Behind the Scenes of the Bais Yaakov Exhibit

Written by Kol HaBirah Staff on . Posted in Community News

After hearing so much about the Bais Yaakov of Baltimore exhibit from friends and family in all different area, it was particularly compelling to be treated to a spontaneous behind the scenes tour with Rabbi Nissel, Chief Operating Officer, after the exhibit was already complete. An innocuous visit to Bais Yaakov to discuss Kol HaBirah was enhanced by the enthusiasm and energy of Rabbi Nissel, who proudly explained how the girls spent countless hours completing various magnificent works of art with the most basic resources. For example, one of the most special pieces, which they decided to keep on their wall after the exhibit (most of the others they are either dismantle or sell), was crafted using only crayons and crayon shavings. One could not tell that crayons are the “secret sauce” until moving up close to the artwork. Another piece of art, two large shabbos candles that are still on a classroom wall, are made entirely of, well, little candles. Rabbi Nissel explained that the entire hallway was filled with artwork during the exhibit and that schools from all over the country came to visit to appreciate the magnificent art. It was great to be provided with the opportunity to appreciate it as well and walk away enamored at the creativity of those who made such amazing pieces with such basic resources.

DC Couple Honored by Israel Bonds

Written by Super User on . Posted in Community News

WASHINGTON –– Melanie and René Moreno were honoredwith Israel Bonds’ Israel69 Award last month, presented in recognition of exceptional support for Israel and perpetuating Jewish heritage.

“Israel Bonds are both a financial instrument and a fraternal instrument, a bond of brotherhood and sisterhood with the Jewish state, for Jews and non-Jews alike,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a video message shared with supporters at Israel Bonds’ annual International Prime Minister’s Club Dinner at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach on February 12.

Though the Morenos began their lives far apart geographically–– Melanie is a native Washingtonian, and René is originally from Curaçao–– their two families had a shared connection with Israel Bonds. “His family bought bonds in Curaçao and my family bought them here,” said Melanie in a phone interview last week. “We’ve been buying Israel Bonds for a long time.”

Consider Adopting a Child

Written by Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld on . Posted in Community News

The Torah calls us a mamlechet kohanim and an am segulah (Shemtov 19:4-6), a nation of priests and a chosen nation. What this means is that just like the kohanim had a responsibility to serve the Jewish people by teaching us the Torah and helping us worship Hashem, so too we Jews have a responsibility to teach the message of the Torah to the entire world.

We Jewish people must carry a message of the Torah. This message has meaning only if it is a message that attempts to impact the entire world for good. If the message is just about our own tribe, then it is too limiting and we are losing our charge as a mamlekhet kohanim. Mamlechet kohanim means we need to be the priests to the world; we serve G-d by serving the world.

In this context, I want to invite families and individuals within our community to explore with me the idea of each of us adopting a child—not an infant, but a child.

Irony in My Life

Written by Kenneth Kohn on . Posted in Community News

Professionally, I am an attorney with doctorates in pharmacology and immunology. I have practiced intellectual property law, specializing in the biotech/pharma space, for over 30 years. As of late, I also manage or assist in the management of several companies.

Privately, I have been married for almost 40 years, am a father of four and a grandfather of three, and coached basketball for over 25 years.

Now the irony. I lost one parent to heart disease, and one died with the onset of dementia in her 90s. My father-in-law suffered from cardiovascular disease most of his adult life, and eventually succumbed to a blood-born fungal infection most likely caused by chronic antibiotic treatment for a respiratory infection. My mother-in-law recently suffered a stroke, also a product of cardiovascular disease. Meanwhile, the companies I am involved with are pre-revenue start-ups that own therapeutics and diagnostics in the areas of cardiovascular disease and dementia and treatments which could have obviated my father-in-law’s fungal infection. It is ironic that each of the treatments I am involved with could have extended my parents’ and father-in-law’s lives and helped prevent the onset of my mother-in-law’s stroke had they been available during their lifetimes.

JPDS’s Community Library Project Wins Kohelet Award

Written by Kol HaBirah Staff on . Posted in Community News

Impressive, collaborative, strategic, caring, and dedicated are some of the adjectives that come to mind after talking with Jewish Primary Day School’s (JPDS) Kindergarten General Studies team, comprised of Lisa Davis, Xani Pollakoff, and Vas Pournaras. Despite teaching separate classes, these educational leaders work closely together, planning their sessions on a weekly basis, discussing their students’ skill sets and coming up with creative ways to simultaneously further develop them and learn from them. Ronit Greenstein, Director of Communication, credited the strong parental involvement as a contributing factor to the strong development of the students. She talked about how the parents leverage their expertise and professions to develop the students, citing a recent example where a parent helped train the students in interview skills.

Saving Jewish Children From the Nazi Haman

Written by Rafael Medoff on . Posted in Community News

As Jews the world over entered their synagogues on Purim Eve 1939 to listen to the Megilla’s tale of Jews being saved from genocide in ancient times, there was a glimmer of hope that they, too, would be saved from catastrophe. 

