jobs in the STEM field posted more often than others, and that given Baltimore’s proximity to D.C. and leading national organizations such as the National Security Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency, it is important that area students be prepared.

Lasson said he has informed area day schools about the need for STEM. He pointed to Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School as an example of a school that is moving the STEM curriculum forward.

Head of School Zipora Schorr told the JT that BT has focused on raising the standard of its science, math, technology and engineering programs for the last several years. She said she assigned department heads in each division to examine the topic and determine ways to improve learning.

Each year, for example, BT students have the option of taking a wide array of advanced placement science courses and in taking part in a science symposium. Students in high school also have the option of obtaining internships in science and math labs and then presenting the work they learned in the field.

Technology, said Schorr, is also a focus. The lower school utilizes the latest equipment in the classroom, and in the middle and high school, BT this year launched a program using iPad minis. While not all students are required to take part in the STEM curriculum, Schorr said there is a growing cohort that is interested in the industry.

“More and more students are going toward the science direction, primarily because of the technology,” said Schorr.

BT had one student develop an app, which he used to market himself during the college admissions process. Several students have taken part in — and placed high — in area robotics competitions.

“The good news is,” said Schorr, “we are encouraging our girls as well.” A 2010 American Association of University Women survey found that though women and men are more equally represented in today’s white-collar workforce than they have ever been, enormous gender gaps still exist in science and engineering careers. Studies have shown that barriers such as stereotypes, gender bias and a discouraging classroom atmosphere can deter women from pursuing careers in these areas and may explain why there are so few female scientists and engineers.

In New York, at the Davis Renov Stahler Yeshiva High School for Boys, students are involved in the Common Core Curriculum. According to Principal Gerald Kirshenbaum, 32 sophomores and juniors took part in an extensive STEM education  program last year to much success.

He said that it is not just yeshivot and day schools that are grappling with how to implement STEM subjects, but that this is a national challenge.

Kirshenbaum taught and held administrative roles in the public school system for decades before retiring into chinuch 15 years ago. He said the American education system is segmented, teaching branches of science and math in silos. In New York, where students take Regents exams, they are assessed based on their knowledge of physics or chemistry or calculus; there is nothing to gauge STEM. Additionally, he said, America has been focused on memorizing information and not on solving problems. A proper STEM curriculum, he noted, helps students think and challenges them to come up with solutions. That is what the program at Stahler is doing, he said.

Lasson noted that he thinks good educators can inspire students to be passionate about STEM fields. He said not bringing STEM into Jewish day schools would limit Jewish students from obtaining the highest-level jobs.

“We have a lot of intelligent, sharp students in day schools, and many of them end up in humanities or liberal arts curriculum. This is fine. There may still be some jobs. However, where things are really trending is toward technology and science and engineering and math,” Lasson said. “And this trending is not a blip on the screen. It is a transitional period in history and will influence future jobs. These skills will important in whatever vocation you are interested in. The schools should be on the bandwagon.”

Odessa Gives Back

By IMG_0329Marina Moldavanskaya
Baltimore-Odessa Partnership Coordinator

Hundreds of people gathered this Saturday night for a wonderful event in Odessa – Party for Charity. This party combined both fun and philanthropy and featured three local DJs.
The project was created by Hillel student Kate Gilenkova for the Youth Leadership Project Metsuda. Her project is aimed at collecting money for children-at-risk. They plan to host seven parties a year, raising money from the entrance fees. During the summer, a group of children will have an opportunity to have a week holiday on the sea at a recreation center. Kate always dreamed of helping people and she finally had the opportunity to contribute to the world movement of philanthropy.

Metsuda, a program of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, engages a select group of participants from across Ukraine in a year-long combination of training seminars and a community service project. Metsuda cultivates strong alumni connections and invites graduates back to oversee proposed community projects by current participants.

