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How Would Hogwarts Host a Seder: Inclusive Passover traditions for the modern muggle Jewish family
Monday, March 20, 2017

Interfaith-Passover
By Lara Nicolson, Interfaith Engagement Director at the JCC

As a child, Passover was my favorite family holiday, we hosted Seders with my extended family, including my two living grandmothers, my aunts and my three girl cousins so our celebrations always involved beautiful and confident female voices leading the songs, asking the questions and making lots of jokes. Our mothers were amazing hosts and cooks and hand-made all the Passover foods from their Lithuanian roots, including herring, Imberlach (ginger candy) and of course matzah ball soup. They would adapt the recipes using ingredients they found in South Africa and would make their own Kosher for Passover wine with grapes from the local vineyards.

Fast forward 40 years to Baltimore, Maryland and my immediate and extended family here represents a new Jewish reality – we are diverse in Jewish denominations, nationalities, gender orientation and faith backgrounds. My husband is not Jewish and though we are raising our children in a Jewish home, their connections and interests are far from my homogenous upbringing.

Over the last 12 years, we have adapted our Passover traditions to ensure that they are meaningful to everyone. We’ll include vegan-friendly dishes, and compare the Passover story to current political issues, while still singing our closing song in Yiddish. This year I even bought the Hogwarts Haggadah for my children, hoping it will help them to connect the Exodus story to their current fascination with Harry Potter. 

This Passover, I will be with my sister’s family and my mother for their more traditional Seder. I know that my interfaith family should be able to participate fully, so I thought I would write a few guidelines that we can all use to make our modern family Seders more inclusive:

1. Make your Seder interactive to learn from and with the children: When my children were younger, we had great Passover gimmicks collected from their JCC preschool (Plague masks, velcro Seder plates and coloring books) and later PJ Library books. Plays and cooking contests were critical tools for keeping them engaged in the Seder and before dinner. Now, I realize that my husband and other guests new to Passover were learning together with them. Maybe even more than the Haggadah and song sheets, the games were informal Jewish education tools. Rabbi Robyn Frisch of Interfaith family also has some useful suggestions on how to make your Passover Seder fun for kids of all ages

2. Find themes that are meaningful and relevant for all: For my children the message of Harry Potter (Moses) and his values of truth and good conquering evil Voldemort (Pharaoh) will resonate at the Seder this year. A few years ago, my cousin created her own version of a Human Rights Haggadah that we used to add modern relevance to our age-old ‘slavery to freedom’ story. On March 26, 2017, Jews United for Justice will be hosting a Labor Seder and focus on the need to support the oppressed in our Baltimore community. 

3. Add some pink to your Passover: Women play an important role in the Exodus story including Moses’ mother and sister, Miriam, the midwives and Pharaoh’s daughter who defies his order to kill the first-born Jews and save Moses. For the past few years, my friends and I have attended the Women’s Seder hosted by Associated Women in Baltimore, where we gained a new appreciation of the strong women in our lives and their role in our Jewish journeys. It was inspiring to dance with community leaders, female rabbis and generations of families- while dancing with Miriam’s tambourine, drinking from her cup and adding an orange to the Seder plate- for all who are marginalized in society. You can also add Girl Power to your Seder

4. Ask the Tough Questions: During the Seder, we are obligated to recite the four questions and we learn about the four sons, including “the one who doesn’t know how to ask.” All night we are encouraged to engage with the Passover story through thought-provoking questions. For Interfaith couples challenging issues may come to the fore when Easter and Passover fall at the same time. You need to decide how to celebrate, explains interfaith expert Marion Usher. She encourages couples to plan ahead by reflecting on past experiences and making changes that work for their new lives together

Now more than ever, the holiday of Passover is symbolic of our obligations to stand up for all who are marginalized, welcome strangers into our community and make a place at our tables for all. If you are new to celebrating Passover or just want a refreshed approach, you can sign up for a Passover email series with an overview of the story, Seder plate and how to make the holiday relevant to our lives today.

If you are looking for more resources for interfaith families, visit www.interfaithbaltimore.org

Strictly Business
Wednesday, March 15, 2017

JCS-Career-Center
By Rochelle Eisenberg

Win-win. It’s a phrase you’ve certainly heard, but there doesn’t seem to be many scenarios to which it truly applies. It’s a circumstance in which each party benefits in some way, as in a win-win situation. At Jewish Community Services (JCS), the workforce services provided through our Career Center are win-win because they benefit both job seekers and local employers.

Word is spreading about the amazing work being done at the JCS Career Center. Clients are learning what they need to do to get a job in this very competitive market. The JCS Career Center helps them succeed by offering professional career coaching plus workshops on resume writing, interviewing skills, and social media recommendations for networking. Last year more than 800 people benefitted from career services at JCS’s two locations in Baltimore and Owings Mills. The combined total salary of those who found employment with the help of the Career Center was more than five million dollars.

Those looking for work aren’t the only ones who benefit. JCS partners with employers to help them fill their positions with qualified candidates who are current clients of the Career Center. What’s even more impressive is that the service is free to employers. All they do is alert the career center about current openings, and a JCS Account Representative will provide them with personalized service.

Acme Paper & Supply Company CEO Ronald Attman understands the need for an agency like JCS in the community. “Whenever we get an opening at our business, we always post it with the JCS Career Center,” he explains. “We have had a number of Career Center clients who have come through here, they’ve done and still do a great job for us. The JCS Career Center saves employers time and money by screening job candidates before they send them to us. That means we don’t have to do as much of a background check as we do with typical job applicants.”

Acme Paper is one of the many employers who will be attending Strictly Business, a networking breakfast for local business leaders designed to highlight the win-win that comes from partnering with the JCS Career Center. Strictly Business is in its second year here in Baltimore. Last year 275 people attended the inaugural event. This year, the event is nearly sold out so 350 guests will be on hand to hear featured speakers Scott Burger, president of Pandora Jewelry and Erin Chamberlin, general manager of Horseshoe Casino.

Laura Bristow, JCS director of economic Services, sees the purpose of Strictly Business as twofold. “Not only are we engaging employers with JCS, we are providing a venue for employers to engage and network with each other.”

She and her staff are encouraging employers to submit openings for a variety of positions. “We work with people at any stage in their career,” she says. “The JCS Career Center is helping people move forward in the workplace. We like to say we meet them where they are – understand their needs and help them take the next step.”

That next step leads to a brighter future for everyone – job seekers looking for work and the employers who hire them. The connection is the JCS Career Center – truly a win-win for everyone.

For more information on the JCS Career Center visit us online at JCSbaltimore.org or call 410-466-9200. To find out more about Strictly Business, visit strictlybusinessbalt.org.

Finding Common Ground
Thursday, March 09, 2017

Finding-Common-Ground
By Rochelle Eisenberg

For more than a decade, Martha Weiman has been part of a group of Jewish and Muslim women, sharing Passover communal Seders, breaking fast following Ramadan and discussing what’s important to both communities. Over the years as they’ve developed a bond, they’ve come to cherish these conversations, while recognizing how much they share in common.

The get-togethers were first conceived when Weiman chaired Baltimore Jewish Council’s (BJC) Jewish/Muslim Dialogue group. It’s one of many BJC initiatives organized over the years that focus on dialogue to build stronger communities.

Recognizing a need to engage younger adults in the conversation, BJC relaunched its programming last year with an interfaith trialogue series geared toward younger adults. Led by clergy from the three faiths –Charm City Tribe’s Rabbi Jessy Gross, Muslim Community Cultural Center of Baltimore’s (MCCCB) Imam Tariq Najee-ullah and Canton Church on the Square’s Pastor Jim Hamilton – this year’s topics include a tour and post-election discussion on the intersection of politics and religion at the MCCCB and a discussion on gentrification at the Church on the Square.

In addition, on March 30, participants are invited to Stories from the Fringe, a stage production featuring the voices of 18 women rabbis exploring their commitment to Judaism. Held at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC, Gross will lead a private pre-performance workshop for trialogue attendees.

Already, these dialogues are paying off. “When I talk to participants they are telling me they are going out and having coffee with people they never would have connected with before. They are talking about various viewpoints. It’s beginning to build trust,” says Madeline Suggs, director of public affairs at BJC.

First conceived in January 2015, these three clergy met to discuss how religion could be helpful in strengthening relationships across race and faith lines through learning and dialogue. Following Freddie Gray’s death and the riots later that spring, they kept talking.

In the spring of 2016, they led a discussion on the intersection between faith and social justice at the Station North Arts Café.

“We want to educate and create relationships across faiths,” explains Najee-ullah. “We can’t grow and change if we are insular. By presenting different narratives from each of the faiths, we broaden our perspectives.”

“In our day-to-day lives, some of us may work or share other spaces with people of different backgrounds. Yet how often do we really take time to share our lives and intentionally build bridges?” asks Gabriel Pickus, who participated in the program.

In addition to BJC’s trialogue series, Muslim and Jewish community members are coming together through Repair the World, a program of Jewish Volunteer Connection. Recently, on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day., BJC, Repair the World and the MCCCB discussed the legacy of interfaith partnership in the civil rights movement.

“Meeting Rabbi Jessy, I realize that although we are of different faiths, we share very similar ideals and passions,” says Najee-ullah.

Ultimately, explains Suggs, “If we want to combat anti-Semitism, we must get to really know diverse groups of people.”

Featured image: Rabbi Jessy Gross (middle) joins her counterparts, Pastor Jim Hamilton (left) and Imam Tariq Najee-ullah, for interfaith dialogues outside traditional institutions.

This story originally appeared in the March issue of JMORE, a new publication that tells the vibrant story of Jewish Baltimore. Read today’s issue!

Prepping for Purim
Monday, March 06, 2017

Hamantaschen
By Rochelle Eisenberg

As a young child in French Morocco, Tsipi Renbaum remembers how much she looked forward to Purim each year. From the thrillof putting on lipstick, to the fun of dressing up as Queen Esther, to the bonding over baking hamantaschen with her mother, Purim evoked some of her most wonderful childhood memories.

Later, when her family moved to Israel, Renbaum was amazed at how the holiday was celebrated by the entire country. The streets, the schools and the homes were filled with jubilation and acted out in school plays, city parades, street festivals and parties.

It is her desire to share her childhood Jewish memories and pass down those traditions that motivated Renbaum to co-chair Associated Women’s upcoming Prep for Purim at the Weinberg Park Heights JCC, March 7, 7:00 p.m.

Women and children will gather to make hamantaschen and then take them home for holiday baking and sharing with their families.

Attendees also are encouraged to bring a donation of canned vegetables to be included in mishloach manot (Purim baskets), which will be assembled for residents of Weinberg Woods and Weinberg Gardens & Terrace. The project is being led by The Associated’s Jewish Volunteer Connection.

“When I was asked to co-chair this event, I remembered the beautiful experiences I had with my mother celebrating the holiday and I wanted to share this with my children and grandchildren,” says Renbaum, who is co-chairing the event with her daughter-in-law, Stephani Renbaum, and another intergenerational pair, Sora Greenlinger and her daughter, Rena.

“What’s been most special to me is the excitement I’ve seen from my granddaughter, Sarah. When she heard I was co-chairing this project, she wanted to be a part of it, presenting ideas and recruiting Rena Greenlinger her friends. This is why I do it.”

Purim commemorates the time the Jews living in Persia were saved from death by Mordecai and Queen Esther. When learning about Haman’s plot to kill the Jews, Mordecai alerted his cousin, Esther, who was Queen, to talk to the King and persuade him to change his order. It begins the evening of March 11.

“I see mothers, daughters, sisters, grandchildren, cousins coming out to this event to share in the Jewish traditions of Purim,” says Renbaum. “For me, it’s about l’dor v’dor (generation to generation).”

HAMANTASCHEN RECIPE. Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups butter or margarine, softened. 1 cup white sugar. 2 eggs. 6 tablespoons orange juice. 1 tablespoon vanilla extract. 2 teaspoons baking powder. 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour. 1 (12 ounce) strawberry, raspberry, apricot, chocolate or poppy seed filling.

Directions: 1. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in orange juice and vanilla. Mix in baking powder, then gradually stir in flour until dough forms a ball. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. 2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease cookie sheets. 3. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to ¼-inch thickness. Cut into 3-inch circles using a cookie cutter or drinking glass. Place circles on the prepared cookie sheets. Spoon 1 teaspoon filling onto the center of each circle. Pinch circle sides to form a triangle, covering as much of the filling as possible. 4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool before serving.

This story originally appeared in the March issue of JMORE, a new publication that tells the vibrant story of Jewish Baltimore. Read today’s issue!

Disclosing a Disability
Friday, February 17, 2017

disclosing-a-disability

By Andrea Fenwick
Manager of Supported Employment, JCS

When you’re looking for a job, one of the things most people worry about is saying the wrong thing during an interview. For people with disabilities, it’s even more of a concern, especially, if your disability is something not apparent to the average person, like low vision, gastro intestinal issues, anxiety disorders or learning disabilities like dyslexia.

It’s easy to understand why someone would not want to disclose their disability to a potential employer. People want to present themselves in the best light when interviewing. That’s how you secure the job.

Deciding whether or not to disclose your disability can be stressful. Legally, you don’t have to reveal it, the law is on your side, but is that really fair to the employer? Ethically, is it fair to withhold information that may or may not affect your ability to do the job? The bottom line is that it’s a personal decision. You have to examine the pros and cons.

The Pros. The main benefit to disclosing your disability is to secure accommodations from the employer to help you perform the job. Once you choose to disclose, the question becomes when to do it. This can be prior to your interview, during the interview, or once you’re working on the job.

  • Prior to the interview – If you are going to need an accommodation for the interview, then you will need to disclose early. For example, if you are in a wheelchair you will need to ask ahead of time if the building is handicap accessible. Additionally, if you have a condition that may be uncomfortable or distracting during the interview, you might want to make it known to the interviewer.
  • During the interview – If it becomes apparent that you would not able to perform the job functions because of your disability, you may want to disclose this. It will allow you to bring accommodations into the conversation and there by show the employer that you are still qualified to do the job.
  • On the job – Once the employer has been made aware that you need an accommodation, they are legally obligated to provide it for you. Accommodations can range from making a building more handicap accessible to providing software or other assistive technology at your individual work space.

The Cons. Depending on the nature of your disability, some people can find it embarrassing to reveal or talk about it. Not knowing the workplace culture only adds to apprehension. You don’t know how you will be perceived by the employer and other employees. The fear of discrimination based on your disability is a real concern. Making your disability known may lead to misconceptions, negativity and pre-judgment of your ability to handle job duties and responsibilities. This is especially true when the hidden disability is related to a mental health condition. You may chose not to disclose for a very simple reason, the right to privacy.

Job coaches will tell you only disclose if it’s going to impact your ability to do your job. But if the employer does not know, then they are not obligated to make accommodations. And that might cause you to struggle in the position.

Only mention it if it’s actually going to affect your job performance. And if it is, tell them you would need accommodations. So, if you have low vision and are interviewing for a stock clerk position, you would benefit from using a Ruby magnifying device, assistive technology to enhance the size of print.

One very important thing to remember is that no matter what you decide to reveal to a potential employer, always make sure your disability and need for accommodations is secondary to your qualifications and ability to do the essential functions of the job. If your disability won’t affect your job, then skip it, and focus on what you CAN do. Make sure they know all your strengths and qualifications that make you a good candidate. Many employers will offer accommodations if they are convinced you’re the best person for the job.

Keeping Kids Fit and Fitness Fun!
Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Fitness-Fun

A Q & A with Alek Groopman, Youth Fitness Coordinator
Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC

1.) Why is it so important for children to stay active and what are the advantages gained from exercising?

So many studies have shown that there is a positive correlation between exercise and overall physical health regardless of age, as well as a profound effect on one’s emotional well-being. At this age it’s so important to create healthy habits that will lead to life-long wellness. Additionally, children who exercise are calmer throughout the rest of their day. Exercise provides children a sense of accomplishment. If a child is struggling in school or elsewhere, having an outlet via exercise can provide a huge benefit.

2.) What are parents’ main concerns about their kids becoming involved in fitness training, like lifting too much weight, stunting their growth, etc.?

The two most common misconceptions there are about kids becoming involved in a fitness regimen, and especially resistance training, are that it can stunt their growth and that they shouldn’t do any lifting until they are 12. The truth is resistance training actually helps with development when it’s properly done. Under the proper supervision of one of the J’s certified personal trainers, we make appropriate modifications in children’s programs and teach kids how to be safe in the gym and have fun.

3.) Not all children take to participating in organized sports and team activities, what else can they do to stay active and healthy?

Not everyone takes to playing sports, true, but everyone benefits from moving around and exercising. This is why the J offers a broad range of fitness classes for youth and teens and we are always trying to expand our offerings. Outside of the gym itself kids can be encouraged to play around outside, go to the pool and swim, or just walk around the neighborhood with friends. Even when children are resistant to doing some of these activities, things like Wii Fit or Pokemon GO can be attractive alternatives as something is better than nothing.

4.) What is the J Fitness team’s philosophy towards motivating kids to work out and about youth fitness as a whole?

As JCC Fitness Director Raychel Setless always says about youth fitness, ‘The goal with this age group is to enjoy fitness and get this group to create healthy habits." I wholeheartedly support this notion. The most important thing for me to do as a trainer working with kids is to get them to have fun and make the fact that they are working and sweating a 'happy accident.’ If the kids are having fun they’ll keep coming back. They’ll be motivated to try new things in fitness they find enjoyable – exercises they may not have found enjoyable before.

5.) How can parents and fitness instructors work together to educate children and teens about the benefits of fitness?

My job is to make things fun and really encourage children and teens to become engaged in fitness not only at the J, but as part of an active lifestyle that carries with them wherever they go in life. The best thing parents can do is make healthy activities positive. They should encourage their children to be outside with their friends, let children help with healthy meal preparations, and bring their children and teens to the J to swim, play basketball, and run around on the playground -- ideally together. And that last part is so important -- If parents are coming into the gym and participating in fitness programs with their children everyone is more motivated and everyone benefits.

6.) What youth fitness classes are offered through the JCC’s Youth and Teen Programs?

Over the last several months, the J’s Fitness Team has been working with other departments at the JCC to provide fitness offerings for many of our programs. In conjunction with three fitness classes for our 9-12 year-olds and junior weight training for 12-15 year-olds, there are also fitness programs being developed at present with J Camps, the Kid's Center, and our TNT program. There will be a week-long fitness and wellness offering through J Camps at the beginning of the summer called “Live it UP!,” a number of classes throughout the year with the School's Out program, and during camp and the rest of the year there will be multiple offerings involving the TNT's. We are planning many of these right now so stay tuned to learn more.

Questions? Contact Alek Groopman, Youth Fitness Coordinator, JCC of Greater Baltimore | 410.559.3539 | agroopman@jcc.org

Local JBIG Grants Spur Grassroots Projects
Monday, February 13, 2017

Jbig

When best friends Jenny Green and David BenMoshe attended a Shabbaton in Washington, D.C. last year, they happened to strike up a conversation with Lisa Kaneff, a young woman who told them about a program she was organizing, Jews on Bikes.

Part exercise, part social, part spiritual – Jews on Bikes brought Jews together for a bike ride throughout DC, followed by Havdallah services and happy hour.

Why not, they thought, take that idea and bring it to Baltimore, a city boasting a thriving bike culture and a growing Jewish young adult presence?

With that in mind, this spring, the two will launch a Baltimore version of Jews on Bikes. Beginning with a leisurely bike ride along Baltimore City bike paths, it will culminate at a downtown bar for Havdallah and drinks.

“Havdallah is one of my favorite parts of Shabbat,” says Green. “It’s a beautiful way to start the beginning of the week – from the singing to the wine to the aroma of the spices.”

“It’s also a great way to build Jewish community,” adds BenMoshe. Jews on Bikes is one of several grassroots projects being launched in Baltimore, thanks to microgrants from The Associated’s JBIG initiative. These grants, up to $1,000 each, fund new ideas to foster Jewish community and Jewish identity.

Last year, JBIG supported 11 projects, ranging from a back-to-the-land, all-night Shavuot celebration to a Shabbaton themed around technology and Jewish identity. The grants were made available through the generosity of the Grandchildren of Harvey M. and Lyn P. Meyerhoff Philanthropic Fund and the Nathan & Lillian Weinberg Family Foundation.

Liz Simon-Higgs, another grant recipient, learned about the grants from the Macks Center for Jewish Education, where she formerly volunteered as a community connector before returning to work full-time. As a connector, Simon-Higgs started bringing downtown families together for Havdallah and now wanted to expand the experience.

“Havdallah is a great way to end Shabbat – to mark Jewish time with family and neighbors in a friendly setting, it’s a beautiful service that is great for the senses,” she says.

Through JBIG, Simon-Higgs has organized Havdallah events at the Downtown Baltimore JCC. Each evening includes the service, a vegetarian pizza dinner and a craft – in one instance families made their own Havdallah candles for home observance. There is talk of bringing in a local rabbi for informal learning.

Since she started the program, it’s become a central gathering for the downtown Jewish families in the community.

Not only has the experience provided meaning to Shabbat, it’s had an unintended, yet positive outcome for the Simon-Higgs family. The service has been an accessible way for her older son, who is on the autism spectrum, to learn about Jewish observance.

I’m hoping these Havdallah programs continue and that families can tailor them to be meaningful as their children grow,” she says.

Learn how you can seed your own grassroots program. Go to associated.org/jbig for more information. Applications for this year close March 15, 2017.

This story originally appeared in the February issue of JMORE, a new publication that tells the vibrant story of Jewish Baltimore. Read today’s issue!

Hallie Miller Tackles Israel
Thursday, February 09, 2017

Hallie-Miller

Last summer, Hallie Miller, a University of Maryland, College Park student, joined 16 other local college students and recent college graduates for Baltimore Onward Israel, an eight-week internship program in Israel. During the summer, she worked at Newshound Media International, an international news production company, while living in Tel Aviv.

Miller talked about her once-in-a-lifetime experience on Baltimore Onward Israel, subsidized by The Associated’s Israel Engagement Center.

Tell me about the company you worked for. My boss, Paula Slier, founded Newshound Media, headquartered in Tel Aviv. She, along with her freelancers, produce video packages all over the world, which are syndicated on such news sites as Channel News Asia and Russia Today.

What was your job? I edited video packages and went on shoots with the photographer. In addition, I did a lot of research on her projects. For example, she was traveling to Denmark to moderate a debate on Syrian refugees, and all of the participants on the panel were members of the APF (The Alliance for Peace and Freedom), a European nationalist party within the EU. I provided her with profiles of the debaters, what they were likely to say and the platform they were espousing.

Most interesting experience? I got to live stream the Jerusalem gay pride parade. Paula provided commentary and I offered pointers on what she should talk about.

Difference between working in Israel and the U.S.? I felt like there wasn’t a traditional internship culture in Israel, the way there is in America. I didn’t expect to be so immersed in my work and treated like an employee and given so much responsibility.

How was Tel Aviv? Amazing. We lived in the heart of the city, a five-minute walk to the beach, 10 minutes to the Shuk Ha’Carmel (the Carmel Market). I spent weekends at the beach. We would often enjoy Kabbalat Shabbat on the beach with a live band playing. I also loved the boutiques. Tel Aviv is like New York if it were also a beach town.

Did you travel? Mondays were our travel day and the group would go all over Israel. We went to the Negev, Haifa, Ashkelon, Safed. I have relatives in Jerusalem so I got to see them at least once a week.

What would you tell others about the Onward experience? I loved it. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my journalism degree. This internship made me realize how much I want to produce.

Learn about the 2017 summer Baltimore Onward Israel program at associated.org/experienceisrael

This story originally appeared in the February issue of JMORE, a new publication that tells the vibrant story of Jewish Baltimore. Read today’s issue!

Meet Randi Hertzberg
Monday, February 06, 2017

randi-hertzberg

Since moving to Baltimore in 1999, Randi Hertzberg has been volunteering in the Jewish community. She was president of the JCC’s Parent Association (where her children attended) and has been serving on the JCC board for the past 11 years. She even was a founding member of The Associated’s Jewish Women’s Giving Foundation (then the Initiative).

Now, this mother of four is chairing The Associated Inspired Women’s Project, a new women’s engagement and leadership program designed for women to find inspiration and meaning through Jewish values, and bring it back to their families and the community. The program includes a highly subsidized eight day trip to Israel that includes inspired Jewish learning. Randi talks about the program, traveling to Israel and her family’s special connection to the Jewish State.

Tell me about the Inspired Women’s Project. It’s a chance for women in our community to engage in an immersive Jewish experience. The first half features Associated-related content. Sessions include Modern Day Miriam: What Makes a Great Female Leader and Pesach – Passing on Identity and Value to the Next Generation. The second half features content from the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project and includes programs such as Raising Generous Children and Teens and Shalom in the Home: Staying Connected to Your Spouse. In the middle of the program, we all travel to Israel.

Sounds fascinating. I’m really looking forward to learning more about Jewish women and Jewish leaders. And I’m excited about meeting new women who share common interests. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot from them. And of course, there’s the trip to Israel. I’ve never been there and am excited to share this experience with a group of women.

I understand you recently found out you have a unique connection to Israel. Yes. I was participating in The Associated’s Dor Tikvah program and we were at Pearlstone Center. The executive director, Dick Goldman at the time, was interested in Jewish ancestral history. He told us to hand in our family names.

It turns out, when he came back to me, he told me that my great great-great-great grandparents were some of the original founders of Tel Aviv. I never had any idea. Their names are listed on a monument there!

You seem to really be connected to your Judaism. Do you have a favorite Jewish memory? Growing up, each year, I spent a week at USY’s Encampment in the Poconos. I still remember Havdalah there – everyone arms around each other, singing. We have this special bond, having grown up together. Even today, the friends I made in USY are my dearest friends.

Do you keep in touch? I do. We are all over the world and Facebook makes it easier. In fact, we held a reunion in New York several years ago. One of my USY friends lives in Israel and I am planning to extend my trip to spend a few days with him.

The Patient Navigator
Monday, February 06, 2017

patient-navigator

 

By Rochelle Eisenberg

Jill Mull understands how overwhelming a breast cancer diagnosis can be. Ten years ago, at the age of 32, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of the disease. Suddenly, this young mother found herself facing a number of decisions that would impact her life.

What treatment was best for her? Should she test for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutation? How about the best place to buy a wig? And how would she still manage the day-to-day routines of her young children’s lives?

Today, Mull, a breast cancer survivor, has a lot to share about navigating the myriad decisions faced when getting a breast cancer diagnosis. She is using that knowledge as an education outreach patient navigator at Johns Hopkins Breast Center at Greenspring Station, providing much needed advice for women 45 and younger.

“Although I may not have a medical degree, I can go with patients to their initial appointment with the medical oncologist as they go over the pathology report. I can provide social and psychological guidance and support.”

For example, having gone through chemotherapy herself, she understands the regime. “I know there are good days and not so good ones. I can help the patients establish a routine. You begin to learn what days will be good to get groceries, what days you can take the kids to their soccer games, and which days you need to rest.”

Working with younger women, she says, is important because they often have a diff erent experience. They may be working and raising young children while facing treatment. They may not have peers who had breast cancer to talk to for advice.

Mull also can provide them with resources, help them fi nd a wig and connect them to discussion groups with others going through similar experiences.

In addition to working with women with a new diagnosis of breast cancer, Mull and her colleagues at Johns Hopkins are promoting educational activities regarding breast cancer risk in the Jewish community. “I think it would be nice to share this with the Jewish community, if possible.”

She adds, “It’s hard to see the light at the end of the journey. Or if you see it, the light is so dim, it may as well be dark. I can say, ‘I’ve done this and this is how it works.’ It gives comfort.”

“Patients can look at me. I try to bring hope. I’m 10 years out from my diagnosis and living life to the fullest.”

 

Leslie Ries hoped that as a mother, lawyer, law school professor and community volunteer, the legacy she would leave for her two daughters was as a loving mother who had a life filled with hard work and care for family, friends, clients and the community. And perhaps a gift for baking with a penchant for anything chocolate.

Then, 11 years ago, Ries was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. The third daughter in her family, she was the first to receive a cancer diagnosis.

Ries recalls a conversation with her mother and a nurse as she prepared for her first chemotherapy treatment after her lumpectomy.

“My mother said that my father’s mother died of breast cancer before my parents were married. She said she had been told by doctors that since it was only the mother’s side that put children at higher risk, and she did not need to be concerned that her children had an increased risk of getting cancer.”

When her mother added that it was not just Ries’ paternal grandmother who had breast cancer but also the grandmother’s sister and niece, Ries knew immediately there was likely a family genetic connection.

The test for genetic mutations for breast and ovarian cancer was recently approved, and Ries’ oncologist sent her for genetic counseling and testing. The result: Ries learned she had the BRCA1 genetic mutation.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 are two genetic mutations identified by scientists as increasing the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. These mutations are more prevalent in the Ashkenazi Jewish population than the general population.

“When I learned I had a genetic mutation, I elected to have a double mastectomy with reconstruction after chemotherapy. Since I was done having children, I decided to have my ovaries removed.”

The testing and her surgical choices afterwards may have saved her life and dramatically reduced her chances of getting cancer related to the BRCA1 mutation. Although still at risk for a recurrence of the cancer for which she had originally been treated, Ries’ greater concern was her daughters. She learned they should be tested for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations in their mid-twenties.

Worried about her children and many people, especially in the Jewish community, who were not educated about their increased risk, she and her husband, Tom, started a foundation to fund research and education on breast cancer prevention risks.

It’s important, she says, to learn about your family history, and if you are an Ashkenazi Jew, to consider testing for known mutations. “Ask questions, find out what your relatives may have died from. If relatives say, ‘female problems’ (which is what people often called any gynecological or breast issue), it could mean breast or ovarian cancer.”

She urges internists, gynecologists and even urologists (men can have the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutation, too) to ask questions to determine if a patient should be tested.

"I don’t want people to be paralyzed by fear to get information.Knowing you have the mutation can simply mean being monitored more frequently and earlier in life.”

“I was very lucky,” she says. “But if I had known sooner that I was at risk, I would have had the test. I could have been monitored differently and possibly avoided chemotherapy and the trauma of surgery.”

Winning Strategies for Tackling the IEP Process
Thursday, February 02, 2017

IEP-Process

By Martha Goodman

Although football season may be over, we can turn to many of its lessons to help us make our IEP team meetings victorious ones. What are the first things any coach wants you to know? That it’s all about teamwork. Working to reach a common goal. Respect. Communication. Preparation. The most important thing I want you to know is that you are a full member of team.

So how can you prepare for your IEP game day? There’s a fascinating list of preparations for NFL games available at operations.nfl.com. For example, did you know that teams travelling by air must be in the host city 18 hours in advance of the game? Similarly, did you know that parents have the right to notification 10 days in advance of the meeting? That notification must include the roster of team members. Teams must include a general educator, a special educator, the parent, an administrator, and a representative from any additional areas on concern. (Lack of any of these team members constitutes an illegal formation.)

“Success requires an organized, rigorous system that clearly defines where everyone needs to be, what tasks need to be done, and when they need to be started and completed.” (ibid.) Success in school requires the same thing, and for students with disabilities that system is the Individualized Education Program (IEP), which is a legally enforceable document.

In Maryland, the draft IEP and all documents to be discussed at an IEP meeting must be shared with the parents five days in advance. This is what creates a level playing field for all team members. Read the materials thoroughly, and prepare your strategy. The team must respond to any request made by a parent at the meeting, in writing.

What should you focus on? How the student is performing, what does he need to improve, and how that is going to be accomplished. “Football is a game of numbers, and the study of statistics is essential for analyzing and understanding the game. Also, statistics can diagnose potential performance problems in players.” (49ers Museum Education Program)

The same is true in special education, and the student performance data is recorded in a section of the IEP called Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance, or PLAAFP. Each area must have a multifaceted description of the student’s performance, and specify any gap between that level and the grade level standards. “When analyzing player performance, coaches typically look at the change in statistics over a period of time… perhaps further coaching support or change in strategy is needed..(ibid) IEP teams do the same thing, targeting areas for development.

In football, there are four downs to move the ball 10 yards, IEP goals are broken down into objectives to move the student toward the annual goal. Winning University of Alabama Coach Bear Bryant gave this advice: “Set a goal and don’t quit until you attain it. When you do attain it, set another goal, and don’t quit until you reach it. Never quit.”

The next big element of the plan is the services, which outlines the special teams that will be responsible for accomplishing the goals, and how many hours of service students will receive, and in what setting. Finally, teams must decide in what arena all this will play out, whether it is the student’s zoned school, or a more specialized setting.

Of course there are football rules and referees, and in the IEP process teams must follow the rules too, which are laid out in the Procedural Safeguards. No delay of game. No equipment violations. No unsportsmanlike conduct. There are various methods to address violations, should they arise. First, one can always request a new meeting, and input from central office. Beyond that, one can file a state complaint, a request for mediation, and, finally, a due process hearing.

The first line of defense, though, is an informed parent, and an effective advocate, who can coach you along the way.

To reach Martha Goodman, coordinator Maryland Special Needs Advocacy Project (MDSNAP), at the Macks Center for Jewish Education, call 410-735-5012 or mgoodman@mdsnap.org

Abby Sullivan Talks About Overnight Camp and Being a CIT
Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Abby-Sullivan

It was very fitting that when I spoke to Abby Sullivan, a junior at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community Day School, she was in route to Philadelphia for a camp reunion – one of the many trips she will take to visit camp friends this year. Abby has attended Camp Ramah in the Poconos for the past seven summers and doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon. “I’m going to be going back to Camp Ramah for the rest of my life,” she said.

I asked Abby what made camp so special for her and she said "camp is a place where you develop who you are. You take risks, try new activities and find your passion. My second summer at camp I tried ceramics for the first time. I had no idea what I was doing, but I tried making a mezuzah for my mom because hers broke right before I left for camp. I remember giving it to her on visiting day and she was so happy. It’s been hanging on the door to her bedroom ever since and it always reminds me camp.”

Last summer Abby was in Gesher, the oldest camper division at Camp Ramah, which meant she also worked as a counselor-in-training (CIT). She spent her eight weeks at camp as a CIT to the youngest campers and participated in leadership development classes with her peers. Her favorite part of working as a CIT with a cabin of 9-year-old girls was helping to shape their camp experience.

"I loved watching my campers grow and mature throughout the summer...they really understood the beauty of Camp Ramah early on, and I felt like I had 12 younger sisters that I was really influencing.”

Being a CIT came with challenges as well. Abby had some campers that had a tough time at camp and she shared her camp experiences to help them feel better.

"Even when I wasn't with my bunk, my girls were watching me. I had to find a medium between being a camper and being a counselor, because I wanted my campers to look up to me and aspire to be a CIT someday themselves."

In summer, 2017, most of Abby's peers will be attending Ramah Israel Seminar, a six-week travel program, designed for rising 12th graders who are former campers of the eight Ramah overnight camps in North America. Since Abby will be traveling to Israel on a very similar trip with her school during her senior year, she's decided to spend her summer giving back to camp instead. She called the Camp Ramah office and asked what jobs needed to be filled and that she'd be willing to do anything to be back at camp. This summer Abby will work as a babysitter for staff kids who are too young to be in a camper bunk and she already has plans for summer 2018 where she plans to be on staff.

Abby concluded our conversation by saying that she always associates camp as her happy place, but as she has gotten older, she realized it’s not just camp itself that she loves, but the people there.

Abby-Sullivan-camp-friends

“Ramanicks believe everyone is special, unique, and different. We value each other’s differences and always find the beauty in each other. I’ve made friends from up and down the East Coast because of camp and I truly treasure all the relationships and the memories I have because of this amazing place.”

Abby Sullivan works at Camp Ramah in the Poconos and is a Camp ambassador with The Associated’s Center for Jewish Camping. To learn more about Jewish camp visit livecamp.org or contact Janna Zuckerman at (410)-369-9237 or jzuckerman@associated.org for a FREE camp consultation.

Meet Community Leader Laurie M. Wasserman
Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Laurie-Wasserman
A family law attorney making a real difference in other's lives.

Laurie Wasserman was born and raised in Baltimore and currently lives in Pikesville. A graduate of Owings Mills High School, where she first met her husband, Andy, she is the mother of two children, ages 6 and 8. Laurie is a family law attorney in Offit Kurman’s Baltimore office and will be co-chairing The Associated’s upcoming Jewish Professional Women’s LeadHERship Panel on March 30.

Tell us your Associated story? When I first decided to get involved with The Associated it was through Young Leadership Council, about five years ago. As a lawyer, I wanted to be engaged in a program with my professional contemporaries. I had young kids and was looking for something that would not only compliment my family life but also my professional life. That is why I really wanted to join a group for Jewish professional women.

How has Jewish Professional Women (JPW) helped to increase your network? Being a professional woman, there is a need to find a balance in your life. I wanted to be part of a group that speaks to both my business and personal life. JPW is both a sisterhood and a support network.

A lot of us in JPW are working moms, raising our families, balancing work and home and taking care of ourselves. JPW has programming on all of those issues. It has also reconnected me to people I had lost touch with and strengthened some of my current friendships. I’ve also met new people and created business opportunities. I’m actually co-counsel in a family law case right now with someone I met through JPW.

Tell us about the upcoming LeadHERship Panel you are co-chairing. The speakers we have lined up – Lynn Abeshouse, Laura Black, and Amy Elias – are the Baltimore celebrities of women professionals. It’s great to have these women come and talk to us about their experiences. I think that everyone will be able to take at least one lesson away from these seasoned women, who not only are connected to and leaders in the Jewish community, but are also leaders in their profession.

What inspires you about the work you do? Knowing I can help somebody. I have been practicing family law for more than a decade. Family law has a little bit of a bad reputation because of the nature of our work. We are dealing with families going through a difficult transition, whether it is a divorce, custody or a property division. But if you are skilled at practicing family law, it’s a profession in which you can really make a difference in others’ lives. I help my clients through the process as painlessly as possible and show them creative solutions for moving forward with their lives. I often tell my clients that today may not be okay, but tomorrow will be. I love being a part of my client’s transformation.

I also do a lot of work that affects children, whether I represent a mom or dad in a custody case, or am appointed as an attorney for a child. I have some cases where I really feel that I have made a difference in somebody’s life. I recently represented a child who was in a terrible home situation and now he is thriving. Those are the victories that drive me to work hard for my clients.

Why is it important for you to give of your time? I try to find activities that I can do with my family, like JVC’s Mitzvah Day, where I can teach my kids about the importance of doing good deeds. In terms of the community, I do a lot of work for Disability Rights Maryland; I am on their board of directors. I am a strong advocate for those in the disabled community and I think they deserve a voice. Families with special needs have a higher incidence of divorce because of the stress a child with special needs puts on a marriage.

When I find an opportunity that allows me to feel fulfilled, I’m going to go for it. Whether it’s at my temple or a professional activity or a program through The Associated, time is precious – when you can do something and feel good about it, I think it’s worth it.

Networking Rules You Need to Know
Friday, January 27, 2017

Ari Abramson

 

In the current job market, networking is a necessary part of your job search or career-building. Networking is somewhat of an art, and not everyone finds it easy to walk into a room and start talking.

You can get your practice with The Associate through initiatives such as Real Estate Industry Group (REIG) where real estate professionals can network at Baltimore's most innovative development projects. Often held on-site at real estate projects in various stages of development, these networking and educational opportunities bring together professionals interested in deepening their relationships with one another and the Baltimore Jewish community.

We touched base with Ari Abramson, Vice President of Acquisitions for Continental Realty Corporation and a member of the REIG committee, for his tips and tricks on how to work a room.

Many people find networking events intimidating. What would you advise to someone like this? To overcome networking anxiety, you have to have a solid elevator pitch. This includes a concise overview of your professional role and brief overview of your personal background. After you’ve practiced your pitch, remember to be an active listener and modify your pitch depending on your audience. The ability to control or guide the conversation will create confidence. Dale Carnegie once said, “Face the thing that seems overwhelming and you will be surprised how your fears will melt away.”

How do you start a conversation in a way that doesn’t sound awkward or forced? People attend networking events to network, so be confident and comfortable engaging people. Usually, at those kind of events, attendees have name tags, so a low risk opener would be to address the person by name and ask him or her about their role at their company or about what brought them to this particular event.

Let’s say you made a connection at a networking event – what are the most pertinent next steps? If you had an interesting conversation or would like to learn more about a new connection, ask for their business card. Following the event, send a follow-up email stating where you met, recap the conversation and either look to make arrangements to speak again or leave open the possibility to connect at an appropriate time in the future. Without a follow-up, the connection will be lost. Relationship building requires personal follow-up.

If you could go back, what advice would you give yourself when you were first starting out in your career? You can get interested about different roles, by reaching out to connects (alumni, friend's parents, former professors, etc.) and asking questions about different industries. Given technology today, I would encourage young professionals or job seekers to do their research in order to prepare for these networking conversations. Often times, you have one shot to make an impression and that current conversation can lead to an expanded network of conversations. Anyone can send an email or make a call, but to differentiate yourself, you have to be the most prepared in terms of knowledge and your goal. People are willing to assist you, but you need to know how you’d like them to assist you. Know what questions you want to ask and know what specific role interests you. People, in general, want to be helpful and offer advice; however, I have found that people are more willing to assist when the advice seeker can clearly articulate how the advice giver can provide assist.

If you could sum up your networking rules, what would it be? Be genuinely interested in other people, ask good questions and look people in the eye when speaking. Getting to know a connection should always be mutually beneficial. Catalogue the conversation, follow-up and everything else will follow.

Head to the next REIG Lunch & Learn on Thursday, February 16 for your next networking opportunity. Register online today!

Exterior Home Tips from CHAI: Comprehensive Housing Assistance, Inc.
Tuesday, January 24, 2017

comprehensive-housing-assistance-inc

By Rochelle Eisenberg

Spring is just around the corner. Now is the time to start planning and saving for exterior home improvements. Whether you’re ready to sell your home or just want to boost its curb appeal, the front façade of your home is an important element that should receive regular upkeep and attention. Enhancing the façade of your home is relatively inexpensive and there’s much creativity involved in picking out materials.

Here are six cost-effective ways to spruce up the front appearance of your home, from CHAI: Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc., an agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

1. Touch up on Paint. Peeling paint is just not a good look and takes away from the initial impression of a home. While a fresh coat of paint may not always be necessary, it’s a good idea to touch up on any peeling spots. If your façade has mildew or heavy dirt accumulation, we suggest power washing before painting.

2. Consider Large, Visible Address Numbering. The numbers on your home provide another outlet for you to be creative and customize the look of the front façade. However, number plaques can easily go wrong — hard-to-read numerals, hard-to-read painted numbers, or plaques with pictures generally should be avoided. Consider numbers that are large, easy to read and have a simple design. Not only is this more practical and attractive, but it’s also a matter of safety. Emergency services can locate your house much faster if it the numbering is clearly marked.

3. Create Visual Interest Through Landscaping. A front facade is greatly enhanced with shrubbery, flowering trees, plants and evergreens. No matter how small of a space you may have, try to add some greenery to liven up the space. If you have no space in the front, you can be creative with window planter boxes or potted plants. Remember to remove vines growing on any part of your house because they will damage your façade.

4. Get Creative with Lighting. Lighting is an essential component to the overall look of your home. Lighting key paths and steps is essential for safety. There are energy efficient outdoor bulbs that will last up to 20 years. There also are low voltage LED super high efficiency options. If you don’t have electricity nearby, consider solar-powered lights which are easily movable if you want to change up the look.

5. Freshen up Doors and Windows. While you can choose to replace your front door with a grand-looking one, you can also enhance old doors by painting them or simply changing handles. Note: many doors from 50+ years ago will outlast some new doors, so before you go shopping, think about saving your money! If your windows are well maintained, they might only need a fresh coat of paint. Some windows, however, will require more work than it would cost to buy new ones so we suggest consulting a trusted contractor who will give an honest suggestion.

6. Always Put Safety First. Maintaining front walkway steps and rails is key to your family’s and visitors’ safety. Repair or replace these vital areas to not only boost curb appeal but to also ensure that no one gets hurt entering or leaving your house. If your steps don’t have a handrail, consider adding one. Home centers or contractors can help.

Need a place to start? CHAI has a contractor referral list! CHAI's Senior Home Repair department has also started a new program to combat contractor fraud and incompetency.

If you have questions about contractors or work needed, call CHAI at 410-500-5316 and Ed Schaffer will be happy to advise.

Are You Connected?
Thursday, January 19, 2017

By Lawrence Ziffer
Chief Executive Officer, Macks Center for Jewish Education

We are presently reading the weekly portions (parashiot) in the book of Exodus (Shemot), the second book of the bible (Chumash). The book of Shemot opens with the verse: “These are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob (Yaakov), each person with his household.”

Throughout the book of Shemot, we watch the transformation of Yaakov’s descendants from a nuclear family into an extended family, from a family to a tribe, from one tribe into twelve tribes, and eventually, with the exodus from Egypt and the divine encounter at Sinai, into a people: from Bnei Yisrael (children of Israel) to Am Yisrael (people of Israel).

The dictionary definition of a people is “a plurality of persons considered as a whole, as is the case with an ethnic group or nation.” This plurality must have some sense of commonality, of connection. They do not necessarily need to have a single geographic location. They do not even have to have identical beliefs or views. So what is it that binds people together as a People?<

We Jews have formed many kinds of connections throughout the ages. In some cases, the lowest common denominator connection was anti-Semitism, a phenomenon that forced us to realize that we were neither welcomed nor part of the mainstream (no matter how hard we tried or how much we professed our loyalties). In the past, finding positive forms of connection to each other was not so hard. We had common appearances, common names, common language(s), common values, etc.

More recently, we have been beneficiaries of growth and progress in our Western Democracies. We have experienced unparalleled freedom and the ability to assimilate into our home environment more than was ever possible before. As such, it has become more difficult to find the connections that can reach all Jews. We tend to blend into our surrounding and dispersed neighborhoods and social circles. Jewish identity factors that used to be celebrated as unique and special can sometimes seem like an impediment or burden to full integration.

At CJE, we place considerable emphasis on Jewish educational engagement and connections. We develop programs that enhance connections for people who want to feel connected, but just don’t quite know how to take the first steps. Our approach to connection has three modalities, and those modalities have a specific sequence as well as distinct stages.

Stage one is about my connections to me. What does being Jewish really mean to me? How do I define myself as a Jew? There are obviously many possibilities, but if this question is not at least explored seriously, then Jewish identity ends up being an artifact, a characteristic with about the same significance as the color of my hair or eyes. I can change the color of my hair with dye, I can change the color of my eyes with contacts, and I can change my external image by just blending in and not behaving as a Jew. We must find new, interesting, deeply meaningful ways for people to explore and define their internal, personal Jewish connections.

Stage two is about connecting to other Jews. Judaism has never been a monastic religion. Prayer is best fulfilled with a minyan (quorum). Our life-cycle events are always celebrated together with others. Jews doing things together with other Jews is a fundamental part of our culture. This does not mean that our connections need be exclusively Jewish, but it does mean that we find meaningful fulfillment when we experience things together with others who share our values and history (and destiny!). Stage two has two components. The first is social and the second is educational. Our goal is to combine them and have Jews joining with other Jews for accessible educational programs that are also socially meaningful and reinforcing.

Stage three is about connecting to the larger Jewish community. Once we get people to focus on what it means to be part of a community, we can talk about collective responsibility, the needs of others and how we respond to meet those needs. When our connections are complex and intersecting, as a community, we can explore what it means to be a global Jewish people in the 21st century, as well as the centrality of Israel to our Jewish identity, even in the Diaspora.

In the past, we might have taken stages one and two for granted. They were part of our identity as a sub-culture. They shaped our feelings of “otherness” in a world that often forced us to think about our Jewish identity. They often led us to behave in clannish ways (we created fraternal organizations like B’nai B’rith and Hadassah, organizations for teens like NCSY, NFTY and USY, and Zionist advocacy organizations like BZD and Young Judea). We learned all about stages one and two at home and in our neighborhoods. Most of our communal and educational efforts were focused on stage three, on building a sense of community and collective responsibility (e.g. synagogues and temples, federations, national service organizations, etc.)

We can no longer take the first two stages for granted. It seems abundantly clear that most Jews are not prepared to jump directly to stage three. We need to meet them where they are and help them develop stage one and stage two Jewish identities. This is one of the most important challenges facing our community. It is a challenge that will require human and financial resources. It will require new and creative alliances among many divergent organizations and entities. If we succeed, we will have a newly energized, creatively engaged Jewish community. If we fail… We cannot fail!

Meeting Global Crisis
Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Meeting-Global-Crisis

Venezuela. France. Ukraine. Israel. How do we respond when Jews face emergencies around the world?

The Associated continues to respond quickly in the most pressing global crises, strategically through national and international partnerships. Supported through The Associated’s Annual Campaign, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC)’s dual mission is to both save Jewish lives and to revive Jewish life in 70 countries around the world.

Last month, when the Syrian refugee crisis reached epic proportions and more than 11 million innocent civilians were forced to flee, JDC and the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief, delivered humanitarian assistance. Food, medicine and clean water were sent as quickly as possible to ensure that those suffering tragically would find some relief.

As the political climate in Venezuela continues to become more complex and anti-Semitism continues to rise, JDC has been a lifeline for the Jewish community there, enabling the Jewish community to move to safety. For some, this also means working with the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) for assistance in moving to Israel. JAFI is also a partner supported by The Associated’s Annual Campaign, with a goal of connecting Jewish outside of Israel to the Jewish State.

JDC is also strengthened through partnerships, including through the work of the Israel Trauma Coalition (ITC), another partner of The Associated, an organization that creates a continuum of care in the trauma field, response and emergency preparedness. JDC has taken ITC’s lessons learned on emergency preparedness and resilience in Israel and applied them in other areas of the world, including Venezuela and France.

In Israel, in addition to working with ITC, The Associated worked closely with EVP, the Emergency Volunteers Project, (EVP), a network of over 950 American volunteers and professional first responders. Just months ago, when fires ravaged Northern Israel, some as a result of arson, local firefighters dropped everything to rush to the Jewish State, responding to a call from EVP.

Yet they lacked the funds for travel. Thanks to the quick thinking of Yossi Kelemer, who serves on the board of The Associated, and Linda A. Hurwitz, Chair of the Board, within 24 hours, funds were secured through The Associated.

It’s the flexibility of our unrestricted Annual Campaign that enables The Associated to be nimble, allocating funds to be utilized when crises arise. And through strategic, ongoing partnerships The Associated extends a caring hand to those in crisis around the world.

Meet Camp Expert Janna Zuckerman
Monday, January 09, 2017

Janna Zuckerman

By Rochelle Eisenberg

Janna Zuckerman understands how transformative Jewish camp can be. Ask her where she developed her Jewish Identity – and made life-long friends – and she’ll point to her 15 years at JCC Camp, Yom Tov, and JCCA overnight camp, NJY Camps in the Poconos.

Now, this young woman is hoping other Baltimore families discover this same love for Jewish camp. As manager of The Associated’s Center for Jewish Camping, she provides free guidance to families on the best Jewish camp for their children. We asked Zuckerman to share her insights.

WHAT'S A GOOD AGE TO START OVERNIGHT CAMP? If your child is confident spending time away from home and enjoys sleepovers, it’s a sign they could be ready. If they’ve expressed interest, you may want to start researching and even enroll them in a week-long Rookie camp.

HOW DO YOU FIND THE RIGHT FIT? Call me. I talk to parents to get an understanding of what they and their children want from the experience. Do they want a co-ed or single-sex environment? How far away do they want to be from home? Do they prefer arts and crafts or sports or science? Do they need an inclusive environment? What’s their personality? I’ll help narrow it down to three to four camps to investigate.

WHY JEWISH CAMP? It’s unlike any other camp experience. You connect with other Jewish kids like you. You get to enjoy all the great programming that a secular camp offers – from arts and crafts and dance to rock climbing and sports. And, you connect to your Jewish identity in ways that are fun – in ways different from the experiences you may get in Hebrew school or Jewish day school.

FUN? Yes. You may create a menorah in arts and crafts bake challah in culinary or enjoy Israeli dancing. You’ll learn gaga (Israeli dodge ball) from Israeli Shlichim (Israel emissaries) or participate in camp-wide Maccabiah (Jewish Olympics). Some of my favorite memories from camp are the Shabbats I celebrated with my friends and counselors – surrounded by nature, singing, dancing, celebrating being Jewish – it’s hard to explain the magic.

ISN'T CAMP EXPENSIVE? I can help identify scholarships to defray some of the costs. We are fortunate in this community that many camps offer scholarships. Funds are also available from local synagogues for congregants’ children. The Foundation for Jewish Camp partners with the Harold Grinspoon Foundation to encourage attendance at Jewish overnight camp through the PJ Goes to Camp incentive grant program.

strong>WHAT'S NEXT? Visit the camp. Talk to staff. Ask questions to get a better understanding of how they operate. Questions such as ‘What makes your camp different from others?’ Or, ‘What skills and values do you want the campers to take away?

Call me at 410-369-9237 or email me at jzuckerman@associated.org. We work with Jewish camps around the country and I’ll help you find the right fit.

This story originally appeared in the December issue of JMORE, a new publication that tells the vibrant story of Jewish Baltimore. Read today’s issue!

PJ Library: 200,000 and Counting
Monday, January 09, 2017

PJ Library

By Rochelle Eisenberg

For those old enough to remember, it was like the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes. You know, the one where the Prize Patrol showed up at the door of a family with the surprise that they had won millions of dollars.

So perhaps it wasn’t a giant check. Yet it seemed close to that for young Zachary Wynn of Pikesville.

For when this two-year-old opened the front door last spring, he and his family found themselves at the center of a big celebration. They had been selected as the recipient of Baltimore’s 200,000th PJ Library book.

“It was such a great surprise,” says Kimberly Wynn, his mother. “The PJ Library team knocked on the door, envelope in hand, balloons surrounding them, and gave him his book. Linda Hurwitz [chair of the board of The Associated] read to him and we had a small party.”

Since 2008, thanks, in part, to the support of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, free Jewish-themed PJ Library books have been landing in the mailboxes of local Jewish families with children, six months through age eight.

These books, an international initiative of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, are distributed monthly by the Macks Center for Jewish Education (CJE), an Associated agency.

The monthly package is something that Zachary looks forward to. He loves to open it and listen to the stories. And his mother really appreciates the Jewish themes, as well as the educational information for parents included in each book.

“I grew up in an involved Jewish family and was president of my youth group at my Reform synagogue,” says Wynn. “My husband grew up in a Virginia suburb outside of D.C. where he was one of only four Jewish kids in his high school. We were both immersed in Jewish life, yet these books broadened our Jewish understanding of Jewish holidays and culture and added to what our child is learning in Jewish preschool.”

“In fact,” says Gabrielle Burger, director of CJE’s PJ Library program,” PJ Library has been a huge success, not only because of the free books. Many parents are excited they are learning something new about Judaism.”

CJE often supplements PJ Library through hands-on programming at area retailers and holds events throughout town.

“One mother told me she attended a PJ event where they made Havdalah candles and learned about Havdalah. At the conclusion we gave them a Havdalah kit. Not only did she start making Havdalah at home, but she began bringing her friends to CJE’s weekly Tot Shabbats.”

