Category Archives: Jewish Learning

Things To Do This Week in Baltimore

Check out these great events for the whole family sponsored by The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore or Associated agencies.

Sunday, September 14
9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Super Sunday

Join us at the Weinberg Park Heights JCC (5700 Park Heights Avenue) for the 2015 Super Sunday Community Phone-a-thon in support of The Associated’s Annual Campaign. Volunteers are invited to work together to help raise $1 million to care for the vulnerable, strengthen Jewish community and advocate on behalf of Israel. This year’s Super Sunday will feature the launch of The Associated’s #100DayChallenge, an initiative encouraging the community to make their pledges by December 31. A matching grant has been secured for all new and increased pledges during this time period.
There will also be a children’s area, where youngsters can color cards for Israeli soldiers and listen to PJ Library books.

Sunday, September 14
10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Public Opening: The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen

mendes cohen exhibit
Explore the story of Baltimore’s Mendes Cohen – part Forrest Gump, part Indiana Jones and probably the most remarkable Baltimorean about whom you’ve never heard. Travel through an interactive maze on his life, enjoy interactive activities like recording an argument on a modern day issue and see how Mendes fit into the historical events of the 19th century. This exhibit at the Jewish Museum of Maryland (15 Lloyd Street) will run through June 14.

Sunday, September 14
1:30 – 3:30 p.m.
Family Farm Day

Stop by the Pearlstone Center (5425 Mt. Gilead Avenue) and learn about where your Rosh Hashanah honey comes from. Make beeswax candles to take home, learn about bees and their hives and hear a PJ Library story.

Sunday, September 14
2:00 – 3:30 p.m.
Rise Above Bullying:  A Program for Children & Their Parents
Join Jewish Community Services at their Owings Mills location in this workshop about bullying aimed at both children and parents. In age appropriate groups, children, six to 13, will discuss bullying, practice CSA-inspired confidence building exercises and learn useful techniques for helping themselves and others.  In a separate group, parents will discuss who, what, when, where and why of bullying and learn how to help children whether they are the victim, a bystander or the bully.

This free program, held at the Owings Mills JCC (3506 Gwynnbrook Avenue) will feature presenters Susan Kurlander, M. Ed., Health Educator, JCS and Jen Lake, Director, Comprehensive Survival Arts (CSA)

Monday, September 15
7:00 p.m.
Israel After Gaza – Media Implosion: Failures in Gaza News Coverage Eric Rozenman, Washington Director of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), will discuss the media and its role during this past summer’s Gaza news coverage. Held at the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation (7401 Park Heights Avenue), the event is sponsored by Baltimore Israel Coalition.


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Talking to Your Children About the Situation in Israel

boy israel

By Amalia Phillips
Director, Israel and Overseas Education at the Macks Center for Jewish Education

As we read and watch the news coming out of Israel and Gaza, some of us who are parents are wondering how to talk to our children about the situation and what we should tell them. The first thing to be aware of is that while our youngest children may not be allowed to watch the news at home, they may have heard something while out of our care.

Even very young children listen to and understand adult conversations. They may also listen to their older siblings – or their peers = and they may absorb information from social media. Many of us remember our surprise at hearing our children’s first inappropriate words picked up at recess, or their proud boasting that they know about the “birds and the bees.” We might be surprised by what our children have heard about Israel and the current conflict.

It is important to find out what our children already know. As parents, we should ask questions, listen carefully to the thoughts and feelings our children express and then validate those feelings as normal and proper. Furthermore, we should observe our children for non-verbal cues such as loss of appetite, sleeplessness, extended periods of anxiety and other physical symptoms. If a child has experienced personal trauma or loss in the past, s/he may respond more severely to current events and will need extra support and reassurance.

Discussing violent acts appropriately does not increase children’s fear as much as the burden of having to keep their fears to themselves. So while we, as parents, want to shield our children from scary or upsetting news, having a conversation is always better than having our kids keep their worries to themselves. Fear does not go away just because it is ignored.