The Associated, working in conjunction with its primary overseas service providers, the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) allocates roughly one-third of its Annual Campaign budget to Israel and Overseas initiatives like Metsuda in Odessa.

Latest Police Moves Keep Stability In The Community

Baltimore City Police has promoted a former captain who oversees the Northwestern District and has brought in a new captain, as well.

Marc Partee, formerly a captain, was promoted to major, and Capt. Byron Conaway joined the forces.

“You’re basically just ramping it up,” Partee said. “You have two operational guys — myself and the captain — who are basically pushing the mission forward and pushing with a younger, energetic, out-of-the-box kind of thinking.”

He and Major John Delgado came up with a strategic plan that identified eight areas of concern in the Northwestern District, one of them being the area north of Northern Parkway. Partee said these eight areas are evaluated weekly, and each have their own officers assigned to them.

In the case of the northern Park Heights corridor, the area has two officers assigned to it, Officers Ken Dickstein and Sam Bennett. Bennett is also the liaison to the Northwest Citizens On Patrol group, and Dickstein is the police’s citywide liaison to the Jewish community.

Betsy Gardner, the neighborhood liaison for the Jewish community in the 5th, 6th and 7th Baltimore districts for City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, said the promotion of Partee is great thing for the area.

“We’re just very pleased that the captain was promoted, so we keep the stability in the community,” she said.

Dickstein, whose father is a rabbi and grew up in the community, said the open communication between the police and local residents has helped police stay ahead of crime trends and made the area a safer place.

“Go on a Friday, on a Shabbos morning and see the people walking through the neighborhoods,” he said. “If they’re not safe, do you think they’d be walking around the way they are?”

Dickstein said Partee and Conaway are extremely invested in the area, as reflected by their plan to make sure every synagogue in the city has proper security coverage on the High Holidays.

“We educated the officers so that they know why they’re out there, what they’re doing and how much it means to the community for us to understand the High Holidays,” Partee said.

He said when his officers know why the department is doing what it’s doing, they buy in.

“It’s all about proactive policing,” he said.

University Of Haifa, Ruderman Family Foundation Launch Pioneering ‘American Jewish Studies’ Program

Jay Ruderman has observed for years that when American Jewish leaders visit Israel or when Israeli leaders visit the United States, the conversation is “always about Israel” and how the Jewish state relates to Iran, Syria, the Palestinians, and others.

The University of Haifa.  Photo credit: Michael Privorotsky via Wikimedia Commons.

The University of Haifa.
Photo credit: Michael Privorotsky via Wikimedia Commons.

“What’s happening in the American Jewish community?” and how those events impact future support for Israel never seem to enter the conversation, according to Ruderman, who worked for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in both New England and Jerusalem and is now president of the Ruderman Family Foundation.

The Ruderman Foundation, which prioritizes Israel-diaspora relations, has already tackled this issue by sponsoring U.S. trips for two delegations of Israeli Members of Knesset, and by launching a caucus designed to improve Knesset members’ understanding of the American Jewish community. Now, the foundation is further addressing knowledge gaps in the next generation of Israeli leaders through its funding of the new Ruderman Program for American Jewish Studies at the University of Haifa. The formation of the program, which will be the first of its kind in Israel, was revealed exclusively to

“Israeli universities have all sorts of programs studying Asia, Africa and the Arab world, but no one is studying the American Jewish community, which is probably the most important community affecting the future of Israel,” Jay Ruderman says. “The idea is that over the course of time you have a cadre of Israelis who’ve gotten a Master’s in the American Jewish community, and that they will help Israel shape this relationship.”

Headquartered in Israel and Boston—which has a sister-city partnership with Haifa—the Ruderman Foundation made an initial $1 million contribution to the new program, an amount that was matched by the University of Haifa. Starting this fall, a class of 21 graduate students will embark on the one-year, seven-course program, which will survey Jewish-American immigration history, modern foreign policy, and governmental structures, as well as gender issues and the religious makeup of U.S. Jewish communities.