Wynn can’t wait for her younger son, Asher, to be old enough to get his own book. “It’s been a wonderful experience sharing these Jewish stories with my child. And it’s helped us build a library, while developing a foundation for Jewish learning.” Learn more at pjlibrary.org.

This story originally appeared in the December issue of JMORE, a new publication that tells the vibrant story of Jewish Baltimore. Read today’s issue!

Sara Malinow Explores Israel: Baltimore Onward Israel Experience
Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Sara Manilow

By Sara Malinow

This summer I am working for an online magazine called Happy in Tel Aviv. In addition to writing articles, running social media accounts, translating content from French and Hebrew, and taking videos around Tel Aviv for a current project, I recently taught myself French. While I would not say I have mastered the language (yet), I know how to say ‘It sounds better in French’ in French, and with two French people as your bosses, that’s really all that matters.

The Israelis I’ve met are unlike any breed of human that can be encountered on the planet. Not only have the people I’ve met been straightforward and blunt but they’ve been charming and overall nicer than the majority of Americans I’ve met.

The quality of life in Israel is, in my opinion, simply happier than in the States and from them, I’ve learned to live each day fully. Surely I can appreciate the American political correctness that seems to be a myth here in Israel. However, Israelis know how to get what they want, a quality I appreciate very much!

If you’re expecting to come to Israel and lose weight (HAH), are you in for a treat! I would regard myself as a health nut back home, however, I decided that I wanted to get the full Tel Aviv experience, abandon my old eating habits and fully immerse myself in the unique cuisine of Tel Aviv.

For the brunch of your life, there is nowhere better than Benedict. With no shame, I admit I’ve been there three times already. From eggs benedict to shakshuka to Oreo pancakes, they have it all. For the burger of your life, Vitrina is the answer. California-style burgers with sweet potato fries with lemon zest (yeah, I’m drooling also). Oh, and I couldn’t forget the falafel and shawarma. I’m a shawarma girl myself and would say my favorite so far has been the stand across from Shuk Hacarmel (Carmel Market).

Now, I feel like it’s my duty to actually tell you all the must-see, must-do things besides eating. Obviously if you’re in Tel Aviv, you’re going to the beach. There’s just no question. Imagine a tropical Caribbean beach with less coral reefs and more people. Nothing beats the beaches in Tel Aviv.

For my fair-skin friends (or those of you trying to avoid wrinkles), Tel Aviv has some of the best shopping I’ve seen. Check out the Dizengoff mall and all of the surrounding streets for the best shops and boutiques. But in all seriousness, if you’re planning to take a trip to Tel Aviv, you may as well just bring me with you since I can take you everywhere and anywhere you want to go :)

Baltimore Onward Israel provided me with an opportunity unlike any other. Instead of simply visiting Tel Aviv and exploring for a day or two, I was given the gift to live in Tel Aviv for two months. I was given the opportunity to immerse myself in the Tel Aviv culture and lifestyle, whether it be through work, food or daily activities.

I was provided with the chance to go to other places in Israel and gain a greater understanding and perspective of what makes Israel holy and what makes it so special. Although I did of course miss the home-cooked meals that hot plates and microwaves do not supply, I was prompted to therefore explore and experience all that Tel Aviv has to offer.

My experience with Onward Israel has been simply unforgettable and one I wish was not so close to being over.

I would recommend Baltimore Onward Israel to anyone with a desire to further their connection with Israel, a strong sense-of-self, a thirst for adventure, a passion for trying new things and a love for this country. And for a more realistic answer: I’d recommend the program to anyone who isn’t allergic to sesame seeds, doesn’t mind if their hair looks like Mufasa from The Lion King, has little taste for fancy living, speaks/reads some Hebrew, understands public transportation easily and is great at making new friends!

Want to spend your summer living and working in Tel Aviv? Registration is now open for Baltimore Onward Israel Summer 2017! Learn more and apply online today. You can also check out more stories from Onward Israel.

Meet Lauren Ades
Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Lauren Ades

Canton Resident, Macks Center for Jewish Education (CJE) Connector

WHAT'S YOUR BACKGROUND? I am from Baltimore and grew up in Owings Mills. I have always been in the community and have been involved in The Associated for the last 10 years as the co-chair of IMPACT (The Associated’s young adult division) and have taken a campaign role. This is the first time I have taken a grassroots engagement role and it has been so wonderful and enriching for me. It has opened my eyes to the power of our dollars and what we can do to bring people together and fulfill a need in the community.

WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO BE A CONNECTOR? I decided to be a connector because when I had my daughter last year I participated in CJE’s Ahava Baby program and went to so many great events. The last event was a challah bake downtown and that is when I said ‘I would like to do this!’ I was so inspired by what the other connectors were doing.

DESCRIBE YOUR BEST "CONNECTOR" MOMENT? Probably the best connector moment is really a series of moments! We have been holding monthly family Havdalah gatherings downtown at the JCC. I am just overwhelmed by how many people are coming! we have 25- 40 people at every gathering. It is not easy to get out of the house on a Saturday evening, but they are making the effort. At each event, we see people who are exchanging telephone numbers - for example, they meet and did not even know that their kids were in the same day care. It’s really served as a catalyst to bring people together.

HOW HAS BEING A CONNECTOR INFLUENCED YOUR FAMILY? It has made us mindful of how we want to bring up our daughter. We want her to grow up with Jewish traditions. For example, we never celebrated Havdalah before and now we are gathering with our community to do that monthly. We have family Shabbats. It has made us more mindful of instilling Jewish traditions in our daughter.

ANY GREAT INSIGHTS ABOUT BALTIMORE AS A RESULT OF BEING A CONNECTOR? What’s been really eye opening is how many Jewish people are downtown and how hungry everybody was for this program. Blockbuster attendance and selling out our events (like our recent Family Fundays) has made us even more aware of the community. And probably the best thing is that people are saying: ‘I don’t have to move to the suburbs to get this. I can get it downtown!'

Interested in becoming a connector or meeting a connector, Liz Rozmaryn, CJE connector coordinator at lrozmaryn@cjeb.org

Surviving An Abusive Relationship
Monday, December 19, 2016

Surviving an abusive relationship CHANA

By Simone Ellin

When she married her ex-husband in 1999, Lauren,* a mother of three, never dreamed she would find herself needing the services of CHANA.

“In the beginning, my husband seemed like a nice guy. He seemed devoted, had a lovely, welcoming family and got along great with my son,” she recalls. “I was a single mother and wanted to give my son a daddy.”

Lauren says it took about two years before her husband began to show signs of abusive behavior. Unable to find support through her husband’s family and not wanting to burden her own family who lived across the country, Lauren turned to Jewish Community Services (JCS) and was referred to CHANA. The healing process for her and her children began there.

“CHANA is the ultimate Jewish mother,” she says. “They take you in, feed you, get you any help you need and completely validate your feelings.”

CHANA helps victims and survivors of physical, sexual, financial, verbal and emotional abuse, neglect and trauma by providing crisis intervention services, legal aid, individual and group counseling and prevention education. “We provide services that enhance self-worth, give options and support,” says CHANA’s Director, Dr. Nancy Aiken. “We want you to be safe, emotionally and physically. Sometimes people think that if they don’t need a shelter, are financially well off or aren’t planning to get a divorce, they don’t need CHANA. That isn’t true. We can offer support and education, whether you stay or go.”

While physical and sexual abuse are the most commonly recognized forms of domestic violence, many of us are less familiar with financial, verbal and emotional abuse. These types of abuse may be more difficult to identify, but can be devastating to their victims. 

“Being controlling about money, not sharing financial information, asking a lot about what things cost, wanting to see receipts, even when the money being spent belongs to the woman … these are some warning signs that a relationship is unhealthy,” says Aiken. Lauren, who experienced financial abuse, verbal and emotional abuse with her former husband, agrees.

“[Financial abuse] is horrific. Someone is controlling you by withholding grocery money. Sometimes there was no money unless I agreed to have sex with him. I tried to work outside the home but my ex would always change his schedule so that I would have to call in and tell my job I couldn’t come. I constantly suffered the stress of being fired. At the beginning of the marriage, I first attended medical massage therapy school, but after I finished and passed the national board exam, he refused to give me the money for my license, so I wasn’t able to practice,” she recalls. “Financial abuse is debilitating. It weakens your self-esteem and causes you to do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do. And it is harder for other people to understand. But when I went to CHANA, they weren’t shocked at all. They helped me to name it.”

Adina* was also surprised to find that CHANA had heard stories similar to her own many times over. Adina met her ex-husband through a matchmaker, and after a brief courtship, the couple married and soon had a baby.

“The relationship was abusive from the beginning,” says the 36-year-old mother of four. “But I didn’t recognize it. I didn’t see how he was controlling me, twisting my words, manipulating me. I was taught to bend to my husband’s will and told never to complain to friends. When you don’t talk to friends, you don’t know when something’s wrong.”

In her marriage, Adina experienced both physical and emotional abuse, but says the emotional abuse was most scarring. Adina went to the rabbis, but soon learned that her husband was consulting them and invalidating her story. “He convinced all the rabbis I was crazy and a bad mother and I lost every one of the friends I made through my marriage. When I asked them to testify for me during the divorce, they all said they couldn’t. ‘It was over their heads.’” She felt stuck, hopeless and alone.

Although she had heard about CHANA, Adina didn’t contact them for many years. She assumed they wouldn’t believe her story of abuse either. Finally, on a colleague’s recommendation, Adina decided to give CHANA a try.  

“I met with Naomi and she validated me. She sent me to Cynthia [Ohana], who explained the legal aspects to me, and I saw a therapist. When you go through your story, you feel like it is unique. Then you find out it’s not. It took my therapist four years to convince me I wasn’t crazy.”

CHANA also helped Adina regain her confidence as a mother. “I remember one Mother’s Day — I was feeling so bad and the doorbell rang and it was someone from CHANA. She brought a package with all kinds of gifts — a cookbook, perfumes, jewelry — I just burst into tears. It was so meaningful to know that someone thought of me and made me feel like a good mother.”

Nowadays, Adina, who is divorced and shares custody of their children with her ex-husband, says that though he still tries to control her, she now has the tools to cope.

Lauren’s life also changed for the better. She completed certification in pediatric massage therapy for trauma victims and is working in her field. Lauren also volunteers as a speaker for CHANA.

“I’m in a new relationship with an old college boyfriend,” she says. “He was always my best friend, and we have a deep bond.”

Life isn’t always easy for her and her three children; they struggle with financial issues because her ex still creates problems by withholding alimony and child support.

“My children and I love each other and we still receive help from CHANA. All of us have developed coping skills and healing tools. We know how to recognize red flags [in relationships] and we know what to do about them. We aren’t victims anymore. I have taken my experience and turned it around to heal myself and other people. CHANA is completely unique and a precious gem in our community.”

Warning signs that a relationship may be abusive, from The National Domestic Violence Hotline:

  • Telling you that you never do anything right
  • Showing jealousy of your friends and time spent away and/or discouraging you from seeing friends or family members
  • Embarrassing or shaming you with put-downs
  • Controlling every penny spent in the household
  • Looking at you or acting in ways that scare you
  • Controlling who you see, where you go or what you do
  • Telling you that you are a bad parent or threatening to harm or take away your children
  • Preventing you from working or attending school
  • Destroying your property or threatening to hurt or kill your pets
  • Intimidating you with guns, knives or other weapons
  • Pressuring you to have sex when you don’t want to or do things sexually you’re not comfortable with

To learn more about domestic abuse, visit chanabaltimore.org, call the CHANA office at 410-234-0030, or call CHANA’s confidential helpline at 410-234-0023.

* Names have been changed to protect the safety of these women. This story originally appeared in Jewish Women. Read the rest of the publication now!

Tailgate With A Purpose
Thursday, December 08, 2016

Tailgate with a purpose

By Rochelle Eisenberg

When Dori Chait moved to Baltimore in 2005, she quickly discovered that in the fall, everything revolves around the Ravens. So today, the former New Yorker is incorporating what she’s learned about her adopted community into a volunteer project she hopes others get behind.

YOU TURNED SOMETHING UNIQUELY BALTIMORE INTO A WAY TO GIVE BACK? During football season, it seems as if everyone is either at or watching a Ravens game. It’s hard to get many Baltimoreans engaged in other things. So I thought why not create a volunteer project that you could do as a group right before or after the game. Or during halftime?

YOU KICKED IT OFF ON SEPTEMBER 11TH? I was chairing Day to Unite for Jewish Volunteer Connection (JVC) in conjunction with the Governor’s Day to Serve. That happened to be the Ravens’ opener. With Tailgate with a Purpose, we encouraged people to volunteer in between watching the game.

WHAT DID PEOPLE DO? My son played baseball that day so we had everyone bring books and/or school supplies to the game. We talked about where these items were going and how they would help other children a few miles away from where we live. Other groups brought gift cards or goodies to local fire and police departments in commemoration of 9/11. One group met at Flight One Carriers, a mile from the stadium, and packed disaster relief boxes while watching.

WHAT MAKES THESE PROJECTS SPECIAL? An important piece of JVC is service learning, and each tailgate bag includes a list of volunteer projects and guided questions to make it meaningful.

OTHER TAILGATE PROJECTS? During one game, a group of moms and kids made cheer bags, and we took them to Sinai’s Pediatric Unit with our children. We’ve made blessing bags (filled with necessities like toothbrushes, snacks, blankets to give to people living on the street) and soup kits. A fantasy football league is getting together at a restaurant and bringing books that influenced us as mothers. Everyone will speak about what the book means to them and the books will be donated to DRUM (DRU/Mondawmin Healthy Families).

WHAT ARE YOU BRINGING? I will be donating The Rainbow Fish because it teaches the importance of giving to others and how it makes a person feel when they share a piece of themselves. I also will donate something funny like Confessions of a Scary Mommy because it really normalizes the transition into motherhood for people.

HAS VOLUNTEERING IMPACTED YOUR CHILDREN? There’s more awareness of the community at large. When they know we are going to the city, they suggest we bring a blessing bag. It’s created an awareness of the world outside of them.

This story originally appeared in the December issue of JMORE, a new publication that tells the vibrant story of Jewish Baltimore. Read today’s issue!

Connecting Interfaith Families to Jewish Community
Thursday, December 08, 2016

Connecting Interfaith Families

By Rochelle Eisenberg

Diana Coyle grew up Catholic. Her husband, Michael Fishman, is Jewish. When the two decided they wanted to get married, one of the first things they did was talk about how to raise the children.

It wasn’t a decision Coyle took lightly. She knew how important it was for her husband that their kids were Jewish. So after a lot of thought, and a number of conversations, she knew it was the right move for her future family.

From the beginning she felt comfortable in her decision. “I was always fortunate,” she says. “I had a great support system and whenever I had questions, my husband was always able to answer them.”

Yet sometimes she felt like an outsider, looking at the world through a different lens, worried she might ask or do something that might offend. That’s when she learned about the Mother’s Circle, where she could find support with other non-Jewish mothers raising Jewish children.

The JCC Mother’s Circle is a three-week education and support group that focuses on Jewish rituals, ethics, holidays and Jewish life cycles. In addition to educating, it is a place where mothers share challenges and discuss situations in a non-threatening environment.

“It’s a chance to be with a group of people who grew up similarly, to make connections and to validate your experiences,” Coyle explains.

The rate of intermarriage has been steadily rising in this country. Just last month, the Pew Research Center released a study that found that roughly one-in-five U.S. adults were raised with a mixed religious background. Broken down even further, one-quarter of Millennials (27 percent) were raised in a religiously mixed family, while 20 percent of Generation Xers and 19 percent of Boomers were.

The results were not surprising for those who have been looking at the Jewish community. In 2010, when The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore conducted its community study, it found that 42 percent of 18-34 non-Orthodox Jews indicated they were intermarried.

Those trends, and the fact that many interfaith couples didn’t feel as welcome as they could in the Jewish community, led The Associated to create an interfaith task force to understand the best ways to make interfaith families feel connected. One of the recommendations was to hire an interfaith engagement director for the Baltimore Jewish community.

Last year, Lara Nicolson took on that role. “I’m taking a community-wide approach to making interfaith families feel welcome,” she says. “I can help provide resources, support and programs that help them find their place in the community so they have positive Jewish experiences.”

And Nicolson can relate to those she speaks with – she is Jewish, her husband is not, and they are raising their kids Jewish.

Chantelle Terrillion, who co-chaired the interfaith task force with Kevin Keane and her husband Joel Fink, learned about the Mother’s Circle from Nicolson.

“It was great to hear other people’s experiences. Some were similar to mine, others were different. Yet it gave us a chance to explore our situations in a non-judgmental space,” she says.

In addition to the Mother’s Circle, other programs include a revamped Introduction to Judaism, taught by local rabbis and sponsored by the JCC and the Baltimore Board of Rabbis. The Board of Rabbis has been supportive of the interfaith initiative. And, the JCC and Jewish Community Services have teamed up for a workshop for interfaith couples, called Love and Religion.

And Coyle has become an interfaith connector, meeting with non-Jewish mothers, providing them with ways to get answers, as well as other resources, and helping them to connect to other families.

As for Terrillion, the connections she’s made have been invaluable. “I’m so happy The Associated is putting into action the recommendations from our interfaith task force. It’s providing interfaith families ways to feel connected and welcome in Baltimore’s Jewish community,” she says.

This story originally appeared in the December issue of JMORE, a new publication that tells the vibrant story of Jewish Baltimore. Read today’s issue!

Chanukah Family Fun!
Monday, December 05, 2016

Chanukah Fun

By: Lisa Bodziner

As the days become shorter, darker and more difficult to stay up for we are reminded to embrace light and hope during this holiday season. Chanukah soon approaches and our rich Jewish heritage provides so many wonderful opportunities to create light together as a family. Here are five great ways to celebrate:

Reading PJ library books during bedtime is certainly an incredible way to create light in your family. If you haven’t read or received Potatoes at Turtle Rock come visit the CJE to get your own copy. This PJ library book is an incredible way to share and make your own family Chanukah traditions as this family shares to start the book “when it comes to Chanukah, if it’s snowing, we celebrate in the woods…” and you will have to come get your own copy to hear what happens at Turtle Rock.

If you are looking for hands on Chanukah activities to do in your own home or with family and friends over winter break, check out some cool activities below: before you purchase crafts be sure to visit the CJE crafts room for materials you can take! Here’s one craft idea we love. It’s a fabric menorah. You will need: felt (yellow and other colors); fabric for the back of your hanging; fabric glue (older children may like to sew instead); fabric paints; hook and eye fastening tape or buttons.

  1. Using this template, cut out a menorah shape and nine candles from the felt.
  2. Using fabric glue stick these shapes to your backing fabric.
  3. Cut out nine flames from yellow felt. Stick the ‘eye’ of nine hook and eye fasteners just above each candle and the ‘hooks’ to the flames.
  4. Decorate your menorah hanging with fabric paints.

Join us for Winter Fun Days. These days of activities are scheduled the week between Christmas and New Years Day when parents and caregivers are looking for fun, safe and educational things to do with young children. Winter Fun Days will be filled with puppet shows, crafts and community service projects while encouraging families to get to know one another by playing in various locations throughout the city. Learn more online

Try this latke recipe from kvellerYou will need: 5 potatoes; 1 onion; 3 eggs; 1 cup flour; 1 ½ tsp. salt; ½ tsp pepper. Peel potatoes and grate with onion in the food processor using the s blade (for mushed potato) or grating blade (for grated potato). Mix with other ingredients and fry until golden. Then flip over and fry the other side until golden. This recipe can be multiplied. It is very versatile and potatoes can be substituted for sweet potatoes, apples, spinach, or tuna.

For more ideas, go to our Chanukah portal or check out additional programs. As always, we hope to see you around town and be sure to be in touch if you have any questions about family programs during the holiday season or year round! 

Nine Things to do in December
Thursday, December 01, 2016

Young adults at Charm City Tribe Chanukah event

 

Celebrate the end of 2016 with one or more of these events from The Associated or one of our agencies.

December 8, 8:00 a.m. The Top Ten Estate Planning and Estate Tax Developments of 2016. Learn about the top ten estate planning and estate tax developments of 2016, the likely developments of 2017 and the implications for your practice. Presenter: Ronald D. Aucutt, Partner, McGuireWoods LLP. The Associated Krieger Building.

December 8, 6:30 p.m. The Associated’s Keynote Event. The former White House press secretary will share insider strategy from Capitol Hill to the corporate boardroom, at this event recognizing donors giving $1,000 or more to The Associated’s Annual Campaign. Hyatt Regency Baltimore Inner Harbor.

December 11, 1:00 p.m. Stars in the Ring: Jewish Champions in the Golden Age of Boxing. Author and historian Mike Silver presents this vibrant social history of Jewish boxers in an entertaining and informative presentation. Jewish Museum of Maryland.

Through December 14. Sue Glick Liebman Visiting Israel Scholar – Israel: It’s Complicated. Explore and better understand key issues and complexities that face the Jewish homeland and the Jewish people with world-renowned speaker, Avraham Infeld. Locations around Baltimore.

December 14, 6:00 p.m. PJ in your PJs Powered By IMPACT. Help your little one drift off to dreamland – meet up with IMPACT and gather ‘round for story time with books from PJ Library. J Town and Studio J at the Weinberg Park Heights JCC.

December 24, 6:00 p.m. Chrismahanukwanzakah Cocktails with a Conscience. Come out to enjoy some Chrismahanukwanzaakah cocktails, test your knowledge about the holiday season, and volunteer as part of Community Mitzvah Day! Join Repair and Moishe House to play a round of trivia – testing your knowledge about the customs of Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanzaa – followed by packing boxes to assist people experiencing homelessness as part of Operation Shoebox. Moishe House Baltimore.

December 25. Community Mitzvah Day. Be a part of Mitzvah Day and join hundreds of fellow volunteers of all ages in making this winter warmer and better for members of the Baltimore community. Locations around Baltimore.

December 25, 3:00 p.m. The Mama Doni Band “Chanukah Fever” Concert. The internationally-acclaimed Mama Doni Band offers up a contagious blend of reggae, rock, disco, klezmer and “Jewgrass” – all woven together with a hip Jewish sensibility. The Gordon Center for Performing Arts.

December 28, 7:30 p.m. Chanukah BrewHaHa. Join us for a rousing night of celebrating miracles, gifts and gift giving, and pride in community festivus – at the biggest, most spectacular Chanukah party in Baltimore! The Associated Krieger Building.

Retirement Mythbusters
Tuesday, November 29, 2016

retirement mythbusters

By Elizabeth Schuman

From paper routes and babysitting to corporate titles and entrepreneurship, you’ve covered work territory while earning a paycheck.

Although your teenaged self could not have imagined your career journey, your adult self needs to plan your retirement path.

“A retirement plan must be strategic, mindful and intentional. What does retirement look like to you?” says Ricka E. Neuman, CPA, principal, PBMares, LLP. While financial security is a given, having a clear picture of what you want to do next is equally important.

There is no one answer for everyone. “When people work on retirement plans, it’s not about preparing to retire,” says Michael I. Friedman, J.D., CAP®, senior vice president of philanthropic planning and services, The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. “It’s about preparing for a life in retirement.” The best time to map your tomorrow? Yesterday.

Shore Up Your Bank Account. Boomer, take your head out of the sand. Imagine living to age 100 and plan from there. Consider living expenses, health care, insurance and a retirement lifestyle. Then ask: Will my money last?  

Start early; contribute often. Thanks to the power of compound interest, dollars add up. “I tell my clients to contribute a minimum of 10 percent of their pre-tax income each year,” says Morry A. Zolet, CFP®, senior vice president, the Zolet Lenet Group at Morgan Stanley. “You cannot afford not to contribute. Pre-tax contributions reduce your taxes and allow you to save.”

Vehicles such as a 401(k), 403(b), IRA or Roth IRA are relatively simple. Zolet urges employees to contribute enough to meet any employer match and go beyond to achieve at least 10 percent in pre-tax savings. While pensions and Social Security serve as a financial cushion, don’t count on one revenue stream, he adds.

Be realistic. Most people spend more in retirement than they imagine, whether for increased leisure activities or declining health, says Neuman. “Allow your tax-free savings to build-up as long as possible. Be strategic about taking Social Security. Be mindful about taking your required minimum distribution at 70½ for your qualified retirement plan.”

Ready for risk? Before retiring, you need to understand your existing assets and liabilities. You also need to know your risk tolerance, says Zolet. “How much volatility can you handle? Stocks go up and down in value, but there is more opportunity for growth.” Conversely, fixed-income tools such as bonds or CDs have less risk but also less growth potential.

At every age, saving something — even banking the cost of a latte each day — will help in the long run. “You cannot sacrifice your retirement for other needs,” says Zolet.

Plan Your Legacy. You’ve worked a lifetime and want to leave a legacy to your children and causes you support. Just as you planned your career, you can plan your philanthropic legacy by answering key questions and using the right tools, points out Philip “Pete” Sachs, partner, senior client advisor, senior strategist, WMS Partners.

“In addition to the financial aspects, think about what you want to give away, your anticipated tax burden and what you would like to bequeath to your children and to causes you supported all your life,” says Sachs. This is the time to consider:

  • What causes or issues matter most to you
  • How you want to be remembered
  • How to involve your family in charitable giving

Working closely with a financial advisor, you can create a legacy to reflect your values and take into account your means and abilities. Diverse planned giving approaches allow you to give to charity, while benefiting from tax savings and an income stream.

If selling your business or property is in your future, you may opt to pre-fund a donor-advised fund and receive a tax deduction, even if grants aren’t made out of the fund for months or even years later. The benefit is twofold.

“Many donors love using donoradvised funds to help teach their children or grandchildren the value of giving by encouraging the succeeding generations to recommend grants — even small grants as little as $100 — to help their children or grandchildren get in the habit of giving,” says Neuman.

Another approach is look first to your IRA or 401(k) for charitable gifting. You can name a charity as the beneficiary of a retirement plan, eliminating both income taxes and estate taxes on your heirs who would inherit the IRA or 401(k). If you are older than 70½ years old, you and your spouse can each give up to $100,000 a year directly to charity from your respective individual IRA. This can substantially reduce your taxable income, creating a substantial legacy during your lifetime. Depending on your situation, there are various planned giving approaches. For guidance, turn to your financial advisor.

Add Meaning to the Next Chapter. Dollars aren’t the only driver in retirement. Consider how you will fill days no longer packed with projects, meetings and to-do lists. “What are your interests? How you can use your current skills or develop new ones?” says Sachs. “Look at a cause that means something to you and personalize it.”

Become open to new directions — teach the next generation, take courses in subjects you know little about, find new hobbies and become involved in new volunteer activities. These advisors agree while it takes time to create the next chapter in your life, the right plan blends financial health, philanthropy and meaning.

“More than anything, people seek meaning in their lives during retirement,” says Friedman. “They seek time for family, to pass on values; time for travel, to broaden horizons; and the opportunity to engage with their time and financial resources to give back and make a difference in their world.”

This story originally appeared in Jewish Boomer, a collaboration between The Associated and Mid-Atlantic Media. Read the full publication today!

Use It or Lose It
Tuesday, November 29, 2016

staying engaged as you age

By Melissa Gerr

Brain games such as Lumosity, CogniFit and Fit Brains are engaging, stimulating and pass the time, but when it comes to some of the associated cognitive health claims, such as staving off the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease or aging-related dementia, that’s when the scoreboard doesn’t quite add up.

“What we consistently have found that appears to be [cognitively] beneficial are exercise, social support and continuing social interactions like volunteering,” says Jessica McWhorter, Ph.D., a rehabilitation neuropsychologist at LifeBridge Health’s Sandra and Malcolm Berman Brain and Spine Institute.

“Things we don’t have evidence for are things like brain games and brain computer training, but it’s not going to hurt you,” she added. “Given the research, [playing computer brain games] means you can get better at a specific task, but doesn’t necessarily apply to the real world. However, we are learning more each day, and we may come to find that some of these brain games have some utility.”

Given a choice between attending a local community center class and sitting hunched over a computer or smart phone tapping keys or a screen, McWhorter implores, “Go to the class.” Whether it’s learning a new instrument, a new dance step or playing new games, “If you’re using your brain in new ways it’s a beneficial thing,” she says. “Even going out with people and having conversations helps. Use it or lose it — it’s kind of true.”

Bev Rosen, 66, a member of the Edward A. Myerberg Center, subscribes to that philosophy. “I give a lot of thought to how to stimulate my brain and engage in creative problem solving. And I look for activities that help do that. It’s a conscious thing to stay engaged, to stay sharp. I don’t sit still.”

Rosen certainly doesn’t. She participates in the Broadway Dance class at the Myerberg and attends the History of Comics course. In her semi-retirement from work as a licensed clinician, certified executive coach and owner of Work Wonders, which specializes in workplace training, she also studies French, participates in two book clubs, a drama club and plays tennis. She volunteers as a docent at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, as a walking tour leader for Baltimore Heritage and organizes events for Senior Box Office through the Baltimore County Department of Aging, which range from behind the scenes tours of Maryland Public Television and Wockenfuss Candies to naturalist-led hikes.

“I think the reality is that with our careers, we [had] structures which provided opportunities to stay sharp, and now we’re finishing those chapters,” Rosen says, “so it’s up to us to find [other] things because it’s not being handed to you. And give yourself permission to change, and to have the guts to try something you haven’t done. And if you don’t like it, it’s ok, move on and try something else.”

That seems to illustrate Myerberg member Vicki Coronel’s approach, too. At age 61, she’s dedicated to her weight and circuit training but also experiments with Zumba, Nia, ballet, yoga and tai chi.

“It takes a lot of coordination, otherwise I would trip over myself. I can’t let my mind wander. I have to be really focused on what I’m doing,” Coronel, who retired first from information technology then spent 11 years as an English for Speakers of Other Languages teacher, says of the classes. She appreciates the physicality but “I like the brain thinking part of it as well. Following the teacher makes me coordinated, and emotionally, I feel really good after I do anything.”

“Because I feel better and I’m less stressed then it’s easier to grasp things,” she says. “It’s like your brain is more open. I’m not worried; my brain isn’t occupied by stressful things.”

McWhorter says that Coronel’s experience has clinical proof. “First, exercise has been shown to help improve attention. Second, exercise is a very good treatment for depression and depression is associated with cognitive functioning, so if someone is depressed, if they exercise, then their cognition can improve. It’s shocking to people how much depression can impact cognition.”

McWhorter adds it’s not uncommon to misdiagnose the two. “The other thought is that [physical and mental engagement] can help with fatigue, so [a person] might be able to remember more or think more clearly” when not feeling so tired.

McWhorter laments the fact that many people “are looking for the fastest, shiniest and most exciting way to combat aging and cognitive changes. What I try to teach my patients is it’s important to take a step back, and sometimes the most basic of things are the most powerful,” she says, such as a commitment to eating balanced meals, exercise and managing stress.

“They’re not as exciting and shiny and they don’t make big claims in commercials, but they work and we have the research to back it up.”

Longtime co-chair of Bookworms through the Jewish Volunteer Connection, canasta enthusiast and devoted grandmother Jane Siegel says she doesn’t necessarily consider her volunteering and social activities from a health standpoint, but she’s aware of research claims that they can help prevent cognitive loss.

“Does this help keep you sharp? I’m only 59,” Siegel says, “but it’s all a natural progression of aging and menopause. Things slow down. I don’t know how sharp it keeps me but it can’t hurt!”

Top photo: Jane Siegel volunteers at Bookworms, where she reads to elementary-age students. This story originally appeared in Jewish Boomer, a collaboration between The Associated and Mid-Atlantic Media. Read the full publication today!

Body Works
Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Owings Mills JCC

By Rochelle Eisenberg

As adults enter their 50s and 60s, fitness needs begin to change. With metabolism slowing down and increased pain or injuries from long-term use, individuals need to rethink their fitness routines if they want to stay healthy longer.

And staying fit over the long haul has long-term benefits, in particular, increasing the time one can live independently in one’s home.

The JCC and the Edward A. Myerberg Center offer fitness and health programs to help boomers live a healthier life. From exercise classes to personal trainers who understand their needs, they can help boomers reach their healthiest potential. In addition, they offer classes for those with movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s, to help increase balance, flexibility and endurance. Here are a few tips from the experts:

INJURIES. According to Niki Barr, certified personal trainer at the Myerberg Center, certain injuries are more prevalent as one ages. She sees a lot of shoulder pain, often a result of years of slouching while sitting at a desk or computer. “Even when we drive,” she says, “we tend to sit forward instead of using our headrest. That increases our risk for shoulder and neck pain.”

Over time, the upper back muscles become weakened, causing tension in the cervical spine and general postural weaknesses.

A personal trainer can develop appropriate exercises to strengthen muscles. A few simple exercises that can be done at home include:

  • Scapular Retraction: Squeeze the shoulder blades together. Hold for 30 seconds, relax and repeat.
  • Walk the Wall: Facing a wall, walk the finger tips slowly up the wall as far as you can go. Repeat 10 times on each arm.
  • Resisted External Rotation: Sit or stand with a resistance band in your hands. Keep elbows at sides, bent to 90 degrees, forearms forward. Pinch shoulder blades together and press forearms away from the body (in a backhand motion), keeping elbows at your sides. Repeat 10 times.

If you’ve had a hip replacement or knee surgery, it’s important to tailor your routine to strengthen the parts of the body that are weak. Following a course of physical therapy, a personal trainer can help with strengthening those body parts, beginning with more simple exercises and moving to more advanced ones.

BALANCE. Another concern is balance. Often, legs become weaker and individuals begin to have trouble with basic daily tasks, like standing up from a chair. Their risk for falling is greatly increased at this point.

It is critical to engage in weight-bearing exercises to build muscle in the legs. Ankle mobility is also a major part of balance and stability, so calf raises and calf stretches are important to include in your exercise routine. Fall prevention exercises will help individuals live longer, alone and unassisted. What to do to increase balance:

  • Squats w/ Dumbbells: With a dumbbell in each hand, stand with feet hip distance apart, weights at your side. Bend the knees and drop the hips back, as if about to sit in a chair. Try to maintain a straight spine, with your chest facing forward as you squat. Return to standing and repeat 10 times.
  • Box Stepping: Place a box/step in front of you and near a balance barre for safety. Step up and down on the box, leading with your right foot. Repeat 10 times and then repeat on your left foot. To advance this exercise, time yourself and try to beat your time.
  • Join a class that works on balance and core strength, such as tai chi, Otago, yoga or boxing

Try this: Can you stand up off the floor without using your hands? If you can, you are on the right track for flexibility and balance. If you need help with one hand or two to lift off the floor, you may want to work on your balance for long-term health.

NUTRITION. “Nutrition is as important as exercise,” says Barr. “As we age, we become deficient in certain vitamins and minerals, and that takes a toll on the body.”

For example, vitamin D deficiency, common to many, increases as we get older. Not only is it a result of not getting enough sun or eating enough foods with vitamin D in them, such as greens, it could be a factor of thinning skin, which makes vitamin D harder to absorb.

When you get older, you sometimes find that certain foods become harder to digest. “You may not be able to eat some things you used to enjoy because they don’t make you feel well. For example, you may not have celiac disease, but you may develop gluten sensitivity,” says Amy R. Schwartz, senior director, fitness & wellness, at the JCC. “Adding more natural items, like fruits and vegetables, may be easier to digest.”

WOMEN AND MEN. As we enter our 50s and 60s, metabolism slows down, making it harder to lose weight. Women see an increase in mid-belly fat.

Women and men often have different exercise needs at this point in their lives. Women need to think about adding more muscle to their bodies (which increases metabolism), while men should begin to add more cardio to their routines. Balance and flexibility training are really important as well. With reduced flexibility, people tend to lose their balance. Loss of balance can result in falls. It doesn’t require a lot of time — 10 minutes of daily stretching and five minutes of balance.

Women: The higher the percentage of muscle, the higher one’s metabolism, explains Schwartz. Having more lean muscle means your body will burn more calories at rest. Having more muscle increases your basal metabolic rate, or BMR (that is, how many calories your body burns just to keep itself running). The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn throughout the day.

On average, women tend to focus on cardio exercise in their younger years. As they get older, in addition to adding muscle, they need to think about their bones, modifying their exercise routine to include more strength training.

That goes for women of all shapes and sizes. “Have you ever head of the skinny, but fat syndrome?” Schwartz asks. “Women who have low, normal BMIs (body mass indexes), but no muscle tone. As they lose estrogen and progesterone, they become thicker around the middle.”

To counteract that try squats and lunges, which work on the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes, and lifting weights to build the biceps, triceps and shoulders. In addition, weight training, lifting dumbbells or using weight machines help.

When looking for classes to join, BODYVIVE, BodyPump and Barre are excellent ways to build strength.

Men: When they are younger, men’s fitness routines typically focus more on strength training. As they age, they need to add cardio to their routine. “Luckily for them, when men add just a little cardio, they tend to lose weight fast,” says Schwartz.

JCC and LIFEBRIDGE. In the spring of 2015 the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore and LifeBridge Health entered into a new partnership designed to provide community members with wellness support and physical therapy services, conveniently located at the JCC.

LifeBridge Health and the JCC see this partnership as a way to offer new opportunities to focus on living healthy lifestyles by participating in programs that emphasize fit bodies and minds. For information on health and fitness events at the JCC, visit their website

This story originally appeared in Jewish Boomer, a collaboration between The Associated and Mid-Atlantic Media. Read the full publication today!

No Time to Stand on the Sidelines
Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Getting involved in the Jewish community

By Elinor Spokes

The kids are all grown and the house is eerily quiet. With the nest empty, perhaps this is a time you have looked forward to for many years. With more time on your hands, you are looking for ways to fill it by re-engaging in your community in new ways. So now what?

Volunteering for Empty Nesters. “I realized that this time gave me an opportunity to get to know myself again,” says Deana Gaister. “Instead of being someone’s mom or wife, it was time to do things for myself and explore new opportunities.”

With her sons grown, Gaister, who had volunteered for a number of organizations on her own, in addition to having a busy professional life for many years, was looking to connect with other women in a similar phase of life.

One of her sons suggested she join Chapter Two, a 10-month program of Associated Women. “Chapter Two pulled me back into the Jewish community and opened my eyes to its great needs and the many ways The Associated is addressing them. It also surrounded me with like-minded women searching for purpose and meaning and a way to help others.”

Standing on the sidelines of the community is just not an option for businessman David Kuntz. Involved over the years with the Jewish community, he says that there is too much critical work to be done not be involved.

With a desire to be engaged in a more intimate way, Kuntz joined The Associated’s Solomon Society, a group of men 45 and older focused on gaining insight into issues impacting Baltimore, Maryland, the United States and Israel from a Jewish perspective.

“Being a part of this group has given me the opportunity to learn more about the community I live in and care deeply about, and surround myself with people who have a shared interest to challenge themselves and learn and grow.”

Attorney Susan Flax Posner’s ties to Judaism evolved through her experience living on a kibbutz after college and through family observances and synagogue life. But it was her son’s participation in the Diller Teen Fellows Program which sparked her interest in becoming involved in the larger Jewish community.

In 2009, with more time on her hands, she joined Chapter Two which exposed her to the myriad needs in the community and the many opportunities to engage and contribute through its programs and powerful speakers.

But it was the knowledge that she gained about the Israel and Overseas work of The Associated which compelled her to get more involved.

“I was most impressed with what I learned about the work being done overseas and I wanted to be a part of the excellence,” she says. She became a member of the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership Committee and is its current co-chair.

“My volunteer work has taught me compassion for others, that philanthropy can change lives. It made me a better person and I’ve made a lot of new friends. It has been a wonderful addition at this stage in my life,” she adds.

After many years in the business world, Susan Manekin stepped out of her professional life and into volunteering when she joined Chapter Two. Although she had been involved with a few Federation agencies and nonprofits, it was her participation in Chapter Two which spurred her passion for involvement in the Jewish community.

“I found my calling and am so happy and fulfilled with the work that I do,” she reflects. “I feel it is so important to pay it forward, participate in tikkun olam and set an example for my children, even though they are grown,” she adds.

Since Chapter Two, Manekin has became involved with Jewish Volunteer Connection, co-chaired the Women’s Seder and joined the Jewish Women’s Giving Foundation. “These opportunities have drawn me back to my Jewish roots. I have made wonderful friends and I love giving back.”

Learning Opportunities. Volunteer work is just one way to reengage. Baltimore also is teeming with educational opportunities to enhance your Jewish knowledge base and find community with other adult learners.

Lisa Bodziner, director of educational engagement at the Macks Center for Jewish Education (CJE), suggests exploring their programs for grandparents who are looking for ways to engage with their grandchildren.

“Increasingly, grandparents are providing childcare, and they are looking for things to do and ways to connect,” she says.

Ranging from the Florence Melton School multi-year courses, to a class about the history of Jewish denominations, to a four-week course called Modern Living: Maintaining Balance, CJE provides engagement for learners from all backgrounds.

Of the Melton courses, Adam Kruger, director of educational initiatives at CJE notes, “classes become not only about learning but about creating community, which is a beautiful thing. The students are there for each other as learners but also become a support for each other when their world is changing.”

“Jewish learning is very interactive, and just like Judaism itself, Jewish learning is a communal activity,” says Ellen Kahan Zager, past chair of the board of CJE. “It’s a known phenomenon that people who study together tend to develop real friendships. Jewish study brings meaning to one’s life — but also brings a sense of belonging that may not have been there before.”

“To anyone looking to get involved,” says Kuntz, “I would say that community involvement is critical to the overall health of the community and that involvement on any level is good for not only the community but for them and their family, too.” 

This story originally appeared in Jewish Boomer, a collaboration between The Associated and Mid-Atlantic Media. Read the full publication today!

Where We Came From
Monday, November 28, 2016

Researching our family histories

By Abe Novick

Pop culture has helped fuel an interest in genealogy with TV shows ranging from Genealogy Roadshow on PBS, where participants embark on emotional journeys that uncover family and community secrets across the United States, to Who Do You Think You Are? You may even recall an episode on that show in which Gwyneth Paltrow traces her lineage to distinguished rabbis.

In fact, according to USA Today, genealogy is one of the most popular hobbies in America – second only to gardening. Although searching for one’s roots can seem overwhelming, the Jewish Museum of Maryland (JMM) is often a helpful resource for those on their ancestral quest.

According to Joanna Church, collections manager at the JMM, “Our archives can help genealogists, and part of my job is to guide them with their research.”

Typically, Church says they’ve already done some work on their own, but the JMM can help people access records online — including burial records, funeral home records and marriage information. Also, the JMM can provide on-site access with online searches, too, including Ancestry.com.

The Jewish Museum of Maryland is not only connecting boomers and older generations to their past, it is also creating an opportunity for families to talk about their histories with their children in a project called My Family Story.

The program involves students at day and religious schools with Beit Hatfutsot (The Museum of the Jewish People) in Israel with the help of a grant through the Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Fund for the Enrichment of Jewish Education through The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

“Families are talking about their past and where they come from,” says Deborah Cardin, deputy director for programs and development at the JMM. “The project brings kids to the museum to research their individual histories, then has them talk to their parents and grandparents about their family. They begin to get a picture of who they are, it strengthens their feeling of belonging.”

According to Ilene Dackman-Alon, director of education at the JMM, this project encourages families to talk about the family stories that connect them. Children will learn about the stories from parents and relatives and how their families got here today— and it wasn’t always so easy.”

The project involves interviewing relatives, and is then expressed and ultimately manifested through an art project. Some projects are judged and selected to go on to Israel to be displayed with other projects from Jewish students from communities around the world.

One young girl from the Kesher School at Beit Tikvah this year created a project called Around the Shabbat Table. “The reason it was so important to her,” according to Dackman-Alon “was not only that it tied her to the past, but she realized when she grows up and when she has her own family, that’s what she wants to be there.”

Elizabeth Strouse, a sixth-grader at Bolton Street Synagogue, created a sculpture of the globe held in a hand, symbolic of her ancestors’ travels from the old world to the United States.

She named it “Trust” and writes, “Their travels were difficult across the Atlantic Ocean to their entrance at Ellis Island. Their futures were unknown, yet my ancestors were hopeful and put their trust in G-d. This trust is represented in my artwork by G-d’s hand.”

Elizabeth’s mom, Lisa Strouse, whose mom and dad came to Baltimore in 1964, says, “It was pretty amazing to see in her this connection to Israel and to other students internationally. This project encourages students to think beyond just themselves. It made them think of their family and their family history but also the history of the Jewish people and the much larger Jewish community around the world.”

Even if not part of the project, Dackman-Alon says grandparents and parents should use the opportunity to pass down their stories. Tell them about their childhood, share what life was like growing up, how they celebrated the holidays and how they met. Photo books are wonderful ways to prompt family conversations.

Dick Goldman, a leader with the Jewish Genealogy Society of Maryland and the former general manager of Pearlstone Center, recently took his two children to Eastern Europe, including Poland, Lithuania and Belaurus, to visit the towns and cities where his ancestors came from.

Helping to explain the popularity of genealogy, Mr. Goldman says, “It’s a pursuit they can do individually. And particularly for Jews, it brings all backgrounds together.”

As for baby boomers, according to Goldman, it often hits them after they are retired and kids are out of the house and they want to learn about what they always wondered, “Where, for example, did I come from?”

But what about those who aren’t caught up in the trend or put it off until much older? The main regret Mr. Goldman hears is, “I wish I did this when my parents were still alive.”

JMM Archival Resources. The JMM has a wealth of resources, particularly for those whose relatives came from Baltimore. These include:

  • Family Trees: JMM has a number of family trees people have completed that can be used for genealogical research.
  • Baltimore Jewish Times: The JMM has a nearly-complete run of this weekly newspaper, from 1919 to the present-day, containing birth, marriage and death notices; index projects are ongoing.
  • Cemetery Records: Most Baltimore-area Jewish cemeteries have been inventoried by volunteers, resulting in searchable lists
  • City Directories: A forerunner to the phone book, these directories list businesses and help individuals track down more information about where business was located; the JMM has several years’ worth for Baltimore City.
  • Other Resources: Because the JMM archival, photographic and artifact collections have been donated by members of the community, there’s often material on the people, businesses, congregations and organizations that researchers are seeking. Highlights include the Jack Lewis Funeral Home records, which cover select years in the mid-20th century; records of several midwives and mohels in the early-mid 20th century; and manuscript collections containing material on a variety of charitable organizations.

The JMM collections database is available online, as are many of their research indices and databases. Research at the JMM is by appointment; a small fee applies. Visit jewishmuseummd.org/collections for more information.

Dick Goldman (right) learned about his third cousin, Asia Guterman (second from left) prior to leaving for Europe with his son, Jeremy and daughter Sharon Wallach. They met her on their trip to Eastern Europe. Prior to that, Dick Goldman thought that side of the family had perished in the Holocaust.

This story originally appeared in Jewish Boomer. Read the full publication today!

Boom Times: Growing Up in Jewish Baltimore
Monday, November 28, 2016

Boom Times

By Rochelle Eisenberg

In the years following World War II, Jewish families joined the exodus from the cities, seeking out the “good life” of suburbia. Like their national counterparts, the Jews in Baltimore joined this trend.

New suburban communities, replete with ranchers and split levels, sprang up along Park Heights Avenue, Reisterstown Road and Liberty Road, with Jews moving to Woodmoor, Milford Mill, Pikesville and Randallstown. Jewish institutions, including the JCC and Sinai Hospital (1959), followed, as well as many of the synagogues.

By 1968, about 80 percent of Jews lived in northwest Baltimore from upper Park Heights to deep into Baltimore County. Twenty-six schools opened in suburban northwest Baltimore between 1949 and 1969, including Milford Mill (1949), Pikesville (1964), Northwestern (1967) and Randallstown (1969). Here are a few boomer stories of growing up in Baltimore's Jewish suburbia:

Nancy Surosky. Grew up on: Forest Garden Avenue, off Liberty Road in Lochearn, then moved to Pikesville. Went to: Campfield Elementary, Sudbrook Junior High and Pikesville. High Memories: The Lotus Inn, the egg rolls and profiteroles at Pimlico Restaurant, where you went on special occasions, and ordering the 106 on rye (corned beef, cole slaw and Russian dressing) at Sid Mandel’s

Like many boomers of the time, Nancy Surosky looks back on her childhood growing up in Jewish Baltimore with a particular fondness for her old neighborhood. Back then, she recalls, you knew everyone on your block, and probably 80 percent of the neighborhood was Jewish.

There was a special bond among the children as they spent all day either outside or in and out of friends’ homes. “We’d be out until dark when our mother would come to the front door and call for you,” she recalls.

Social events, from barbecues, riding bikes and sledding down hills on snow days to even babysitting one another when parents played card games, revolved around these neighborhood friendships.

“When I run into people who lived in my neighborhoods, we share a bond, a sense of history. These people were all there as we shaped our personalities.”

Surosky moved to Pikesville when she was a teenager. She attended Pikesville High, and joined a high school sorority, which provided her with a group of new, ready-made friends.

Although Surosky went to Hebrew school at Beth El Congregation, her most vivid Jewish memories are rooted in the rituals. She remembers her mother’s honey cake on Rosh Hashanah and opening the door for Elijah during the Passover seders, surrounded by extended family.

Having lived in Jewish Baltimore her whole life, Surosky feels a kinship every time she sees someone from her past. “There is this thread running through my life with everyone who played a different part, from my first neighborhood to my school to my work.”

Shelley Hendler. Grew up on: Silver Creek across the street from Willow Glen. Attended: Milford Mill High School. Memory: As a teen, going to Reisterstown Road Plaza with friends

It was a time when life was not so scheduled, when summer didn’t mean eight weeks of camp, when children simply went outside and came back in time for dinner.

For Shelley Hendler, growing up in the late ’60s in Jewish Baltimore, it was a time that revolved around the neighborhood.

“We weren’t controlled by schedules. Much of our play was spontaneous. In fact, in the summers I didn’t go to camp. Instead, I spent half a day at a local school rec center and the rest hanging out or going to Milford Mill Swim Club, where I learned to swim.”

Most of her friends were Jewish. Jewish holidays meant walking to Moses Montefiore with other neighborhood families.

“My world was pretty Jewish, and many of my friends were Jewish. Even today, I can say many of my best friends are those I grew up with, even though some don’t even live here anymore.”

In some ways, the all-Jewish environment has changed somewhat in the years that followed, even for those who still grew up in Jewish neighborhoods.

“Even though my kids grew up surrounded by many Jewish friends and neighbors, their friends are broader than the Jewish community,” she says.

David Spitz. Lived on: Finney Avenue until age six, then moved to Randallstown. Attended: Woodlawn Senior as an annex to an overcrowded Milford Mill High. Recalls: Stopping at Price’s Dairy on the way to see the new house being built

David Spitz’s earliest memories include pickles, birthday cake and comic books. It was back when he was living on Finney Avenue, near Pall Mall Circle, in the late 1950s.

The pickles were a nickel and the birthday cake was purchased by his mother and father, who braved the elements, walking to Silber’s Bakery on his birthday in the blizzard of ’58. As for that comic book store, it was on the other side of Falls Road, the side, Spitz recalls, that was “off limits” for Jews.

There was an underlying anti-Semitism at the time, Spitz explains, when Jews didn’t cross Falls Road. It was an anti-Semitism he encountered briefly after moving to Randallstown as one of the first Jewish families to reside in this section of Liberty Road.

“I remember we were one of the first Jews in our area and the Rusty Rock Swim Club, which was nearby, was restricted to Jews, at that time” says Spitz. “After a number of years, it seemed like half its membership was Jewish.”

Growing up off Allenswood Road, near Old Court, Spitz recalls Sunday runs to Sid Mandel’s in the Woodmoor Shopping Center for bagels, lox, cream cheese and Kaiser rolls, and, of course, a stop at Silber’s for honey-dip donuts and Danish. That was before Liberty Court Shopping Center and Caplan’s Deli opened.

He also remembers riding his bike to what is now Northwest Hospital to play ball and being upset when they “stole the baseball fields” to build what would become Baltimore County General Hospital. “It was a time when we were gone all day and didn’t return until dinner,” he says.

Top photo: Nancy Finstein Surosky holds a photo of herself and her mother, the former Alma Sollod Finstein. This story originally appeared in Jewish Boomer. Read the full publication today!

5 Key Conversations with Your Parents
Monday, November 28, 2016

Conversing with an aging parent

By Janet B. Kurland, LCSW-C, and Gail Lipsitz, Jewish Community Services

Are there conversations you’d like to have with your parents as they age, but you just don’t know how to start? Maybe you see changes that concern you, or you just want to get some peace of mind about the future. How do you bring up important topics such as driving, finances and independent living? Many find it difficult to approach their parents about sensitive matters. Here are some guidelines for making conversations easier.

Driving. This is one of the toughest issues to discuss. The car keys represent independence. Who wants to give that up and have to depend on others to get around? But if Dad or Mom has had an accident or a close call, it’s a matter of their and others’ safety. Can you live with yourself if your parent is angry with you if you take away the keys? Can you live with yourself if something terrible happens to parent?

What to do? Tell your parents what you’ve noticed: dents in the car, slower reaction time, going through a stop sign or red light. When did they last have their hearing or vision tested? Take them for a driving evaluation or test. Talk to their doctor about your concerns.

Elders are sometimes better able to hear a recommendation from a professional they know and trust. If the evidence indicates that it’s time to stop driving, express empathy and acknowledge the loss, but tell them you are concerned about their safety. Offer either to drive them or find them transportation to medical appointments, errands and activities in the community.

Finances. Do you know what your parents’ financial resources are? They may not have a totally clear idea themselves or have chosen to keep this information private. Or perhaps you have felt it would be intrusive to ask. All of you need to know whether they have enough funds to take care of their needs.

What to do? Find out what your parents’ wishes are. Ask: “Where do you want to be? If you can’t manage completely on your own now, or at some time in the future, what kind of living arrangement can you afford?”

See if he or she has a long-term care policy. If your parents want to remain in place, but will need some additional support, ask, “How can I help you stay here if I don’t know whether you have enough money?” If your parents choose not to share this information with you, ask them to speak to a trusted family member or a financial advisor, if they have one, and to make a plan that will give them access to the funds they may need for their care.

Moving. Bringing up the idea of moving can be one of the most difficult conversations to have with an aging parent. You may feel that a move is either necessary or desirable, whether for financial, health, safety, social or other reasons.

However, many people resist the idea of moving from their homes, and this sometimes causes frustration, anger and hurt feelings. The best scenario is one where there is time to talk about and plan for a move, but sometimes circumstances change quickly and we don’t have that luxury. The idea of moving is fine if you could just walk out the door and close it behind you. The reason elders most frequently give for resisting is that the thought of moving – the physical work involved – feels overwhelming.

What to do? If your parents find the whole idea of moving too daunting, assure them that you will help. Outline a plan with specific steps to accomplish this huge job. There are companies that help people organize a move.

Ask your parents, “What are you really giving up and what are you gaining?” They may see that they can leave behind the steps, outdoor maintenance and being alone most of the day. If they are downsizing, they still can choose which possessions and family photos to bring. Something that may feel harder to leave is the history tied up in a home – the holidays celebrated together, the children’s height charts on the wall, the hopes, dreams, laughter and tears shared as a family. Tell them, “The history goes with you. You leave walls, but the history is in you.”

