Articles From August 2017

Living Life to the End


There are many reasons why it is difficult to talk about the period of time we call the end of life. Most obviously, it is a subject we would prefer to consider theoretical. But, like many aspects of life that are difficult to discuss, our approach to the end of life is an important topic that is often misunderstood.

In working with Seasons Hospice and Palliative Care as the director of Jewish Hospice Services, I have gained some insights into the end of life experience. Written with the encouragement of those involved in end of life within the frum community, this short series will shed some light on how we approach this part of life as frum Jews. Future articles will focus on how to plan ahead and on ways to find meaning and strength even when life is limited. In this article, we will provide an overview of the halachos, values, and practical realities that guide our thinking about this issue.

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What Does an Open Door Look Like?


Slowly, the passengers tumbled out of the cramped SUV, tired from their long trip to the Pearlstone Center. Two people dressed in black* immediately ran out to greet them with warm hugs and carefully led them into the dining room. Sharon and Scott, from California; Steve, from D.C.; and Martin, from New York, had just arrived at the biennial Deafblind Shabbaton.

Inside, attendees who had arrived earlier reached out to say hi and express their warm welcome in tactile sign language**. It looked like a flurry of hands: hands touching hands, hands feeling the hand shapes that form letters and words, hands reaching out to read Brailled nametags, hands holding elbows for guidance, hands flying in excited discussion.

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Crosswalks, Potholes and More: Getting Your Traffic and Safety Concerns Addressed


We’ve all noticed them, whether we live in Baltimore City or County: intersections prone to accidents, potholes we must swerve to avoid, and the lack of wheelchair accessibility at curbs, among other unsafe conditions. Is it possible to get action to resolve such traffic and safety issues? And if so, how?

I have to admit, I never gave this topic much thought until I attended the Pikesville-Greenspring Community Coalition’s (PGCC) traffic and safety committee/neighborhood and pedestrian safety meeting in July. Although the subject of the meeting was the Smith Avenue corridor, the safety issues it raised are not exclusive to County residents. As a City resident, I took note.

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Northwestern HS Meeting


Rumors had been flying for years, but the buzz started in earnest this past December, when the School Board announced that Northwestern High School, at the corner of Falstaff and Park Heights, would be closing its doors for once and for all. The immediate question on everyone’s mind was what is going to take its place?

On Monday, July 10, I attended a community-wide meeting at the high school building slated to answer that very question. The meeting was one of several conducted this summer by the Baltimore City Planning Department to allow community members and interested parties to explore various prospects for reuse and to share their desires and concerns.

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Upstander Heroes


We like to believe that all children are inherently good, that they do not intentionally desire to hurt or cause pain to others. Yet, as all mothers and teachers know, children can be mean. Siblings fight and hurt each other – often on a daily, or even on a minute-by-minute, basis. Girls and boys in school exclude classmates, form cliques, taunt their peers, and inflict emotional pain on their counterparts. Many social and educational experts will say this is all part of growing up, that children need to learn resilience and tolerance; they need to build inner strength. And this is true – to an extent. But where do we draw the line? Where do we – as mothers and fathers and educators and rabbis, simply members of a community – say “enough”? How do we teach kids to be nicer to each other?

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Mach Nisht Ah Tsimmis!


Mach nisht ah tsimmis means “don’t make tsimmis.” I asked my vibel (wife) Shirley about the ingredients of this delicacy. She responded that tsimmis consists of carrots, sweet potatoes, prunes, lemon juice, and honey. Translated literally, therefore, mach nisht ah tsimmis makes no sense. Why should you not make a tsimmis? The first lesson, therefore, is that, when encountering a Yiddish expression (or an American one, for that matter), we shouldn’t take it literally. Rather, the enfehr (answer) is that mach nisht ah tsimmis means that we should not make a big deal about every annoyance. (Of course, there are annoyances that do require attention.) A common English equivalent is “don’t make a mountain out of a molehill” or the folksy “stop making such a fuss.”

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Dreams Come True , Journey to Bat Ayin , The Aliyah of the Taylor Family

bat yam

Does anyone remember the missionary couple that moved to Strathmore Avenue in the summer of 2000? Ever wonder what happened to them? I discovered the Taylor family living on a hilltop in Gush Etzion, in the yishuv of Bat Ayin. It was in this small settlement inhabited by simple people who contain wellsprings of greatness that Pinchas and Penina, formerly missionaries and now observant Jews, found a place to call home.

Pinchas and Penina graciously agree to share their fascinating personal story in order to inspire and strengthen others. They welcome me warmly, and I ask them how their story begins. Although most stories have a beginning, they respond, their own is elusive for the simple reason that their search for truth is beyond the scope of words and time.

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“I Never Had a Bad Day in America” Memories of Uncle Joe


This past June, our family celebrated two significant milestones. Our son Sruly and his wife Rachel celebrated the bris of their second son. They chose the name Yosef. Sruly explained that he named his son after my Uncle Joe Weinstock, a man he had never met but about whom he had heard so much. I was truly moved by this gesture. The very next day, our son Yossi, himself named after Uncle Joe, became engaged to Shevi Brody. One Yosef enters the Covenant and the other begins his new task of building a “faithful house in Israel.”

We are most grateful to the One Above for these blessings. I pray that in the zechus of Uncle Joe’s mesiras nefesh for Shabbos and Israel, these two Yosefs will be blessed and all of our family will continue to share in many brachos and simchas.

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Musings of a Shadchan


Tu B’Av, the 15th day of Av, is approaching as I write, and Yom Kippur is not far behind. These were joyous days in ancient times as the girls went out to the vineyards in borrowed white dresses and danced, exhorting the young men to choose their zivug. We don’t make shidduchim that way anymore – for better or worse! – but I have been making shidduchim long enough to have seen many other changes over the years of my “career.” So, taking a break from the usual question-and-answer format of this column, I will instead try to answer a question I have been asked many times: How has the shidduch world changed?

Let me start by describing the frum community through the eyes of a girl born in Ohio. It was very different from today. Cleveland was a midbar (desert) in the years of my youth, as were all the cities in the United States except for New York. The frum population was extremely small, with few eligible boys or girls in town.

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