Blood L’Mehadrin

Written by Leah Cypess on . Posted in Features

Evidence in State v. Bentley

Extracted from the hard drive
of Simon Bentley

Dear Rabbi Friedman,

​Thank you so much for your inspiring presentation at the Association of Orthodox Vampires retreat last weekend. I enjoyed all the lectures and discussion groups, but I found your speech, “Sucking Away Blood, Not Faith,” particularly relevant to where I am in my journey right now. I completely agree that “Moreh Nevuchim” has already laid the groundwork for dealing with the challenge vampirism presents (or rather, is perceived to present) to emunah. I was especially grateful for your lucid explanation of the cross/holy water issue.

A Year of Growth at National Gaucher Foundation

Written by National Gaucher Foundation on . Posted in Features

At the age of four, Brian Berman, National Gaucher Foundation’s CEO, was diagnosed with type 1 Gaucher disease after suffering severe symptoms. The first person in the world to successfully receive enzyme replacement therapy for Gaucher disease, Mr. Berman’s personal journey from sick child to dynamic professional and married father of five has prepared him well for the leadership role he assumed in January 2016.

Under Mr. Berman’s leadership this past year, NGF added innovative programing, welcomed new staff, and ushered in a fresh vision for the community’s future. Mr. Berman set a dual focus for the organization: increasing services for Gaucher patients, and boosting efforts to educate the public about the disease.

Sulam: Teaching a Child According to His or Her Way

Written by Barbara Trainin Blank on . Posted in Features

Currently housed at the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy,Sulam is the only program of its kind in the Capital region offering support for
students with mild-to-moderate learning disabilities as well as students with language-based disabilities and social and emotional challenges. Through highly individualized educational programs, Sulam fulfills its vision to ensure that a high-quality education is available to all Jewish children K-12 in the Greater Washington area, irrespective of their learning differences.

Sulam also offers a program known as Shearim (Hebrew for “gateways”), which focuses on the development of life skills, job coaching, healthy living and community engagement. Shearim serves students with developmental or intellectual disabilities.

Inclusion Means Opportunities to Give Back to the Community, Too

Written by Suzanne Pollak on . Posted in Features

On Wednesdays, Melissa
Sachs learns Hebrew at the Bender Jewish Community Center in Rockville, Maryland. On Thursdays, she works as a stock associate at AC Moore, an arts and crafts store. On Fridays, she cleans bathrooms at Staples.

“Mondays and Tuesdays are my relaxing days,” said Sachs. The 38-year-old is a resident of one of the 25 homes available for individuals with developmental, physical or mental disabilities in the Greater Washington area through the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes (JFGH).

Thanks to JFGH, Sachs has been able to carve out a life for herself that is more social and less dependent on her family. The nonprofit organization, which was created in 1983, helps adults who have developmental, physical or mental disabilities become more independent and an integrated part of the community.

Fighting for Israel — With One Arm Yosef Trumpeldor, the disabled Zionist hero

Written by Rafael Medoff on . Posted in Features

Yosef Trumpeldor lived a life of seeming contradictions. He was an assimilated Jew who became one of the most famous figures in Zionist history; a pacifist who is best remembered for his military career, and a man who, despite a significant physical disability, chose to return to the battlefield again and again.

Trumpeldor was born in Czarist Russia in 1880, just months before the onset of a three-year wave of more than 200 anti-Jewish pogroms. The violence offered a harsh lesson in the hazards of Jewish statelessness. Like many young Russian Jews of that generation, the teenage Trumpeldor took an interest in Zionism—but also in the pacifism and communalism of the philosopher Leo Tolstoy. Trumpeldor “did not have a trace of militarism in his character,” writes Professor Anita Shapira, a leading Israeli historian. 

Growing Up with Gregory

Written by Jessica Hilfer on . Posted in Features

Being the sister of a brother with disabilities is not difficult, but having the correct attitude about the situation–– that is the real challenge.

Gregory, my brother, is without a doubt my hero.

Gregory was born three years before me, but many of his significant milestones took place simultaneously with mine. My parents told me that I was the first one to actually walk, and a few weeks later Gregory took his first real steps off the wall. I think our roles have definitely reversed; now he inspires me to be courageous and to take chances.