Know where important information is. If your parents became ill or incapacitated, would you know where to find their doctors’ names and numbers, medications, healthcare policies, Medicare and Social Security numbers, bank accounts and safe deposit box key? Who has power of attorney? You don’t want to be rummaging through files and drawers looking for vital documents, especially in an emergency situation.

What to do? Ask your parents now to record all the important information they or you may need in the future in one safe place. It can be in the form of a binder or folder. Jewish Community Services can provide a document called “The F.I.L.E.” where your parents can record financial information, insurance, legal documents and more on their own or with your help.

Ask your parents to tell you where they are putting this information in case you should need it or who they trust to keep a copy of this information — an adult child, a lawyer, accountant or good friend.

Staying engaged. Isolation is the number one enemy of successful aging. It often leads to depression, physical health problems and loss of social skills. We all need to be with other people, and this is especially true for older people who cannot come and go on their own.

Even when elders move from living alone to an independent or assisted living community, they may find it difficult to make new friends at first.

What to do? Be alert for signs of depression, such as loss of interest in social contact and usual activities, changes in eating or sleeping habits and persistent sadness or irritability. Encourage your parents to stay involved in what they really enjoy — playing mah jong, going to synagogue, attending meetings of organizations and clubs. Also, help them find new social outlets and interests such as senior centers.

JCS offers short-term (one to three sessions) Elder Care Family Consultations with a senior specialist to help families understand the changes aging brings, explore options and start to plan. Other resources include agencies on aging, senior centers, places of worship and in-home care providers.

My Incredible Diller Journey
Monday, November 28, 2016

Denick Diller journey

By Laura Denick

When people ask me what I did this summer, I struggle to describe the incredible journey I took to Israel through the Diller program. Diller is an international Jewish teen leadership program that focuses on community service, leadership and strengthening Jewish identity. Diller to me has allowed me to reconnect with my Jewish heritage, something I am incredibly thankful for.

After celebrating my bat mitzvah and finishing Hebrew school, I struggled to continue feeling linked to Judaism. Diller allowed me to explore what it meant to be Jewish and how I personally felt as a Jew. I was challenged throughout the program with being asked questions I had never even considered such as, should you love your neighbor as commanded even when they are trying to harm you. Diller strengthened my leadership skills, helped me develop a bold voice and encouraged me to gain confidence when expressing myself.

I grew throughout the program, but never so much as I did when I traveled to Israel. Diller is across the United States as well as in Australia, South Africa, Canada, Israel and soon South America and Europe. I met Jews from across the globe, sharing our experiences as Jews from all parts of the world. Israel embraced me and I finally understood why this country was the true motherland of the Jewish people. I stood in awe as I looked at my surroundings and its rich history. I felt blessed to be a part of the program and a part of the international Jewish community.

This summer was unforgettable and helped to grow my Jewish pride. As a Jewish minority at my high school, I have been sharing my experience as a Jew and my time in Israel to educate my community. I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity Diller provided me with and to The Associated for all the support they give to this amazing program. The friends I have made throughout the program will be friends for life, and I know that the memories I have made will never disappear. When people ask what I did this summer, I simply answer: I fell in love with my identity.

Photo Story: IMPACT's Generosity Gala
Friday, November 25, 2016

IMPACT's Generosity Gala

 

On November 19, more than 220 young adults gathered at Horseshoe Casino for IMPACT's 3rd Annual Generosity Gala – a night of doing good, drinking, dancing and having fun. We're proud to say that the young adults in attendance contributed more than $59,000 to The Associated's 2017 Annual Campaign! 

IMPACT's Generosity Gala

The Generosity Gala host committee – led by chairs Dov Hoffman, Randi Turkel, Harel Turkel, Marni Yoffe and Jon Yoffe – worked tirelessly to ensure a great Gala. We're so inspired by their commitment to IMPACT!  

IMPACT's Generosity Gala

Gala attendees had the opportunity to mix and mingle with other young adults in Jewish Baltimore – all while enjoying heavy hors d'oeuvres and an open bar. 

IMPACT's Generosity Gala

Between the performances and speeches, guests chatted, laughed and Instagrammed every single moment. 

IMPACT's Generosity Gala

Comedian Nick Turner – who has appeared on NBC's Late Night with Seth Meyers, Jimmy Fallon and Comedy Central's John Oliver Show, among other things – traveled from New York City to perform a set – touching on everything from what united the crowd to interacting with passersby in the city. 

IMPACT's Generosity Gala

Pixilated joined us for our after party – giving guests the opportunity to get a little goofy with props and poses. 

IMPACT's Generosity Gala

Guests dominated the dance floor until 1:00 a.m. You can check out more dancing pictures on IMPACT's Facebook!

All of the Gala guests contributed to The Associated's Annual Campaign, which allows us to feed, care for, nurture, educate and inspire everyone in our community. You can always give back and help the most vulnerable by donating online.

GPA, SAT & BDS: The College List Alphabet Soup
Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Campus fellows at Johns Hopkins Hillel

By Rona Sue London

When Lauren* and her high school teen, Caren,* were looking at colleges they had several criteria in mind. Good academics, a Jewish presence on campus and an open-minded atmosphere.

Little did they know when Caren selected a small liberal arts college in New York with a sizable Jewish population that campus life would not be as ideal for Jews as it first seemed.

During the winter of Caren’s freshman year, anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli sentiment became pervasive on campus. Two swastika were found – one drawn on a paper posted on a dorm room door and another carved into a door.

Eight campus departments and programs sponsored a speaker, Jasbir Puar, an associate professor at Rutgers University, who espoused anti-Israel propaganda. She made false and inflammatory claims of Israelis harvesting the Palestinians’ organs for experimentation – statements eerily similar to blood libel.

Later that year, the student government passed a resolution endorsing an anti-Israel resolution supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which calls for economic, cultural and academic isolation of Israel. It was ultimately revoked by the student body.  

For Lauren, it was an eye-opening experience. “I did a lot of research looking into schools. It never occurred to me to see if any BDS-related organizations were strong on campus.”

The BDS Movement, formalized in 2005 by the Palestinian Civil Society, calls for the end of Israeli occupation and colonization of all Arab lands, including dismantling the Wall, referring to the wall surrounding the West Bank. At the same time, the BDS Movement calls for Israel to guarantee full equality to Arab-Palestinian citizens and to honor the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, essentially thereby making the existence of a Jewish state impossible.

Using inflammatory rhetoric to delegitimize Israel, the BDS Movement’s most successful attempts have occurred on college campuses.

Tactics include erecting apartheid walls, staging “die-in” protests and protesting Israeli speakers. One of the more aggressive strategies is to bring referendums before student councils calling for the college or university to divest from Israel. A more insidious tactic is when professors espouse disparaging views against Israel in the classroom.

The core organization on campus is often Students for Justice in Palestine, who build coalitions with groups like Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ and environmental committees. Jewish Voice for Peace also supports the BDS Movement.

It’s important to note that organizations that might be critical of some of Israel’s policies still strive toward a two-state solution or a solution achieved through negotiations.

Even when the BDS Movement hasn’t introduced a resolution at a student government or publicly planned anything on campus, anti-Israel feelings expressed by fellow students and teachers can be just as uncomfortable and troublesome for students and their parents.

For those that have encountered BDS and anti-Israel sentiment, the results can range from mildly inconvenient to traumatic. Rabbi Ron Shulman of Chizuk Amuno knows of two students who are transferring colleges because negative attitudes toward Jews were so pervasive.

Counteracting BDS. “Communication, knowledge and education are the secret ingredients to counteract BDS,” says Amalia Phillips, director of Israel and Overseas Education at the Macks Center for Jewish Education (CJE), an agency of The Associated. “Make certain students have the information needed if they want to defend their position, but also that they have the ability and tools to ignore, navigate or extricate depending on the particulars.”

One of the programs Phillips oversees at CJE is Israel High, a program for high school students in public, private and independent schools who may be (or not) enrolled in Hebrew school. Funded by The Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Fund for the Enrichment of Jewish Education of The Associated, the sessions provide students with tools to face the growing upsurge in anti-Israel activities. Sessions introduce students to what is happening on college campuses and investigate topics such as media bias and the origin of the Palestinian refugee crisis.

To counteract potential anti-Israel rhetoric on local campuses, The Associated, through its Israel Engagement Center, funds four local Israel Campus Fellows. These post-army educators employed by Hillel strengthen connections to Israel on campus through educational and cultural programming, and provide students with knowledge and tools to address anti-Israel sentiment from professors or peers.

Amir Bavler, Israel Campus Fellow at Johns Hopkins Hillel, has found that partnering with other student organizations raises the level of Israel knowledge and understanding with a broader community.

In particular, Bavler helped organize two programs with the Black Student Union, one with Pnina Agenyahu, spokeswoman and champion for Ethiopian Jews, and Idan Reichel, Israeli singer/songwriter. The programs were designed to discuss critical issues of identity that speak to the common experiences of Jewish and African-American students.

“It was inspiring to see Jewish and black students crying, laughing and asking questions of the speakers. The experience brought together these two student communities and helped them relate to one another in a deeply authentic and empathetic way,” says Bavler.

With the understanding that parents also need to understand what is happening and what they can do to help their college student navigate this new landscape, The Associated held its first of several discussions for parents of college-age students.

“I think parents have to know about this when looking for colleges,” says Lauren, Caren’s mom.

Goucher student, Jasmine Hubara, believes teens should understand the history of the conflict — especially the Palestinian view. “The best you can do is to not be blindsided. I’m the child of an Israeli immigrant and an American-Israeli citizen, and I still questioned everything I knew and loved about Israel ... you cannot change people’s minds. You will hear things that will shake you to your innermost beliefs, but do your research and come to your own conclusions.

Listen to everyone, both those who agree with you and those who don’t ... But most importantly, don’t apologize for your beliefs, and don’t be embarrassed to give your opinion.”

For Caren who encountered BDS on college campus, something positive did come out of the experience. “When someone questioned my identity, I realized just how important it was to me. It made me think about what it means to be Jewish and what Israel means to me.”

*In an effort to preserve their anonymity, Lauren and Caren are not their real names. This story originally appeared in Jewish Boomer. Read the full publication today!

Learning Jewish Tenets Through Nature
Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Pearlstone

 

Through immersive, hands-on experiences, The Pearlstone Center is inspiring a generation of Jewish children by connecting Jewish tenets with nature. We talk to Casey Yurow, program director at Pearlstone, about how two of its newest programs, Hebrew School on the Farm and Tiyul, are engaging students by making Jewish learning fun.

What is the Jewish framework for Hebrew School on the Farm? It’s based on the concept Shomrei Adamah (guardians of the earth). In the beginning of the Torah, when Adam and Eve are in the Garden of Eden, G-d tells them that their special job as humans is to serve and protect the natural world.

How did you adapt that concept to the program? We look at three subthemes. First is Tzedekah (justice) which we broaden to include all species. We talk about being guardians of the earth and the fair and equitable sharing of resources. Second, we look at Tza’ar Ba’alei Chayim, to take compassionate care of animals, be it domestic, farm or wild animals. Finally, there’s Bal Tashchit. Do not destroy or waste. We focus on how we should conserve our natural resources.

What does a lesson look like? It’s a choice-based program, and the lessons depend on what’s happening in the Jewish calendar or on the land at the time of year. The students have different options and then choose the activity they want. For example, students may want to explore Judaic text in conjunction with animals. We give them a quote from the Talmud, such as you shouldn’t bring an animal into the house until you have a good stock of food that animal likes to eat. The students read these cards and prepare a skit exploring what it means. Then they meet our sheep, goats and chickens, and perhaps harvest wild food for them or collect eggs.

What are students often surprised at? We ask them if they can name prominent Jewish doctors and businessmen and they can always come up with answers. But when we ask them to name prominent Jewish farmers or shepherds, they can’t think of any. But in our tradition, many of our prominent leaders were shepherds, like King David, Abraham and Moses. For thousands of years, Jews have taken care of animals.

Why does this work? It’s a multi-sensory program that embodies hands-on experiences to make learning fun. It’s something they are doing with their whole selves.

What’s next? Currently we work with four congregational schools (Beth Israel, Har Sinai, Baltimore Hebrew Congregation and Beth El). Students come three Sundays in a row in the fall, and three in the spring. For students who are not enrolled in one of those congregational schools, or who want more, we just introduced Tiyul Outdoor Adventures. It’s a three hour Sunday afternoon journey in the fall and spring where participants can adventure further through the forests and fields at Pearlstone and enjoy an even more fun and immersive experience.

Who leads these programs? We have an amazing, talented staff of educators including Shauna Leavey, Mira Menyuk, Michal Wetzler and Joe Murray. Together, they bring many years of experience facilitating and coordinating dynamic and fun experiential Jewish learning adventures that integrate wilderness skills, farming and Hebrew language with Jewish values and stories.

Meet Karen Singer
Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Karen Singer

 

On February 1-10, 2017, Associated Women is bringing a delegation of women to Israel through Heart to Heart, A Woman’s Journey to Israel. The delegation is being led by Karen Singer – attorney, volunteer, wife and mom. Take a minute or two and get to know Karen.

What does it mean to chair the upcoming Heart to Heart mission? I took my first trip to Israel with my mother, grandparents and sister when I was six. I then returned on an Associated young adult mission with my husband before we became parents.  Now, 23 years later, my children are grown (22 and 20) and I am in a different stage in my life. So is Israel.  I look forward to seeing the country with a fresh perspective and joining others, some of whom will be visiting for the first time.

You’ll get to travel with all women. I’m excited. We’ll be with other women from Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA). It’s always inspiring to get similarly-minded women together and to see the synergies and relationships we cultivate. My hope is that we will take time to focus on ourselves as individuals, as well as the other roles we hold back home – wives, mothers, professionals.

What do you hope to accomplish? I’d like to deepen existing relationships with the women on the trip after we return to Baltimore. Through our shared experiences, I hope that each of us will be motivated to continue and increase our support and involvement in the Jewish community, whether here in Baltimore or in Israel.

Are you looking forward to anything? Visiting Ashkelon, Baltimore’s sister city. I have heard so much of about it, yet I’ve never been there.

Tell us about your VolunTeam, Something Good, with Jewish Volunteer Connection (JVC)? I started Something Good with JVC in 2014 with my friends and family to commemorate a milestone birthday. In its third year, the list of potential volunteers has grown to 320 – friends and then new friends who they have referred (I know no strangers, just friends I have not yet met). The projects focus on basic needs of social service, food stability, environmental and housing.

The volunteers come in all shapes and size, from the youngest who is four to the oldest at 80+ years young.  I love that it is inter-generational!

Why is it important to give of your time in addition to money? The satisfaction of rolling up your sleeves and volunteering fills a different part of my soul than writing a check.  Both are mitzvot and, together, complement the Jewish value of tikkun olam.  Neither is better or worse, so I have enjoyed creating a very easy way for people to access the hands-on aspect of philanthropy.

How do you and your family connect with each other throughout the week? We are good texters and talkers with our children – Charlie is 22 and lives in New York and works a busy job as an investment banker and Amy is 20, in her third year at University of Virginia.  My parents live a half mile down the street and we visit my father-in-law weekly.

The 70 Faces of Diversity and Inclusion
Thursday, November 03, 2016

Diversity and inclusion 

By Miriam Gross, Engagement Coordinator at the DFI

When we explore our relationship with the diversity within and around the Jewish community, the idea of Shivim Panim Latorah stands out as a perspective altering tool in that process. The midrash lets us know, in the midst of a discussion regarding measurements in the Temple service, that there are 70 faces or 70 ways to understand each part of the Torah.  

Jewish discourse depends on this concept – we require diversity of opinions, perspectives and values. Affirming the legitimacy of multiple perspectives, our sages take a step further and maintain this stance even when ideas conflict: the principle of Elu Velu Divrei Elokim Chayim – ‘these and [also] these are the words of the living G-d' – is the reality that when one side of a legal argument has officially been adopted as law, the dissenting opinion is stored away, and not discarded. It is documented and preserved for a time when perhaps the circumstances might call for a reconsideration of that particular decision. There is humility in this process as well as a prerequisite that the argument be Leshem Shamayim, for the sake of heaven. In other words it works only when intentions are noble, and in the service of a higher good for all.  

While we have so much work to do regarding attitude and acceptance, our communities have consolidated. Jews from all cultural and national backgrounds live together in communities around the world. Jewish families are blended and defined in ways unimaginable even 30 years ago. We can no longer make jokes about Jewish mothers or Jewish food without first identifying which Jewish community we are a part of or commenting about. In fact, when we define Jewish culture by Ashkenazi American standards, we risk truly alienating so many members of our community, perhaps even the majority.     

How can we do more to embrace diversity in our community? The answer is woven into the concept of Shivim Panim Latorah.   

Identity can be multifaceted in ways we may never expect. One person could be black, gay, Chassidic, French, Sephardic and maybe even 70 other identifications making up his or her Jewish identity.  

There is a popular term for this – a Jewish concept at its core – intersectionality. The term emerges from feminist philosophy but can be applied everywhere when we speak of identity and diversity. It is the idea that one person can enjoy or suffer membership in multiple communities of identity.  

When we discuss diversity, it is not appropriate to identify our fellow Jews in familiar and comfortable categories such as: gay or straight, black or white, Orthodox or Reform or Conservative. Unfortunately, with our words and assumptions, we can unintentionally invite members of our community to leave parts of themselves at the door when participating in Jewish communal life. This happens in every denomination and in every Jewish establishment.  When we embrace diversity, the first step is to invite each Jew to bring their full selves into Jewish communal life, all 70 facets, and in all of our endeavors strive to do our work for the sake of heaven.      

The Darrell Friedman Institute for Professional Development is proud to be exploring these issues as part of our Diversity and Inclusion Cohort, a passionate group of Jewish communal professionals committed to creating inviting spaces for all of the members of the Jewish community.

Listen Now: Generosity Gala Playlist
Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Generosity Gala

 

IMPACT's Generosity Gala is right around the corner! It's a night full of dancing, doing good and having a ball at the Horseshoe Casino. So, even though the actual night isn't until Saturday, November 19, we thought we'd get in the Gala spirit with these 36 songs!

Didn't reserve your ticket to the third annual Generosity Gala yet? There's still time! Register online.

Nine Things to do in November
Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Making calls on Giving Tuesday

 

Whatever your Thanksgiving plans are, you can get cozy with plans in the community that will give you plenty to be thankful for!

November 2, 1:30 p.m. Living History – Meet Henrietta Szold. Travel through time and be one of the first in the 21st century to meet Henrietta Szold, the rabbi’s daughter and Baltimore native (1860-1945). The Associated Krieger Building

November 3, 7:30 p.m. Debate & Decision: Thinking About the Election with Jewish Values. This election season, explore our different perspectives on society, the well-being our national community and how we demonstrate shared values through our vote. Area Synagogues

November 5, 8:00 p.m. The Cris Jacobs Band with Amy Helm & the Handsome Strangers.  Baltimore-based singer/songwriter Cris Jacobs and his band explore the outer realms of bluegrass, folk, funk, country, blues, soul and rock with stylistic reverence and emotional sincerity. The Gordon Center for Performing Arts

November 6, 2:00 – 5:00 p.m. Pearlstone Tiyul: Outdoor Adventures. Children in grades two to five are invited to get inspired as we explore the great outdoors through the Jewish values of gratitude, interconnectedness, love and joy. Pearlstone Center

November 6, 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. Shabbat Through the Senses. Families with children ages 10 and under are invited to experience Shabbat Project activities that will stimulate your senses including making sand candlesticks with The Associated. Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC

November 7, 7:30 p.m. Israel Story LIVE! Join the Gordon for an evening of magical live radio with the creators of Israel Story—the award-winning radio show and podcast that public radio icon Ira Glass calls "the Israeli This American Life." The Gordon Center for Performing Arts

November 15, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. CHAI: Homebuyer Education Workshop. Don't leave money on the tble while house hunting! Learn about loans and grant programs offered by CHAI, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, the State of Maryland and local lenders. CHAI

November 19, 8:30 p.m. IMPACT’s Generosity Gala. It’s time to celebrate your generosity – with a night of doing good, dancing and live entertainment from comedian Nick Turner. Horseshoe Casino

November 29. #GivingTuesday. Put your money where your heart is! Your gift buys hope for the most vulnerable in the Baltimore Jewish community. All day online

Holocaust Visions
Thursday, October 27, 2016

Odessa art

By Oksana Nelina, Coordinator, Baltimore-Odessa Partnership

On Sunday, September 18, 2016, as part of The Associated’s Super Week and to kick-off 25 years of The Associated’s Baltimore-Odessa Partnership, The Associated’s Russian Speaking Jewry Initiative and the Gordon Center for Performing Arts at the Jewish Community Center hosted a unique concert with Tatiana Amirova, an Odessa-native with a powerful story about her Jewish identity. Tatiana, a finalist on The Voice in Ukraine, performed a diverse repertoire of Russian, English and Yiddish songs for a Russian and English-speaking audience.

A true testament to connections formed through the Baltimore-Odessa Partnership, the Baltimore Jewish community received beautiful artwork from the Holocaust Museum in Odessa which was displayed before the concert. Attendees viewed paintings created by students who commemorated the Holocaust and sent personal thank you cards to the students. We are thrilled that the Holocaust Museum in Ukraine has gifted the Baltimore community the paintings.

The Odessa Holocaust Museum opened in June 2009 in Odessa, Ukraine.  The opening of the Museum was very important for Holocaust survivors living in Odessa and Ukrainian Jews as three million Jews in the former Soviet Union were killed by the Nazis during World War II, including 247,000 Jews — 22,000 children — in Odessa and the surrounding region (according to the JTA, 2009).

The Museum showcases the history of the Holocaust with documents, photographs, artifacts and oral and video documentation of the Holocaust. Additionally, there is a research library, memorial space and an educational center attached to the museum.

The educational center is used as a space to educate students about the events of the Holocaust and to help ensure all children, regardless of their religion, understand what happened to thousands of Jews during the Holocaust. An important component of the mission of the Museum is to provide education for non-Jewish children about respect, peace and the value of every human life.

The museum developed a curriculum about tolerance, understanding and acceptance to help students understand and ensure it will never happen again. At the conclusion of the program the students are asked to share a lesson they have learned through artwork.

Christina, 12, said, "I think that there should be peace in the world. Everybody should be free and happy. The Holocaust was the most terrible thing.” Added Liza, 10: "The world without war means peaceful sky and harmony, joy and happiness everywhere now and in the future for every nation and every child of the earth."

Meet the Turkels
Friday, October 21, 2016

Randi and Harel Turkel 

 

CHAI-lights shine light on one of our young adult leaders. This week, meet Randi and Harel Turkel, Baltimore natives who are often found spending time outdoors, trying the best eats in Baltimore and raising their two children.

Tell us a little about yourselves. We are both born and raised in Baltimore and have two children, Elan (3) and Maia (6). We have a technology consulting firm called SOS Technology Group that is 13-years-old. In our spare time we love to cook, spend time outdoors and travel with our children.

We hear you are co-chairing the Generosity Gala! Can you tell us about that? What are you most excited about? Why did you choose to take that role? This is our second year co-chairing the Generosity Gala and it's truly a pleasure. We love working with our co-chairs and Associated professionals and take pleasure in seeing how much the Gala has grown. We have something big in store for this year and hope that you all come attend!

What is your favorite spot to grab a bite in Baltimore? There are so many restaurants these days but a few favorites are: Azumi, La Food Marketa and Spice and Dice, which has the best Thai food in town!

What is your favorite city or country to visit and why?  Thailand is our favorite destination and we hope to take the kids there in coming years. It has such a great mixture of culture, history and cuisine that you really can’t go wrong. The exquisite beaches are a plus, too!

If you could invite one person to your Shabbat table, who would it be and why? Our table is usually quite full on Shabbat, but we would make an exception and invite you if you're interested!

Finish this sentence: You should come to the Gala... because it’s going to be a night to remember! With great food, drink and entertainment, you’ll wish it happened more than once a year!

Join Randi, Harel and other young adults at IMPACT's Generosity Gala on November 19! Buy your tickets today.

IMPACT, The Associated's division for young adults in their 20s and 30s, is a diverse group of men and women who are traveling on their Jewish journeys in Baltimore together.

Meet Ian Lever
Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Ian Lever

 

Baltimore native, Ian Lever, was all set. Upon graduating from Washington University in St. Louis, he was starting a consulting job in Chicago in January, 2017. But knowing he had a few months open before he began, he decided to look into an opportunity with Israel Story, a podcast inspired by This American Life.

We caught up with Ian in Israel to learn about his internship and the upcoming Israel Story LIVE: That’s What She Said, a program based on the podcast that combines radio-style storytelling with multimedia effects. Featuring stories of Israeli women, the show is coming to the Gordon Center on November 7.

How did you learn about My Israel Story? I first became interested in podcasts after listening to Serial. A friend of mine recommended that I listen to Israel Story because he knew I was interested in podcasts and the Middle East. When I learned I had time before I started my first job, I decided to send an email to see if they needed extra help. Before I knew it, I was on my way to Israel.

What does a typical workday look like? It’s so varied. On any given day, I could be pitching a story idea, researching and helping produce an existing story. I’m also involved with promoting Israel Story and getting the live show ready for its tour in the United States where it will travel to Baltimore, New York, Washington, DC, Madison, Wisconsin and Chicago.

You mention you pitch story ideas. Anything you’re interested in seeing produced? When I studied in Amman, Jordon during my junior year abroad, I went to Israel on spring break. I remember there was a story about two Jordanian children who were playing on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea. A current lifted them to the Israel side and they were trapped on an inner tube for 16 hours.

What’s the next step? So far I’ve pitched it to the host and the producer and they are interested. Now I have to find a way to talk to individuals in Jordan. That’s my challenge.

Do you have a favorite My Israel Story podcast? I really like the Birthstory, where Israel Story documents the journey of an Israeli gay couple through the surrogacy process. The episode has lots of twists and turns and takes you other unexpected places takes the listener to unexpected places like Ukraine, and rural villages in Nepal, and India.

Tell me about the show in Baltimore. It’s a unique mix of audio, visuals, singing and dancing. It focuses on the audio stories, but is supplemented by media and visuals. The show is called “That’s What She Said” and focuses on strong, funny, pioneering Israeli women that most people probably haven’t heard of.

One of the stories is about the unlikely friendship between Moshe Dayan's 99-year-old ex-wife and Yasser Arafat's mother-in-law. There’s also a piece about a Bedouin woman who is businesswomen. She talks about life in a traditional Bedouin community and the cultural, political and social challenges she faces. I interviewed her and am currently editing it, as well as searching for music and visuals to go with the story.

Where did you get your love of Israel? My family. My grandfather was always involved in Jewish causes and he had a strong connection working with Baltimore and Israel on the Exodus project. My love was reinforced when I went to Jewish day school and in college I visited Israel a few times. After studying in Jordan, I really began to appreciate what Israel has accomplished.

Sukkot – The Big Rest
Thursday, October 13, 2016

Child with lulav and etrog

By Psachyah Lichtenstein, Pearlstone Center

Our world is over-worked and we are a reflection of that. In our demanding lives we can begin to think of rest as the absence of work. Makes sense, right?

The Torah however has a very different understanding of rest. Rest, known as Shabbat, is what the world was created for and work is the absence of that rest. So relax already! What? Easier said than done, you say? You are right. Rest doesn’t mean turning a blind eye to “the work” that has to be done in our world. Ignoring “the work” would mean to fail ourselves and our children.

“The Work” of our generation is to create a world capable of resting. A world in which the cycles of nature and the resources she provides are healthy and abundant and, yes, even restful.

This is what we are working for. The Jewish calendar reflects this ideal and sanctifies rhythms of rest and rejuvenation in cycles of seven: just as the seventh day (Shabbat) is a day of rest, the seventh week (Shavuot) is the holiday of weeks, the seventh month (Tishrei) is the month of holidays, the seventh year is the year of rest called Shmita, and the seventh Shmita cycle (Yovel) is the Jubilee – the ultimate rest. According to the Torah, these cycles allow the land, the plants, the animals and the people to rest. We let down our fences, share our harvest, release land ownership, stop working and just relax. Resting really is a powerful agent for change. 

Sukkot, beginning on the full moon of the seventh month, is the big rest. The harvest is finished and processed. The wood is cut, the wine is made, the oil is pressed, the veggies are pickled, the wheat is stored and the long days are over. So we set up a simple hut and live in it for a week.

Why? In this simple hut surrounded by family and friends we learn the lesson of Shabbat – less is definitely more. Our fondest memories are of the simplest settings, a walk, a conversation, a smile, eating the simplest bread at the Pesach Seder or living in the simplest dwelling on Sukkot – more than that would spoil it. We have worked to create a state of rest. In the very same way our earth needs Shabbat, and more than that will spoil it. Shabbat is something to work for and rest for.

Baltimore’s Pearlstone Center is a growing resource for “the work” and the rest with many earth-based programs. Family Farm Day at Pearlstone Center is on Sunday, Oct 23 from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. We will be celebrating Sukkot with sheep shearing, face painting and hands-on farm fun. This is one of the many great ways to learn about the land in the context of the Jewish calendar!  

The Drawing Board
Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Drawing at the Myerberg Center

By Rochelle Eisenberg

Drawing is not a prerequisite for art classes at the Edward A. Myerberg Center. Just ask Paul Timin who walked into a class a few years ago not knowing how to draw and has since become an amateur painter.

We talked with Paul, and two of his classmates, David and Bonny Walker, about the art program at the Myerberg and the friendships they’ve developed there.

What made you take up art? David: My sister-in-law had an art party and I really had a good time painting. Bonny was taking art classes at the Myerberg and I started a year or two later.

Paul: When I began, I had no art experience. I’m an amateur photographer and I wanted to paint some of my photos. At first, I couldn’t draw but I realized you don’t have to draw to be a reasonably good artist. And the funny thing is – I learned to draw along the way.

What do you enjoy most? David: I enjoy painting people, pets and still lifes, some of which are hanging in our home and homes of our family members, and others are resting in our basement!

I understand you get to show off your work to the public? Bonny: The Myerberg holds an art exhibit several times a year. Everyone has a chance to select up to three pieces of their art. The teachers also exhibit. There are multi-media pieces, ceramics, paintings. If you want, you can put prices on your work and see if they sell.

I know you’ve sold a few pieces. Tell me about the Balloon Man. Paul: It’s actually a funny story. Several years ago I took a photo of a gentleman, a “balloon” man when I was at the Farmer’s Market under I-83. He was making balloon animals for kids. There was a little girl in front of him and I photographed her with a doll in her knapsack.

A few years later, I took a look at the picture and thought, ‘I bet I can paint it.’ After I did, I decided to showcase it at the Myerberg’s art exhibit. A staff member saw the painting, recognized the balloon man as her friend’s husband. The painting was purchased by the balloon man’s wife.

I heard your class travels together? Paul: Yes. We take trips to galleries and museums. We’ve been to New York, Philadelphia and the Eastern Shore.

Bonny: We’ve taken some great trips together to visit artists in their studios as well as art galleries, the BMA and museums in the D.C. area.

David: I really enjoyed our art class trip to the Phillips Collection in Dupont Circle, where there is a wonderful collection of American and European, modern and impressionistic art.

It sounds like you’re all friends. Bonny: The class has become a social outlet for us. We often go to lunch afterwards. There’s great camaraderie, we have similar interests and we love getting together. 

This story originally appeared in the October issue of JMORE, a new publication that tells the vibrant story of Jewish Baltimore. Read today’s issue!

Making a Lutherville Connection
Monday, October 03, 2016

CJE Connectors

By Rochelle Eisenberg

When Pikesville native Jayne Havens returned to the Baltimore area, after living in Washington, D.C. for a number of years, she was hoping to expand her social circle. A young mother of two children, Sid, 4, and Ivy, eight weeks old, she wanted to connect with other young Jewish families in and around Lutherville.

Like most young mothers, she knew the value of meeting other moms who would share their experiences, while offering valuable advice along the way. She wanted to provide playmates for her young son, and later, daughter, as she grew. She admitted it would be great if the families she met lived nearby. And, she loved the idea of sharing Jewish experiences with other local families.

Her childhood friend, Lauren Ades, had became a Macks Center for Jewish Education (CJE) Community Connector in Canton, in Baltimore City, where she lives with her husband and daughter. She recommended Lauren look into it.

Community Connectors engage young Jewish families in their neighborhood, creating social – Jewish and non-Jewish-themed – programs.

“This sounded like a perfect way for me to get involved,” says Jayne, a former high-end social and corporate events planner in D.C., who executed a number of notable affairs including Google’s inaugural party. “I love the idea of connecting with other young families, particularly since I am new to Lutherville.”

Currently, there are seven connectors, working in Canton, Lutherville, Pikesville, Mt. Washington and Southeast Baltimore. CJE plans to expand to Towson and Roland Park later this year.

A Mom’s Challah Bake at the Ritz Carlton and a Dad’s Malt Night to drink scotch and learn Torah are just a few Community Connector programs.

Connectors bring together families with children, ages three to six. There is a separate Ahava Baby program for families with children, birth to age two.

In the past year, connectors have hosted a range of programs from a Mom’s Night Out Challah Bake at The Ritz Carlton in Baltimore to family Havdalah programs at the Downtown Baltimore JCC. For the past two years one of the Mt. Washington connectors created a fantasy football draft – women only.

There was even a night for Dads. Twenty men turned out for Malt Men – a night in which Dads drank scotch while learning Torah.

Jayne is planning several intimate events, such as a play date at the park and an ice cream outing, so friends can get to know one another on a personal level. As she grows the group, Jayne sees herself becoming a Jewish resource for Lutherville families, helping them navigate preschool and camp options, as well as directing them to Jewish programming throughout the community.

“Although I’m from Baltimore, I think this is a wonderful way for me to meet friends in my new community who have similar interests and who face similar challenges,” she says.

CJE is an agency of The Associated. For more information about the connector program or to find a connector in your area visit cjebaltimore.org.

This story originally appeared in the October issue of JMORE, a new publication that tells the vibrant story of Jewish Baltimore. Read today’s issue!

Meet Dov Hoffman
Friday, September 30, 2016

Dov Hoffman

 

CHAI-lights shine light on one of our young adult leaders. This week, meet Dov, a New York native who now spends his time in Baltimore working, volunteering and traveling.

Tell us a little about yourself. I’m originally from the forgotten borough, Staten Island, NY and moved to Baltimore in 1998 where I grew up and consider Charm City home. By profession, I’m a marketer and like to spend my time outside of work volunteering and traveling. Fun fact: I’ve been 19 states and 12 countries to date.

We hear you are co-chairing the Generosity Gala! Can you tell us about that? What are you most excited about? Why did you choose to take that role? Yes, I’m co-chairing this year’s Generosity Gala with a few other great individuals who are actively involved in Jewish Baltimore: Marni and Jon Yoffee as well as Randi and Harel Turkel. The Generosity Gala is now an annual event run by IMPACT in its third year taking place at Horseshoe Casino on Saturday, November 19. I’m most excited about the entertainment, Nick Turner, who is a stand-up comedian. I chose to take on the role of co-chair because it presented an opportunity to make a large impact (pun intended) in our community and engage with other like-minded young professionals in Jewish Baltimore.

What is your favorite thing to do in Baltimore? My favorite thing to do in Baltimore is getting together with friends, whether it’s for a Shabbat dinner, social gathering or volunteer activity. Plus, I’m also a fan of checking out new spots in Baltimore which always seem to be popping up and going to Orioles and Ravens games.

If you could visit one city or country tomorrow, where would it be and why? I’d choose Israel. As someone who is deeply connected with Israel and having traveled there four times (while spending a gap year volunteering and studying after high school), it’s my home away from home. Also, another reason: my dad moved to Israel and made Aliyah this past March.

We just celebrated Rosh Hashanah! How do you celebrate the Jewish New Year? I celebrate the Jewish New Year with family and friends. Rosh Hashanah is one of my favorite holidays as it’s a great time to reflect on the past year and take a deep look into the year to come.

Finish this sentence: When I’m not at work, I’m… Often found volunteering through opportunities like the Jewish Volunteer Connection (JVC) VolunTeam at Moveable Feast which I have led for the past three years or involved with marketing-related activities as I’m currently the president of the American Marketing Association Baltimore Chapter.

Join Dov and other young adults at IMPACT's Generosity Gala on November 19! Buy your tickets today.

IMPACT, The Associated's division for young adults in their 20s and 30s, is a diverse group of men and women who are traveling on their Jewish journeys in Baltimore together.

Photo Story: Super Week
Wednesday, September 28, 2016

SuperWeek

 

From September 18 – 25, The Associated celebrated Super Week – a week for the entire community to come together and honor Jewish Baltimore, the place we all call home. All week long, we had events where you could discover international talent, reach a new level of zen, say goodbye to summer in style and confront issues facing our aging parents.

superweek

Friends and family danced the night away during a special performance from The Voice Ukraine finalist Tatiana Amirova. Tatiana's specialties include pop, funk and jazz hits.

superweek

Vocalist Tatiana Amirova delivered a heartfelt performance – singing in Russian, English and Yiddish.

superweek

Jewish women got together to stretch their bodies as well as their minds – blending spiritual and physical practices with a supportive women's community.

superweek

Attendees of the End-of-Summer Soiree connected at the American Visionary Arts Museum – they also were able to check out the museum after hours!

superweek

Baltimore band Tall in the Saddle helped send of summer in style with a fun-packed performance – featuring hits from The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and more.

Super Sunday

The week culminated with Super Sunday, our annual fundraising event. Thanks to our donors generosity, we raised $1.4 million! These dollars will help to ensure that our community stays robust, healthy and whole.

Want to see more pictures or stay on top of what's going on in Jewish Baltimore? Follow us on Facebook!

Meet Dena Shaffer
Monday, September 26, 2016

Rabbi Dena Shaffer

 

Rabbi Dena Shaffer is the new director of the Center for Teen Engagement, a community-wide initiative supported by The Associated and the Jim Joseph Foundation and managed by the JCC of Greater Baltimiore. We caught up with Rabbi Dena recently and got to know this dynamic woman who will be creating new opportunities for Baltimore teens to engage in Jewish life.  

Tell me what you enjoyed doing as a teen. I’ve been training in martial arts since I was three and I was super active in our school as a teen. This was my main social network and we often spent our weekends training together, working with younger students to grow in our own abilities as teachers or hanging out. 

Did you have a favorite subject in school? I was a history and English kid! I loved reading the classics (I still do) and history I think spoke to my Jewish obsession with knowing the past in order to improve our future.

Speaking about being Jewish, when did you decide to become a Rabbi? My parents, who moved to Washington DC recently, found my composition notebook from second grade as they were packing our house. There I had written that I wanted to be a rabbi … or a lawyer or a veterinarian!  But around 13 or so the idea stuck and never really strayed from that path. 

I heard martial arts played some role in that decision? I remember that soon after my bat mitzvah (which was a wonderful experience), I had a conversation with my Taekwondo instructor (who is not Jewish) that had a profound impact on me.  He asked me to cover one of his classes and I didn’t want to do it – I had never taught before and it really scared me.  He pulled me into his office and told me a proverb that his instructor had once shared with him: “When someone whispers the truth into your let ear,” he said, “and someone else asks for it from your right, you have an obligation to share that truth." I was blessed to have known a lot of rabbis and Jewish educators mostly through Jewish summer camp and youth group and I felt this intense sense of responsibility to pass on what they had given me. 

You must have a favorite Jewish holiday? My favorite holiday is actually Purim. I love the emphasis on what it means to be a leader and taking advantage of opportunities to help others. So often, we, like Esther, find ourselves in a position to do something to help others and it takes a lot of courage to recognize these moments and step up to the challenge. 

How about a Jewish food? That’s a tough one. Older Jews, like my grandparents, always lamented that Jews of my generation didn’t appreciate our culinary heritage more.  I never really got into whitefish or lox or any of these other Eastern European methods of preservation! My mom’s noodle kugel is probably my favorite and recently I’ve become really interested in the Sephardic/Israeli food scene. 

I heard you opened the door for Elijah during a Seder and saw someone unexpected standing there. I couldn’t have been older than four or five but I was finally allowed to follow my older sister/cousins to open the door for Elijah during seder.  Due to really odd timing or perhaps a higher power, I opened the door to find a nun on the other side – her hand poised, ready to knock.

It turned out her car had broken down at the end of our street and she wanted to use our phone. I was terrified, having not expected to actually see anyone. It was such a funny, interreligious moment and as I got older and heard all the famous Jewish stories of how Elijah would visit people disguised as someone else, I became convinced (I still am!) that he really had come to our house that night! 

What music do you enjoy listening to? I have a pretty eclectic taste I think … I’m into everything from Rush to the Avett Brothers, to Phish to old school hip-hop, to Broadway cast albums and I’m always trying to expand my playlist! 

If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be? I just finished reading the Chernow biography on Alexander Hamilton (yes, I’m totally into the hype!) and I found it to be really profound. I’m inspired by Hamilton’s sense of the importance of legacy, his recognition that life is short (in his case, too short) and his desire to make the biggest impact he could on the world in the amount of time that he had. 

A Closer Look: Beyond Chicken Soup
Monday, September 19, 2016

museum

 

For centuries, Jews have considered medicine a calling – an occupation of learning and good deeds. Their enthusiasm for the profession was legendary, providing inspiration for folklore and entertainment. Consider this joke from the 1960s:

The elderly Jewish woman is seated in the front row at the inauguration of her son, the first Jewish president of the United States. She leans over to speak to the Secretary of State, seated next to her: “See that man raising his hand up there? His brother is a doctor!”

Audiences read the joke on the opening panel of the Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America exhibition at the Jewish Museum of Maryland and laugh. Not a belly laugh—more of a chuckle of recognition. The joke not only pokes fun at the never-satisfied Jewish mother but also hyperbolically describes the outsized importance Jews have assigned to the practice of medicine.

This isn’t new, and it isn’t only an American Jewish phenomenon. Physicians were disproportionately Jewish in Europe from the Middle Ages until World War II. (Indeed, some estimate that by the early 20th century, 50 percent of all physicians in Berlin were Jews, and the numbers were even higher in Vienna and Warsaw.) But in America, the Jewish doctor (and dentist and pharmacist) became a meme of major proportion in the last half of the 20th century, with joke books, comedy records and a plot point in Carl Reiner’s 1967 novel, Enter Laughing. What is going on? I have a theory, and it is rooted in the 19th century.

Antisemitism was on the rise in the mid-19th century. “The Jew” was physically weak and in need of medical attention. (And yes, the archetypal Jew was thought of mostly as male). He was round-shouldered, hollow-chested, flat-footed and weak-kneed. He was squinty-eyed, and even his speech indicated a cringing nature. These were thought to be “racial” characteristics that bred a flawed human specimen, and many Europeans (in particular), were doubtful that Jews could ever become fully integrated citizens.

Jews fought back in several ways. One idea, notably promoted by fin-de-siècle physician and Zionist Max Nordau, was to get fit, which they did with real success. According to author Franklin Foer, between 1896 and 1936, Jewish athletes won many more Olympic medals for Austria than their proportion in the total population. In America, Benny Leonard was a special hero among many successful Jewish boxers, holding the world lightweight championship from 1917 until he retired in 1925.

Physicians and anthropologists also employed another strategy: Gather statistics to counter anti-Semites’ specious claims about the Jewish body. Dr. Maurice Fishberg’s studies of Jewish immigrants in New York City indicated that environment and poverty caused the supposed deformities and diseases attributed to Jews. As social and economic conditions improved, this theory went, “the real and alleged differences between Jews and Christians” would disappear.

Baltimore’s Dr. Harry Friedenwald—and many others—pursued another approach. “While we cannot cure the ones afflicted with anti-Semitism,” he told an audience of American Zionists in 1907, “we can protect ourselves. For here the immunizing remedy is the development of the feelings of Jewish self-respect and Jewish honor.”

Jews found pride in the dream of a Jewish homeland, and in documenting the history of Jewish contributions to medical science. An ophthalmologist, Dr. Friedenwald amassed the foremost collection of books and manuscripts about Jews and medicine. One of his treasures included a 14th- century copy of the earliest known Hebrew medical work, attributed to Asaph Judaeus ha-Rofe (“the healer”), who is thought to have lived in the sixth century. There were many who argued (a-historically, as it turns out) that ancient Hebrew laws anticipated modern medicine. It has been commonly claimed, for example, that kashrut arose because the Levitical author understood the health benefits of draining the blood from an animal or not eating dairy with meat.

Theoretically, at least, the pursuit of a medical career in America offered the prospect of upward mobility and societal respect – a significant incentive for Jewish immigrants. Moreover, their conspicuous presence in medicine reflected well on the Jewish people, a fact that was not lost on the proud parents of countless Jewish doctors. And one didn’t have to be a medical practitioner to shep the communal nachas. An army of professional and volunteer administrators, fundraisers and care-givers took pride in supporting Jewish hospitals and clinics, at home and in Palestine, which they saw as prominent symbols of their community’s contribution to science and society.

So, why “Jews and medicine?” Whether striving to live up to American ideals of health, contributing to the broader community through Jewish-founded hospitals, or looking inward to their genetic code, Jews have used medicine to express identity. A century ago, medicine defined Jews and other minorities as inferior. Throughout decades of social and scientific change, Jews have used their involvement in the medical field to redefine themselves.

Making Meaningful Connections for the Next Generation
Monday, September 19, 2016

Trialogue

By Rabbi Jessy Gross

As educators in the Jewish community, we hear the same study cited time and again. According to Pew, 68 percent of Millennials identify as Jew by religion, while 32 percent describe themselves as having no religion.

When this study was first released in 2013 it created a panic among our organizations and agencies. Had we lost an entire generation of future leaders? Who would be there to guide us in the decades to come?

What we discovered is that those who are looking to connect to their religious tradition and cultivate a meaningful identity are often motivated to do so in an attempt to discover their own brand of Judaism. And part of that discovery includes looking at the universal ideas they share in common with other religious traditions.

Whereas a generation ago groups would appear allies no matter where they fell on the same spectrum of religious observance (i.e. a traditionally observant Jew and a liberal Jew) today it is more likely that a liberal Jew would see her common cause with a liberal Muslim or Christian counterpart rather than a Jew located on the far conservative right of the Jewish spectrum.

It is on this foundation that Baltimore Jewish Council’s Madeline Suggs brought together me, a Reform rabbi, a local priest and imam for a regular monthly chevruta (partnership).

We ask questions about how to make faith relevant to the next generation and how to build community and spawn action on a foundation of faith.

Often activities to bring people of different faiths together end in a photo opportunity and an article in the local paper. Here, we raise our hands together, explore what we have in common and grow our understanding and appreciation for the particular differences in our faith backgrounds.

But, when the relationship building is at the forefront (we waited over a year to do our first public presentation together) one quickly learns that one has other members of the clergy to call and discuss matters and questions.

Now, as we move into the waning part of our second year of sacred friendship, we are starting to bring together other members of our community interested in meaningful encounters with folks of other religious backgrounds. We are expanding our conversation about meaning, leveraging our faith values in ways that help us repair the brokenness in our society. And we are creating public opportunities for the participants in our community to have an experience with a religion and its people they may not have otherwise had a chance to previously.

This approach comes from a sincere goal that my priest and Muslim friend, Jim and Tariq share with me: that the counter to the fierce presence of “fear of the other” is to build relationship and create opportunities to learn about the other. It is one of the greatest contributions I think I can help foster, in partnership of course, in my work with the Jewish people and beyond at this particular time in our history.

My experience is that when we find the common ideas and values that extend beyond any one particular religious background, we find the areas in which we can be more powerful together to build and to heal.

Additionally, I believe that one way in which people construct strong identities is to encounter other groups of people. It helps clarify what we have in common and, when we have differences, better understand who we are in relation to the other.

If we can do this in the context of building relationships, rather than perceiving others from a distance, I believe that interfaith work can help us build bridges, while strengthening our own sense of identity and commitment to the Jewish people and beyond.

The Upside of Sibling Rivalry
Monday, September 19, 2016

siblings

By Rachael Abrams, LCSW-C

Ask anyone with more than one child if their kids get along and you’re likely to hear some version of “they get along great when they get along, but they can fight over the most ridiculous things.” I’d say the same about my own two boys who regularly play beautifully together but certainly know how to push each other’s buttons. Rarely does a day go by when they don’t argue over who sits at a particular seat at the counter.

There are many different types of families and each one is unique and has its benefits. Some people feel that no bond is typically longer, often stronger and hopefully more comforting than the relationship between siblings.

Siblings know you in a way that others don’t, simply because of the time spent together. The by-product of this is an intimacy and a familiarity that often can’t be replicated. Resolving conflicts, negotiating and vying for attention – all things we do with our siblings – are things we do as adults. An older sibling who is used to taking care of a younger brothers and sisters might show nurturing ways in adulthood. A younger sibling may be more apt to go with the flow in later years.

Parents with two or more children can’t help but be concerned about sibling rivalry, described as jealousy, competition and fighting between brothers and sisters. These behaviors happen for many reasons, some of which include competing for attention, feeling that a situation is unfair, or reacting to a host of different family dynamics.

What parents should remember is that sibling rivalry is natural and can yield positive results. The skills that siblings develop through interactions with one another often stay with them through adulthood.

For instance, arguing with one another allows siblings to express their feelings and practice empathy as they learn to consider another’s viewpoint. Siblings also come to understand that not everyone operates, thinks and behaves in the same way.

Disagreeing helps them develop conflict resolution skills, while realizing that life isn’t always fair. Living with a sibling hones social skills like compromising, taking turns, and sharing a parent’s attention.

Here are a few helpful reminders when it comes to promoting successful sibling relationships and managing sibling rivalry:

  • Show your kids how you want them to act. Model polite behaviors in your personal relationships with others.
  • Don’t tolerate negative and harmful behaviors amongst siblings. Teach them how to negotiate, compromise and to look for beneficial solutions.  
  • Promote a sense of responsibility for one another. Help children be aware of their siblings’ needs and encourage them to have each other’s backs.  
  • When your children argue, don’t take sides. Allow them to work out minor disagreements on their own and only step in for serious situations.
  • Resist pressure to treat your children equally, instead, treat them individually. Each child has different needs and interests.
  • Avoid showing favoritism. Let your children know that you value each of them on their own merits.  
  • As children get older, encourage them to maintain a connection with each other. Build in monthly family time to encourage this relationship.

Be realistic – siblings won’t ever get along 100 percent of the time and that’s okay. Nonetheless, there are many ways parents can do their part to help children see the gift they have in their sibling.

Because parenting doesn’t come with an instruction manual, JCS offers a variety of programs, services, education and support for parents and families with children of all ages. Click here or call 410-466-9200 to learn more.

Living With Shadows of the Past
Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Holocaust survivors

By Karen James, LCSW-C

I recently read a novel about a concentration camp with my book group. Several group members could not finish the book. Yet so much of Jewish identity is affected by the horrific events of the Holocaust and the responsibility to ensure it is never forgotten.

Those who lived it, though, have little choice in what they choose to bear. For them, the Holocaust can never be forgotten. It is a constant undercurrent in their lives. And like a current, the impact of those events can sometimes ebb and flow. Yet that current can also carry them away.

The survivors of the Holocaust had many different experiences and not all can be compared or even understood. One thing shared, though, is that something mind-numbingly catastrophic happened to them, their families and the world. They experienced severe trauma, and many pray and work toward making sure such a thing never occurs again.

Yet there is still terror and genocide in this modern world. Survivors can experience aspects of their trauma again when other catastrophes occur. Memories are carried and other events can re-awaken them.

What is the impact of such mental and physical trauma on our survivors as they age? What happened to each of them and how does it now affect them? Aging itself is a time of many losses and a challenge to personal resilience. It can seem a terrible mimicry of those earlier experiences. And again, those outside that experience may never really know what has been endured and what is causing current suffering.

Our communities are becoming more aware of the effects of living with such trauma on the survivors, their families and others close to them. Human service agencies like JCS are becoming more aware of how trauma affects behavior and the ability to connect with others. Organizations are now looking at the populations they serve with the awareness that sometimes what seems ordinary or everyday can affect or in some cases re-traumatize Holocaust survivors.

Families and caregivers can grapple with this too as they try to understand their elder’s reactions. When I worked in a nursing facility for elders with severe memory loss, one woman began to be agitated and inconsolable when she saw other patients being wheeled into the facility’s shower room.

Unfortunately those around her did not know her personal past and some even had little knowledge of the Holocaust itself. It took some time for staff to understand that seemingly innocent scenes that Survivors witness today could bring back horrific memories of innocent people unknowingly being herded to the “showers” which were actually gas chambers. Once caregivers understand the history, they are able to change the routine.

To increase this knowledge of trauma and its long-term effects on lives, JCS will be presenting Shadows of the Past: How the Trauma of the Holocaust Impacts Survivors Today. The free program will take place at 6:30 p.m. at the Edward A. Myerberg Center and is open to survivors, their families, caregivers and professionals.

This community-wide program was made possible by a grant from the JFNA Center for Advancing Holocaust Survivor Care. In addition, JCS staff members who have been specially trained will be sharing their knowledge with other professionals in the community who work with or care for survivors in an effort to help as many Holocaust Survivors as possible cope with the Shadows of the Past.

JCS provides multiple services and supports to Holocaust Survivors and their families in the Baltimore community, with the primary goal to allow Holocaust Survivors to remain in their homes and within their communities as they age. Social services for Nazi victims have been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and a grant from the Maryland Department of Aging. To learn more, click here or call 410-466-9200.

When School Does Not Come Easy
Wednesday, September 07, 2016

When school does not come easy

 

Julie Warren understands how frustrating school can sometimes be. When her oldest son, Anthony, was in first grade, he struggled to learn to read.

Attending a Jewish day school at the time, Anthony was offered the services of SHEMESH, a program of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. Eileen Himmelrich, a SHEMESH reading specialist, worked with him on his reading skills and helped navigate testing, which diagnosed Anthony with both dyslexia and dysgraphia.

Knowing that learning differences sometimes run in families, Warren and her husband worked with SHEMESH to have their younger daughter screened early on.

“When we realized she needed a little more processing time, Eileen pulled her out in a small group, providing a more effective multi-sensory approach to reading,” Warren says.  

Students sometimes shape letters in shaving cream to help them “feel” how a letter looks – in case the visual is not enough – or draw pictures on the board to increase their understanding of the story being read to them.

“It’s been incredible, what they have been able to do. They provide the support services that schools don’t have the funding for,” says Warren.

Is your child struggling? Sometimes, it’s easy to recognize your child has learning issues but at times, the early signs are not so obvious. According to Dr. Aviva Weisbord, executive director of SHEMESH, a child who is resistant to learning, unmotivated or who refuses to read, may have learning difficulties.

“It’s in their DNA to want to develop, grow and learn new things,” Weisbord says. “After all, you don’t have to push them to learn to crawl, walk or speak their first words. So if you have to plead with them to read or do schoolwork, it may be because they are struggling.”

Don’t panic, she adds. It may mean they need a little more time to mature. But you should think about having your child checked out.

Supporting Our Kids with Free Services. To help spot issues early on, parents should establish a good communication system with their child’s teacher at the start of the school year, explains Rachel Turniansky, director of the Macks Center of Jewish Education’s (CJE) disability and inclusion services.