“The key to understanding American Jewry is first to understand American society,” Prof. Gur Alroey, chair of the School of History at the University of Haifa and director of the new program, tells

A highlight of the curriculum will be a 10-day trip to the U.S. Students will attend lectures, tour Ellis Island, and explore the Tenement Museum in lower Manhattan. The group also will visit Philadelphia’s National Museum of American Jewish History, which houses a comprehensive exhibit detailing Jewish immigration to America from colonial times through the present.

“The trip will be the equivalent of Birthright for Israelis, only the experience will be academic rather than primarily cultural,” Alroey says.

Ronit Tirosh, a former Knesset member for the Kadima party and the first chair of the Ruderman Foundation’s Knesset caucus on relations between Israel and the American Jewish community, introduced Alroey to Jay Ruderman, ultimately leading to the new program’s formation.

Alroey spent two years guest lecturing in the U.S. at both New York University (NYU) and Rutgers University. Prof. Hasia Diner—a scholar in American Jewish history at NYU who next summer in New York will teach 10-day course on the American Jewish past and present for students of the new Ruderman program—says she has been “very impressed” with Alroey’s scholarship over the years.

“I consider his move to create this program a brilliant academic intervention and look forward to working with him,” Diner tells

During his stay in the U.S., Alroey became increasingly aware of the attitudes commonly shown by Israelis toward their most important ally.

“The reality is that our treatment of the Jewish American community in Israel has been superficial at best,” Alroey says. “How can it be that numerous programs exist at Israeli universities for Asian, African and European studies, yet there is not a single program dedicated to the study of the American Jewish Community?”

Ruderman, who has lived in Israel since 2005, says that while American Jews “probably look at themselves as both American and Jewish,” Israelis may look at them and say, “Well, their real identity is Jewish, and they should be living in Israel, but because it’s more comfortable, or for whatever reason, they’re in America.” But that is “not a correct and honest way” to look at American Jews, Ruderman says.


From Alroey’s perspective, this problem stems from Israel’s founding as a Jewish state, and as the declared gathering place for diaspora Jews.

“Throughout the ’50s and ’60s, Israeli society was very nationalist, and ideologically driven,” Alroey says. “Therefore, it was problematic to say that Jews had two good immigration options, the United States and Israel.”

Such ideological complexities prevented the development of academic programs and curricula in Israel that address the American-Jewish experience. Beyond requiring Israeli students to learn English, there is no infrastructure in place to teach American studies and to encourage its presentation in grade school and study at the university level. There is also a lack of related source materials available in Hebrew.

Consequently, Israeli students and citizens are susceptible to adopting negative stereotypes about Americans. At the same time, some Israelis may take for granted the generous financial contributions American Jews make regularly to Israel, foreign aid that is crucial to ensure Israel’s security and survival in a hostile neighborhood.

“In general, Israelis and Israeli scholars know little about American Jewry,” NYU’s Diner says. “Historically, they have expected the Jews of the United States to provide money and political support, particularly vis-a-vis the U.S. government, but have no idea as to how Jews in the United States have gone about the process of both integrating into American life and building their own communities. They do not understand the ways in which living in this particular multi-religious, multi-ethnic society [of America] has shaped Jewish options and expectations, and how those changed over time.”

Amos Shapira, president of the University of Haifa, says he sees the university “first and foremost as a center for research and advanced instruction in critical fields, but also as a tool for strengthening the Jewish state.”

“One of the primary strategic issues in Israel is the connection with the United States, and throughout the past three decades I believe this bond has weakened,” Shapira tells “The program initiated by Professor Alroey will create a new generation of educated and engaged citizens who share a deeper understanding of the American relationship.”

There is high demand for the pioneering Ruderman program. When the university posted an advertisement soliciting applications for the inaugural class, the school was inundated with nearly 100 responses in less than three weeks. Interviews were soon held to select a diverse group of students consisting of high school teachers, businessmen and women, and former emissaries of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Taglit-Birthright program.

