Combating Crime: Underway!


burgaler

Crime has been a stubborn fact of life. Over the past year, in our little area of Baltimore, there have been well over 1,400 police reports, for crimes ranging from armed assaults and robbery to a seemingly unending stream of car and home break-ins.

As a community, we have been trying to address the problem for quite a few years. We have Shomrim and NWCP, aiming to provide response and patrol services. We ask our local politicians to emphasize the importance of a greater police presence.

The problem is stubborn, however. We have failed to make much of a dent, while the criminals become more sophisticated and more brazen. Many burglaries happen while the family is sleeping. Thieves prey on older residents by impersonating officials of one kind or another. It has become clear that, without taking anything away from existing organizations, there are some significant gaps that can be filled to help make our community a safer place.


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What’s Your Name, Please?


greeting

This piece is dedicated to Shaya Gross, a”h, a good friend, who mastered techniques of good interpersonal relations and promoted Jewish brotherhood and unity through them.

This summer, in response to the tragedies and danger to Israel, Baltimore’s Vaad Harabbonim encouraged all of us to meet and greet people cheerfully, as a way to strengthen Jewish unity and brotherhood. There is a simple technique to increase the connection to our fellow Jews when we greet them. The following examples will illustrate.
I first saw “Chaim” in shul. After seeing him a few times and exchanging mutual greetings, I introduced myself and asked him his name. Now, every time I saw him he would smile, and I would say, “Hello, Chaim.” When I was sitting shiva for my father, Chaim came to comfort me. He commented, “I do not know you well, but felt I had to come because you always greet me by name.” Another person I got to know under similar circumstances also told me that he came to my shiva because he appreciated that I greeted him by name.


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Catering to the President


obama

Let’s start by mixing a few metaphors: Ed Hoffman is slowly but surely climbing down from cloud nine. For the last few weeks, life has been an unforgettable roller-coaster ride. After all, it is not every day – or even every decade – that a caterer, particularly a certified kosher caterer, is given the high honor and responsibility of preparing the food for a visit by the President of the United States (POTUS), the foremost political figure in the world.

This is what Ed was asked to do by Howard Tzvi Friedman on the occasion of the historic visit to the Friedman home, smack in the middle of Orthodox Jewish Greenspring, on Friday September 12, 2014 (17 Elul 5774). Although the guests were not necessarily observant, the fact that the hosts are frum – proudly and publicly so – meant that every aspect of the occasion could not help being either a kiddush Hashem or a chilul Hashem; that is what happens when you are prominent and wear a yarmulke. Accordingly, every detail had to be perfect, particularly, of course, the decor and the food, which are the professional responsibility of the caterer. You can imagine the immense pressure Ed and his staff have been under for weeks.


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Taking Happiness to the Next Level: Twerski Wellness Institute Brings the “Three Principles” to Baltimore


happiness

Over two years ago, I began a quest for happiness. I read, thought, wrote, spoke, and dreamt about happiness. With the support of the Baltimore Happiness Club, which I founded and coordinate, I worked through just about every major idea out there about how to be happy.

Happiness is a cool topic these days, and lots of people have ideas about how to achieve it, from the mystical (Eckhart Tolle) to the psychological (Martin Seligman) to the religious (Rabbi Zelig Pliskin), and just about every stop in between.

Along the way, I’ve used myself as a living laboratory, trying out techniques and doing whatever the various authors recommended to become happier (positive thinking, exercise, meditation, breathing, humor, diet, nature, self-awareness, mantra, complimenting others, you name it). As I discovered new approaches, I tried them out on myself and the long-suffering Happiness Club (is there an irony there?).


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Senior Spotlight To Tell the Truth (or Not)


senior citizen

I was walking past Mr. K, last week, at an assisted living home, and he told me the news: “Menachem, I’m the president.”

“Really?” I said.

“Yup, the first Jewish president.”