While SHEMESH provides support in Jewish day schools, Jewish preschools and some congregational preschools, children with learning differences in public or secular private schools can turn to CJE’s MDSNAP (Maryland Special Needs Advocacy Program) for help. MDSNAP provides free advocacy to the Jewish community.

Accessing academic support services depend on documentation of learning issues, not solely anecdotal information, Martha Goodman, coordinator of MDSNAP will help consult about testing. She is well-versed in special education law and will attend team meetings so students get the services they need.

“Goodman is so knowledgeable about the law that she once found something in the law that the City schools were not doing and was able to get the Maryland School Department of Education (MSDE) to encourage change in the City policies,” says Amian Kelemer, chief operating officer of CJE.

In addition, if a child needs more services than a traditional school can provide, Goodman will help find the best public or private school placement, navigating the system so students succeed.

In particular, both Turniansky and Weisbord advise families to start early if they have concerns. The longer you wait, they say, the more likely your child will fall behind, damaging their self-esteem.

“Having these free options is so important so our children don’t get lost in the system,” says Warren. “SHEMESH has been a huge help in providing the tools my children need to succeed.”

Macks Center for Jewish Education is an agency of The Associated. To learn more about MDSNAP, go to cjebaltimore.org. To learn about SHEMESH services, visit shemeshbaltimore.org.

Day Schools Fortify A Child’s Jewish Future
Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Day Schools Fortify A Child’s Jewish Future

By Rochelle Eisenberg

With two children at Krieger Schechter Day School (KSDS) and two high schoolers at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School (BT), Randy Getz, along with his wife, Stacey, understand the importance of providing a day school education to their children. They see it as a chance to provide their kids with Jewish values, a love of Israel and a passion for their Jewish heritage, without compromising on academics.

But Getz also knows that for many who share the same values, a day school education may not be affordable. And he also worries that others may not appreciate the many benefits of a Jewish day school education.

That’s why he co-chairs The Associated’s Day School Commission, which advocates for day schools, supports initiatives to strengthen school operations and approves funding for the day schools to use for financial assistance.

Many studies demonstrate the importance of day school education to the long-term commitment to Judaism. A 2007 Brandeis survey shows that 70 percent of non-Orthodox college students who completed at least six years of day school were committed to Jewish life. Only 45 percent who didn’t attend day school felt that way.

And other studies show that day school, Jewish camp and trips to Israel are the three pillars that create Jewish identity in kids.

“We’ve made it a priority to get young people to Israel.” says Getz. “But we also need to make day school education a community priority across the denominational spectrum.”

Recognizing the impact of Jewish day schools to the community’s Jewish future, The Associated has a long-standing commitment to providing Jewish day schools with the resources for success. In addition to providing allocations to the day schools, The Associated has worked closely with these schools to create long-term sustainability.

In 2012, with a lead gift from the Russel family and a matching grant from the AVI CHAI Foundation, The Associated launched the Russel Generations Day School Endowment Project to help six participating schools establish their legacy and endowment program. Creating endowments ensures that day schools will offer affordable and excellent education well into the future.

“Jewish students from diverse populations have many choices,” says Michael Friedman, senior vice president of The Associated. “Not only are they looking for affordability but they want a high-quality, academic experience and other amenities available at the finest independent schools. The Russel Generations Project allowed us to create a culture of giving, annually and long-term.”

“The Associated recognizes that Jewish day schools are an integral part of providing Baltimore’s future leaders,” say Janine Frier, who sits on The Associated’s Day School Commission. Frier should know. Her four children graduated from KSDS.

“The Schechter graduates are highly sought out,” she says. “My children received an excellent secular and Jewish education, infused with strong values. They were encouraged to become their best selves both academically and personally. And the community became as important to us as family.”

Allison Magat, who also sits on the Commission, is a mother of two boys who graduated from BT. She sent her boys to day school because she wanted her children to be knowledgeable and comfortable with their Judaism.

“As parents, my husband and I will never have to wonder whether our sons know how important it is to us that they live a life with Jewish values and traditions,” she says. “Our Jewish communal future depends on the next generation knowing and caring about Judaism and its values. What better way to support that goal than prioritizing day school education, especially in the segment of our community where it is under-utilized,” says Getz.

This story originally appeared in the September issue of JMORE, a new publication that tells the vibrant story of Jewish Baltimore. Read today’s issue!

Great Schools Mean Great Neighborhoods
Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Great Schools Mean Great Neighborhoods

By Rochelle Eisenberg

Neighborhood preservation has always been at the core of CHAI’s mission, and for more than 30 years the organization has worked to stabilize northwest Baltimore City’s Jewish population and institutions. Now it’s bringing its expertise to the Pikesville community.

In one of its newest initiatives, CHAI is working with Pikesville public schools to ensure that they continue to provide high quality education in exceptional learning environments. We know, explains Mitch Posner, executive director of CHAI, that strong schools mean strong neighborhoods.

“We want to keep Pikesville vibrant,” adds Jeffrey Rosen, parent of a Summit Park Elementary School girl and president of the board of CHAI, an agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. “We want people to see this as a place where they want to move, raise a family and take advantage of community amenities.”

Thirty-three percent of Baltimore’s Jewish population resides in Pikesville, making it the geographic and communal core of Jewish Baltimore. This concentration, says Posner, is a primary reason why our community is one of the most vibrant and connected in the country.

Since it was first launched, CHAI has embarked on a number of efforts to strengthen the schools. This work has been coordinated by two professionals with extensive experience in the field of education who assist with parent and community engagement.

Initially, CHAI worked with residents, neighborhood and school leaders, and elected officials to launch the Pikesville Schools Coalition, a broad-based volunteer organization committed to securing resources for and advocating for the area’s schools.

Working closely with the schools, the Coalition has successfully advocated for the full renovation of Pikesville High, created a structured forum to give the community a voice in their schools and helped bring Pikesville Middle and Pikesville High into the era of digital learning by advocating for them to be one of the first adopters of the Lighthouse schools program.

Jeff Jerome, chair of the Pikesville Schools Coalition, works closely with CHAI professionals who bring their expertise to help reach the community’s goals.

“CHAI graciously provides us with the staff to help us do our work,” explains Jerome. “We are a volunteer organization and it is too much work just for volunteers.”

The impetus for the initiative began in 2014 when, at the bequest of The Associated, CHAI began looking at the challenges facing Pikesville. It soon became apparent that the best way CHAI could utilize its expertise and resources was by making an impact on the schools.

“Schools are the anchor of the community,” says Jerome, who graduated, along with his son, from Pikesville High. “When people buy houses, schools are often the second question young families ask about.”

Moving forward, Rosen says, CHAI would be interested in exploring partnerships with community groups who share a similar vision of keeping the Pikesville community stable and thriving. “We’ve only just scraped the surface,” says Posner. “We’re just getting started.”

This story originally appeared in the September issue of JMORE, a new publication that tells the vibrant story of Jewish Baltimore. Read today’s issue!

Meet the IMPACT Team
Tuesday, August 30, 2016

IMPACT team members

 

Whatever the life stage you're in, you have a place in Jewish Baltimore with IMPACT, the young adult division (ages 22 – 39) of The Associated. We offer social happy hours, volunteer days to give back, professional connections, philanthropic opportunities, young family programming and so much more.

Now, get to know the people behind IMPACT: Marisa Ezrine, Director of IMPACT, and Rebecca Ellison, Campaign Associate.

What do you do with IMPACT? Marisa: I am the Director of IMPACT, overseeing the engagement, cultivation, philanthropic and leadership development opportunities for young adults in their 20s and 30s.

Rebecca: I help with IMPACT's programming and events, as well as outreach and engagement! I get to meet new young adults in the Baltimore area and connect them to the awesome opportunities for involvement within The Associated and other programs in our system.

If you could invite one person to your Shabbat table, who would it be and why? Marisa: Thomas Jefferson. I have always been fascinated by him and this would be a great time to ask him about what it was like to write the Declaration of Independence, build Monticello, his favorite books and so much more.

Rebecca: I would invite Ray Lewis because he would give the most inspirational bracha. Also, he would be a great leader of prayers.

Finish this sentence: When I'm not at work, I'm... Marisa: Watching Ohio State football, Syracuse basketball, the Ravens and the Orioles and trying new restaurants.

Rebecca: Eating, traveling and Pinteresting.

What's one thing you'd love to see happen in Jewish Baltimore in the next 5 years? Marisa: I would love to see a large JCC in Downtown Baltimore. This would mean that Jewish life in Baltimore City, especially Downtown, has continued to grow exponentially and that young adults and baby boomers are still looking to connect to Jewish opportunities in their Downtown community.

Rebecca: I would really like to see a synagogue concierge for all of the shuls in the Baltimore community. Someone who will help people shul shop until they find their perfect fit!

What are your favorite things about Baltimore? Marisa: Some of my favorite things to do in Baltimore are trying new restaurants, going to Ravens and Orioles games, visiting family and friends and exploring Canton and Fells Point. Fells Point Festival is one of my favorites. There is always something new and exciting to do in the city!

Rebecca: My favorite things about Baltimore is Smalltimore. I love that it’s a big city with a small town feel – everyone knows someone in common! I love our competitive sports teams and loyal fans. I also love all of the locally-owned businesses – there is nothing better than a local coffee shop!

Want to learn more about how you can get involved? Meet an IMPACT professional for coffee! Email us today.

The Big Squeeze
Monday, August 29, 2016

holding hands

By Elinor Spokes

Heidi Fisher’s father, George Korzec, a Holocaust survivor who, by her account, is a “tough 90,” was in the midst of a health crisis requiring hospitalization the same week her daughter was due to return to college in South Carolina. Faced with the dilemma of staying at her father’s bedside or assisting her daughter with moving back, Fisher felt completely torn. She decided to wake at the crack of dawn, drive to South Carolina, help her daughter settle in and then fly back to Baltimore; all within 24 hours.

Such is the life of a member of the “sandwich generation”: adults in their 40s and 50s with kids living at home and with parents who also need their care and attention. The feeling of being “sandwiched” can be more akin to being squeezed by trying to accommodate the needs of two generations.

Feeling that squeeze? You are not alone. In fact, Baby Boomers, the largest segment of the population, are hitting the “sandwich” phase of their lives, with their parents, 85 years or older, who comprise the fastest growing segment of the population. A 2013 report from the Pew Research Center revealed that nearly half of adults in the sandwich generation have a parent 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting an adult child.

Support is available to help cope, navigate and manage the care for two generations, says Debbie Schwartz, LCSW-C, a social worker with Jewish Community Services (JCS), an agency of The Associated. JCS is dedicated to helping older adults age-in-place with maximum independence and dignity, offering elder care management, counseling and therapy, grief and bereavement and services for Holocaust survivors. 

Assessing the needs of a parent to determine whether they can age in place or would be better served in a senior community is a good first step, says Schwartz. While this question can be a difficult one, she advises that ideally these conversations involve children with their parents. During these conversations, she suggests children provide options for them, while respecting their parent’s independence as much as possible. “Sometimes the parent doesn’t want to listen to their children, so involving their doctor in decisions regarding their housing or whether they should continue driving can alleviate the pressure,” she adds.

In addition, Schwartz suggests educating yourself on elder care, prioritizing tasks you can handle, delegating ones you cannot, staying organized and finding time in your schedule for yourself.

“We are all going to feel some guilt about spending enough time with our parents, but you have to come to terms with that. If you can’t, counseling might help,” she says.

“Taking it day-by-day is the only way to manage this phase of my life,” explains Fisher. Assisting her father and her mother, Anneliese, who, at 84, is battling cancer, has become practically a full-time job. “As time goes on, they have become more dependent on me,” she says. “They try to be as independent as possible, but they have limited ability to be so. I have talked to them about moving out of the house, but they know what makes them happy and I want to respect that.”

“I take my parents to most doctors’ appointments because I want to be there to hear what the doctors are saying, remind the doctors of allergies to medications and other potential issues,” she adds.

To relieve stress, Fisher works out as much as she can. In fact, out of concern for her well-being, both parents will ask her if she taken time to go to the gym as they recognize the stress she is under.

“They sacrificed and did so much for me all those years I was growing up, I want to keep them happy,” she says.

Janet Livingston’s 96-year-old father lives in the home where she was raised and now requires 24-hour care. “I feel lucky to have my dad still with us,” she says. “He took care of me for all these years, now it is my turn.”

Using a private agency, Livingston hired home care providers, giving her peace of mind. She speaks with her father every day, visits him five to six times a week, manages his finances and oversees his general well-being. Despite knowing her father is being well cared for, she says she doesn’t like to travel more than a plane ride away just in case of an emergency.

She and husband, Richard, are also involved with overseeing care for Richard’s mother who lives in Florida. Coordinating the health care for an aging parent at a distance adds another layer to that already demanding job. A local contact at the Association of Jewish Family & Children’s Agencies (AJFCA) put the Livingstons in touch with Norman and Ruth Rales Jewish Family Services in Boca Raton, Florida, which provided them with a geriatric case manager. The case manager helped assemble a team of health care providers who visit her five to six days a week; monitors the team and Mrs. Livingston’s well-being; and is the family’s point of contact for issues as they arise.

“This is a challenging phase of our lives,” Livingston says. “Managing another life while keeping your own household going is stressful.”

She adds, “I am very blessed to have a supportive family and to be able to provide a life for my father. Every day I say goodbye I also say ‘I love you Dad.’ I have done everything a daughter could do and I have no regrets.”

This article originally appeared in Jewish Women. Read the full publication here!

Meet Dr. Joanne Block Rief
Monday, August 29, 2016

Joanne Block

 

Practices: General and Cosmetic Dentistry. Originally from: Annapolis. Moved to Baltimore: to attend Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, University of Maryland. Mother of: Erika, 25, and Austin, 22. Lives in: Owings Mills with her husband, Marshall. Participated in: Chapter Two, a 10-month, high-level engagement program for women.

What surprised you about Jewish Baltimore? When our Chapter Two group visited CHANA I was so surprised at the magnitude of domestic violence in the Jewish community. I had no idea beforehand how much we needed a place to help abused women move on and heal.

So now you are involved in a volunteer project, through The Associated’s Jewish Volunteer Connection (JVC) that incorporates your professional skills. Yes. I was inspired to do something else from Chapter Two and really wanted to incorporate my professional skills in a project that helped the community. Erica Bloom (from JVC) matched me with Sarah’s Hope, which has locations at Hannah Moore in Reisterstown and downtown. My staff and I split the two locations and we talked about dental hygiene, tooth decay and healthy snacks. It’s really important for children to have good oral health for long-term health benefits.

You mentioned enjoying the Jewish Museum. I understand your family has history preserved there. I loved the Jewish Museum and learning about how to research family history. In fact, when my daughter interned at the Jewish Museum, she saw scissors in their collection from my grandfather who was a custom tailor in Baltimore. She also saw a cash register from my relative’s jewelry store in Bel Air. It’s amazing – the history of Baltimore that is preserved there.

Was Chapter Two your first Associated experience? Actually, my kids have been involved in a number of Associated programs for a while. Both did Maccabi. My daughter went to Odessa when she was a teen – it’s amazing how much I understand Odessa has changed. When she went it was really grassroots work in the Jewish community there. From what I hear now, Odessa has a thriving Jewish community.

Anything else? Yes, she went on Birthright and is involved in Moishe House. My son did Teen Giving Initiative and Onward Israel, where he held an internship at Tel Aviv University.

Have you been to Israel? Twice. I remember the first time I saw Independence Hall in Tel Aviv. Watching them sign (for the hearing impaired) Hatikvah and learning how Israel became a state. I couldn’t hold back the tears.

What else did you enjoy in Israel? We went to the underground bullet factory which was interesting. And I loved everyone we met. The Israelis are such great people. And who can forget the food. The hummus and pita. And the fresh fish!

On another note, we’re almost at the High Holidays. I love the High Holidays, walking to synagogue from where we park the car. You see people in synagogue you haven’t seen in a while. We see families who have sat next to us for years. I love watching the kids grow up – one moment they are two and now they’re in college. And I love to cook for the holidays!

What do you cook? I make great matzoh balls. And I make baked gefilte fish in loaves. It’s a family tradition from my husband’s family. It’s served cold over lettuce with cucumber and a cherry tomato, stuck with a toothpick, on top. My daughter loves helping me make it.

Your Summer Reading List
Thursday, July 07, 2016

Summer reading

 

Summer is a time to relax – and to catch up on some reading. Here are seven books with a Jewish twist, recommended by the Macks Center for Jewish Education. These interesting reads range from a collection of short stories that delve into Israeli society – to be discussed at a Baltimore-Ashkelon book club in July – to a nonfiction account on Israel’s solution to the water crisis.

Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian by Avi Steinberg. Avi Steinberg, a Yeshiva and Harvard graduate, takes on his next challenge in the prison library. This memoir pushes the reader to face the gap between preconceived notions and reality, not only of what it means to grow up with a Yeshiva background, but also about how we understand the individuals we incarcerate.

Let There Be Water: Israel’s solution for a Water – Starved World by Seth M. Siegel. Feeling parched in the summer heat? Try this refreshing book interspersed with stories and photographs of real people. The lack of water almost prevented Israel from being granted statehood and the presence of water, due to amazing technology, visionary leaders and creative thinkers has ensured Israel‘s status as a role model.

The Best Place on Earth by Ayelet Tzabari. This book interweaves a range of viewpoints and facets of Israeli society in a collection of short stories that explore love, violence, faith and identity in a personal and compelling way. Join us for the Baltimore- Ashkelon Book Club on Thursday, July 14 from 7:00 – 8:00 p.m.

Single Jewish Male Seeking Soulmate by Letty Cottin Pogrebin. Sweeping through history of survival and the Jewish connection to the African American story, this book inspires thought. Zach Levy promises his Holocaust survivor mother on her deathbed that he will marry Jewish and then falls in love with an African American activist. A great read full of moral and spiritual dilemmas.

No Better Time: The Brief Remarkable Life of Danny Lewin, the Genius Who Transformed the Internet by Molly Knight Raskin. This is the true story of the life of Danny Lewin. An American who grew up in Israel and served in an elite IDF unit, studied at the Technion and MIT, helped found a sophisticated internet content delivery system and then tragically lost his life in one of the planes that crashed on 9/11.

The Mathematician's Shiva by Stuart Rojstaczer. The irreverent and funny fictional novel tells the story of a famous female mathematician, a Russian born émigré who defects at a conference and ultimately dies before she has time to publish her theorem. Her (all male) fellow mathematicians are suspicious that she has chosen to take the secret with her to the grave and they drop in on the funeral and shiva to learn what they can.

The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children by Wendy Mogel. An eminently readable parenting book steeped in Jewish tradition. Help your children become more resilient this summer!

Do your children love to read? Check out CJE’s Summer Reading Program for kids

Do You Know the Facts About Lyme's Disease?
Wednesday, June 29, 2016

kids running in field summertime

 

Summer is here and we’re all spending more time outside. Whether we’re sending our kids to Jewish summer camp or we’re joining them at Pearlstone Family Farm Camp this weekend, The Associated wants you to be prepared, safe and smart all summer long. In past blog posts, we’ve educated about the sun and skin care and now is the time to talk ticks.

Maryland ranks among the top 14 states with the highest number of cases of Lyme disease reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2013. But many health care professionals believe that the actual number of cases far exceeds the reported figures.

How Lyme disease is spread. Lyme disease, so named because the first case was reported in Lyme, Connecticut, is caused by bacteria transmitted by the bite of an infected black-legged tick, often carried by the white tailed deer. The tick must be attached to the skin for at least 24 hours for transmission to occur (Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) “Lyme Disease Fact Sheet,” April 2014).

While not every tick bite causes Lyme disease, there is no vaccine currently available to prevent it, so early detection and treatment are important.

Recognize the symptoms of Lyme, which may include: a "bull’s eye” rash, fever, headache and fatigue. If left untreated, Lyme can cause the muscles of the face to atrophy (Bell’s Palsy), as well as severe headaches, neck stiffness, heart palpitations and dizziness. Severe joint pain and swelling/infection may also develop, particularly in the knees. Antibiotics can effectively treat Lyme, especially when treatment is started early. Contact your health care provider if you develop any symptoms after being in any tick habitat.

Keep ticks off. You can reduce your risk of a tick bite by following these tips:

  • Wear light-colored long pants and long sleeves to help you spot ticks easier.
  • Tuck your pant legs into your socks, and tuck your shirt into your pants to keep ticks on the outside of clothing.
  • Insect repellent containing 20-30% DEET is recommended for use on adults to prevent tick bites.
  • Treat clothes with permethrin (but do not use permethrin directly on skin).
  • Try to avoid wooded or brushy areas with tall grass and leaf litter.
  • Bathe/shower immediately after coming in from being in tick habitat.
  • Check yourself daily for ticks after spending time in the outdoors, particularly in the late spring and summer when there is more risk of being bitten.
  • To remove a tick:
    • Use tweezers and grab the tick close to the skin. Gently pull straight up until all parts of the tick are removed.
    • Wash the tick bite with soap and warm water or an antiseptic. Wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based gel.
    • Do not use petroleum jelly, a hot match, nail polish or any product to remove ticks.
Israeli Teens Go To U.S. Summer Camp
Friday, June 24, 2016

Israeli teens go to US summer camps

 

This summer, Lihi*, an Israeli teen, will get to experience what many Jewish American teens consider a rite of passage. Lihi, who grew up in Ashkelon, will be going to Jewish overnight camp. In the United States.

Lihi is one of 10 Ashkelon teens who will spend two weeks at Camps Airy and Louise in the mountains of Western Maryland. They will bunk with their other teens, play sports together, enjoy arts and crafts, learn about each other’s cultures and simply develop the kind of special friendships that occur in a camp setting.

The opportunity to spend two weeks at Jewish camp was made possible by a new grant by the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership. It’s part of the mission of the Partnership to establish people-to-people connections between the two countries. The funds provide scholarship money for those who needed help defraying the cost of attending camp in America.

It made sense, says Jonathan Gerstl, executive director of Camps Airy and Louise, to invite these youngsters for a summer camp experience. For years, the camp has hired Israeli schlichim who work as both counselors and activity staff. These schlichim have created relationships with the American campers, while educating them about Israel and Israeli culture.

Hadar Levi, one of those schlichim who has worked at the camp for the past three summers, will be Ashkelon teens’ chaperone.

“This program will further connect our Jewish community with the Israeli community and vice versus. The Ashkelon teens will learn the different ways Americans experience Judaism in the United States and both groups will begin to build deeper relationships. And thanks to technology, we hope these relationships can be continued beyond the summer,” Gerstl says. 

The Ashkelon teens, who are entering eighth and ninth grades, arrive for the first camp session, beginning June 27. They will live in the bunks with the American teens. Two Ashkelon teens will join each middle school bunk.

“I am sure this is going to be a memorable summer. I can't wait to see how American teens my age spend their summers and share with them our lives as teens in Ashkelon,” says Noam, an Israeli camper.

Gerstl is hoping that the experience will be such a positive one that these campers will want to return later as shlichim, bringing their own experiences and love of camp to the professional staff.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to make new friends from Baltimore and keep in touch until we meet again,” adds Lihi.

*Name has been changed.

Meet Erin Esterson
Thursday, June 09, 2016

Erin Esterson

By Janna Zuckerman

Most high school seniors are counting down the days until prom, senior week and graduation, but 18 year-old Erin Esterson is counting down the days until she can be back at her favorite place on earth – Camp Louise.

Erin exemplifies a Jewish camp enthusiast. She has spent the past eight summers as a camper and CIT at Camp Louise and this year is spending her ninth summer as a camp counselor – something she’s dreamed about since starting camp in third grade.

In fact, Erin loved camp so much that she even got her mom, Linda, hooked! Linda will be returning as staff for her sixth summer this year as the manager of the public relations department at Camp.

When I asked Erin what she looked forward to most about being a camp counselor this summer, she shared with me that she remembers the positive influence her camp counselors had on her, and she hopes to be able to do the same for current campers.

“Counselors who made camp personal for every camper, developed individual relationships with each camper, and adjusted activities for everyone’s unique needs, enhanced the overall camp experience and made camp an incredible place to spend my summers,” said Erin.

As a counselor this summer, Erin is excited to blend her two favorite things – Camp Louise and dance. Erin is an incredible dancer – she has competed vigorously and even focused on dance as a “prime” at Carver Center for Arts and Technology for the past four years.

Last summer, during her CIT (Counselor in Training) summer, Erin trained in two different divisions – first session with the rising eighth graders and second session with the youngest campers – rising fourth graders. Throughout the summer, Erin also had the incredible opportunity to spend time in the dance department – teaching campers new dance skills and routines. This year she will be a counselor in the Senior Camp, made up of middle schoolers and in the dance department.

Erin’s past three summers at camp have been leading up to this summer. Beginning as a rising sophomore, Erin began training to become a counselor – that is one of the benefits of going through the ranks at Camp Louise. In addition to being a camper and enjoying all aspects of camp – swimming, arts and crafts, tie-dying, ropes course, etc. – Erin was building skills that would transform her into a counselor. Days included leadership training and skill building workshops, preparing Erin and her peers for their summer as a CIT and eventually a counselor.

When I asked about Erin’s CIT summer she said, “It was absolutely incredible. As a camper you aspire to be a CIT someday – they are the oldest campers so they have special privileges and experiences that you look forward to being able to do someday. Having such high expectations and being able to experience those expectations was the most rewarding part. I formed incredible bonds with other CITs and I met some of my best friends during CIT summer –my life has completely changed since then.”

Erin said she is most looking forward to spreading her love of Camp Louise as a counselor this summer. “I love making people love camp. I can’t even put into words how I excited I am. I am thrilled to give back to the community that raised me.”

Erin heard Camp Louise’s camp song during her first summer at camp, but she said now the lyrics mean so much more to her as a counselor. “I’m a counselor with kids of my own and as they arrive on opening day I hope they’ll become homegrown.”

Erin Esterson is a Camp Louise Counselor and CJC Camp ambassador. To learn more about Jewish camping, go to livecamp.org.

Dreams Can Come True
Thursday, May 26, 2016

getting fit

By Yaakov Bar Am NASM, CPT Team Beachbody Coach

I was a skinny kid all my life. I was a runner. I wrestled on the high school team. I was a tennis player, a fencer, an indoor climber – and then I turned myself into fat guy who turned to food to deal with stress.

I was at 198lbs; I was so ashamed of myself. My knees and feet were killing me with all that extra weight. In late August 2010, I went to the beach with my family, and I took a surfing lesson. I was so out of shape and had no flexibility whatsoever. After the lesson, my knees were killing me and my fat belly on that surf board aggravated my ribs from when I broke a rib fencing years before.

Then I started walking in 2011 and stopped eating junk food. I walked 30 minutes a day, then managed to lumber quickly for 15 minutes then walk for 15 minutes more. Then I worked my way up to slow jogging from 10, to 15, to 20 and then to 30 minutes six days a week. I did this for four months.

That worked to some degree, but I needed more. Just stopping with the junk food helped, but then the weight loss stalled. Then I saw a Beachbody’s P90X video on YouTube, but I knew my knees and heart could not take that – what I did find was Power 90. That was for me! I was almost 49 and in no condition to do anything extreme.

Fast forward three years after doing P90X, P90X2, P90X3, Insanity and Body Beast, I was in great shape. And you know what? I figured out my purpose. To help others achieve their fitness goals and dreams.

In 2014, I became a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), and in 2016 I started work on my NASM Corrective Exercise Science Certification. In 2015, I started work as a Personal Trainer for the Merritt Athletic Club, and the Park Heights JCC. Now I only work for the JCC as a Personal Trainer.

As you achieve your goals, your goals change. And finally, I got to the point where I was ready to do what I dreamed of as a boy. Become a body builder! I hired a professional body builder to coach me, and in April of 2016, I was on stage for the first time at the age of 52. And you know what? I got third place in Men’s 40 and over Physique Division! I have three more shows planned for this year, and I hope to compete for as long as I can. One day, I want to coach men and women to get ready for their own physique competitions after I obtain enough experience.

Dreams can come true if you work hard enough and have obtainable goals. If I can do it, so can you!

Baltimore's Top Community Educators Honored
Monday, May 16, 2016

CJE top educators

By Amian Frost Kelemer, Macks Center for Jewish Education

Our community is blessed with outstanding educators. This year CJE wanted to raise awareness about those amazing educators and the positive impact they have on our children, families and community. The committee, ably chaired by Nancy Tilson, decided to open up the nomination process to the community. Two hundred and fifty nominations later, the committee had the challenging and inspiring task of culling through completed nomination packets and selecting from the outstanding educators to confer a small number of awards. 

And when the celebratory evening arrived, the auditorium was packed with people reflecting the full diversity of our beautiful community. More than 20 schools were represented! It did not matter at all whether your students call you Rebbe or Morah, by your first name or by your last name, whether you teach preschoolers or high schoolers, there was a buzz of excitement as educators names were called and an air of tremendous mutual appreciation and respect. More than 100 educators were honored with a certificate and a gift. Thirteen educators received an award and cash prize.  

Magnets were created as gifts for all participants. Everyone got to select from a favorite inspiring quote drawn right from the teachers’ personal essays.

For example: Krieger Schecter Day School’s Michal Reichman wrote, “Treat each person each day with the utmost sense of kavod.” Ohr Chadash’s Rachel Shar wrote, “My job is to teach children that they have limitless potential and that they should believe in themselves as much as I believe in them.” And Baltimore Hebrew Congregation’s Eileen Gerke wrote: “Every child is a treasure from G-d and deserves to have all that is good and meaningful be available to them.”

A highlight of the evening was when Bracha Kosman, a teacher at Bais Yaakov Elementary, received the Sam Kahan Distinguished Educator Award and the Grinspoon Award for Excellence in Jewish Education. She receives a significant cash prize and national recognition. Mrs. Ann Kahan, who has endowed this award, described her late husband Sam’s passion for Jewish education and Jill Eisen, teacher at Beth El and last year’s recipient, passed along a special notebook with words of wisdom from previous winners.

At the dessert reception and in the photo booth, teachers and guests mugged for the camera, laughed, hugged and offered hearty mazel tovs. After this evening, educators will head back to their classrooms with the echoes of the community’s applause for a job well done.

According to the Talmud, in order to be a fit community, a teacher of children must live there. We are fortunate to thrive as a community because the teachers of our children are so creative and dynamic. Our teachers work so hard and so effectively that we can be assured of the vibrancy of our community future generations.

Sun Safety Tips
Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Sun safety

By Jenny Seidman

Summer is quickly approaching and The Associated wants you to have safe fun in the sun. When stopping by the Community Block Party, sending the kids off to camp or taking a dip in the JCC pools, don’t forget these useful sun safety tips:  

Don’t Skimp on Sun Protection. Proper sun protection is essential year-round since the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays are present every day. Skin cancer is mainly a behavioral disease and it is strongly linked to sun exposure—about 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers and 86 percent of melanomas are caused by the sun’s UV rays. For that reason, it’s critical to follow a complete sun protection regimen to help prevent skin cancer.

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends incorporating the following sun protection tips into your daily routine:

  • Seek the shade, especially during the sun’s peak hours, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Do not burn.
  • Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Apply 1 ounce (about the size of a golf ball) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours and after swimming or excessive sweating.

Visit the Dermatologist Annually for a Professional Skin Exam. While skin cancer is the most common cancer in the world, it’s also one of the most treatable cancers when detected early. A yearly full-body skin exam performed by a dermatologist is critical, and can be lifesaving. In fact, the five-year survival rate for patients whose melanomas are detected early is 98 percent, and this survival rate falls to 16 percent once the disease spreads to distant organs.

Perform Routine Self-Exams. In addition to having a professional skin check annually, it’s important to examine your skin on a monthly basis to monitor for any new, changing or suspicious lesions. If you notice something new or changing, see a physician immediately. Performed regularly, self-exams should take no more than 10 to 15 minutes. Afraid you’ll forget? Make self-exams a habit by scheduling a recurring reminder in your cell phone.  

Ditch Tanning. There is no such thing as a safe or healthy tan. Whether obtained on the beach, in a tanning bed, or through incidental sun exposure, a tan represents skin damage. Tans are the skin’s attempt to repair itself from UV damage from the sun or tanning lamps, and if you have a tan, you have sustained skin cell damage. These imperfect repairs cause gene defects that can lead to skin cancer as well as skin aging, including wrinkles, leathery skin and age spots.

For more information, visit SkinCancer.org, which features more than 600 pages of medically-reviewed content on skin cancer prevention, early detection and treatment.

Spark Your Family’s Jewish Connections
Monday, April 25, 2016

Spark your family's Jewish connection

By Julia Bashyrov

My children are young, which makes Jewish events and experiences important for planting seeds about their Jewish heritage. As a parent, I am grateful to live in a community where we have so much opportunity to educate our kids and participate as a family. As an adult, I am grateful to have opportunities to participate in programs based on my profession, desire to learn and career networking – all to connect to Jewish Baltimore. Maybe it’s a pleasant surprise to say that The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore has been the catalyst for much of our family’s and our individual activities lately.

This year alone, we attended IMPACT’s Generosity Gala at Horseshoe Casino and the Russian Comedy Night at the Gordon Center at the JCC. With our children, we enjoyed several community programs including a behind-the-scenes tour of Oriole Park at Camden Yards during an event at the ballpark sponsored by IMPACT and PJ Library. We even made matzah pillows afterward! 

The Associated has connected us to many interesting opportunities. We were intrigued by a post on the Nash Baltimore Facebook page and in April, we participated in the International Limmud FSU (Former Soviet Union) Shabbaton.  The program aims to involve Jews from all walks of life in learning and strengthening Jewish identity. This program was for Jews from the Former Soviet Union. Nearly 1,000 people celebrated Shabbat and learned from world-renowned speakers in a magical atmosphere. We all brought different levels of Jewish observance which only enhanced the mood, programs and connections. Workshops were given in Russian and English. The only challenge was choosing which presentation to attend: Holocaust, anti-Semitism, how to raise children, marriage, personal life stories, comedian and a wine-tasting event.  We bade farewell to Shabbat with a memorable musical Havdalah before hearing from guitarist David Broza and the Raya Brass Band at the Limmud gala.  

Every month, there is something exciting on the Jewish Baltimore calendar. In Baltimore, we are so fortunate to have much to discover – from uptown to downtown and everywhere in between. I love this quote by Roman Kogan, Limmud FSU executive director:  “First it was, ‘Let my people go.’  Now it’s, ‘Let my people know.’”  

For all of us, it’s the right time to get in the know, participate and bring your friends, spouse and family. Find family events and more online on The Associated's community calendar.

Meet Zhanna Maydanich
Monday, April 25, 2016

JCC Block Party

 

Community Block Party Co-Chair and JCC Swim Team Mom, advocate and super-volunteer Zhanna Maydanich speaks to the JCC and The Associated about what she gets out of volunteering in the Jewish community.

When did you first become involved in volunteering in the Jewish community? I started volunteering in the Jewish Community about three years ago, when my older son competed in the Jr. Maccabbi games held at the Owings Mills JCC. I was inspired by the event and its mission to unite Jewish athletes and give them a platform to compete. I also became very involved with my sons' swim team at the JCC. I was motivated by a sense of duty and pride to promote Jewish kids who were athletes. The members of the JCC swim team compete as part of all Maryland Swimming at various venues. The distinction with these athletes is that they are representing a Jewish organization and promoting its mission throughout Maryland. I felt that the athletes on our swim team have a greater responsibility to not only excel in their sport, but to maintain and adhere to Jewish values.

Did you grow up in Baltimore, and were you very involved in your community growing up? I immigrated to Baltimore from the former Soviet Union, from Kiev, in 1979.  From the time my parents and I arrived in Baltimore I attended Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community Day School. I felt a part of the Jewish community on my arrival. I spent summers at Beth Tfiloh Camp and at Camp Louise. My parents and I have been members of the JCC since our arrival in Baltimore. We have spent almost every Sunday during the summers at the JCC pool with family and friends.

What do you feel you gain from your volunteer experience? Volunteering on the swim team at the JCC, as well as other organizations which are part of The Associated, brings me tremendous satisfaction. I attribute many positive memories to my growing up in Baltimore's Jewish community. Since it touches the lives of so many different people, I thought the JCC was a wonderful place to start giving back. 

The Community Block Party is a very big event; what aspects of the program do you oversee or advise on? My duties as co-chair of this amazing event involve ensuring that we offer the opportunity to showcase as many community partners as possible. This event is designed to unite the whole community.

I also want to ensure that the Block Party is a fun, free event for all ages. I oversee the entertainment selection process, and we have an incredible lineup of acts, for all ages, on two stages.

My duties also include ensuring that local non-profits, community agencies and businesses are involved. This guarantees that everyone coming to the Block Party will find something worthwhile and valuable for them. Whether they are looking for specific services, information, or even just to eat and be entertained, they will absolutely find it there.

Why should everyone come to the Block Party? There will be something engaging, useful and fun for everyone. There will be games, activities, food and entertainment for families just looking for something to do on Sunday, June 5 from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

There will be a biergarten and authentic Texas BBQ food truck for foodies looking to enjoy a great Sunday in Owings Mills. Everyone will be engaged and walk away having discovered something new about our amazing community.

What is so special to you about this experience? This experience allows me the platform to ensure that the Baltimore community, especially the Jewish community of Baltimore knows and understands just how valuable their local JCC is. 

I enjoy the collaborative process. Our fearless leaders, Paul Lurie and Esther Greenberg, assembled community leaders and experts in specific fields and paired these "committee chairs" with JCC staff who are absolutely amazing and devoted to their jobs.

I, along with my other co-chairs, Andrew Attman and Stella Benkler, ensure that all the parts keep moving, but it’s the committee chairs, the JCC staff and especially Paul Lurie and Esther Greenberg that bring it all together.  

I understand you sit on the J’s board. What other volunteer work have you done with the J? As a member of the JCC Board, I have been involved as the liaison between the Board and The Associated, representing the JCC Board at The Associated's annual phone-a-thon planning committee. I recently represented the JCC Board at The Associated's Youth Leadership Council's (YLC) meeting where I had the honor of speaking to YLC member's about the work and mission that the JCC Board fulfills and its impact on the community of Baltimore.

IMPACT's CHAI-light: Taylor Ann Gonzalez
Thursday, April 21, 2016

Taylor Gonzalez

 

CHAI-lights shine light on one of our young adult leaders. This week, meet Taylor, a Florida native who now works at an education non-profit.

What do you do for a living? Currently, I am a recruitment manager for Teach For America. TFA is an education non profit where we strongly believe all children – regardless of their zip code – deserve an equitable education.

We hear you participated as a CHAT host and are now a co-chair of Young Pros Countering BDS! Can you tell us about that? Yeah! Being a CHAT host was a really cool experience. We met over the course of a few weeks and created a close-knit group discussing various aspect of our community. We all have different backgrounds, careers, et cetera, and seeing how we all have a personal conviction for supporting Jewish community and Israel was inspirational. It’s really awesome to see folks outside of CHAT and the new friendships forming through this cohort.

The chance to co-chair Young Pros Countering BDS is such an honor. Across college campuses and our country, we are seeing a rise in anti-Israel and anti-semitic propaganda. In our cohort, we are grounding ourselves in the history of Israel prior to moving forward to learn how to intelligently counter false claims made. We have had the unique opportunity to learn and hear from scholars all across our community and it has been an enlightening experience. I am excited to see what the next few sessions have in store for our cohort and the discussions that will take place.

What is your favorite spot to grab a bite in Baltimore? This is a toughie because I love so many places and consider myself a veg foodie. If I’m staying in Fed, I love Pure Raw Juice – they have delicious acai and pitaya bowls. Sticky Rice also has yum options for veg/vegan sushi – their Mock Chicken Szechuan is legit. For brunch, Iron Rooster and their homemade pop tarts are top notch!

If you could invite one person to your Shabbat table, who would it be and why? I would definitely invite Rachel Bloom. She’s absolutely hilarious and I can only imagine what it would be like to sit down with her at a Shabbat dinner. On a serious note, I would invite Asaf Banner who is the CEO for Teach For Israel (Chotam). Prior to this work, he has founded many organizations aligned with service work and marginalized communities.

Finish this sentence: When I’m not at work, I’m… Practicing yoga, reading, dominating in kickball on Thursdays, running (or really any form of exercise), watching Flip or Flop, baking and cooking – subsequently eating.

What is your favorite thing about Israel? Aside from the falafel and Bamba snacks? I love the culture, our history, being home. There’s an ambiance when you step off the plane and you’re welcomed home – it’s hard to put this feeling into words. My abuelo (grandfather) boarded the Altalena at 17 to fight in the Independence War of ’48, and he felt this intrinsic feeling and yearning for Israel. I don’t think I can choose just one favorite tangible thing – but being home is my absolute favorite thing about Israel.

Join Taylor and other young adults at IMPACT and Charm City Tribe's Yom Ha'atzmaut Celebration on May 12! And, to help us get in the partying mood, she created a playlist of her top 18 party songs.

IMPACT, The Associated's division for young adults in their 20s and 30s, is a diverse group of men and women who are traveling on their Jewish journeys in Baltimore together.

Passover in Israel
Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Family at Passover Seder table

 

Ask Este, a teacher at a Jewish day school in Ashkelon, Israel, about celebrating Passover in Ashkelon and she talks about community. How everyone comes together for the holiday and how everyone makes sure there is a place at the Seder table for friends, family and neighbors.

Like the beautiful story she shares about a family who suddenly found themselves with nowhere to go for Seder. Like many Israelis, this family had planned to spend the holiday at a hotel, but when they checked in, their credit card was not accepted. They had no food prepared at home.

“It was one hour before Passover and my parents were coming from the hospital. They met this family and took them to my house to celebrate Seder. Seder not just about reading from the Haggadah. It’s about hospitality and being part of a community,” says Este, whose school is part of Shevat Achim, that partners five Jewish day schools in Baltimore and Ashkelon to build relationships between students and educators. The program is funded by The Associated’s Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership.

So, how is Passover celebrated in Israel? We may know that Israelis celebrate Passover for seven days versus eight. How else is it different?

  • Every year, Este joins her friends and neighbors for a giant barbecue the night before Passover. It’s a festive celebration, filled with friends, family and plenty of bread and meat! It’s an Ashkelon tradition for many families.
  • Families, friends and neighbors gather for Seder the first night of the holiday. For Este, it’s a night for kids and many of them have their own books, such as comic books about Egypt. Food is similar, although different ethnic cultures bring different culinary traditions, which may be blended at the Seder table. Ashkenazic Jews enjoy matzoh ball soup, gefilte fish and other Ashkenazic fare while those from Sephardic countries may incorporate their culinary traditions such as Morrocan fish.
  • Unlike Kosher bakeries in Baltimore, which close for the holiday, Kosher bakeries in Israel stay open, but they only sell matzoh and Kosher for Passover baked goods.
  • In Israel, there is only one Seder, celebrated on the first evening.
  • For Passover, a lot of families invite lone soldiers to spend the Seder with their families. The army puts an ad with phone numbers you can call to invite one or more soldiers and very quickly they " run out " of soldiers, because so many people open their homes and hearts to host them.
  • Kosher restaurants are also open throughout the holiday, but again they are all Kosher for Passover.
  • In Ashkelon, and in Israel, if you sell bread in Jewish stores, you can be fined.
  • In Israel, because the diverse cultures have different culinary rules (for example, Sephardic Jews can eat rice while Ashkenazic Jews can’t), both are sold in the stores as kosher for Passover. Ashkenazic Jews need to be more careful when shopping than in the United States.
  • Some products here are just made Kosher for Passover all year long (like Coke). Instead of high-fructose corn syrup, they use sugar and then there is no issue.
  • Everyone is off during the interim days, so there is a lot of traveling (vacation time and family time). Those who can afford it enjoy celebrating Passover in resorts where someone else can cook and clean.
Explaining This Mad, Mad World to You Kids
Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Families walking together

By Stacey Meadows, LCSW-C, JCS Manager of Child Therapy

In a modern world, we parents cannot help but constantly worry about the safety of our children. We are bombarded with stories and images of terrorism and violence in our communities and across the globe. As the manager of child therapy for Jewish Community Services, I hear parents ask time and time again, ‘How do I protect my children in this 21st century world?’

A few weeks ago, JCS hosted a parenting program, “It’s a Mad, Mad World,” in which I presented strategies for helping parents deal with this topic. Some of my presentation was information I had shared before, most recently in 2014 following a deadly shooting at a local shopping mall. The advice I shared then is similar to today, because our world, between terrorist attacks and mass shootings, isn’t getting any easier for us, or our children, to understand.

Meeting with parents in person allowed for the opportunity to dialogue about how this issue presents in our homes – from kids catching clips of the news between their regularly scheduled programming, to children witnessing protesters downtown, to students experiencing lockdowns or their schools closing early due to the Baltimore riots.

I’d like to share some of the topics and questions that came up during that Parenting Series discussion.

How has technology impacted our children’s exposure to these issues, and how does that access impact the way that we need to talk to our children about these issues?

Technology has completely changed the way that we and our children learn about, and interact with, the world around us. For better or for worse, television and news stations tend to become hyper-focused on tragedies, especially those that occur locally. 

Young children are not in a position to understand what is being presented to them through media. Media coverage often replays footage of distressing images alongside repeated accountings of the events. Children watching these images can become confused and increasingly upset, believing that the event is occurring over and over again.

Although I strongly recommend limiting media coverage for younger children, you and your teen may benefit from this advice as well. Research has shown that this kind of media coverage can induce significant, and sometime clinical, trauma response in both adults and children. 

Additionally, by allowing children to witness media coverage, you are no longer in control of what information they obtain and how they get it. In the age of cell phones and internet, news travels fast! The older and more technologically-savvy your child is, the more information they are likely to have before they even have a chance to speak with you. As such, it may be a good idea to ask your child what they know before you tell them what you think they should know.

How do I talk to my children about these issues when they are varying ages?

In my original blog post, I discussed ways to talk to your children about such difficult events. This is a great question that does tend to come up a lot as we talk about issues that impact a family as a whole.

When talking with your children in a group, it’s important to speak using language on the youngest developmental level in the audience. For example, if you have three children, ages 5, 7 and 11, make sure to talk in such a way that the 5 year old understands. You can always have additional conversations at a higher level with your older ones at a later time.

In speaking with your children individually, it’s important to consider their ages and developmental levels. Younger children, such as preschoolers, may be blissfully unaware of what has occurred in the world around them, even after they have been told.

The younger the child, the less information they need from you. Pre-schoolers and elementary schoolers need basic facts presented in broad strokes. Though they may ask for more detailed information, generally these children are really asking, “Am I safe?” and “Are you safe?”

As children grow older they are better able to understand the context of these major events, and often require more detailed information in order to feel that they can figure out what happened. Middle Schoolers straddle the line between their younger and older counterparts – they often seek more information, though still share the need to feel safe and protected. This age group more than any other may need you to assess how much information is too much.

By the time our children reach high school, they have critical thinking skills that allow them to process information in a much more mature way. These children are likely to seek out information if we can’t provide it, so we may find conversations to be more valuable when we ask them, “what do you think about….” rather than telling them where we stand.

Remember that some responses transcend age and language. Spending extra time together is a huge support to your children whether you actually say a little or a lot. 

How can I help my child to feel more safe?

  • Have a plan. You don’t have to wait for a safety issue to have a safety plan. Make sure that your child’s school and extracurricular programming identifies safety protocol with you and your child. While these protocols and drills may sometimes feel scary, they help our children to feel confident and empowered in event of an emergency.
  • Make sure that your child knows how to reach you. Do they know your contact information or that of emergency services? Do they know how to access and use a phone? If you can’t call or pick them up, who will? How will they know that person is a safe person to go with?
  • Lead by example and teach them to be mindful of their surroundings. Report or call emergency assistance when identifying unattended packages.
  • Help them to trust their instincts, and trust that you are their ally. If a situation feels unsafe to them, help them to come to a more comfortable solution. Let them know that you are there to support them and to help them figure out tough situations, no matter what.
  • Focus on the helpers. Should your child see increased police presence, make sure they know that these police are there to help keep them safe, not to indicate that they are unsafe. If your child accesses media footage, or witnesses a tragedy, help them identify the helpers – police and citizens – who are helping, rather than those that are hurt or hurting.

Should you feel that you or your child are experiencing trauma, or are in need of additional clinical support or intervention, please contact JCS Intake at 410-466-9200, or another mental health practitioner.

The Best Story I Know About Giving
Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Beth Goldsmith

By Beth Goldsmith

For years, when I’ve been asked to talk about giving, I tell this simple, powerful story. To me, it symbolizes hope and optimism – for our children, their children and generations who will never know us. I think everyone has a story and each of us has a responsibility to share and inspire.

Maybe you know this story: One day, a young man was walking along the road. He stopped when he saw a gray-haired gentleman, slightly stooped from age, carefully dig into the ground to plant a carob tree.

The young man, curious, watched for a few minutes and asked, “How long will it take this tree to bear fruit?”

“Seventy years,” the older man said and continued to dig. Even more curious, the young man wondered aloud: “Do you think you will live another 70 years and eat the fruit of this tree?”

The older man put down his shovel and looked directly at the young man. “Perhaps not. Still, when I was born into this world, I found many carob trees planted by my father and grandfather.”

Spreading his arms, the older man said, “Just as they planted trees for me, I am planting trees for my children and grandchildren so they will be able to eat the fruit of these trees.” With that, the older man returned to his task. And the young man understood.

The story of the carob tree reminds us that generations are linked, one to the next. We have a responsibility to plant trees for all who follow. Today, right now, your legacy is your opportunity to share your values with your children and grandchildren. Today, is the best time to share your perspective about giving. It’s your chance to leave the world a better place than how you found it … from generation to generation.

How do you want to be remembered? Begin by telling your story. Share your values and think about how your involvement and support of our Jewish community has enriched your life and that of your family.

Your story is the greatest legacy you can leave your friends. It's the longest-lasting legacy you will leave your family and the generations that follow.

And like the wise man planting the carob tree, your work will care for and inspire generations to come.

Helping the Hungry on Passover
Monday, April 04, 2016

Helping a woman on Passover

 

“All who are hungry, come and eat.” That’s the line we read from our Hagaddah each Passover. Tradition teaches us to share our seder with friends and neighbors who might be struggling to put food on the table. While you may not personally know anyone who worries where their next meal will come from, there are many here in our community for whom that is a constant concern.

That’s why the Jewish Community Food Fund (JCFF), a program of Jewish Community Services, is dedicated to fighting and preventing hunger in the Baltimore Jewish community.

JCFF provides individuals and families facing economic hardship with grocery store cards for use at local food markets. These store cards give families the dignity of choosing the foods that they need and purchasing perishable products such as milk and eggs.

And, at Passover it can be even more difficult to buy food for your family because the specialized products required for the holiday.

Last year, the JCFF disbursed more than $100,000 grocery store cards to an average of 58 families monthly, meaning that each month approximately 145 people – men, women and children – knew they would have enough to eat. But, those figures do not tell the full story. Grocery store cards are not the only way JCS is helping families struggling with food insecurity. JCS disbursed nearly $2.8 million in emergency financial assistance to members of our community.  Financial assistance that helps a family avoid eviction or helps a senior afford life-saving medication often enables them to use their limited income toward food. This combination of services addresses the basic daily needs of the clients, while treating them with dignity and respect.

Rachel (not her real name) turned to the Jewish Community Food Fund (JCFF) feeling distraught and hopeless. Just a few months after her husband lost his job, she was laid off from a company where she had worked for years. After using their unemployment benefits to pay rent and utilities, there was not enough money left to buy food for their 7-and-11-year-old daughters, much less for themselves.

The JCFF provided the family with shopping cards so they could buy food at their local grocery store. But the help didn't stop there. JCS staff connected Rachel and her husband with other resources to help them get back on their feet, including job search assistance through the JCS Career Center. A short time later, both Rachel and her husband found jobs and were able to regain their independence.

In a letter, Rachel wrote, "When I feared my family would go hungry, I turned to my community for help. I cannot tell you what it meant to us that we were sustained, not just with food assistance or with help in finding jobs, but with kindness and compassion. Thank you for easing our burdens and helping us rebuild our lives."

Your support of the Jewish Community Food Fund is what makes happy endings like Rachel's possible. The JCFF is supported entirely by contributions from individuals, congregations, organizations, and other donors in the community.

For more information about the Jewish Community Food Fund or other services offered by Jewish Community Services, please call 410-466-9200 or visit their website.

The Passover Seder for Children with Disabilities: Turning Agony Into Ectasy
Monday, April 04, 2016

Opening the door for Elijah

 

The Passover Seder is a challenge under the best of circumstances. The late starting hour, the long Haggadah reading, capped by a meal everyone is too tired to eat – it’s a bit much for adults and children alike, and even more so for kids with Attention Deficit Disorder or other learning disabilities.

There are several things everyone can do turn the potentially tiresome evening into a night of excitement and belonging. While all of the tips you’ll read apply to everyone, they are especially helpful for children with learning issues.

Some ideas are pretty obvious, but bear repeating year after year, and the one about being well-rested tops the list. While it may seem to require another Passover miracle, everyone can rest for a bit before the Seder. For some children, an actual nap will give them the energy to be part of the evening festivities and the grown-ups in their lives can sit still for a half hour after candlelighting. Some families with small children put the kids to sleep at normal bedtime and wake them up when it’s time to talk about the ten plagues and eat the Matzah.

Be sure to serve a small meal at normal time, between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m., so no one comes to the table too famished to focus. Maintaining a calm atmosphere helps, too, so have books or quiet games handy and avoid scolding.

In the weeks leading up to Passover, read stories about the holiday (PJ Library is a wonderful resource for this). These stories will keep the children thinking about the holiday and ready to share what they have read.

Closer to Passover, or even early that day, let each child choose one part of the Haggadah to present. Let the children rehearse their parts and feel really comfortable with them. If reading is something your child struggles with, let him or her present the idea without actually reading the words of the Haggadah. And be sure that each person at the table is recognized for asking a good question, presenting a significant idea or providing the answer to a Passover query. The goal is to eliminate competition and that alone will reduce stress.

One family I know prepares a seven-ounce plastic cup at each seat. Anyone who participates with a question, comment or answer gets a piece of chocolate or other Passover treat; by the end of the evening, everyone walks away with a cup of treats that symbolizes their meaningful participation.

You want to have plenty of visuals, whether pictures or actual items. A bag of plastic frogs, finger puppets and anything the children can think of will keep them at the table, ready to participate and enjoy.

Have some age-appropriate, “soft” questions prepared – questions that you know the children will be able to answer. And build in breaks for the kids; they do not have to sit like little angels throughout the entire time. (Ever notice how the adults find reasons to get up and walk around a bit?)

Provide easy-to-read Haggadahs and be sure to summarize as you go along. Interspersing the readings with songs is another way to keep children interested and participating.

Most important of all: Watch your expectations! Let the children see your pleasure when they sing or speak about the Yom Tov. Be sure to value whatever they contribute to the evening.

The Haggadah tells us about four sons, each one different from the other. They range from quite smart and knowledgeable to being unable even to formulate a coherent question. And the message of the Haggadah is that each one is worthwhile. As we reinforce the children’s participation on any level, they will feel that they themselves are an integral part of the Seder, knowing they truly belong. And that is pure ecstasy!

Have a wonderful Passover and be sure to enjoy each moment of the Seder.