“The program is ideal for students who have already had significant encounters with Americans, but who now desire an academic perspective,” Alroey says. “Excellent English is a must.”

A cornerstone of the program will be the initiative to conduct new research on Jewish-American topics. Each year students will assist in translating one important American text into Hebrew. Additionally, guest professors from the United States and officials involved with political, social, and religious aspects of Israeli-American relations will be invited to share their perspectives.

Course offerings will include: American Jews and the American Political System; American Jews: From Melting Pot to Minority Group; The American Zionist Leadership: Jewish Culture in America; American Jewry and the Jewish World; Immigrants, Revolutionaries, Intellectuals; American Jewry Between Culture and Politics; and New York – Tel Aviv: A Comparative Study of East European Immigrant Societies.

The immediate goals of the program are exploratory, but long-term expectations of graduates are high. “Today’s students are tomorrow’s teachers, activists and Knesset members,” Shapira says. “We hope students will use what they learn to prompt a larger dialogue among Israelis and to inspire improved U.S.-Israel relations.”

“The Ruderman Program for American Jewish Studies will be one of a kind and an important development in Israeli academia,” says Alroey. “We expect other Israeli universities to develop similar programs soon, helping to build the informed infrastructure we need and desire.”

Jay Ruderman, meanwhile, looks forward to an improved discourse among Israelis regarding the American Jewish community.

Before, Ruderman was accustomed to hearing American Jewish leaders “whisper to me or to themselves on the side that, ‘Hey, I just talked to the [Israeli] foreign ministry, and they don’t understand what’s going on with us,’ or ‘I went to the Knesset and they didn’t know the difference between AIPAC and ADL (Anti-Defamation League).”

As a result of the program, however, Ruderman hopes American Jewish leaders will witness a change in Israeli attitudes instead be able to say, “Hey, Israel has woken up, they get it. They’re people who really get this issue [of the American Jewish community].”

Ruderman says the initial $2 million combined investment from the foundation and the university is expected to sustain the program for five years.

“Scholarship is an investment in the future,” he says. “You never know, when you support scholarship, where someone is going to end up.”

 Jeffrey F. Barken and Jacob Kamaras writes for



Best Music Festival

Brad Selko (left) started Hot August Blues and Roots Festival 21 years ago in his backyard. Rich Barnstein (right) helps promote the festival, which now brings around 5,000 people to Oregon Ridge Park each year. (Justin Tsucalas)

Brad Selko (left) started Hot August Blues and Roots Festival 21 years ago in his backyard. Rich Barnstein (right) helps promote the festival, which now brings around 5,000 people to Oregon Ridge Park each year. (Justin Tsucalas)

The Hot August Blues and Roots Festival has come a long way since the first show 21 years ago at Brad Selko’s farm in Monkton.

“A friend of mine came up to me and said, ‘Do you want to have a picnic in your backyard with Charlie Musselwhite?’” Selko said. “I said, ‘Are you crazy?’”

A couple months later, almost 400 people showed up to see the legendary blues player. Each year, the number of bands and attendees would grow in size, and the festival moved to various venues until finding a home at Oregon Ridge Park in 2002; it attracts upward of 5,000 each summer.

“Every year the show gets a little bigger, and we improve upon it,” said Selko, who founded the festival and books the music lineup.

While the festival isn’t strictly blues anymore, the Aug. 17 concert boasts a diverse lineup that includes blues-rockers Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, New Orleans funk band Galactic, Brooklyn Afrobeat outfit Antibalas, eclectic bluegrass band Greensky Bluegrass, rootsy singer-songwriter JD McPherson, Chicago bluesman Eddy Clearwater, electro-rock duo Boombox and a long list of diverse local bands.

