Berman Hosts Annual Summer Yarchei Kallah for Educators

Written by Rabbi Moshe Shields on . Posted in Community News

More than 50 local educators recently participated in the annual Yarchei Kallah at the Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville, Maryland. It is an event that offers educators the opportunity to immerse themselves in Torah learning and discuss valuable ideas with their colleagues. The participants, who mostly teach in Baltimore and Silver Spring schools, spent a week learning from experts in the field of education.

Special Torah in Israel Has Local Connection

Written by Kol HaBirah Staff on . Posted in Community News

The completion last month of the first Torah scroll written on top of Masada as part of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) Be Inscribed program was dedicated by Andy Klein of Forest Hill, Maryland. The Torah scroll was officially completed at Masada’s ancient synagogue, a house of worship used by the Jews who sought refuge on top of the mountain close to 2,000 years ago. The Torah is going to Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI), a Jewish and pluralistic educational institution affiliated with JNF.

Bikur Cholim House Playroom Dedicated in Memory of Beloved Son, Brother

Written by Kami Troy on . Posted in Community News

When a family loses a loved one, as the Rasooly family did in 2014, it can be difficult to find ways to honor their memory. Ilan Rasooly died tragically at age 20, when he fell while running backward during a visit to friends at the University of Maryland. Although he grew up in the Kemp Mill neighborhood of Silver Spring, Maryland, Rasooly was then in his senior year at the Cornell University School of Hotel Management in Ithaca, New York.

Takeaways from the 2018 Primaries in Maryland

Written by Suzanne Pollak on . Posted in Community News

The mix of new and seasoned candidates running for office produced “very exciting” primaries, according to Meredith Weisel, director of Maryland Government and Community Relations for the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Washington. Term limits and a new public campaign financing system in Montgomery County — along with a nationwide push for political newcomers (women in particular) to run for office — created a large slate of candidates in the June 2018.

Shomrai Preschool Enters Third Year Supporting Inclusive Classrooms

Written by Nancy Kohl on . Posted in Community News

When Elisheva’s two-year-old daughter was due to start preschool, she was not yet walking independently or communicating at a level typical of other two year olds. Elisheva (who asked that her last name not be used) said she was pleasantly surprised that “the staff at Shomrai not only accepted her to the school, but they fully embraced the challenge of working with a child who couldn’t physically keep up with the rest of the class.”

Elisheva’s daughter is one of many children who benefit from Shomrai Preschool’s commitment to inclusion. Three years ago, Shomrai Preschool, located in Silver Spring, Maryland, created The Anna Rutner Memorial Fund to honor a wonderful educator who made significant contributions to the Shomrai Preschool community. Morah Anna was an advocate on behalf of all children, and she was especially responsive to children with special needs.

“The Anna Rutner Memorial Fund is an invaluable resource to the children, families, and teachers of Shomrai Preschool,” said Suri Kinzbrunner, Shomrai Preschool’s director. “If we are to be a school that caters to the children of our community, we have to be willing to at least try to accommodate children of varying abilities. The Anna Rutner Memorial Fund helps us to do so in the best way possible.”

With the fund’s support, Shomrai Preschool contracts with Child Development Consultants (CDC) to help teachers create and maintain inclusive classrooms. CDC provides training for the teachers, observes them in their classrooms, and provides guidance on improving instructional practices and classroom management.

“I professionally have benefited from this program. The teachers are given training by a professional to teach us ways to manage our classrooms when we have children with special needs,” said Lisa Landy, a Pre-K teacher. “With the parents’ approval, we call in specialists through the fund who observe the child in our classroom, they then assess, and write a report. The therapists meet with families and teachers who work together as a team to support the child and implement recommendations tailor-made for that specific child. These interventions help us and the families support the child to integrate into the classroom community.”

Shomrai Preschool offers families the expertise of the CDC team, including an occupational therapist, an early childhood special educator and behavioral specialist, and a speech and language pathologist. The team can observe a child in their natural environment to assess how they function in “real life” situations. CDC collaborates with the family, school director, pedagogical consultant, and teachers to create highly individualized strategies and recommendations to support each child in the classroom.

“Our family came to truly appreciate Shomrai’s focus on inclusion when our daughter was diagnosed with selective mutism at age three. As worried parents, we found comfort in Shomrai’s tremendous commitment to our daughter,” said Emily Friedman. “We brought in an outside professional, an expert in the disorder. Shomrai went above and beyond to collaborate with her and support our child — from teacher training, to meetings, to progress monitoring, to allowing the clinician into the classroom to guide and direct the teachers in best practices for working with a child who has selective mutism.”

Elisheva had a similar experience with her daughter. “Her teachers worked tirelessly with her, doing the exercises provided by the therapists and taking note of what she was accomplishing and what she still needed help with ... We feel so fortunate to have had such a tremendous support system built in to the preschool environment.”

“While we also knew that everyone was doing ‘extra’ to help our daughter, we were never made to feel that way,” Friedman added. “With much gratitude to Hashem and the teachers and staff at Shomrai, we now have a vibrant, happy child who is ready for kindergarten.”

Shomrai Preschool also refers families to and collaborates with Infants and Toddlers, Child Find, and Child Link, which are free services provided by the county. Two years ago, Shomrai Preschool had an embedded advisor from Child Link providing expertise on mental health issues and best teaching practices, and the school has requested on-going support from Child Link for the 2018-2019 school year.

However, “many times children are not eligible to receive [county] services,” Landy explained. “This is when we are able to step in and help find the resources needed to help the child succeed in school through the fund.” By partnering with public and private practitioners, the school ensures that every child’s needs are met, and ultimately creates an improved learning environment for all students.

To learn more about Shomrai Preschool and the Anna Rutner Memorial Fund, visit or contact Suri Kinzbrunner at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

By Nancy Kohl


Nancy Kohl is the pedagogical consultant for Shomrai Preschool. Nancy has over 35 years of experience working as a master teacher, trainer, and parent educator, and she has presented at various local early childhood centers.



Strengthening the Jewish Community Through Parent-to-Parent Connections

Written by Rachel Kohn on . Posted in Community News

This article is part of a special community services-themed section featured in this week’s paper.

Added to the full plate of job, home, and/or child (and possibly more than one child at that), finding the time and opportunities for new social connections can be challenging as a parent. Yet whether one is new to a community or new to parenting, finding that gem of a friend who is knowledgeable about schools, synagogues, and other Jewish community resources can have a huge positive impact on one’s entire family.

The Chesed Fund and Project Ezra Honor Baltimoreans for Their Community Service

Written by Kol HaBirah Staff on . Posted in Community News

When Tzviel “BK” Blankchtein started Masada Tactical, LLC in 2007 in Baltimore, he knew he wanted to offer services that genuinely equipped people to protect themselves in real-life situations. In addition to teaching personal self-defense, Masada Tactical offers specialized seminars on counter-abduction and counter-carjacking, home invasion defense, firearms skills, trauma care, travel safety, and active shooter response.

Elevating the Discourse: Federation and Shalom Hartman Institute Announce New Initiative

Written by Kol HaBirah Staff on . Posted in Community News

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington announced a new partnership this week with the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America (SHI). Convening leaders from across the Greater Washington area, the initiative will be a strategic response to the current challenges facing American and Jewish civic societies and tailored to the unique dynamic of Greater Washington — bridging ideological, political, denominational, and geographic gaps.