Nine Things to do in Baltimore in April
Friday, April 01, 2016

Wellness at the JCC

 

Now that it’s spring, check out a baseball game, get in shape, share Passover with family and friends and join us for one or more of these programs, sponsored by The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore or Associated agencies.

Throughout April. Baltimore Jewish Film Festival.  The Baltimore Jewish Film Festival features award-winning films from around the world with the common theme of Judaism and the Jewish experience. The festival screens eight to ten films per season, with each screening followed by a talk featuring a guest speaker. Gordon Center for Performing Arts.

April 3, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Wellness Expo. It’s a day to learn about and participate in wellness and fitness activities for the whole family. Meet LifeBridge Health medical experts and talk to them about health topics, from breast cancer to diabetes, then take a health screening. Enjoy free interactive programs from Zumba for Kids to Tai Chi for adults. Face painting, moon bounces, volunteer activities and more. Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC.

April 3, 4:00 p.m. The Freedom to Create: A Passover Experience. With vibrant color, song and expression, this fresh take on the Associated Women Passover Seder features a joyous Israeli theme, celebration and more. Temple Oheb Shalom.

April 6, 8:00 – 9:00 p.m. Support Group for Parents of Children with Attention Issues. If your child has trouble staying on task or focusing, SHEMESH and CHADD of Greater Baltimore invite you to join its support group that meets the first Wednesday of every month at the Weinberg Park Heights JCC. Weinberg Park Heights JCC.

April 10, various times. Good Deeds Day. From park beautifications to home builds to multigenerational playdates, join in a global movement of doing good. Volunteer with JVC during Good Deeds Day, an annual celebration uniting over 60 countries in doing good deeds.

April 12, 12:00 – 1:30 p.m. The Associated’s Real Estate Industry Group (REIG) Lunch & Learn. Hear from Charlie Hatter, Principal at Prime Building Advantage, as he welcomes the REIG community into the new, luxury homes at the Four Seasons Residences in the hot Inner Harbor neighborhood. Four Seasons Residences.

April 14, 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. The Future of Medical Marijuana in Maryland. Professor Raphael Mechoulam, the “father” of medical marijuana research and Israeli Professor will be joining State Delegate Dan Morhaim to present on his research and its effect on the future of medical marijuana in Maryland. Med Chi Building, Osler Auditorium.

April 17, 2:00 p.m. PJ on the Town with IMPACT. Gather your kids and head to Camden Yards for a behind-the-scenes tour of the ballpark, plus make a take-home Passover craft. Geppi's Entertainment Museum.

April 26, 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. Family Farm Days. Join us for a kosher Passover lunch and stay for a day of earth skills and nature connection to learn how our ancestors survived in the wilderness. Pearlstone Center.

A Rite of Passage?
Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Teens drinking alcohol together

By Susan Kurlander, Health Educator, JCS Prevention Education

Alcohol, a legal drug for those of us over 21, is part of our lives whether for ceremonial/religious, cultural, social or, in some cases, medicinal reasons. How many of us have put a wine-soaked piece of gauze in our son’s mouth at his bris to help quiet him? How many of us have allowed our son or daughter to have a sip of beer while we’re watching a sporting event on TV or hosting another family for a barbecue? How many of us have given our children wine to drink on Friday night or after Shabbat services? How many of us have made alcohol a part of a life cycle celebration such as a bar/bat mitzvah?

Now, with April designated as Alcohol Awareness Month, we might ask ourselves the question: As a parent, is it wrong to do any of the above?

The reality is that somewhere along the line our children most likely will have had alcohol to drink way before their 21st birthday. What is important, however, is to make sure we send a clear message to our children that alcohol is a drug which means it is a substance that can change the way we think, feel and act.

Because alcohol goes directly to the frontal part of the brain, after it is absorbed in the digestive system and then travels through the blood stream, it can change our ability to make good decisions. Research shows that young people who begin “using” alcohol around the young age of 14 are four times more likely to develop an alcohol problem.

Remember – alcohol is a gateway drug. That means that most people who move on to "harder" drugs begin by using alcohol, cigarettes or marijuana. Alcohol use can start innocently, but can escalate to cause problems for young people whose bodies and minds are still developing.

How do we send a clear message to our children that alcohol is a drug and that we need to be careful about its use?

  • Know what your standards are regarding alcohol use and communicate those standards to your children. Alcohol use is not acceptable when there is a risk of hurting ourselves or others.
  • Don’t condone or support underage drinking. Be aware of trends among teens like pre-gaming.
  • Discuss possible consequences of alcohol use, underage use in particular, such as reckless behavior, effect on body development, legal ramifications and effect on relationships.
  • Use teachable moments whenever possible, but especially when a child is confused, curious or conflicted about alcohol use (i.e., when a child asks why Uncle Sam acted so silly at the family party or why daddy’s friend doesn’t have a beer when they’re watching the Ravens game).
  • Help your child understand that some people drink alcohol to cover up or change uncomfortable or upsetting feelings, but that change or cover up is only temporary. Encourage your child to identify and acknowledge his/her feelings and to develop coping skills to deal with difficult feelings.
  • Encourage the building of your child’s self-esteem through activities he/she enjoys and is good at (i.e., drama, art, writing, music, et cetera). This may sound unrelated to the topic of alcohol use, but a child who feels good about him/herself may not look to alcohol as a way to feel better.
  • Role model responsible use of alcohol and be clear that you consider the consequences when you decide to drink.
  • Try to have family dinner time with everyone together as much as possible. You might also want to schedule a family meeting where everyone is able to talk about whatever is on their mind without any judgment or criticism.

You may make decisions for your own children, but it’s not your place to offer or provide alcohol to their friends. Most importantly, keep the lines of communication open.

Having a conversation with your child about alcohol use is not a one-time discussion. Be age appropriate, open, honest and willing to answer some possibly difficult questions. Always remember that you are the most influential person in your child’s life – make the most of that influence while being fair, firm and fun.

Questions about parenting? Send an email to parenttalk@jcsbaltimore.org. For more information on parenting, visit JCS' website.

Discovering Cuba
Monday, March 21, 2016

Mission to Cuba

 

Last month, when 33 community leaders traveled to Cuba on an American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) Mission, they connected with a vibrant and close-knit Jewish community. They explored Jewish sites, visited synagogues, held conversations with leaders and learned how The Associated, through its overseas partner the JDC, is helping this Jewish community.

Yet perhaps the most poignant and emotional moment came when two of the participants discovered they had long-lost cousins living in Havana.

Mission to CubaDiscovering Family. Sam Blitzstein always knew he had family in Cuba. Back in the 1930s, when his relatives left Europe, many arrived in this island nation. Some moved on to Colombia, South America, then later Venezuela – where Sam is originally from – while others remained in Cuba.

“I was thinking about this when we traveled to the Jewish cemetery,” recalled Sam. “I turned to my daughter, Robin [Neumann], and said, ‘I bet our family is buried here.’”

Approaching the caretaker, they combed through an old-fashioned, handwritten ledger looking for the Blitzstein name. “We knew there was at least one person who had died,” said Robin. “But we were surprised – we saw six.”

Stopping at their gravesites, Sam noticed one in disrepair and offered to pay for its upkeep.

The following evening, attending Kabbalat Shabbat at the Patronato Synagogue in Havana, Sam began speaking to 20-year-old, Ana Claudia Rodriguez. He saw her again, the following evening, at Havdalah. While talking about the Holocaust and how it affected their families, she asked his name.

“When she heard I was a Blitzstein, Ana told me, ‘that’s my mother’s maiden name.’ She called her mother, who was at the Ashkenazic shul and she came, along with her 17-year-old sister Enya Danielasister. It was so emotional, discovering my cousins in Cuba.”

Robin, too, was thrilled to learn about a new part of her family history, to meet cousins and to connect with Jews in such a personal way. And that feeling resonated with all those on the trip.

“We realized how we are all connected and all related,” said David Hurwitz, who co-chaired the mission with his wife Cheri.

“Isolated as Cuba has always seemed, the world becomes so much more connected by human ties. Watching Sam discover long lost relatives, not just in a cemetery but present for hugs and dancing, was truly the highlight of our trip. This brought tears of joy to all of us,” said Ira Papel, who traveled on the Cuba Mission.

And most poignant of all, “I’ve been so many places in the world – Europe, South America,” Sam said, “but none meant as much to me as these five days in Cuba.”

Discovering Community. In addition to connecting with the Blitzstein relatives, the group had a chance to meet other Cuban Jews. Perhaps, most powerful, was celebrating Shabbat together.

The community performed for them and side by side they recited the songs and prayers.

“As they sang the Adon Olam in Hebrew with their Spanish accents and we sang it in Hebrew with our English accents, it was clear how similar we are,” said Cheri Hurwitz.

Mission to CubaOnce a community of over 15,000, today the Jewish community stands at an estimated 1,200. Close-knit and vibrant, it supports three synagogues (Orthodox, Sephardic and Ashkenazic) as well as a Kosher butcher. Many attend Shabbat services and enjoy "Friday night chicken dinner," supported by pit JDC dollars.

In addition, a pharmacy in the Patarona Synagogue houses JDC’s Cuban Jewish Relief Project which keeps the shelves stocked with necessities. The Baltimore group brought medical supplies, clothing, coloring books … even supplies for Purim.

“It was so great to see how our Jewish community supports Jews and non-Jews,” said Robin. “And this community was just so welcoming to us.”

Making Healthy Choices at the J
Friday, March 18, 2016

Kids eating healthy at the J

 

At the Early Childhood Education Centers at the Weinberg Park Heights and Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC’s, preschoolers are learning to eat well, eat right and exercise. They love their fruits and vegetables; they dance, they swim and it’s all part of a program called Healthy Choices.

According to Chris Sigman, Program Director, the mission of Healthy Choices is to “educate young children and their families about healthy eating to fight the epidemic of childhood obesity.” The mission states: “We teach children, train staff, and educate parents to help develop a fun and positive relationship with food.”

“Healthy Choices is very interactive,” says Sigman. “The children cut up the vegetables or fruits, they smell the spices, they taste the food.”

In 2012, the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC was recognized as a Let’s Move! child care center and it continues to follow the Let’s Move protocol. Let’s Move! is a national initiative that was launched by First Lady Michelle Obama to fight childhood obesity.

Tips to a Great Plate. Sigman of the Rosenbloom JCC’s ECE recommends the followings tips for children and adults to get started paying closer attention to what they eat and drink.

  1. Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk. They have the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole milk, but fewer calories and less saturated fat.
  2. Make half your grains whole grains. To eat more whole grains, substitute a whole-grain product for a refined product.
  3. Foods to eat less often – cut back on foods high in solid fats, added sugars and salt. They include cakes, cookies, ice cream, candies, sweetened drinks, pizza and fatty meats.
  4. Compare sodium in foods – use the Nutrition Facts label to choose lower sodium versions of foods like soup, bread and frozen meals. Select canned foods labeled “low sodium,” ”reduced sodium,” or “no salt added.”
  5. Drink water instead of sugary drinks – cut calories by drinking water or unsweetened beverages. Soda, energy drinks and sports drinks are a major source of added sugar.
  6. Foods to eat more often – eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fat-free or 1% milk and dairy products. These foods have the nutrients you need for health – including potassium, calcium, vitamin D and fiber.  Make them the basis for meals and snacks.
  7. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables – choose red, orange and dark-green vegetables like tomatoes, sweet potatoes and broccoli, along with other vegetables for your meals. Add fruit to meals as part of main or side dishes or as dessert.

Trying New Foods. Often, parents are faced with children who don’t like to try new foods. It is normal for children to reject foods they have never tried before. Here are some tips to get your child to try new foods:

  • Small portions, big benefits. Let your kids try small portions of new foods that you enjoy. Give them a small taste at first and be patient with them. When they develop a taste for more types of foods, it’s easier to plan family meals.
  • Offer only one new food at a time. Serve something that you know your child likes along with the new food. Offering more new foods all at once could be too much for your child.
  • Be a good role model. Try new foods yourself. Describe their taste, texture and smell to your child.
  • Sometimes, new foods take time. Kids don’t always take to new foods right away. Offer new foods many times. It may take up to a dozen tries for a child to accept a new food.

Help your child develop healthy eating habits by getting him or her involved and making food fun!

Try this fun recipe – Green Monster Popsicles by Pamela Salzman, adapted from Delicious Living Magazine.   

Gather your ingredients: ½ cup spinach; ¼ cup kale leaves, chopped (tough stems removed); 1 ½ bananas; ½ of a whole pineapple, peeled and cut into chunks; ⅔ – ¾ cup water.

  1. Combine spinach, kale, bananas, and pineapple in a blender and puree.
  2. Add water and puree a second time.
  3. Pour into popsicle molds or small cups, add Popsicle sticks, and freeze for at least 2-3 hours. Makes 6 popsicles.
Cultivating Israeli Technology
Friday, March 11, 2016

Barry Bogage at an MIDC event

By Barry Bogage, Executive Director, Maryland/Israel Development Center

Israel has become so famous for its high tech entrepreneurs that major multinational corporations flock to “The StartUp Nation” in search of the next breakthrough technology. Often, however, the innovations are little more than an idea, test tubes in a lab, or computer code on a screen. They have a long way to go to prove themselves technologically and then in the market. So this requires the entrepreneurs to invent two things: a product and a business. If they are a scientist or engineer, they often know how to do the first part, but rarely the second.

This is where so-called “accelerators” come in: entrepreneurial training programs and facilities. In general, accelerators try to provide a soup-to-nuts package of resources and advice so promising entrepreneurs can get their products out of the lab and into the market with as little money, time and heartache possible.

There are dozens of accelerators in Israel today, in all different flavors. Some specialize in a particular industry like Brainnovations in Ramat HaSharon that concentrates on neuroscience technologies and UpSide Israel in Netanya that focuses on social media, “Internet of Things” and Facebook Apps.

Others serve specific communities like 8200 EISP in Tel Aviv for graduates of the famous 8200 high tech unit of the Israel Defense Forces, Kamatech in Bnei Brak for Ultra-Orthodox entrepreneurs and naztech in Nazareth for Israeli Arabs.

A lot of them are run by famous corporations from around the globe like Intel, Microsoft, Samsung, Barclays, Citi, Yahoo, and even Coca Cola. These companies are looking for new technologies for their own use as well as new companies for investment opportunities. The corporations provide funding and a shared facility, and deploy their executives to mentor the entrepreneurs.

There are also a number of companies that recruit Israeli entrepreneurs to accelerators outside of Israel like Baltimore’s own HexciteIL which is Johns Hopkins University’s accelerator for Israeli digital health entrepreneurs, and challengeUp! by Intel, Cisco and Deutsche Telekom which brings entrepreneurs to Kraków, Dublin and Berlin.

The Israeli government is very dynamic in supporting this entrepreneurial ecosystem. The entrepreneurs provide the technological creativity and chutzpah (probably the most important ingredient), the government provides startup funding and incentives for companies to collaborate with Israel and the global corporations provide the market knowledge and management skill. It’s a perfect match!

Come learn about Israel’s entrepreneurial ecosystem at, “The Israeli Embassy Comes to Baltimore,” where the Embassy’s Commercial, Economic and Academic Attachés will discuss how their offices promote entrepreneurship, R&D and business collaboration between American and Israeli companies and universities.

Programs such as the U.S.-Israel Bi-National Industrial R&D (BIRD) Foundation and the Binational Science Foundation provide substantial grants to support such joint ventures. The event will be held at 5:30 p.m., March 30 at The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. To register, please go to marylandisrael.org/embassybalt2016.

Do You Know These Famous Jewish Women?
Monday, March 07, 2016

Associated Quiz

 

March 8 is International Women's Day. How well do you know these famous Jewish women?

The Freedom to Create: A Women's Passover Experience
Friday, March 04, 2016

Jill Max

By Jill Max

After a long winter, and multiple stints with a snow shovel in hand, looking ahead toward spring is a welcome diversion. In just about a month, we will be busy getting ready for the arrival of Passover. The literal translation of the Hebrew word seder is order. Preparing for the Seder and everything that this process represents both physically and spiritually has always been particularly meaningful to me. For more than two decades, Associated Women have created, planned and lovingly presented Women’s Seders that are designed to engage and inspire women of all ages, backgrounds and levels of observance.

When I was asked to co-chair the Associated Women’s Seder with Susan Manekin this year, I was excited to accept the position and immediately started to consider the theme for this very special evening. Many of us have spent time in Israel or feel very closely connected to our homeland through personal relationships and opportunities offered through The Associated’s Israel and Overseas department. During the nearly seven decades since Israel won her independence, the influence of women has made a tremendous impact on Israeli society. From politics, the Army, academic research, fine arts and literature, women have become leaders in every field and continue to shape the country’s future. Creativity, determination and innovation are the driving forces behind the influence of women on Israeli society.

Our theme for this year’s Associated Women’s Seder is: The Freedom to Create. Throughout the evening, we will learn about influential women – past and present – in Israeli society, and we will celebrate the creative spirit of all Jewish women.

There are several ways to become involved with The Freedom to Create:

  • This month, the décor committee is hosting workshops to paint matzah covers for our tables. Email Alisa Rank or call 410-369-9215.
  • In partnership with Jewish Volunteer Connection (JVC), we are packaging A Seder in a Box for families who need a little extra help preparing for the holiday. The seder plates and matzah covers that we create will be included in these beautiful holiday care packages. To help or make a donation for the packages, please email Abigail Malis or call 410-843-7490. You may also donate when you register.
  • Share the news about this wonderful evening. Invite your female family members and friends. Join Associated Women as we prepare for Passover and celebrate the creative spirit of Jewish women. Register today

In addition to co-chairing the Freedom to Create Women’s Seder, Jill Max also serves as Chair of The Associated’s Israel Engagement Center and is a member of The Associated’s  board of directors. She is the Director of the Baltimore Hebrew Institute at Towson University.

Double the Adar, Double the Fun on Jewish Leap Year
Friday, March 04, 2016

Pearlstone family farm day

 

In the Jewish calendar, years don’t leap – they get pregnant. How so? Well, every once in a while the Jewish year contains an extra month of Adar, and the year is “pregnant” with this 13th month. This year is such a year.

Why does it contain an extra month? Well, calculating the Jewish calendar is an intricate balance between the seasons of the sun and the cycles of the moon. The sun and the moon dance to the beat of a different drum. Which means the moon doesn’t actually and perfectly cycle through 12 months each solar year. Because of this, if we followed a strictly lunar calendar our seasons would be off.

Who cares? We care, big time, and to get them to dance together we are willing to add an entire extra month to our busy schedules. In Hebrew, adding this extra month, is called the Sod Ha’ Ibbur, which means “The Secret of Pregnancy.” Why is it a secret? The simple explanation is that it was never known in advance which year would get the 13th month. At times the month was added for winter needs, or spring needs, such as unripe barley, the growth of fruit, wet earth on the roads or even when young pigeons had not become fledged. Whatever the particular reason for that year, the intent was always clear – to align our lives, moment to moment and day to day, with the natural world.

The deeper secret is … that it’s more than just a mitzvah, it’s the mitzvah. A mitzvah is a type of law, like a law of nature, from Creator to Creation, and the calculation of the moon is the very first mitzvah. In fact, Exodus describes this mitzvah as being given to people immediately upon leaving Egypt even before the giving of the Ten Commandments.

Rashi, the famous medieval commentator, asserts that the Torah as a whole should have started with this mitzvah. For it is this deep knowledge of, and alignment with, the natural world and its cycles that we are famously described as being taken out of Egypt and made a “Chosen People.” It is the explicit answer to what many Jews have undoubtedly asked over the centuries – chosen for what?

When we speak of being Chosen, it is in the sense of Isiah’s “Light Unto the Nations,” which is as Deuteronomy declares, “Observe therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, that, when they hear these decrees, shall say: 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” Our tradition is clear as it what these decrees are, as the Talmud says, “what is the wisdom and understanding in the sight of the peoples? It is the science of the cycles and the planets.” We are chosen because we choose to align ourselves with a deep knowledge of the natural world and its cycles.

Huh? Haven’t we lost that? Perkei D’Rabbi Eliezer, an ancient Midrashic source, grappled with this same question and explained that the Sod Ha’ibbur, the deep understanding and alignment with the natural world, had been lost during earlier exiles and returned, and foretold that it would be lost again during our exile and would surely return once again. For everything is a revolution – a cycle – like the monthly waxing and waning of the moon. In our own time, we are witnessing a revolution and rebirth of the deep desire to understand the natural world and to be in alignment with it, the return of the Sod Ha’Ibbur, the Secret of Pregnancy.

In the Baltimore area, Pearlstone Center is a growing resource for that rebirth, with an array of exiting earth-based programs. Pearlstone’s Passover Family Farm Festival is on Tuesday, April 26 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and will be celebrating spring thanks to the extra 13th month this year. Festival-goers will be learning different ways of natural building, making bike-blender smoothies, learning about wild edibles, spending time with our animals and enjoying a farm-to-table, kosher for Passover lunch. This is one of the many great ways to learn about the land in the context of the Jewish calendar!  

Pearlstone will also being hosting The Shavout Beit Midrash on June 10-14, which will include all night Torah study, a beautiful Shabbat experience, cheese-caking and much more!

For a fully immersive multi-day family experience, Family Farm Camp, June 30-July 4, offers campfires, music, harvesting veggies, milking goats, collecting eggs, cheese making, pickling, pita baking and a warm spirited Shabbat!

10 Things To Do in March
Thursday, March 03, 2016

Bake hamantaschen this March

 

Deli fare, Hamantaschen and Chicken Soup. What do they all have in common? They’re just some of the stars of events happening this March in our Baltimore community. Join us this month for one or more of these programs, sponsored by The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore or Associated agencies.

Monday, March 7, 7:00 p.m. Getting It Together: The Art of Organization. Get the tools you need to help your children improve their planning, prioritizing and time management skills. Program presented by Sarah Ottensoser, M.S., CCC-SLP. Jewish Community Services.

Wednesday, March 9, 7:00 p.m. Prep for Purim – Make & Take Hamantaschen. Prep for Purim by assembling delicious hamantaschen – ready for baking at home – during this fun, hands-on experience perfect for all women and children, elementary age and older. Children will get to bring home mishloach manot bags (traditional gifts sent on Purim). Weinberg Park Heights JCC

Thursday, March 10, 7:00 p.m. Second Stoop presents: Camp! De-BUNK the myths behind your camp and camping experiences and give us the real story behind your crazy counselors, summer loves and bizarre bear encounters! Gordon Center for Performing Arts.

Saturday, March 12, 8:00 p.m. Baltimore Jewish Film Festival Opens with Dough. Kick-off the Baltimore Jewish Film Festival with Dough follows elderly baker Nat Dayan as he enlists the help of teenage refugee Ayyash, who accidentally drops a large stash of cannabis in the challah dough. The William & Irene Weinberg Baltimore Jewish Film Festival runs through April 17. Gordon Center for Performing Arts.

Sunday, March 13, 10:00 a.m. Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America. Join the Jewish Museum of Maryland as it launches its cutting-edge exhibit on Jews and medicine in the 20th century. Exhibit features hands-on activities, multimedia effects and 200 artifacts, documents and images ranging from the 19th century to the current genomic age. Stop by opening weekend to hear Dr. Alan Kraut of American University speak about healthcare’s role in immigrant assimilation. Jewish Museum of Maryland at the Herbert Bearman Campus.

Sunday, March 13, 10:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Music Box: Great Big Animals. The BSO’s Brass Quintet echoes the movements and vibrations of creatures wild and tame, offering a great jumpstart to your child’s exploration of classical music and animals. Gordon Center Performing Arts.

Sunday, March 20, 10:00 a.m. Costume Party for Purim. Show off your costumes at this Purim party, brought to you by Ahava Baby. For families with children, ages 1 and under, and their siblings. Play Cafe

Sunday, March 20, 3:00 p.m. Baltimore Jewish Film Festival: Deli ManThe effusive and charming Ziggy Gruber, a third generation delicatessen man, as well as a Yiddish-speaking French-trained chef, is your guide on a geographical and historical tour of the world of delicatessen food. Gordon Center for Performing Arts.

Sunday, March 27, 1:00 p.m. The Lost Airman: A True Story of Escape from Nazi-Occupied France. Seth Meyerowitz will talk about his grandfather, Bronx-born top turret-gunner, Arthor Meyerowitz, who was shot down in Nazi-occupied France in 1943. After fleeing the wreck, Arthur knocked on the door of an isolated farmhouse, whose owners took him in. Jewish Museum of Maryland at the Herbert Bearman Campus.

Monday, March 28, 5:00 p.m. Pizza and Play. Grab a bite to eat, play in our playrooms and meet other families living in the city. Downtown Baltimore JCC.

IMPACT's CHAI-light: Julie Blumenfeld
Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Meet Julie Blumenfeld

 

CHAI-lights shine light on one of our young adult leaders. This week, meet Julie, a transplant from Savannah, Georgia, who works as a Pediatric Dentist. 

We hear you are the IMPACT365 Chair! Can you tell us about that and why you chose to take that role? The importance of taking an active role in my community was ingrained in me from a very young age. On Christmas Day every year, my friends and I would participate in our Federation’s “Trading Places” program. The program paired up volunteers with organizations needing help on the holiday so that non-Jewish employees and regular volunteers could spend the day with their families.

Moving from a small city like Savannah to a vibrant Jewish community such as Baltimore was intimidating. The Associated offers so much to so many different types of people and makes our very large Jewish population feel much more like my small hometown.

I chose to be part of IMPACT365 because I truly believe in the importance of empowering other young professionals to get involved. I want to help the young adult population realize the importance of philanthropy and leadership and how vital they are to ensuring our future.

What is your favorite thing to do in Baltimore? My favorite thing to do in Baltimore is to go downtown to Harbor East and sit outside by the water in the summer time. Being outside near the water reminds me of home and I love that even though Baltimore is so far away from my hometown, I can still experience that feeling!

If you could invite one person to your Shabbat table, who would it be and why? My great-grandfather. After immigrating to the United States from the Ukraine, he devoted himself to studies of Torah, history, philosophy and literature.

He believed that the Jewish people needed a state to call their own and he worked very hard to help turn that dream into a reality. He was a community leader and activist – involved in the Mizrachi movement, the Jewish World Congress, the Jewish Agency, the Jewish National Fund among other organizations. He was a pioneer in helping to establish the State of Israel and lived there as a proud Jew. So many members of my family took an active role in their Jewish communal life and it has helped shaped who I am today.

Finish this sentence: When I'm not at work, I'm: With my family! My husband Jacob and my two children bring me so much happiness and I love our time spent doing things all together as a family. I also love exercising and really enjoy cooking for and hosting friends in my house. My husband and I love to travel but with a two-year-old and a four-year-old that is not always possible.

Join Julie and the rest of the IMPACT community at the 41st Annual Irving Blum Memorial Seminar with Gerry Sandusky! Using his own experiences, Gerry Sandusky, voice of the Baltimore Ravens, will demonstrate a new way of thinking to acquire the skills to find courage, balance and success. Register today!

IMPACT, The Associated's division for young adults in their 20s and 30s, is a diverse group of men and women who are traveling on their Jewish journeys in Baltimore together.

For National Nutrition Month, Experts Encourage Everyone to Savor the Flavor of Eating Right
Friday, February 26, 2016

Healthy eating in Jewish Baltimore

 

How, when, why and where we eat are just as important as what we eat. Making sure to enjoy the sights, sounds, memories and interactions associated with eating are essential to developing an overall healthy eating plan. That is why, as part of National Nutrition Month® 2016, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics urges everyone to "Savor the Flavor of Eating Right."

Each March, the Academy encourages Americans to return to the basics of healthy eating during National Nutrition Month. This year’s theme encourages everyone to take time to enjoy food traditions and appreciate the pleasures, great flavors and social experiences food can add to their lives.

"This year's 'Savor the Flavor of Eating Right' National Nutrition Month theme is a great reminder for everyone to develop a mindful eating pattern that includes nutritious and flavorful foods, while also taking the time to enjoy everything that a healthful and tasty meal brings with it," said registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy President Dr. Evelyn F. Crayton.

The Academy strives to communicate healthful eating messages that emphasize balancing food and beverages within an individual's energy needs, rather than focusing on any one specific food or meal. To this end, it is the Academy's position that improving overall health requires a lifelong commitment to healthful lifestyle behaviors, emphasizing maintainable and enjoyable eating practices and regular physical activity.

"Slowing down and taking time to appreciate the positive emotions that accompany mealtime are important steps to developing a sustainable healthy eating plan," Crayton said. "The knowledge and experience of registered dietitian nutritionists is one of the best tools for striking that balance between creating a healthy lifestyle that includes the foods and activities we enjoy with those we need."

Initiated in 1973 as a week-long event, "National Nutrition Week" became a month-long observance in 1980 in response to growing public interest in nutrition.

For more information, check out eatright.org.

Meet Josh Finifter
Monday, February 22, 2016

Josh Finifter on Mitzvah Day

 

Josh Finifter is a Baltimore native and an avid Ravens fan. When he is not at his day job as an investment banker, he enjoys watching movies, relaxing with friends and playing in social sports leagues. His favorite movie is My Cousin Vinny and favorite television show is Game of Thrones.

Josh is no stranger to Jewish Volunteer Connection. He first became involved with this program of The Associated through the Baltimore Diller Teen Fellows as a high school junior. Now Josh is this year’s chair of JVC’s Good Deeds Day on Sunday, April 10 and wants you to take part.

What is special about Good Deeds Day? Good Deeds Day is an international day of service where people from all over the world unite to give back and to create positive impact. How incredible is it that in today’s world, people from all walks of life and from literally all over the map, can be unified together for one common cause – acts of “good.”

What’s your goal this year? My goal is to continue to expand the impact that we have here in Baltimore on Good Deeds Day. We do this by raising awareness, offering more volunteer opportunities and increasing attendance. I would like every member of the community to find a volunteer project that is meaningful to them and sign up to make a difference! I am most excited for the number of unique volunteer opportunities we are offering the community this year. We are going to work together to address vital community needs. Please consider being a part of something special.

What was your first service project experience? One of my most memorable volunteer experiences was Mitzvah Day, an annual day of service where members of the Baltimore Jewish community unite on Christmas Day to assemble and deliver winter care packages to those in need. I remember feeling the strong sense of community and the positive energy in the room. Every volunteer was making a difference. These feelings are the reason I to continue to stay involved in Mitzvah Day as well as in other similar initiatives.

Do you participate in any other programs related to The Associated? The Associated has and continues to do incredible things. I am proud to be involved in a variety of ways. I serve on the Boards for both JVC and for IMPACT, The Associated’s young adult division. Through IMPACT, I co-chair a program called Conversations Happening Around Town (CHAT). CHAT is a six session program hosted by peers that offers an introduction to the Jewish community of Baltimore in a relaxed social setting.

The Long Road: Overcoming A Learning Disability to Graduate College
Monday, February 15, 2016

SHEMESH

By Dr. Aviva Weisbord 

Sarah Stein was a student with dyslexia. She recalls sitting in her first grade class when the teacher held up a large card and all the students called out together, “CAT!” But Sarah didn’t see any letters – she saw only lines across the card.

It wasn’t long before Sarah was placed in SHEMESH’s Learning Center for help with reading and math, first for five days a week, then, as she acquired skills and learned to deal with her dyslexia, three days a week. By the time Sarah reached high school, she received assistance only once a week and only for some help with homework.

Over the years, she had difficult moments, but one of the hardest was when a teacher called on her to read out loud, ignoring her request to be excused from that exercise. She came to realize that her tough times were caused by teachers’ lack of awareness that there are many children who don’t learn in the classic way, “but they can still be smart.”

While some disabilities are readily visible, learning disabilities are more difficult to spot and to understand. Many teachers and parents have reported judging a child, using the label “unmotivated” or “lazy.” Once they understand, through SHEMESH training and workshops, how hard a child works when coping with learning disabilities, Attention Deficit Disorder or issues of Executive Functioning, there’s a new appreciation and respect.

“My best teacher was the one who, in eleventh grade, saw my potential and saw me as a whole person, not as a letter grade or a messy paper. That’s the teacher who brought out my strengths – strengths I didn’t even know I had!”

Today, Sarah is about to finish college and will soon be eligible for licensure in special and general education. Throughout her college years, she used technology to help her with her studies, accessing free of charge, Google.docs voice typing and makes constant use of Spellchecker. Because she realizes there may be mistakes that she simply will not notice because of the dyslexia, she has someone check each assignment before it’s handed in.

At SHEMESH, we work each day to make sure that every child has a share in the beauty and meaning of our Jewish heritage. Whether the gifts a child brings are large or small, they all join to form the unity of our people. This is the spirit of SHEMESH, and we join in honoring and participating in Jewish Disabilities Awareness and Inclusion Month this February.

Sarah is hoping Jewish Disabilities Awareness and Inclusion Month will help everyone, especially parents and educators, recognize the struggles of children with learning disabilities. “It feels like we climb a high mountain every day.”

Sarah advises students with learning disabilities to remember they “aren’t stupid. Everyone has challenges in life. Don’t sell yourself short, and, most of all, follow your dreams!”

When Hashem told Moshe (Moses) to build the Mishkan, the Tabernacle (Exodus, 25:1), He said, “Take from everyone whose heart directs him to give.” The commentators point out that a few wealthy individuals easily could have donated the materials for the Mishkan or it could have been sponsored by the leaders of the nation.

The wording of the verse, however, shows that each and every individual was meant to participate in this project. For this reason, Moshe was instructed to accept offerings from ALL Jews, thereby ensuring that the Mishkan truly would be Shaleim, complete. Only when everyone has a share do we have a whole nation.

At SHEMESH, we couldn’t agree more! That’s one of the reasons we scheduled a Spring Symposium, Taming the Butterflies: Understanding Today’s Anxiety. We know we can help children with learning disabilities and typical children learn to use anxiety in healthy, productive ways and to lower the level of anxiety they often experience.

Join us Sunday, May 22 at the Park Heights JCC for a morning packed with practical information and tips. Because every child has a place and every child is a part of our community.

Why I Became Involved in the Jewish Community
Monday, February 15, 2016

Andrew Razumovsky and Zhanna Maydanich

As seen in Ariel

When both Andrew Razumovsky and Zhanna Maydanich arrived in the United States from the Former Soviet Union, they were introduced to The Associated through the many organizations that helped their families adjust to life in Baltimore.

Andrew and Zhanna talk about their experience as part of a Jewish community as well as the upcoming Russian Baltimore Reunion Comedy Night to be held March 6.

Your first Associated interaction? Andrew: Operation Housewarming furnished our entire apartment and my wife purchased her first car, thanks to Hebrew Free Loan.

Zhanna: I recall waiting in line with my parents, and about 150 other immigrant families, at HIAS (then a part of Jewish Family Services) when I was 5 years old. They were giving out no-interest loans, helping people register for English courses, find work or training. Those programs were funded by The Associated.

Why is it important to be engaged Jewishly? Andrew: Our heritage is very important. Most of us are not sharing enough culture and tradition with our kids. I also believe that it is just as important for us to provide them with a Jewish connection, as it is to empower them with an education, social skills and business acumen.

Zhanna: When I moved back to Baltimore, it was important for me to remain “Jewishly” connected. I therefore decided to live close to the JCC. When we had children, my Husband and I understood the vital role that the JCC would have in our lives. From their first day at the Early Childhood Center, to their daily attendance and participation in the various JCC programs; the JCC touches all aspects of our lives. The JCC unifies Jewish families, regardless of their politics, observance or financial standing. At the JCC we all have the opportunity to connect “Jewishly.” This maintains tradition.

How can Russian Jews find meaning in organizations like the Associated? Zhanna: Russian Jews have a culture grounded in unique tradition and specific experiences. However, with each new generation, these unique aspects are somewhat diluted. Therefore, when Russian Jews get involved in The Associated, they can work with the Federation to help preserve the culture by promoting and incorporating the “Russian” into “Jewish” programming. Through their involvement, they can strengthen the Russian Jewish community and bring all generations together.

Andrew: Everyone benefits from their involvement in The Associated and its agencies. This is not for my kids or my neighbor’s kids. It’s for our entire community. When you get involved, you’ll be amazed at all things we are doing as a community.

Tell me about the Russian Baltimore Reunion Comedy Night at the Gordon Center. Zhanna: The immigrant journey was difficult and anxiety-ridden for all of us. However, in retrospect, there were also a lot of really funny moments. Immigrants got though these hard times together. They united and related to each other through laughter. I look forward to once again connecting with others who shared these experiences and remembering that journey through laughter.

Andrew: I’m looking forward to having a good time with my friends and the Russian Jewish community. We’re smart, festive, opinionated people and I’m excited for us to share in a community program.

10 Things to Do in February
Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Noa Israeli singer

 

The 2016 year is officially underway, it is time to hop into this year’s happenings. During the month of February, check out all of these great events and learning opportunities sponsored by The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore or Associated agencies.

Saturday, February 6, 8:00 p.m. Noa (Achinoam Nini). Noa (Achinoam Nini), Israel's leading international singer/songwriter, returns to Baltimore to celebrate the Gordon’s 20th anniversary. Gordon Center for Performing Arts.

Tuesday, February 16, 10:15-11:00 a.m. Join Jewish Volunteer Connection’s Bookworms. Spend one hour each month reading to first grade students. Please bring a new or gently used book to read and donate to the class. Federal Hill Prepatory School.

Thursday, February 18, 12:00 p.m. Welcome to Planet Earth: Do you know what you’re doing here? Imagine the life you can create thanks to this motivational talk by celebrated speaker Nili Couzens, founder of Jewish Life Seminars, during this lunch session exclusively for women. The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

Saturday, February 20, 8:00 p.m. ZviDance in “Dabke.” The bold artistic direction of Israeli-born choreographer Zvi Gotheiner enlightens and amazes audiences with its liquid movement, diversity of ensembles and Middle Eastern communal themes. Gordon Center for Performing Arts. 

Sunday, February 21, 9:30 a.m. Maimonides Society Brunch: Medical Cannabis in Maryland. Delegate Dr. Dan Morhaim and Dr. Mary Lynn McPherson, vice-chair for education in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science at the University of Maryland, will discuss Maryland's medical cannabis program and how it can be best applied for health providers and patients. Suburban Country Club.

Sunday, February 21, 10:00 a.m. or 11:00 a.m. Peabody at the JMM. Registration is essential for this tailor-made musical exploration, featuring songs by Peabody Institute Chair of Early Childhood Dr. Eric Rasmussen. Jewish Museum of Maryland at the Herbert Bearman Campus.

Sunday, February 21, 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. JDAIM Reads for Kids Storytime. In celebration of Jewish Disabilities Awareness and Inclusion Month, stop by Michael’s Crafts in Owings Mills for a special children’s hour. Enjoy a story, The Mitting String, by Jennifer Rosen and make a craft. Michael's Crafts.

Monday, February 22, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Meet the Experts: From Nanny to Nursery School. Come for pizza and wine; stay for the informative session about the perfect preschool for your child. Downtown Baltimore JCC.

Sunday, February 28, 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. Alice in Wonderland by Ballet Theater of Maryland. You will be dazzled by this Lewis Carroll classic as the Ballet Theatre of Maryland weaves together dance, theater and music to bring Wonderland to life. Gordon Center for Performing Arts.

Sunday, February 28, 6:00 – 8:15 p.m. Pearlstone Kitchen: Farm-to-Table Persian Night. Join us at Pearlstone for an evening of farm-to-table, kosher Persian cuisine. Enjoy a multi-course feast while learning about Jewish Persia and enjoy a cooking demonstration of a traditional Persian dish. Pearlstone Center.

A Party With A Purpose
Wednesday, February 03, 2016

JVC's party with a purpose

By Lindsay Klatsky

I grew up in Baltimore in a traditional Jewish home, so Judaism always played a large role in my life. Following college, I lived in New York City before moving back to Baltimore with my husband and 1-year-old son.  

It had been 12 years since I lived in Baltimore, so moving back was an adjustment. My husband and I became involved in IMPACT, the young adult division of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, where we developed friendships with other young adults who had the same values as we did.  

Our family grew to a family of four, and the friends that we made through IMPACT also had growing families. We still wanted to participate in events, but now we were interested in events that were geared toward families. Mitzvah Day became a favorite of my children as they enjoyed helping others, while participating in projects with other families. Yet that was only one day out of the year.  

It is important to me and my husband, Matt, that our children, Jordan and Madison, realize that they are fortunate in that they have a nice home, warm clothes and food on the table, and that not everyone in the world is as lucky.

Recently I reconnected with Jewish Volunteer Connection, a program of The Associated. With their guidance, my family collaborated with the friends we made through IMPACT (along with their children), to organize a Party With A Purpose.  

While the children of various ages love socializing, it became important to us as parents for our get-togethers to have meaning beyond just the social aspect. While enjoying dinner together, families created packages to donate to homeless children in the area. Each child went to the store and selected pajamas, slippers, their favorite book and a new toothbrush and toothpaste and packaged them in a decorated pillowcase with a personalized card.  

Following this event, it was the children who initiated the idea of organizing another Party With A Purpose, but this time to grow it larger and involve more participants in order to give more to others. They did not want this to be a one-time event, but rather an ongoing process.  

Parties With A Purpose allows others to feel good about receiving an item they might not otherwise have or even just a personalized note. More importantly it allows my children to learn Gemilut Hasadim, acts of kindness, to carry with them forever.  

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month: Be Aware of Warning Signs
Monday, February 01, 2016

Sad woman

By Barbi Hyman, RJE, Prevention Educator

One in three high school students will experience some form of dating violence. An astounding statistic! In order to break the cycle of abuse, communication and knowledge are key. Here are a few myths and facts to help shed some light on the topic:

  • Fact: 80% of girls who have been physically abused continue dating their abuser. Among the reasons for this are: fear of retaliation, thinking they can “fix” their partner, fear of not having a partner at all, false hopes that it will get better and feeling that they are completely powerless.
  • Myth: Boys do not experience abuse. While it is true that the majority of victims of abuse are girls, boys do indeed experience abuse. It is usually in the form of verbal/emotional abuse or electronic abuse.
  • Myth: There is less dating violence in the LGBT community than in the heterosexual community. Actually, recent statistics from the Department of Justice reveal that LGBT teens are at a higher risk of dating abuse than their heterosexual counterparts.
  • Fact: In an abusive relationship, one person typically uses power and control to gain the upper hand physically, verbally and/or sexually over their partner.
  • Fact: 50 to 80% of teens report knowing someone involved in an abusive or unhealthy relationship.

There are several types of abusive dating relationships:

  • There are relationships that are physically abusive. This is the intentional use of force to gain power and control. One in 11 adolescents reports being a victim of physical violence each year.
  • Another form of dating abuse is verbal/emotional abuse. This occurs when one partner wears down the other partner’s self-esteem or self-worth. One in five adolescents reports being the victim of verbal abuse.
  • Digital abuse is the newest form of unhealthy behavior in relationships. This is the use of texting or social networking to bully, harass, stalk or intimidate a partner. More than one in three teens report that their partner used electronic devices to know their whereabouts and who they were with at all times. Sexting and cyber bullying are two behaviors considered digital or electronic abuse.
  • Sexual abuse in a relationship is ANY sexual act that is forced against someone’s will. This brings “consent” into the conversation. Without consent sexual activity in a dating relationship is unhealthy and abusive. In a high school survey almost 11% of girls and 4.2% of boys say they were forced to have sexual intercourse at some time in their lives.

More important than knowing facts and stats is knowing the warning signs of an abusive relationship. These include: extreme jealousy, constant put downs often in front of friends, always telling a partner what to do, an explosive temper, verbal threats, preventing a partner from doing what they like to do, isolating a partner from family and friends, constant texting, calling or emailing to check up and monitoring electronic devices to see with whom a partner is communicating.

It is important to note that all of these behaviors do not have to exist in a relationship to consider it unhealthy or abusive, nor does the existence of one or two. If a dating relationship is unhealthy there will be a pattern of these behaviors that occur over time.

If you know someone in an unhealthy or abusive dating relationship, tell someone. Don’t be a silent bystander. CHANA is there to help.

What Employers Are Looking For
Friday, January 29, 2016

Doing an interview

By Robyn Geller

Pretty much anyone who has gone on an interview and gotten the job thinks they know what employers want. But actually it’s a question that doesn’t always come with an obvious answer. Different situations call for different criteria and, when you factor in different personalities, it often seems a mystery.

At the Jewish Community Services (JCS) Career Center, our account representatives serve as liaisons between employers and job seeking clients. I recently asked our reps to share their experience about what employers are looking for in prospective employees. Here’s a compilation of their thoughts:

  • Likeability factor. JCS account rep Lauren Harrison feels this may be the number one characteristic employers are looking for in job candidates. She says, “It all comes down to chemistry and connecting with the employer. Positive energy and a smile go a long way.”
  • Experience. Employers want to find a candidate with direct experience in a field or industry, something that’s relevant to the position. This experience tends to be just as or sometimes more important than education, according to JCS rep, Lisa Cohn.
  • Positive work values. Employers want someone who has a good work ethic and is responsible, reliable, flexible, friendly, diplomatic and professional.
  • Excellent track record. Employers are looking for candidates with an excellent track record. Hopping around from job to job can be a RED FLAG.
  • Organization fit. Businesses want individuals who are the best fit for an organization as a whole. This affords the employer the ability to cross-train the employee in other areas, promote them or move them around if needed.
  • Well-rounded. Employers are interested in people who not only have a good work ethic but also have other hobbies or interests and/or are active in the community such as working on community boards or involved with local events.
  • Special Skills. Job candidates with unique skills are bound to get noticed by employers. Whether it’s a security clearance, the ability to speak more than one language or being able to work a flexible schedule, JCS account rep Michael Epstein says these are things that can help push your resume to the top of the pile. Interviewers also like to see people proficient in computers and social media.
  • Focus and Drive. Employers like candidates who are career-driven and have their own career goals, in addition to the organization’s goals. 

Since each employer is different, it’s hard to know exactly what the person you talk to is looking for. These suggestions from the JCS account reps offer a great place to start if you’re looking to market yourself in a way you might not have thought of before.

Employees aren’t the only ones marketing themselves these days. Businesses need to do it too. JCS is inviting area employers to join us for Strictly Business, a networking and awards breakfast on April 5, from 7:30-9:30 a.m. at Woodholme Country Club. Strictly Business honors employers who strengthen Maryland’s economy through a commitment to workforce development. Learn more about the event here

What Is The Age of My Heart?
Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Calculate your own heart age

 

“Heart Age” is the name for the estimated age of a person’s heart and vascular system based on their overall cardiovascular health – or lack of cardiovascular health. Your estimated heart age, when compared to your actual age, is a new and simplified way for cardiologists to show your risk for developing cardiovascular disease.

If your heart age is older than your actual age, you are at higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease. Heart age simplifies the evaluation of heart risk and, hopefully, motivates more people to start and continue heart-healthy lifestyle changes. So, if you are 40 years old and a cardiologist told you that your heart is actually 60 years old – that can grab your attention!

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of illness and death in the world, which includes the development of either:

  • coronary heart disease (e.g. death from heart disease, myocardial infarction or “heart attack” and angina or “chest pain”)
  • cerebrovascular disease (e.g. ischemic stroke, hemorrhagic stroke and transient ischemic attack or “TIA”)
  • peripheral artery disease (e.g. intermittent claudication) heart failure

A recent CDC study estimated the heart age and differences between estimated heart age and actual age, termed excess heart age, among United States adults 30-74 years old. The estimated heart age was significantly higher than the actual age. Overall, the estimated heart age for men and women was 8 and 5 years older than their actual age, respectively. Interestingly, excess heart age was lowest for men and women in Utah (only, 6 and 3 years older, respectively) and highest in Mississippi (shockingly, 10 and 9 years older, respectively). So, in Mississippi, people’s hearts are a DECADE older than their actual age! Overall, 3 out of 4 Americans had an estimated heart age that was older than their actual age. So, it’s concerning to know that only a small proportion of adults are meeting ideal cardiovascular health goals.

What is My Heart Age? Estimating your heart age is very simple. Before you are able to do the calculation, you need two important heart health measures:

  1. Systolic blood pressure, which is the “top number” of your blood pressure. You can use a recent blood pressure measurement from a doctor’s visit, from a grocery store or retail pharmacy, or from your own blood pressure machine at home.
  2. Body mass index (BMI), which is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. 

After you have your systolic blood pressure and body mass index, you can go to the Heart Age Predictor, which will guide you through the process of estimating your heart age. For example, a male who is 30 years old with a systolic blood pressure of 125 mm Hg, no hypertension (high blood pressure), current smoker, no diabetes and with a body mass index of 22.5 has an estimated heart age of 38 years old. This is eight years older than his actual age, because of current smoking!

It should be noted that additional heart-healthy lifestyle habits, including lowering salt consumption, increasing physical activity and eating a heart-healthy diet, play a very important role in reducing cardiovascular disease but are not necessarily included in the heart age calculation.

Can I Change My Heart Age? What if your heart age is actually older than you are? Well, adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle can reduce your heart age. The recent CDC study found that quitting smoking for one year alone would reduce estimated heart age by 14 years (for males) or 15 years (for females), reducing systolic blood pressure to 120 mm Hg alone would reduce estimated heart age by 6 years (for males) or 10 years (for females), and removing both risk factors would lower estimated heart age by 19 years (for males) or 23 years (for females). These are very dramatic changes with improvements in just two cardiovascular disease risk factors!

There are a number of cardiovascular disease risk factors, including high blood pressure, smoking, high blood cholesterol, diabetes and being overweight or obese. Major guidelines state that the majority of cardiovascular disease could be prevented by heart-healthy lifestyle changes and adherence to recommended treatments. A recent study showed that if high blood cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and smoking completely disappeared, 50% of cardiovascular deaths could be prevented. In that study, diabetes, high blood pressure and smoking were found to be the most important!

Another ground breaking study showed that men who don’t smoke, walked or cycled at least 40 minutes a day and exercised at least one hour a week, had a waist circumference under 37.4 inches, drank moderately and ate a heart-healthy diet had a 86% lower risk of heart attack. It is very clear from recent studies that a heart-healthy lifestyle can make your heart younger!

The use of an estimated heart age is an easy and effective way to understand your individual risk for cardiovascular disease. Hopefully this simple tool will motivate more people to adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle in order to prevent future heart and vascular disease, including strokes. Take control of your health!

Jewish Foods You Must Try
Tuesday, January 26, 2016

shakshuka a traditional Jewish food

 

These traditional Jewish foods pack a flavor punch for your tastebuds and Jewish neshama (soul). Want savory? Got it. Prefer sweet? Done. Missing your babushka? Remember her with our apple cake recipe. Whether you want a nosh or a main course, here’s the intel on Jewish foods you simply must try.

Brisket: Made with a cut from the front of the cow, brisket is simmered, bathed in herbs and vegetables. Some cooks swear by a ketchup and onion soup mix. No matter the ingredients, the secret is to roast brisket at a low temperature for hours to achieve tender, savory flavor.

Challah: Sweet and golden, this braided bread is traditionally served during Shabbat and holidays. Though you can pick up one readymade at most bakeries or supermarkets, you’ll love the taste, smell and sense of accomplishment when you make your own. Bring your children into the experience by letting them roll, knead and add flavors they love.

Knish: Reminiscent of a pirajok, a knish is a baked flour dumpling filled with your choice of mashed potato and onion, chopped liver, kasha (buckwheat), spinach, mushroom, or cheese. These traditional treats are great as an appetizer or side. Buy them or bake your own.

Jewish apple cake: Known to many of us as Sharlotka, this treat is light, spongy and bursting with apple chunks. The traditional Jewish apple cake is pareve, meaning it contains neither meat nor dairy. It’s an ideal dessert year-round, though you’ll often enjoy it during the High Holidays in the fall.

Shakshuka: Thought to come from Tunisia, this egg dish is popular in many North African and Middle Eastern countries, especially Israel. At the heart of it, the dish is composed of sunny-side up eggs poached in tomato sauce, though there are numerous, savory variations.

Can’t wait! Hamantaschen, a delicious Purim holiday staple, are triangular pastries laden with your choice of fruit, jellies or other yummy fillings. Just ask us about mun (poppyseed)! Make your own during Prep for Purim: Make & Take Hamantaschen on March 9.

Ready to add to kissel and kishka meals? Check out our recipes for the High Holidays, Chanukah and Passover.

Jamie Roa: STAC Fellow
Thursday, January 21, 2016

Jamie Roa

 

What school do you attend? Favorite subject? I attend Franklin High School and I am currently in 10th grade. My favorite subjects are world history and biomed.

Future interests? Medicine and law and politics.

Are you leaning towards law or medicine? Not now, but most likely I’ll start out with medicine. Late in life I’ll probably move towards politics.

In your own words explain what you do as a fellow of Students Taking Action for Change (STAC)? In the beginning we're basically learning about the Maryland legislative system and the United States legislative system. We also learn about our role as Jews in the government and the different organizations that we can support, like how AIPAC supports Israel.

Why did you decide to become a fellow of STAC? I really wasn’t interested in government until my 9th grade year when I took American Government as a course. My teacher at school, Mr. Lambert, got me involved in politics and government. When I learned about the opportunity to do STAC, I immediately filled out an application.

I understand you went to Capitol Hill with the program. Highlights? I was supposed to see my representative, Elijah Cummings, but unfortunately he couldn’t meet us. So we got to meet Representative Chris Van Hollen for a brief time until he had to go to a committee. It was really cool to speak with him about Israel and talk to his top foreign aide.

As we were walking to the Senate building from the White House we were stopped on this walk, there were all these police cars coming out of nowhere and the President Brigade was going down the street. That was pretty cool. Also we met the Maccabeats, the Jewish a cappella group, as we were leaving the White House.

Did you hear any speakers or work directly with government officials? We went to the Senate for a hearing while they were in session. I believe it was a Texas Senator who was speaking. We were up in the balcony and it was really cool to see something in the Senate and be a part of the action.

Were there any particular issues discussed? I believe the Texas senator was speaking about refugees. I think he was more moderate on the subject. We only heard about 10 minutes of his speech. It was nice to hear someone who was in the middle.

Was there anything surprising that you learned about our legislative process? I wasn’t surprised about the process. But I was surprised about how many people work under one person. For example, Van Hollen has so many aides and staff members working under him. I also was surprised that there is an entire office just for foreign affairs and a whole office and staff just for the Democrats.

BJC gives you bills to work on. Yes. We are going down to Annapolis to lobby for our bill.

What does STAC do with the Elijah Cummings Youth Program (EYCP)? Before we went to DC we had mixers with ECYP. They seem really nice and it was a good experience to be around other kids that have the same interests as me. We also went to DC with them and I know we get to go to Annapolis with them for Advocacy Day.

Do you believe the STAC program will influence your future plans? Yes, I feel like it is setting me up for what I am going to do in the future. I probably have more of a head start then others who chose not to participate or didn’t get the opportunity to be in a program like STAC. I know how to lobby. I learned about elevator speeches and how to get my point across quickly instead of taking a long time to explain my thought processes.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? I’ll be 25. I want to graduate college with a bachelor’s in human health sciences and political science. I would also want to be working at a hospital as a physician assistant. I would eventually like to come back here, to Baltimore, so that when I start my political career I will know the area that I am going to work in.

