Articles From June 2016

Singing a Different Tune


How are men and women really different?

With all the talk about “woman’s role” in Judaism, most people would be hard put to answer that question. For lack of alternatives, our community often uses societal roles to pinpoint the differences: She takes care of the children/cooks chicken soup/ sings lullabies. He earns a living/learns Torah/puts oil in the car.

But societal roles, particularly in our rapidly changing society, are a weak and fickle reed on which to hang an entire philosophy about gender. In fact, different periods in history had paradigms for gender roles that look quite different from ours. For example, aristocratic Jewish families throughout the ages often had nannies who took care of their children. It would have been completely not in consonance with the mother’s stature to have her flipping pancakes or giving baths. And while today we tend to assign great significance to nursing one’s baby – seeing it as the ultimate in mother-baby bonding – there were periods in history when Jewish mothers would not have dreamt of nursing their own babies; they hired wet nurses.

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Election 2016 : Where Do American Jews Turn Now?


These are trying times to be a Jewish voter in America.

For the past couple decades, support for Israel and the Jews has grown increasingly strong among Republicans. This trend has continued in Congress (though there is vast bipartisan support for Israel among senators and congressmen). Assaults on the traditional U.S.-Israel alliance have come more recently from the Democratic Party. This has continued – and worsened – which we will discuss below. But some alarming events have transpired among Republican and their backers, as well, that should cause worry among Jews. The meteoric rise of populist Donald Trump has come with its share of worrisome anti-Semitic incidents and connection to the shady “alt-right,” the Caucasian “anti-left-wing-racism racists.”

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It Was Not My Time


I spent 13 years in the shidduch parsha. Baruch Hashem, I have wed, but just because I am married doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten what I went through and what thousands of others are currently going through. I still have very close friends and cousins in the shidduch parsha. One of the important tasks I have now is trying to match them up with appropriate shidduchim – not just pairing up a male and a female, because I remember how that feels. I remember how it felt to stand at a singles event or go to a Shabbaton and feel that this wasn’t where I belonged. And I remember calling and calling and calling shadchanim who either didn’t return my calls or set me up with the antithesis of what I was looking for. I felt lost, and I felt that the assistance being offered to me and others wasn’t addressing the true issues singles were having.

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A Rose Is a Rose…Is Not Always a Rose!


The flowers adorning every bima or aron kodesh I saw this Shavuos, as well as every dining or coffee table of the homes I visited awakened in me a curious (in both senses of the word) thought: It may be pure speculation on my part, but I can’t help but wonder when man began growing flowers simply for their looks and fragrance. Spices are fragrant, true, but their main function is to flavor and preserve food. All other agricultural produce is grown for consumption – whether by humans or their animals. When did people decide to grow lovely plants, like roses, orchids, and daffodils – not for any practical purpose but simply for beauty and olfactory pleasure?

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The Amazing New World of Discounted Gift Cards

gift cards

Once upon a time, people gave gifts. For holidays, birthdays, and special occasions, your friends and family would buy you a necktie or transistor radio, a necklace or a crock-pot. The problem was that no one knew your taste in neckties or whether three crock-pots were already languishing in your cupboard. This situation resulted in many exchanged gifts. For the vendor, this meant a loss of profit, due to the manpower needed to handle the exchanges. Furthermore, the returned merchandise was often not in pristine condition or was poorly re-packaged, creating a product that could no longer be sold as grade-A. On December 26th, the stores had to deal with long return lines and lost profits.

One could always give a gift certificate, of course, which allowed the recipient to buy what he or she preferred. It was a good deal for the stores, as it meant no return on that transaction, no ruined merchandise or repackaging, and one more little goodie: slippage, from the word “slip,” as in “to fall by the side.” It refers to the fact that if the gift certificate was not redeemed, the store got free money!

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No More Pencils, No More Books….


Now that school is closed for the next two-and-a-half months, families face the familiar dilemma of how to keep the kids entertained. The Where What When spoke to some mothers to hear about places close to our neighborhood – and some a little further out – that were a hit with their families. Somehow, hearing about a place from a fellow mother is more useful than reading about it in a guidebook or online. And often, you don’t have to travel far to find a kid-friendly place to go. In fact, it might be right here in our neighborhood.

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BOOST Tuition Scholarships Are Available – Apply Today!


For the last decade, private school families in Maryland have read with envy about the programs in close to 20 states across the country that provide tuition scholarships, whether through a school voucher or tax credit program. Day school advocates in Maryland have worked tirelessly and diligently throughout that time to provide their constituents with a program to address this great need, but year after year things fell short for one reason or another.

During the 2016 legislative session in Annapolis, the nonpublic school coalition put together an effort that focused on several different legislative approaches, all geared to creating a program that would generate scholarships for nonpublic school students. In the end, these efforts were met with success, b”H, as key legislative leaders and the governor’s office came to an agreement to provide a brand new $5 million allocation in the state budget to dispense tuition scholarships for students to attend eligible nonpublic schools in Maryland.

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Chazkeinu: The Stigma Stops Here

mental illness

Miriam,* a 29-year-old stay-at-home-mom who lives in upstate New York, not only has bipolar disorder, she is in recovery from an eating disorder. Elana,* a 37-year-old mother of two who lives and teaches in the Midwest, suffers from both bipolar disorder and epileptic seizures. Rachel,* a 34-year-old who lives in the Northeast, has bipolar disorder that is triggered postpartum. What these women have in common – besides being challenged daily by their bipolar disorder – is Chazkeinu.

Chazkeinu (which, in Hebrew, means “our strength”) is a new organization that gives chizuk (strength) to all Jewish women, throughout the U.S., who suffer from a mental illness of any sort or have a family member who does. The empathetic support and positive connections the organization provides is a vital component in helping them feel safe, understood, and uplifted in their struggles. It offers these things through a variety of programs, projects, and networks that cater to the mental health needs of each individual. In Chazkeinu’s partner program, for example, two women reach out to each other on a weekly basis just to “check in.” The organization hopes to eventually grow to have a monthly email/newsletter and retreat for members to meet one another in person. 

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Summer @ the Library

childrens library

Baltimore County Public Library offers a wide variety of activities for your children this summer. I’d like to mention some of them.

Let’s start with our youngest customers. Whether for the summer or year round, all branches of Baltimore County Public Library offer “Baby Storytime” for ages birth through two years with an adult, and “Preschool Storytime” for ages two to six with an adult. These programs incorporate reading books, rhymes, singing songs, and playing – through which librarians expose children to vocabulary words and encourage parents to do the same. Librarians help increase language awareness by modeling for parents how to employ books with very young children: using words in a variety of ways; incorporating language with movement, music and art; and exposing children and adults to voice inflection. All of these are important skills that foster literacy.

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