Cold Temps Challenging in First Weeks of the New Year

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Baltimore may have lucked out last week with its dusting of snow, dodging the so-called “bomb cyclone” winter storm that left some parts of the Eastern Shore with more than a foot of the white stuff. But with temps hovering in the teens and even single digits during the first weeks of 2018, getting to school and shul was a challenge.

At Krieger Schechter Day School, the morning start was delayed on Thursday, Jan. 4 after some light snow, but on time by Friday.

School administrators there have been monitoring all classrooms and school spaces to make sure the heat is at a comfortable level, said Danielle Schollaert, the school’s marketing director.

“We have moved our carpool drop-off location for the week to reduce the opening and closing of primary doors so we can maximize heat in the building,” she said. “Our student safeties at arrival and dismissal stay indoors instead of being outdoors, and we’ve been holding indoor recess and encourage teachers to get creative.”

Steve Meizlish, president of the Hebrew Free Loan Association, said on Friday that the organization had been expecting requests for emergency loans for problems with heat and burst water pipes from the frigid temps.

“Funny you mention the cold weather,” Meizlish said. “We too were expecting applicants for just this reason, but we haven’t taken any calls for this yet. We were shocked.”

Meizlish added that if people do begin to have weather- related problems and need assistance, please inquire at the free loan association.

At Chabad of Owings Mills, Rabbi Nochum Katsenelenbogen said the synagogue is doing everything it can to keep congregants safe and warm and offer assistance when needed.

“No question, it’s very cold out there. It’s brutal out there. First and foremost, you want everyone to be safe,” Katsenelenbogen said. “So, those who walk in places where there are no sidewalks, we tell them that when there is snow or there’s ice, they are to be very careful or even consider staying home. Safety is of the most importance.”

Although the shul has not experienced any heating or water problems because of the deep freeze, the rabbi said staff is ready.

“Thank God we have not had any trouble yet, and hopefully, we will not. If we do, then we will have to bring in outside heating, electronic or plug-in heaters, to make sure it doesn’t get in the way of people attending shul,” he said. “But we always keep it very nice and warm. We have, right when you walk in, a tea and coffee table, so people can fill themselves up with a nice steamy drink and obviously we would try to make the whole experience warm and uplifting, so it warms you on the inside and on the outside.”

Katsenelenbogen said some congregants who walk to shul may come less frequently in winter, especially when the temperatures get unusually low or walking is treacherous.

“Some of the elderly people that we have may be a little more cautious to go out when it’s anywhere close to this weather,” he said. “But as a general rule, people are very committed, and they want to come out and enjoy it. So they come even when it’s cold.”

For members who need assistance affording heating bills or repairs, the congregation has been able to help, Katsenelenbogen said.

“I think anyone who has a soul inside of them would be willing to help them. So, we do,” he said. “We do help people that reach out to us, obviously, as much as we could in our current economic way.”

Katsenelenbogen’s own family, including five children, walk to shul 30 minutes each way. He said he asked his children why they are happy to walk to synagogue, even in such brutal weather.

Rabbi Nochum Katsenelenbogen (David Stuck)

“I asked five children, and I got five different replies,” he said, and chuckled. “One child, 14, said, ‘I enjoy seeing all the people there and spending time with the people in shul.’ Another one, 8, said, ‘Because we are here in Owings Mills for a mission, to bring Judaism to our area, and therefore, we go even when the weather is not in our favor.’ Another one said, and this was my 10-year-old daughter, this was actually really impressive. She said, ‘On the route to shul, we [have] very interesting discussions about the Torah portion, I speak to the kids and make it a very fun, interesting walk to shul.’ And another one, 6 years old, said, ‘Because we sing lots of Jewish songs on the way to shul.’”

“It was interesting to hear from them, even for myself,” he added. “My 12-year-old son said, ‘I just want to go to shul to be able to daven with a minyan.’”

Baltimore-area weather warmed up this week, back to normal winter temps, but the mercury is expected to dip again next week.

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