Why Learn?
Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Adult students with their teacher

By Maureen Walsh David, Adult Education Committee Chair and Executive Committee member at the Louise D. and Morton J. Macks Center for Jewish Education

Why? I’ve been thinking a lot about motivation — what gets people to make time for adult education courses and learning for its own sake. It’s easy to see the reasons adult education degree programs are so much in demand. People who complete a program are awarded a degree or certificate that will advance their careers. Some popular non-credit classes also provide tangible rewards — when you finish you can understand how your computer works, decorate a cake or change the oil in your car. But what draws people to adult Jewish education?  

I’ve had the benefit of access to excellent adult Jewish education classes for all my adult life. When my children were growing up, I took advantage of many of these programs at my synagogue and in the community. I learned how to see the world through Jewish lenses by studying Jewish texts. I deepened my religious connection through adult bat mitzvah classes. I broadened my knowledge by completing the two year Melton program. I made time for this learning because it was so valuable to me – it truly enriched my life.

And then I gradually stopped taking classes. Why?   

Like many empty-nesters, I devoted more time to my career and found myself with less free time. The world has also become full of demands and distractions from electronic devices that are on 24/7. It seemed too difficult to commit to a class that met more than once.  I know that many people, whether they are in my demographic or a different stage of life, feel the same way. We seem to have forgotten the great value and enrichment found in learning for its own sake. 

Luckily for me, I have had the opportunity to remember why I love studying with other adult learners. I’ve been part of another Melton program — this one centering on leadership.  The classes and discussions have inspired me and really made me think.  I leave each one having gained something that I am eager to share. I am once again motivated to make time for this learning because it is so valuable.

Behind the Scenes with J Camps Director, Emily Peisach Stern
Monday, January 11, 2016

Emily Stern

 

Camp is less than six months away and behind the scenes, Emily Peisach Stern is in planning mode on this first really cold day of winter. It may be 32 degrees out, but she’s already thinking like it is 92.

From the moment she arrives at her desk, she can tell it’s going to be a busy day. A quick check of her emails reveals questions from parents, suggestions for programming and a few requests from potential counselors about employment this summer.

She responds to her inbox, including following up on a request from Jewish Volunteer Connection. The two organizations have been discussing ways to incorporate community service in a fun and meaningful way. They are planning engaging mitzvah projects that integrate with J Day’s Jewish life themes.

Emails done, she pulls her notes together for her first meeting. Right before she leaves her office, the phone rings. It’s a parent, wondering which J Camp would be best for her young children this summer.

Emily listens closely, then asks a few questions. How do they like to spend their day? Are sports of interest or arts more a priority? Do they have a specialty they hope to dive into, like drama, or do they prefer variety? After taking notes, she shoots off a few recommendations, gets an address and promises to send specific information about the upcoming camp programs.

Hanging up, she arrives at the meeting with her fellow J Camp directors, including the directors of Maccabi Sports Camp and Habimah Arts. Together they brainstorm programming ideas for the upcoming summer.

“I want the kids to come out of their camp experience feeling that they learned something, – although in an engaging way,” she tells the group. “I want the soccer campers to learn new skills, the Jewish life programming to engage our campers and our Habimah youngsters to fine-tune their talents.”

The group discusses several ideas, including merging elective programming to give older campers a wide variety of activities to choose from.

Emily loves her job. A former camper herself, she attended and worked at JCC camps all her life, so she understands what inspires kids – and what makes a camp great. She holds a Master’s in Education from Loyola University Maryland and previously ran the JCC Noah’s Arts camp, among other responsibilities.

“People always joke around that there are those who can call themselves ‘J Lifers.’ Well, I have to admit, I probably would call myself one,” she says.

She then goes on to talk about what made her camp days great. "I always felt that camp was a magical place where as a kid you didn’t have a worry in the world. I remember the excitement and anticipation of getting up in the morning and looking forward to a great day at camp. That is the feeling I want to give each of our J campers.”

Although Emily knows the next few months will be busy she is looking forward to making the summer of ’16 one of the best ever for JCC campers. As the day winds down, she knows she’s already on the way to doing just that.

Advocates on the Move
Thursday, January 07, 2016

advocacy

By Maddie Suggs, Director of Public Affairs, Baltimore Jewish Council

Every January, legislators, lobbyists and community advocates begin their annual trek to Annapolis for the first day of session. The city is packed with those eager to have their voices heard by our state’s representatives. Although the work done during session is a fairly public process, the real bulk of government relations work happens behind the scenes months before session even begins.

Each summer BJC’s Government Relations Commission (GRC) studies hot topics for the Jewish community, from the opening of a new casino to fair wages for disabled workers. The commission hosts presentations by subject matter experts on both sides of the issue to ensure a fair and even debate. The votes of the GRC members on these various legislative issues serve as a guiding force for BJC’s work during session. The other guiding force is the Associated agencies.

Baltimore’s organized Jewish community is fortunate to boast 13 Associated agencies and eight operating programs. This means our community members can receive wrap around services from domestic violence education, to housing assistance, to a Jewish college experience. While these programs provide endless benefits, they also require detailed analysis of government funding, upcoming legislation and potential bond bills. This is where the Baltimore Jewish Council (BJC) comes in.

From June to September we travel throughout the city to meet with every Associated agency director. By hearing the stories of clients served, dreams for new programs and concerns for needs unmet, we are able to carve a path for the fiscal and policy requests our team will make to state officials. Whether we are meeting with the Governor’s office to discuss funding for a new CHANA safe house that serves victims of elder abuse or sitting down with President Miller to build support for the Maryland/Israel Development Center’s thriving business expos, it is our conversations with agency directors that light the way.

This session, our team will be focusing on the fight for education access. Many members of our Jewish community cannot afford the high cost for a Jewish education. Through the Maryland Education Tax Credit, local businesses would be rewarded for their support of scholarship programs for the students most in need. Our partnership with the Catholic community around this issue has allowed us to gain momentum over the past year, leading up to a final push in Annapolis during the 2016 session.

Interested in learning more about BJC’s government relations work or getting involved in our advocacy efforts? Email Director of Public Affairs Madeline Suggs in order to be added to BJC's outreach list for upcoming opportunities.

Just Published: Jewish Women
Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Jewish Women publication

By Michele Lax, Associated Women President, and Nina Rosenzwog, 2016 Women's Campaign Chair

Women have long played a vital role in the strength and vibrancy of our community. At The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, there is a storied history of women leading the charge on important issues affecting our community and helping to raise the dollars needed to keep Jewish Baltimore sound.

For 70 years, women have banded together through The Associated and worked for the betterment of families and individuals living here in Baltimore, and those in Israel and in Jewish communities around the world who are also helped by our efforts and support.

In the early days, women traveled in small groups, going door-to-door seeking donations for the Annual Campaign on G-Day. Today, women of all ages, stages of life and from a multitude of professions are at the table addressing communal challenges and opportunities and charting strategies for the future. There are inspiring women in our midst and we are thrilled that they have chosen to devote their time, their talents and their resources to The Associated.

We are pleased to partner with the Baltimore Jewish Times to bring this publication to you. In these pages, you will read about the programs and services addressing the needs of women, learn about a few inspiring women and the work they are doing for our community and discover how you too can get involved with Associated Women.

There is a place for everyone in Associated Women and our programs and events offer options to appeal to women at different stages of their lives. We hope that reading about the work we are doing and the opportunities available will inspire you to get involved. We are happy to welcome new women to our sisterhood of donors, doers, volunteers and all-around inspiring women. Learn how you can find your place in Associated Women at associated.org/women.

This article originally appeared in Jewish Women. Read the rest of the publication now! 

Celebrating A Century of Mentoring
Monday, January 04, 2016

Jewish Big Brother Big Sister

By Beth Land Hecht, LCSW-C

While our Jewish community provides an abundance of ways to do a mitzvah or good deed, perhaps one of the most gratifying volunteer experiences is gained through mentoring. January is National Mentoring Month and this year Jewish Community Services is celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the Jewish Big Brother Big Sister Program, which matches mentors with children and teens ages 7 to 17.

The program was charted in 1916 as the Jewish Big Brother Bureau and by 1940, matches with girls were added. 100 years later and we still have volunteer "Bigs" mentoring "Littles,” leaving a lasting and positive impact on the lives of over 80 Jewish children each year. Jeff Berenholtz was one of those children. Now he’s all grown up, thanks in part to his big brother, Ted. Here’s their story:

As you just saw, these relationships are mutually rewarding and often develop into long lasting friendships. Studies have shown that youth who have mentors are less likely to drop out of school, less likely to become involved with alcohol and other drugs and more likely to have positive relationships with family members.

Regardless of whether you’re the “Big” or “Little”, everyone agrees that being involved with the Jewish Big Brother Big sister program is a deeply rewarding experience. If you're looking to change a life or interested in arranging for a child to have a Jewish Big Brother or Big Sister, please call JCS at 410-466-9200 or visit jcsbaltimore.org.

To help celebrate our 100 years, JCS is asking people to share their stories. If you are a current or former "Big" or "Little,” or know someone who was, please contact JCS.

IMPACT's CHAI-light: Sarah Rose Attman
Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Sarah Rose Attman

 

CHAI-lights shine light on one of our young adult leaders. This week, meet Sarah, a Charm City native who founded her own public relations firm.

What do you do for a living? Founder of Sarah Rose Public Relations. My job is to get clients into the news (print, online and broadcast) and to tell their stories. We work with businesses all over the country!

We hear you are participating in CHAT! Can you tell us about that? Why did you choose to participate? I recently moved back to Baltimore and thought that CHAT would be a great way to meet new people. As an adult, it can be hard to make new friends! Even though I grew up in Baltimore, a lot of my childhood friends live elsewhere or we lost touch. CHAT was an opportunity to connect with Jewish young people in Baltimore who shared my values.

Though I was not able to make it all CHAT meet ups, the ones I did attend were fantastic. Not only did I meet new people, but I also saw familiar faces from grade school. It was great catching up!

As a side note, I went to CHAT by myself which was totally out of my comfort zone. But the hosts made me feel welcomed and everyone was friendly.

I particularly enjoyed the Shabbat potluck dinner. While we were singing the Shabbat prayers, I realized that I have never done a traditional Shabbat dinner among peers. All the melodies and songs came back to me. I felt a strong connection to not only these new people but also my Jewish upbringing.

Since CHAT, I have maintained a few of the relationships from the program. Now when I see their familiar faces at Jewish events or out and about, I can say hi and feel part of the community.

What is your favorite spot to grab a bite in Baltimore? Azumi at the Four Seasons.

If you could invite one person to your Shabbat table, who would it be and why?Because I’m in the public relations business, I am obsessed with the media. To me, they are rockstars! So I’d love to meet one of the producers of The Today Show, Good Morning America or even Dr. Oz. That would be great for business because I could pitch clients to those shows with a new personal connection. Getting on any of those shows is like winning the lottery!

Another media mogul I’d like to meet would be Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue. Though of course that would be terrifying – what would I wear?! 

Finish this sentence: When I’m not at work, I’m... Living the good, yet simple life. I like to travel, dine out at great restaurants and spend time with family, friends and my dog Milo.

IMPACT, The Associated's division for young adults in their 20s and 30s, is a diverse group of men and women who are traveling on their Jewish journeys in Baltimore together.

Five Ways to Thrive in Your Neighborhood During Winter
Tuesday, December 22, 2015

snow removal

By Rachel Moses

Life is busy; we all know that. It’s very easy to keep to yourself or put certain house tasks off when the sun goes down earlier and the weather gets colder. Here are five ways you can have – and to help others have – a cheerier winter.

  1. Help a fellow neighbor. Winter can be a lonely time for older adults who can’t leave their homes as often as they did when they were younger. By volunteering on your own, or with friends or family, you can brighten someone’s day. CHAI’s Adopt-a-Neighbor program encourages volunteers to make winter a little easier for seniors by weatherizing windows and/or shoveling snow. Plus, there is the added bonus of companionship that comes with assisting the same neighbor for an extended period of time.
  2. Connect with your neighbors. Your community is filled with residents of all ages and abilities. The saying, ‘It Takes a Village,’ is taken literally at CHAI. But CHAI’s Northwest Neighbors Connecting (NNC) village isn’t about raising children; it’s about sustaining relationships as older adults. From friendly phone calls, social events and leadership development to volunteer opportunities and emergency preparedness support, NNC offers its members many opportunities to truly be a part of a wonderful community. This winter, become a volunteer and join NNC – take a senior to a doctor’s appointment or share a conversation with someone who can’t get out.
  3. Lower your energy bills. With energy prices going up, CHAI can help you keep your home energy costs with an interest-free Energy Savings Loan programs of up to $10,000. These loans are available to neighbors living in Greenspring, Pikesville, Owings Mills, Reisterstown and the five northwest Baltimore City neighborhoods: Cheswolde, Cross Country, Fallstaff, Glen and Mt. Washington. There are no income restrictions but, depending on your income, you might be eligible for special grants on top of your loan.
  4. Maintain your home. CHAI has two partner programs to help individuals thrive in their homes successfully. CHAI’s Senior Home Repair and Benefits Programs provide necessary repairs and accessibility modifications for eligible low income homeowners age 62 and older as well as adults with disabilities. Eligible neighbors are able offered home safety assessments and housing related referrals, advocacy, application completion and assistive devices. Visit chaibaltimore.org/shr for more information and to see if you qualify. CHAI’s Home Solutions program makes it easy for neighbors of all ages to achieve home safety and energy efficiency. It provides weatherization services to Baltimore City, Howard County and select zip codes in Baltimore County.
  5. Appreciate your neighbors. The best way to have a good neighbor is to be a good neighbor and communication is a key ingredient. Everyone loves a fun block party in the summer, but what about throwing a shoveling party in the winter? When neighbors work together with a common goal (which could be as mundane as snow removal), a certain comaraderie forms as memories are made. CHAI’s website has beneficial community organizing information that will help your neighborhood to be cleaner, safer, healthier and better place to live. Visit chaibaltimore.org/communityorganizing for information about organizing block projects, obtaining grants and useful resources.

CHAI is an agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore and is committed to equal housing opportunity.

My Wellness Journey
Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Courtney Federoff blog

By Courtney Federoff

My journey begins in July of 2014. I guess my real journey began over the last few years as my weight increased quite a bit. By July 2014, I had hit my “never going to be that heavy weight” and I literally couldn’t sleep one night so got on Groupon and bought a month pass to Believer’s boot camp.

A few days later, I started working out. I worked out an average of three times per week. After the initial shock, I really started to like it and was motivated. Since I had a significant amount of weight to lose, I monitored it often. The weight started melting off. I was so motivated that I got inspired to start eating healthy and stop smoking. I figured, what is the point in having a great workout if I’m out of breath the whole time.

I started cooking more at home and paying attention to what I was consuming. I gave up bread and pasta because they were weaknesses. I also limited myself to one snack per day and, once I was really in the swing, stopped sweets all together. Honestly, once it was out of my system, I wasn’t craving it. I aimed for veggies and proteins for my meals.

The weight kept coming off. I felt better. I used to get reoccurring bronchitis every few months but after starting my journey, I only had a short occurrence once this year.

I hit my goal weight in April 2015 and lost over 60 pounds. I have maintained my weight since then. It’s been over a year since I have quit smoking and I have no desire to go back.

I’ve been more lenient with my eating habits, but I’ve also started biking and I have been able to continue my regular workout sessions. I really do believe that if you put your mind to something, you can accomplish anything.

I was going through some difficult times and had just let myself go. But I made the decision to change and I feel great now. I recently had my yearly physical with my general practitioner. She said my blood work looked great and to keep doing exactly what I’ve been doing. And I plan on it.

Russian-Speaking Community Supports Chanukah Toy Drive
Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Two children at the JCS Toy Drive

By Beth Hecht, LCSW-C senior manager of community engagement and Rozi Rice, volunteer coordinator, Jewish Community Services

Giving a gift to a child often benefits the donor as much as the child. For families of Russian-speaking immigrants, the recent Chanukah toy drive through Jewish Community Services (JCS) provided a great way to give back to a community that provided support decades earlier.

“I remember we had volunteers who helped us with documents when we came here … and found places to get clothes and furniture,” said one Russian-speaking mother. “This is definitely something I want my son to participate in. This is awesome! Thank you for the opportunity to do this.”

Like this mother, many of these families received support from Jewish Family Services (the agency preceding JCS) beginning in the late 1970s through the late 1990s.  JFS and HIAS helped new arrivals to Baltimore find housing and jobs and settle into a new community.

Their connection as immigrants who were helped by The Associated means many people now want to “pay it forward” today for others. Sentiments shared by families who donated toys and gift cards have been heartfelt and inspiring.  One sponsor said, “For the past 18 years, I have experienced firsthand what it is like to live the American Dream and fight for success in this country.  After graduating from The Johns Hopkins University, and now working in finance, I am at a point in my life where I want to reach out and help those who are beginning to fight for their American Dream.”

For 20 years, JCS has connected donors and families through the Chanukah toy drive. Donors provide new, unwrapped toys, books, and crafts for children of all ages, as well as gift cards of $10 or less. In addition to general donations, JCS also invites donors to sponsor a family. The toy drive helps families receiving assistance from JCS, who may not otherwise be able to provide gifts for their children. 

For information about toy donations, contact JCS at 410-466-9200 or jcsbaltimore.org.

Savoring Shabbat
Friday, December 18, 2015

dinner table

By Amy Landsman

When it’s her turn to host Shabbat, Vanina Wolf of Roland Park brings out her good china, her best linens and anything else that might remind her of her family back in France. For her, preparing for Shabbat meals strengthens her connection to her family and heritage.

“I feel wrapped in this cloak of warmth. It’s as if all the elder women in my family were with me in the kitchen preparing the meal, and I love that feeling. So I use all the things, not only that I inherited, but also received as wedding gifts.” Wolf, the director of the Five Stones Integrative Health Clinic in Towson, and her husband Josh, principal of the Park School Middle School, have a tradition of lively Shabbat dinners with friends dating back nearly 20 years, to even before they were married.

“He grew up with this core group of guy friends,” she says of her husband, who was raised in Pikesville. “They have been very close. It turns out they all married fabulous women that I love! We get along really, really well. We clicked. I think because there’s history. Not just because we started this in 1995, but because the guys have this deep history in Baltimore.”

“I’m not from Baltimore originally and neither is another mom, but they made the time for us and they have a lot of stories to share and there’s a lot of jovial conviviality. The moms have a lot of shared values in terms of parenting and cultural interests. And we all love food!”

The Wolfs’ three kids, 15-year-old Nöe and 9-year-old twins Jacob and Daniel have been raised with the Shabbat dinners and know all the prayers and traditions by heart.

The group started out with about four to six people, at one point it grew to 10. Then the couples started having children, and these days there can be up to 25 people at the meal, depending on who is in town. The kids range in age from six to 15.

In the early years, the babies stayed in their car seats while the parents enjoyed an adult meal. For a while, they fed the kids first — perhaps chicken with homemade French fries and salad, or spaghetti or penne — then the parents would eat. Now everyone eats together.

The families share hosting responsibilities. And they like trying new ideas, from backyard bar-b-ques, to picnics at Meadowood Park in Lutherville.

“Everybody will bring food and wine and we’ll play kickball with the kids.” Wolf’s picnic basket always holds wine, challah and candles, and at different times there might be quinoa salad, bean salad, a colorful beet and carrot salad or even fried chicken.

Shabbat and family meals hold a special place in Wolf ’s heart. “My great-aunt used to host Saturday lunches in her large apartment on Avenue Kléber, the entire family, we were like 30, 38 people and though food played a central part, it’s not what I remember best. I remember loving hearing the adults laugh and talk and linger at the table. I loved having lots of afternoon time to play with all my cousins. What I treasure now is the multi-generational connection of those events and how it felt so anchoring.”

The Miller Family. While the Wolf family is in the thick of their child-raising years, another local family has moved on, but finds just as much pleasure in their now-quieter Shabbat dinners. Wendy Miller’s two oldest kids are grown and flown — Josh, 27, lives in Los Angeles, and Adam, 25, lives in Baltimore. Her youngest, Erin, 21, is a senior at Indiana University at Bloomington.

After many years of big Shabbat dinners at their Pikesville home, most Fridays it’s now just Miller, who stayed home to raise the kids, and her orthodontist husband, Jeffrey.

“When our youngest went to college, truthfully we thought we’d have these grand plans about having other couples in the same situation,” laughs Miller. “Come Friday, it’s just nice for my husband and me to have dinner together ourselves.”

Since Adam lives in Baltimore, he and his girlfriend occasionally join them. Her kids are where they should be in life, and Miller enjoys being an empty-nester.

“I still make the challah. I still light the candles. We still have our traditional Shabbat dinner even though it’s just the two of us.”

Miller is co-chair of this year’s Associated Women Lion of Judah Campaign and previous chair of Chapter Two, as well as having served on the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership committee and the Jewish Volunteer Connection Teen committee.

Miller likes to cook fairly traditional meals, with brisket and homemade challah. She’s a big fan of her slow-cooker, and likes to grill year round. While the Millers love their time together, they also love when their children are home, and they can have grandparents, family and friends join them for Shabbat.

However many people you have at your table, preparing for Shabbat can take a lot of effort. Because she enjoys it, Wolf says it doesn’t feel like work.

“It is something we really look forward to, marking the beginning of Shabbat. Immediately, we can start enjoying being present and not feeling the stress of the week.”

As her kids get older, there are some conflicts with sporting events or plays; nevertheless, Wolf tries to keep the time sacred, continuing it as an anchoring part of the daily rhythm of the week.

Wendy Miller's Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken. Ingredients: 6 – 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs; 1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed; ⅓ cup dried apricots, sliced; ⅓ cup raisins; ½ cup chicken or vegetable stock; 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil; ½ tsp ginger; ½ tsp salt; ½ tsp cinnamon; ¼ tsp coriander; and ¼ tsp pepper.

  1. In a slow cooker, combine all ingredients. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.
  2. Serve over cooked rice or couscous.

Vanina's Wolf Homemade French Fries. Ingredients: 5 cups cooking oil; 5 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes; and 2 Tbsp Fleur de Sel or Sea Salt.

  1. Peel potatoes and cut into 1 inch cubes. Rinse with cold water, drain and pat dry.
  2. Heat oil to 350 – 375 degrees in tall, narrow pot. Oil should be filled ⅓ of the way.
  3. Insert potato cubes carefully so not to burn yourself. Oil should cover all potatoes for deep-fry.
  4. Stir potatoes to make sure oil can get to every surface (but careful not to over stir or will become mushy).
  5. When reach a golden brown color, remove with a strainer. Place in dish covered with paper towels to absorb excess oil. Salt to taste and serve immediately.

This article was originally found in Jewish Women. Read the rest of the publication now!

Mitzvah Day Q&A: Jim Schwartz
Monday, December 14, 2015

Mitzvah Day

 

Jim Schwartz started coming to Mitzvah Day because of his daughter, who helped to plan the first Mitzvah Day on Christmas Day in 2005. Ten years later, he marvels at the community of caring individuals that gather each year to provide gifts and services for the most vulnerable members of our community. “It doesn’t matter how long it takes to do the service. . . to offer comfort to people who are sick, support to people who serve in the Israeli or American militaries, to fill care packages to meet people’s immediate needs and to assist organizations who care for people who don’t have the resources to care for themselves. People want to help and make a difference.” Schwartz recognizes that the opportunity to be directly involved in taking care of people’s needs reflects his Jewish values and his desire to give tzedakah with both his time and his money.

For Schwartz, Mitzvah Day is much more than a one day experience. “It was so uplifting and personal that I was motivated to volunteer in other ways and to encourage other people to get involved in volunteering.  I want to work on ways in which Mitzvah Day can be a catalyst for more volunteerism.

During your 10 years of volunteering for Mitzvah day, what is your most memorable moment? One organization that benefits from Mitzvah Day is the Helping Up Mission. I remember one year when I ran into one of my brother’s friends who used to be in charge of the Helping Up Mission. The Helping Up Mission provides hope to the poor and homeless. While volunteering I was thrilled to see him, his brother and his mother, and have an opportunity to reconnect. I was able to thank him for helping people on a day-to-day basis. It inspired and motivated me to do more. This man gave up the morning of Christmas, even though he comes from a Catholic background, to thank the people who participated on Mitzvah Day.

What specifically have you done over the years? I helped specifically to organize the winter care packages so they can be delivered to the different organizations. I feel as if the other volunteers are bringing the packages to me personally. This creates a connections with the other volunteers and myself. If we fill 1,500 winter care packages, I know for a fact that I am touching at least 750 of these; therefore, 750 packages are going to these people who need help, and I am touching 750 people. By doing so, I am contributing to a larger number.

Who do you volunteer with and how do you persuade others to participate on Mitzvah Day? I talk up the event a good storm. Someone from the family in one way or another is always there. One of my wife’s cousins comes and helps out. He has been coming for six years.

Do you have any advice for first-time volunteers? Look inside yourself for the gratification; don’t look for pats on the backs. Don’t look for what you can take away from it physically; look what you can take away spiritually. The fact that you are willing to give is what is important.

Schwartz invites everyone to come to Mitzvah Day and see what a difference a community can make! Learn more about Community Mitzvah Day and register today.

Let's Talk About FOMO - the Fear of Missing Out
Thursday, December 03, 2015

FOMO

By Serena Shapero, JCS Health Educator

Even with close friends, we can still feel isolated on a regular basis. Because we get to hear about them online, read their blog posts, check out their Instagrams and see their Vines, we are constantly reminded that we are not there and it can make us worried that we are losing touch. It gives us instant FOMO – Fear of Missing Out.

There are lots of red flags that could signal FOMO.  Do you struggle with being alone? Are you worried that you might miss out if you don’t hang out with your friends all the time? Do you get anxious if you aren’t included? Do you feel compelled to open social networking or text messages at inappropriate times throughout your day? Do you get yelled at for being on your phone while at a restaurant or while driving in the car? Well, you may just be a victim of FOMO.

Wikipedia defines FOMO as, “A form of social anxiety – a compulsive concern that one might miss an opportunity for social interaction, a novel experience, profitable investment or other satisfying events. It is also often aroused by posts seen on social media websites.”

Fear of missing out is a real, toxic thing that can disrupt your schedule and life but it doesn’t have to take you over.

  1. The people who love you aren’t going to slip away because you don’t “like” all of their statuses or because you don’t show up to every happy hour they host. The people who judge you for those things are the people who you can leave behind because true friends don’t guilt trip you into hanging out. Don’t feel obligated to comment on every post or like every Instagram online.
  2. It’s unlikely that one of the things you’ll regret when you’re older is not having consumed enough beer in your 20s, not having bought enough $5 lattes or not having spent enough time on the internet. You’ve figured out drinking and going out. You’ve gotten your fill of internet memes. Figure something else out. The things you’ve always done are not your only options. Try doing new activities and getting out of your old routine.
  3. People will be open to you connecting with them on your terms. Find a way to tell your friends how much you care about them. Writing letters (which seems kind of old school) is once again becoming a great way to share how you feel. A simple thank you can reconnect you to people you care about and ease your worry about your connection.
  4. Find friends who respect your boundaries and needs. You are just as important as anyone else.
  5. Pick and choose what you do but know how to listen to your body if it ever feels like you are doing too much. If you start to get sick, it means you have overexerted yourself.
  6. Remember that you aren’t in college anymore and everyone no longer lives in the same city. For better or worse, we now have to prioritize the friendships that mean the most to us and spend time with those people first. Consciously keep up on the relationships you truly want and you will feel more satisfied with your close friends and feel more taken care of as a friend.

The Fear of Missing Out is definitely a real syndrome and shouldn’t be ignored. Sometimes just being aware of FOMO can be the first step to avoiding it.

Eight Chanukah Activities in Baltimore
Thursday, December 03, 2015

Have fun with The Associated during Chanukah

 

Chanukah starts Sunday evening. Celebrate with the family at one of these eight great events sponsored by The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore or Associated agencies. Then check out our Chanukah resource page for more holiday ideas.

Saturday, December 5, 5:30 p.m., Downtown Baltimore JCC. Making the Holidays Meaningful. Enjoy a light dinner, stay for Havdallah services and participate in a program on how to make your family’s Chanukah celebration meaningful. Held in partnership with Jewish Community Services.

Sunday, December 6, 10:00 a.m., The Ivy Bookshop. Hands on Holidays. Join the JCC for a free holiday celebration featuring story-time, songs and a take home craft. Perfect for families of children five and under.

Sunday, December 6, 1:00 p.m., Hunt Valley Towne Centre. Chanukah Celebration. It’s a full day of Chanukah activities beginning with Chanukah food tastings at Wegmans. Then enjoy Chanukah songs with the Krieger Schechter Day School Choir, make Chanukah crafts and listen to a special Chanukah story time with PJ Library at Greetings & Readings. The afternoon culminates with a lighting of the first candle with Rabbi Jessy of Charm City Tribe.

Sunday, December 6, 2:30 p.m., Jewish Museum of Maryland at the Herbert Bearman Campus. A Family Chanukah Celebration with Joanie Leeds. As part of Downtown Dollar Day, bring your whole family to a Chanukah concert, performed by Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights. Then stop by the Jewish Museum’s gift shop and purchase menorahs, dreidles and other holiday gifts.

Wednesday, December 9, 6:30 p.m., Weinberg Park Heights JCC. Celebrating Miracles.  Bring your family to celebrate Chanukah, the holiday of miracles and commemorate November 29, 1947, when 33 countries declared their support for a Jewish state during the U.N. vote on partition.

Saturday, December 12, 8:00 p.m., Weinberg Park Heights JCC. Musical Motzei Shabbos. Start your week by enjoying live music from accomplished pianist and vocalist, Alan Levin.

Sunday, December 13, 1:00, 2:30 and 4:00, Port Discovery. Menorah Mania. What do STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) concepts and Chanukah have in common? Participate in a 45-minute interactive Chanukah program that incorporates these concepts. Explore circuitry to light up a potato-powered menorah, learn math concept through candel, menorah and dreidel games and design then build menorah and dreidels with upcycled materials and create unique candles.

Sunday, December 13, 1:30 p.m., Pearlstone Center. Family Farm Days. Experience Chanukah with a bonfire, apple pressing, candle making and more!

Smart Tax Planning for Year-End Begins Now
Thursday, December 03, 2015

Tax planning

By Michael I. Friedman, J.D., CAP, Senior Vice President, Philanthropic Planning and Services

In between gift shopping and New Year’s Eve planning, take time to make smart money moves now to stretch your dollars into 2016 and beyond. Here are three ways to help others and be tax-wise:

  • Open a donor-advised fund: With $10,000 or more in cash, appreciated securities or property, you can set up a donor-advised fund to use for all your charitable giving. Receive immediate year-end tax savings with a gift that will have impact for years to come. A donor-advised fund is a great way to reduce taxes in a year with unexpectedly high earnings or to address the tax implications of a year-end bonus.
  • Give marketable securities: When you give securities that have appreciated in value instead of cash, you’ll avoid the tax on capital gains. If the property has been held for more than one year, you will obtain a deduction for the full market value of the security while any income tax on the gain will be avoided.
  • Build charitable giving into your estate plan: Why wait? Talk with your family about philanthropy and causes that matter to you. Build your legacy of giving for the next generation.

Your generosity in gifting time and money to worthwhile causes can have a significant impact on your tax liability. While tax considerations may not be a main driver of your charitable giving, it doesn’t hurt to structure your gifting to maximize the tax benefits. Before you make those New Year’s plans, turn to The Associated’s Philanthropic Planning and Services team at 410-369-9288 or associated.org/philanthropy to learn more about incorporating giving into your financial planning.

This message is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, tax, or financial advice. When considering gift planning strategies, you should always consult with your legal and tax advisors.

CJE Book Roundup: Meaningful Jewish Children's Books
Thursday, December 03, 2015

PJ Library

By Jessica Blatt Press

PJ Library continues to be an amazing gift – for children and parents. Oh, the thrill of seeing that oversized blue and white envelope in your mailbox each month, and watching as your kid gleefully tears it open! Because, sure, bedtime may not always be a picnic –but beautiful new books make it a more relaxing, more exciting and more meaningful time of day for everyone. (If you’re not already receiving free monthly books, sign up at pjlibrary.org.) Here are some PJ Library standouts:

That’s a Mitzvah – By Liz Suneby and Diane Heiman, Illustrations by Laurel Molk. All parents want their children to be good to others – and with this spirited, song-like book, children can see how many varied, and simple, ways there are to make a difference: Monkeys are “nice to someone new,” polar bears “share food with others,” beavers say “I forgive you,” and various other critters visit the sick, return lost items and show “family love.”

Netta and Her Plant – By Ellie B. Gellman, Illustrations by Natascia Ugliano. Netta’s facing a lot of change: a new bed, a new house and the arrival of a baby sister. She gets through these milestones with the support of her family – and with the example of the seedling she plants on Tu B’Shevat, which grows, changes and blossoms along with her. It’s a touching story that children going through any kind of transition will feel connected to and reassured by.

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat – By Simms Taback. First published in 1977, there’s a reason this winner of the prestigious Caldecott Medal has had such staying power: Its message, that “you can always make something out of nothing,” is timeless. Little fingers will delight in exploring the strategic cutouts throughout the pages and taking in the image-rich drawings, which Taback updated in ’99.

Good Night, Laila Tov – By Laurel Snyder, Illustrations by Jui Ishida. Beautiful watercolor-like images accompany this sweet rhyming tale of a Jewish family enjoying outdoor adventures for the day – playing at the beach, gathering berries in a meadow, planting trees in the spirit of tikkun olam (healing the world). Kids always giggle at the ever-relatable line, “We stopped for dinner, stopped to see…Stopped again so I could pee” – while adults relish the ending, when the parents fall asleep on the couch and the kids tuck them in after a long day.

All of Me: A Book of Thanks – By Molly Bang. One of the most moving PJ Library selections of all, this poetic story, with its collage-style and mixed-material images, highlights for children how wondrous their bodies – and feelings – are. One part reads: “Today I felt so many feelings. I felt curious, and excited, and angry, and brave, and sad, and scared, and shy, and happy, and thankful, and calm.” It’s a book that fosters a special opportunity for all of us to take a moment to be grateful for everything we have, everything we can do and how altogether amazing each day really is.

Davidovs Dare to Change the World on Giving Tuesday
Friday, November 27, 2015

Giving Tuesday

 

Change the world? Without question, Owings Mills residents Robin and Jon Davidov challenge everyone they know to change the world – care for people in need, strengthen Jewish life and reach across the globe.

As chairs of The Associated’s #GivingTuesday initiative, they are excited about being part of a larger, international effort to give back. They emphasize the importance of encouraging and inspiring people throughout Jewish Baltimore to BE COUNTED on #GivingTuesday, Tuesday, December 1.

“Maryland is a national leader in the #GivingTuesday movement because of the generosity of Associated donors, as well as supporters of other Maryland nonprofits,” says Jon. In 2014, Associated donors contributed $1.38 million on #GivingTuesday. Of the need for everyone to participate, the Davidovs are enthusiastic: “Your gift ensures our community’s strength for today and our future. As we enter the giving season, it’s essential that we remember our commitment to each other.”

That commitment comes to life through the Associated’s reach, including these statistics: Last year, 1,500 people received emergency cash assistance to prevent evictions and homelessness. Some 430 people with disabilities received job-hunting help. And more than 2,600 families enjoyed the colorful, new JTown play space at the Weinberg JCC.

Parents of two children, 13 and 11, the Davidovs eagerly promote giving back. “Our children have tremendous opportunities because of the breadth and scope of Jewish Baltimore,” says Robin. “From education to social activities to volunteerism, The Associated builds a Jewish foundation for our children.”

Jon, a financial advisor at Morgan Stanley, serves as treasurer of Jewish Community Services (JCS), an agency of The Associated. JCS is the community’s “safety net,” he says, providing financial help, social services, career counseling and support to manage personal or professional challenges. As state funds lessen, the need for support through The Associated increases.

“We must maintain and increase services as more people turn to JCS and other Associated agencies for help, care and connection,” he says. “Together, we care for people of every age and in every situation.”

This year, all increased and new gifts made by December 31 will be matched by the #110DayChallenge, making #GivingTuesday an even more important day on which to help the community.

“Whether you make your first gift to The Associated or you renew your commitment, be a part of #GivingTuesday with your generous support,” says Jon. Equally important, Robin and Jon believe, is ensuring Maryland continues as a national model for giving on #GivingTuesday and every day of the year.

Three powerful ways to change the world on #GivingTuesday – Associated style! Details and how-to are online.

  1. Raise dollars: Make your Associated gift on #GivingTuesday! Plus, volunteer your time by inviting other donors to make a gift during a community phonathon (9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Weinberg Park Heights JCC).
  2. Eat out! Shop! Support one of many local restaurants or businesses donating a portion of their proceeds to The Associated on #GivingTuesday.
  3. Build a better bedtime: Donate new pajamas to critically-ill children through a partnership with Casey Cares Foundation and the Jewish Volunteer Connection (JVC).
Making the Holidays Meaningful
Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Make the Chanukah holiday meaningful

By Rachael Abrams, LCSW-C Parent Outreach Specialist, Jewish Community Services

It may already have happened in your house. The toy catalogs arrive. Commercials for the newest games, technology and “must haves” are everywhere. Children concentrate on eight whole days of gifts! And as much as you try to focus on the meaning of the holidays – the giving back, the time with family, the historical significance of Chanukah – it is hard to compete with the culture of consumerism that grabs hold onto all of us.

Are you looking for ways to take back Chanukah, to make it more meaningful for your family beyond wrapped presents and new products? Check out the following eight suggestions to celebrate Chanukah in meaningful ways and remind kids that this holiday is about more than just new presents.

Consider giving (and asking for) gifts rather than presents. Have an age appropriate conversation with your kids that gifts don’t necessarily mean tangible items you hold in your hand. Rather, a gift can be an experience, a memory or a tradition. Instead of the latest game (that is quickly discarded), the hottest toy (little kids prefer the box anyway) or a variety of other things that end up by the wayside, consider a gift that allows for adventure. Try: bowling, pottery painting, live theater or a concert, movies, trip to the fire station, visit the library or bookstore, ice cream outing, roller/ice skating, miniature golf or a special meal together. 

Consider a gift that allows you to spend time with family and friends. Our lives are busy, so busy and we often wish we had more time to spend with family, friends and loved ones. Give a gift that promotes togetherness and makes memories at the same time. How about a membership to: the zoo, an art museum, the aquarium, an amusement park, a children's museum, a national park/campground, a science museum, an industrial museum, a train museum or a cultural museum. 

Consider a gift that keeps on giving. Think about what your children – or those you’re giving gifts to – are interested in doing, learning or trying. This type of gift shows that you have a personal interest in their hobbies or interests and allows them to experience the gift over time. How about lessons for: horseback riding, art/crafting, swimming, music, rock climbing, karate, dance, chess, gymnastics or woodworking. 

Consider a gift to share an interest or a passion. All children love individual one on one time with adults to engage in an activity set aside just for them. Think about your own hobbies and interests and how you could pass on your love to a child. How about:

  • Teaching knitting, sewing or crafting.
  • Create a memory book or photo book together.
  • Explore a science kit and conduct experiments together.
  • Go on a nature walk, hike or bike ride together and document your experience.
  • Give a magazine subscription that conveys your passion and read together.
  • Go to a sporting event, musical show, local play or art exhibit together.
  • Give a favorite book and read together.
  • Plan and cook a meal for your family together.

Consider volunteering together. While the holidays are about celebrating each other, they are also the perfect time to be grateful for what we have and help those who are less fortunate. Look for opportunities to give back in the community and explain the important of this mitzvah to your children. Additionally, children begin to understand community and the positive power of a group of people working together toward a worthwhile goal. How about:

  • Checking out JVC's website. Consider being a part of community Mitzvah Day on December 24 & 25.
  • Calling a local senior center and inquire about opportunities to have young children visit and interact with residents.
  • Looking for local toy drives and collection drives. Many local businesses are organizing collections for the holidays.
  • Reading these articles for instilling a culture of philanthropy in your children: 6 Ways to Teach Your Children Philanthropy, The Giving Kid and Raising Children with Philanthropic Values.
  • Modeling philanthropy whenever you can. It isn’t enough to talk about giving back. You have to show your children that it is part of who you are.

Keep it simple – spend time with your children. During this time of year, carve out time to spend as a family, or even one-on-one with each child, without distractions. Kids are happiest when you sit with them and build a city out of boxes, create a pillow fortress, have a tea party or play a game together. These activities create memories and won’t cost a penny.

Teach children that Chanukah isn’t about presents. Chanukah is a wonderful family holiday that often gets overshadowed by the need to give and receive presents. Consider picking one night of Chanukah that is a “present-free night” and explore the holiday together through books, activities and education.

  • Visit PJ Library for a variety of books and activities to share together.
  • Challenge your kids to make their own menorah out of Legos, a piece of wood, paint and some bolts or any creative material they imagine.
  • Make edible dreidels using marshmallows, pretzel sticks, a Hershey kiss and some icing.

Make Chanukah a family affair. Consider adding a family activity to your menorah lighting each night. Here are 8 to get you started:

  • Make your favorite latke recipe and have a latke feast for dinner.
  • Play dreidel or a favorite board game and have family game night.
  • Rent a movie, pop some popcorn and snuggle up for movie night.
  • Work on a puzzle together.
  • Explore together with a science kit or art set.
  • Bake your favorite Chanukah cookies together or try sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts).
  • Light the menorah over Skype or Facetime and sing your favorite Chanukah songs with out-of-town family.
  • Have each family member share their favorite book and read together.

Chanukah is a beautiful holiday that can be special and memorable for your family without breaking the bank. Join JCS and DBJCC this holiday season to share and create holiday traditions at our Chanukah celebration for families with young children from all faith backgrounds. Click here for more information. Wishing everyone a wonderful Chanukah!

Women and Exercise: It's Really Important As You Get Older
Friday, November 20, 2015

Amy Schwartz

By Amy Schwartz, Senior Director, Fitness & Wellness, Jewish Community Center

"Use it or lose it," the old saying goes. When you were young, you probably exercised regularly – riding a bicycle, running around with friends, swimming, dancing, playing sports and taking part in many other activities. As you got older, career and family responsibilities may have limited your exercising, and now you may not have exercised for a few years.

But as you age, exercise should be at the top of your "to do" list. Why? You'll be healthier, your brain will be sharper, you'll be happier and you'll live longer. Numerous studies have shown all of these benefits — and more.  Even if you haven’t exercised in years, it’s never too late to get started!

Women of all ages should participate in an exercise regime, but it’s particularly important for women as they age. Around the time they reach their 50s, their bodies begin to lose muscle mass, causing metabolism to slow down.

Resistance and strength training, such as lifting weights, using resistance tubing and taking strength-based classes, are crucial components of a regular exercise routine. Lifting weights improves strength and posture, maintains bone mass and reduces the risk of lower back injury.

Like women of all ages, women in their 50s should include cardiovascular exercise, such as walking, swimming, stretching exercise and fitness classes, which work the large muscles in their bodies. Stretching classes, such as yoga and Pilates, help maintain flexibility and range of motion in joint and build core strength and increase stability. Physical activity also may minimize the symptoms of menopause and lower the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.

Women in their 60s should not let the aches and pains of arthritis or bad knees be an excuse for giving up on exercise. A decline in strength and fitness isn’t entirely a natural consequence of the aging process – it’s also due to lack of use. Women still need to exercise; however, the activity may need to be altered. For example, walking may need to replace running. Resistance training, stretching and balance are absolute musts! Think of it this way – exercise needs to become second nature like brushing your teeth, then you’ll feel younger than your actual age!

Check out the fitness programs for women at the JCC, particularly those such as Les Mills BODYVIVE 3.1. which combine cardio, core and strength training. The JCC also partners with Lifebridge to offer health programs throughout the year for boomer women.

Discovering Jewish Relevance in Argentina
Friday, November 20, 2015

JDC Entwine

By Lizzy Solovey

Who knew that I would discover the true meaning of my day school education in Buenos Aires and Mar del Plata, Argentina? I have taken my Jewish values with me as the years have passed. After a trip to Ukraine with The Associated’s overseas partner – The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s (JDC) Entwine initiative and the University of Maryland Hillel (an agency supported by The Associated), as well as having traveled to several other countries, I certainly did not expect this particular Jewish experience in Argentina to radically affect my life. Change always comes when you least expect it.

On the first JDC Entwine Insider Service Trip for Russian Speaking Jewish (RSJ) Young Professionals – part of a new partnership between JDC Entwine and the Genesis Philanthropy Group – I was fortunate enough to meet 14 peers, from the United States and Canada, who would transform my sense of Jewish identity, reinforce my passion for Jewish education and reinvigorate my desire to effect change.

As we learned about Argentina’s economic crisis of 2001 and its impact on the Jewish community – an unexpected loss of the middle class, the need for job training services, for food assistance, for childcare services and monetary support to sustain these needs, as well as support for Jewish institutions, such as Jewish schools, nursing homes, the Socieded Union Israelita Marplatense (a.k.a. “SUIM” and equivalent of Baltimore’s Jewish Community Center) as well as Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina (a.k.a. “AMIA” and equivalent of The Associated in Baltimore) – many of us RSJs could relate.

Our families fled the former Soviet Union (FSU), leaving their familiar surroundings and the university degrees they worked so hard to earn in hopes of finding an even greater future. Suddenly, they experienced what it was like to need to accept financial aid for the basics – shelter, food, clothes. Our stories resonated with the experiences of those rebuilding their lives in Argentina with the help of the JDC and other generous North American donors.

Argentinean Jews are resilient and grateful. The JDC’s work there is a beautiful example of Maimonides’ Ladder of Tzedakah, of which the highest rung emphasizes showing the struggling man how to provide for himself, rather than simply providing a quick fix. Our Baltimore dollars contribute to the revitalization of Argentina’s Jewish community as well as many others across the globe through our support of The Associated Annual Campaign.

Today, JDC maintains a community development role in preserving Argentina’s Jewish community. On the trip, we participated in art therapy and dance classes with the elderly (if you meet an Argentinean Jew who can do the Cotton Eyed Joe, that was my fault), helped to paint SUIM during their renovation process and participated in Kabbalat Shabbat with elementary school students. Our help was not a matter of life and death; our service work served as an avenue through which we could learn about how Argentinean Jews are active members, fast learners and eager in their mission to sustain Jewish life through quality community services, religious services, educational initiatives and community programs. They may be learning the strategies and importance of fundraising from North America, but we have much to learn from them, too.

Upon my return home, I’ve realized the most striking aspect of Argentinean Jewry is their acceptance of every kind of Jew. Their Jewish community addresses the challenging issues our Jewish community faces – assimilation, intermarriage, indifference – and they certainly have denominations, as well. However, when you speak to a community leader, there is no hidden agenda. Programming there speaks to the true value of Jewish education and involvement at every comfort level.

The reason this trip differed from all others was because Jewish life is thriving there. Boasting Latin America’s largest Jewish population, Argentina offers an important lesson to learn. How can we foster a greater sense of inclusion, Jewish knowledge and culture of Jewish volunteerism among Jews who are unaffiliated?

For me, this means embracing my unique identity as a Russian immigrant, Jewish day school graduate, Jewish non-profit employee and Hebrew school teacher. This means taking initiative to build the programming I wish to see in our community for those RSJs who did not attend BT, who have not experienced the beauty of Shabbat, who have not made the connection between volunteering and Torah.

In the coming weeks, months and years, I am inspired to further explore and reconcile the layers of my RSJ identity – the one in which FSU cartoon songs and borscht have a place at the traditional Shabbat dinner table for those who have never seen a traditional Shabbat dinner table.

I am excited to be working with JDC as a trip chair on "Inside Jewish India for Russian Speaking Jewish (RSJ) Professionals" in February 2016. Although it's always been a dream of mine to travel to India, I'm blessed to be granted an opportunity to go on this particular trip.

For it is not enough to travel to a place to understand it; seeing it through the eyes of locals, experiencing it through authentic adventures and having the opportunity to contribute to it rather than only consume it truly enhances our personal growth and understanding of the world we inhabit. This is what this trip will offer; if you are searching to find meaning, if you are searching to make an impact, this trip is for you too.

In my role as trip chair, I hope to meet new friends who can teach and challenge me as well as friends who will allow me to teach and challenge them about RSJ identity and Jewish values. Together, I hope we will learn about how fortunate we are and learn about how we can give back.

Will our experiences in India renew us with a sense of Jewish pride and a desire to explore ourselves and our Jewish community in a deeper, more meaningful way? I urge you to join me to find out.

5 Things To Do in Baltimore This Week
Thursday, November 19, 2015

5 things to do in Baltimore this week

 

The cold winter weather is starting to appear this November. Don’t let the weather stop you and the family from enjoying the events that Baltimore has to offer. Brave the cold and laugh at The Complete History of Comedy or enjoy pizza with your kids at the Downtown Baltimore Jewish Community Center. Check out all of these great events for the whole family sponsored by The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore or Associated agencies.

Saturday, November 21, 8:00 p.m., The Gordon Center for Performing Arts. Reduced Shakespeare Company in The Complete History of Comedy. “Rollicking, fast-moving and hilarious!” – that’s how The Guardian describes this clever three man comedy troupe with a knack for taking serious subjects and reducing them to short, sharp comedies.

Sunday, November 22, 1:00 – 2:30 p.m., Jewish Community Services. Helping Your Young Adult with Special Needs Transition From School to Work. Do you have a young adult with special needs and need advice on what to do when they finish school? Jewish Community Service experts provide information and guidance for parents on post-school options, accessible supports, goal-setting and social and living skills.  

Monday, November 23, 5:00 – 8:00 p.m., Downtown Baltimore JCC. Pizza and Play. Let the Downtown Baltimore JCC do all the work of cooking and cleaning while you enjoy time with your little one in a night of pizza and play. JCS will also be leading a child-interactive activity for parents on balancing personal, work and life.

Tuesday, November 24, 8:00 p.m., The Gordon Center for Performing Arts. Chamber Encounters Concert Series: Light Up The Night. Classical music turns vividly alive as Chamber Encounters utilizes innovative mediums and narrative to magnify the power of music.

Friday, November 27, 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., Jewish Museum of Maryland at the Herbert Bearman Campus. National Day Of Listening with Story Corp. Join us at the JMM as we participate in this national scheme to record, share and preserve the stories of our lives. The stories can be on any subject and will be uploaded to the American Folk Life Center at the Library of Congress and saved in the JMM archives. The JMM also ensures that participating groups will receive a copy of their own story.

Photo Essay: IMPACT's Generosity Gala
Wednesday, November 18, 2015

IMPACT's 2015 Generosity Gala

 

Dancing, drinking, magic – there was all that and more at IMPACT’s second annual Generosity Gala. A night to celebrate the generosity of IMPACT’s donors, more than 200 young adults gathered at Horseshoe Casino on November 14, 2015 to commend their achievements. All in all, a total of $116,000 was contributed to the Annual Campaign.

IMPACT's 2015 Generosity Gala

During his speech, Jon Yoffe (one of the co-chairs of the Gala; pictured here with Marni Yoffe, Harel Turkel, Randi Turkel, Dov Hoffman, Brad Hecht, Melissa Hecht, Brett Cohen and Julie Cohen) thanked all of the donors and remarked how their dollars gave meaningful experiences to Jews in Baltimore, Israel and around the world.

IMPACT's 2015 Generosity Gala

Jon invited the crowd to raise their glasses for a toast – to each person in the room, a member of the next generation of Jewish Baltimore, for the incredible impact that they are already making within the community.

IMPACT's 2015 Generosity Gala

Once the speeches were done, guests began to dance and have fun – Instagramming each and every moment, of course.

IMPACT's 2015 Generosity Gala

Entertainment wasn’t hard to find in the ballroom. A contortionist mystified guests with body movements and a magician wowed crowds with his tricks. On top of that, dancing went until the lights turned on.

Did you miss IMPACT's video presentation of Yoffe on the Street? Like us on Facebook to watch it! To learn more about IMPACT and upcoming events, click here.

Landmark Programs on Confronting Uncomfortable Realities Coming to Baltimore
Wednesday, November 11, 2015

By Neil Rubin

It’s disturbing. We know a swastika was daubed on a suburban Washington, D.C. synagogue’s wall not long ago. Meanwhile, the chief rabbi of Paris recommends that men wear a baseball hat instead of a kippah. And in the past few years terror attacks have hit Jewish targets in Kansas City, India, Poland, Germany and elsewhere. But it’s there, not here.  

Well, there was that tension between a neighborhood watch group and African Americans in Upper Park Heights a few years ago. And in September, a Jewish patron at Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse saw anti-Israel notions morph into anti-Semitism. And last year a man shouted “Jews, Jews, Jews” and then shot a BB gun at three teens leaving a Pikesville yeshiva.  

Now we’re not interested in raising unnecessary alarm bells and upsetting people. For sure, the local incidents are as much about ignorance as anything else. Still, it’s anti-Semitism and there’s no denying the headlines.  

What does it mean? When are we overreacting? And when are we under reacting? When do we hit the proverbial nail on the head?  Most of all, how can Jewish volunteers and professionals respond effectively when implored by youth, friends, relatives – even colleagues – to explain and act in responsible ways?  

Jewish Baltimore is about to learn about that and a lot more with a remarkable new initiative. “New Frontiers In Confronting Anti-Semitism,” an entirely local effort, is gathering an array of leading local, national and international presenters for a mid-day, five-part series, running once a month and starting in December.

Sessions, hosted at the Park Heights JCC, will be held on: December 3, January 7, February 11, March 3 and April 7.

I will be facilitating and coordinating this program which will bring in leading figures such as as: Seth Gordon-Lipkin of the Anti-Defamation League; Dr. Robert O. Freedman of the Baltimore Hebrew University and The Johns Hopkins University; Dr. Peter Black of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum; Russell Wolkind of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee; Dr. Rosann Catalano of the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies; Rabbi Geoff Basik of Kol HaLev Congregation; Aviva Vogelstein of the Louis Brandeis Center for Human Rights; college students and people on the front lines of the African American and Jewish dialogue.  

Individually, these noted presenters will explore issues within the Jewish, African American, Moslem, Christian and European communities. Collectively – through conversations and group work – they will leave us with both a deeper understanding and resources to move forward as we seek to craft a healthier society. Overall, the course is designed to give our local leaders the knowledge and skills needed to approach the complex realities that we can all face.

How did it all come about? As Cindy Goldstein, executive director of the Darrell Friedman Institute for Professional Development at the Weinberg Center (DFI),  explained, “We were approached by some of our community leaders to gauge our interest in such a program and jumped at the opportunity. We wanted it to be educational, interactive and something that gave people the tools needed to move forward within a Jewish context. We are thrilled to have such a great list of presenters. This is a first for DFI, on this topic, as we continue to train lay and professional leaders to move our community forward together.”

And, as steering committee member Deborah Cardin, deputy director of the Jewish Museum of Maryland, said, “As professionals and lay leaders we hear things all the time and say to ourselves, ‘Should I respond? If so, how and when?’ When we better understand the historical context and the present-day meaning of what we hear – and what we say – we can help everybody get a little closer to the goal of being a multi-cultural society that is rightly proud of its diversity.”