“It’s the premier Baltimore outdoor music festival, and the artists that Hot August Blues brings to town are incredible musicians,” said Stephen Yasko, general manager at WTMD, a Towson-based independent radio station. “It serves the part of WTMD that connects the artists with the audiences.”

Hot August Blues was recently named “Best Music Festival” by Baltimore magazine. As part of its continuing evolution, the festival added a third stage this year and will also feature a variety of performance artists, drum circles for kids and adults and a harmonica workshop for kids.

“We have more diversification than we probably ever have had in 21 years,” Selko said.

Rich Barnstein, who helps the festival with social media and promotion, said Hot August Blues has been successful because Selko is progressive and listens to what fans want.

“You have to have a fresh lineup,” Barnstein said. “He’s always changing that.”

A lot of attendees said they would like a video screen so they can see performers even when seated far away, so the festival added that this year. Other attendees wanted to see some non-craft beer options, so Selko got National Bohemian for this year’s festival.

“The bottom line is to try to find a way to make Hot August Blues better and better,” Barnstein said.

Selko said other than some 1950s and 1960s jazz, he mostly likes to listen to new music.

“He’s a real music fan,” said Steve Kearns, a volunteer coordinator. “He listens to a lot of music, and when he goes on vacation, he drives to see [people] perform.”

By branching out beyond pure blues, the festival has attracted a larger audience with a wider age range.

“It’s just getting better and better all the time,” said Bobby Dollar, who has been working security for 14 years.

For local artists, playing the festival is a grand opportunity. Performing for thousands of eclectic music lovers just outside of Baltimore gives them a chance to make some serious waves.

Cara Kelly, who will be opening up the main stage with Cara Kelly and the Tell Tale, is “totally excited.”

“You get to play in front of a hometown crowd, and at the same time, [we’re] sharing the stage with some people, some musicians, I really admire,” she said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity.”

Kelly’s huge, soulful vocals and her band’s bluesy rock feel make them a good fit for the festival. Some bands, such as electro-rock trio DELTAnine, draw on similar influences but take the music in a new direction.

“We’re definitely bringing something else to the table,” said Ben Kolakowski, the band’s guitarist. “There’s the younger generation, they’re definitely more into this electronic kind of thing … but at the same time, maybe they grew up listening to classic rock and blues from listening to their parents’ music.”

Kolakowski, who draws on blues and rock influences in his guitar playing, said his band fits somewhere in bet-ween the electronic and rock worlds, since they have live drums and guitar as well as a DJ. He is particularly excited to play the festival, having grown up in the Cockeysville/Timonium area.

“That’s my stomping ground,” he said.

Selko’s love of eclectic music not only brings a diverse lineup to the festival each year, but also allows attendees to experience long shows from each band with minimal overlaps between the stages. National acts performing at the festival have set times ranging from one hour to two hours, and some local acts are even getting hour-long sets.

While the lineup may have exp-anded beyond the pure blues and roots music, there’s a touch of these pioneering genres in all of the festival’s performers.

“All this music came out of the roots music,” Selko said. “There’s something everybody’s going to like there.”

Marc Shapiro is a JT staff reporter —

Inquiring Minds

From left: Marcie Nathan, Sherry Altura, Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, Dr. Josh Schroeder and Rabbi Avram Reisner take on bioethical questions at Hadassah’s annual meeting in Baltimore. (Provided)

From left: Marcie Natan, Sherry Altura, Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, Dr. Josh Schroeder and Rabbi Avram Reisner take on bioethical questions at Hadassah’s annual meeting in Baltimore. (Provided)

Who should be first in line for a life-saving kidney transplant? Should the victim of a terrorist attack take precedent over the terrorist when it comes to receiving medical treatment?

These were two of the questions discussed at Bioethics: The Catch-22 in Medicine and Healthcare, part of Hadassah’s National Business Meeting & Symposium held at the Sheraton Inner Harbor July 30-31. The event was fittingly set in Baltimore, the birthplace of Hadassah founder Henrietta Szold.

