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.”

Mazon Sheds Light on America’s Hidden Hunger

Written by Suzanne Pollak on . Posted in Community News

42.2 million Americans are struggling with hunger–– and that figure includes members of our community.

ROCKVILLE (Md.) –– After viewing a 60-minute presentation on hunger in America, Jill Myers of Rockville was visibly moved.

“The food thing is something that eats away at me. There are so many people in the Jewish community who have big Shabbat dinners and lavish bar mitzvahs and weddings. There is always excess that I know goes to waste. It just frustrates me,” said Myers, a member of the Bender Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington board of directors.

The presentation Myers viewed was entitled “This is Hunger.” The traveling interactive exhibit, housed in a 53-foot-long double expandable traveling truck trailer, was created by Mazon, a Jewish organization working to end hunger among people of all faiths and backgrounds in the US and Israel. The exhibit stopped at the JCC from February 16 to 21 and was at Washington Hebrew Congregation from February 8 to 13.

Latest Wave of Bomb Threats Hits Home

Written by Gabe Aaronson on . Posted in Community News

Gesher and CESJDS were two of 31 Jewish institutions across the US targeted by bomb threats on Monday.

School officials and parents praised the swift police response to bomb threats at two local Jewish day schools this week, but Jewish organizations across the country are demanding an end to the ongoing threats and increased federal and state funding to protect their communities.

On Monday February 27, Gesher Jewish Day School in Fairfax, Virginia, received a bomb threat from an unidentified caller at 9:19 A.M., said Head of School Dan Finkel. The Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School’s (CESJDS) Upper School in Rockville received a machine-recorded phone threat at 9:37 A.M., Head of School Rabbi Mitchel Malkus said. Both schools immediately contacted the police.

Inclusion in Action at Annual Yachad Shabbaton in Potomac

Written by Chad Freeman on . Posted in Community News

At Beth Sholom Congregation in Potomac, Maryland, the largest Modern Orthodox synagogue in the Greater Washinton area, we always look forward to our annual Disability Awareness Shabbaton. Presented in partnership with Yachad, the Shabbaton includes many inspirational events. This year is no different: a full slate of events centered around disability inclusion are planned over the course of February 24-25, including a community-wide Shabbat dinner on Friday night (advance registration required), a special guest speaker, a community discussion panel, inclusive Shabbat davening with Yachad of Baltimore, and an inspirational Havdalah service and drum circle to conclude the shabbaton on Saturday evening.

Yachad is the only international organization promoting inclusion for children and adults with disabilities in the broader Jewish community. The organization works to ensure that those with diverse abilities their rightful place within the Jewish community, all while educating and advocating for a greater understanding, acceptance, outreach, and a pro-disability attitude.

Maryland Hillel Students Travel to Las Vegas for Service Trip

Written by Ben Bryer on . Posted in Community News

My name is Ben Bryer and I am currently a sophomore majoring in public health at University of Maryland. This past winter vacation, I had the pleasure of leading a Maryland Hillel Alternative Break trip with my partner Jessie Cohen. Along with 10 other students and a staff member, we traveled to Las Vegas to learn about the education system in the city, home to one of the poorest-performing school districts in the entire country.

It was a truly incredible experience to plan, organize and orchestrate a trip and see it all come to life. The week was packed with meetings with a range of speakers from the district superintendent, to school principals, local reporters, community organizers and more. We had a smooth group dynamic where people were not afraid to speak up, ask questions and participate in each activity we had. We had no major issues during the trip, and everyone left feeling refreshed and knowledgeable from their week in Las Vegas. We could have gone through the motions, done what was expected of us and come out feeling like we had made a difference. Our group, on the other hand, wanted to do something different.

Girls Division of Yeshiva of Greater Washington Puts on a Show with Red

Written by Rina Troy on . Posted in Community News

This year, on Sunday February 12 and Monday February 13, the Yeshiva of Greater Washington-Tiferes Gedaliah Girls Division put on an amazing production. It was called “Red” and was the story of Red Riding Hood with several other fairytale characters compiled into it. The girls worked so hard and each girl used her best talent to put on a terrific show. Some girls sang, some girls danced, some did gymnastics and of course girls acted. Some girls also helped backstage with scenery, props, costumes, business, tech and more.

