Israel Engagement Fellowship: Equipping Teens With the Knowledge and Skills They Need Today

Written by Meirav Steinlauf on . Posted in Features

I go to a rather large public school with only a small number of Jewish students, so often I am the only Jew in a room. I love being able to educate my peers about stuff I’ve grown up learning. Unfortunately, there was one aspect of being a modern-day Jew that I had trouble answering questions about.

It’s hard to be a Jew today without hearing about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, so being the only Jew in a room full of curious, educated non-Jews, I heard lots of questions about it. The problem was that I only knew the very, very basics.

A Pomegranate Grows in Fairfax

Written by Rachel Kohn on . Posted in Features

When you are starting a newspaper, you can count yourself lucky if people pitch lots of stories for you to cover. Some of them are obvious choices, while others come from out of left field, but you have to keep an open mind. When Kol HaBirah’s publisher, Hillel Goldschein, asks me if I can head out to Fairfax, Virginia, to talk to realtor Dorit Paz about her pomegranate trees, I am a little skeptical there is a story to tell — and so is Dorit.

Investment Advice From the Oracle

Written by Rabbi Jonathan Gross on . Posted in Features

In 2006, Warren Buffett made his first-ever investment in a company headquartered outside of the United States. He paid four billion dollars for an 80 percent stake in a company called Iscar, located in Northern Israel. He closed the deal on July 5, 2006. One week later, on July 12, Hezbollah started what came to be known as the Second Lebanon War. Thousands of rockets were fired from Lebanon and rained down on Northern Israel. Iscar’s main facility is located less than eight miles from the Israel-Lebanon border.

Camp Kibbutz: I Love You!

Written by Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld on . Posted in Features

Approximately 10 years ago a congregant approached me and asked if our shul would be interested in opening up a day camp. “Let me discuss it with our synagogue’s board and with our attorneys at the law firm of Rothwell Figg,” I said.

The board was enthusiastic and supportive, provided that our attorney gave us the green light. So I then turned to our lawyer, Steve Lieberman, and asked for his guidance.

“Give me some time to research the legal questions and I will get back to you with an answer,” he said.

Within a few weeks, we were given a long list of onerous regulatory requirements, which we were thankfully able to meet. At the end of this highly technical process, Steve turned to me and said, “Congratulations, you have completed your tasks. But now let me ask you: Why on earth do you need this headache in your life?”

We are coming close to the 10-year anniversary of that conversation that eventually led to the creation of our incredible camp, Camp Kibbutz. During that time, our camp has served around 100 children a summer and we have all had an amazing time, baruch Hashem (thank G-d)!  Looking back on that conversation, 10 years later, here is the answer I would now give to Steve:

Woman of Valor

Written by Suzanne Pollak on . Posted in Features

When Connie Lawn passes
away - and she realizes that time is sooner than later now that she is under hospice care - she wants the Israeli song, “Jerusalem of Gold,” to be played at her funeral.

It’s a fitting choice for the 72-year-old resident of Falls Church who has spent a lengthy career in journalism, observing the world while perpetually keeping one eye on Israel and how the small country will be affected.

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.

‘Fake News’ in the 1967 War — And Today

Written by Rafael Medoff on . Posted in Features

The upcoming 50th anniversary of the Six Day War will generate much commentary on Israel’s capture of territories and the various conflicts and negotiations that followed. But the 1967 war also was the occasion for an early instance of what is now called “fake news.”

Arab leaders could not come to grips with the reality of their defeat at the hands of Israel. Throughout their lives they had believed and preached the notion that the existence of a Jewish state violated the laws of nature and therefore must be only a temporary phenomenon. 

Summer Camp Names Tell a Surprising Tale

Written by Rafael Medoff on . Posted in Features

You’d be surprised what you can learn about American Jews—and about Palestinian Arabs—from the names of their respective summer camps.

Just as Jewish communities often name synagogues and schools after donors, some of their summer camps, too, have memorialized those who signed the checks. That was the case with, for example, the first Reform Jewish summer camp, the Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute, in Wisconsin (founded in 1952), and Camp Lehman, a Jewish summer camp for adults in upstate New York whose facility was donated in the early 1900s by the family of future New York Governor Herbert Lehman. It was later renamed Camp Isabella Friedman, after another benefactor.

Local Teen Combatting Addiction Needs Community Support

Written by Natasha Nadel on . Posted in Features

More than just a brave plea for help, the Ross family’s story sheds light on how the Jewish community addresses substance abuse, particularly among its youth.

SILVER SPRING (Md.) — Addiction, whether it is to food, gambling, shopping, drugs, or alcohol, exists in every community. Even Jewish ones. Even this one. One local family knows this all too well. Hedy Ross, with her son Perry’s permission, shared her family’s story with Kol HaBirah in an effort to raise funds to cover her son’s treatment. Their openness may help other families struggling silently with similar challenges. “My son was regularly doing drugs with other Jewish teens. and they were functioning, going to school, getting good grades,” said Ms. Ross. “Perry on the other hand was just going down the hole of addiction and just couldn’t do anything but look for his next drug to use.” “Perry has other conditions that often feed into drug use: depression, anxiety, learning disabilities,” she said. “These are all difficult things for a teenager to cope with. So many [kids] are dealing with these issues and they turn to drugs because at first they think it makes it all better…I understand why certain kids are drawn to drugs, but it’s a very difficult addiction to overcome.”

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.

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.