It is normal for children to see their parents sad, anxious or angry about the events in Israel. We should share these feelings with our children so they are not left wondering whether it is their fault that their parents are upset/sad/worried. A simple explanation such as “I’m sad because some people were hurt in Israel today” may be all that is needed. However, burdening children with a litany of concerns and/or seeking your child’s support for your anxieties should be avoided. Parents should use simple and concrete language that is easily understood by their children, and should keep in mind that children may not fully understand the situation, even after it has been explained.


israel pj
Keep children’s routines as predictable and normal as possible. This signals that while rockets are falling in Israel, their own families remain intact.

Limit and control media exposure. At this age, children may not fully comprehend what they see. Scenes of destruction may seem like a cartoon or computer game to some but may be terrifying to others. If children are terrified, their fears usually manifest themselves in contexts that are familiar to them. At this age, for example, they may be worried about not being picked up from school or camp on time. Reassure them repeatedly. You may find that you need to repeat information because preschoolers have the tendency to ask the same questions over and over.

Help preschoolers find ways to express their feelings. Preschoolers may not have the language and vocabulary with which to express their feelings. Allow them to draw a picture or play with dolls instead, and use their drawings or play as a springboard for discussion.

Keep it simple. Kids may listen for a few minutes and then want to go and play. This is normal. They may have questions later, or they may not want to discuss current events at all.

Elementary School

Create a quiet place to have a conversation. Use words that are appropriate and accurate.

Share specific information that helps the child feel safe. The need to feel safe is important at this age, so you may want to discuss new technologies that better protect people in planes and buildings (e.g. special reinforced rooms and shelters). If your child is interested in electronics, you may want to find a simple article on the Iron Dome defense system.  It is important to reassure children if they have fears about their parents flying off on a business trip, or the family’s upcoming visit to Grandma’s house for the holidays.

Suggest practical ways your child can access support and information. If your child has questions you cannot answer, acknowledge that things are complicated and confusing and that you do not have all the answers. Suggest some ways you can discover them together. (e.g.. talking to a spiritual leader; finding out information about safety procedures when hearing a siren;  or learning about measures Israel is taking to protect its citizens).

Look for ways your children can be helpful. If they want to do something practical, suggest that they write cards or make something for children in Ashkelon who are sitting in shelters, gather supplies to send to  Israeli soldiers or pray for the safety of Israel and its people. For additional suggestions, check our the Center of Jewish Education website.

Middle and High School

Turn off the television and/or the computer. With 24/7 news coverage, the same news is regurgitated over and over. Your children may not realize it is the same information and may find the repetition of information and images disturbing.

Share a range of opinions. Middle and high school children are more focused on testing boundaries, exploring their newly found independence and asserting the concept of fairness than younger children. Some even have sophisticated knowledge about politics. Help them appreciate the complexity of the issues involved. For instance, show them how to access Israeli media online; have a conversation about bias and how to detect it; reinforce their critical thinking skills by suggesting they read reputable sources with whom they are likely to agree and also those with whom they are likely to disagree. If your children are active on social media, you may want to help them post appropriate comments and monitor their activities.

In conclusion

In addition to thinking through the way we communicate with our children, we can consider some particularly Jewish responses. For example, for generations Jews have turned to the giving of tzedakah and the reciting of prayer as ways to connect with each other and find strength in ourselves. Check the CJE resource page for sources. When you are a role model of compassion and introspection, your child will watch you and learn these skills.

Whatever you feel about the current situation in Israel, remember that it is important for our children to be engaged with Israel, to dream of a peaceful world and, most of all, to know that they can bring their questions and concerns to you.


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An Electrified Pickle?


By Marvin Pinkert
Executive Director, Jewish Museum of Maryland

Elisheva Goldwasser was one of the first people I met after arriving as the new director of the Jewish Museum of Maryland. I met her in the context of the relationship between the museum and our neighbors at B’nai Israel Synagogue. Elisheva is a very active member of the synagogue, serving as office manager.

A few months ago I learned that Elisheva’s former profession was as an electrical engineer. With only a little persuasion she became one of the first volunteers for the project we’re calling The Electrified Pickle.

