Big Relief


While the Jewish Times may not be everything everyone in Northwest Baltimore would like it to be, it serves a useful purpose, and it would be a tragedy should it ever disappear.

After more than nine decades of ups and downs, its successful emergence last year from Chapter 11 bankruptcy was a welcome relief for this city’s Jewish community. Immediately following that seminal event, the JT has been managed by an exceptionally gifted and creative young writer, who … announced she was moving her youthful family to Kansas City so that her children could grow up close to Bubbie and Zayde (and Big Bubbie, their great-grandmother).

Maayan Jaffe has been a shining light in what unfortunately has been a less-than-enlightening publication in recent years, and she has helped the JT provide a new and balanced perspective for Baltimore and Maryland Jewry unlike anything it has ever had before, at least in recent memory.

The ultra-Orthodox don’t trust it; few in that community read it at all.  … But with an editor such as Jaffe, perhaps they need to look at it anew.  And maybe, in time, they will. …

It was a big relief to see her column, “The Ad Has Been Removed” (Aug. 9). However, she declined to promise just how long she would stay.The JT, in its wisdom, obviously wants her not to leave and has apparently made an offer she can’t refuse. … Jaffe is now the JT’s editor-in-chief and, one would hope, an overseer of the magazine’s decision-making process.

Voice of Baltimore wishes the newly promoted editor and the JT well and looks forward to even greater things from her and her employer’s new lease on life.

Alan Z. Forman
Managing Editor
Voice of Baltimore

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  1. Rosh Hashanah – (from the) inside out.

    I’ve always found the naming of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation’s “Rosh Hashanah under the Stars” event which is held each year at Oregon Ridge particularly ironic.
    Here’s why:
    Parshat Lech Lecha recounts how G-d addressed Abraham’s concerns that he did not have any descendants to continue spreading awareness of G-d in the world in the following way:

    Bereishis (Genesis), 15:5: “And He [G-d] took him outside and said, ‘gaze, now, toward the Heavens and count the stars if you are able to count them!’ and He said to him, ‘so too will be your offspring!”
    Rashi, whose commentary is printed in every standard Pentateuch offers three interpretations of the phrase “took him outside”
    1) Literally took him outside and showed him the stars in the sky.
    2) Took him “outside” or beyond his astrological and natural destiny dictated by his and his wife’s advanced ages, which would prevent them from having any children together.
    3) Elevated him physically above the stars as indicated by the term Habata (translated above as “gaze”) but which connotes looking down upon.
    The last two interpretations are in fact brought together as two parts of one answer and suggest that G-d was alleviating Abraham’s concerns by showing him that on some level he could transcend the laws of nature as exemplified by being raised up above the stars.
    Who was Abraham and why did he merit such “lofty” treatment?
    Abraham was the first “Ivri” or one who crosses over boundaries in order to spread awareness of one G-d in the world.
    Such boundaries were not only geographic in nature but they were of nature and included his willingness to break away from the social norms of idolatry, perform self circumcision at an advanced age, and ultimately demonstrate his willingness to completely go against his nature through the sacrifice his son Isaac- all in his desire to fulfill the commandments of G-d.

    Abraham and Rosh Hashanah both share the title “first” but Rosh Hashanah being the celebration of man’s creation (Adam) rather than the creation of the world points to the purpose of creation – man.
    That purpose is not met merely by the physical creation of man, but rather in man’s spiritual development, first through his recognition of the Creator and subsequently through his willingness to demonstrate that recognition – even when this involves flying in the face of nature.
    Abraham was the “first” to accomplish this.
    Rosh Hashanah in celebrating the creation of man, is celebrating the purpose of man as exemplified by the first Ivri, Abraham, and thus reminding us that we too, as the inheritors of the spiritual traits of Abraham, can rise “above the stars.”

  2. August 25, 2013
    Mrs. Hillary Lewis
    1866 A Reisterstown Road
    Baltimore, MD 21208

    My Dear Hillary —

    As you know, my darling wife and I are deeply connected with Israel: religiously, spiritually, emotionally, financially, and through family. We’ve friends there, too. It’s near and dear to us. Our children have visited and they, too, feel a strong bond with their Israeli brothers and sisters. Speaking of bonds — over the past thirty years, we’ve bought, sold, and renewed numerous Israel bonds. We just received this year’s appeal letter from Development Corporation for Israel. After reading it, I became inspired to write the following.

    Many American Jews, successful in their pursuits, hold positions of advantage whereupon they may promote freedom if they choose. Yet, they often fail, intentionally or not, to do so. Some of these Jews are even ‘icons’ in our communities. They’ve become enamored by their own success. Consequently, they look only to the edges of their own backyard when given opportunities to embrace ‘Tikun Olam’ (healing the world). Somehow they’re convinced that ‘others’ should be the ‘caretakers.’ When confronted by people like me, who challenge their world view, they often dismiss us as stupid, selfish, or uncaring. Maybe they’re right.

    My wife and I are shocked at your directors. We view this mail campaign as an elementary decision to produce and send a simple message appealing to tens of thousands of American supporters of Israel. Yet, they’ve chosen a more-encompassing tact. While they’ve described the United States as the biggest supporter of Israel, they then invoke, as an illustration, the name of the current President who is mired in controversy while presiding over a sharply-divided country. We both interpret this approach as political campaigning. Sorry, your directors have foisted upon the organization an unwise decision. Clearly, this is at the least, a distasteful solicitation. Considering the current status of this President, and his many anti-Israel comments and stances, why wouldn’t your directors have seen this for what it is: a spot for a ‘neutral’ example? I assure you, there are many. Therefore, I must wonder. How sad! At the least, they’ve succeeded to inject politics where it clearly doesn’t belong. This serves to invite further such commentary and complicates your efforts to help Israel, which I so deeply admire and respect. Since they’ve created an opportunity for political discussion, here is mine:
    I assume you want me to continue buying Israel bonds, yes? Is it too much to expect a solicitation for such a wonderful cause to be crafted in an innocuous manner?

    Please, ask your directors to provide for me a list of their names along with a record of their personal investments in Israel bonds. Oh, and if they’re comfortable with it, just as they were about praising the President and citing his words, please have them include their personal reasons why they buy Israel bonds. And,

    To all of my American Jewish brothers and sisters — perhaps we all need give closer attention to these questions:

    o What is our individual responsibility to our country, the USA?
    o Who’s going to pay the outrageous national debt?
    o Who’s tightening the reins on the out-of-control spending in DC?
    o Should it matter that politicians continually make promises they don’t keep?
    o How long should we stand idly by watching the Federal government grow endlessly without regard to checks and balances? And, of course,
    o What exactly does it mean to be a ’friend’ of Israel?

    In summary — We love Israel. We often pray for our Israeli brothers and sisters. As we’re able, we outwardly support Israel. We have bought many Israel bonds. We’re extremely disappointed with the choices made by those directors who gave the ‘green light’ to this latest appeal. We question their competence and motives. We appreciate deeply the efforts of those in the local chapters who work diligently to support Israel. May G-d bless our brothers and sisters in Israel with peace and prosperity.

    To our Jewish brothers and sisters everywhere, a blessed new year with prayers for a lasting peace —

    Alan Levin


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