My Shtetl Baltimore by Eli W. Schlossberg : A Book Review


my shtetel

At his annual teshuva drasha, on the Thursday evening before Yom Kippur, Rabbi Yissachar Frand thanked Eli Schlossberg for his work in bringing the yearly lecture to the community. Then he congratulated Eli on his new book, My Shtetl Baltimore. “It’s always a great pleasure to take a walk down memory lane,” said Rabbi Frand.

I would add that this book – 557 generous pages of reminiscence, nostalgia, history, and memoir – is definitely a pleasure to read, even for someone who didn’t grow up in Baltimore’s frum community. Raised in the ’40s and ’50s on Shirley Avenue in lower Park Heights, I wasn’t frum (yet). But in those days, traditional Judaism influenced the whole community – even the non-observant. Perhaps that’s why Eli Schlossberg’s memories spark mine.


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The Extraordinary Story of Irena Sendler: Irena’s Children by Tilar J. Mazzeo: a Book Review


irena sendler

Like most of you, I have read about righteous gentiles who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Invariably, their stories are told from the Jewish vantage point. I want to take you on a journey back into that horrible time to see the things through the eyes of decent Polish gentiles. You will glimpse a story very different from the ones we are more familiar with.

Irena Sendler was a Polish woman who saved children from the Warsaw ghetto. Moreover, unlike the righteous gentiles we are used to hearing about, who acted alone, she was part of a large network of gentiles who risked their lives and saved more Jews than Schindler or other, more famous, people. Together with her friends and coworkers, Irena smuggled infants out of the Warsaw ghetto in suitcases and wooden boxes, past German guards and Jewish police traitors. She brought out toddlers and schoolchildren through the city’s foul and dangerous sewers. She worked with Jewish teenagers, many of them girls of 14 or 15, who fought bravely and died in the ghetto uprising.


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Trees: Good for Us, Good for the Environment


trees

“A man was traveling through the desert, hungry, thirsty and tired, when he came upon a tree bearing luscious fruit and affording plenty of shade, under which ran a spring of water. He ate of the fruit, drank of the water, and rested beneath the shade. When he was about to leave, he turned to the tree and said: “Tree, O tree, with what should I bless you? Should I bless you that your fruit be sweet? Your fruit is already sweet. Should I bless you that your shade be plentiful? Your shade is plentiful. That a spring of water should run beneath you? A spring of water runs beneath you. There is one thing with which I can bless you: May it be G‑d’s will that all the trees planted from your seeds should be like you….” Talmud Taanit 5b (translation: Chabad.org)

 

Baltimore is blessed with neighborhoods laden with beautiful trees. I get true joy when I drive or walk through these areas of serene beauty. Sadly, I also see many piles of logs from trees that have been cut down. In fact, tree removal has been occurring at an alarming rate in our community, and very few new trees are being planted to take their place.

As a concerned member of our community, my desire is to beautify our neighborhoods, so that families can stroll along delightful, tree-canopied streets. I also want to inform our community about the contribution trees make to our health and wellbeing. Among their many benefits, trees cool the surrounding area, clean the air from pollution, and break the cold winds in the winter. A small investment in a tree can bring your family years of satisfaction. And as your family grows, the tree will grow with you.


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Post-Holiday Easy Shabbos Recipes


potatoes

We drove down to Florida for Sukkos in a rented car, and by the middle of the drive I had come to the conclusion that Enterprise’s slogan ought to be not “We’ll pick you up” but “We’ll leave you in the middle of nowhere for hours when the transmission on the car you rented will no longer leave first gear.” But I digress. Actually, because of the automotive trouble, we ended up spending a fun-filled night in Jacksonville’s Double Tree Hilton. The staff was absolutely lovely, helping us get situated when we arrived in the middle of the night. They even gave us a free kosher breakfast.

Unfortunately, our car troubles left us only five hours to make Yom Tov when we finally arrived at our destination. We picked some super-easy recipes, and with Hashem’s help, they turned out fantastic. And they happen to be perfect for that post-Yom Tov cooking fatigue. I hope everyone’s year is filled with simchas and brachos, and may we all merit to have fun and enjoy our families. Enjoy!


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Kidney Donors Give the Gift of Life


kidney

I have to admit that kidney transplants were not on my radar screen until I received a large postcard from The Chesed Fund and Project Ezra a few weeks ago. This mass mailing alerted me to the fact that a kidney donor was needed for a longtime community member and friend, Dr. Moshe (Morris) Lasson. I subsequently saw an ad for a joint Bikur Cholim-Renewal event held last month to educate the Baltimore community about kidney donation. It informed me that another longtime community member and friend, Yossi Ryback, needed a kidney transplant as well. I attended this eye-opening program, one of close to 400 people who did. We all learned a lot, and many people took the cheek swab test for donor compatibility.


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You Gotta Have Heart


heart

If you – like Jack Benny – are over the age of 39, you may remember a tune entitled “You Gotta Have Heart,” which was popularized by singer Eddie Fisher. Anybody remember? It went like this:

You gotta have heart,

All you really need is heart.

When the odds are sayin’

You’ll never win,

That’s when the grin should start.

 

You’ve gotta have hope

Mustn’t sit around and mope.

Nothin’s half as bad as it may appear

Wait’ll next year and hope.

 


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Ask the Shadchan


shadchan cup

To the Shadchan:

I am what you would call an older single, a successful professional in my early 40s. I am reasonably good looking and have lots of friends. I think I am a nice guy. I treat a woman well. I’m not cheap and am always willing to travel to wherever she is located. 

As you can imagine, I’ve dated quite a few women. Many of them did not want to continue seeing me, and many of those who wanted a relationship, I wasn’t interested in. I don’t think I’m overly “picky.” I’m looking for a regular, nice girl. She doesn’t have to be a beauty, although she should be attractive to me, of course. One thing I do not want is someone who is a super-achiever. Some of the women I have met have become too sharp and efficient for me over the years they’ve been single. My belief is that I am not married because I have not yet found the right one, and I do still hope to find her. 


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The Special Education Revolution and the Force Behind It : An Interview with Marjorie Shulbank


down syndrome

It all started with a single phone call from a parent in Baltimore’s frum community. “I just gave birth to a little girl with Down syndrome,” said the woman on the other end of the line. “What services are available for her?”

The recipient of this phone call, Marjorie Shulbank, worked for the Maryland State Department of Education. Services for children with disabilities were part of her job description, yet she didn’t have much to offer the distressed mother, who had four other children at home and hardly knew another frum child in Baltimore with Down syndrome. As the two women talked, what struck Marjorie the most was how sad the mother sounded. “Do you have any other questions?” Marjorie asked her as the conversation wound down.


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A Storm of Chesed


kindness

“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


immigrants

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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