Purim On Campus with UMD Chabad

Written by Chaiky Backman on . Posted in Community News

Feet stampede the floor going round and round the Megillah, as Rabbi Backman and his Chabad entourage lead sweaty men in dance. Fifteen, maybe 20 students all clad in basketball jerseys follow the rabbi, a short yet giant community figure, around the makeshift bimah. Watching the circle of men stamp in delirious simcha (happiness), I can remember feeling sorry for the inhabitants of the apartment below us. This is Purim night on the University of Maryland, College Park inside a raging off-campus apartment. This is Rabbi Backman at approximately midnight, and it is far from his last Megillah reading of the evening. Huge bellowed “boos” and a racket of rattles erupts when the name Haman (Purim’s villain) is read.

“It’s like we are at a Terps’ basketball game and the other team has scored and we fill the air with noise to irritate our competition.” This is how Eliana Block, a senior, multi-platform journalism major from Chicago, explains her experience with Chabad Purim.

Gesher and CESJDS Receive Bomb Threats

Written by Gabe Aaronson on . Posted in Community News

The two local schools were among Jewish institutions across the US targeted in the latest wave of bomb threats.

Two Jewish day schools in the Greater Washington area were targeted with bomb threats as the school day began on Monday morning February 27.

Gesher Jewish Day School in Fairfax received a bomb threat by phone at 9:19 A.M., and the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School's Upper School in Rockville received a similar threat at 9:22 A.M. Both schools immediately contacted the police.

Police departments in Montgomery County and Fairfax County rushed to the scenes – police were on site within 2 minutes according to Gesher head of school Dan Finkel. After consultation with police, Gesher's 143 students evacuated the building and CESJDS Upper School students gathered in the auditorium. Officers and canines searched both schools for explosives.

In both cases, the police found no evidence of explosives and classes resumed at both schools by 11 A.M. “Once we established that it was safe,” Finkel said, “getting open again was our priority.”

"They cleared the school, no threat was found," Montgomery County Police Information Officer Rick Goodale stated. "And now [our detectives] are trying to determine who made the threat.” Fairfax County Police Spokesperson Don Gotthardt said that their investigators are aware of the incident in Rockville and will work with Montgomery County police as needed to find the culprit.

Kol HaBirah will be covering this news as it unfolds and will include interviews with law enforcement, community leaders and more in our upcoming print issue, hitting the stands March 2.

Gabe Aaronson is a special correspondent for Kol HaBirah.

State Representatives Address Local Concerns at Maryland Jewish Advocacy Day

Written by Kol HaBirah Staff on . Posted in Community News

ANNAPOLIS (Md.) –– This year’s Maryland Jewish Advocacy Day drew over 250 participants to Annapolis to speak with their representatives about legislation important to the Jewish community. The February 7 event was a joint
project of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington and the Baltimore Jewish Council.

Attendees spanned the broad spectrum of Maryland’s Jewish community,from Leisure World retirees to members of the Berman Hebrew Academy community to Terps for Israel from University of Maryland. Familiar faces included Lew Fontek of the Jewish Foundation
for Group Homes (JFGH), Benham Dayanim of the Beltway Vaad, and Berman Hebrew Academy Director of Institutional Development Jennifer Zuckerman.

JCRC Director of Maryland Government and Community Relations Meredith Weisel, introduced the various bills that the JCRC is supporting. They include a bill that would support renovations for six of JFGH’s group homes, bullet-resistant
street-facing windows at the Bender JCC bullet, and one that would disallow anyone who is convicted of second-degree assault access to firearms.

Berman High Schoolers Showcase Extracurricular Talents at Student Run Dinner

Written by Zev Roberts on . Posted in Community News

Upper school students at the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy organized and hosted a fundraising dinner February 5 to benefit extra-curricular activities for the school. Students spent countless hours planning the event and worked hard all day Sunday cooking and waiting tables. The event raised an estimated $14,000.

Throughout the night, students creatively exhibited the various activities that Berman offers. As 150 parents, teachers and friends made their way to the cafeteria, they were treated to student artwork and photography as hors d’oeuvres–– breaded chicken fingers and mini hotdogs–– were passed around.

Jewish Community Gathers for Havdalah in Support of Refugees

Written by Kol HaBirah Staff on . Posted in Community News

WASHINGTON–– More than 600 people attended a special havdalah service organized by HIAS and the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Washington last weekend, demonstrating the powerful Jewish communal support for welcoming refugees.

The February 11 event, hosted well after the end of Shabbat by Washington Hebrew Congregation, kicked off a series of 20 events across the country for the National Day of Jewish Action for Refugees.