Hadassah has been a powerful force in the field of medicine since its founding, when Szold, a fervent Zionist, first sent nurses to Palestine to provide treatment and nutritional support in 1913. Soon after, Hadassah sent an entire medical team to Palestine to provide health care for all those who suffered. This team became the foundation of Israel’s medical system, eventually leading to the two Hadassah-owned medical centers, Hadassah Hospital in Ein Kerem and Hadassah Hospital in Mount Scopus. Today, Hadassah medical centers provide some of the most cutting-edge research and treatment in the world.

On hand to discuss their diverse perspectives were Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, the Ryda Hecht Levi professor of bioethics and public policy and deputy director for policy and
administration at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, Dr. Josh Schroeder, Hadassah Medical Organization orthopedic surgeon and spine fellow at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, and Rabbi Avram Reisner, a leading voice on biomedical ethics for the Conservative movement and rabbi at Chevrei Tzedek Synagogue in Baltimore. Before the panelists spoke to the ethical questions that were posed to them, Hadassah members, who had discussed the questions in working groups prior to the program, shared their conclusions.

Below are some of the more interesting questions, answers and ambiguities shared by panelists.

Is it ethical to purchase organs from a poverty-stricken but willing donor?
Rabbi Reisner stressed that the perspective of the Conservative movement is that organ donation is strongly encouraged. He noted, however, that the buying and selling of organs is more complicated, since there is a possibility that the person who sells the organ may be coerced into doing something potentially dangerous or not in his or her best interest. Nevertheless, many believe that, regardless of the circumstances, the saving of a life is paramount and a mitzvah.

Dr. Schroeder discussed the fact that organ donation in developed countries is typically a safe practice, and he noted that Iran is currently the only country where the selling of solid organs such as hearts, livers and kidneys is legal.

“The bottom line: If selling an organ would truly compensate and not hurt the donor, I would do that to help someone,” he said.

What if a 13-year-old girl is diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease and asks that her parents won’t be informed?
Rabbi Reisner and Drs. Kahn and Schroeder all felt strongly that the question of whether the girl had been sexually abused needed to be addressed before a decision could be made. Since Jewish law sees a 13-year-old who is post-bat mitzvah as an emancipated adult, Rabbi Reisner acknowledged that the girl has a right to privacy. Yet, he stressed that unless involving the parents would cause her harm, it might be more realistic for the parents, who are likely the holders of her medical insurance, to be informed.

Dr. Kahn stressed that in the case of STDs, medical professionals are obligated to report the case to the health department.

“Privacy rights must be balanced with respect for her parents, her medical status and the public-health interest. Sometimes, public health trumps individual rights,” he said.

In the case of pandemic flu, if there is not enough vaccine, who should receive it?
Dr. Kahn said this should depend upon the strain of flu itself.

“Some flus are more likely to strike the old and those with compromised immune systems, and others attack younger, healthier people. Whoever is more vulnerable should receive it. On the other hand, if the most vulnerable are kids, it does no good for them to receive it if there will be no one alive to care for them,” he said.

In that case, he noted, first responders should receive the vaccine.

The situation is somewhat simpler in Jewish law.

“It’s first come, first serve,” said the rabbi.

Yet, he acknowledged the situation is more complicated when many people are in need at the same time.

“In Jewish law, we don’t discriminate because of age. No one living person has preference over another,” he said.

Dr. Schroeder said that within the next 10 to 30 years, resources will be more limited, and treatment will be given less frequently. He and Dr. Kahn both stressed that shortly this question will not be rhetorical.

“Society will need to ask this question. Pandemics are just around the corner,” said Dr. Schroeder. “We need to think not only of the infected person, but also of the circle around him, and the next circle and the next. … How do we stop it from spreading? Who needs to be treated first to prevent the pandemic?”

Should a terrorist be treated as readily as his or her victim?
“Health care is a human right and giving care is a human obligation,” said Rabbi Reisner.