How to respond to a statement like this is a quandary that confronts me regularly in my work. After all, the Torah tells us to stay far away from sheker, lies. Yet we social workers, in the course of helping people in all kinds of settings, are often faced with such ethical dilemmas. In fact, the Maryland Board of Social Work Examiners, which licenses and monitors all Maryland social workers, requires every licensed social worker to take ongoing education classes in “Ethics.”


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Honey and the Holidays: Part Two


honey

As we continue to dip the challa into the honey during the Sukkos and Simchas Torah season, here are some other honey-infused recipes to enjoy during this festive time of year. If you read part one last month, you’ll recall that, by using honey, not only are you enjoying a sweet, rich taste; are also benefiting from antioxidants, minerals, and other health-enhancing compounds. Just remember to not overdo it!


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Holy Days in the Good Old Days


rosh hashana

Someone asked recently how I remember things that occurred so many years ago. A good question! But, as any “senior citizen” can tell you, some folks remember things that happened “in Noah’s time,” so to speak, but are capable of forgetting where they placed the car keys!

The Yamim Nora’im (High Holidays) were practiced traditionally in East Baltimore, as they are practiced today, but they had a different “flavor.” To begin with, observant Yidden could be counted on your fingers. There was no large religious community spirit as there is today in Jewish neighborhoods. The rabbis who lived in East Baltimore in the 40s and 50s included Rabbi Forshlager, Rabbi Vitsick, Rabbi Levin, Rabbi Katznelson, Rabbi Tabori, Rabbi Pliskin, Rabbi Axelrod, and other prominent rabbanim.    


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From Budapest to Bergen-Belsen to Baltimore: The Saga of Harav Zvi Dov Slanger


slanger

Each year, on the 21st of Kislev, Harav Zvi Dov Slanger, Rosh Yeshiva of Beis Hamedrash and Mesivta of Baltimore, celebrates a seudas hoda’ah (thanksgiving meal) with his yeshiva to commemorate the day in 1944 when he arrived in Switzerland, following his incarceration in Bergen-Belsen. This year, Harav Slanger will celebrate 70 years since that awesome day. In preparation for this remarkable event, Harav Slanger agreed to share his moving story, a story that demonstrates hashgacha pratis (Divine providence), obvious miracles, and, most of all, the fulfillment of the pasuk, “I will not have been revolted by them, nor will I have rejected them to obliterate them, to annul my Covenant with them.” (Artscroll Stone Chumash, Vayikra 26:44)


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Tuition Mission Impossible?


classroom

Tuition is such an overwhelming and emotion-laden topic that it’s hard to know where to begin. So, we might as well start with a statistic – which is that approximately two-thirds of students in Baltimore day schools receive some type of tuition reduction. This authoritative estimate by a few school administrators I spoke with includes reductions from scholarships, faculty discounts, and tuition breaks because of multiple children in the same school.

With scholarship help so widespread, it might seem that tuition would be a manageable part of most families’ finances. The reality, however, is that, even with reduced tuition, many families are paying hefty sums. For example, a family with five children might be paying $35,000 a year in tuition, instead of $50,000. The schools, too, are barely making it. Although day schools cover the bulk of their budgets through tuition, they must bring in substantial funds from other sources, including direct donor contributions, fundraising events and projects, and The Associated’s annual allocation.


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Making Sense of Fashion Trends


fashion

Once, I heard two women talking disparagingly about a store. “You know,” said one with disgust, “I just went into that store, and they had last year’s styles out on the rack!” Her friend nodded in commiseration.

I remember that conversation well, because it was the first time I realized there was such a thing as last year’s style! To my way of thinking, if the outfit was nice last year, it is nice this year as well. It seems, however,  that even if our old things are still attractive, buying new clothes for Yom Tov is a tradition of Jewish life. The Gemara tells us to increase simchas Yom Tov by giving everybody what makes them happy. We are encouraged to buy wine for the men, treats for the children, and clothing for the women. So, yes, buying clothes can actually be a mitzva! But it can also be a huge headache for the fashion-challenged.


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