For six long years, the Hitler regime had brutalized German Jewry while the international community generally turned a deaf ear. In response to the Kristallnacht pogrom, however, in early 1939 U.S. Senator Robert Wagner (D-New York) and Rep. Edith Rogers (R-Massachusetts) took action. Just a few weeks before Purim, they introduced legislation to save 20,000 Jewish children from the Nazi Haman by admitting them to the United States, outside America’s strict immigration quotas.

A Balanced Approach to the OU Ruling

Written by Miriam Gross on . Posted in Community News

As a former congregational rebbetzin and a current student of Yeshivat Maharat, I expected the OU’s statement on female clergy would touch a nerve, one way or another. I was hoping for a definitive position on the issues that would push the discussion forward or clarify the points of departure between the two sides of this conversation. Unfortunately, the lack of authoritative initiative left me unsatisfied. Understandably, they did not presume to have the answers. There is clearly a tension in our community over how to address the issue of female leadership, and nobody has come up with a solution that satisfies the needs of some without infringing on the needs of others. While the OU statement did demonstrate an impressive level of empathy––something that they were not given credit for–– it failed to resolve and managed to exacerbate a few contentious issues, namely professional titles for women of Torah stature, women’s smicha (ordination), and the exploration of women serving in congregational clerical roles. I propose that a reasonable and achievable solution to both are in plain sight, and somehow has been overlooked in all of the controversy.

Simply Siblings

Written by Danielle Azachi on . Posted in Community News

I have a biological sister, an adopted sister, and an adopted brother. The only difference between us is the way we arrived. We rejoice in the same accomplishments, we fight and we make up just like any other sibling group. People will judge and say that I don’t love my adopted siblings as much as I love my twin. They say my parents love my twin and I more because our DNA is the same. You tend to block out that noise and focus on what’s in the heart.

Purim’s Warning for Us in Modern-Day America

Written by Meshulem Ungar on . Posted in Community News

Lately, we all hear this bad press surrounding our president and his advisors, while as Jews we are concerned about the changing US relationship with Israel and anti-Semitic attacks like the recent vandalism of a St. Louis Jewish cemetery and the bomb threats to schools and other Jewish institutions across the country. The fact is, however, that the government is still running, the military is still fighting, the IRS is still collecting taxes–– and, if there are attacks against Jews, law enforcement is still going to protect Jews.

The real danger, especially for us Jews, lies in something we can learn from the holiday of Purim: the role of a leader’s advisors. In the Purim story, evil Haman gains the trust of King Achashverosh, who gives Haman his royal stamp— the one object signifying the king’s power. Haman uses the king’s authority to persecute the Jews of Persia. Today, it is unfortunately possible that a top government official, after gaining the trust of the president, will target groups he does not like. While he might not seek to exterminate a people like Haman did, he could oppress and harass them.

Dulles Justice and Purim

Written by Nicole Goldstein on . Posted in Community News

Purim teaches us that there is a time for rending our clothes and wearing sackcloth and ashes, and there is a time for confronting the king. The Dulles Justice Coalition, a non-partisan alliance of attorneys and other volunteers, sprung up quickly in the hours after the January 27 Executive Order on Immigration. The order temporarily suspended entry into the United States by foreign nationals from seven countries, as well as the Refugee Admissions Program. The response of the DC Jewish community to this modern-day Purim story shows just how much we have taken to heart the lesson of Mordechai and Esther.

The executive order (EO) wreaked havoc on airports around the country and around the world. Passengers embarked from foreign destinations with valid visas, and landed to find that their visas had been summarily revoked. Some of these travelers have lived in the United states for decades and have Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status, some were students at American universities, and some were tourists.

Taking Purim to the Street

Written by Aviva Werner on . Posted in Community News

Fulham Street in Kemp Mill is a quiet residential side street like any other in this suburban neighborhood of Silver Spring, Maryland. Traffic is light, and greenery is in abundance. The street’s lovely split-level and colonial-style homes have modest backyards, many of them littered with toys and other evidence of the families with young children who call this block home.

But each year, on Purim day, this quiet side street comes to life in an incredible way. Neighbors call it “Purim on Fulham,” a block-wide Purim carnival open to friends and neighbors from around the Silver Spring community. Fulham residents from an array of different shuls, schools and stages in life come together to offer fresh popcorn and cotton candy, a moon bounce, petting zoo and carnival games galore to the greater Jewish community.

“It is beautiful to see how Purim on Fulham brings the whole block together,” says Rachel Cattan, whose family runs the face-painting booth and the moon bounce. Her neighbors agree that their block festival is a unique combination of unity and family fun. “It’s a beautiful show of achdus [unity],” says Amy Sukol, hostess of the popcorn popping and music booths. “Our kids absolutely love it,” adds Debbie Cohn, whose family hosts the cookie decorating station.

How It All Began

The annual Purim block carnival is the brainchild of Rachel Ravin, proprietress of the cotton candy machine and basketball toss game. When she and her family moved onto Fulham Street several years ago, they were thrilled to finally have so many frum [religious] neighbors. “We used to live in another community,” she explains, “where we were really far away from other frum families. We moved to Kemp Mill and, for me, one of the most exciting things was being on a block filled with Orthodox Jews.”