Articles From May 2016

Three Cheers for Cherries!


Ever wonder where cherries get their vibrant red color? The secret to these red gems is in pigments known as anthocyanins, a group of compounds whose colors can range from bright red-orange to blue-violet. They are found in many fruits and vegetables and provide a protective mechanism against environmental stresses such as cold temperatures and drought. 

Nutrition researcher Denise Webb writes in Today’s Dietician that, “while the answers to how and why anthocyanins may help prevent disease remain undiscovered or unexplained, the literature is intriguing, and most researchers are calling for more studies to explore the potential health benefits of these naturally occurring compounds.”

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) website adds additional information about the nutritional benefits of cherries with this statement: “Lab studies suggest that the phytochemical anthocyanin, credited with giving cherries their notable red hue, has been recognized for its antioxidant power.” Antioxidants help prevent damage to healthy cells caused by free radicals, an unstable molecule. This destructive process contributes to the development of many diseases. A study published in 2013 in the American Society for Nutrition found that sweet Bing cherries lowered inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP) for chronic disease in healthy humans.

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Full Circle: The House that Yacha Built


I often try to imagine what the lives of my great-great grandparents were like in Poland. (Or was it Russia? I guess it depends on what day of the week it was.) I also can’t help but wonder what threads tie those mostly anonymous shtetl forebears to us, living more than a century later. What is the enigma of Jewish continuity, which wends its mysterious way through the generations? My curiosity was partially satisfied recently through a new friend.

A few months ago, I became a volunteer at Levindale. My official “job” is in the gift shop, but I’ve also had a chance to meet many of the elderly residents. Though not all of them have the ability to remember their past and communicate well, many do, and have regaled me with fascinating stories. I had planned to do short profiles on several people I met, but after speaking with resident Rosalie Wolfson, who is well into her 90s, I felt compelled to write about her and her interesting family.

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Close Call: A Miracle

car in accident

Today I was witness to a miracle.

I was driving my car on Knights Hill Road from Bridgton to Lovell in western Maine, thinking about what a good day I’d had. Normally one doesn’t think happy thoughts after spending $250 on car repairs, but our brakes needed replacing and I’d gotten estimates that were $150 higher. I was happy to come back to rural Maine, where I know our mechanic and his family on a first-name basis. I also knew we’d be treated fairly and wouldn’t be overcharged.

Paul is a good, honest man. He is a U.S. military veteran fighting for recognition of his disabilities. He was exposed to very high doses of radiation without adequate protection in the Marshall Islands during military exercises. Many in his unit are dead from cancers related to this exposure, and Paul has already had several cancers. The government is refusing to acknowledge the military’s carelessness, because they don’t want to compensate the affected vets exposed during the testing. We usually discuss his latest lobbying efforts and meetings with senators and other politicos on behalf of his military buddies.

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Medicare Made Easy : Part 4: Medicare Supplement (Medigap) Insurance

health care

In my previous articles, I explained how Medicare Parts A and B pay for seniors’ hospital and medical care. Medicare offers generous coverage, but you must pay for a share of the costs as well. If you develop a condition that requires a lot of treatment, you can potentially be left with bills that total thousands of dollars over the course of the year. As an actuary, I have personally seen policies that have paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars in a single year to cover a senior’s medical expenses. So what can you do to protect yourself from these potentially large costs? That is where Medicare Supplement comes in.

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My First War Games


Because I have lived in Kiryat Arba, Israel, for 32 years, bored Shabbos guests often ask me, “Well then! Living near Hebron you must have seen a lot of violence in your day, isn’t that so?” After recovering from their use of the expression, “in your day,” I realize that they are right in a sense. I have seen violence. Here is the story of when that happened.

In 1988, at age 33, married with one child, I did 95 days in the Israeli military, away from home, learning to be an artillery soldier. Startled to discover that I could actually learn something that didn’t involve conjugating verbs or declining nouns, I chalked it up as a positive experience and moved on. A year later I was called up for a 17-day reserve duty, including all of Succot, to guard in a prison for Arab stone-throwers at Anatot, Jeremiah’s birthplace. Then, half-a-year later, I was called up for my first five days of artillery war games, in the Negev desert base of Shivta, somewhere south of Beersheva.

