Articles From September 2017

A Storm of Chesed


“The clouds moved so quickly that it was like watching a video on fast-forward,” said my cousin Mark Rosenthal about Hurricane Irma. Mark, a dentist in Parkland, Florida, will be making a lot of guacamole in the next week or two. At least 20 avocadoes were blown off his backyard tree, leaving just two hanging on. Fortunately, other than the avocado cascade and a few other unexpected landscaping changes, his house was undamaged.

This was fortunate because his elderly mother and four friends (along with two dogs) weathered the storm with him. Sheltered inside with hurricane shutters blocking any view of the outside, they, like so many others in the area, went without power for several days, and sat in the heat with only candles for light. By the second or third day post-hurricane, the others left for home or places that had air conditioning.

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The Greeneh Kuzineh


A generation ago, “The Greeneh Kuzineh” was a well-known tune among Yidden. “What is the meaning of greeneh kuzineh?” you may inquire. Does it refer to a krankeit (illness), chas vesholom? Is it some type of vegetable? A new environmental movement? Or what?

If you noticed that kuzineh sounds like cousin, you’ve hit half the nail on the head, so to speak. Now the challenge is to interpret greeneh. If you are a second- or third-generation American, you probably don’t know that the new Jewish immigrants to America were called greeneh or greenhorns – often by former greeneh! Truth be told, other than Native Americans (aka Indians), the ancestors of all the inhabitants of this country were greeneh at one time!

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A Window on Baltimore’s Sukkahs


I was about 10 years old when my Great-Aunt Cele led me into Congregation Beth Jacob’s sukkah on Park Heights Avenue. It was my first time in a sukkah, and, even as a child, I knew that this was a special place. Streams of sunlight shone on tables laden with fruit. More fruit hung from above. But what I remember the most was an indescribably sweet smell. Today, I think of that sukkah as a window on Gan Eden.

“Any sukkah by definition is special because it’s a very holy atmosphere of complete kedusha,” says Rabbi Menachem Goldberger, Rav of Congregation Tiferes Yisroel. Yet making a sukkah more beautiful lies within the domain of hidur mitzva, according to Rabbi Goldberger. He quotes a passage from Az Yashir (Song at the Sea): “Zeh Kaili ve’anvaihu – This is my G-d and I will adorn him.”

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Addiction in the Frum Community


Drug overdose deaths have skyrocketed in recent years, and our political leaders are taking note. In August, President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a national emergency, allowing the executive branch to earmark funds for the expansion of treatment facilities.

While chemical dependency is certainly not a new phenomenon in this country, the National Center for Health Statistics’ newly-released report revealed a very alarming trend that we have not seen before: In 2016, there were approximately 64,000 drug overdose deaths. About 20,100 of the deaths were caused by the lethal chemical fentanyl. Heroin was not far behind, with roughly 15,400 people losing their lives to heroin addiction. Maryland is one of three states that have reported the largest rise in drug overdose deaths.

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Recollection of Houston….


It was a smell I had experienced once before on a similar weeklong volunteer mission to the New Orleans Jewish community, in 2005, after the destructive Hurricane Katrina had decimated the city. Acrid. Pungent. Harsh. It was the smell of a severely flooded house, one that had recieved over five feet of water, maybe more. A face mask can only stop so much of the smell, while your eyes will see the destructive force of water in its entirety.

Only six hours earlier, in the wee hours of a Sunday morning, it was “wheels up” from BWI to Houston’s Hobby Airport via St. Louis. I had seen photos from Houston and was eager to get down to help, knowing how bad it would be for those homeowners unlucky enough to be flooded. I was fortunate to join a great team of volunteers from Baltimore, assembled ad hoc via WhatsApp, primarily from two synagogues, Shomrei Emunah and Ohel Moshe. Led by Azi Rosenblum and Yair Reiner, we were blue-collar in our volunteerism but there were, among us, doctors, lawyers, financial professionals, and basketball coaches (you never know when a three-on-three game could break out!) – all there to help in whatever way they could.

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The air is getting crisper, and Sukkos is in the air – a time to share lots of warm and comforting foods outdoors with family and friends while memories are being made. May you all enjoy your friends and family and have a year filled with brachos and simchas.

Split Pea with Brisket

I love this soup. The first time I ever came across meat in a split pea soup, I was in heaven. The combination of meat chunks and soft split peas makes a party in my mouth that continues down to my stomach and leaves me feeling satisfied and warm. If anyone knows where this dish originated, I’m interested. Let me know. 

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Ask the Shadchan


To the Shadchan:

I am 23 years old and have been dating since I was 20. Last year, I met a guy I really liked. We connected on many levels. We went out around 10 times, and he seemed to like me too. It might sound weird, but I was sure we would be getting engaged and was already planning our life in my mind, when, all of a sudden, he broke it off.

During the phone call, he was very brief. He didn’t offer a reason, and I was in such shock that I didn’t think to ask him for one. I called the original shadchan, but she had dropped out after the second date and said she couldn’t help me. To this day, I do not know what happened and why he refused.

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Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have come and gone, inundating huge areas with water. Fortunately, we in Baltimore did not have to deal with that catastrophe. But, to push a metaphor, many of us are inundated all the time by a sea of clutter. Imagine the folks in Florida having just a day to decide what to bring with them when they were told to evacuate. An uncluttered house enhances one’s ability to quickly decide and find what to pack, including such precious items as family photos, vital documents, and laptops.

We all struggle with clutter, unfortunately. And a huge portion of it is paper. When we procrastinate taking care of the paperwork, when we are confused about what to keep and what to throw away, the piles accumulate and take over our lives. Looking for records and trying to figure it all out consumes our time and saps our energy. We miss deadlines, pay fines, and feel generally stressed.

