Ezra Kobi Friedman

Raphael and Andrea Cohen of Wynnewood announce the birth of their grandson Ezra Kobi Friedman, son of Arielle and Gregory Friedman of Alpine, N.J., on Dec. 18. Sharing in their happiness are big brothers Boaz and Lev; grandparents Paul and Karen Friedman; Uncle Micah; Aunt Amy; cousins Jonah and Jesse Cohen; Uncle Douglas; Aunt Ana; cousins Rose and Jasper Friedman; Uncle Spencer Friedman; and great-grandmother Jean Haber. Ezra is named in living memory of great-grandmother Elaine Friedman and great-uncle Kenneth Negin.

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Slossburg

Selma and Stanton Slossburg celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary on Feb. 26.

Sharing in the occasion were their children, Wendy and Bob Gartell, and Joel and Karen Slossburg, and grandchildren Sean Muldawker and Leah and Ella Slossburg. A party with family and friends was held at Maris Grove.

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Florida Shooting Exposes Need for Stricter Gun Control, Say Jewish Groups

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2008. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Major American Jewish organizations are calling for stricter gun-control laws in the wake of the Feb. 14 mass school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that left 14 students and three staff members dead.

A spokesperson for the women’s organization Hadassah told JNS that the group supports all three of the legislative proposals under discussion in the aftermath of the shooting.

One is a bill sponsored by U.S. Sens. Jon Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) to expand criminal background checks on prospective purchasers of guns. A second legislative proposal, supported by many Democrats, is to renew the federal ban on assault rifles that expired in 2004.

In addition, Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) is calling for legislation that would institute universal background checks, ban individuals on the terrorist watch list from purchasing guns and outlaw bump stocks, the device that enabled the Las Vegas shooter last October to upgrade his weapons from semiautomatic to fully automatic.

On Feb. 20, President Donald Trump ordered the Department of Justice to take action to ban bump stocks. He also has indicated that he supports some strengthening of background-check regulations.

Hadassah is urging its members to promote the gun-control proposals at upcoming “Day in the District” sessions, in which its members nationwide meet with Congress members in their local districts.

Nathan Diament, director of the Orthodox Union’s Advocacy Center in Washington, D.C., told JNS that his organization “will likely support” all three of the gun proposals. He said the Orthodox Union “has long supported common-sense measures to reduce gun violence, including banning certain sophisticated assault weapons such as the AR-15 used in [the Parkland] attack.”

The organization is also seeking additional federal and state funds for schools for their security needs, although “the precise elements of an individual school’s security program should be made by each school’s leadership,” said Diament. Some conservative pundits have suggested stationing armed guards in front of schools, though the logistics and costs for such a policy have not been analyzed.

The Orthodox social-justice group Uri L’Tzedek supports all three of the legislative proposals and will be promoting them through a “beit midrash” series of educational programs within the Orthodox community. Participants will “learn and then pick up the phone,” its president, Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, told JNS. “We will also be using our email blasts to 10,000 recipients and the thousands following our social media to get folks to visit senators and congressmen, call them and write to them.”

In addition, Uri L’Tzedek intends to hold public vigils to “mourn the losses [from gun violence] and raise public awareness,” said Yanklowitz.

In a statement to JNS, B’nai B’rith International expressed support for “legislation to limit access to the most dangerous weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines whose sole purpose is to maximize death counts.” It also urged broader background checks, longer waiting periods between buying a gun and taking possession of it, and restrictions on the number of guns an individual may purchase.

Barbara Weinstein, associate director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said her movement endorses the Cornyn-Murphy legislation, but believes that bill “will only begin to address the problem.” She told JNS that Congress should establish universal background checks, renew the ban on assault rifles and close the ‘private sale’ loophole, which permits a private party to sell guns without obtaining information about the buyer’s criminal record or mental state.

Other Jewish groups have been somewhat less specific in their positions.

A spokesperson for the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism told JNS: “As a religious organization, we believe that Jewish values compel us to do all that is possible, within the framework of U.S. law to protect our children and enact sensible gun-safety laws.”

The USCJ has not taken a position on pending gun-control legislation.

A spokesman for the Anti-Defamation League told JNS that the ADL “has taken no position on specific legislative efforts” other than those suggested in the group’s 2013 resolution on gun control. That resolution recommended “stricter controls governing the sale, possession and distribution of firearms”; “comprehensive background checks”; and “a responsible conversation on the [gun control] issue that does not further stigmatize mental illness.”

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Jewish Exponent Purim Spiel: Fake News 2018!

Keeping with traditions in the holiday spirit, the Exponent has returned with our annual Purim spiel/ fake news jokes, which, fortunately for some satirical gags, are not true.

Enjoy, and happy Purim!

 

Rumored Bagel Shortage Schmears Widespread Panic

Manny Schewitz | JE Staff

As if people didn’t have enough to worry about with reports of avocado shortages, creating higher prices on both the fruit and millennials’ rent, now there’s another rumored shortage that will affect many dietary regimes: bagels.