What’s an Electrified Pickle? It’s a community tech fair with a Jewish twist. Its origin lies in the type of do-it-yourselfer events that have been popping up all across the country – even the White House just hosted its very own “Makers Faire” on June 18. In an age when technology often means staring at a screen these events engage young people and families in the physical principles that lie behind gadgets that often seem to work by “magic.”

The Electrified Pickle will run at the Jewish Museum of Maryland for five weeks beginning July 13. Each Sunday of the week will have a different program theme. For example, Elisheva is participating in our opening “Power This!,” a day we are dedicating to both sources of power and the empowerment of women in science and engineering. And yes, we will be lighting up dill pickles and electric menorahs (without any wires), and we’ll be using potatoes for batteries instead of latkes.

But the real Jewish ingredient in our story is not pickles or potatoes; it is the bonding of community. The Jewish community is defined not only by our holy places, our synagogues and our cemeteries, but also by our social clubs, our camps and our business associations.

I think this has to have been the reasoning of the first generation of the Jewish Historical Society of Maryland (the predecessor to JMM) when they started to collect the material culture of everyday life of the Jewish community. They collected not only objects associated with spiritual life, but clothing from department stores, household objects from long-time Baltimore families and the oral histories of doctors, authors and artists. They staked out a position that said that the whole community mattered and that whether your grandfather was a rabbi or a radical, their lives played a role in the Jewish Baltimore we have today.

With The Electrified Pickle our central challenge is to strengthen bonds of community. We are engaging our neighbors who are scientists and engineers and using their considerable talents to reach out to young people. Some people will bond with the Jewish community at a basketball game at the JCC and some people will bond over bottle rockets at the Jewish Museum of Maryland – did I mention that July 27 is “Fly This!”?

Of course, loving history as we do, we couldn’t resist pointing out that the connections between our community and technology stretch back way before the Internet. We will be putting some of our favorite pieces of technology on view.

These include a 1923 typewriter that has an extra shift key to move from English to Hebrew, a hair wave machine that looks like it belonged to Medusa and the original woodblocks used to make Yiddish theater posters in the late 19th century.

The woodblocks are artifacts and will be in a protective case – but not before they receive a 3D scan. On July 20, “Print This,” we will be using 21st century 3-D replicas of the woodblocks, allowing our visitors to once more make posters from these historic letters.

For those who like to mix artwork with technology, we have invited the Mosaic Makers group to help us organize the creation of a community mural celebrating the life of Lombard Street in the early 20th century. The mural making will run all five weeks of the project.

In the end we found ourselves with so many volunteers from the Jewish community who wanted to share their passion for robotics (“Imagine This” – Aug. 3), decoding and encryption (“Code This” – Aug. 10) and all our other themes that we’re considering doing this again next summer. But don’t wait that long – bring your children or grandchildren down in July and August and build something great – especially a great bond!

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Parenting Tips I’ve Learned


By DJ Schneider Jensen
Macks Center for Jewish Education

Over the years, I listened to my rabbis’ stories and learned from their lessons. I noticed patterns and themes in the stories and found texts that spoke to me. There are some great parenting tips in there, and some that might come in handy this summer as you spend most of your waking hours with your children.

1.  GIVE THE CHILDREN TIME:  Creation took six days. It didn’t happen overnight. And it didn’t happen according to my timeline. It happened on G-d’s timeline. This is very important.  G-d took the time he needed. And G-d Created humans last.  I often wondered what would have happened if G-d’s mom told him on the fourth day to “stop with all that creating and clean up.” Thankfully that didn’t happen, because, well, we wouldn’t be here. Whew.

Knowing that Creation took six days also means to me that our children are capable of greatness over time;  they don’t have to be great in a one-shot deal.

2.  TEACH THE CHILDREN TO HOST:  Abraham taught us to Jump To Welcome Guests. That’s the rule. Jump. It’s not: Hesitate when asking someone into your home, because the dog hair is overwhelming and the bathroom is dirty and the cleaning people don’t come until tomorrow. It’s Jump To Welcome Guests. It’s not about you.  It’s about taking care of the ones being welcomed.