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Fun and Games, Then and Now


Have you ever wondered what your fellow baby boomers were playing while you “walked the dog” with your Duncan yo-yo, made a tea party for your Chatty Cathy, or joined the mobs of hula-hoopers on the country’s sidewalks? Have you ever reflected on what toys and games fellow Baltimoreans who relocated from across the globe played when they were growing up? Wonder no more! WWW’s sample survey not only brings some of us down Memory Lane but also reveals a stark contrast between what children consider fun and games, then and now.

A Map for Creativity

Peshi (Paula) Katz grew up in Randallstown, where her father, Rabbi Israel Goldberg, z”l, was the rav of Randallstown Synagogue Center. “We were a very creative family,” reminisces Peshi. “We drew a map of a city in different colors on the back of an old plastic tablecloth – with roads, shops, a gas station, a bank, and probably a shul – and played with our Matchbox cars for hours. We had shoeboxes full of them. They sell rugs like this for kids, now, so we were way ahead of our time.”

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Living Life to the End, Part 2


In our first article about the end of life, we discussed the common halachic and practical issues that arise at the end of life and the best ways to address them. This second article concerns one the most effective ways to make sure that our wishes are followed in the way we would like: the halachic medical directive.

A halachic medical directive is a legal document that contains an official record of a person’s health care wishes. Typically, a health care directive has two main components. First, it appoints an agent who will speak on your behalf if you are no

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Ask the Shadchan


To the Shadchan:

I have been inquiring about a young man who was redt to my daughter. I happened to meet a friend of mine who is a teacher and taught him in 10th grade. This boy seems to have been a troublemaker at that age. My friend could not say anything nice about him. She told me he was chutzpadik and gave her a hard time.This young man is 23 now. He is a professional, who is working after learning in yeshiva for a few years. More recent references have only good things to say about him. It seems he is a hard worker with good middos. He comes from a good family, and everything checks out okay.

My question is how much credence should I give to the teacher’s words. Maybe the attributes that made him behave badly when he was 15 are deeply ingrained character defects that are still relevant. Or maybe he is now using his chutzpa, etc. for good things. How can I find out which scenario is the correct one? Or should I chalk it all up to being a teenager?

If you think that information from the past is relevant, what would be the cut-off age, before which we should not take information seriously? Obviously, no one would pay attention to the way a person behaved when he was in kindergarten. Or would they? I would appreciate your advice and opinion.

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My Journey to Bat Ayin


What do you get when you mix together chasidut, a desire to work the holy soil of Eretz Yisrael, ahavas Yisrael, and creativity? The answer is Bat Ayin! A friend of mine, who often goes to this small hilltop yishuv in Gush Etzion for Shabbos, had been inviting me to join her for a while. I had many reasons for turning her down time after time. But when I heard that Midreshet B’erot Bat Ayin was looking for a madricha for their summer program, I figured it didn’t hurt to apply and check it out – and now that I’m there, the joke is on me!

As I alighted from the bus at the traffic circle on Bat Ayin’s main road and made my way down the hill, a beautiful mountain panorama lay before me, and I felt the clear air entering my lungs. I noticed the variety of homes as I walked. Many families live in caravans (trailers) while others occupy houses of all sizes and types. There are small matchbox-style homes that the owners built themselves and others that are large and multi-level. Some houses are faced with beautiful stone, while others are built from colorfully-painted cement or wood, log-cabin style. Each home is surrounded with a bit of land, and many have well-kept gardens. Each home is unique, attesting to the individuality of the people residing inside.

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Apples and Honey (and More!) for Rosh Hashana


May you and your families have a good and sweet new year! 

With the approach of Rosh Hashana, fall is upon us, and the time for warm and cozy dishes has arrived. On my current “health kick,” I have been trying to make better choices – isn’t that what Rosh Hashana is all about? – which, in terms of eating, means limiting high fat foods and sugar. Argh. As my sister would say, “better choices” is really code for not binging on Reese’s peanut butter cups.

Seriously, Rosh Hashana is the perfect time to take stock of your life and make small but meaningful resolutions. Some of mine are to eat more healthfully and to spend quality time with my family. Somehow, it all ends up (as do most things in my life) in fun and delicious recipes. Cooking not only results in great food to be enjoyed and shared but also enhances family togetherness, especially if you can get the little ones on your team. As I’ve mentioned before, I am a big proponent of kids in the kitchen. A bunch of studies and anecdotal evidence indicate that, when children participate in making the meal, they are much more likely to eat it.

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Coming Soon to a Shul Near You: KLEE Shabbat


When is a dish is not a dish?

When it is a KLEE, of course!

A KLEE can be anything you have handy – a bowl, tray, platter, or, yes, a dish. (It is the Hebrew word for container, after all.) Or you and your children can make one out of clay or cardboard, even Clicks or Legos. Whatever form your KLEE takes, the point is to keep it on display in your home and fill and refill it with the products of Eretz Yisrael.  

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Faces of Frumkeit


From the Yated to the Mishpacha, our magazines have presented the Jewish world with a definition of what it means to be a modest woman: She’s not in print. Even if she follows halacha perfectly, she is still not modest enough to be featured in the pages of our publications. This policy requires that even pictures of our great rebbetzins and leaders, past and present, cannot accompany the articles written about them. Rather, pictures of their husbands, their residences, and their speaking venues take the place of the special faces and spiritual beauty of our righteous women. This policy requires that historical photographs capturing unforgettable events in Jewish history cannot be included in our magazines if a woman is in the shot. This policy requires that non-Jewish female political leaders can never be featured. And this policy requires that girls above a certain age cannot be seen, giving the message, especially to young girls, that it is not tznius (modest).

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