For some reason, optimistic people often stand out among their peers. Sometimes they’re viewed with awe, while other times, people simply find them annoying. Regardless of whether nature or nurture is responsible for their more than pleasant personalities, it is interesting to note that there is a unique group of individuals who excel in the area of optimism. The reason they don’t annoy anyone with their positive outlook is because they often go unnoticed. They are our children. Sadly, between the temper tantrums (theirs, not yours), the messes, and the squabbles, it’s easy to overlook this amazing attribute. But if we watch and listen carefully, we just might learn something.
“Today a nine-year-old Palestinian boy on a school trip to the West Bank’s only municipal zoo [in Qalqiliya] had his arm bitten off by a bear that he had apparently tried to feed. The UK’s Daily Mail reported that the animal had eaten the severed limb. The Palestinian Ministry of Local Governance has closed the zoo until further notice and has set up a committee to investigate the incident and deliver its findings within a week.... It was not immediately clear if any action was taken against the bear.” (The Times of Israel, April 25, 2017)
* * *Qalqiliya has been in the news over the past two weeks. Until then, had you asked me what I knew about that town of 50,000 under the Palestinian Authority, I would have said, “Isn’t that the place where they sneak across the border to Kfar Saba and steal bicycles and laundry?”
Then I heard that they’ve got a zoo as well, so I thought it could provide a human interest story – you know – a chance to say something positive. Yet as you can see from the tragic event described above, not every zoo is a safe place to take children.
Actually, the most recent news about Qalqiliya comes “closer to home,” literally. It seems that back in September of last year, two months before the U.S. presidential election – and presumably under pressure from Barack Obama, whose politically-correct female clone was expected to win – the Israeli government’s cabinet agreed in principle to transfer enough land to Qalqiliya from Jewish “Area C” of Judea and Samaria to enable the Arabs there to more than double the size of their town (via permission to build 14,000 homes).
Years ago, the song “My Yiddisheh Mameh” was very popular not only in the U.S.A. but around the world and brought tears to the eyes of many listeners. The lyrics were written by Jack Yellen with music by Jack Pollack. There are many versions and many singers, ranging from Sophie Tucker to Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt. (Google the tune and you can sing it!) Here is the second verse:
My Yiddisheh Mameh, I need her more than ever now,
My Yiddisheh Mameh, I’d like to kiss that wrinkled brow.
I long to hold her hands once more as in days gone by,
And ask her to forgive me for things I did that made her cry.
How few were her pleasures, she never cared for fashion’s styles.
Her jewels and treasures she found them in her babies’ smiles.
Oh, I know that I owe what I am today
To that dear little lady so old and gray,
To that wonderful Yiddisheh Mameh of mine
What defines the Jewish nation? When people think about our nation, one of the first things that comes to mind is the Tanach (Bible). The Tanach is not only a history book; rather, it contains the words that Hashem spoke through Moshe, the Prophets, and the great leaders of Israel. It is what binds us together as a people. It is also our deed and claim to the Land of Israel. For these reasons, among others, I really enjoy studying the Tanach.
I first wanted to participate in the Chidon HaTanach, the International Bible Contest, when I heard about it in fifth grade. However, the contest is only for sixth to eleventh graders, so I waited an entire year until I could finally do it. When I competed in my school in sixth grade, I advanced to the National level, which was held in New York that May, during which I surprisingly took second place! When I competed again the next year, with the help of Hashem, I managed to place first in the country for my division! There are three divisions in the United States: Hebrew Middle School, Hebrew High School, and English for both Middle School and High School, the division for which I won. I was overwhelmed! My family, classmates, school and synagogue, both of which are Beth Tfiloh, were super happy and excited for me! I was going to Israel to compete there and represent my school, my community, and my country!
Editor’s Note: Each year, WITS/MAALOT, a seminary offering a full Judaic curriculum along with a complete secular education leading to a Bachelor’s degree, presents a seminar called “Women in the Workplace: Opportunities and Challenges.” The seminar is part of the school’s ongoing mission of preparing young women for a life of Torah, even as they leave the sheltered halls of learning to participate in today’s world of work. How can they bridge the contrasts between the two worlds and maintain their standards while interacting with a diverse population? The following article is excerpted from the remarks of Dr. Janet Sunness at the seventh annual seminar.
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About 25 years ago, when I was on the faculty of the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute, I saw an important rav for his macular degeneration. The rav later commented to one of my friends what a kiddush Hashem (sanctification of Hashem’s name) it was to have a religious woman in my position. I appreciated his comment, but my response to it reflected the very nature of today’s topic. I thought, “But in a million years, he wouldn’t want his daughter in this position,” and I think this was true. So a role in the workplace is an opportunity to make a great kiddush Hashem. At the same time there are challenges that must be faced.
