Crosswalks, Potholes and More: Getting Your Traffic and Safety Concerns Addressed


We’ve all noticed them, whether we live in Baltimore City or County: intersections prone to accidents, potholes we must swerve to avoid, and the lack of wheelchair accessibility at curbs, among other unsafe conditions. Is it possible to get action to resolve such traffic and safety issues? And if so, how?

I have to admit, I never gave this topic much thought until I attended the Pikesville-Greenspring Community Coalition’s (PGCC) traffic and safety committee/neighborhood and pedestrian safety meeting in July. Although the subject of the meeting was the Smith Avenue corridor, the safety issues it raised are not exclusive to County residents. As a City resident, I took note.

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Northwestern HS Meeting


Rumors had been flying for years, but the buzz started in earnest this past December, when the School Board announced that Northwestern High School, at the corner of Falstaff and Park Heights, would be closing its doors for once and for all. The immediate question on everyone’s mind was what is going to take its place?

On Monday, July 10, I attended a community-wide meeting at the high school building slated to answer that very question. The meeting was one of several conducted this summer by the Baltimore City Planning Department to allow community members and interested parties to explore various prospects for reuse and to share their desires and concerns.

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Upstander Heroes


We like to believe that all children are inherently good, that they do not intentionally desire to hurt or cause pain to others. Yet, as all mothers and teachers know, children can be mean. Siblings fight and hurt each other – often on a daily, or even on a minute-by-minute, basis. Girls and boys in school exclude classmates, form cliques, taunt their peers, and inflict emotional pain on their counterparts. Many social and educational experts will say this is all part of growing up, that children need to learn resilience and tolerance; they need to build inner strength. And this is true – to an extent. But where do we draw the line? Where do we – as mothers and fathers and educators and rabbis, simply members of a community – say “enough”? How do we teach kids to be nicer to each other?

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Mach Nisht Ah Tsimmis!


Mach nisht ah tsimmis means “don’t make tsimmis.” I asked my vibel (wife) Shirley about the ingredients of this delicacy. She responded that tsimmis consists of carrots, sweet potatoes, prunes, lemon juice, and honey. Translated literally, therefore, mach nisht ah tsimmis makes no sense. Why should you not make a tsimmis? The first lesson, therefore, is that, when encountering a Yiddish expression (or an American one, for that matter), we shouldn’t take it literally. Rather, the enfehr (answer) is that mach nisht ah tsimmis means that we should not make a big deal about every annoyance. (Of course, there are annoyances that do require attention.) A common English equivalent is “don’t make a mountain out of a molehill” or the folksy “stop making such a fuss.”

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Dreams Come True , Journey to Bat Ayin , The Aliyah of the Taylor Family

bat yam

Does anyone remember the missionary couple that moved to Strathmore Avenue in the summer of 2000? Ever wonder what happened to them? I discovered the Taylor family living on a hilltop in Gush Etzion, in the yishuv of Bat Ayin. It was in this small settlement inhabited by simple people who contain wellsprings of greatness that Pinchas and Penina, formerly missionaries and now observant Jews, found a place to call home.

Pinchas and Penina graciously agree to share their fascinating personal story in order to inspire and strengthen others. They welcome me warmly, and I ask them how their story begins. Although most stories have a beginning, they respond, their own is elusive for the simple reason that their search for truth is beyond the scope of words and time.

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“I Never Had a Bad Day in America” Memories of Uncle Joe


This past June, our family celebrated two significant milestones. Our son Sruly and his wife Rachel celebrated the bris of their second son. They chose the name Yosef. Sruly explained that he named his son after my Uncle Joe Weinstock, a man he had never met but about whom he had heard so much. I was truly moved by this gesture. The very next day, our son Yossi, himself named after Uncle Joe, became engaged to Shevi Brody. One Yosef enters the Covenant and the other begins his new task of building a “faithful house in Israel.”

We are most grateful to the One Above for these blessings. I pray that in the zechus of Uncle Joe’s mesiras nefesh for Shabbos and Israel, these two Yosefs will be blessed and all of our family will continue to share in many brachos and simchas.

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Musings of a Shadchan


Tu B’Av, the 15th day of Av, is approaching as I write, and Yom Kippur is not far behind. These were joyous days in ancient times as the girls went out to the vineyards in borrowed white dresses and danced, exhorting the young men to choose their zivug. We don’t make shidduchim that way anymore – for better or worse! – but I have been making shidduchim long enough to have seen many other changes over the years of my “career.” So, taking a break from the usual question-and-answer format of this column, I will instead try to answer a question I have been asked many times: How has the shidduch world changed?

Let me start by describing the frum community through the eyes of a girl born in Ohio. It was very different from today. Cleveland was a midbar (desert) in the years of my youth, as were all the cities in the United States except for New York. The frum population was extremely small, with few eligible boys or girls in town.

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All Aboard


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.

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Israel’s New Peace Process – Teaching Dogs to Talk


“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).

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Ten Myths about your Finances


I often hear “truths” about personal finance that just aren’t true. They are more like myths. Here are some:

Myth #1: The rich do not pay taxes. We have all heard this one. It seems that there are secret tax deductions that only the rich are aware of. They find out about them from their secret accountants, who are the only ones who have access to them. Perhaps these deductions are written up in a secret book called Protocols of the Elders of Accountants. If this myth is true, why don’t these special accountants ever advertise their services? Why doesn’t a Google search bring up these secrets?

The truth is that the rich pay a lot of taxes, possibly over 40% of their total income. So, the next time you hear this said, please ask to see a copy of the tax return and confirm for yourself that it is a myth.

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