A Storm of Chesed


“The clouds moved so quickly that it was like watching a video on fast-forward,” said my cousin Mark Rosenthal about Hurricane Irma. Mark, a dentist in Parkland, Florida, will be making a lot of guacamole in the next week or two. At least 20 avocadoes were blown off his backyard tree, leaving just two hanging on. Fortunately, other than the avocado cascade and a few other unexpected landscaping changes, his house was undamaged.

This was fortunate because his elderly mother and four friends (along with two dogs) weathered the storm with him. Sheltered inside with hurricane shutters blocking any view of the outside, they, like so many others in the area, went without power for several days, and sat in the heat with only candles for light. By the second or third day post-hurricane, the others left for home or places that had air conditioning.

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The Greeneh Kuzineh


A generation ago, “The Greeneh Kuzineh” was a well-known tune among Yidden. “What is the meaning of greeneh kuzineh?” you may inquire. Does it refer to a krankeit (illness), chas vesholom? Is it some type of vegetable? A new environmental movement? Or what?

If you noticed that kuzineh sounds like cousin, you’ve hit half the nail on the head, so to speak. Now the challenge is to interpret greeneh. If you are a second- or third-generation American, you probably don’t know that the new Jewish immigrants to America were called greeneh or greenhorns – often by former greeneh! Truth be told, other than Native Americans (aka Indians), the ancestors of all the inhabitants of this country were greeneh at one time!

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A Window on Baltimore’s Sukkahs


I was about 10 years old when my Great-Aunt Cele led me into Congregation Beth Jacob’s sukkah on Park Heights Avenue. It was my first time in a sukkah, and, even as a child, I knew that this was a special place. Streams of sunlight shone on tables laden with fruit. More fruit hung from above. But what I remember the most was an indescribably sweet smell. Today, I think of that sukkah as a window on Gan Eden.

“Any sukkah by definition is special because it’s a very holy space...an atmosphere of complete kedusha,” says Rabbi Menachem Goldberger, Rav of Congregation Tiferes Yisroel. Yet making a sukkah more beautiful lies within the domain of hidur mitzva, according to Rabbi Goldberger. He quotes a passage from Az Yashir (Song at the Sea): “Zeh Kaili ve’anvaihu – This is my G-d and I will adorn him.”

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Addiction in the Frum Community


Drug overdose deaths have skyrocketed in recent years, and our political leaders are taking note. In August, President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a national emergency, allowing the executive branch to earmark funds for the expansion of treatment facilities.

While chemical dependency is certainly not a new phenomenon in this country, the National Center for Health Statistics’ newly-released report revealed a very alarming trend that we have not seen before: In 2016, there were approximately 64,000 drug overdose deaths. About 20,100 of the deaths were caused by the lethal chemical fentanyl. Heroin was not far behind, with roughly 15,400 people losing their lives to heroin addiction. Maryland is one of three states that have reported the largest rise in drug overdose deaths.

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Recollection of Houston….


It was a smell I had experienced once before on a similar weeklong volunteer mission to the New Orleans Jewish community, in 2005, after the destructive Hurricane Katrina had decimated the city. Acrid. Pungent. Harsh. It was the smell of a severely flooded house, one that had recieved over five feet of water, maybe more. A face mask can only stop so much of the smell, while your eyes will see the destructive force of water in its entirety.

Only six hours earlier, in the wee hours of a Sunday morning, it was “wheels up” from BWI to Houston’s Hobby Airport via St. Louis. I had seen photos from Houston and was eager to get down to help, knowing how bad it would be for those homeowners unlucky enough to be flooded. I was fortunate to join a great team of volunteers from Baltimore, assembled ad hoc via WhatsApp, primarily from two synagogues, Shomrei Emunah and Ohel Moshe. Led by Azi Rosenblum and Yair Reiner, we were blue-collar in our volunteerism but there were, among us, doctors, lawyers, financial professionals, and basketball coaches (you never know when a three-on-three game could break out!) – all there to help in whatever way they could.

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The air is getting crisper, and Sukkos is in the air – a time to share lots of warm and comforting foods outdoors with family and friends while memories are being made. May you all enjoy your friends and family and have a year filled with brachos and simchas.

Split Pea with Brisket

I love this soup. The first time I ever came across meat in a split pea soup, I was in heaven. The combination of meat chunks and soft split peas makes a party in my mouth that continues down to my stomach and leaves me feeling satisfied and warm. If anyone knows where this dish originated, I’m interested. Let me know. 

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Ask the Shadchan


To the Shadchan:

I am 23 years old and have been dating since I was 20. Last year, I met a guy I really liked. We connected on many levels. We went out around 10 times, and he seemed to like me too. It might sound weird, but I was sure we would be getting engaged and was already planning our life in my mind, when, all of a sudden, he broke it off.

During the phone call, he was very brief. He didn’t offer a reason, and I was in such shock that I didn’t think to ask him for one. I called the original shadchan, but she had dropped out after the second date and said she couldn’t help me. To this day, I do not know what happened and why he refused.

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Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have come and gone, inundating huge areas with water. Fortunately, we in Baltimore did not have to deal with that catastrophe. But, to push a metaphor, many of us are inundated all the time by a sea of clutter. Imagine the folks in Florida having just a day to decide what to bring with them when they were told to evacuate. An uncluttered house enhances one’s ability to quickly decide and find what to pack, including such precious items as family photos, vital documents, and laptops.

We all struggle with clutter, unfortunately. And a huge portion of it is paper. When we procrastinate taking care of the paperwork, when we are confused about what to keep and what to throw away, the piles accumulate and take over our lives. Looking for records and trying to figure it all out consumes our time and saps our energy. We miss deadlines, pay fines, and feel generally stressed.

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More Cash for Your Crash : How to Get a Fair Settlement from your Auto Insurance Company

car crash

Driving home from work as usual, you notice a car out of the corner of your eye going through the stop sign. You realize immediately that there is no way you can avoid a collision, and indeed, the car rams into your passenger-side back fender. As you exit the car to deal with the other driver, you thank Hashem that you seem to be unhurt. At the same time, you dread the disruption to your life you know is coming.

Auto accidents can be traumatic, even if you are not injured and even if you are not at fault. Along with the time and inconvenience involved in repairing or replacing your vehicle, there is a most disturbing trend coming out of the auto insurance industry in recent years. That is its attempt to evade properly compensating you for the damage to your car. While not all insurance companies engage in these unfair practices, you should be wary any time you ask your insurance company for an estimate.

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Fun and Games, Then and Now


Have you ever wondered what your fellow baby boomers were playing while you “walked the dog” with your Duncan yo-yo, made a tea party for your Chatty Cathy, or joined the mobs of hula-hoopers on the country’s sidewalks? Have you ever reflected on what toys and games fellow Baltimoreans who relocated from across the globe played when they were growing up? Wonder no more! WWW’s sample survey not only brings some of us down Memory Lane but also reveals a stark contrast between what children consider fun and games, then and now.

A Map for Creativity

Peshi (Paula) Katz grew up in Randallstown, where her father, Rabbi Israel Goldberg, z”l, was the rav of Randallstown Synagogue Center. “We were a very creative family,” reminisces Peshi. “We drew a map of a city in different colors on the back of an old plastic tablecloth – with roads, shops, a gas station, a bank, and probably a shul – and played with our Matchbox cars for hours. We had shoeboxes full of them. They sell rugs like this for kids, now, so we were way ahead of our time.”

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