“We’re telling everyone not to panic, as nothing’s really happened yet,” said Adam Einstein, owner of South Philly’s Pop, Lox and Drop It Bagels and descendent of one of the Einstein Bros. of bagel fame. “But there is definitely some concern in the industry about a shortage.”

With the increase in popularity of Instagrammable foods, like rainbow bagels or bagels with stranger flavors like Hot Cheetos, the rise in customers getting the breakfast staple just to take a picture of it and not actually eat it is one reason Einstein thinks there may soon be a shortage.

But he is more concerned about what the breakfast alternatives will be if bagels do run out.

“Doughnuts and lox just doesn’t have the same ring to it,” he said. “We’ll have to start getting creative.”

Bagel enthusiasts are certainly worried.

“Every morning, I wake up and come get a toasted everything bagel with schmear,” said 65-year-old Goldie Lox, holding her bagged breakfast outside the bagel shop. “What will I eat for breakfast if there are no bagels?”

 

President to Search for Afikomen

Shawny Spizer | JE Staff

In lieu of an annual Passover seder this year, Jewish officials and regular attendees decided to opt out of the affair alongside President Donald Trump and his administration, but not for the reason you may think.

“We’re proud to bring the story of Passover into the White House,” Rabbi Mort Siegel said. “Although some people in the past protested the president’s engagements, we’re encouraging him to participate in a new annual tradition.”

The new tradition takes a more small hands-on approach. Instead of the ceremonial seder, the Jewish community rallied together for one big afikomen hunt.

“The president thought this would be beneficial to all as we could clump together both the annual Easter egg hunt and the Passover thing,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reiterated.

SPOILER ALERT (Mr. President, you can stop reading now): The afikomen hunt will provide Trump with a list like that of a scavenger hunt, which begins on the White House lawn, circles around Moscow and ultimately tiptoes onto Kim Jong Un’s doorstep.

With just a map in a small hand and a bag of Cheetos and Diet Coke for sustenance, this should keep the president busy until 2020.

Dayenu!

 

Mazel Tov Announcement: Goldstein-Cohen

Chaim and Mitzi Goldstein of Wynnemoney are pleased to announce the divorce of their daughter, Ashley Claire, and their former son-in-law, Jimmy Bob Cohen, son of Dewayne Beau and Ruby Sue Cohen of Tucchus City, Mo.

The Goldsteins allege that the marriage was a sham from the start and only agreed to because the Cohens pointed firearms at them, a claim the Cohens vociferously deny.

“That there Ashley was a stuck-up beyotch who thought she was too good for our son Jimmy Bob,” Ruby Sue Cohen said, as she spat tobacco juice between the gap in her front teeth. “Things was troubled from the start when Ashley gave back our weddin’ gift of hound dogs Stinker, Cletus and Ladybird and got a poodle instead.”

Ashley has moved back to Wynnemoney from Tucchus City, to begin a new career as a trust fund slacker.

Jimmy Bob announced plans to open up a combination bar and grill/synagogue/used car dealership in Tucchus City with his business partner Yitzhak Daryl Clampettstein. Anyone who test drives a car receives a free yarmulke and a coupon for half off on possum fritters.

 

Tom Brady Traded to Eagles Out of Embarrassment

Jason Kelstein | JE Staff

Tom Brady just can’t live with himself being on a losing team.

After the Patriots’ loss to the Eagles, Brady reportedly met with managers to see about joining the Super Bowl champs.

He got his wish.

“They’re a great team, and I couldn’t be happier to sport the green jersey,” Brady told reporters at a recent press conference with a smile that almost reached his cold, dead eyes.

However, the star quarterback may have joined the team, but don’t expect to see him on the field too much, noted Eagles Vice President Howie Roseman, who built the team that would become Super Bowl victors.

With Carson Wentz due to return to the field, Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles staying with the team as well as backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld, the Eagles already have a stellar lineup.

“[Brady] just was begging to be on the team after the Pats lost,” Roseman said. “How could we say no? He just looked so desperate; it was adorable.”

 

iPhone X Induces Spike in Parents Calling Kids for Tech Support

Steve Wozniman | JE Staff

With the advent of the iPhone X, Apple’s latest generation of phones, cellphone companies have seen a significant spike in older adults — specifically in the 561 area code — calling their millennial children.

New features like animojis (animated emoticons that follow your movements and speech), a lack of a visible home button and an omnipresent headphone jack has forced parents to call their children more frequently to ask how to use this latest technological trend.

“I don’t get it,” nagged 64-year-old Louise Goldstein of Boca Raton. “I keep asking Miss Siri for help, but she doesn’t understand what I’m saying. I just want it to tell me how to get to the nearest Publix. I wrote down instructions my son gave me to use the phone, but he must have skipped a step.”

While some have gradually taken to using Kindles, iPads, or simpler Android phones, the newest iPhone — with its simplistic design — seems to have missed the mark for these folks.

Joseph Krutz texted his father a photo of his daughter’s soccer game, he recalled, to which he received no less than four lengthy voicemails in response.

