BETHESDA (Md.) — Young entrepreneurs gathered on Tuesday March 21 at the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Club to participate in Impact L’Atid’s culminating event.
Funded by pluralistic Jewish teen movement B’nai Brith Youth Organization (BBYO) and Federation’s United Jewish Endowment Fund, Impact L’Atid is an entrepreneurship training program that challenges teens to develop ideas for enhancing the lives of the Jewish community of Greater Washington. Over the past five months, eight teams, each consisting of one or two BBYO members, worked on turning their social innovation ideas into a reality. The teens then had an opportunity to showcase their work to the community in a forum modeled after the hit TV show “Shark Tank,” in which real-life entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a panel of highly-successful potential investors. Scholarships for immersive Jewish experiences were awarded to first, second, and third place groups.
Typically, American Friends of Lubavitch in Washington, D.C., organizes a plethora of celebrations in honor of Purim all over the city, from Capitol Hill and the White House to the Israeli Embassy and college campuses.
This year, despite Purim occurring on a Sunday in the midst of spring break, over 1,000 Jews of all ages and backgrounds celebrated the holiday in the nation’s capital.
ANNAPOLIS (Md.) — Maryland lawmakers are considering bills to create a security grant program for private schools before the legislative year closes at the end of April.
House Bill 1661, introduced by Maryland State Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk (D – District 21) on March 10, would empower the Maryland Center for School Safety, an independent government entity, to award security grants to private schools and daycares deemed “at risk of hate crimes or attacks because of their ideology, beliefs, or mission.”
WASHINGTON — Whether it’s through a class held in a bar, an Introduction to Mussar program in conjunction with the local Jewish federation, or a study session at a local university, Rabbi Hyim Shafner says he believes in an Orthodox synagogue model that “removes the barriers to entry.”
That is the model that he hopes to bring to Kesher Israel, the Modern Orthodox synagogue in Georgetown whose board recently announced his hire as full-time rabbi. Rabbi Shafner, who replaces Rabbi Avidan Milevsky, will join the synagogue in August 2017.
Author’s note: These vignettes are true stories based on true stories. All characters are real; names have been changed to protect the innocent. Hindsight is 20/20. I share my world with you because 1.) my life is crazy and hilarious, 2.) we are so immersed in our mundane hectic lives that we forget to stop and smell the roses, and 3.) by stopping to hear my tales, maybe you’ll be reminded to see the silver lining in your life and take some laughs along the way.
To the casual observer, it would seem like just a regular evening: 15 young adults ate ice cream, played icebreakers games and chatted away with their new friends. A few even danced to the music playing in the background at the March 22 event at Beth Sholom Congregation in Potomac.
But it was almost too much for some of their parents, who have tried so hard to find welcoming places for their Jewish children who, because of their disabilities, have difficulties making friends or feeling wanted.
Sulam’s first Annual Bowl-a-Thon was held on Sunday March 19 at Bowlmor Bethesda. Funds raised at the event support the mission of Sulam, which is to enable students with disabilities to attend general education community schools. Sulam students have varying forms of learning differences; including intellectual disabilities, autism, ADHD, and language-based disabilities; amongst others.
I not only play the role of Director of Marketing at Sulam, but also (and more importantly) as Mom to a very feisty, and equally phenomenal, redhead named Elana, who has Down Syndrome and attends Sulam.
WASHINGTON — U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Nikki Haley said that “the days of Israel bashing are over” during a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference on Monday.
When discussing her experiences when she began her job as ambassador to the UN, Haley noted that “talking about the Middle East, there’s a lot to talk about, and whether you’re talking about Hezbollah or ISIS, all the issues in Syria, which is a problem, that’s what I expected us to talk about. I didn’t expect an Israel-bashing session.”
WASHINGTON — The purpose of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s sold-out networking event on Thursday March 16 was to “provide business professionals with the opportunity to mingle in the context of support for the Jewish community,” said Neil Gurvitch, co-chair of Federation’s Network Division.
Indeed, it was evident that many connections between the 400 professionals of various and diverse ages, backgrounds, and professions were being formed. Friends, colleagues, and acquaintances introduced each other to their various connections over food and drink for over an hour at the outset of the night.
On Thursday March 23, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) held a conference call with leaders of Jewish organizations to discuss an unexpected development: Israeli police had announced the arrest of a 19-year-old man in Ashkelon with dual Israel-U.S. citizenship in connection with the majority of the bomb threats to Jewish institutions in the United States and Canada since January 2017.
The arrest followed a nearly four-month-long, FBI-led joint investigation into the waves of bomb threats targeting Jewish community institutions, including several in the Greater Washington area.
The courts are presently keeping the suspect’s identity secret until his next court appearance on March 30. The New York Times reported on March 23 that the suspect’s lawyer, Galit Bash, stated her client suffers from a brain tumor that affects his cognitive abilities and may have impacted his behavior. Bash said that her client was rejected from service in the Israeli military because of his medical condition.
Earlier this month, U.S. law enforcement arrested former journalist Juan Thompson in St. Louis in connection with some of the bomb threats. In a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan, authorities accused Thompson of making at least eight of the threats received by Jewish institutions since January 2017, mostly by email.
Israel’s Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the Jewish teen is the primary suspect the more than 150 bomb threats made in that same period. According to Rosenfeld, the suspect made threats to sites in Australia and New Zealand in addition to those in the United States, as well as a threat to a commercial airline flight that prompted an emergency landing.
The young man’s father was also arrested, but as of printing of this article any charges against him have not been made public. The New York Times reported on March 23 the father’s lawyer, Eran Rau, said his client has no criminal record and is cooperating with investigators.
“I congratulate the Israeli Police on leading a complex international investigation, together with law enforcement agencies from around the world, which led to the arrest of the suspect,” Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan said in a statement following reports of the arrest. “We hope that this investigation will help shed light on some of the recent threats against Jewish institutions, which have caused great concern both among Jewish communities and the Israeli government.”
In public statements, the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Washington and Anti-Defamation League (ADL) expressed gratitude to law enforcement bodies in the United States and in Israel for the international cooperation and tremendous effort that has gone into the investigation so far.
“Like many in the Jewish community, we are saddened that the suspect is a young Jewish man. We also recognize that this one arrest does not necessarily mean the end to the bomb threats, or that all the perpetrators are now in custody,” the statement continued. “We are confident that law enforcement will continue to seek perpetrators of other acts of anti-Semitism and racism, and must continue our own vigilance.”
The fact that the suspect is an American-Israeli Jew should not and will not make a difference to legislators considering measures to increase security funding for day schools and other Jewish institutions, according to JCRC Executive Director Ron Halber. “Even without the bomb threats, we are seeing an uptick in hate crimes,” he said, “and most of the religiously motivated hate crimes are directed against Jews.” According to Washington, D.C. police data, in 2016 the police reported 107 total hate crimes, of which 18 were religiously motivated. By comparison, in 2015 the police recorded 66 total hate crimes, of which five were religiously motivated.
“Even though it appears that the main culprit behind the majority of these attacks has allegedly been identified, anti-Semitism in the U.S. remains a very serious concern,” ADL CEO and National Director Jonathan A. Greenblatt said in the organization’s public statement. “No arrests have been made in three cemetery desecrations or a series of other anti-Semitic incidents involving swastika graffiti and hate fliers. JCCs and other institutions should not relax security measures or become less vigilant.”
“We appreciate the support of so many community and organizational leaders, both within and outside the Jewish community, who spoke out and condemned these threats,” he said. “They understood not only how disruptive they were, but also how they traumatized the people affected, especially young children and senior citizens who were evacuated as a result of these threats.”