Articles by Eta Kushner

All Purpose What?!


I saw a sign in a store a while back advertising “all purpose shrimp.” Other than eating them (not for us, of course), how many purposes do shrimp have? Do shrimp make good doorstoppers? Can you string them together to make a necklace? Use them to wash windows? Remove stains? Fix squeaking hinges? Somehow I suspect these uses would cause unwanted odors. It would be a dead animal, after all, and I’ve yet to come across “shrimp scented” fabric softeners or air fresheners.

I’ve never seen “all purpose gefilte fish” advertised and can’t imagine what another use would be. Perhaps the canned type could be employed as bookends. And if a bookend fell off the shelf onto your foot, you could take a frozen gefilte fish roll out of the freezer and use it to relieve the swelling. But generally, we seem to use gefilte fish only for eating.

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Connected Yet Distracted

cell phone

When Mashiach arrives, the entire world will know it instantly! I heard this opinion many years ago, and it was hard to imagine, then, how this could happen. Today, the scenario is quite understandable. A few “shares” on Facebook reposted thousands of times, a few tweets forwarded, not to mention live breaking news, and you’re there.

But aside from its future role in heralding the arrival of Mashiach, the modern cell phone is truly a wonder right now. It has the ability to connect us with virtually anyone, anywhere, any time – and to access a seemingly endless amount of information – with a device that fits into our pockets. Like any technology, however, mobile devices can be a blessing or a curse. As Rabbi Yissocher Frand said in his pre-Yom Kippur drasha, “Is Your Master in Your Pocket?” we need to make sure that we are controlling our technology and not vice versa..

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From Boycott to Buy-cott!


It’s a shame that the customers at Goldberg’s Bagels are more homogeneous now than what we had come to expect from owner Yaakov Drebin’s clientele. Until late October, his shop catered to a mix of Jews of varying degrees of observance as well as people of different religions and ethnicities, and, of course, political affiliations. These days, most customers he sees in the shop are noticeably Orthodox. What happened to cause this change?

Campaign Fun Turns Ugly

A couple of weeks before the election, a few Republican campaigners made unannounced stops in various Pikesville locations to promote their candidates. One stop was in the parking lot outside Goldberg’s Bagels. For about 20 minutes, this diverse group, with Jews and African-American campaign people among them, gave out flyers and spoke to anyone interested in engaging in conversation. According to their reports, it was mostly a fun day for everyone. There was a lot of friendly banter and picture taking (particularly because some of the campaigners were wearing Trump masks for fun) as well as music coming from a truck emblazoned with Republican names, with Donald Trump’s prominently displayed.

According to several eye witnesses, while the group was outside Goldberg’s, a woman customer who exited the store began yelling and cursing at the Republican group outside. She was decrying their support for Trump, and also used foul language to describe the presidential candidate.

Richard B,* an African-American, was with the Trump campaigners that day and saw no problem at Goldberg’s other than the woman who was yelling. “I thought the campaigning went quite well. We all have rights to do what we do. Mr. Drebin told the woman [who was cursing] that everybody has their rights to free speech. I didn’t want to pay her any mind, so I just ignored her. We all had a good time that day.”

Mr. Drebin, who had been busy in the store and was not even aware of the campaigners outside, happened to come outside shortly after the woman customer began verbally assaulting them. 

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Where Have All the Doctors Gone? New Realities at the Hospital


Any hospital stay, especially an unexpected one, can be a time of great stress. It’s bad enough that you are not feeling well and are stuck in this strange place rather than at home, where you are comfortable. On top of that is the vulnerability you or your family experience by not being sure of the outcome of this episode. Unfamiliarity with the health care staff, who are (hopefully) attending to your needs, creates another layer of anxiety. It’s confusing to even know “who’s who.” Is this person entering the room a PA? Intern? Resident? Nurse? Doctor? Mickey Mouse? (If you see Mickey Mouse, you may need an adjustment to your medications.) Even when you feel you are receiving excellent treatment, it is obvious you are not the only patient your doctor or nurse needs to tend to, and understaffing can be a problem.

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Armed, Alarmed…or Somewhere In-Between?


hey say the pen is mightier than the sword. But sometimes it helps to have a gun.

The question of what to do about guns in America has come to the fore as mass shootings – whether of the terrorist or “mentally ill” variety – seem to occur more and more often, not to mention home invasions and other crimes. Might private citizens owning and carrying guns have prevented some of these terrible incidents? But what about the tragic consequences of easy access to guns, including accidents, suicides, and crimes of passion?  

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From Bais Yaakov to Embassy Row


Way back in the 1940s, when the founders of Bais Yaakov established the mission of the new school for girls – creating the Jewish “mothers of tomorrow” – they most likely didn’t envision one of its graduates doing her mothering in the heart of diplomatic Washington! But then again, maybe they did. Because being a Jewish woman and mother encompasses all the circumstances in which she might find one day herself. Rhoda Dermer (nee Pagano), wife of the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer, and mother of five, is an outstanding example of such a woman, who represents the Bais Yaakov ideal among the leaders of the world.

Born and raised in the heart of our Baltimore community, Rhoda took a roundabout route to D.C. diplomatic circles. A Bais Yaakov graduate, she attended Stern College for Women and Columbia University in New York. Later, she graduated from Yale Law School. Although the trajectory of her life may not be exactly what she and her friends envisioned all those years ago, she is filling her current roles – mothering and more – with aplomb, all the while remaining loyal to the values her parents and teachers instilled in her.

Rhoda stays in contact with many of her BY and childhood friends. One of them, Aliza L, remains close to Rhoda to this day. “I’m actually not surprised about Rhoda’s position and her path in life,” says Aliza. “She is an extremely bright and accomplished woman. She’s a great friend, and I am glad we are still close and can share experiences and have our children grow up to know each other even if we live far apart.” And Naomi W, a more distant classmate, nevertheless remembers Rhoda as being a studious and diligent student who was very bright and a class leader: “She was very kind and refined, and people always gathered around her.”

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