“Just text me back!” he exclaimed. “I’ve shown him how to do it hundreds of times.”

Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile each reported about a 43 percent increase, on average, of outgoing calls from users on their senior plans.

Fortunately, for millennials on the other end of those calls, the one thing the iPhone X is terrible at is receiving phone calls.

 

Synagogue Caters to Treif Lovers

Edmund Bacon | JE Staff

Temple Beth Goldberg announced a new membership drive that will cater to Jews who love non-kosher food.

The synagogue will kick off that drive on Feb. 31 with a meet-and-greet event that includes a schmear of bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches, cheeseburgers, pulled pork, ham and cheese sandwiches and seafood towers stacked with lobster, crab and shrimp.

“Let’s face it — synagogue memberships are declining everywhere, so we need to sell both the (cheese)steak and the sizzle. Jews love to eat, but are sick of bland kosher foods,” Rabbi Ivanna Hoagie said. “And besides — have you tasted bacon? It’s delicious!”

The synagogue’s announcement met with a mixed reaction.

“OMG! I LOLed when my friend told me about it and told her to STFU and GTFO, but it turned out to be true,’’ millennial Ashley Claire Goldstein of Wynnemoney declared without looking up from her iPhone. “It’s like, so chill. After I stopped LFMAO, I told my friend to LMK if she was going. This is totally awesome.”

Others were less appreciative.

“We already have plenty of places to enjoy treif,” harrumphed Rabbi Schmendrick McGullicuty. “They’re called your neighborhood deli.”

 

Supporters Urge Gal Gadot to Run for Israeli PM

Judith Yehudit | JE Staff

In the wake of Israeli police recommending indictment charges against Benjamin Netanyahu, some have begun to ask themselves who might be able to follow in the footsteps of one of Israel’s longest serving prime ministers.

For many, the answer is resoundingly Gal Gadot.

Ronit Levinsky, Middle Eastern studies professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said that the rise of celebrity politicians in the United States may be starting to have a global impact.

Israelis don’t vote directly for prime minister. Instead, they vote for the party. The party head most able to form a coalition, usually the head of the biggest party, becomes prime minister. Levinsky said this electoral process might hurt Gadot’s chances.

“It’s hard not to look at the reaction to Oprah Winfrey’s speech at the Golden Globes and not feel like this was going to happen at some point,” Levinsky said. “Charisma and the ability to charm an audience seems to be able to take anyone quite far.”

A little closer to home, support for Gadot has led to the creation of American Friends of Gal Gadot (AFGG) Philadelphia/New Jersey Chapter. David Schwartz, AFGG Philadelphia/New Jersey Chapter president, pointed to the powerful speech Gadot gave at the 2018 Critics’ Choice Award as evidence of her political competence.

“Gal Gadot is a queen,” Schwartz said. “She rocked as Wonder Woman, and she will rock as Israel’s head of state.”

 

Day School Students Launch Satellite Into Space

Mendel Goldberg | JE Staff

Local Jewish day schools have teamed up with a Philadelphia technology incubator to give students the opportunity to design a functional satellite, then launch it into space.

The students worked with several aerospace engineers to learn the necessary components of the satellite and a successful launch. Students also chose what they wanted the purpose of their satellite to be. After much spirited debate, they settled on having it monitor weather. They also decided to bring in their Jewish identity and a connection to Israel by having the satellite play a continuous loop of “Hatikvah.”

The schools reported a successful launch last week.

“This is such a great experience for my child,” parent Rebecca Weisenberg said. “We want to make sure we’re giving her a cutting-edge STEAM education, so it’s good to know that our school is keeping students ahead of the curve.”

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Fredericksburg, Texas: Hill Country Awaits

Known as “Tuscany in Texas,” Grape Creek Vineyards in the Texas Hill Country near Fredericksburg is one of about 60 wineries in the area. Its wines have won more than 100 medals in competition recently. | Jeffrey Orenstein

Small-town Texas? Forget your stereotypes.

Fredericksburg, Texas has nary a 10-gallon hat in sight. Instead, this wonderful town on the edge of Hill Country is filled with wineries, art galleries, culture, fine dining and history. Simply put, it is a sophisticated and fascinating artsy town well worth a visit.

The area was settled in the mid-19th century by German immigrants who were promised land in the New World. They arrived after a long, arduous journey and proceeded to negotiate and honor a peace treaty with the region’s Native Americans. This allowed them to build a town with wide streets, eclectic architecture and a 19th-century German ambiance.

Today, the area has maintained its character and reverence for its roots. Ancestors of the original settlers have preserved buildings, artifacts and the welcoming spirit that built the town. No wonder so many great shops, galleries, wine-tasting rooms and restaurants are proud to call Fredericksburg home.

While there is enough to do in town to keep even the most ardent tourist busy for a few days, Fredericksburg is in the middle of a fascinating region. A mere 16 miles away, in the heart of Hill Country, lies the LBJ Ranch, home of both a national and state park.

In and around town, there are several craft breweries including one (Aldstadt) that is producing authentic German-style beer in a new brewery custom-built by German craftsmen and overseen by a native German brewmaster.

