A lot has been said in the press — the JT included — about the challenges American Jewish communities faced in 2019. Anti-Semitic attacks, security concerns, political strife — it is a list we are all familiar with.
But as 2019 draws to a close, the JT is offering a reminder that even the dark moments, personal or communal, can never put out our collective light. In this week’s issue, we look back at just a few of the inspirational stories the JT was privileged to share this year. They represent the determination, self-sacrifice, passion, and capacity for trust and kindness people can possess. And, significantly, they are all tales of “regular” people: your neighbors, colleagues, and friends.
Inspirational Openness to Friendship: “Shopping After Shabbos: The Story of an International Friendship”
by Connor Graham
It can be hard to ask for help, but one never knows what gifts might come from a moment of vulnerability.
In the case of Sydney, Australia’s Ros Glaser and Pikesville’s Hinda Moskovitz, the need for a ride home in the summer of 2018 led to the gift of a very long-distance, though very close, friendship.
Glaser’s daughter Rebecca Brown lives in Pikesville with husband Gavi and young daughter Adi. One afternoon during a visit to the community last year, when her Brown was still pregnant with Adi, Glaser took a solo shopping trip to Marshall’s in Pikesville. (“I love Marshall’s. Outstanding place, very good prices,” Glaser said, unable to contain her excitement about the outlet.) When she was finished shopping, Glaser didn’t want to disturb her daughter with a request to pick her up from the store, but without her she was stranded. What to do?
To solve her problem, Glaser looked no further than the Marshall’s parking lot. “One has to be cautious these days,” Glaser said, but after looking into the distance and noticing a big family van with children around it, she knew she was in good company.
“I thought, ‘I’m sure she’s Jewish,’ and the Baltimore Jewish community is fabulous and extremely well connected and very kind,” Glaser said.
The two hit it off, and in no time discovered that the synagogue that Moskovitz belongs to, Congregation Shomrei Emunah, is the same synagogue where Glaser’s daughter was married. In Moskovitz’s version of the encounter, she reciprocates Glaser’s language of adoration.
“A really sweet woman came up to me, she’s originally from South Africa and that’s my favorite accent,” Moskovitz said laughing. “Who would think that from offering someone a ride would come this beautiful friendship?”
However, the two almost missed their chance to remain chums. When Glaser returned to Brown’s home, she told her daughter that she had just met a lovely girl at Marshall’s. Her name was Hinda.
“What’s her last name?” asked Brown. Glaser realized she never got it, nor exchanged contact information with Moskovitz. That night began Shabbos, and the following evening Glaser and Brown went to Target.
“Saturday night, everybody goes to Target after Shabbos,” Glaser said. “The entire Jewish community is shopping at Target.”
And that included Moskovitz.
“I heard my mother shrieking from the aisles. ‘Hinda! It’s Hinda!’” Brown recalled via email.
“The one and only Hinda was at Target at the exact same time my mom and I were. It was like a scene from a movie.”
Glaser and Moskovitz still chat on Whatsapp when they can, Moskovitz confirmed via email last week. When her son broke his leg over the summer, “she was always in touch asking me how I am like another mother,” Moskowitz shared via email last week.
“We actually caught up a couple weeks ago,” she said. “She comes every few months to visit her daughter. I see her more often than I see some friends in town!” They went out for lunch at Sapori to catch up: for instance, Glaser is moving to a smaller place and showed Moskowitz photos of the house.
“We [also] like Goldberg’s, and Coffee Bean followed by Seven Mile Market shopping,” Moskovitz said.
Inspirational Care for Animals : “Needed: A Loving Home,”
by Rachel Kohn
In 1994, when Leila Hertzberg and her (now ex) husband bought Greystoke Farm, she left her career as an international business consultant to offer horseback riding lessons and focus on raising a family. She also began selectively breeding a stock of ponies, aiming to produce a perfect first riding animal for children.
Most of the horses and ponies presently living on Greystoke Farm are not homegrown, however. The farm is home to Lifeline Horse Rescue and Rehabilitation, a nonprofit volunteer-based organization Hertzberg started two years ago.
“I’ve been rescuing horses my whole life, so starting Lifeline was going to make it easier for me to help more horses,” she said. “There are definitely horses we’ve been able to help that there was no way I’d be able to do that without the nonprofit.”
Lifeline serves as a community resource for abused, neglected or unwanted horses. People contact Hertzberg about horses in need, or reach out to her for placement if they can no longer care for their own.
Hertzberg also scours the auction websites of “kill pen” brokers, who purchase unwanted horses and try to make a higher profit before selling them to meat processors in Mexico and Canada. According to the Human Society of the United States, more than 80,000 American horses and ponies are slaughtered abroad each year for their meat, which is then sold in dog food or for human consumption in other countries.
Eventually, Hertzberg hopes to move onto a larger property in Frederick, where, in addition to continuing to rescue horses, she could open a wellness center. She wants to reach even more people.
Hertzberg approaches her students with the same intentionality with which she raises her herd and rehabilitates her rescues: I’m not just teaching them to ride. I’m teaching them about life skills; I’m teaching them about partnering; I’m teaching them about confidence;
I’m teaching them about self-defense; I’m teaching them about assertiveness,” she said. “Each of these kids that I’m teaching – I’m giving them something. And to me, that is really important.”
