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Baltimore, MD - Dec. 5, 2021  - The Baltimore City Health Department will be hosting a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Weinberg Park Heights JCC on Thursday, December 9th from 12:00-4:30pm, in the Early Childhood Center wing. All three vaccine options will be available, Pfizer (ages 5+), as well as Moderna and J&J/Janssen (both for ages 18+), including boosters, through LifeBridge Health staff. Walk-ins are welcome or you can also pre-register at COVAX.BaltimoreCity.Gov. Stop in for a short time to get this important health care matter taken care of…bring y...
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What is so important about discussing domestic violence in the Jewish community? Do you know someone who lost legal rights to their children, or who had to be mandated for treatment for substance addiction? Why speak about addiction at all? At Communities Confronting Substance Use & Addiction, our mission has always been to offer support to those struggling with substances and addiction, equip them with the knowledge and skills to cope with these challenges, and to create open dialogue in an effort to shatter the stigma associated with these issues. Since our inception in 2018, we have been astounded by the multitude of people who have approached us with their own private struggles with addictions of all types, not just substances. We have received emails and phone calls from so many...
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Covid has been challenging for everyone.  It has been especially difficult for Goli. Goli Balakhani is a single, quadriplegic woman in our community, who has not been able to move for over 30 years. A few years ago, Goli lost her ability to speak.  She is confined to a bed and on a ventilator - an excruciatingly difficult situation to be in.  And then came Covid and very limited visitation, exacerbating her already painful isolation. Because of the past support from our wonderful community and others, we were able to hire an exceptional part-time aide for her who has helped offset her suffering tremendously.  Funds for this important need are almost depleted.  Please help us continue to provide Goli with this critical care. She needs YOUR help NOW! Please take...
Baltimore, MD - Dec. 8, 2021 - Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, Police Commissioner Michael Harrison and Councilman Yitzy Schleifer led the Fallstaff Community in a safety walk highlighting the importance of community engagement in safety and security. Almost all Baltimore City agencies were represented as well as Hatzalah and Baltimore Shomrim Safety Patrol. 
Thousands of Har Nof residents are shocked at a city decision to allow a 22-acre fuel storage depot below the neighborhood to continue operating for another 10 years. Built in 1969, the depot is a source of noxious odors and may be a danger to people’s health. In 2016, residents went to court to remove a tank used to store noxious smelling heating oil. “The Pi Glilot company is going from bad to worse,” said MK Yinon Azulai of Shas. “In addition to polluting the air for the elderly, children, and the entire population of Har Nof, they now want to prolong this disaster and poison the neighborhood’s residents for another 10 years. If this had happened in Tel Aviv, people would have taken to the streets.” The issue was to be discussed in the Knesset Comm...
 A Dutch appeals court on Tuesday ruled that Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz was immune from civil prosecution in the Netherlands in a case brought over the deaths of six Palestinians in an Israeli air strike. The court upheld a lower court's finding of January 2020 that Gantz, as a high-ranking Israeli official carrying out government policy, could not be held liable in a Dutch civil case. The plaintiff, Ismail Ziada - a Dutch national of Palestinian origin - said he lost his mother, three of his brothers, his sister-in-law and his nephew in the attack, which took place in Gaza in 2014 when Gantz was Israeli armed forces' commander-in-chief. In the suit, Ziada sought unspecified damages against Gantz - a career soldier turned politician - under Dutch universal juris...
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An investigation into a major security breach at the home of Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, surrounding a cleaner at his house who had not been vetted by the Shin Bet security agency being indicted for allegedly offering to spy for Iran, has ended with a written reprimand for two high-ranking Shin Bet officials, the agency announced on Tuesday evening. Shin Bet head Ronen Bar appointed an external committee to probe how suspect Omri Goren—who had multiple criminal convictions—would have been employed at Gantz’s home. The committee was comprised of three retired Shin Bet officials, including two former department heads and a former division leader. The committee submitted its findings to Bar, along with recommendations for action to be taken. The committee describ...
Amazon is deceiving consumers by failing to clearly delineate between paid advertisements and organic search results on its online marketplace, according to a coalition of unions, the latest barb in a long-running feud between the world’s biggest online retailer and organized labor. In a complaint filed Wednesday with the Federal Trade Commission, the unions accuse Amazon of violating laws prohibiting unfair and deceptive practices. The coalition says mislabeled ads are so prevalent that Amazon’s search platform itself may be “deceptive as a whole.” “The vast deception being perpetrated by Amazon through its blatantly unlawful advertising practices affects millions of consumers every day and should be halted,” the Strategic Organizing Center said in th...
President Joe Biden said today that putting additional U.S. troops on the ground in Ukraine is “not on the table” a day after warning Russian President Vladimir Putin in a video call that he would face severe economic sanctions if he mounts an invasion. “I made very clear if in fact he invades Ukraine, there will be severe consequences, severe consequences, economic consequences like ones he’s never seen,” Biden told reporters as he left the White House en route to an event in Kansas City. “His immediate response was he understood that.” Biden said an invasion would also lead to an increased U.S. presence in NATO countries in the region, but added that the United States would not unilaterally take military action against Russia in response. Aske...
Americans are in line for their biggest wage increase in more than a decade, according to a report released Wednesday, as companies struggle against a tight labor market and high inflation. Businesses are expected to bump up pay an average 3.9% in 2022, according to the Conference Board report. That’s the fastest wage growth since 2008. Higher pay for new hires was the most commonly cited reason for the uptick, according to the nonprofit business group, suggesting labor shortages and high turnover across industries could be giving employees more leverage. Inflation, which is higher than it has been in about 30 years, was the second most commonly cited factor. The Conference Board’s survey asks human resources executives about their compensation plans for the coming year. The...
Parsha Hashavua
Parshas Vayigash - Yaakov and the Fear of Galus