Fredericksburg is also the center of one of the nation’s emerging fine wine regions. Fine wine and Texas in the same sentence? Yes! The region’s approximately 60 wineries, some more than 20 years old, have begun to produce some truly impressive Mediterranean-style dry and impressively vinified red, white and rosé wines.

Peaches are also an important crop in the region, although much of the land devoted to them is transitioning to vineyards.

The Fourth of July parade in Fredericksburg has vintage cars passing vintage buildings. | Claire McCormack

Before You Go:

For a list of area attractions and tour suggestions, check:

  • visitfredericksburgtx.com/
  • fbgtx.org/
  • fredericksburgtexas-online.com/
  • texashillcountry.com/fredericksburg-texas/
  • texashillcountry.com/guide-texas-wine-road-290/
  • wineroad290.com

Getting There:

Fredericksburg is reached by highway via Texas Route 87, which connects to Interstate 10 about 50 miles northwest of San Antonio. The city can also be reached via Texas 290, about 83 miles west from Austin.

The nearest major airport is San Antonio International Airport (SAT), which is 68 miles away. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) is 84 miles distant.

The nearest Amtrak service is via the Texas Eagle from Chicago (which also serves San Antonio and Austin) at San Marco, 71 miles away.

Getting Around:

A car is almost a must to see the region, although the central part of the town is walkable. The Fredericksburg Trolley (fbgtours.com) offers tours and excursions.

Must-dos for a short trip:

  • Spend at least an hour at the Pioneer Museum. Be sure to see the 12-minute video for a sense of Fredericksburg’s history.
  • Walk around the Marktplatz (Fredericksburg’s central square).
  • Visit the National Museum of the Pacific War, located in Fredericksburg because it is the home of World War II Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz.
  • Stroll Main Street shops, art galleries and wineries.
  • Eat at a German restaurant on Main Street and/or August E’s restaurant.
  • Visit Das Peach Haus (far more than peaches).
The Marktplatz, the central square of Fredericksburg, is decorated for the holiday season and attracts throngs of locals and visitors. | TRawls

If You Have Several Days:

In addition to the above:

  • Take a class at the Fischer & Wieser Culinary Adventure Cooking School.
  • Explore the LBJ Ranch state and national parks, 17 miles away.
  • Visit Enchanted Rock State Park.
  • Check out “country Texas” at Luckenbach.
  • Enjoy a good meal and wine at the Cabernet Grill Texas Wine Country Restaurant.
  • Visit San Antonio (especially the Riverwalk and the Alamo), explore Hill Country and experience the hip vibrancy of Austin.
This unassuming home on the LBJ Ranch served as the Texas White House when Lyndon B. Johnson was president of the United States from 1963 to 1969. He died there in 1973. The site is now a national historic park. | Jeffrey Orenstein

Exploring Fredericksburg and the Hill Country at a Glance:

Mobility Level: Easy mobility with some walking in town and around the LBJ Ranch.

Senior Travel Advantages: Great shopping, museums, laid-back ambiance, theater, galleries, good wine, good food.

When to Go: Any time. Fredericksburg is a good place to explore year-round. Summers can be hot, but winters are usually mild.

The nearby Texas Hill Country, west of Austin in south-central Texas, is ablaze with wildflowers each spring, when Texas bluebonnets, primroses, Indian paintbrush and many more charming varieties turn the landscape into ribbons of color. The blossoms usually start blooming around March. Peak season is March and April. Christmas has a home tour, ice skating and the market.

Where to Stay: Fredericksburg Herb Farm, Fredericksburg Inn or at the national chains with properties in and around town.

Ginny O’s Tips for Dressing the Simply Smart Way: Dressy casual is appropriate. Forget the cowboy boots. Dress seasonally and a little upscale.

Special Travel Interests: Wine, wildflowers, Texas history

The Sauer Beckmann Living History Farm is operated by the Lyndon Johnson Texas State Park. It recreates Texas farm life in the 19th century as would have been experienced by German immigrants, complete with period staff clothing and era-appropriate farming machinery and techniques. | Jeffrey Orenstein

Jewish Fredericksburg

While the population of Texas is less than 1 percent Jewish, Jews are fairly prominent in the big cities and the majority of Texas Jews live in Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio, Austin and El Paso.

But some Jewish life exists out of the big cities. Fredericksburg, like many Texas small towns, does not have many Jewish residents or institutions, but despite being in a sparsely populated area, there is Jewish life in the region.

Twenty-four miles from Fredericksburg, in Kerrville, the Community of The Hill Country meets at the local Unitarian-Universalist Church. Its website (thejchc.org) tells about its Torah scroll.

“Thanks to the generosity of our members, we have a Torah scroll. It was discovered that some Torah scrolls, rescued from Nazi destruction, were being restored in England and offered to congregations on permanent loan. The JCHC acquired one of the 1,500 scrolls available, securing scroll number 1,498. With careful inspection, congregants believe the scroll to be of Czech origin.”