Since he practices in Israel, Dr. Schroeder has actually experienced this situation on several occasions.

“We put our emotions aside. The person who needs care most will go to the operating room first. Luckily, there is enough care for everyone.”

Simone Ellin is JT senior features reporter —

Always Thinking of Others

Rabbi Hirsch Diskind will be remembered as personable, warm, compassionate and straightforward. (Provided)

Rabbi Hirsch Diskind will be remembered as personable, warm, compassionate and straightforward. (Provided)

Often when people refer to someone as a “legend,” it is assumed that the person is larger-than-life, unapproachable or perhaps even arrogant.

Rabbi Hirsch Diskind was none of these.

Rabbi Diskind, the dean emeritus at Bais Yaakov School for Girls and a cornerstone figure in Jewish Baltimore, was personable, warm, compassionate and straightforward. And it was these qualities, along with countless others, that made his mission to positively
impact generations of students a resounding triumph. Rabbi Diskind passed away last Saturday. He was 91.

His mission of a commitment to academics, coupled with a connection to Jewish life, was in large part accepted and absorbed because of the keen way in which it was disseminated. It’s a message that, to this day, still reverberates in the hallways at Bais Yaakov and will for years to come.

“The most striking quality of Rabbi Diskind was his sweetness, his softness, his ability to relate in a respectful, caring way with everyone,” said Dr. Yoel Jakobovits, Bais Yaakov’s education board chairman. “He had the ability, on the one hand, to stand for the school’s mission and to stand for the school’s tradition in a sincere and authentic way, and at the same time he was able to present that through his remarkably sweet disposition.”

Said Rabbi Moshe Heinemann during his eulogy of Rabbi Diskind, “His smile is etched in my memory. His radiant disposition is something which was to behold.”

Son Rabbi Paysach Diskind said his father loved being an observant Jew — not just in terms of ritual practice, but also in his attitude.

“He had an attitude of caring,” said the young Rabbi Diskind. “He was truly a ben Torah.”

A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Rabbi Diskind set foot in Bais Yaakov for the first time in 1952, when the school had just 135 students. Today, the school boasts more than 1,300 students, making it one of the largest Jewish day schools for girls in the world.

However, as proud as Rabbi Diskind was of the school itself and everything it offers, he took an equal amount of pride in the products — “his girls” — that progressed through it. Girls, who number in the thousands and who now are mothers and grandmothers, who have soaked up his teachings and the teachings of other Bais Yaakov faculty and applied what they’ve learned to their everyday lives. It’s difficult to even quantify the extent to which Rabbi Diskind’s inspiration reached others.

“I can’t imagine the number of families and students — and indirectly the number of husbands and children — who have been influenced by him. It’s tremendous,” Dr. Jakobovits said. “He did so not by being professorial or a theoretician, but by just showing with a smile what it meant to have a Shabbos table and to have your family around it and be educated by its messages from week to week.”

As easygoing and pleasant as Rabbi Diskind was, he still maintained a firm presence when need be, and did so without having to raise his voice. And his ability to recognize and
appreciate all-comers — regardless of religious observance, economic background or education level — was crucial in helping to make him the ideal person to lead a school.

Rabbi Moshe Hopfer commended Rabbi Diskind’s capacity to deal with a wide range of parents and likened his task to an art form.

“It is an art to be able to run a school. … The only way to run a school is with respect,” Rabbi Hopfer said during his eulogy. “[Rabbi Diskind] was firm when he needed to be and understanding when he needed to be.”

Rabbi Diskind made aliyah in 1987, and although he was no longer physically in the school, his wisdom never left it. Often, Dr. Jakobovits said, when teachers, department heads and principals met, they would call Rabbi Diskind for advice on what to do during different situations that arose in the school. The rabbi would get on the phone and spend as much time was necessary to delineate missions and directives that the school’s “founding fathers” would wish to transmit.