The sun beat down, feeling like steam rising from a boiling pot of water. The rotting seaweed emitted a rancid odor, and the crashing of the waves sounded like the roar of a frenzied crowd. When the waves collided with the shore, white foam appeared like the froth oozing from the jaws of a rabid dog. The grainy, coarse sand swallowed feet, and the gulls shrieked their war cries. Gusts of wind tried to steal the towels and umbrellas scattered on the sand. The beach is a terrifying, life-snatching nightmare.
The sun shone, feeling like a warm hug, and reflected crystals off the blue sea. The healthful salty air could be smelled for miles away. The crashing waves sounded like an exhilarated crowd, eager to be entertained. When the waves collided with the shore, white foam appeared, like frothy, beaten egg whites. The warm, fine sand enveloped feet and toy shovels, and the seagulls harmonized with each other. The wind created opportunities for “wind-blown hair” pictures by the ocean. The beach is a magnificent, revitalizing oasis.
I grew up in a frum family, and over the years, my three brothers have left our family’s ways. Only my sister and I are still frum. Of course, my parents are extremely upset about their sons, although we do still have a relationship with them. Now that I am ready to look for a shidduch, however, they are worried. I am also worried. I can tell that the local shadchanim, who know us, are hesitant to suggest anything. It has come to me through the grapevine that people are afraid to redt shidduchim for me, because they think there must be something terribly wrong with my family.
Truthfully, as far as I can tell, nothing is wrong with my family. We are very average. In income and everything else, we are like most families in the community. My parents work hard, but they have shalom bayis and always made time for us children.
I am off to meet Pnina Eilberg, resident of Nof Tzion, a neighborhood of just 85 families living on two streets. It came as a surprise to me to learn that such a place exists within the boundaries of Yerushalayim. Located in the Kidron Valley above Ir David, it is surrounded by Arab villages. Its name, though, meaning Zion View, is not surprising. As Pnina graciously welcomes me into her apartment, I take in the gorgeous panorama of Har Habayit and Har Hazeitim from her giant living room window. And as Pnina explains the background of her family’s aliyah journey and talks about life in this tiny enclave, I begin to appreciate the importance of the neighborhood and the strength of its residents.
Something new has overtaken Baltimore. Organizations are putting a new kind of ‘fun’ into fundraising. Once upon a time, a typical fundraiser was a charity tea, a banquet, a Chinese auction, or a heart-rending letter in our mailbox. Today, we are seeing organizations turning to the internet to host “24-hour” all-or-nothing super-fundraisers, as well as using social media of every stripe to spread awareness of the cause. But nothing can beat the “fun” of sports-related events which marry athletic competition with serious dollars.
Two local groups that have successfully taken this route are the Jewish Caring Network (JCN) and Bikur Cholim. The former has been holding 5K races for men and women for the past five years, while the latter jumped in a year later with an annual men’s bike-a-thon. Both draw large enthusiastic crowds of all ages and have opened the world of fundraising to a whole new audience.
By now, Baltimore’s Persian Jews – with their exotic pink shul on Park Heights Avenue – are a familiar part of the community. Like previous groups – the Russians, the Yekkes, and the Holocaust survivors – who escaped difficult circumstances and made their homes in Baltimore, the Persians add a unique and colorful flavor to our diverse community.
Jews have lived in Persia (modern Iran) since before the time of the Second Temple. Their arrival in Baltimore was a “fluke” (also known as “hashgacha”). That is, it wasn’t exactly planned that way. During the tranquil days of the Shah, Rabbi Naftali Neuberger, zt”l, had initiated a program whereby contingents of college-age men would come to Ner Israel yeshiva on student visas to get rabbinic training. They would then return to Iran, where high-level Jewish education was lacking, to bolster Jewish life. Before the second half of the plan could be implemented, however, the Iranian revolution of 1979 changed everything. Those who were in Baltimore stayed, and many others fled their ancestral home following the violent regime change.
Dalya Attar wants to “put the ‘more’ back into Baltimore.” Dalya, a first-generation American, former Bais Yaakov student, and Assistant State’s Attorney in Baltimore, is running for office on the Democratic ticket. She is aiming to become one of the three state delegates for District 41. Although the primaries will not be held until next year, on June 26, 2018, Dalya realizes that, as a relatively unknown face to the majority of the voters in her district, she has her work cut out for her.
Yitzy Schleifer’s recent win of a seat on the Baltimore City Council showed how teamwork and community support can help guarantee success. However, District 41 encompasses a much larger and more diverse area than the one that Yitzy represents, so the coming year will be a critical one in getting her message out.