Jews and Jewish visitors in Hill Country need to travel to San Antonio, about 70 miles distant, for a significant Jewish institutional presence. That town has a Jewish Federation, a Jewish community center and at least four congregations ranging from Reform to Orthodox.

The fast-growing Jewish community in Austin, 85 miles from Fredericksburg, numbers more than 15,000 and boasts a Jewish community center and at least 10 congregations covering the Jewish spectrum.

Historically, the Republic of Texas was helped by Henri Castro, an influential French banker who descended from Portuguese Jews. He contracted with the Texas government in 1842 to create a colony in southwestern Texas and brought in hundreds of people from Alsace, largely with his own money.

Organized Judaism in Texas began in Galveston with the establishment of Texas’ first Jewish cemetery in 1852. Temple Beth-El of San Antonio dates to 1874.

While anti-Semitism is not unknown in Texas, especially dating to the heyday of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, prominent Jewish Texans today include the Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, Joe Straus, (R-San Antonio), the late Stanley Marcus of department store fame and Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell, Inc.

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Age in Place: Make Your Remodel Handicapped-Accessible

It’s no surprise that 90 percent of people 65 and older would prefer to live in their own homes as they age, as opposed to a nursing home or assisted living facility, according to a recent AARP study.

But adding necessary equipment to your home doesn’t have to look like a hospital room. You can age in place — and in vogue.

Although the term is called “aging in place,” it’s important to remember to thrive in that place — your home.

“‘Aging in place’ is a misnomer,” concluded a 2016 HomeAdvisor report, titled Aging in Place. “Whether we’re 25, 45, 65 or 85, our homes aren’t for aging. They’re for thriving. From pancake breakfasts with our kids and Sunday brunches with our friends to holidays with family, movie nights with our spouses and curling up with a good book, our homes are where we do the things we love to do, with the people we love to do them with. Looking at aging in place through a new lens that acknowledges how we live — not just how long we live — will usher in a new generation of home-improvement projects that benefit the young, the young at heart and everyone in between.”

With that logic in mind, Rachel Lucks-Hecht, owner of Flow Bath + Kitchen Design Studio in Glenside, said her company offers plenty of home redesign options for aging in place.

Installments like curbless or doorless showers; partial shower doors and wide doors; wall-hung vanities or vanities with legs; and shallower sinks and cabinets make it easily accessible without the fear of tripping. And those in wheelchairs can simply roll in.

A wall-hung sink and vanity | Photo by Flow Bath + Kitchen Design Studio

Single-handed faucets and levers, or even touch faucets that turn on by tapping it, also aid people with Parkinson’s, arthritis or other dexterity issues, as opposed to cross handles or knobs.

Lower tubs or tubs with doors make it uncomplicated to get in and out, especially when accompanied by installed shower seats. Some fold down, too, to move out of the way, which Lucks-Hecht added are also “beautiful.”

“Their bathroom should fit their style. Their bathroom is the only place where you can be alone sometimes,” she laughed, “and it can be very functional and beautiful. People can confidently feel that they’re going to be safe in their home.”

The additional equipment allows people to enjoy their space more, too, and Lucks-Hecht said they won’t necessarily need help with everything as much. Hand showers on a hose are a popular advantage, as are grab bars.

“Grab bars are super important,” she added, which can be installed by the toilet or in the shower, “and we have pretty grab bars. The colors, the shape of them, it’s not like the hospital-looking grab bars.” That way, she said, those trying to maintain their stylish bathroom can easily find helpful tools that also match their color scheme.

Grab bars at Flow range from $50 to $500, depending on the finish. Gold is a luxurious option, as well as brass and pewter.

“People want all their accessories to match,” she said.

Photos by Flow Bath + Kitchen Design Studio
1 of 4

touch-activated faucet
shower bench
high-raised toilet
curbless open shower with bench, hand shower and grab bar

Lucks-Hecht said it’s better for older adults to make these internal adjustments earlier on, if possible.

“People are staying in their houses for much longer. They don’t really want to go to a nursing home when they’re older or assisted living. Setting up their bathroom for longevity is really important,” she said.

Peter Abraldes, director of operations for NursePartners Inc., said most of his clients are living with a form of dementia, so the company staffs facilities and provides one-on-one care in the home or at facilities.

NursePartners is just one business member of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Aging in Place Council, of which Abraldes is the co-founder.

“We strive to provide families with a vetted pool of service providers that can help them with all of the needs associated with aging in place,” he explained, which include home care, home modification, bookkeeping services, hospice services, trash removal, medical alert systems or social services.

Abraldes recommended a stairlift to add to the home. “Once an older adult can no longer go up and down the stairs successfully, that’s when a lot of families decide, ‘Do I want to stay in this home? Do I want to downsize?’”

He said many who live outside of Philadelphia opt for the lifts, while those in old rowhomes in the city are too narrow to alter.

As another option, many redo the first floor as their livable space and often add bathrooms to the layout.

“We’ve seen people convert entire rooms into bathrooms, where everything is tile,” he noted of clients with muscular dystrophy, who build accessible options before the disease progresses. “They’re anticipating a future when one day they won’t be able to walk into the bathroom. They’ll have to be wheeled, so essentially the room becomes a shower.”