“He gave us — those who now have some responsibly for that — a sense of continuity. We will miss that very sorely,” Dr. Jakobovits said.

Giving so much of himself was a constant theme throughout Rabbi Diskind’s life. He was selfless to the core and he sincerely made others feel like they mattered, like they were important. He was always thinking of others.

“His personality made other people feel that they counted, and therefore he was as interested in them as they were in him,” Dr. Jakobovits said.

Rabbi Paysach Diskind said that even at the end of his life, when his father was in pain, he dealt with it as privately as possible.

Recalled Rabbi Diskind: “He said, ‘never pray for pain. But if you have it … don’t reject it. It’s worth getting the pain in this world, than carrying it over to the next.’” Rabbi Diskind is the beloved husband of Rivka Diskind (nee Kamenetsky); loving father of Minna Bodenheimer, Zipporah Freedman, Ettale Stern, Paysach Diskind and Ester Anemer; adored grandfather and great-grandfather of many. Contributions in his memory may be sent to Bais Yaakov School for Girls, 6300 Smith Ave., Baltimore, MD 21209.

Rabbi Diskind is the beloved husband of Rivka Diskind (nee Kamenetsky); loving father of Minna Bodenheimer, Zipporah Freedman, Ettale Stern, Paysach Diskind and Ester Anemer; adored grandfather and great-grandfather of many. Contributions in his memory may be sent to Bais Yaakov School for Girls, 6300 Smith Ave., Baltimore, MD 21209.

David Snyder is a JT staff reporter —

Frosh Start

Sen. Brian Frosh says attorney general is “the job I want.”

Sen. Brian Frosh says attorney general is “the job I want.” (Dayna Smith/ImageSmith Media)

Early last week, state Sen. Brian Frosh (D-Montgomery County) threw his hat into the ring of candidates bidding to become Maryland’s attorney general in 2014. And, if elected, Frosh said it’s a position in which he hopes to remain for the foreseeable future.

“I’m not seeking the office of the attorney general as a springboard for anything else,” Frosh told the JT. “It’s the job I want. I don’t expect to run for any other office.”

Frosh, currently serving his fifth consecutive term in the Maryland State Senate, said that he believes the role would give him the opportunity to make an even greater contribution than he’s made in the General Assembly.

He officially announced his campaign launch through an email to his supporters in which he said he endeavors to be “the people’s lawyer.”

What exactly does that mean?

“I’ve spoken to people all over the state. They have basically the same concerns,” Frosh said. “They want to feel safe in their neighborhoods, they want clean air and clean water, [and] they want a shot at economic security — the American Dream. They often don’t feel they have someone on their side and someone who will stand up for them against special interests. That’s the job I want.”

Frosh, 66, said he plans to emphasize many of the same causes he championed during his time in the Maryland legislature, including environmental protection, consumer protection and public safety. He highlighted the state government’s recent revamped gun laws as one his more paramount and proud achievements while in office.

Prior to Frosh’s announcement, Del. Jon S. Cardin (D-Baltimore County) unveiled his campaign with an Internet video. His office had this to say regarding Frosh’s plans to run:

“This campaign is going to be about which candidate has the right skill set to tackle the new 21st-century challenges facing Maryland families — and we believe without question that’s Del. Cardin,” said Cardin’s campaign manager, Andy Carton, in an email to the JT. “We look forward to a civil debate.”

In addition to Cardin, Frosh joins Del. C. William Frick (D-Montgomery County) and Del. Aisha N. Braveboy (D-Prince George’s County) in what figures to be a jam-packed Democratic primary. The position is currently held by Doug Gansler, who has already announced plans to run for governor in 2014.

“Doug respects all of the Democrats campaigning for Maryland attorney general,” said Doug Thornell, a strategist for Gansler for Maryland. “He is confident Maryland will be well served by any of the talented Democrats running for the office.”

David Snyder is a JT staff reporter —