This new initiative is funded by the Charles Crane Family Foundation and sponsored by DFI, in partnership with The Associated and some of its agencies – the Jewish Museum of Maryland, the Jewish Community Center, Baltimore Hebrew Institute and Baltimore Jewish Council – and AIPAC. It will provide a forum for leaders to question, to articulate ideas and to stimulate conversations. Seating is limited. For more information, email DFI, visit their website or call 410-843-7560.

Maryland and Israel: Partners in Innovation
Wednesday, November 11, 2015

MIDC partnership

By Barry Bogage

Maryland and Israel are proud partners in business and innovation, with dozens of Israeli companies calling Maryland home for their U.S. facilities. Over 30 of these companies will feature their technologies, products and services at the Maryland/Israel Development Center’s fifth annual Showcase of Maryland Israel Business from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m., December 1, in the Observation Gallery of the Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

Through amazing medical breakthroughs, many of these companies are producing lifesaving technologies, both for Israel and other governments to protect their populations, as well as helping society as a whole.

By now, for example, most people have seen news videos of Israel’s spectacularly successful anti-missile Iron Dome system shoot incoming rockets out of the sky, literally. The two companies that developed Iron Dome – Rafael, the project’s prime contractor, and Elta Systems, the architect of Iron Dome’s unique radar system – have offices in Maryland and will be coming to the Showcase event.

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, which has had a Maryland office for over 10 years, is Israel's second largest defense company with sales of $2 billion and is the largest employer in northern Israel with 7,000 staff members. Rafael develops and manufactures advanced defense equipment from underwater technologies to naval, ground, air and space systems for the Israel Defense Forces and customers around the world.

Elta, which opened their North American headquarters in Maryland three years ago, is one of Israel’s leading defense electronics companies and the fourth largest radar manufacturer in the world. The largest subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries, it was established in 1967 and moved to Ashdod, south of Tel Aviv, as part of then Prime Minister Levi Eshkol’s policy of decentralization of industry throughout Israel.

A younger up and coming company is Israel’s Roboteam, developers of lightweight unmanned ground systems for defense and law enforcement. Their family of robotic solutions is used to gather tactical intelligence, dispose of explosive ordnance and, most famously, conduct subterranean/tunnel investigations. When the terrorists’ tunnels from Gaza into Israel were discovered last year, Roboteam’s robots were sent into the tunnels prior to putting IDF soldiers into harm’s way to conduct reconnaissance.

In the medical field, one of Maryland’s oldest Israeli corporate citizens, and another Showcase participant, is Medispec, developers of shock wave therapy technology, which has been called the “gold standard” to treat kidney stones. It is also used to diagnose conditions stemming from urinary tract obstructions. Medispec systems are in use in over 80 countries and in such prominent medical institutions as Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Mayo Clinic. Research results of shock wave therapy point to promising uses from cardiology to erectile dysfunction.

Israel proudly wears the moniker, “The Startup Nation.” Less widely known is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s designation of Maryland as the best state in the nation for innovation and entrepreneurship. Shall we call it “The Startup State?” The future of collaboration between Maryland and Israel in lifesaving business and technological collaboration shines bright and can be witnessed at the MIDC’s fifth annual Showcase of Maryland Israel Business on December 1.

Seven Things to Do in Baltimore This Week
Friday, November 06, 2015

 

The Ravens have a bye so take the Sunday off from football and find something that’s right for you and your family from musical programs for kids to seminars on paying for college. Check out these and other great events sponsored by The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore or Associated agencies this week, including Associated Women’s Fall Event with Wall Street Journal editor and columnist, Bret Stephens.

Duo Amal.  Hear Israeli pianist, Yaron Kohlberg and Palestinian pianist, Bishara Haroni, widely recognized as the pre-eminent pianists of their generation in their respective countries, perform a repertoire that sweeps from the Masters to contemporary Israeli and Palestinian composers. Amal (hope in English) reveals this internationally-acclaimed duo’s vision of music rising above national barriers to celebrate and join people across boundaries of culture. Saturday, November 7, 8:00 p.m. | The Gordon Center for Performing Arts, 3506 Gwynnbrook Avenue

Chanukah and Holiday Gift Fair. Chanukah starts early this year and the JCC is here to help you get a head start with lots of great gifts for everyone in your family. Sunday, November 8, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. | Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC, 3506 Gwynnbrook Avenue

Paying the High Price of Higher Education. Deborah Hamburger, Esq., provides valuable information about the ways to pay for college – loans, scholarships, work study and personal savings. Sunday, November 8, 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. | Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC, 3506 Gwynnbrook Avenue

Carnival of the Animals with the Columbia Orchestra and Dance Connections. Hear the triumphant trumpets of the elephants, the royal piano stride of the lions and the whistle call of the roosters, as Dance Connections performs an entrancing visual feat. Sunday, November 8, 3:00 p.m. | The Gordon Center for Performing Arts, 3506 Gwynnbrook Avenue

Right in Our Backyard: The Drug Epidemic in Suburbia. Temple Oheb Shalom and Jewish Community Services present a program on the crisis of opiate and heroin addiction among our teens and young adults. This free program is created by Gregg Wolfe, in memory of his son, Justin, who died of a drug overdose at age 21. Sunday, November 8, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. | Temple Oheb Shalom, 7310 Park Heights Avenue 

PJ Tweens on the Town at Skyzone. Jump back into summer this fall and join PJ Our Way and The Associated’s Center for Jewish Camping at Skyzone for an evening of fun with past and future camp friends. Sunday, November 8 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. | Skyzone, 23 West Aylesbury Road

Women’s Fall Event featuring Bret Stephens. Join 2013 Pulitzer Prize Winner Bret Stephens as he presents a compelling discussion of the gravest threats to world order in the Middle East. Thursday, November 12, 7:00 p.m. | McDonogh School

Can Anxiety Be Healthy?
Monday, November 02, 2015

A child with anxiety

By Dr. Aviva Weisbord 

When my aunt died after a long illness, our four-year-old son asked a lot of questions about death, trying to understand its meaning and finality. At one point, it seemed that he was worried that he, too, might die, so I told him, “You will be here for many, many years.” With a serious, sweet expression on his face, he looked at me and said, “Yes, but will YOU?”

There it was: He was anxious about having his parents with him, not about his own life. Once we caught on, we were able to offer reassurance and support. That’s an example of normal anxiety, where a child exhibits worry, fear or distress based on his or her perception of an event or situation. There’s no such thing as a life free of anxiety; the only person with no anxiety has a completely flat EKG!

It’s perfectly normal, then, for every child to experience anxiety when facing a stressful situation or a new set of circumstances. A move to a new city and school, taking a tough exam, confronting a very large dog – any of these can trigger dread or nervousness. The job of the parents is to accept the child’s concerns without minimizing or belittling them. How many of us remember being told, “Stop worrying – everything will be fine!” Or, “You’re not afraid of a little ‘ol needle, are you?” The message of acceptance is more like this: “I see this is scary for you. I get that.”

Along with that acceptance comes simply listening. There is often misinformation or misperception and by listening carefully, parents can gently correct those mistakes: “You thought the needle was going to stay in your arm a long time. It’ll be quick, with a little pinch.”

For some larger fears, parents can help by describing a step-by-step approach: “Let’s try a few of those math problems and see where the rough spots are,” or, for the child anxious about social situations, set up some play time with just one friend, instead of pushing a child to join a large crowd.

It’s natural for us as parents to wonder when anxiety is TOO much. Rather than focus on the source of the anxiety (social or academic), ask yourself how much the anxiety is interfering with your child’s life. Do you see your child avoiding the situations that induce anxiety? Is anxiety keeping your child from being part of school life, making friends or trying new academic challenges?

If you see that the anxiety doesn’t subside, or your child complains constantly of headaches, stomachaches, nausea or sleep issues, becomes unusually clingy or easily frustrated, that’s the time to check in with your pediatrician and look for a long-term approach, whether a behavioral program or some counseling.

SHEMESH presents a special program about this topic, Growing Pains and Strains: Helping Kids Deal with Anxiety, on December 1 at 7:00 p.m. Dr. Philip Kendall will share his groundbreaking research and techniques for understanding what children worry about today, when stress is too much and what parents and educators can do to help. Register now; admission is $5 in advance, $10 at the door.

Keep in mind that worry, anxiety and some nervousness are part of life. Healthy anxiety can protect us from harm and can offer opportunities to grow and flex our emotional/social muscles. If we can get that concept across to our children, we will help them cope with the vicissitudes of living and equip them with the tools to face their fears and live fully and happily!

Young Learn Lessons From Older Individuals Through Volunteering
Monday, October 26, 2015

volunteer

By Josh Bender

"Daddy, you know what the best part of delivering shalach manot was? Seeing the smile on their faces."  

These are the words that came from Jacob, my 7-year-old, after delivering gifts of food to isolated seniors in our community. Our first visit was to Sid, who in in his 90s, lives alone and is blind. He invited us in and could not have been happier to have guests in his apartment. He reminisced about Baltimore's history of kosher delis. He was kind, joyful and grateful to have a visit from young children. Noah, my 9-year-old was amazed how happy Sid was despite being elderly, living alone and being disabled.   

Our next visit was with Mr. D., who is 93. He greeted us at the door with a smile and even a dance for Purim. He said that in his free time he volunteers at hospitals to cheer up the kids. He told us jokes and taught my boys (and me) a lesson on life. He said the most important word in life is attitude. If you have a good attitude, you can handle anything, he said. He ended by saying, "God has been good to me.”  

The last person we visited was Mrs. G. She was physically disabled and had just returned from a stay in the hospital. Her biggest concern was that she hadn't prepared anything for us. Her face glowed as she spoke to my boys and thanked them for this special Purim visit.   

These shalach manot visits to isolated seniors in the community opened up a very important dialogue between for me and my sons. We talked about the Jewish value of hiddur p'nai zaken, literally enhancing the faces (making them smile) of the elderly. We talked about poverty, what it means to be alone, to have a fixed income and what a small act of kindness can do to a fellow human being.   

While we were driving home, Noah shared perhaps the most powerful lesson of the day: "Old people can teach us a lot."

Josh Bender is the Head of the Lower School at Krieger Schecter Day School. He and his family delivered shaloch manot as part of an ongoing partnership between Krieger Schechter, CHAI, and Weinberg Senior Living. This partnership, supported by Jewish Volunteer Connection, featured more than 2,000 individual acts of service last year and resulted in meaningful continuing relationships between seniors and families.

For more information about JVC’s community partnership initiatives, visit their website or call 410-843-7490. Meet other volunteers, like Iris Pressman

Five Things To Do This Week in Baltimore
Friday, October 23, 2015

Marionettes

 

Looking for something fun to do this week in Baltimore? Fall is here and with it comes pumpkins. Why not try the Pumpkin Patch Scavenger Hunt for the youngest member of the family. Or hear from George J. Mitchell, former Special Envoy for Middle East Peace. Check out these great events sponsored by The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore or Associated agencies.

Pumpkin Patch Scavenger Hunt. Ahava Baby brings families together for a scavenger hunt designed for babies – complete with cider, family photos and a discussion on Jewish values. Sunday, October 25, 10:00 a.m. | Weinberg Park Heights JCC

Film Screening: Straightlaced. Straightlaced unearths, in a brave, intimate and honest way, how popular pressures around gender and sexuality are confining American teens. Film is followed by a panel discussion on the issues of gender identity and sexuality affecting teens. Program is dedicated to the memory of Neely Snyder, (z”l), co-founder and former co-chair of JQ Baltimore, Jewish LGBTQ Outreach and Support. Sunday, October 25, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. | Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC

The Cashore Marionettes in “Simple Gifts” Internationally-acclaimed Puppeteer Joseph Cashore masterfully manipulates hand-crafted marionettes into vignettes that delight children and adults by exploring our lives with humor, sensitivity and grace. Sunday, October 25, 3:00 p.m. | The Gordon Center for Performing Arts

The Negotiator– An Evening with George J. Mitchell. Hear Senator George J. Mitchell, former Senator and Senate Majority Leader, who was appointed in 2009 by President Barack Obama as the administration’s Special Envoy for Middle East Peace. The first 300 people to register receive a free copy of his book, The Negotiator. Wednesday, October 28, 7:00 p.m. | Chizuk Amuno Congregation

CHANA Celebrates 20 Years. CHANA celebrates 20 years making a difference in our Jewish community at this evening event featuring Joshua Safran, author, attorney and nationally recognized advocate for survivors of domestic violence and the wrongfully imprisoned. He is the subject of the award-winning documentary, Crime After Crime, and author of his critically-acclaimed memoir, Free Spirit: Growing Up on the Road and Off the Grid. Cocktail reception; dietary laws observed. Thursday, October 29, 6:00 p.m. | The Suburban Club

What is the Best Way to Get My Kids Involved in Charitable Giving?
Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Pearlstone family at Super Sunday

By Lauren Klein, Director of Family Philanthropy

Let me begin by saying that there is not one right answer. Just like our kids don’t come with manuals, there is no set of instructions for raising philanthropically-minded children. I wish there was because then it would be so much easier.

Some say it’s a good idea to introduce the concept of tzedakah as early as possible, that life lessons are learned when the children are young. Others say it’s better to wait until a child is ready to take on the responsibility from a place of maturity.

You have to decide the right path for your family, but I believe that engaging the next generation should be an ongoing process that is constantly reinforced – not a one-time event.

I do want to dispel one myth. Many people think family philanthropy requires having a fund or foundation in their name. But, that’s simply not true. Whether your children are five, 15 or 25, there are age appropriate ways to involve them in your family’s charitable giving.

My first piece of advice is easy. Talk to your children about your own charitable giving. Most people assume their family knows why they give to particular organizations. I encourage you to take the time to tell them why. And, tell them why you want them to be charitable as well.

The next step is to involve your kids in the process. There are simple ways to empower your children to take ownership of their giving. For example, in one family I know, the money the young sons contribute to the tzedakah box at Hebrew school comes jointly from the parents and the boys themselves.

You can also sit down with your children and ask them to identify a problem they want to fix or a cause in which they are passionate. If they are very young, you might give them a few options, such as donating holiday gifts for at-risk children or buying winter coats for people who don’t have them. The more you involve your children in the process of giving back, the more they’ll be invested in what you are doing. Allow them to choose the organizations. They’ll feel more connected.

If you have teenage children, encourage them to volunteer for a cause that is important to them. Or, take one day a month to do something in the community together. Jewish Volunteer Connection, a program of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, can help identify the right placement for you and your family to get involved.

I know that college students are even harder to engage than teenagers, but there are ways to talk to them about charitable giving. As you gather around the Thanksgiving table in a couple of months, talk about what you are thankful for in your own lives and identify organizations to which you would like to donate your time and/or money. You might try asking the following questions to start the conversation: What is your favorite organization and why? If you could solve any problem, what would it be? If you had $1 million to give away, how would you do it?

And, if you will be traveling in the next few months, consider using your vacation as an opportunity to give back. One family that I know visits a Jewish community whenever they travel and spends the day volunteering there together.

The new year has just begun, and we are all busy with myriad commitments. Yet, I encourage you to start a conversation with your kids about tzedakah and involve them in the process. I think you will be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

Get to Know Jon and Marni Yoffe
Monday, October 19, 2015

Marnie & Jon Yoffe

 

After spending years volunteering with The Associated, Baltimore County natives Jon and Marni Yoffe stepped up their involvement with IMPACT – the couple is co-chairing this year’s Generosity Gala, celebrating your generosity.

What inspired you to get involved with IMPACT? We got involved with The Associated when I was in law school. I joined the YLC [Young Leadership Council] program, which was two years at the time, because I wanted to give back to my local Jewish community, and network with other like-minded young professionals. After completing the YLC program, I took a seat on the IMPACT Board, and Marni and I have been campaigning, planning and attending events ever since.

What is one of your favorite aspects of IMPACT? Whether you’re Reform, Orthodox or somewhere in between, this organization is about promoting and supporting our community. There are many young people in the organization who are not that observant, but still feel a strong connection to this community and their roots. We love how IMPACT and The Associated strive to be inclusive of all the various sects of our Jewish community. It makes us stronger as a whole.

What made you decide to chair this year’s Generosity Gala? We welcomed the opportunity to co-chair this year’s Generosity Gala because we believe it is evolving into IMPACT’s flagship event of the year ... It perfectly encapsulates everything IMPACT and The Associated is about: charitable giving, growing and strengthening our community and celebrating those achievements as a community.

Why do you think the Gala is important for IMPACT and our community? The Gala is a celebration, and it is important for IMPACT donors to celebrate our success as a charitable community. Events like this foster a stronger donor network, create new connections and friendships and, ultimately, it’s just rewarding to see so many generous young donors in the same room, talking about the achievements we’ve made and the work we plan to do.

What is your hope for this year’s Gala? Would you like to do anything different? We hope to have as big a turnout as we did last year, and we've booked a few performers that are sure to keep the crowd entertained!

The 2015 Generosity Gala takes place on November 14. Registration is open through November 9.

Eight Things To Do This Week in Baltimore
Thursday, October 15, 2015

Paul Simon

 

Looking for something fun to do this week in Baltimore? Why not stop by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Paul Simon exhibit at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, take in a family musical concert at the Gordon Center or participate in the international Shabbat Project? Check out these great events sponsored by The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore or Associated agencies.

BSOBaltimore Symphony Orchestra Music Box: Dinosaurs. What did those silly dinosaurs really sound like? Your little ones will have the opportunity to hear the roars and ruckus of those giant reptiles in this interactive program performed by a talented ensemble of BSO musicians. Join us 30 minutes before the concert for an interactive experience with your child. Sunday, October 18, 10:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. | The Gordon Center for Performing Arts, 3506 Gwynnbrook Avenue, Owings Mills

Jews and the Folk Revival: When Change Was in the Air and the Music Mattered. How did 1960s folk singers like Paul Simon influence music at summer camps and in contemporary synagogue liturgy? Renowned Cantors Robbie Solomon and Jeff Klepper will trace the influence of the 1960s folk music revival in their live concert which includes audio and visual clips. Be sure to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “Paul Simon: Words and Music” exhibit at the Jewish Museum before or after the concert. Sunday, October 18, 1:00 p.m. | Jewish Museum of Maryland at the Herbert Bearman Campus, 15 Lloyd Street, Baltimore

PJ On the Town. What child doesn’t love trains? Come learn about everything you wanted to know about trains (and Israel) from engineer Ari. Enjoy a craft activity, train ride and kosher snacks. In partnership with Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community Day School. Sunday, October 18, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. | B&O Railroad Museum, 901 West Pratt Street, Baltimore

Nostra Aetate Interfaith Anniversary. Join the Baltimore Jewish Council for a dinner discussion with students, faculty and community leaders on Nostra Aetate and the evolution of interfaith work in Baltimore. Monday, October 19, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. | Loyola University Maryland, Cohn Hall, 4501 North Charles Street, Baltimore

Healthy Bodies and Positive Body Image: Important Considerations for Parents. As we face increasingly complex social and cultural messages about food and weight, parents need to be informed about how they can help their children – girls and boys – navigate these messages. Part of the JCS Parent Discussion Series. Monday, October 19, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. | JCS Owings Mills, 3506 Gwynnbrook Avenue, Owings Mills

MagicianThe Magic of Shabbat: A Community Event for Grandfathers, Fathers and Sons. A special night for grandfathers, fathers and sons! Kick-off the Baltimore Shabbat Project, a global celebration of Shabbat, with world- renowned New York magician, Arnie Kolodner, Enjoy a live Shabbat-themed magic show, make Shabbat crafts, participate in the Great “Shabbat” Trivia competition and win crazy prizes. Wednesday, October 21, 6:30 – 9:00 p.m. | The Gordon Center for Performing Arts, 3506 Gwynnbrook Avenue, Owings Mills

The Great Challah Bake. Join thousands of other Jewish women and girls for hands-on challah making as part of the global Shabbat Project. Thursday, October 22, 6:30 p.m. | Maryland State Fairgrounds

Life Happens. The JCC, Jewish Community Services, Sol Levinson & Bros., Inc. and LifeBridge Health join forces to present a series of six community education sessions called Life Happens, focusing on healthy living, caring for loved ones and planning for the future. This session will feature Jason Frank and Leete Garte, talking about Estates and Eldercare: Planning and Resources. Thursday, October 22, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. | Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC, 3506 Gwynnbrook Avenue, Owings Mills

Jews and Muslims Volunteer Together and Reflect on Why They Give Back
Thursday, October 15, 2015

Jews and Muslims Volunteer Together

 

On October 7, the Baltimore Jewish Council and Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives gathered Jewish and Muslim community members together to celebrate the Governor’s Day to Serve. At the event, they collected donations for a Muslim women’s shelter and discussed the strong connection between faith and service in both communities. Two of the program leaders, Madeline Suggs of the Baltimore Jewish Council and Homayra Ziad of the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies, shared with us their inspiration for the event and why they both choose to serve.

Madeline: At our interfaith events, participants frequently ask me why I decided to start a career in advocacy. They expect to hear a story about an inspiring internship or a college professor who found my passion for social justice. My answer, which usually surprises them, is mitzvot.

When I was 12 years old, I joined several families from my local synagogue to create a flower garden and play set at the House of Ruth on our annual Mitzvah Day. When I first arrived, I was a little grumpy to be missing my favorite Sunday morning cartoons and unsure why I was being tasked with shoveling dirt for a local garden. After a full day of digging and planting, we invited some of the resident families to view our final product. After one glance, one of the mothers began crying and hugging each of us. She explained that though the House of Ruth helped her and her daughter escape from an abusive household, she missed having a place for her daughter to play that felt like home.

When I heard her story and saw her tears of joy, I realized the impact that mitzvot can have on our community, especially for those who are facing obstacles and hardships. In this difficult time for Baltimore, these human connections and good deeds are only a start, but they are a start that bring us closer together, no matter what neighborhood we live in or what faith we observe.

Homayra: I was raised with the idea that faith is service. In the urban sprawl of Karachi, a city of nearly 10 million that shares many of the problems of poverty and injustice that emerge in any megacity, my parent’s companions included Zoroastrians, Hindus, Catholics and Shi'a and Sunni Muslims.

These urban planners and dancers, doctors and agriculturalists shared a radical sincerity. Each of them understood committed social action as the perfect flowering of faith. The classical dancer ran a street theater group that taught women in poverty about health, hygiene and their basic legal rights. The urban planner brought sanitation, affordable housing, education and jobs to the most under-served parts of the city.

As I grew older and began to explore my scriptural traditions, it became increasingly clear to me that indeed, what it means to have faith is deeply connected with service to the world around us. It is impossible to miss this imperative, in many ways the heart of the Qur’an. In one of the earliest recorded chapters (Ch. 90, The Steep Pass), the Qur’an asks the reader:

What can tell you of the steep pass? / To free a slave / To feed the destitute on a day of hunger / A kinsman orphan / Or a stranger out of luck in need / Be of those who keep the faith / Who counsel one another to patience / Who counsel to compassion

I often think of this passage alongside a well-loved teaching of the Prophet, peace be upon him, that I know has strong resonance in Jewish traditions: “If the Day of Judgment erupts while you are planting a new tree, carry on and plant it.”

I learned from teachings like these that faith should heal a community, not tear it apart. I learned to always have hope that our smallest action can indeed make a difference. I learned that striving for a life of service is a “steep pass” – it does not come easily. Service requires us to cultivate, G-d willing, the virtues of patience and compassion and to build a community around us that embodies our values. And indeed, service requires us to remember that there is power even in the intention (in Arabic, niyyah) behind the act.

The ICJS has helped me bring this commitment to life in my own work. I hope that together we can bring this hope and intentionality to Baltimore, the city that I now call home.

Meet Our Shinshinim
Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Meet our shinshinim

 

Yuval Sadon, 18, and Matan Adar, 18 ½, are spending the year in Baltimore, volunteering as Israeli Shinshinim. Working with the Macks Center for Jewish Education, the two teens go into schools and speak to groups, educating Baltimoreans about Israel and Israeli culture.

Tell me about yourself. Yuval: I'm the oldest child in my family. I have two siblings – Lior is 15 years old and an athlete and my lovely 13-year-old brother, Ron. We have lived in Ashkelon since I was four. It is my first time in the United States.

Matan: I have four siblings (three boys, one girl). I'm the brother in the middle.  I have been to Baltimore twice – last April (2015) and the April before that (2014) with the Ashkelon "Diller Teen Fellows.” In the first year I came as a fellow, and in the second year I was a junior counselor.

How does Baltimore’s Jewish community compare to Ashkelon’s? Yuval: The Jewish community in Baltimore is very diverse. Being in a minority [in the United States], you need to choose to be Jewish and you need to make an effort to feel like it. The synagogues here are much more than a place to pray. It’s a place that gives life to the community. In Ashkelon almost everyone is Jewish and surrounded by Jewish tradition so only those who are Orthodox go to synagogues.

Matan: I agree. Also, both Jewish communities are very diverse – you can easily find European Jews, North African Jews, South African Jews and more. What I also noticed is that both of the communities are very pro-Israel.

What do you want the students you meet to learn about Israel/Ashkelon? Yuval: I love Israel and I believe that Israel is the best country even with all the problems there. I want the students to know and feel the “Israeli spirit,” and realize how special it is to live in the Jewish country. In addition, I want them to learn about the differences in culture and life that you have being a teenager here and in Israel.

Matan: I also want the students to know more about Israeli culture, to know more about Israel as a state and as a country. I've been asked here a lot, "How do you live in Israel? What do you do for fun?" I think that bringing them an Israeli teenage perspective will answer those questions. I want them to feel Israel is there home too. I want the students to know more about their sister city, Ashkelon. I want to teach them the history of Ashkelon, the amazing partnership between the cities and how different, yet similar, Ashkelon is from Baltimore.

Hobbies? Interests? Yuval: Most of my time I used to volunteer at Magen David Adom (Israeli Red Cross). I go in the ambulance and save people’s lives. I also love to cook, bake, dance. I’ve danced ballet for as long as I can remember.

Matan: I love playing my guitar. I love listening to music too, reading books and working out at the gym. I guess that my favorite music is modern pop/light-rock/country (every song that includes guitar playing in it), like John Mayer, Sam Hunt, Ed Sheeran and Israeli singers/bands like Shlomo Artzi, Idan Raichel, Muki, Idan Haviv and more.

After the Army? Yuval: I want to study medicine at the university. My dream is to literally live in the lab and research the brain. I want to be a Neuro researcher and learn about the brain from its Nano physics aspects.

Matan: I think that after a long and meaningful service in the army, I will start getting ready for college studies. I didn't really figure out yet what I wish to study, but, I have no doubt that I'll figure it out soon.

Who would you like to meet? Yuval: The man or woman who invented the wheel.

Matan: The former president of Israel, Shimon Peres. In my eyes, Shimon Peres is one of the most interesting people. He has a lot of history when it comes up to Israel. He was in six different government positions (one of them is the prime minster), and he knows a lot about Israel. 

What’s been exciting since you’ve been here? Yuval: Every time that we go to class and the kids smile or when the four-year-olds jump and hug us or learn to speak Hebrew, it makes me feel like I make the change that I wanted.

Matan: At the beginning, it was really weird for me to work and speak while working in English, which is not my fluent language. But after my first activity with kindergarten children, we saw that they actually had an amazing time, I realized how exciting it is for me to be here. Second, I'm not a super-baseball fan, but when I went to an Orioles game I realized how fun American sports are! Besides, the Orioles won that game so it was really exciting. 

Yuval: I really like being part of the Taylor family, my host family. They show me Baltimore, tell me about the unwritten rules of the city, and even help me create activities or write emails correctly. They made the High Holidays a wonderful experience for me. The first time I went to shul here I was amazed. Hundreds of people pray together and there was a beautiful sermon about the Jewish community and why and how they can help Israel. I almost cried.

Finding the Right Fit
Thursday, October 08, 2015

Goucher Hillel engagement

By Eli Kaufman

Today more than ever, high school juniors and seniors are visiting colleges. High school students and their families flock to college campuses to tour, hear information sessions and sit in on classes. After spending long weekends and spring breaks flying and driving to different schools, it can be hard to distinguish one school from another.

When I was looking at schools, I was very focused on the Jewish community. I always asked questions about Friday night Shabbat services and dinner. As a 17-year-old, I was impressed with the schools that had the largest number of attendees at events. It was purely a numbers game. I wanted my college Jewish experience to match my wonderful experiences with USY and Camp Ramah throughout middle and high school.

At the end of the college search process, I chose Goucher College because I felt that it was a good fit and a great decision. The Jewish community on campus was everything I could ask for and more, but I realized that I was focused on the wrong things during the search process. I asked the wrong questions. Sure, it is nice to know that services could have 20-30 participants and Friday night Shabbat dinners could be filled with 40 or more people, but my Hillel and Jewish experience in college was nothing like I thought it would be when I was 17. And you know what? That is 100 percent okay.

Throughout my time in college, my Hillel priorities changed. I realized that not everything is about the numbers. While some activities are great with large groups, you can’t usually have meaningful, enriching discussions with hordes of people.

As a former college tour guide, I heard all of the questions in the book. Everything about communal bathrooms to library hours to career services to religious life on campus. After four years in this position, I came to realize that prospective students who asked thoughtful and intentional questions were the ones who made the best choices and ended up the happiest with their important college decision.

Here are three questions to ask that should offer insight into the campus Jewish community:

  1. Does the Jewish community participate in social justice work? Tikun Olam (repairing the world) is a fundamental Jewish value. For many, giving back and making the world a better place is a way that they express their Judaism. College Jewish communities can offer many opportunities to go out into the community and make a difference. Anything from alternative Spring Break service trips to volunteering at a food pantry are signs of a strong campus Jewish community.
  2. Is Hillel an isolated organization on campus or is there collaboration between Hillel and other organizations? The last thing you want is to be a part of a community that is isolated from the rest of campus. A strong Jewish community is integral and a main element of campus life. A way to tell this is based on the amount of co-sponsored events or events that are open to the entire campus.
  3. Is there a wide variety of programming available through the Jewish community and, if so, are religious and non-religious students welcome? If the only programming are religious services and dinners, then the Jewish community may not be one that brings in many people. A strong campus Jewish community has a variety of events, which could be discussion-based, socially-oriented or religious programming. A diverse group of programs shows strength. The campus Jewish community should be open and inclusive. Jews of all denominations should feel comfortable associating with the community as a whole.

Choosing a college is not an easy decision. It is a decision that will determine where tuition will be paid for four years. It is a decision about where you will be living for the foreseeable future. And it is a decision that will change your life and shape your future.

A Jewish community in college should be a place that makes you comfortable and serves as a home-away-from-home. If the campus Jewish community is important to you then these questions will help make that decision a little easier. Happy searching!

My Child, A Bully? The Culture of Mean
Friday, October 02, 2015

Cyber bullies

By Joan Grayson Cohen, Esq., LCSW-C

Although it’s been a few years, I remember being devastated when I learned that 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick went to an abandoned concrete plant in Bartow, Florida, climbed a tower and threw herself off to her death. Rebecca had been bullied and harassed for months by as many as 15 girls who sent her electronic messages urging her to kill herself.

As we approach National Stop Bullying Day, are you also shocked and horrified by the reality that a child can be driven to take her own life to escape bullying? Yet this is not an isolated incident.

Bullying has become an epidemic. We can’t ignore it when more than 3.2 million students are affected each year. What is new is our use of social media. In a click of a button, damaging information about another person can be spread everywhere, anonymously, and it doesn’t ever go away.

Twelve-year-old Gabrielle Molina hung herself in her bedroom in Queens, NY, after she was called “a slut and a whore” online and a video of her was put on YouTube. Gabby’s parents knew she was having some issues with bullies at school, but they did not know about the cyberbullying. Gabby’s sister knew about it, and also knew that she had harmed (cut) herself a lot, but Gabby asked her sister not to tell anyone.

And we are wondering: could anything have been done to prevent this tragedy? The urgent question is: What is our responsibility as parents when bullying is taking place? Isn’t it time for us to face the truth that every child (yes, even our own) has the potential to be a bully, and every child is at risk of being a target.

Sheriff Grady Judd in Polk County, Florida, sent a strong message when he ordered the arrest of two girls, ages 12 and 14, and charged them with felony aggravated stalking in the Rebecca Sedwick case. Judd said, “… the parents [of these girls] aren’t doing what parents should do. Responsible parents take disciplinary action.” The 14-year-old wrote on Facebook, “I know I bullied Rebecca and she killed herself. IDGAF (I don’t give a ____.)” Her father took no responsibility for his daughter’s actions, calling her “a good girl” and saying the charges were untrue. Just as troubling, he allowed her to go back on Facebook, giving her access to do further damage.

Sheriff Judd’s action signals to parents that if we don’t monitor what is going on, there are potential repercussions for our child and for what happens once our child is accused, or even charged with a crime. How we choose to respond, once we know our child has been involved in a bullying situation, has consequences.

We may be aware that our child has been the target of bullying, but we are less likely to recognize or intervene when our child is being the aggressor. Our tendency is to think “not my child.” No parent wants to acknowledge a painful truth. But we need to take off our blinders and be alert to signs that our child might be behaving in a hurtful and cruel way toward another. By responding responsibly we protect our children or another who could be a victim. Our response could also prevent us as parents from being held criminally responsible.

How do we know if our child is bullying? Maybe we hear it from other parents or from a teacher. But we all need to set up our own early warning system and recognize red flags, such as when our child:

  • Shows disrespect for others, talking negatively about them or calling them names
  • Acts as the dominant force among friends, the one who decides what they do and where they go
  • Blames others for his/her problems
  • Hangs around people who are disrespectful or act tough
  • Shows little empathy for others
  • Craves attention
  • Is hot tempered, and both a poor winner (boastful, arrogant) and a poor loser.

As parents we have more responsibility then ever to be watchful, to acknowledge if our child is bullying, and if so, to take immediate and appropriate action. JCS offers support for parents who find themselves on either side of this troubling situation. For more information, call 410-466-9200.

IMPACT's CHAI-light: Orly Klein
Thursday, September 24, 2015

Orly Klein

 

CHAI-lights shine light on one of our young adult leaders. This week, meet Orly, a pediatric hematology-oncology fellow and half-marathon winner-in-training.

Where are you from? I grew up in Atlanta, GA. I lived in New York City for 12 years prior to moving to Baltimore in 2012.

What do you do for a living? I am in pediatric hematology-oncology fellowship at Johns Hopkins. I am specializing in pediatric bone marrow transplant and doing research focusing on the causes of lung injury after bone marrow transplant.

We hear you just got back from Camp Sunrise! Can you tell us about that? Camp Sunrise is a week-long overnight camp run by Johns Hopkins Pediatric Oncology for pediatric cancer patients and long-term childhood cancer survivors. It is completely volunteer run, and is free for the children to attend. About 140 kids attend Camp Sunrise. I serve as the medical director, so I’m in charge of coordinating the medical staff, the medications, lab draws and the chemotherapy and blood transfusions. I love seeing all of the kids having fun at camp; it’s definitely the best week of my year!

What is your favorite spot to grab a bite in Baltimore? That’s tough; there are so many great places! I love Lobo, Fork and Wrench, Woodberry Kitchen, Fleet Street Kitchen, Blue Moon Diner and many, many other places!

If you could invite one person to your Shabbat table, who would it be and why? I’d love to have Zora Neale Hurston at my Shabbat dinner table. She has always been a role model to me, because despite facing discrimination because of her gender and her race, she made her voice heard through her writing. She was a successful and empowered writer, and she was the first African American alum of Barnard College (my alma mater)!

Finish this sentence: When I’m not in the office, I'm… Gardening, going to the farmers’ market, cooking delicious vegetarian food or running. (I’m currently training for the Baltimore half-marathon in October!)

Orly is a host for IMPACT's new program, C.H.A.T.: Conversations Happening Around Town. Click here to learn more about C.H.A.T. IMPACT, The Associated's division for young adults in their 20s and 30s, is a diverse group of men and women who are traveling on their Jewish journeys in Baltimore together. 

Six Family Sukkot Projects
Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Sukkot

By Billy Treger, JCC of Greater Baltimore

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur have passed and we all have a fresh start on a New Year.  Now, it’s time to put up our sukkah and enjoy our first harvest festival.

During Sukkot we can enjoy meals and family fun beneath this temporary ‘booth,’ or hut, that many of us erect on our porches or backyards. Sukkot is a community-focused celebration yet also a very introspective period when we remember the time G-d freed us from slavery in Egypt, to wander 40 years in the desert before reaching the Promised Land of Israel.

So along the way to Israel, we built huts out of dried palms and branches. We took crops and fruits into our sukkah and celebrated the fruits of nature’s sustenance.

Mom and dad – kids love Sukkot! So as you build and decorate your sukkah, here are six projects that everyone can enjoy participating in:

  1. Create a Sukkot party diorama. Get a shoebox for your child and help cut small slits in the top. Have your children cut out small-ish fruit shapes and using glue sticks hang paper fruit chains from the inside top of the box. Add Lego people and tables to compliment the decor.
  2. Make prayer flags. Go to a crafts store and purchase some burlap. Cut the burlap into strips and using markers and other decorations, write a prayer for Sukkot describing what the holiday means to your child. Hang all the prayers in your sukkah. Save your old flags, and see what you and your children wrote from year to year.
  3. As this is a gorgeous time of year, take a nature walk and collect pinecones. Paint the pinecones in whatever colors you choose. You can tie the pinecones together to make a chain and staple or tape the chain to the sukkah wall.
  4. Kids (and moms and dads) – take construction paper and either popsicle sticks or twigs. See if you can build your own sukkah with the help of glue sticks or glue guns. Affix the paper to the sides of a twig or popsicle stick structure, and then decorate the structures with gold stars and stickers.
  5. Here’s a simple activity, but mom and dad will need to help: celebrate the harvest and make a delicious, colorful fruit salad! Serve it up to all the guests in your sukkah!
  6. Finally, camp out in your sukkah! Remember, these were meant to be temporary shelters. See how many nights you can sleep in your sukkah.
Planning Your Career Path
Thursday, September 10, 2015

Job seeking with Jewish Community Services

By Jamie Leboe

As a Career Coach and Vocational Evaluator you may think that I was one of those people who I’ve always envied, those who knew exactly what they wanted to do when they grew up. They would apply to the college that offered the program they knew they wanted to study. After college they’d go straight to graduate or professional school and then start a job.

On the contrary, I took the long route to finding my perfect career. I went to an art college because I loved art, but not with a real end goal in mind. I applied to graduate school, but decided to defer a year, which turned into 15 years. I took the career path of trial and error. I worked in retail, first in a clothing department and then transferring to the makeup department. Makeup was enjoyable, but sales were not my thing, so I took a job as a traveling makeup artist, but did not enjoy the long hours in the car and being stuck in traffic. I apprenticed as a cosmetologist and really liked working in a salon, but after the birth of my first daughter the long weekend hours were tough.

All of my experiences helped me to figure out what I liked and didn’t like about the world of work. Fortunately, the years of experimenting ended up well and I now have a career that I love, but it took me a little longer to get to this place than it needed to. I ended up in my field through a happy accident. A friend who was a Career Assessment Consultant told me about her job and it seemed like a really interesting field. She was moving away and her position became available right at the time I was ready to go back to work after staying home to raise my children when they were very young. I observed my friend and knew this was the job for me. That job has turned a career that I enjoy and feel good about.

While for me this method of arriving at an appropriate career path was ultimately successful, there is a much easier and more effective way of planning your career path! Here are some steps to help you do this successfully:

  • Get a career assessment. This is a process that includes a variety of evaluations and career explorations to help you plan your career. Assessments can be done in person by a career coach and online
  • Do online research to find out what careers are growing. Try this website or this one.
  • Talk to friends and family and list careers that attract you, as well as parts of jobs that you find interesting.
  • Ask people you know who work in these fields if you can spend some time observing or shadowing them at work.
  • Visit websites (like this one) to watch videos about a variety of jobs.
  • When researching careers, keep your everyday interests in mind. Research shows that people who enter careers in keeping with their interests are more successful in their jobs.
  • Identify your transferable skills, i.e., skills that you have learned in a job, volunteer position, internship, school, or daily life that can transition into another position.
  • Look at the schooling and training needed to enter the field and decide how much time and money you want to spend becoming educated before going to work.

Planning your job search and directing it towards your end goal streamlines the process, saving you time, energy, frustration, and dead ends. It also makes you more motivated, confident, and more likely to find a job that is a good fit for you.

Call 410-466-9200 or visit the JCS website to find out how the JCS Career Center can help you plan your career path.

Unmasking The Myths
Thursday, September 10, 2015

CHANA unmasking the myths

By Naomi Taffet

This mask represents my freedom to fly from all my worries, pain, sorrow and nightmares. I never thought I would ever escape the darkness I lived in. The journey from darkness to light to freedom was hard, time consuming and took more guts than I thought I even had inside me. It was worth it. Every tear shed and every painful memory relieved and worked through was worth it to finally be able to sprout my wings and fly free again. CHANA did this for me. CHANA believed in me when nobody else would. CHANA set me free. – former CHANA client

As CHANA’s 20th Anniversary approaches, we wanted to feature our clients’ stories in a meaningful, memorable and creative way. So, we invited clients and staff to join in making masks. 

Some women feel as though they have to put on a mask in front of their children, friends, family and community – to mask the domestic violence or sexual abuse they suffered from to protect them from seeing the bruises and shame. Some women mask the pain that they are suffering internally and don’t even want to see their pain in the mirror. Others celebrate the mask that they wear as piece of jewelry or as a part of their superhero dress. 

One of the most popular themes that came up for clients during the project was that their masks kept changing. They had an idea in their head of what they wanted, yet while using the various decorations they changed their mind. 

Several started and stopped and started and stopped. They smiled and nodded when one verbalized her “ah ha” moment. As she spoke, she disclosed that this defined her healing from her abusive husband. Start, stop, start, stop. The group realized this was what happened with the abuse. Abusers start, stop, start, stop. Women want to tell someone and start to, stop, start, stop. Once they recognized and acknowledged this piece, for some, ideas flooded and they could not pick just one. 

The women who came, over several nights, did not necessarily know each other, did not share their stories with one another.  However, we saw women helping each other. The staff noted that this is exactly what happens with group therapy. A group of people come together, who don’t know each other, have something in common and help support each other and navigate through their healing process.

Some of the staff were asked to make their own masks, as well. Several thought of the masks we see on a daily basis, the ones we put on and take off throughout the day when meeting with different groups and in different settings, and the ones staff wear when we go home at the end of the day.

Each mask was photographed with an accompanying story.  Stories such as this one:

Coming Up For Air. Ideas, opinions, questions / Answers, truths, discoveries / Concepts Flow and Flourish in the / Deep pools of the mind / Seeking to / Burst forth / Through the dams of / Silence / The Silence of Fear. / The choking Stillness of / Constraint. / And finally / I come up for Air.

We asked the women to donate their mask, with their story, to CHANA for our 20th Anniversary event, where the masks will either be auctioned or sold.  Knowing how impactful this is, they were all offered a second mask to make for themselves.

Their masks were photographed so they could “keep” them. One said that this was not necessary for her. She described feeling as though her own mask was literally lifted just by letting it go. Another woman thanked us for the opportunity. She disclosed, “My family saw my mask and this opened a conversation within my own family.” 

Special thank you goes out to Cynthia Ohana coming up with the idea literally from pen to paper to a completed collection of masks that tell stories of courage, change and healing.

Our Opportunity to Volunteer: It's Governor's Day to Serve
Friday, September 04, 2015

Teen volunteering during Governor's Day to Serve

By Stephani Renbaum

Volunteerism is part of our family’s culture. My husband and I come from two deep-rooted Baltimore families who have a long history of community service and “giving back.” Our parents and grandparents before us have worked to create a stronger, more inclusive and better Baltimore, and Mark and I hope to instill these same values in our children to continue this legacy.

When I was asked to chair Jewish Volunteer Connection’s Governor’s Day to Serve initiative, I jumped at the opportunity to promote the idea of volunteerism. Governor’s Day to Serve is about connecting volunteer service projects in and around Baltimore with interested volunteers. From September 11 through October 10, Jewish Volunteer Connection, in partnership with Governor’s Day to Serve, will help to satisfy needs throughout our community.

Governor’s Day to Serve transcends political and religious differences to unite people of varied backgrounds, helping those in need and improving the communities where we live, work and play. This partnership is a natural fit since JVC’s mission is also to promote volunteerism. JVC will use the month of Governor’s Day to Serve to engage people of all ages, connect those who have a passion for volunteerism, and introduce volunteerism to many. We want people to choose one day and choose their way of volunteering. How hard is that?

Projects that fall under Governor’s Day to Serve are varied. Think about gardening with seniors at Weinberg Village, serving meals at Moveable Feast, collecting school supplies for those in need, purchasing food for Baltimore Hunger Project, manning water stops at Sinai’s Race for the Kids and volunteering to help put an end to food allergies at the local Baltimore Food and Allergy Walk – there is no shortage of needs throughout Baltimore!

We can all make a big difference for just one day on one service project. Gather your friends, enlist your kids and their classmates, encourage your neighbors to join your cause and make giving back fun and gratifying at the same time. That’s our plan.

Getting started is simple. Simply log onto JVC's website and find an opportunity that interests you. Whether you are a lone volunteer or you are looking to satisfy the needs of a large group, JVC’s database of Governor’s Day to Serve opportunities has something for everyone. And since this is a month-long initiative, it’s not too late to promote your opportunity. Simply contact JVC to promote your favorite cause.

I jumped at the opportunity to help put my stamp on this great month-long initiative and hope to make Maryland the community with the most volunteers for three years running! Now get out and volunteer!

10 Things to Do in September
Monday, August 31, 2015

Downtown JCC event

 

Looking for things to do this September? With Governor’s Day to Serve, beginning September 11, there are some wonderful ways to give back to our community. Check out these great events and volunteer opportunities sponsored by The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore or Associated agencies.

Volunteer your timeSchool Supply Drive. Help those in need. Drop off new school supplies or store gift cards with values of $10 at the JCCs at both the Park Heights and Owings Mills locations, as well as the Jewish Community Services location at 5750 Park Heights Avenue. In addition, volunteers are needed to help with our community-wide school supply drive which benefits vulnerable families throughout the community. The time commitment is flexible and can be done with a friend, family member or on your own. Through September 11.

Support Group for Parents of Children with Attention Issues. If your child has trouble staying on task or focusing, SHEMESH and CHADD of Greater Baltimore invite you to join its support group that meets the first Wednesday of every month. Wednesday, September 2 | 8:00 - 9:00 p.m. | Weinberg Park Height JCC, 5700 Park Heights Avenue

Mom's "Draft" Party. Men shouldn’t get all the fun when it comes to football. Moms, take time off from the kids, and join Macks CJE Connector for a free football draft and a chance to learn about opportunities in Jewish Baltimore. Snacks included. Thursday, September 3 | 7:00 - 10:00 p.m. | Quarry Lake Clubhouse

Empty Place at the Table: Coping with Loss During the Holidays With the High Holidays right around the corner, the death of a loved one can be especially painful. Join JCS experts to talk about ways to find comfort and support and read more from their blog post. Wednesday, September 9 | 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. | JCS Owings Mills Office, 3506 Gwynnbrook Avenue

PJ Library Under the Stars Join Macks CJE’s PJ Library for children’s activities and story times in the young families pavilion while you are relaxing on the grass before Baltimore Hebrew Congregation’s Rosh HaShanah Under the Stars prayer service at Oregon Ridge. While the event is free and open to the public, registration for Rosh HaShanah Under the Stars is required. Sunday, September 13 | 4:30 p.m. | Oregon Ridge, 13555 Beaver Dam Road

Super Sunday community phonathonSuper Sunday Community Phoneathon. Be part of the largest single-day fundraiser in Jewish Baltimore! Help raise $1 million to care for the vulnerable, strengthen Jewish community and advocate for Israel. Sunday, September 20 | 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. | Weinberg Park Heights JCC, 5700 Park Heights Avenue

Hands on Holidays. Looking for a fun way to introduce your young toddler to the holidays? Check out this free hands-on experience, featuring an interactive story-time, songs and a take home craft. Then join your friends for a taste of the holidays with free apples and honey. Sunday, September 20 | 10:00 a.m. | The Ivy Bookshop, 6080 Falls Road

Open Play and JCS Parenting Workshop. Bring your youngsters to a morning of open play, while you hear from Jewish Community Services’ experts about personal/work/life balance. Workshop runs from 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. and is space limited. Sunday, September 27 | 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. | Downtown JCC, 1118 Light Street

Sixth Branch Volunteer Opportunity Join the Sixth Branch, a military veteran organization, to beautify a city neighborhood through cleanup and farming. Help build community by bringing together service-minded veterans and civilians to serve our community on the home front. This Jewish Volunteer Connection project is part of the Governor’s Day to Serve. Sunday, September 27 | 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. | Oliver neighborhood

Music Night at Weinberg Village Talented musicians looking for a way to give back come and entertain the residents at Weinberg Village. This Jewish Volunteer Connection project is part of Governor’s Day To Serve, to help those in our community. Pre-registration is required. Wednesday, September 30 | Weinberg Village, 3430 Associated Way

The Transition to Middle School: From Minors to the Big League
Friday, August 21, 2015

Middle school students

By Stacey Meadows, LCSW-C

Middle School. Just saying the words stirs up a mix of emotions in most of us. Do you remember your first day of middle school? I certainly do. I caught the bus (for the first time) to a huge building, off a busy street, filled with big loud kids I didn’t know. I was excited but also terrified. I wanted to run into my first class but also detour in the nurse’s office to hide and sob for my mom!

For most children, middle school is a huge transition. They go from being the biggest and coolest kids in elementary, to being the littlest in what’s usually a bigger and busier environment. Our middle schoolers get lockers, the responsibility of multiple classes and teachers, increased access to technology and social media.

Developmentally, this age group straddles the line between kid and young adult – seeking independence and demanding privacy, while also cuddling up for family movie nights and playing with Barbies. During the three short years of middle school, children’s bodies begin to change, social relationships become more complex, and academic responsibilities become more demanding. It’s no wonder that middle school is an emotionally complex time. While all of this change can be intimidating, it sets the path for our kids to mature into confident and capable young adults.

There’s no doubt that the transition to middle school can be tough, but it’s also a really fun and exciting time! Middle schoolers enjoy having more freedom and independence. Middle schools usually have a lot more students and offer social and sport activities that afford new opportunities for friendships and fun.

In all of the confusion of swirling hormones and changing environments, our middle schoolers can truly thrive when they have the support of a caring and dedicated family.

Here are some ways you can support your child’s in making a successful transition to middle school:

Understand how your child feels about this transition. Take time to ask questions about their readiness and enthusiasm for middle school. Find out what they’re most excited or worried about. Validate their feelings of anxiety, and work together to identify ways to manage them.

Get to know the campus. Before school starts, take a tour of the new school or campus. Give your child a map of the building, and help them to map out their route between classes, cafeteria, bathrooms and lockers. To prepare for lockers, practice on similar locks at home and consider getting magnets or other decorations that will make lockers feel more like their personal space.

Connect with faculty. At your earliest opportunity connect with the teachers and administrators. Arrange for you and your child to meet with key players at the school. If there is an orientation day before school starts, make sure to use that opportunity to get a feel for the campus and to meet teachers, guidance counselors or other people who may be able to support your child in this transition once school starts. Obtain contact information for faculty – email addresses or electronic academic monitoring programs (like Blackboard) – so that you can keep on top of how your child is adapting, and establish opportunities for collaboration with teachers around your child’s strengths and needs.

Encourage social opportunities while helping your child negotiate the challenges. Sports, clubs and study groups are a wonderful way for your child to meet new friends in a casual and meaningful environment. Establishing new relationships and getting involved in school programming will assist in making their new school feel like home in no time!

In addition, these activities cultivate responsibility and self-esteem, and expose your child to new and valuable experiences. Social opportunities often also aid children to build mentoring relationships with older kids who can also help them to adjust to middle school.

But, be mindful of the social challenges that can trip kids up. Take time to talk with your child about internet and social media safety and be mindful of bullying behavior – whether you suspect your child is the target, the bully or a bystander. Get to know the kids they hang out with and connect with their parents. This is also a time to have a heart to heart about peer pressure and how to handle it, especially around drug and alcohol use.

Support your child in learning new skills. This will continue to be valuable throughout the rest of your child’s academic career! With more homework, assignments and tests, time management and organizational skills become critical and often aren’t taught in school. Help them organize their notebooks, build good study habits to plan for their afterschool activities and learn to balance school work with extracurricular and social activities.

Middle school marks a milestone in your child’s life that is both exciting and scary. Stay in tune with their world and keep tabs on their mood and how they seem to be adjusting. Talk with them—about new friendships, their workload, what they like and what they don’t, the cafeteria food—anything that is important to your child!

If you need some tips on getting your child to open up more, read this JCS Parent Talk blog post. By establishing open lines of communication, your child will know that you are there to support to them and help navigate all of the ups and downs of this new chapter!

A Healthy & Sweet New Year
Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Gluten free s'mores

 

The high holidays are approaching, so you know what that means – platters of sweet treats awaiting you at family gatherings. You don’t have to stress about indulging in your favorite sweets – try these healthier recipes!

Roasted Apple Slices with Date Honey. These are a quick, easy treat for any time of day. Gather your ingredients: 4 apples, peeled and sliced thin; 1 Tbsp. lemon juice; 3 Tbsp. date syrup; 1 tsp. cinnamon; ¼ tsp. cardamom; 1 tsp. cornstarch; pinch of salt; 1 Tbsp. Earth Balance Margarine, cut into small pieces.

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment, spray with cooking spray.
  3. Mix apples with lemon juice, date syrup, cinnamon, cardamom, cornstarch and salt in a deep bowl.
  4. Spread on baking sheet, top with pieces of Earth Balance. Bake 15 to 20 minutes until golden and soft.

Cranberry-Apricot Delicata Squash. Get your ingredients: 1 lb. delicata squash (about 1 large); 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil; 1 Tbsp. apple cider or apple juice; ¼ tsp. salt; ¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper; ¼ cup chopped dried apricots; ¼ cup dried cranberries; 2 Tbsp. finely chopped chives; and 2 Tbsp. toasted sliced almonds.

  1. Cut squash in quarters lengthwise; scoop out the seeds. Very thinly slice crosswise.
  2. Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a saucepan fitted with a steamer basket. Steam the squash until just tender, 5-7 minutes.
  3. Whisk oil, cider (or juice), salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the squash, apricots cranberries and chives; toss to coat. Serve sprinkled with almonds.

Rosemary Apple Chicken. This delicious fruited chicken dish is great for guests, with a good dose of protein. Ingredients: 1 whole chicken (2-3 pounds); ¼ cup grapeseed or olive oil; ¼ cup balsamic vinegar; 1 Tbsp. sea salt; 4 apples, cored and sliced; and 4 sprigs rosemary.

  1. Rinse the chicken, pat dry with a paper towel and place in a 9 x 13 baking dish.
  2. Drizzle with oil and vinegar, then sprinkle with salt.
  3. Arrange the apples around the chicken in the baking dish.
  4. Place sprigs of rosemary under the chicken.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 90 minutes, until browned on the outside.

Gluten Free S’mores. Ingredients: 8 ounce box Manischewitz gluten free crackers; 1/3 cup brown sugar; 2 tsp. cinnamon; 4 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted; 2 Tbsp. unsweetened almond milk; 1 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips; 3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder; 1 cup canned light coconut milk; and 3.5 ounce mini marshmallows.

