Articles From September 2016

Voting Trump and Feeling Good about It : A Settler’s Perspective


This is not the sort of article I normally write. It’s an opinion piece. I’ve got something to say and there’s not a lot of time, so I’m just going to say it: Vote Trump and feel good about it.

For me, living as I do in Israel, there is only one issue. I judge an American presidential candidate based on how I think he will behave towards Israel. (For those who think that is a parochial view, hang on until this article’s conclusion.) As far as I am concerned, America has not done too well on that score for quite a while. Today, when Israel builds five new buildings for Jews in Jerusalem, the American secretary of state calls up Israel’s prime minister and yells at him for 45 minutes. I want that to change.

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Mitzvah Motivators: Catering to the Spiritual Needs of Baltimore and Beyond

pirkei avot

Fishel Gross, owner of O’Fishel Kosher Catering, got his start early. He was cooking and selling hamburgers and other culinary delights even as a bachur in Yeshiva Bais Moshe in Scranton. Yet he is anything but your run-of-the-mill caterer. During his 38-year food service career, Mr. Gross’s creativity has spread well beyond the elegant wedding to encompass a smorgasbord of innovative mitzva-inspiring programs. His numerous Mitzvah Motivator projects have prompted children and adults alike to take on such challenges as memorizing Pirkei Avos, saying brachos out loud, and learning Chumash and mishnayos.

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Color Me Blue


A recent life cycle event left me feeling a little blue. After I took my children to do their back-to-school shopping, I realized that for the first time in over 15 years, I didn’t have to buy crayons for anyone. Crayons have a special place in my heart. Having used them as a child and then being reunited with them as a parent, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of sorrow. You see, crayons, which are not as unassuming as they seem, have taught me some of life’s greatest lessons. Peering up at us with their colorful pointy faces, they stand soldier-like in their box, lined up next to their nearest relative in the color spectrum, waiting anxiously to see what the world has to offer. As often is the case, it is only after they’re gone that we realize the impact they had on our lives.

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Historic Baltimore Shul Gets New Sefer Torah

sefer torah

Congregation Ohel Yakov – more fondly known as “Rabbi Dinovitz’s shul” – can be traced back to 1875. In fact, if you visit its cemetery on Bowley’s Lane, you will find all its past rabbanim and their family members interred there. The shul itself, however, is far from lifeless and is in fact as vibrant as ever.

The credit, of course, goes to its devoted rabbi, Rabbi Peretz Dinovitz and his Rebbetzin; its dedicated president of 20 years, Paul Barr, and his “first lady”; and all its faithful congregants. The vitality of the shul will be on display on Sept. 25, Elul 22, when Ohel Yakov welcomes a new sefer Torah purchased with funds from members of its daily, netz, and Shabbos minyanim.

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Supporting Each Other

shopping cart

Shifra* needs something for her home. It could be a lamp, a food processor, a new coat, or a car. Where will she get it? Does she zero in on getting the best possible price, whether online, at a department store sale, or from a business in another city? Or does she first consider giving her business to someone in our community? Does it matter? Is there a right way and a wrong way to buy things? What do customers have to say? How do retailers feel?

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My Zaidy Had One Eye


This is a review of the book Manya’s Story: The Harrowing Account of a Jewish Family’s Ordeal in Revolutionary Russia by Bettyanne Gray.

In the past, I have reviewed several stories of heroism and survival during the Holocaust. Although a significant percentage of the frum/heimish community is descended from those who miraculously survived the Nazi Holocaust of 1939 to 1945, “survivors” are actually a small percentage of the overall American Jewish community. Growing up in Montgomery, Alabama, I knew only a few families who fit that description. One was the Knurr family, who were related to the Kranzlers of Baltimore. The Kranzlers once visited them in Montgomery, long before I went to yeshiva. The other was Reverend Leib Merenstein and his wife Pauline. He wasn’t the rabbi, but he was the baal koreh, shochet, and Hebrew school teacher. He taught me for my bar mitzva. He was a Gerrer chasid before the war and ended up in Montgomery because the community at that time wanted a shochet. Otherwise, I hardly recall any others.

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An OCD Conversation


Over the last few years, I have had many conversations about OCD with people who have called Relief for a mental health referral. Those conversations form the basis of this fabricated dialogue. OCD sufferers will find this conversation very familiar, and those who do not have experience with OCD will find it remarkable and informative. Let us now begin our discussion with Ora Chana Devora, or O.C.D. for short.

Rabbi Azriel Hauptman: Thank you, O.C.D., for making time in your busy schedule to share your story with us. Can you tell us the basic timeline of your OCD?

Ora Chana Devora: Before I begin, I would like to thank you for spreading the awareness of OCD. There are so many misconceptions about this debilitating disorder and public education can be enormously helpful.

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Armed, Alarmed…or Somewhere In-Between?


hey say the pen is mightier than the sword. But sometimes it helps to have a gun.

The question of what to do about guns in America has come to the fore as mass shootings – whether of the terrorist or “mentally ill” variety – seem to occur more and more often, not to mention home invasions and other crimes. Might private citizens owning and carrying guns have prevented some of these terrible incidents? But what about the tragic consequences of easy access to guns, including accidents, suicides, and crimes of passion?  

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To Travel for a Date or Not to Travel; That Is the Question


Who should travel for a first date? Should it be the young man, or the young woman? Lately, this has become one of the most frequently asked questions by those who are in the shidduch parsha. Parents, young women, and bachurim are all asking this question and wondering what is the appropriate, right, and fair thing to do when deciding who should be the one to shoulder the burden of traveling for a first date.

To begin with, I would like to say that it is not my goal to definitively answer this question one way or the other, because the real answer is – it depends. As no two situations are exactly the same and no two people are exactly the same, there is no one answer that will fit every situation and every couple. Therefore, what I hope to accomplish is to lay out some of the various concerns and considerations on both sides of this matter. The more that each side can appreciate where the other is coming from, the better equipped everyone will be to make a fully informed decision and, more importantly, b’ezras Hashem, for each side to feel respected and appreciated when this question arises.

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