Have no fear of descending to Egypt...I shall descend with you to Egypt, and I shall also surely bring you up; and Yosef shall place his hands on your eyes.  Bereishit 46:4

Despite G-d clearly telling him that he needn’t fear Egypt, Yaakov feared and feared greatly.  Despite knowing that he would be reunited with Yosef, the son he had missed so terribly for so long, his ben z’kunim, he trembled.  

Why?  Why was he afraid?

The Zohar tells us that when he was asked why he was fearful of going to Egypt, Yaakov said, “I am afraid that my family will succumb there; that the Shechinah will no longer dwell among us; that I will not be buried with my ancestors, and that I will not see the redemption of my children.” 

Abarbanel adds that while Yaakov was naturally eager to go to Egypt to reunite with Yosef, he was anxious about leaving the holy land and go to Mitzrayim, a land filled with abominations.   Weighing most heavily on him was his certainty that an extended galus in Mitzrayim would damage zera Abraham, the seed of Abraham.  In his fear he was certainly recalling that Yitzchak was warned not to go to Mitzrayim. 

How could he help but fear the galus?  He knew well its dangers, its seduction and influence.  In small, insidious ways it eats away at our people, taking us one soul at a time.  It diminishes us.  It saps us of what makes us special.  It lures us into assimilation until we are awash in the great ocean of people around us, indistinguishable from them, swallowed up in a culture, an environment, a language that is not ours. 

Until we are drowned and lost.

And then, when we are fully lured into the illusion that we belong in this strange land, we are defenseless when the land turns against us, making clear we never truly belonged; that we are “the other”. 

One need not review the entirety of Jewish history to recognize this sad reality; one need only look at the last fifty years of American Jewish history to appreciate the dangers of galus!

It is plain that Yaakov’s fears were not out of place.  It was for this reason, Abarbanel says that God reassured Yaakov that going to Egypt was part of His plan.

Many years earlier, God told Avraham that his offspring would , “… be aliens in a land not their own… and they will serve them and they [the Egyptians] will oppress them… and afterwards, they will leave with great wealth.”  (15:13) Now, in our parasha, Yaakov finds himself travelling with his family to Egypt.  By virtue of his descent, he is fulfilling the first part of those prophetic words; that is, by going to Egypt he is taking the first steps of our becoming “aliens in a land not our own”.  In other words, our galus is initiated by Yaakov’s journey to Egypt.   

It is plain that in going to Egypt, he is fulfilling God’s plan.  Yes, there will be galus but there will also be geula.  So, we ask again, what then is Yaakov afraid of?  Why must God comfort him, Al tira m’reda Mitzrayma, have no fear of descending to Egypt?  The Beis Halevi focuses on the source of Yaakov’s fear to elucidate a deep truth.  “If Avraham was clearly told that his children would be in a foreign land only temporarily and that subsequently they would be redeemed, why is Yaakov afraid?”  That is, if the first part of the prophecy is certain, why wouldn’t the second part be as well?

The Beis Halevi explains that God’s reassurance to Yaakov has two levels of meaning.  On the first level, it is a direct response to Yaakov’s fear regarding the exile that he is about to enter.  On the second level, it is a sweeping statement of promise to the Jewish people, which would accompany us throughout our long history. 

As to the actual Egyptian galus, Beis Halevi notes that while Yaakov knew that his progeny would live in a foreign land (b’eretz lo la’hem), he did not anticipate that it would be in such a morally depraved land as Egypt.  Yaakov feared that surviving four hundred years in such a bereft environment, one defined by everything antithetical to what his children were to become, would not be possible.  He feared that after four hundred long years of galus the people would lose their connection to the path paved by the Avos.  He feared that it would then not be possible for God to redeem them.