Now, entertaining  guests is another thing altogether and my mother taught me how to do that with a simple blessing:  Boray p’ree hagafen.  (It’s part of the blessing over the wine.) This was such a lesson for me.  Make your guests feel comfortable, empower them to participate, and always have some wine around the house!

3. BE FLEXIBLE:  During Passover we meet the four sons. They were wise, wicked, simple and clueless. To me, these are not just four boys with individual traits. This can also be one person going through various phases of maturity. G-d gave us tips on dealing with every phase.  None of these boys were excluded from our care or learning. They were simply handled according to their needs.

4. MODEL KINDNESS: Be nice and don’t talk about others. When Miriam spoke ill about Zipporah, G-d made her sick and put her in a week-long timeout. ‘Nuff said.

5. MODEL TZEDAKAH: When a person gathers the wheat from his field, he should leave a corner for poor people. I love everything about that message – love compassion, thoughtfulness, charity – it’s all wrapped up in there.  I never quite understood how I could literally make that happen since I don’t farm. However, as opportunities in my life presented themselves, I found myself remembering this mitzvah, finding ways to provide for others and sharing this value with my sons.

6. LISTEN AND SHARE: We are told to tell our unwritten stories over and over. Remind our children of our forefathers and our history. Listening to others tell these stories, I also learned that we can add a little flourish. Make the stories meaningful and relevant for our children. Help them connect to our past so they will want to be a part of our future.

7. SHOW THE LOVE: Love your fellow as yourself. I play with this one every once in a while. I like to think of it as a two-parter – love your fellow as yourself, and love yourself as your fellow. I think sometimes we worry too much about pleasing others and we need to remember to take care of ourselves. We need to teach that to our children, as well, so they can remember to care for themselves.

8. BE A BLESSING FOR YOUR CHILDREN: A blessing I want to share with you is a part of the Priestly Blessing, also said on Friday night to our children: May G-d Bless you and Keep you. I would define “bless” as offering an increase in something, such as health, wealth and happiness. To me, “May G-d Bless you” also means “May G-d help ME Bless YOU – help me find ways to increase you rather than diminish you.  Increase your health, your self-esteem, your knowledge, your awareness, your faith. Increase you regardless of your actions.  Increase you because it is my responsibility as your parent to do so. This is one of the most powerful things we can offer our children. . In some cases the increase may be small, but that never matters. What matters is that they are growing.

May G-d Keep you  – keep you safe, warm, protected. I see this as the reason we guide our children’s behaviors. We teach them – discipline means to teach – we teach them in order to keep them safe so that they CAN increase. You need the first part of this blessing in order to have the second.  What is protection if not for the purpose of growing?  You must have the intention to grow and nourish and support the child, and then do whatever you can to keep him/her safe. This is one of the fundamental rules of parenting.



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Jewish Educators Get Their Hands Dirty at Nevatim-Sprouts Conference


By Neely Snyder and Morris Panitz
Pearlstone Center

Imagine the following experience:  A group of students congregate around the school garden for a   lesson on righteous giving or tzedakah. The students have been tending to this garden for several months, and the moment has arrived to finally harvest the fruit of their labor. The students collectively take a moment to recognize all the effort that has gone into this garden, these vegetables, this process.  The teacher suggests that the students donate some of their produce to those who are less fortunate, those who perhaps don’t have access to fresh food.

“But we grew these vegetables– we deserve them,” one student suggests. “How much should we give?  Who should we give to? I’m not sure I know anyone who needs food?” another student replies.

The conversation has begun. Ownership and our responsibility to give have come into conflict.  Discovering a Jewish response is the journey.

What tools are we providing educators in their mission to connect students to the Jewish conversation?

How do we bring to life, in an experiential and hands-on manner, the lifelong questions that fuel our commitment to community?

