Articles by Margie Pensak

Stretch Yourself to the Chesed Limits


Have you ever wanted to perform a chesed but decided not to because you couldn’t accomplish the entire feat yourself? Perhaps you were able to cook dinner for someone who just gave birth but had no way to deliver it. Or you wanted to visit someone in the hospital but had no way to get there. Thanks to a relatively new organization in town, the impossible has become possible. Stretch acts as a shadchan, pairing over 120 volunteers with the requests of potential recipients, so such concerns no longer stand in the way of doing chesed.

Joining Forces

Ahuva, a special ed graduate student, moved to Baltimore from Georgia to attend Maalot three years ago. She has been involved with Stretch since its inception a year-and-a-half ago. Last winter, Ahuva was part of a group of four women who wanted to raise funds for a single mother of two young children who was in school and couldn’t support herself. “We got a psak to help her and wanted to send out a tzedaka mailing,” says Ahuva. “We needed help for the manual labor of stuffing the envelopes, typing, and sticking on the address labels. I had a brainstorm and called Stretch. They were amazing. A diverse group of volunteers of all ages and stages came out for a few winter evenings to help. Baruch Hashem, the job got done. The mailing raised between eight and nine thousand dollars, which supported this single mother for several months until she was able to finish school, get her degree, and find a full-time job.”

Read More:Stretch Yourself to the Chesed Limits

Rav Moshe Feinstein’s Historic Baltimore Visit : Recollections from Fifty Years Ago

moshe feinstien

Although I was not living in Baltimore when the world-renowned Torah giant, Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, visited, 50 years ago in January, 1968, I can picture the scene. It was a rare and gala event, one that lives in the memories of those fortunate to have experienced it and who graciously shared them with me.

“It seems like just yesterday that our family was preparing for the historic visit by the gadol hador, Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l,” reminisces Frank Storch, who was 10 years old, at the time. “I remember the preparations and the tremendous excitement that was building throughout Baltimore. Everyone was grateful that we would be zoche to have the gadol hador in our city.”

Read More:Rav Moshe Feinstein’s Historic Baltimore Visit : Recollections from Fifty Years Ago

Check it Out! The Library Collection at Towson University’s Baltimore Hebrew Institute


Anyone remember Baltimore Hebrew University on Park Heights Avenue and its red brick building with the year-round Chanukah menorah atop its front door? Well, the building was replaced by an extension to the JCC parking lot. But what happened to the 90-year-old Jewish institution itself? A unanimous Maryland Board of Regents vote determined its destiny in June of 2009. Baltimore Hebrew University – with its 55 graduate students, seven instructors, and a library of approximately 70,000 volumes – would be moved eight miles northeast to the campus of Towson University, with its more than 21,000 students.

Read More:Check it Out! The Library Collection at Towson University’s Baltimore Hebrew Institute

Bonding Soles, Bonding Souls


When I stepped inside the quaint, old-world shoe repair shop on Seven Mile Lane, close to Reisterstown Road, I was transported back several decades to my childhood in New Haven, Connecticut. The same ragged shoes and boots were piled high on a workbench, waiting to be rejuvenated; an array of shoe polish, creams, and sprays were lined up on a shelf; assorted shoe inserts, shoelaces, and men’s black rubber overshoes were prominently displayed; and key-making machines stood behind the counter. Even the earthy smell of leather was the same. The one difference was that this shoemaker also repairs watches and sells watch batteries!

Read More:Bonding Soles, Bonding Souls

Presents with Presence


Chanukah is upon us. And what does every child (and adult?) eagerly anticipate after the Maoz Tzur and the latkas and the dreidel – or maybe even before? Presents, of course.

Gift giving and getting is a beloved part of Chanukah. But it is more complicated than it seems. First of all, there are the decisions. Will you be distributing Chanukah gelt or gifts? One gift or one gift per night? Expensive or cheap? Practical “need” or superfluous “want”? Then there are the feelings. Are gifts a source of happiness or anxiety? I polled some of my fellow writers from around the world for their two cents. This is what they had to say:

Read More:Presents with Presence

Biz Tank : A Different Kind of Shadchan


For over a decade, rabbi-turned-business-and-marketing-guru Joel Klein has been an unofficial “shadchan” – pairing up fledgling business people with investors. In April 2016, he took his talent one step further by creating BizTank, a chareidi take-off on the popular TV program, Shark Tank. Since its inception, more than 50 hopeful vendors/presenters from all over the world – including Israel, Belgium, and throughout the U.S. – have pitched their ideas at the monthly forum.

That pitch – dramatic and nail-bitingly tense – is just the culmination of the consulting and coaching services offered by Joel. Before the hopefuls go before the investors, he and his team have already prepared them – figuring out the numbers, showing them how to evaluate their business, and coaching them on their presentation.

Read More:Biz Tank : A Different Kind of Shadchan