Such a galus, he feared, would certainly doom them forever.   

The Beis Halevi is suggesting to us that Yaakov’s fear is a very legitimate one; that there is a limit, a point from which it is impossible to return from galus.  Yaakov understood that the depravity, the cruelty, the utter hopelessness of our galus in Egypt would take a profound toll.  He knew that it would be all consuming and that, pushed so deeply down a black hole it could prove impossible for the people to believe that there is a way out.  And, without the belief, there is no way out

There are those who claim that “oh, that was then, this is now.”  They claim that what the people had to fear in the Egyptian galus is far removed from the galus of our own day.  Oh really?  Is there any society or culture that “out-depraves” our own?  Pornography seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day!  The very definition of marriage is challenged.  Even amongst so called Orthodox Jews there is a celebration of same-sex marriage.  We see transgender, pan-gender, non-gender individuals!  Parades that proclaim pride in public displays of sexuality – with police officers leading the way!  Was the behavior in Sodom any more astounding? 

This is galus

How can we expect our children to find their way back when they are swimming against the tides of such a world?  This is now!  This is here!  Who can possibly believe that it was that much worse in Egypt? 

I think that the argument can be made that America in the 21st century, with its sexual immorality and its relentless destruction of the decency and respect between people, might very well make Egyptian culture seem polite and civilized in comparison!  How, as Jews, can we find our way out of this cultural, sexual and political morass?  How can we save ourselves from the swirling current that threatens to drown us?  That was Yaakov’s fear – would his children be able to find their way out of such a galus?

The fear is real, and it is powerfully human.  That is why, G-d acknowledges it as He does and then goes on to reassure him that his fear will not be realized.  They – we – will not simply disappear.  God will be watchful.  God will be there.  Should four hundred years of galus Mitzrayim cause us to irredeemably lose our way, then God would reduce the time of our galus!  Indeed, our people were in fact redeemed two hundred years “early” – God having calculated the four hundred years from the birth of Yitzchak.

Yaakov was right to be afraid.  A seemingly endless galus cannot be endured.  There is a point when galus blinds us to the way back.  God acknowledged Yaakov’s fears.  God chose us as His nation to endure, forever.  He chose us to be His, and He will reach out to do whatever is necessary to assure our eternal existence.  And therein is the second level Beis Halevi refers to.  When God says to Yaakov, “I shall descend with you to Egypt”, God is proclaiming that His Name and His honor would accompany the Jewish people throughout their wanderings, wherever and whenever they end up.  God is there with them, always and forever.  God promises that the Jewish people – as a people – will never be lost; the Jewish people will never permanently succumb to any galus

Yes, it is true that there are individuals and groups, who do fall by the wayside, individuals and groups who so lose their way, who are swallowed up in the currents of galus, swept up in the constant wearing away of that which keeps us true and alive.  They drown in the deep waters of assimilation. 

Too often this is true in America as much as Egypt, or any foreign land where we find ourselves.  There are those who came to this country in search of safety and freedom only to find, at the end of their lives, that what they called freedom had cost them their Yiddishkeit.

G-d’s eternity is intrinsically bound up with the eternity of His nation, with us.   Every Shabbat afternoon, which represents the realization of the final redemption – when all galus finally ends – we proclaim, “Atah echad!  You are one and Your name is One; and who is like Your people Israel...!” 

It is then that we have a glimpse of the geula to come; it is then that Yaakov’s fears will be finally and fully put to rest.