The Pearlstone Center is holding its fourth annual Nevatim-Sprouts Conference, Sunday, July 13 through Wednesday July 16. This professional development conference brings together early childhood, day school, and religious school educators from around the country for training in Jewish garden and environmental education. Participants learn the basics of educational garden design, share lesson plans and Jewish environmental curricula, tour the state’s premier outdoor classrooms, harvest and prepare farm to table meals, and walk away with the tools, resources and professional network needed to develop Jewish environmental programming at their schools.

This year, in response to past participant feedback, an additional day was added to the conference to provide more opportunities for interactive lesson-plan modeling and group brainstorm. Hands-on sessions explore how to integrate an educational garden into your institution and bring the outside into the classroom to teach about the Jewish calendar, social justice, stewardship and responsibility, among other Jewish values.

Pearlstone’s skilled staff utilize the center’s four-acre organic farm, small animal pasture and trails throughout the conference. Continuing education credits (CEUs) from the Maryland Department of Education are available to participants.

Conference partners this year include the Louise D. and Morton J. Macks Center for Jewish Education,  RAVSAK, Pardes Institute, The Jewish Montessori Society, United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism, Schechter Day School Network, Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism and the PARDeS Day Schools of Reform Judaism.

For additional information, visit

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Holocaust Lessons From a Child of a Survivor

holocaust hands

By Alice Matsas Garten
Co-Chair, Holocaust Remembrance Commission
Baltimore Jewish Council

What were your thoughts when you heard that three people were murdered outside a Kansas City Jewish Community Center and a Jewish assisted living facility?

Were you surprised to hear that in eastern Ukraine flyers were distributed requiring Jews to register or face deportation?

What do we tell our children about anti-Semitism in today’s society? What do we tell our children about the Holocaust?

Each year, during the traditional Passover seder, families across the world recount the story of the Exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. The story is not meant to be just a retelling of the events. According to our Haggadah, “In every generation, each person must regard himself or herself as if he or she had come out of Egypt.” We tell one another that if G-d had not delivered us from Egypt, we would still be enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt. This tradition is meant to connect us personally to an event that occurred such a long time ago.

My family’s seder, like so many others, keeps the old traditions while adding new practices. We have always had a mix of Sephardic and Ashkenazi customs, reflecting both my father’s and mother’s upbringings, but we now recite the following lines: “In addition to the exodus from Egypt, we also are reenacting our family’s exodus from Agrinion (Greece) to the mountains on October 3, 1943. If my father, aunt, and grandparents did not escape from the Germans, we would not be here today.” As my parents have taught me, and as I teach my children, the Holocaust was not an event that just happened far away and long ago. It is our story and the story of our future generations.

I remember as a child having to explain patiently that yes I was Greek, and yes I was Jewish. Growing up I heard more often than not that the person never met a Greek Jew and did not know that there even were Jews in Greece. In fact, Jewish communities in Greece existed before the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD. In the 15th century, when the Turks occupied Greece, Jews who were expelled from Spain, Portugal, and Italy found a new homeland. By 1940, there were 77,000 Jews in Greece. Four years later, 87 percent of the Jewish population had perished, including 127 of my relatives.

Although I grew up with my family’s stories of loss and survival, I was not engaged in Holocaust education until five years ago when I volunteered to assist with Lessons of the Shoah, an interfaith Holocaust education program for high school students, sponsored by the Baltimore Jewish Council and the Jewish Museum of Maryland. I was impressed by these Jewish and Catholic students who were learning about each other’s traditions as well as the history of Catholic-Jewish relations. These teenagers studied the atrocities during the war, but, in my opinion, the most meaningful experience they had was meeting with a Belgian Holocaust survivor, Mrs. Rachel Bodner, and a survivor of modern genocide, Mr. Georges Mushayuma, who fled the Democratic Republic of Congo. An image that I will not forget took place after their presentation when the petite, elderly Mrs. Bodner and tall, young Mr. Mushayuma were engaged in animated conversation in their native French. Their worlds were not that far apart after all.

All we have to do is read today’s headlines, and it is too easy to believe that hatred and prejudice can over power reason and compassion. Fortunately, we have a community of survivors willing to share their stories. In 2013-14, the BJC sent speakers to a total of 65 schools and other institutions where they spoke to over 6,000 students and adults. We know that first hand accounts create powerful images. Our community needs to make sure that we maintain Holocaust Remembrance and Education as a priority.