These additions allow people to fully enjoy their homes, Abraldes said, whereas others who install temporary solutions only utilize a small portion of their home.

Tile Mate | via thetileapp.com

On the slimmer side, Abraldes noted many children gift their older adult parents medical alert systems. But in lieu of bulky devices like Life Alert, he suggested Tile Mate, a small bluetooth tracker paired with an app that is often used to find misplaced keys, or PocketFinder, another personal GPS locator. “You can actually attach that right onto a shoe or a favorite sweater, and it works well.”

Although they are not specified devices for older adults, they do the trick — and in a more stylish, sleek and conventional fashion.

Take baby steps with upgrading your home: On a DIY level, you can install night lights in bathrooms and hallways — Wayfair has stylish LED designs or you can opt for a concealed solid color to match your walls.

And instead of ditching your chic rugs and throws, apply non-slip or doubled-sided tape to the bottom of the rug to avoid slips.

When it’s time to call a contractor, remember a few of these options for a more accessible home:

✔ Install a Lazy Susan in corner cabinets or pull-out shelves under counters.

✔ Use lever faucets and door handles instead of round knobs.

✔ Use rocker-style light switches instead of toggle switches.

✔ Use grab bars, not towel or suction-cup bars.

✔ Add railings to both sides of your staircase.

✔ Add a no-step entrance to your doorway.

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When Prayer Isn’t Enough

Walk into any synagogue during services, whether on Shabbat or during a weekday, and you’ll notice that for a religious people, we certainly pray a lot. Between the preliminary praises, the standing prayer and various concluding verses, the average shul-goer can easily spend hours each week in some form of communication with the Almighty.

And yet, we’re not a people defined by prayer. As a matter of fact, when faced with a crisis, prayer has historically been an afterthought. None other than the story of Moses — facing a sea of water as the Egyptian army was in pursuit — provides the example of what the quintessential Jewish response to tragedy should be.

When he tries to pray, his entreaties are cut off. Now is the time for action, Moses is told; take your staff and split the sea. The Midrash relates that Nachshon ben Aminidav, ancestor of King David, didn’t even wait for the waters to part before he jumped in. (Some say that it was Nachshon’s jump and not Moses’ staff that caused the sea to split.)

It was this thought that stuck with me last week as headline after headline, tweet after tweet, and post after post related some well-meaning individual’s “thoughts and prayers” being sent the way of the Parkland, Fla. victims and their families. Never mind the fact that for the 17 lives cut short in gunman Nikolas Cruz’s attack on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, thoughts and prayers are pretty much worthless.

No amount of prayer or entreaty will bring these students and their teachers — five of the victims were Jewish — back to life. As for those recovering and in mourning, we believe that prayer will help, but traditionally Jews have turned to the concept of doing good deeds in the merit of others as a more effective means of seeding divine blessings.

That is why after other mass shootings, such as the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, Jewish communities the world over have stressed mitzvahs over prayers, with tens of thousands of individuals pledging specific deeds — lighting Shabbat candles or increasing one’s charity, for instance — collectively designed to bring an added measure of light to a darkened world.

This was the message that Rabbi Avraham Friedman, co-director of Chabad of Coral Springs and a friend of one of the lost students’ family, had for CNN’s Wolf Blitzer during a live broadcast Feb. 19. Debates, when conducted with respect, are good, he said, but we must also make the world a better place by making it more receptive to lovingkindness.

The rabbi, who also advocated for a non-sectarian moment of silence in schools as a way for students to contemplate the concept of a greater good, makes a good point. No amount of gun control will keep us 100 percent safe when we fail to address through education and the inculcation of moral virtues the unfortunate human capacity to do horrible amounts of harm.

But I fear also that if we, as a people, fail to address that which has been staring us in the face for quite some time — the alarming ease with which you can obtain military-style semiautomatic assault rifles — then we will merely condemn our society to suffer the next attack from within. Past experience suggests the next one will not be far off.

What we need in addition to treating each other with respect, embracing the sanctity of human life and increasing our acts of goodness is to acknowledge the great danger that results from putting weapons like the AR-15 that Cruz used in the hands of anyone but soldiers. Over the 10 years the federal assault weapons ban was in place, the casualties from mass shootings fell 43 percent, and yet, in a state like Florida, it’s easier to buy an AR-15 than an automobile.

Say what you want about the Second Amendment’s guarantee of the right to bear arms, but know that none of the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights is absolute. The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to challenge your accuser in court, but we regulate it, especially when an accuser is a minor in a sexual assault case. So, too, the Supreme Court has said that in the face of a compelling government interest, the obtaining and possession of firearms may be regulated. In my humble opinion, the protection of schoolchildren certainly seems like a compelling interest.

In our push for action, let’s look for ways that we can balance our country’s unique relationship to firearms with the need to keep our society safe from weapons designed primarily with their ability to inflict mass casualties in mind. At least one AR-15 owner in Florida had a great idea when he stepped up: He took his legally purchased firearm to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and turned it in.