Inspirational Passion for Judaism: “A Uniquely Jewish Family,”
by Shani Goloskov
Joan and Stuart Schoenfeld of Pikesville raised their children in an egalitarian, non-denominational household, instilling in them their love of Judaism and the importance of investing in the Jewish community. Their work inspired their daughters Devorah and Rachel, now both rabbis in two
different streams of Judaism. Rachel was ordained in the Reconstructionist movement, while Devorah was ordained in the Orthodox movement through Yeshivat Maharat.
“Stuart said, ‘We are mother and father of rabbis,’” said Joan. “I said, ‘It’s better than being mother of dragons!’”
“I always saw how important Judaism was to [my parents],” Devorah said. “Their
kind of leadership was all about seeing a need and making something happen to meet that need.”
It was apparent to others as well just how passionate Devorah and Rachel were for Judaism. Grandmother Ida Gulin recalls the girls’ great-grandmother, a very religious woman, watching as her grandson-in-law performed the Shabbat rituals with the girls following along.
“She prophesied to me and said, ‘I may not be around, but I want to tell you those two girls are going to be very, very important people to Judaism,’” Ida recalls.
From a young age, both Devorah and Rachel knew they wanted to be rabbis. In 1983, fifth-grader Devorah participated in a national Bible contest and came in first — and so it began. She filled out a survey at age 12 about future careers, and immediately put down “rabbi” as the career she wanted.
Rachel noted that having parents who were such passionate supporters and innovators of Judaism and Jewish community “made becoming a rabbi a possibility.”
“I grew up with affirmed Judaism and affirmed feminism,” she said. “From my youngest memory, I always knew there was a possibility for me to become a rabbi.”
Devorah, in contrast, found herself constantly jumping around denominations in her quest for rabbinical ordination. “It just kept not feeling right to me,” she said. “I would [always] end up back in the Orthodox synagogue.”
Three years ago, Devorah found the answer to her goals: Yeshivat Maharat in New York. The yeshiva’s Advanced Kollel: Executive Ordination Track was the perfect fit for an Orthodox woman with advanced academic degrees and teaching experience who had previously been unable to attain rabbinical ordination.
Both sisters expressed their mutual respect, admiration and support for each other. Rachel applauded her sister’s intelligence and dedication, stating that she was “so, so proud when she graduated from Maharat.” Devorah admired the work her sister does and “the impact she has on her community.”
“She has an amazing ability to reach Jews who are still trying to figure out how to live as Jews or what Judaism can mean to them,” Devorah said.
Inspirational Self-Sacrifice: “New Year, New… Kidney?”
by Haydee M. Rodriguez
Jerry and Eileen Chiat have been married for more than 50 years, and their marriage is a true testament of “in sickness and in health”: Jerry is the recipient of a donor kidney, and Eileen a donor of one.
“I became suddenly ill in June 2011,” recalled Jerry. “I was found in the car, unable to move my legs.” Eileen rushed him to a clinic who told them Jerry had “ten minutes
to live.” Jerry was subsequently rushed to the emergency room where he was immediately treated — his potassium levels were dangerously high. Once stabilized, Jerry was put on dialysis the next day.
Living on dialysis was an all-consuming process: they drove to the hospital early in the morning and stayed most of the day, a ritual they repeated three times a week for a year.
In 2012, the couple learned about a minimally invasive technique at the University of Maryland Medical Center for kidney transplantation. Jerry was placed on a waiting list but soon learned about a process called “the chain,” where a patient awaiting a transplant can move up the list when a family member donates an organ.
“The decision was not a difficult one for me,” said Eileen, when asked about her decision to donate a kidney on behalf of Jerry. “I knew that if I donated, Jerry would move up on the list.” Although she admits she was a bit apprehensive, Eileen recalls that UMMC’s medical staff, from the evaluation to the surgical team, made the process less difficult. And although she was not a match to Jerry, she was able to donate to someone else on the list, and her act of love enabled Jerry to obtain a kidney in June of 2012. Eileen would donate one of her kidneys to a stranger just two months later, in August of 2012.
“We give thanks every day. I thank G-d; and although that never really was a part of my life, it became more so after I received a kidney.”
“We also give thanks by giving back, by helping people waiting for a transplant, by talking to them about their concerns and fears and encouraging them to remain hopeful,” he said.
“We spread the word by sharing our story,” said Eileen. We try our best to try to put people at ease.”
Inspirational Firsts: “You Should Know… Melissa Hyatt”
by Carolyn Conte
In June 2019, Melissa Hyatt was sworn in as Baltimore County Police Department’s 14th chief of police, the first woman and first Jewish person to achieve that rank in the department. The daughter of a cop, Hyatt grew up in Randallstown and always knew she would be a police officer.
“My father was a police officer in the Baltimore Police Department for 31 years,” Hyatt said. “I retired as a colonel after working for the same department for more than 20 years. For a little over a year, I worked in the private sector, but I missed police work. I love being back in uniform. I love working with our officers out on the street or meeting with the community — I was at a community meeting last night. Everything about police work I find rewarding.”
“I never strived for any of these firsts,” Hyatt continued. “But there is a responsibility that comes with being the first. It took me a while to understand that … When others see me in this role, they can envision themselves in the role. It’s encouragement for them. I hope this is a time in history where anything is possible.”