The story of the Holocaust is not limited to survivors and their families. It is everyone’s story.

The Baltimore Jewish Council’s annual Yom Ha’Shoah event will be held on Sunday, April 27 at 5:00 p.m.

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What To Do In Baltimore This Week

Sunday, April 6
10:00 a.m.
Volunteer at Moveable Feast with JVC Young Adults and IMPACT
Meet up with other young adults and help with food preparation, packaging and cleanup in the Moveable Feast kitchen. Moveable Feast, located at 901 N. Milton Avenue, provides nutritious meals and other services at no cost to people suffering from serious illnesses.
To register, contact Rebecca Weinstock at

Sunday, April 6
2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
PJ on the Town at Irvine Nature Center
pj irvine

Take part in another signature PJ on the Town event. Connect with other families and “Rise to the Challenge of Being a Guardian of the World” at the Irvine Nature Center, 11201 Garrison Forest Road. Participate in a guided nature walk, make trail mix, enjoy an animal encounter with a trained naturalist and take part in a dramatized PJ Library, among other activities. Event is $5 for children 3-10, $10 for 11 and up. Children under two are free. Learn more.

Tuesday, April 8
6:30 p.m.
Teen Leadership Summit 2014
jvc teen

High school students are invited to this year’s Teen Leadership Summit at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC where they can enjoy an evening of peer networking, leadership workshops, volunteer opportunities, local and national teen leadership programs and more. A $5 dinner is optional.
Register Now .

Tuesday, April 8
7:30 p.m.
William and Irene Weinberg Family’s 26th Annual Baltimore Jewish Film Festival: Bethlehem

Gordon Center for Performing Arts, 3506 Gwynnbrook Avenue, Owings Mills
Join us at the Gordon Center for Performing Arts, 3506 Gwynnbrook Avenue, for a special performance of Bethlehem. Bethlehem explores the complex relationship between Razi, an Israeli secret services agent who works as a coordinator for the Bethlehem district of Israel’s General Security Services, and his informant Sanfur. Tickets are $12 in advance and $14 at the door. Learn More.

Future Events
Monday, April 14
6:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Second Annual CHAI Chometz Giveaway
Stop by the Pimlico Race Course Clubhouse Parking lot and get rid of your chometz before Passover. Bring new, unopened chometz to donate to a local food pantry and help feed the hungry and/or wrap and burn your opened chometz in our burning barrels.
Learn more.

Sunday, April 20
11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Family Game Day
It’s a fun day of gamily for the entire family at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, 15 Lloyd Street. Play one of the old favorites or learn something new as a family. Games are suitable for all ages.
In addition, for those” mahj” fans, special Mah Jongg tables are set up in honor of the museum’s newest exhibit, Project Mah Jongg. Staff will be on hand to teach novices. A slightly adapted version can be taught to younger players. For information, go to

Sunday, April 27
5:00 – 6:30 p.m.
Yom Ha’Shoah Commemoration
Please join us at Beth Tfiloh Congregation, 3300 Old Court Road, for our annual Yom Ha’Shoah Commemoration, featuring Menachem Rosensaft, founding chairman of the International Network of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors. This year’s program will also include a special tribute to Leo Bretholz and other Holocaust survivors whom we have lost this past year. Learn more at baltjc.or/yomhashoah.

Tuesday, April 29
5:30 p.m.
The Future of Real Estate and Economic Development in Towson
Join The Associated’s Real Estate Industry Group (REIG) for a panel discussion on the future of real estate and economic development in Towson. Panel includes Arthur Adler, Caves Valley Partners, Blake Cordish, The Cordish Companies, Josh E. Fidler, Chesapeake Reality Partners, Joe Oster, Towson University and Mitch Salman, Garrison Investments. Event will be held at SECU Arena, at Towson University, 7350 Osler Drive and will include cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and program. Dietary laws observed. Cost: $40 in advance; $50 at the door. Register at

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