If we want a better world, it’s going to require all of us doing our part.

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Let’s Help Make Houston Stronger

By Gail Norry

Flooding in Houston from Hurricane Harvey

For most of us, Hurricane Harvey was a captivating news story at the end of August. We thought it was catastrophic, maybe contributed to help its victims, and then moved on with our lives. However, when 19 trillion gallons of water falls on your community, you can’t just move on. When the majority of the Jewish community lives in a 2-mile radius that was in the eye of the storm, your entire world changes. This time, when at least 2,000 homes, businesses, synagogues, day schools, Jewish community centers and the Jewish Home for the Aged all flood, life is changed forever.

Many people are still out of their homes. Nearly six months later, families of five are living in two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartments away from their usual neighborhoods, enduring longer commutes to school and work and living at a distance from other loved ones.

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit Houston on a mission with the Jewish Federations of North America. I was completely unprepared for what I was going to experience. I have been to Israel during war, seeing homes that had just been struck by rockets. I’ve visited post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans on several occasions. However, I had never been to a community where every single person had been personally affected by such a tragedy.

Flooded has become a verb. Over and over we heard things like, “I flooded, my kids flooded, my 88-year-old parent flooded, and I couldn’t get to them for three days.” The stories were endless, often accompanied by fresh tears. The pain is still so evident.

We were invited into Yael’s home. She greeted us with her baby, Leo, in her arms, in a home that was stripped down to the studs; her wedding dress hung in the background. At 32 weeks pregnant, she and her husband, Scott, were on their babymoon when the hurricane hit. They had just finished renovating their home, which also served as the office for his videography business. All of his equipment was in the house.

This was the neighborhood Scott grew up in, around the corner from his parents and near the Jewish day school where they intended to send Leo. Now, everything has been called into question. To move back into their home would require a $200,000 investment to raise it 6 feet off the ground, and that’s before the cost to remodel. With a flood insurance cap at $250,000 and no guarantee they may even receive that amount, it’s a losing proposition.

They have decided to sell the land at lot value and move from the neighborhood. They are also not likely to send Leo to a Jewish day school. Many families are not only forced to move away from the community in order to live outside the flood zone, but many can no longer afford to send their children to private schools and summer camps now that their economic security has been undermined.  

Not only have individuals and families been devastated, but almost every Jewish institution has been affected. The Orthodox synagogue has decided to demolish the majority of its building. It plans to rebuild elsewhere, but due to the fact that the congregants walk to services, it has to find land in the same area. The Jewish Home for the Aged, Seven Acres, had 300 residents and evacuated its entire first floor. In one case, it took four people to move an elderly person upstairs during the flood. It was later forced by the health department to relocate many residents and is still unsure if it will ever be able to house people on the first floor again. The home’s social workers field calls on a regular basis from families asking when displaced residents can return.

The other senior homes are just not the same, and they certainly don’t have kosher food or programs to celebrate Shabbat and holidays.

The one thing we heard repeatedly in every location we visited was “thank you.” The Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, in conjunction with JFNA, was there from the beginning. They quickly got a check for $1,000 to affected Jewish day school and early childhood families, and gave discretionary funds to rabbis for immediate needs. Additional financial support has been made possible to Jewish Family Service by the Jewish Federation.

As a national system, we have raised $20 million to date, which is helping places like the JCC to rebuild and reopen part of its facilities. However, they believe it will take $50 million to address all of their communal needs.

Kol yisrael arevim zeh b’zeh, each of us is responsible for one another. Our mandate is to care for Jews all over the world. We have rescued the Jews from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia, but we typically haven’t been needed to help other Jewish communities here in the United States. This is different. We are needed to help them rebuild.

They are Houston Strong. They are resilient. And they are a wonderful Jewish community. However, they cannot do it alone. Please consider additional financial support. You can donate online to support recovery efforts. Repair the World has also just announced an effort to run volunteer programs in Houston. You can find out more at werepair.org/act-now-houston. Every community has its challenges, from demographic issues to hunger relief and connecting the unaffiliated, but Harvey put Houston’s problems under a magnifying glass.

They have the hope and the community to rebuild. We are the fortunate ones. We didn’t have to live through it, but we can do our part and show them they are not alone.

Gail Norry is a member of the board of directors of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

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Shabbaton at Penn Draws National Participation

About 40 students from across the country spent a weekend at the University of Pennsylvania for Masorti on Campus’ annual Shabbaton. | Photo provided

Masorti on Campus held its annual Shabbaton at the University of Pennsylvania for the first time in the organization’s short history.

This was the fourth Masorti Shabbaton, which takes place on a different college campus each year; this past one occurred Feb. 9 to 11.

Masorti on Campus is a grassroots organization supporting Conservative, traditional and egalitarian Jewish communities on college campuses in the U.S. and Canada.

When the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism ended its college outreach arm, Koach, in 2013, the student-led Masorti rose to fill the gap in the movement.