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Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow The Secret World of Trichotillomania


Trichotillomania sounds like a spider that you might meet in an Amazon rainforest. In reality, it is a mental health disorder that is characterized by the compulsive urge to pull out one’s hair. Trichotillomania is Greek for “hair pulling madness.” It is estimated that between one and three percent of the population suffers from this terribly embarrassing disorder at some point during their lives. If we take the conservative estimate of one percent, that would mean that three million people in the United States have this disorder!

Trichotillomania is often misunderstood, so let us examine two anecdotes that can shed light on this disorder.

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Best Friends through Thin and Thick


Upon hanging up the phone, Rochel went into her living room and plopped herself down on a chair.

“What am I going to do?” she wailed.

“What’s the matter?” her unsuspecting but concerned husband asked.

“I just got off the phone with Sima, you know, my best friend from seminary. I haven’t seen her in 20 years, and she happens to be in town. She said she wants to stop by to see me tomorrow.”

“I’m not really understanding,” her husband replied, shaking his head in confusion.

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Ask the Shachan


To the Shadchan:

I am a 26-year-old, nice, normal guy, and I am having an issue with commitment. I think the problem is that I have a number of divorced friends, and that number seems to be growing. My parents are happily married, as are my two married sisters – at least I think they are – but this divorce thing scares me.

What typically happens is that I go out about 10 times, and I really like the girl. But then, as I am getting ready to move to the next step, I start to see the bad traits. These could be a high level of anxiety, temper, putting others down, or just plain selfishness. I don’t see these issues in the beginning.

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Shalom Bayis

kids fighting

Dear Mr. Weisbord,

My married children came for Pesach, and after being together for a week, I got a good look how they are bringing up their children. I saw them screaming at their kids, punishing unfairly, and just “losing their cool.”

Both mother and father work, which they feel is necessary in order to provide for the family. Their long hours most likely contributes to their impatience, as they are always busy, with very little time to just “hang out” with their children and develop a relationship. I don’t know the details of their finances, of course, nor do I want to. But I did notice the expensive new clothes they were wearing and their constant talk about what they’ve bought recently and what they’re going to buy.

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Bais Yaakov Eighth Graders Learn Some Special Lessons


When Mrs. Yael Zelinger came to speak to Bais Yaakov’s eighth-grade girls, last January, she surprised them with her “bag of tricks.” Although the girls’ teacher, Mrs. Rochelle Goldberg, has been teaching an annual unit on disabilities for 15 years, this is the first time she enlisted Mrs. Zelinger, an associate for Disability and Inclusion Services at the Macks Center for Jewish Education to give one of her tailor-made “B’More Inclusive” disability awareness “experiences” to the girls.

To kick off the month-long unit, the 70 students in the three parallel English classes read “Flowers for Algernon,” a short story about a mentally-challenged man, and The Miracle Worker, the story of Helen Keller. At the same time, they were paired up to research a disability or disease of their choice from an approved list. The girls spent about two-and-a-half weeks on research, including the biology of the disability and possible future cures. They then put it all together in a PowerPoint presentation, which they shared with their classmates.

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Genuine Freedom

smart phone

It’s erev Pesach, 2016, and I’m a high school student. Since nursery, I have been taught that Pesach is all about freedom. But practically speaking, what does freedom mean to me? This year, with uncanny timing, Bais Yaakov’s Discovery Program launched a new challenge during the month of Nissan that really hit the nail on the head. The title of the program was M’avdus L’Cheirus – Genuine Freedom.

Mrs. Shifra Rabenstein, a noted Bais Yaakov teacher, kicked off the program with a penetrating idea: Time is the only thing you can’t live even a second without. Your life is an accumulation of minutes and seconds, so how you spend your time is really what makes up your life. And what is the primary villain that causes many of us to lose track of, misuse, or waste our time? Technology, of course.