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Nearly two years into a coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 5 million people, every country, including the United States, remains dangerously unprepared to respond to future epidemic and pandemic threats, according to a report released Wednesday assessing the efforts of 195 countries. Researchers compiling the Global Health Security Index – a project of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a D.C.-based nonprofit global security group, and the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security at the Bloomberg School of Public Health – found insufficient capacity in every country, which they said left the world vulnerable to future health emergencies, including some that might be more devastating than covid-19. The assessment of each country’s ability to prevent, detect and r...
The mayor of a Spanish village whose former name was an ugly reminder of the country’s medieval persecution of its Jewish population has vowed to carry on with plans for a Sephardic memory centre despite an antisemitic graffiti attack this week. Seven years ago, the 52 eligible residents of Castrillo Matajudíos – Camp Kill Jews in English, voted in a referendum to change the village’s name back to Castrillo Mota de Judíos, which means Jews’ Hill Camp. The name change was formally approved by the regional government of Castilla y León in June 2015. Documents show the village’s original name was Jews’ Hill Camp and that the Kill Jews name dates from 1627 – 135 years after the edict that ordered Spain’s Jews to convert to ...
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Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett referred to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the "Jewish-Palestinian conflict" during a hearing on a case concerning public funding of religious schools on Wednesday. "How would you even know if a school taught all religions are bigoted and biased or Catholics are bigoted or, you know, we take a position on the Jewish-Palestinian conflict because of our position on, you know, Jews, right?" said Barrett in a question directed at Maine Chief Deputy Attorney-General.  The case being heard by the Supreme Court was Carson v. Makin, which centers on Maine's school tuition payment program that excludes schools that promote a faith or belief. Two families sued after they were denied tuition assistance, arguing that the program viol...
The Senate on Wednesday voted to nix President Biden’s vaccine mandate for larger businesses, handing Republicans a symbolic win. Senators voted 52-48 on the resolution, which needed a simple majority to be approved. Democratic Sens. Jon Tester (Mont.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.) voted with Republicans, giving it enough support to be sent to the House.  The resolution faces an uphill path in the House, where Republicans aren’t able to use a similar fast-track process to force a vote over the objections of Democratic leadership. Instead, Republicans are hoping to get the simple majority needed to force a vote through a discharge petition, which will require support from a handful of House Democrats.  But Republicans view Wednesday&rsqu...
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A group of seasoned educators were once having a discussion reminiscing about their student days. The question arose as to which particular teacher had the most impact on them. Each member of the group shared an anecdote or lesson that had made a lasting impression. The one “wining” story that seemed to impress everyone did not relate to teaching style or volume of material. This incident centered around how a teacher displayed so much sensitivity for the students that he was willing to belittle himself rather than possibly embarrass even one child. In this classroom, the system of discipline was to write a child’s name on the board for breaking any of the class rules. Each subsequent infraction would be given a check next to that child’s name. At recess or lunchti...
Agudath Israel of America is welcoming the news that a provision mandating women to register for the military draft has been dropped from the FY 2022 defense bill.   Registration with the Selective Service System would be utilized in the event that the draft is reinstated and there is need to mobilize the armed forces for military conflict or national emergency.   It was a surprising development, as pressure has mounted over the years to require women to register for the draft and as bipartisan support for the measure has broadened. However, strong opposition from a group of senators, led by Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), highlighted the contentious nature of the provision, and when negotiations over the defense bill stalled it was stripped out.   Agudath Isra...
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A girl from a religious home once told me how difficult it is for her to separate between resentment she harbors toward her religious environment and resentment toward the Torah itself. Many people have a score to settle with their milieu, with the religious sector in which they grew up – with teachers, with neighbors, with parents. Sometimes the experiences they endured were truly terrible. But then they decide to throw away everything, the whole package, including the Holy One Blessed be He.Yosef, in this week’s Torah portion, had all the excuses and good reasons in the world to leave his family’s faith and turn his back on God. His brothers hated him, threw him into a pit, and sold him to a passing caravan. He could easily have decided to cut himself off from everythin...
Alphabet’s Google Pay launched in Israel on Tuesday and will allow Android mobile-phone users to purchase products in stores using wireless payments. According to Reuters, Israel’s banks and credit-card companies said they signed agreements with Google to offer the new service. According to Bank of Israel data, about two-thirds of payment locations in Israel support wireless payments. Apple Pay was launched in Israel in May for users with iPhones, which an estimated 30 percent of Israelis use.
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 Center-left leader Olaf Scholz on Wednesday became Germany’s ninth post-World War II chancellor, opening a new era for the European Union’s most populous nation and largest economy after Angela Merkel’s 16-year tenure. Scholz’s government takes office with high hopes of modernizing Germany and combating climate change but faces the immediate challenge of handling the country’s toughest phase yet of the coronavirus pandemic. Lawmakers voted 395-303 with six abstentions to elect Scholz — a comfortable majority, though short of the 416 seats his three-party coalition holds in the 736-seat lower house of parliament. Merkel, who is no longer a member of parliament, looked on from the spectators’ gallery as parliament voted. Lawmak...
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and MKs from the coalition voted against Likud MK Eli Cohen's bill which would expel the families of terrorists from Israel. The bill failed to pass, with 57 MKs voting against it compared to 45 voting in favor. Religious Zionism party chairman MK Bezalel Smotrich pointed out Bennett's past support for similar bills and accused: "It was Bennett before he sold his soul to supporters of terrorism in the Islamic Movement for political survival and has now dropped - in collaboration with the Joint List - the law for the deportation of terrorists' families." MK Moshe Arbel (Shas) called the prime minister a "terrorist supporter" after he voted against the law that the Yamina faction had previously supported. Opposition members shouted at Bennett ...
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