Kol HaBirah Talks With Jake Turx

Written by Hillel Goldschein on . Posted in Features

I met Jake Turx in DC on the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration, during the Friday night oneg (festive gathering) hosted by Jerusalem-based philanthropist Martin Rappaport at the Marriott Marquis that evening. During that oneg I learned that Jake had ambitions to get into the White House on behalf of Ami Magazine. As we are all beginning to learn about Jake, now the senior White House correspondent and chief political correspondent for Ami, he generally achieves what he sets out to accomplish. From our long conversation that night, he struck me as a genuine, worldly and open person, one without agendas or party leanings, and we kept in touch ever since.

Amid the chaos of keeping up with the demands of running a newspaper, I recently had the pleasure of hosting Jake–– a man who is going through his own set of chaos right now–– for a night at my apartment in Silver Spring, Maryland.

At Sunflower Bakery, Cookies Can Lead to Careers for Young Adults with Learning Differences

Written by Natasha Nadel on . Posted in Features

Laurie Wexler, co-founder and executive director of Sunflower Bakery, had volunteered
with teens with learning disabilities, teaching them filing and other office skills. Once they reach 18, she wondered, what opportunities are out there for them? At the same time, she jokes, she was hungry for a kosher nosh (snack) closer to her Potomac home. Several years later, these thoughts converged and the idea for the Sunflower Bakery program was born.

When Wexler ran into Sara Portman Milner, she had an “aha moment.” This is the perfect person to talk to, she thought: a licensed clinical social worker, Milner was a champion of inclusion and had developed and implemented the special needs programs at the Bender Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington for 34 years.

Jewish Orgs: Philanthropy will not be enough without Medicaid and ADA

Written by Suzanne Pollak on . Posted in Features

One-hundred-eighty disability advocates lobbied Congress on February 2, the seventh annual Jewish Disability Advocacy Day, expressing their support for the preservation of Medicaid and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Activists involved in helping people who have developmental, physical and/or mental disabilities gathered together to see how they could best help everyone to be included in society and become active participants in the Jewish community.

Advocacy Day “was important last year, and it will be important next year,” said Rabbi Jonah Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center (RAC), the Reform Jewish movement’s social action organization.

“Including everyone in Jewish and daily life is a core Jewish value,” he said. “We need to keep improving, not just hold the line. I think that is one of the hallmarks of the United States, that we keep building on programs.”

It is particularly important to remain vigilant this year, “because there is so much turbulence in the political system,” said Pesner. The RAC and the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) were the main sponsors of the day-long event. Participants listened to eight congress members and several disability experts before breaking up into small groups to lobby 50 members of congress.

“I think that the thing that impressed me the most was the fact that you have so many people there, from Chabad down to the non-affiliated. Everybody is sitting together, working together for one common cause, with the respect I find in very few places,” said Batya Jacob, director of educational support services for Yachad, a division of the Orthodox Union.

“We all work together, because we all know the only way we will succeed is to work together,” said Jacob, who has attended Advocacy Day for the past three years.

Friendship Circle Marathon in Miami

Written by Natasha Nadel on . Posted in Features

Friendship Circle is an international organization that provides fun, friendship and Jewish community for children with special needs. A few weeks ago, 225 participants in the Friendship Circle’s marathon and half marathon in Miami raised over half a million dollars for Friendship Circle programming in their communities. For many Kol HaBirah readers, this event benefited your friends and neighbors, maybe even your family. For me, now returned from my second year of walking the half marathon for Friendship Circle of Maryland, I am more certain than ever that this will truly be an annual event in my life.

Over $67,000 was raised for our local Maryland chapter alone, an affiliate of Chabad Lubavitch of Maryland directed by Rabbi Mendel and Chana Kaplan. In fact, out of all the teams around the country, Maryland ranked third in fundraising and was only behind the much larger teams of Miami-Dade (FL) and Brooklyn.

Congregation Beth El Hosts Panel Discussion About Inclusive Employment

Written by Kol HaBirah Staff on . Posted in Features

ETHESDA (Md.) –– There was a lot of activity at Congregation Beth El on the morning of Sunday February 13. There must have been 500 children in the Hebrew school, with many of their parents as well, connecting with their Jewish tradition. In addition to this usual gathering, however, a panel discussion on inclusive employment was taking place in a separate room.

The first speaker was Ken Karbeling, the general manager of America Reprographics, Inc., a Rockville-based company that offers a variety of reprographic solutions including traditional copying, scanning and printing as well as a variety of online tools. He talked about his company’s collaboration with The Ivymount School, a Rockville school that strives to help children, students and young adults with disabilities achieve their highest level of development and independence, and have the students work at his company.