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Bunching: A Tax-Saving Technique


Because I have written many articles in these pages about lowering one’s taxes, I am often asked this reasonable question: “I have only one job and an uncomplicated financial situation. Can’t I do my taxes myself using good old Turbo-Tax?”

Yes, you can, but even those with simple returns can save money by using a tax strategy called “bunching.” Imagine a single young woman who works as a nurse and earns $55,000 a year. She does not own a house and therefore cannot claim a deduction for a mortgage. Should she itemize her deductions or claim the “standard deduction”?

A little background: There are two kinds of tax deductions: “above the line” and “below the line.” This line has a name; it is called “adjusted gross income.” The deductions above the AGI are allowed so long as you paid them. The most common of these is putting money in pensions and IRAs.

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Jewish Caring Network Launches “Triathlon” to Combat Community Illness


As our community was hard at work preparing for the Passover holiday, seven local families within a single month were hit with a diagnosis of a life-threatening illness. In response, the Jewish Caring Network has launched a community-wide campaign called, K’ish Echad B’Lev Echad – like one man with one heart. In this campaign, which carries the haskama of Rabbi Yaakov Hopfer, the entire community – men, women, and children from every walk of life – can come together to help people affected by illness.

“It has been an overwhelmingly devastating period for the Jewish community,” noted Jewish Caring Network volunteer Rabbi Yisroel Roll, who is spearheading the effort. “This campaign will give everyone in the community an opportunity, and an entrée, to become involved with helping and supporting families who are facing an illness. We are offering many avenues to do this.”

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Voter Fraud and the Decertification of the Baltimore City Election Results

It’s not uncommon for a candidate who loses an election to cry foul, claiming fraud or voter intimidation as a means to reverse the results in their favor. Generally speaking, a candidate is in a very weak position if his or her only hope for winning the election rests on voter fraud. Most of the time, nothing ever materializes from such accusations. On occasion, the losing candidate will file a lawsuit seeking court intervention to overturn the results. These kinds of cases are difficult to prove and are often unsuccessful.

In November 1994, Ellen Sauerbrey, the Republican candidate for governor, narrowly lost to Paris N. Glendenning by a margin of 5,993 votes. Soon thereafter, Sauerbrey was in court asserting that certain voters, primarily in Baltimore City, listed addresses that were connected to abandoned or razed buildings and that the whereabouts of these voters could not be confirmed. In the end though, Sauerbrey’s lawyers could only prove that 3,600 votes of the entire vote count were fraudulent, which was certainly not enough to sway the election in the other direction.

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The Ahmoliker Yid

Voss fahr ah (what kind of) title is that?” you may ask, Are you suggesting that we have Yidden who are Amalekites!? Chas vesholom – Heaven forbid! Let us therefore define the word “ahmoliker.”

Ahmoliker is the past, as in “a long time ago.” So, the translation of our title would be “The Once-Upon-a-Time Jew.” In our context, it refers to Yidden during the time of your bubbies and zaidies if you are a yunger mentch (young person), or your parents if you are a zoken (elder) or pre-zoken.

While “Jew of the past” is indeed the literal translation of the word ahmoliker, when you say that Yankel is an “ahmoliker Yid,” there are several possible interpretations. Nu, you may say, zog shoin – tell us already what you are talking about!

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Dreams Come True : Journey to Efrat , The Aliyah of Nisan and Marietta Jaffee


Each stage in life brings new vistas, if your determination is as strong as your dreams. In the case of Baltimoreans Nisan and Marietta Jaffee, the Holy Land beckoned as Mr. Jaffee reached his retirement. The Jaffees not only agreed to share their aliyah journey with me but also met me one fine afternoon in Yerushalayim and gave me a ride through the countryside leading to their home in Efrat.

We drove through the famous tunnels and over the picturesque mountains of Harei Yehuda, blossoming with the first signs of spring. On the way, Mr. Jaffee stopped at an outlook in the neighboring yishuv, Neve Daniel, to show me the view. From this spot, the highest in Gush Etzion and, after Har Hermon, and one of the highest in the country, you can see much of Eretz Yisrael from the mountains down to the coastal plain and, on a clear day, even the towers of Tel Aviv.

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