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Combine crackers, brown sugar and cinnamon in the food processor. Pulse until the crackers turn into fine crumbs. Add coconut oil and almond milk and pulse a few more times until well combined.
  3. Press cracker mixture into a 9x9 square non-stick pan. Bake at 375F for 12 to 15 minutes.
  4. In the meantime, prepare the chocolate layer. Place chocolate chips and cocoa powder in a large heatproof bowl. Bring coconut milk to a simmer and pour over the chocolate, whisking constantly until it melts completely. Set aside to cool slightly.
  5. Pour chocolate over cracker crust. Arrange marshmallows on top. Place the pan back in the oven and broil for 45 seconds to a minute, until the marshmallows start to brown (keep an eye on it the whole time!).
  6. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours
A South African Celebrates the High Holidays in Ashkelon
Monday, August 17, 2015

June Narunsky

By June Narunsky

Every year as the High Holidays come round, I ask myself the same question and this year I am sure it will be with the same soul searching. What are we doing here? Here, of course, being Israel.

As I was pondering this deep question, I thought back to how we celebrated Rosh Hashanah in South Africa, the country where I was born and grew up in. How different it is in Israel when we enjoy the holiday with the whole nation.

Growing Up In South Africa. As far back as I can remember, Rosh Hashanah was always a sweet and sad time in our home. Even though my parents reflected on the loss of family during the Holocaust, they also made sure that our home was filled with wonderful aromas. We not only watched our mother make chopped liver, herring and taigelach, but we sampled all the sweet delights (just to make sure they still tasted the same as last year’s batch)!

Our parents instilled our heritage into us, and we always had strange folk at our table — by strange I mean people we (the kids) didn’t know. They were people my parents met in synagogue and had no family or friends to enjoy the holiday with, so my father would bring them home to enjoy this wonderful time with us.

It was also a time when we had to explain to non-Jewish South African neighbors and friends that Rosh Hashanah was not just a joyous feast and a couple of days off school or work. We had to explain why we had a different New Year than them.

We were the lucky ones. Our parents always made sure that no Rosh Hashanah passed without all of us receiving new clothes, a small gift and best of all a special word and blessing from our father before the meal.

Rosh Hashanah in Israel. When our parents passed away, we decided to make Aliyah. I was not too sure how I would feel so far away from my family, although I also had family in Israel. Would I be able to make perogen (little meat pies in puff pastry) – a family tradition on Rosh Hashanah? Would I be able to find the right ingredients to make the traditional round sweet challah?

I shouldn’t have worried. In Israel menus are discussed weeks in advance; the supermarkets are open 24 hours a day, the week before. Shoppers are rushing back and forth buying food and gifts. One does not have to explain anything to anyone; everyone is enjoying the rushing and excitement. In fact this reminded me of watching our non-Jewish neighbors go nuts at Christmas!

We live in an apartment block and the day before erev chag (first night of the holiday), the wonderful aroma of cooking from kitchens whose owners come from all over the globe is something I can’t explain. I just hope that our neighbors enjoy the aromas emanating from my kitchen as much as we do from theirs!

When we decorate our table we always add an extra couple of places knowing that my husband will bring back ‘someone’ from Shul. We have family and friends and usually a soldier or two whose family lives too far for them to go home, especially if they are lone soldiers.

Our Rosh Hashanah holiday has become enriched by our son-in-law who comes from a Sephardi background. As he no longer has parents, we want our grandchildren to honor his traditions as well. So, not only is our menu half Ashkenazi and half Persian, but so are the various brachot (blessings) and traditions as well, and all our guests love it.

All the cleaning, shopping and taking part in the wonderful craziness that takes places before I even start cooking I am often quite exhausted, but as I sit down to enjoy the meal with my family and friends I feel like a queen.

I wish that I could invite folk from out of Israel to join us during Rosh Hashanah. There is nothing in the whole world quite as sweet and enjoyable.

June Narunsky is an ex-South African, originally from Durban. She was the first chair of the ESOA (English Speakers Of Ashkelon). June is still very active in the ESOA. She publishes the monthly ESOA newsletter, has an ESOA craft group at her house and she is the lay leader in charge of the Baltimore-Ashkelon Bookclub. She has two grown daughters. One is married and living in Ashkelon, with her husband and three children, and the other lives in England.

Eight Ways Rosh Hashanah Is Unique in Israel
Monday, August 17, 2015

Blowing the shofar during Rosh Hashanah

By Chana Siff, Assistant Director, Israel & Overseas

Living in the United States, I always knew the “New Year” was coming. From the end of December through the beginning of January, I could walk into a store and see plenty of new calendars. I’d read magazines and blogs about making New Year’s resolutions, while discovering countless discounts to gyms for those of us who feel like this is the perfect time to get healthy and stay fit.

At the same time, although I had celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, for 18 years in America, I had never thought about the holiday as real national New Year where a whole country is preparing together to welcome in the New Year. It wasn’t until I spent a year in Israel, landing in the country in September, 2006, just weeks before Rosh Hashanah in the Hebrew month of Elul, that I was taken by surprise.

I found a whole country celebrating and preparing for a special time – a chance truly to begin a New Year! Imagine the following:

  1. Signs and advertisements all over the country, on busses and billboards wishing everyone a “Shanah Tovah” (Good Year). Even the coke bottles with the words wishing you a “Shanah Tovah U’Mituka” (Good and Sweet Year) on them!
  2. Hearing Shofar sounds as you walk down the street from all the synagogues every morning during the month of Elul to remind everyone that Rosh Hashanah is coming and to work on yourselves to become better people.
  3. Apples, pomegranates, dates and other special produce of Israel sold everywhere – fruit stands, the shuk (outdoor market) and in the supermarkets.
  4. Free honey sticks in 50 different flavors at the supermarket!
  5. Little kids playing outside with a shofar seeing who could blow it the “best.”
  6. New calendars being sold in all the stores.
  7. Bus drivers and taxi drivers wishing you Shanah Tovah – including Arab and Christian drivers.
  8. An entire country together preparing for a time of reflection and to spend time with family and friends.

In Israel, Rosh Hashanah isn’t just a wonderful Jewish holiday and a time for personal reflection, it is a time for a whole country to start fresh with a new year together!

L'shanah tovah! May we all be inscribed and sealed for a good year!

The Empty Place at the Table
Monday, August 17, 2015

The empty place at the table

By Jacki Post Ashkin, LCSW-C

Holidays are meant to be a time of joy, but when someone you love has recently died, the thought of gathering around the family table can fill you with dread. After all, holidays are meant to be special occasions that we celebrate with our loved ones and we become faced with the harsh reality of their absence.

The Jewish High Holidays are a time of introspection, reflection and renewal. We look back on our lives and contemplate where we have been as we prepare to move forward into the new year. During this time, we pray that we and those we love will be inscribed in the Book of Life for another year. No wonder we become painfully aware that an important person in our lives is missing, no longer here to share both the solemn and joyful aspects of the holiday with us. We can’t help but wonder whether the traditions that we’ve been observing for years will feel different, and what will that do to our sense of identity and continuity?

As the High Holidays draw near, we may find ourselves wondering, “how am I going to get through this?” Bereavement experts at Jewish Community Services offer these suggestions.

  • Acknowledge the loss. Everyone is aware that someone important is missing, so don’t avoid the obvious. Talk about how you miss your loved one and invite others around the table to share memories, too.
  • Find support from family and friends. You do not have to “be strong” for others.
  • Set an “empty place” at the table in honor of your loved one. Some may instead find comfort in sitting in the chair that was their loved one’s spot.
  • Place a picture near where you are seated.
  • Make a memorial for your loved one.
  • Use your spiritual and/or religious practices to find comfort.
  • Reflect on your loved one as you light the yahrzeit candle erev Yom Kippur and at sundown prior to the last day of Succot.
  • Attend Yizkor, the memorial service. Experience the shared communal bond of grief, which reminds us that no one grieves alone.
  • Allow yourself to cry when the tears want to come.
  • In your private moments, it may be comforting to talk to the person who has died.
  • Think ahead about what rituals and traditions may change in your family gathering. For example, who will light the holiday candles or say Kiddush if the person who always did is no longer there? Plan with your family and guests, and acknowledge the changes.
  • If it feels too overwhelming or painful to have your traditional celebration this year (whether you are usually a guest or the host), you may find it helpful to make a change. Consider accepting an invitation from friends or scaling back on your own guest list.
  • Don’t be afraid to laugh. You are not dishonoring your loved one by laughing; he or she would surely want to see you enjoying life.
  • If your emotions feel overwhelming, as may happen as the holidays approach or even after, it can be helpful to talk with a therapist, bereavement counselor, rabbi, or other trusted professional, or to join a support group to help cope with your loss.

The High Holidays are a time to reflect on our past, acknowledge our present, and consider our future. Thinking about the people whom we’ve loved and lost is a natural part of that process and affirms their continued presence in our lives. May their memories be for a blessing.

Jewish Community Services is holding several bereavement programs this fall. All the programs are free and open to the community:

  • The Empty Place at the Table: Coping with Loss During the Holidays. Wednesday, September 9, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
  • Beyond Words: Creating a Memorial Garden. Sunday, October 18 (Rain date Oct. 25), 10:00 – 11:30 a.m.
  • Community Bereavement Support Group, Howard County. 8 Weeks beginning Wednesday, October 14.
  • Community Bereavement Support Group, Baltimore. 8 Weeks beginning Thursday, October 15.

To learn more information about these programs, visit JCS' website or call 410-466-9200.

Israel's Culinary Scene
Thursday, August 13, 2015

Israeli tabouleh salad

By Rochelle Eisenberg

Walking through the Lewinsky Market in Tel Aviv is a feast, literally, for the senses. Barrels of dried fruits and brightly-colored rice and grain mixtures tempt the eyes, while the tangy olives and aromatic spices entice the nose.

Then there are the tastes. Flavorful cheese, three varieties of savory hummus, six varieties of burekas, the sweetness of creamy Malabi, made of corn flour, vanilla bean, rose water and coconut milk topped with fresh pomegranate seeds – it’s a foodie’s dream.

On this beautiful spring day, I’m lucky enough to be tasting my way through this almost 100-year-old market on a Delicious Israel Tour, led by Israeli Inbal Baum, who grew up outside Washington, DC. The food I’m tasting is delicious. Yet, what comes out of this tour, and, perhaps, is the most astonishing to me, is that the answer to the question — “what is Israeli food?” — is not what I expected.

“Israel is a nation of immigrants and each group brought their culinary traditions with them. As such, Israeli food is a melting pot of flavors from all over the world. There is no one Israeli food,” says Baum.

“For example,” she adds, “shakshuka (eggs baked in a spicy tomato sauce), which we’ve come to associate with Israel was originally brought to this country by North African immigrants.”

Huppit Bartov, a native of Ashkelon who now lives in Baltimore with her family, agrees. “The definition of what is Israeli food is a tricky question.”

Bartov, whose grandparents arrived in Israel from Tunisia adds, “Street food is often thought of as Israeli — falafel, schwarma (which, by the way, is often served with French fries), hummus. But, in reality, like much of ‘Israeli’ food, its origins are in other parts of the world.”

Jews from Arab countries brought shabach, falafel and schwarma; Jews from Turkey added burekas to the mix. Jews from Europe brought rugalach and schnitzel; Russian Jews incorporated borscht and herring, while the Northern African Jews of Tunisia and Yemen also contributed malawach and couscous to Israeli cuisine.

A case in point. Aliza Friedman recalls that growing up in Israel, her family table was filled with foods that originated from different Sephardic countries. There was Middle Eastern favorites such as shakshuka, hummus and kebobs, Moroccan specialties like chicken with celery, onions and currants. And a special meat dish made with prunes, apricots, carrots and onions. There was also fish made with olives, garlic, sweet pepper, saffron and cilantro.

And always there were the salads. “There were a lot of salads. We probably had Israeli salad almost every night,” Friedman says.

In fact, if there is one food that is quintessentially Israeli, says Bartov, it is the chopped salad, which consists of finely chopped cucumber, tomato and onion, dressed with lemon and salt.

“It’s very basic, but most families eat it at least once a day,” she says. “Men often get into the act. They are often proud of how fine they chop their vegetables.”

Yet, although some foods may not originally hail from Israel, many have been become a point of pride for most Israelis. Take hummus. “Everyone has their own recipe and everyone thinks theirs is the best,” laughs Bartov. “It’s like a friendly competition.”

No one is sure exactly where hummus originated, but it is central to many Middle Eastern cuisines. The word “hummus” means chickpea in Arabic.

In Israel, I’m told, as I dip into a warm, freshly-made version on my tour (I also eat one mixed with foul, an Egyptian fava bean), is served for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s served fresh and warm and often doesn’t last more than a few hours. And it has to be made with chickpeas. “Avocado and black bean versions are not hummus,” Baum says.

Some foods brought to Israel have been adapted to the culture such as the bureka. Brought to Israel by Turkish immigrants, this pastry is often filled with such items as eggplant, mushrooms and spinach. Immigrants, often adhering to the rules of Kashrut, substituted oil for the butter so that these savory pastries could be eaten with meat.

Today, Israeli cuisine continues to evolve, with many Israeli chefs integrating these ethnic cuisines with local Israeli ingredients, fruits and vegetables, to create their own style of Israeli fusion cooking.

“Even the classic shakshuka,” laughs Baum, “has become trendy. It used to be something one made at home. Now people go out to eat and it’s become expensive. You can even find versions with cream and spinach.”

Make your own tabouleh salad! A simple and delicious salad from Ashkelon resident, June Narunsky

Ingredients: 1 cup Israeli couscous; 1 lemon, zested and juiced; 3 Tbsp. olive oil; kosher salt; freshly ground black pepper; 1 cup finely chopped parsley; ½ cup finely chopped cilantro; 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint; 2 ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced; and 3 scallions, chopped.

  1. Bring a medium-size saucepan of salted water to a boil over medium heat. Add the couscous and cook until al dente, 7 to 8 minutes. Drain couscous and cool.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and zest with the olive oil to make a vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. In a large serving bowl, mix together the couscous, parsley, cilantro, mint, tomatoes and scallions. Toss with the vinaigrette and season to taste. Allow to sit for at least a half hour so the flavors can marry.

This article originally appeared in the Connect to Israel publication. Read it to get more recipes, explore Ashkelon and learn about the BDS movement.  

From Holon to Holot
Thursday, July 30, 2015

Israel

By Sophia Farruggia

“Israel was not created in order to disappear – Israel will endure & flourish. It is the child of hope & the home of the brave. It can neither be broken by adversity nor demoralized by success. It carries the shield of democracy & it honors the sword of freedom.” -John F. Kennedy

As an American Jew in Israel I feel the experience I am currently having has been painted and sculpted years before my plane ever landed. Growing up one learns about Israel in an almost idealistic and utopian way. And coming to Israel to stay for these few months is a lot like the first time you see your parents cry. You question how something so incredible could have anything wrong with it, and slowly each layer is peeled away and what is shown before you is a country like any other. For some, it is this realization of normality that crushes them and their experiences. Yet for me the moment I realized that Israel was a real place with real problems was the moment I began to fall in love. For loving someone’s flaws means loving wholly.

The first flaw I discovered was less attributed to Israel and more honestly caused by my own anxieties. This week I found myself on a day trip to Jerusalem, and with the words “Day Trip to Jerusalem” one imagines the standard Kotel/Old City Jewish experience. Yet we decided to take a different turn, spending time in the Arab quarter and enjoying a heated debate between an Ultra-Orthodox man and an active member of the progressive feminist group Women of the Wall. And while all of the above resonated with me deeply, it wasn’t until we reached the City of David tour that I was forced to face my own flaws, and shortcomings galore. The thought of an underground cave tour sounded lovely, and immediately reminded me of the cave tours I had taken in Slovenia. The caves were massive, so large that European groups would hold special concerts in these Slovenian caves for their wonderful acoustics. With that past image in mind, I was a bit shocked at what I found…

IsraelClaustrophobia is not just a fun word to say, but it’s also a super fun worry to have when walking through a six foot underground cave for three miles with water up to your thighs. While, in typical Jewish fashion, I kvetched the whole way through, I can honestly say it was one of the most interesting experiences I have had thus far. My mind was constantly running, convincing myself I had unknowingly gone into a “Final Destination” world that would ultimately cause my demise. Fortunately I was wrong, and even more fortunately I can now say I walked three miles through the underground City of David. What stuck out to me most was just how much my handling of the cave time so perfectly represented my handling of life. I was absolutely terrified, yet I never stopped walking. I guess Israel has shown me that 98% I am far too hard on myself. That even though I may not have any clue where my journey will end, and even though I am not nearly as perfect as I want to be yet, I have never stopped moving forward. Not once. And for that, some credit is deserved.

It was a Wednesday evening that I found myself surrounded by fellow Jewish Hopkins students. But for once, I was not at the Smokler Center as I am every Friday. This time I was in Holon, at a wonderful family BBQ that our amazing Israeli fellow was kind enough to invite us to. After being picked up in our very own Israeli Blue Jay Shuttle of sorts, the four Hopkins students and our favorite Israeli fellow left the bounds of busy Tel Aviv to a quiet and beautiful suburb. We were immediately welcomed as family, with food and drinks and conversation thrown our way. In typical Jewish fashion, a few of us were jokingly set up with other Jews of the same age people happened to know. For once, I was not sitting in Tel Aviv with the craziness of a busy city around me at all times. I found solace in this loving family unit who treated four American students as if we had been part of their family for years. It was a night of laughter, of wine, and of a peaceful wholeness in knowing that no matter where in the world I was I could find not only a Hopkins community, but a Jewish community to take me in.

IsraelFast forward 24 hours, and I found myself in a tiny cafe decorated with colorful art and the expected decorum of any hipster establishment. The murals on the wall came to life in blues and reds and yellows, and provided the perfect ambiance for a night of open discussion and even controversial learning. Who stood before me were some of the bravest people I have had the honor of hearing speak. Two refugees spoke, one from Eritrea and the other from Darfur. They spoke of pain so nonchalantly, pain that would cripple or nearly end anyone else. Their voices were firm, and they never wavered despite speaking of torture, death, and the agony of family separation. It was the man above who struck me first, who spoke of his dream to go to school for Economics. A dream he was finally setting in motion, having been recently accepted to school in Israel. And then I heard it, Holot.

Coming from the most wonderful family BBQ in Holon, hearing the eerily similar word of Holot made me stop in my tracks. Working in the refugee community for the past month has made me very much aware of Holot. Aware of the government’s intentions, grave injustices, and huge flaws. I thought how lucky i was to be able to enjoy a peaceful evening in Holon, when this young man who stood before me was facing three months in Holot for simply standing on the same ground that I was. It did not make me dislike Israel, but it made me passionate about helping create a change to make this land I love so much a place that all people can feel the same solace I felt only twenty-four hours before. As he shared his stories, I wrote note after note of what he said to ensure I didn’t forget this man’s story. What stood out to me most was his way of making hugely complex and painful issues and making them seemingly simple.

“I was not born to take 15 kilo of wheat from the UNHCR.” Those words echoed inside of me, for reasons I still am not quite sure of. This stranger who stood before me, who had escaped from Darfur only to endure more torture physically and emotionally from his travel through Sudan and Egypt before finally reaching Israel. This person before me was me. He was a young adult who wanted to learn, to study in University and make something of himself. He was someone who wanted to contribute, to make the world a better place for everyone. He was someone who was destined for greatness, someone who wasn’t born to take humanitarian aid as a livable income. I thought so critically about the world’s treatment of refugees in situations like his, in the infantilization occurring via aid without education. The man who stood before could change the world, and I wholeheartedly believe he will, but faces first three months in prison for trying to find a safe place in Israel. And here is where my realization of Israel’s flaws became most palpable.

As a Jew, and as an American interested in making Aliyah, I feel personally responsible for the Tikkun Olam which each and every one of us should be doing. The man who stood before me didn’t deserve three months in a “voluntary” prison, he was a student just like me. He was someone who missed his family, someone who wanted so badly to go home but had no home to go to, someone who wanted nothing more than basic safety and the right to make his life as good as he possibly could. Persecuted in the past, we as Jews should be doing all we can to assist those the world deems inhuman or unworthy. For when hate is present, it does not discriminate. Hate is the virus that knows no skin color, no language or accent, and no religion. It destroys us all. And if we allow this type of heinous discrimination to prosper, who says it won’t come for us next?

Once again I find my verbose nature taking over, and I feel the only people still following this long blog post are probably either my mother or Courtney. But I find when anything happens to me in this land of holies, I have about fifteen different reactions to it and two hundred different feelings. Most importantly it has been my realization of what Israel does versus what I expected that meant the most to me in these last few weeks. I love absolutely every part of this country, every nook and cranny and crevice I have found. I would defend this nation to the end, and will forever advocate on the importance of a Jewish states existence in this increasingly hostile and anti-Semitic world. Yet my support for my country does not translate into my complete promotion of each policy and piece of legislature. This is a country, like any other, which engages in very questionable practices at times. Coming from the United States, I am quite familiar with the phenomenon. But just because something isn’t perfect does not mean it should be abandoned. In fact, it means just the opposite. It is because Israel is so flawed that I know I need to love it even more. It takes people passionate about change to better the world, and I know for a fact the Jewish community has no shortage of that as long as we never forget tikkun olam.

This post originally appeared on Sophia's blog – Schlepping Around the World: One Nomad’s Attempt to Save the Universe.

Camp Friends Are the Best Friends
Thursday, July 30, 2015

Friends at Jewish summer camp

By Janna Zuckerman

Anyone who has attended a Jewish camp will tell you that zip lining, kayaking and ceramics are a blast, but the highlight of camp is the friendships. I experienced this first-hand from my summers at New Jersey-Y overnight camps in Milford, PA.

When I was going into third grade, my parents dropped me off at the bus stop to head to Camp Nah-Jee-Wah for my first overnight camp experience. I was terrified. I was going away for four weeks without having spent any time away from home before. The only person I would know at camp was my brother (who probably wanted nothing to do with his little sister).

While waiting for the bus, my mom introduced me to her friend’s daughter who would be in the same division as me at camp. We spoke briefly, and then found two seats next to each other once we climbed on.

During the two hour bus ride, I learned that we had a lot in common – we both played soccer and tennis, loved theater and our favorite color was pink. When we arrived at camp, I learned that by some chance, we were placed in the same bunk. I was ecstatic. We carried our duffle bags to the bunk we would call home for the next four weeks, and picked bunk beds next to each other.

I never would have thought that a bus ride to camp would be the beginning of an incredible friendship. Our summers at camp are unfortunately over, but our friendship has remained just as strong for over 18 years.

This year, International Friendship Day is August 2, and I thought it would be a great time to learn about other friendships that were formed at Jewish camp. After all, there really aren’t friendships that are deeper than camp friends. Right?

Friends at Jewish summer campAndrew and Ethan met at Capital Camps in the summer going into fourth grade. Friends for nearly eight years, they are the epitome of “camp best friends.” Andrew remembers meeting Ethan during one of the first few days of camp … he was supposed to be going to a particular chuggim (elective), but decided to skip his and go with Ethan to work on the backstage crew for the camp musical production. Andrew had never tried building a set before, but figured it would be fun.

Since then, Andrew has taken an interest in theater and even works backstage on his high school performances! Ethan also is involved in theater at his school. Their love of musical theater and comedy was just one of the many links to their strong friendship. Ethan says, “Andrew has a way about himself – he can be very serious at times, but then suddenly provide everyone with comic relief … it’s amazing how he can tell a funny joke and then is able to comfort you a moment later.”

Friends at Jewish summer campAndrew said his favorite thing about his friendship was Ethan is that wherever they are they are able to have a good time together – it doesn’t matter what they are doing. Andrew shared that “Ethan is very determined ... he’s going to be successful in whatever he wants to do, and he’s a perfect friend because he’s always open to everything – ready to try new things and have fun.”

It has always been their dream to go to Israel together, so this summer they took a one-year break from camp and went on the BZD Israel trip together. Next summer, their goal is to work together as counselors at Capital Camps!

Friends at Jewish summer campI also interviewed Laurie Rauseo, who goes by “Rauseo” to camp friends, and her best friend, Missy Sachs-Kohen. Missy was actually someone she met while working at Camp Louise as staff in 2000 – see, it’s true that being a staff member at camp is more fun than being a camper! Missy was a Unit Leader and Rauseo a first-year counselor, but their 15 year age gap didn’t faze them. I asked Missy and Rauseo to describe the first time they met, and they both remembered the day perfectly. Missy recalls watching Rauseo jump into the Camp Louise swimming pool (even though she hated swimming) to help her team win during color games. Missy watched Rauseo volunteer to participate in this wacky pool game, even though she could tell Rauseo was dreading it. “That’s how I knew she was special … she showed total camp spirit and was a team player,” said Missy.

The rest was history – Missy admired Rauseo for her leadership and caring personality while Rauseo admired Missy for her generosity and supportive advice. It is obvious Rauseo and Missy have a mutual love and respect for each other – just the way they talk about each other is a testament of their friendship.

Rauseo was fortunate to attend Missy’s wedding and has been a part of Missy’s family ever since …. celebrating Jewish holidays and birthdays together and even becoming involved in raising her kids. Missy’s family has also been involved in Rauseo’s life, too. Missy watched Rauseo grow up; from a young first-year counselor at camp to a loving mom to her daughter, Piper. Missy’s wife, Rabbi Elissa Sachs Kohen married Rauseo and her husband several years ago.

The stories are different, yet their camp friendships are the link that make them all similar. Rauseo offered this advice to current campers at camp – “you never know who you’ll come across and who you’ll meet so take advantage of every opportunity.”

Ethan’s advice: “Keep an open mind when you’re at camp – the people that you meet could become your best friends even if you don’t think you have a lot in common at first.”

“Friendship is the most special thing ever. You don’t know what it’s like until you have something like it,” adds Andrew.

Back to School on a Budget
Sunday, July 26, 2015

Jewish learning

By Rochelle Eisenberg

It’s that time of year already! It’s 95 degrees out, summer is in full swing, the beach is beckoning … and stores have begun enticing parents with back-to-school supply sales.

Already, you ask? As you pull together each child’s list – which seems to get longer every year as schools now ask for everything from flash drives to paper towels to hand sanitizers – you stop counting how much this is going to cost you.

Last year, families spent an average of $100 per student on school supplies alone (not including backpacks, shoes and clothes). That’s a huge chunk of money. And according to the National Retail Federation’s annual Back-To-School Spending Survey, the average family with children in grades K- 12, will spend a $630.36 on electronics, apparel and other back-to-school needs this year.

The bad news – back-to-school spending is up 42 percent in the past 10 years. The good news, I guess, is that spending is expected to be down from last year.

For some families, back-to-school spending can be a heavy burden. That’s why Jewish Community Services, CHAI, Jewish Volunteer Connection, all agencies of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, have teamed up to help those students whose families can’t afford it, begin the school year on the right foot.

This year, these organizations are holding a Community School Supply Drive, July 27 – Sept 11, to benefit children of Jewish Community Services (JCS) client families and students attending Fallstaff and Cross Country Elementary Middle Schools, along with Milbrook Elementary, who lack funds to purchase items to start the school year.

So while you are running around in search of the perfect binders and pencil cases for your third-grader, the locker accessories for your middle school student or simply the basics, such as scissors and notebook paper, pick up one extra item. A jumbo glue stick, a pack of crayons, some pocket folders. For as little as 50 cents, you can make a huge difference.

Drop off supplies at the JCS offices on the Park Heights campus, the Weinberg Park Heights JCC or the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC. Go to jcsbaltimore.org/schoolsupplies for a complete list of needs. Volunteers also are needed to assist with organizing the supplies and delivering them to area schools.

On Exhibit at the Jewish Museum of Maryland: Cinema Judaica
Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Cinema Judaica

By Joanna Church, Collections Manager

The JMM’s new exhibit, Cinema Judaica, has been open for just over two weeks now, long enough for me to get a sense of what interests our visitors. I’ve enjoyed walking around the gallery listening to people as they reminisce about Baltimore theaters, describe the plots of their favorite movies, add films to their to-be-watched list and place their vote for the #GoldenTevye.

The text of the exhibit includes information on the history of the represented films, both in the context of Hollywood’s engagement with Jewish themes and characters, and in terms of their Baltimore releases – but we also tried to emphasize the visual nature of the movie posters and photographs. For literal-minded visitors (and I include myself in this category), we laid the posters out in chronological order, but the open plan of the gallery encourages you to approach the images that strike your fancy, without sticking to the timeline. Many visitor comments and conversations have focused on what people can see, rather than what they’ve read.

Cinema JudaicaA group of elementary-age campers, for example, were drawn to – or, more accurately, repulsed by – the seemingly inescapable images of people kissing. (Their comment page included thoughtful ruminations on the way movies have changed … as well as notes along the lines of “Did they really make that many love movies?” Many people have gravitated towards a favorite actor or actress, a familiar favorite or an intriguing title. One visitor explained his vote for I Accuse! (1958) by saying he’d tried to view the posters as would a non-English speaker: Which image had the most graphic representation of the film’s themes, without needing to understand the title or tagline?

Cinema JudaicaOur #GoldenTevye favorite-poster voting cards do not ask for your reasons, just the title. Thus, we can only guess at why someone chooses Fiddler on the Roof (1971) or The World at War (1942). We did a vote count earlier this week to check on the frontrunner and, as expected, The Ten Commandments (1956) – by far the largest poster in the show – is ahead by several votes. But I was pleased to see that votes have been cast for a wide variety of titles, some well-known and others not. To me, that says our visitors are really engaging in the visual and textual content, which is what every curator hopes for. (That, and I really want Claude Rains and Sons of Liberty (1939) to bring in a few more votes.) Make sure to stop by the Museum by September 6th to see Cinema Judaica and cast your own vote for the #GoldenTevye!

Cinema Judaica was created by the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion Museum, New York. All photos were taken by Will Kirk.

Letters Home From Camp
Thursday, July 09, 2015

Blog - Letters Home from Camp

By Rochelle Eisenberg

I was sorting through childhood memories the other day and came across my camp letters. I still remember going to the store before camp began to pick out my stationery.

Would it be the checklist version – you know the one that had questions like, camp food is a) yucky, b) yummy or c) I don’t know, I haven’t eaten anything yet? Or the one with colorful flowers and lots of space to write glowing accounts of my days filled with exciting activities, from boating to swimming to matzoh ball soup on Friday night?

I’m sure my parents couldn’t wait to receive these letters. Back then, that was the only way they knew if we were having a good time. After all, we didn’t have email and certainly no Internet photos in which they could analyze each expression to see if we were having fun.

When I sent my own kids to camp, I realized how valuable those letters must have been to my parents. I would run home each day to check the mailbox, disappointed if nothing was there, thrilled when I saw their handwriting.

Camp is such an important part of our young one’s lives and hearing about the everlasting friends they are making, the values they are learning, the activities they are enjoying and the independence they are gaining is so rewarding.

Here are some camp letters from Baltimore youngsters:

letter from camp

letter from camp

Letter from camp

Send us your camp letters and learn more about camp at the Center for Jewish Camping.

10 Things To Do This Month in Baltimore
Monday, July 06, 2015

10 things to do this month in Baltimore

 

Looking for things to do this July? Check out these great events sponsored by The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore or Associated agencies.

Pirate-Themed Story Time | Thursday, July 9, 11:00 a.m. | Macks Center for Jewish Education Library

Ahoy mateys! Get dressed up like a pirate to read PJ Library books and celebrate Jewish Swashbuckler, Jean Lafitte.

Daniel Silva

An Evening with Bestselling Author Daniel Silva | Thursday, July 9, 7:00 p.m. | The Gordon Center for Performing Arts

Daniel Silva, one of America’s finest writers of international intrigue and one of the greatest spy novelists in history, will talk about his books: Messenger, The Secret Servant, Moscow Rules, The Defector, The Rembrandt Affair, Portrait of a Spy, The Fallen Angel and The English Girl. Tickets, which include a free copy of Silva’s The English Spy are $35 for one, $50 for two.

JCC Pool

 

PJ at the Pool | Friday, July 10, 4:00 – 6:30 p.m. | Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC

Join your PJ pals for a special Tot Shabbat program, complete with snacks, followed by free swim with your friends at the JCC’s outdoor pool. Pack a picnic dinner and enjoy an evening out with the family. Program is $5 per family for JCC members, $10 per family for nonmembers.

Orioles vs. Nationals with IMPACT and DC’s Young Leadership | Sunday, July 12 12:00 p.m. | Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Take Camden Yards by storm for a battle of the Beltway with IMPACT and Young Leadership of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. Open to young adults, ages 22-39.

Cinema Judaica

Flickering Treasures | Sunday, July 12, 1:00 p.m. | Jewish Museum of Maryland at the Herbert Bearman Campus

Celebrate the golden age of movie-going with Baltimore photographer and author, Amy Davis, as she presents photographs from her upcoming book, Flickering Treasures: Rediscovering Baltimore’s Forgotton Movie Theaters. Explore the role of Jews in Baltimore cinema as theater owners, operators and moviegoers. The presentation is held in conjunction with the Museum’s newest exhibit, Cinema Judaica, featuring iconic Hollywood film posters and memorabilia from 1939-1971. Program is free with museum admission.

Wonder Wednesdays: Family Game Night  | Wednesday, July 15, 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. | Weinberg Park Heights JCC

Stop by the JCC Wednesdays this summer for afternoons filled with activities from moon bounces to games, crafts, plasma cars and more. On July 15, enjoy games for the whole family. Plus young children can enjoy time playing in J Town, a mini-town, complete with grocery store, houses and bagel restaurant. Price to participate is $1 for JCC members and $3 for guests.

CHAI Housing program

CHAI: Homebuyer Education Workshop | Tuesday, July 21, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. | CHAI

Learn the ABCs to successful homeownership: “Affordability, Budget, Credit, while finding out about loans and grant programs that are available in the CHAI neighborhoods, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, the State of Maryland and local banks. Workshop is free.

Summer Storytime with Sifriyat Pijama | Wednesday, July 22, 10:00 a.m. | Macks Center For Jewish Education Library

Come dressed in blue and white to hear stories in Hebrew and English. Then enjoy a snack and make a craft! Event is free and is part of the Macks Center for Jewish Education Summer Reading program.

Adoption Search Group | Monday, July 27, 7:00 p.m. | Jewish Community Services

Join the monthly Adoption Search Group where Myra Hettleman, LCSW-C, adoption specialist, will discuss the adoption search process. She will focus on whether to search, how to search and ways to handle issues that may arise from the process.

It Takes A Village
Saturday, July 04, 2015

Eileen Rosenbaum

 

As we age, many of us wonder how long we will be able to remain in our homes. What will happen if suddenly we find we cannot drive? How will we get to our doctor’s appointments? Will we have a social life if we don’t live with other seniors? And who will take care of basics, like changing our lightbulbs, so we don’t fall?

When we look at our options, it’s great to know that there are organizations, like CHAI, who are organizing “villages” where seniors can remain in their homes as long as possible. Volunteers take care of making sure they seniors get rides they need, the social activity they crave and the home repairs they require.

So who are those volunteers? Esther Weiner, a former trial lawyer, and Eileen Rosenbaum, a retired occupational therapist, are two dedicated women – empty nesters, themselves -- who volunteer for CHAI’s Northwest Neighbors Connecting (NNC), a self-sustaining “village” in Northwest Baltimore.

What do you do? Eileen: I’m a care partner. I visit a woman about once a week and we lunch together in her apartment. We’ll talk about all kinds of things … her life, her concerns about aging. Sometimes, I’ll take her to a doctor’s appointment.

Esther: I’m president of the board of NNC and I’ve done a lot of things; but, in particular, I lead the development of systems and governance to make sure NNC meets the needs of its members while sustaining membership growth. I, along with other Board members and Chava Ball, as director of Northwest Neighbors Connecting will plan monthly village gatherings, brainstorming issues that we think the residents will like. For example, we’ve developed programs around health and wellness, had partners come in to speak to NNC members and planned exercise programs. We’ve had tai- chi, balance exercises, for example.

Eileen: I also work in the NNC office once a week, inputting data that connects volunteers with the seniors, based on what services they might need.

How did you get involved? Esther: It’s funny. I had just had a conversation with a friend who had read an article in AARP about the village movement. We discussed what an interesting concept that was. Then Lane [Levine] came to me during the early stages of NNC’s development and I decided to become involved.

What do you enjoy about NNC? Eileen: It’s been a great opportunity to meet someone from another city – I’m originally from New York and she is from Baltimore. It’s wonderful to talk to someone who grew up in another time. I love learning about her life and her perspective on Judaism. She has great insights. She always tells me to accept people where they are and not expect them to live the life that you do.

Have you learned anything? Eileen: Volunteering for NNC has given me the opportunity to meet someone in Baltimore I may never have normally met; someone who lives in my community. On another note, I get to do data entry and connect volunteers with what people need. It’s actually ironic. I came from being computer-challenged. Now it’s one of the things I do.

Last thoughts? Esther: NNC provides a safe place for people to meet and become active. We offer a nurturing environment for aging in one’s own home.

Eileen: I want to encourage people to get involved and help those who are older and less independent. When we get older, 15-20 years from now, and can’t drive, hopefully the organization will still be around and someone will volunteer and help us.

Hear from other volunteers like Iris Pressman on what they do to make a difference.

Ashkelon and Beyond
Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Becca Vail in Ashkelon

By Becca Vail

This past weekend, we had the privilege of traveling to Baltimore’s sister city of Ashkelon, south of Tel Aviv and still on the coast. In my previous times in Israel, I had never been to Ashkelon so I was looking forward to this trip. We left Friday morning and met some of the staff at the volunteer center who are in contact directly with Baltimore. Einav (one of the staff members) explained what our day was going to look like and went over security procedures.

Ashkelon, being more in the south and closer to the Gaza Strip, is more susceptible to potential rocket fire. Security is thus something that has to be taken quite seriously, especially since we are not native to the area. Einav told us, however, that while this goes on, it is still home to many many people- they do not uproot their lives because of it, they adapt. Everyone has access to a safe room and they are prepared. (I am pleased to say we had no security issues while staying there.)

Our first activity Friday was going to a place for troubled youth, where these teens had learned a skill, candle making for our purposes, and were to teach us how to perform it. Making our own candles was a fun start to the morning, but getting the different techniques down is a lot harder than you would think. If the candle is too dry, it will break, but if it is too wet, it will mush. These teens really knew what they were doing. We made one candle for ourselves and we made four others to be given to the kindergarten class we were visiting after.

Every Friday, the kindergarten class does a Kabbalat Shabbat and this week, we had the honor of joining them. If there is anytime that I really wish I could speak Hebrew, it is when I am with little kids that do not speak an ounce of English. Their innocence and enthusiasm could put a smile on anyone’s face, and that is quite literally all i did, was smile at them since I could not understand them. They were so cute and happy, they kept me in such a good mood. Giving them their new Shabbat candles at the end was so exciting for them as they saw all the different colors and designs.

After this, we went back to the volunteer center where we all waited for our host families. I was staying with Nikki (a girl from my trip) at Tamir’s house, a soldier who is in fact younger than I am. His family was so welcoming upon our arrival, and we definitely spoiled our dinner a little bit with Tamir’s eima’s (mother’s) baking (it is impossible to pass up chocolate filled challah bites). Shabbat dinner was absolutely amazing. Shabbat in Israel is one thing, Shabbat with a family and home cooked food is by far one of the best experiences you can get. We prayed, we blessed, we ate, we talked, we sang. Oh did we sing. They wanted to make sure we were included and asked which songs we were familiar with. Having just done this with the kindergartners, we pulled out the packet of songs from earlier.

We started with Shalom Aleichem, or Peace be Upon You. I learned this song while I was still in Hebrew school as a little girl and I have always found it to be so simple yet so powerful.

Shalom Aleichem mak’achei hashalom mal’achei elyon. Mimelech mal’achei ham’lachim Hakadosh baruch Hu.

Peace upon you, ministering angels, messengers of the Most High, of the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.

Music has been a very important factor in my life and certain songs, such as the one above, can, in my opinion, resonate a feeling. Having Shabbat dinner with this family who welcomed us in whole-heartedly (with delicious food I will add), brought so much to that song that night. No shyness, no holding back; just me and my voice. Singing is how I bring peace upon myself.

Taking Stock
Sunday, June 21, 2015

Marc Terrill, president of the Associated

By Marc B. Terrill

As The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore readies for our Annual Meeting marking the completion of another fiscal year and Annual Campaign, it is the appropriate time to glimpse back on the months that have passed. Through the year, we have had to navigate times of both challenge and jubilation.

It is hard to believe that it was a year ago that three Israeli teens were kidnapped while hiking near the West Bank. The ensuing search for the missing boys and the later tragic discovery of their bodies united the Jewish world in collective despair and mourning.

And, the realization of this national trauma put Israel and the region back into a familiar place of war and unrest. Rockets fired from Gaza on civilian targets, IDF responded and so on and so on. It was a long summer, to say the least.

Aside from hopes and prayers for peace and understanding in the region, our Baltimore Jewish community rallied with impressive human and financial support for Israel’s most vulnerable. We had a role to play and we did. Elderly were tended to, children received needed trauma counseling, and the most pressing needs received the full heart of world Jewry.

Our concern for our global family also extended to those caught in the crossfire of political unrest in Ukraine. Through the work of our overseas partners, we were and are a lifeline to many who literally have no other source of support. Because of the strength of our Annual Campaign, we were able to ensure that those who require a caring, loving hand have one in The Associated system. We fed, clothed and provided relief to the poorest Jews on the planet.

Here at home, we were able to answer the immediate needs of our community and plan ahead for future generations based on the strength and wisdom of our centralized system of giving and collaboration. The Associated is dedicated to uplifting the vulnerable and inspiring a deep connection to Judaism, Israel and each other.

Because of the work we have done collectively as community this past year, we are able to provide enriching Jewish programs for families with young children, meaningful Israel experiences for teens and young adults, rewarding summers for our campers, diverse Jewish opportunities for our college students, strengthening education for students with special needs, safe haven for survivors of domestic violence, career counseling for those in search of jobs, dignity for our oldest residents and so much more.

And we remain committed to tikkun olam, repairing the world. When there is an opportunity for the Jewish community to step forward and be good neighbors to all who live and work in Baltimore, The Associated and our community are present.

We could not accomplish any of these great strides for our community in isolation. It is thanks to thousands of generous donors and volunteers and partner organizations that we are a strong vibrant community and that we look optimistically toward an even brighter tomorrow. Through collaboration, cooperation and commitment to our sacred legacy, I know that the future years will be met with the same resolve as this one. Thank you! Enjoy the summer!

Help celebrate the end of the campaign year with The Associated on June 24. Visit associated.org/annualmeeting.

Summer Health Tips: Exercising in the Heat
Sunday, June 21, 2015

Kids at JCC

 

Summer has arrived and it’s time for outdoor sports, swimming, and spending time with friends and family outside. However, with fun in the sun comes the danger of developing a heat-related illness. It’s important to remember that the best outdoor experiences come with the knowledge and preparation of keeping everyone safe and healthy.

Hydration. Throughout the longer and warmer days of summer, it is much easier to exercise outdoors. In order to beat the heat, it is important to pay attention to your hydration! The amount of liquid needed to stay hydrated depends on many factors including the type of exercise being performed, the environment, including the humidity and temperature, and the presence of illness or other health conditions.

Follow the tips below to avoid dehydration:

Exercise: During exercise, perspiration increases. It is important to compensate for the fluid losses. For short-term exercise, an extra 1.5 - 2.5 cups of fluid should suffice. For longer duration exercise of an hour or more, water or sports drinks should be consumed throughout exercise to maintain water balance. It is recommended to drink before, during and after a workout. The amount needed depends highly on the amount perspired.

Environment: Hot and humid weather causes excess perspiration; therefore it is important to replace the water loss throughout the entire workout. Approximately 4 - 6 ounces is recommended for every 15 minutes. Pay attention to your thirst level. Thirst is an indication of slight dehydration.

Illness: With fever, vomiting or diarrhea, your body loses additional fluids. Focus on drinking water and eating fluid-rich foods. It may be beneficial to drink a sports drink to make up for electrolytes lost.

Best Liquids for Hydration: Good old-fashioned water usually does the trick to stay hydrated. If you are participating in an activity or exercise lasting over an hour or in hot and humid conditions, it may be beneficial to have a sports drink or juice diluted with water on hand. These drinks not only replenish the electrolytes lost in sweat, but also keep your energy levels up by replacing carbohydrates.

Beyond Hydration: It is equally important to maintain blood sugar levels. Be sure to have a small snack (at least 100 calories) before participating in exercise to avoid exhaustion. Having a light snack will also help you to perform better and keep energy levels up.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention defines heat-related illnesses as “illnesses [that] occur when heat exposure or physical exertion increases to the point at which the body’s attempts to cool itself are no longer effective.” There are four different types of heat-related illnesses that range from minor to very serious and require medical attention immediately.

Heat Rash. A heat rash develops when the body produces excess amounts of sweat in hot temperatures. This excess sweat can irritate the skin and produce clusters of red blisters or pimples. Individuals experiencing a heat rash should take measures to keep the affected area dry.

Heat Cramps. Heat cramps can develop after periods of strenuous activity in hot or humid temperatures. These painful muscle cramps or spasms are the result of depleted salt stores in the muscles and are most commonly felt in the abdomen, arms, or legs. Individuals experiencing heat cramps should cease activity and get to a cooler area. Consuming clear beverages or sport drinks is also suggested. Individuals should wait until cramps have subsided before continuing activity to avoid developing heat exhaustion.

Heat Exhaustion. Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses excessive amounts of water and salt during activity in hot temperatures and is unable to cool itself. Persons who are older or have high blood pressure are at an increased risk. Individuals experiencing heat exhaustion will usually display symptoms of heavy sweating, extreme weakness/fatigue, clammy or moist skin, and show signs of dizziness or confusion. Recommended first aid consists of getting the person to rest in a cool area, consuming clear non-alcoholic liquids, and having them take a cool bath or shower.

Heat Stroke. Heat stroke is the most dangerous type of heat-related illness. A heat stroke occurs when the body can no longer regulate its internal temperature. During a heat stroke, the body’s temperature can rise very quickly to temperatures above 106 degrees Fahrenheit. Emergency treatment must be administered immediately to avoid death or permanent disability. Individuals experiencing a heat stroke will display symptoms of chills, hallucinations, high body temperature, slurred speech, dizziness or confusion. Recommended first aid consists of calling 911, moving the individual to a cool and/or shaded area, and using cooling methods such as: fanning, spraying cool water, and soaking victim’s clothes with cool water.

Be Safe, Be Prepared! Heat- related illnesses are preventable. Here are some tips on how to keep yourself safe:

  • Wear light, loose-fitting, breathable clothing.
  • Schedule outside activity during the coolest parts of the day.
  • Take multiple breaks in the shade or a cooler area.
  • Take frequent water breaks - about 8 oz. every 15-20 minutes.
  • Avoid consuming beverages with high amounts of caffeine, sugar, or alcohol.
  • Check the local weather forecast for the day’s Heat Index.

Keep yourself and others safe, you’re almost ready for some safe fun in the sun! Check out the JCC Health Fair on June 28.  

CHANA: A History
Thursday, June 18, 2015

CHANA celebrates 20 years in October 2015

 

Domestic abuse. Certainly not in the Baltimore Jewish community. Except it was. “Through our network, we learned that one rebbitzin had hidden away nine women in one year. These women had nowhere to go,” recalled Brenda Brown Rever.

Though The House of Ruth existed in East Baltimore, Jewish women in the community did not use it. Through a strategic plan of the Women’s Department, it was decided that domestic violence needed to be addressed in the community. CHANA (Counseling, Helpline and Aid Network) launched in 1995 with Shelly Hettleman as the first executive director. CHANA was named in honor of Annette S. Lieberman, a community leader. “CHANA needed to be in the community. We needed to protect women. If we didn’t protect our own, who would?” said Brenda.

Executive Director Nancy Aiken began at CHANA in 2001. “The initial vision for CHANA was to serve clients who were so needy and to break the intergenerational cycle of abuse,” she said.

CHANA gave women the opportunity to put action behind the value of tikkun olam. “We never thought about how we were saving a life. We thought that Jewish men didn’t kill their wives. Not us,” added Brenda.

Originally, CHANA focused on Jewish women and their children who were victims of domestic abuse. In 2009, CHANA’s mission expanded with The Shofar Coalition, which helped victims of abuse, children exposed to domestic violence and adult survivors of trauma, especially sexual abuse in the Jewish community.

Recognizing the incidence of elder abuse, in 2013, CHANA initiated SAFE: Stop Abuse of Elders, in partnership with Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Home and Hospital, and Jewish Community Services.

“We use as many community resources within the Jewish community as needed,” said Nancy. We have helped people we have never met, but our impact is there.”

Alyson Friedman, current CHANA board chair, remembered working as a Helpline volunteer. “We are geared toward Jewish clients, yet offer services to all members of the community and provide the accommodations they need to feel cared for and safe. I am proud of the way CHANA has grown to accommodate changing needs in our Jewish community.”

This article was originally published in the Associated Women's History Book in June 2015. Learn more about CHANA by visiting their website and liking CHANA on Facebook.

The Talk That Adult Children and Parents Need to Have
Monday, June 15, 2015

Seniors dancing at senior center

By Janet Kurland, LCSW-C, Senior Care Specialist, Jewish Community Services

Talk about awkward subjects! Let’s say you’re in the Baby Boomer generation. Are there conversations you’d like to have with your parents as they age, but just don’t know how to start? How do you bring up important topics like finances, health and medications, independent living, driving, end-of-life wishes and relationships? Seniors, do you wish you could raise some of these matters with your adult children, and are there others you’d rather not discuss with them?

If you’re finding it difficult to open a conversation about sensitive subjects, you’re not alone. Most of us are uncomfortable and struggle with this, and there are so many barriers to communication. We may fear losing our independence. We want to protect our own privacy or to respect another’s privacy. Sometimes there’s a reluctance or inability to acknowledge the changes that aging brings, and a tendency to remain in our parent-child roles instead of relating as adults. It sure would help if we had some clear guidelines for these difficult conversations.

Each family has its own patterns and ways of relating, but one thing families do have in common is love. Parents and their adult children care about each other. As they age, their roles evolve, and often they are also trying to take care of each other. Can you relate to any of these situations?

  • A daughter is worrying because she notices that Mom has mixed up her pills, or gone out and left the stove on, or forgotten to pay her bills.
  • Dad has had a car accident. His children are concerned for his and others’ safety.
  • Mom has recently been diagnosed with a serious illness. How is she going to tell the children? She has not written down her end-of-life wishes, and her children change the subject when she tries to bring this up.
  • Dad has recently died. Will Mom have enough income, and how she will manage living on her own? She and Dad have never had a frank conversation with their adult children about their financial resources.
  • Mom is starting to feel pressured by the family to move to an assisted living facility, but she really wants to remain in her own home.

If you are an adult child, age 40 or older, or a senior age 70 or older, this is the time to start discussing important topics with each other because sometimes situations like the ones above can arise with little or no warning.

How to you approach these sensitive subjects? We like these suggestions offered by Home Instead Senior Care and communication expert Jake Harwood, Ph.D., of the University of Arizona:

  • Don’t draw a conclusion or make a decision based on a single incident. Take time to observe and talk with your parents. You may want to consult other resources, such as your parents’ physician or a geriatric specialist who can assess and address some of the changes you are noticing.
  • If you observe a problem, open a conversation with your parents. Mention what you’ve noticed and ask what they think is going on. If they acknowledge the situation, ask them to suggest some solutions and come up with a plan together. If your parents do not recognize the problem, give them specific factual examples. You may need to plant a seed, wait a while, and return to the topic after everyone has had time to reflect.
  • An informal or light tone, rather than an accusatory approach, can be a good conversation opener. Some examples: “Goodness, Mom, how do you keep all these pills straight?” “The fridge looks pretty empty. What are you guys eating these days?” “Dad and Mom, I recently updated my will. Have you looked over yours recently?”
  • Limit family meetings to immediate family members, and adults only. It may be helpful to have a trusted relative, who has your parent’s “ear,” lay the groundwork or begin the conversation. This could be a son or daughter, grandchild, son-in-law or daughter-in-law, sibling, neighbor or professional.
  • Address and try to resolve one issue at a time.
  • Treat your parents like adults and with respect. Think of how you would like to be addressed in this situation.
  • Look for solutions, resources and supports that maximize your parents’ strengths and that promote independence.
  • Be aware. Stay tuned in to your parents’ situation and any changes.
  • Ask for help. Many resources are available through your community’s family services, agencies on aging, senior centers, places of worship and in-home care providers. Jewish Community Services in Baltimore offers an Eldercare Family Consultation that gives families the opportunity to meet with an expert, discuss options and start to plan. Call 410-466-9200 or visit jcsbaltimore.org.

And, seniors, Dr. Harwood has tips to help you communicate with your adult children:

  • Be assertive. Say clearly and firmly what you need and want. Treat your family members with respect, and insist that they respect your dignity.
  • Focus on the issues that are most important to you. It may be easier to let less important points go.
  • Optimize your energy. Choose the times and places that work best for you to have serious conversations.
  • Compensate for weaknesses. Have your vision and hearing checked if you notice difficulties. Keep notes or lists to help you remember important items.
  • Foster your own independence. Look for mental and physical challenges and do as much as you can safely do for yourself.
  • Raise important issues that are on your mind; your adult child may be looking for a way to have a frank conversation.
  • Look for points of agreement and compromises; avoid defensiveness, anger and accusations.
  • Listen and try to understand the other person’s point of view. Express appreciation and love. Keep specific issues in perspective, and remember that what’s most important is your relationship with your family.

It is also important to make sure that vital documents like wills, powers of attorney, living wills and health care proxies are up-to-date and can be easily located when needed along with important information such as insurance policies, bank accounts, key contacts, etc. The last thing you want to be doing during a difficult time is searching through years of documents trying to piece things together. We recommend creating a binder to hold the information that will be needed. Learn more by reading “The Greatest Gift.”

Instead of waiting for a crisis, now is the time to start a family discussion about important topics, to gather information, make appropriate changes and decisions and plan for the future. Honesty and mutually respectful communication are the keys to overcoming the barriers; the reward is peace of mind for everyone involved.

JCS offers a range of services and solutions for older adults and caregivers, including Elder Care Management. To learn more, visit jcsbaltimore.org/aging-caregiving or call 410-466-9200. Jewish Community Services is an agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

The Kale and Kiwi Kids
Monday, June 08, 2015

Kale plant

 

On any given day the students at the Stoler Early Childhood Education Center at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC eagerly test out new foods such as kale, quinoa and kiwi. They analyze the new foods together, family-style, and after each food is prepped and served, they discuss how the food grows. They’ll smell it, survey its fantastic healthfulness and at the count of three – crunch!

A few years ago, during the 2011/2012 school year, the Stoler ECE program took on Michelle Obama's Let's Move! Childcare Program Challenge and was recognized in Washington, DC for Exceptional Work to Prevent Childhood Obesity, the only preschool in Maryland to receive this honor. Indeed, students at the JCC even do art projects based on themes like "anytime foods" (fruits and veggies) and "s