Its main project has been its national Shabbaton, bringing students from campuses across the country together for a weekend of celebrating Shabbat, learning and networking.

Eric Garfinkel, program director of Masorti of Campus, said the Shabbaton attracted about 40 students from varying colleges. In the past, it was held at Rutgers University and the University of Maryland.

The theme of this year’s Shabbaton was “God Was Here and I Did Not Know: Judaism of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.”

It hosted a wide range of speakers from varying locations and sects of the movement, including keynote Carly Zimmerman, CEO of Challah for Hunger; Rabbi Joel Alter, director of admissions of the rabbinic school of Jewish Theological Seminary; Ira Blum, Penn Hillel’s director of Jewish student life; Rabbi Joshua Bolton, senior Jewish educator at Penn Hillel; Marilyn Goldman, executive director of the Leifer Family Fund; Gregg Kanter, president of Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel; Rabbi Andrew Katz, director of North American engagement at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem; Rabbi Dave Siegel, executive director of Hofstra University Hillel; Trisha Swed, project manager of teen engagement at the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia; and Matthew Whitehorn, adjunct law faculty member at Temple University.

“We really had a lot of different people with different experiences trying to come together to help the students form exactly what they wanted to see,” said Garfinkel, who also serves as the community educator for Hofstra Hillel.

Students bunked with Penn participants and experienced traditional Shabbat services and meals, all student-run.

The main aspect of the Shabbaton was the breakout sessions in which speakers led interactive discussions on various topics, such as Jewish sports limmud, the future of Jewish institutions, Jewish law, sacred spaces, Jewish philanthropy and a lay leadership crash course.

“It’s designed to be very interactive where it’s not necessarily people talking at students but more like understanding what students are going through or trying to help them figure out different things,” Garfinkel explained.

Some sessions went longer than an hour because the students kept asking engaging questions, he said.

Garfinkel hopes students were able to connect and network to bring those approaches home.

“That’s the goal of the sessions,” he continued. “They’re interactive, they get people talking and thinking and trying to figure exactly out how to struggle with their Judaism while being on a college campus, and also to try to take back some of these experiences to help them on their college campuses.”

Benjamin Porat, one of three Shabbaton student coordinators, had never attended a Shabbaton prior to this one.

“I wanted to be part of a Shabbaton that promotes traditional Jewish values and practices,” he noted.

He said the main highlight of the weekend was getting the chance to meet all of the students who attended and experiencing Havdalah together.

“I hope students were able to find out and discover what other students’ Masorti practices are, and also to reflect on what their own practices are,” added Porat, an electrical engineering sophomore at Penn. “That builds stronger Masorti communities at the various schools, whatever they feel Masorti means to them.” 

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When Will America Wake Up?

Emma Gonzalez, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor, gave an emotional speech last week. | screenshot via NBC coverage

We thought that Newtown would be a wake-up call. We thought that Las Vegas would be a wake-up call. Now we have Parkland — 17 people murdered, five of them Jewish, and most of them children, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on Feb. 14.

The killer, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, had been expelled from the school and was known for having “strange” but not criminal behavior, and a fixation with guns. He may have made a YouTube post with the message “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” He was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, using an AR-15 assault-style rifle that he purchased legally in Coral Springs, Fla., about a year ago.

We hope that Parkland is a wake-up call, but we’re not naive. Year after year of horrific mass murders, some ideologically motivated, some whose motivation is a mystery — most of them perpetrated with the exact same model of weapon — and nothing changes in the law or in the debate over this societal scourge practically unknown in other developed countries.

But no matter how deep and how gut-wrenching the hurt of these horrible mass murders, none of the wake-up calls seem to work. Instead, the debate always devolves to Second Amendment rights versus gun control — with mental illness thrown in as a way to change the subject.

This much is clear: Rampant mass shootings are a security problem — although school security stands to lose under the president’s budget. An element of mass shootings is plainly a mental health problem — although the administration reversed Obama-era restrictions on gun buyers like the Parkland shooter. And the killing spree epidemic is also a gun ownership problem — although Congress, with huge NRA influence, appears unwilling to enact smart, sensible laws that keep military-style weapons from reaching civilian hands.

Mental health care is a serious issue in this country. But no amount of mental health awareness or care will keep rapid-fire assault weapons — whose sole purpose is to strike down multiple targets in little time — off America’s streets. Only sensible laws that, in keeping with Supreme Court precedent, restrict purchases to purely defensive arms will protect our children.

Some pro-gun Americans point to Israel as an example of a gun-dependent society that does not have school shootings. They’ve been posting to Facebook and elsewhere familiar pictures of people walking down streets in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, their rifles strapped to their backs, as a way to “prove” that arming the masses “works.” But that’s a misdirection. Indeed, Israel has so many restrictions on civilian gun ownership that many security guards don’t even carry a gun.

The Second Amendment is not a suicide pact, and the right to bear arms is not a license to kill. Anyone who tells you that Parkland, Las Vegas and Newtown are the unfortunate price we have to pay in order to live in a “free” society doesn’t deserve to hold elective office.

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