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September 1, 2014 / 6 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Maryland’

Holocaust Survivor Dies before Able to Testify for Md. Rail Bill

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Leo Bretholz, who had escaped from a train transporting him to a Nazi death camp, died the weekend before he was to testify on behalf of a Maryland bill making railroad firms accountable for their actions during the Holocaust.

Bretholz, of Baltimore, died on Saturday, two days after his 93rd birthday.

He was to testify Monday before the Maryland House of Delegate’s Ways and Means Committee considering legislation that would prevent companies from winning tax-funded rail projects until they were held accountable and paid reparations to those who were forced onto the cattle cars.

He had become the face and voice of the Ad Hoc Coalition for Holocaust Rail Justice.

Bretholz was a young boy on one of the deportation trains run by SNCF, the French-owned railroad company, when he and another boy began filing at the bars that covered the train’s windows. Many others on the train begged them to stop for fear they would all be punished, but one rider urged them on, telling the boys to tell the world the deportees’ story, Bretholz recalled repeatedly during testimony and in his book, “Leap Into Darkness: Seven Years on the Run in Wartime Europe.”

“To know Leo was to love him and respect him, and our work to ensure justice for him and the thousands of other SNCF victims will continue in his memory,” according to a statement issued from the Ad Hoc Coalition for Holocaust Rail Justice.

Lock and Load with Sarit Petersen, Shooting Instructor

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

Bullet shells are flying and the sound of targets being hit pierces the air. This is a daily scene for Sgt. Sarit Petersen. Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Sgt. Petersen currently serves as a shooting instructor in the Nahal Infantry Brigade. The soldiers she commands range from brand new to advanced; the advanced soldiers are part of the reconnaissance brigade. As a shooting instructor, Sgt. Petersen is responsible for teaching a soldier about his weapon and how to use it.

Each soldier must be confident with their weapon and understand it thoroughly before they can shoot accurately. In order to accomplish this, shooting instructors go through a nine week intensive course, learning about most of the weapons that the IDF uses, their history, and do general job training. “It can be very stressful and nerve racking for soldiers who are shooting for the first time,” explains Sgt. Petersen. So in order for her to not only excel at her job, but also teach and reassure her soldiers, she must understand and be knowledgeable in all aspects of weapons training.

When Sgt. Petersen is not working with new soldiers, she prepares advanced training drills for the reconnaissance brigade. Once soldiers pass the mandatory shooting requirements, it is up to the shooting instructors to prepare more advanced shooting drills. Sgt. Petersen prepares all types of drills, with variation each time in the stances, distances and the amount of bullets shot. Once a drill is prepared on paper, shooting instructors must always pass their own drills before soldiers are expected to participate in the drill.

In order to keep things interesting, Sgt. Petersen applies different tactics to test soldiers’ stress levels. “Throughout my experience with weapons training, I’ve learned that the key element in shooting is to relax and stay focused and calm,” she says. “It isn’t easy to teach this to new soldiers, who are often anxious about the task at hand.” But with careful training and exercises, Sgt. Petersen instills these potentially life-saving lessons in her new soldiers.

During a visit to Israel, while she was in the 12th Grade, Sgt. Petersen fell in love with the country. After high school, she moved to Israel and decided her calling was to serve in the IDF.  A little uncertain of what lay ahead but with this new adventure in front of her, Sgt. Petersen joined the Mahal Program, which allowed her to enlist and serve for a year and a half. “I felt that this experience and this time would allow me to get to know the country and its people, and decide if Israel is a place I could see myself living and settling down in,” she says. After serving almost all of her service, Sgt. Petersen was so satisfied with her position that she signed on for another six months, allowing her to complete two full years in the IDF.

When Sgt. Petersen finishes her IDF service she intends to make aliyah (immigrate to Israel), and continue her life here. Her future plans include university, and becoming part of the framework of Israeli society.

Visit IDF Blog.

Maryland Jews Battle $1 Million ‘Jewish Christian’ Crusade

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

The war to assimilate has gone for the “soft sell,” with a Christian missionary blitz trying to convince Jews in Maryland and other states that it is okay to have a double identity as a Jew and a Christian.

Ten young women from a Baptist college in California have fanned out in Greater Baltimore’s highly concentrated Jewish community to try to convince them to accept Jesus while remaining Jews.

Unlike the Jews for Jesus movement, the new missionary program carries an even more dangerously tempting message for wavering Jews.

Arthur C. Abramson, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, told the Baltimore Sun that even the most liberal rabbi would reject the notion of a “Jewish Christian.”

The proselytizing program is particularly offensive to the area’s Jewish community because it replaces the clearer and less acceptable notion of outright conversion to Christianity.

The missionary effort is being financed by Tom Cantor, who was born into a Jewish family and who is the president of a medical products company in southern California. He said he spends more than $4 million a year to push his concept in the United States and elsewhere. The $1 million summer blitz focuses on Jewish areas in Baltimore as well as in other major East Coast cities.

The Jewish community in Baltimore is highly cohesive and includes one of the highest percentages of orthodox Jews in the country. It also suffers from the same crisis of assimilation that threatens every other Jewish community in the Diaspora.

The Baptist girls approach them in modest clothing, giving the impression that they may be Orthodox Jews, although Lou Rossi, a pastor of  church helping the campaign  told the Sun he does not think the women are trying to deceive anyone.

Abramson last week decided to meet with Rossi, pastor of the Granite Baptist Church, which furnishes a van for the missionaries.

“Our goal has never been to disrupt or violate the Jewish community, or any community,” said Rossi, but he admitted that touring Jewish neighborhoods with a van marked “Granite Baptist Church”  is a cause of complaints from Jewish residents.

“This is not talking to Jews,” Ruth Guggenheim, executive director of Jews for Judaism in Baltimore, told the Baltimore newspaper. “This is no different than the Jehovah’s Witnesses coming to your door.”

The women often try to open a conversation by telling people in their homes that they want to talk about Israel, and they go into their sales talk on Jewish Christianity.

Cantor insists he is a Jew. “I love my people. … I don’t want any of them going to hell” for not having accepted Jesus.

Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg of the Beth Tfiloh  Congregation, the largest modern Orthodox synagogue in Greater Baltimore, told the Sun that if Cantor really cares about Jews, he can contribute his money to Jewish causes.

Here is one suggestion:  Organizations that fight missionaries.

Trading In Maryland for the Mediterranean

Monday, August 19th, 2013

When Sergeant Brandon Berry made aliyah (immigrated to Israel), he did not come looking for the easy life. If he wanted that, he would not have left his hometown of Potomac, Maryland to serve in the army of a foreign country half a world away from his family.

Sgt. Berry also was not looking for an easy job in the IDF – he wanted to serve wherever he was most needed. He wanted to take his talent and drive with him to contribute one hundred percent.

Sgt. Berry passed all the tests to serve in the prestigious Paratroopers Brigade. Instead the American immigrant took to the sea as a member of the Israel Navy’s Dvora-class patrol boat squadron.

It is not everyday that a young man from Potomac, Maryland travels for tens of thousands of miles to join the Israel Navy. “It was clear to me that I was destined to serve in the Navy,” he said. Sgt. Berry, stationed on a base overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, is able to indulge his love for wide-open spaces every day of his service.

Aside from his thick American accent, Sgt. Berry is indistinguishable from the other soldiers at his base – completely at home on a boat with a tan to match. He credits the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers for helping him through the entire enlistment process.

“The work the association does is a blessing,” he says. AWIS helps soldiers in a number of ways, which included providing assistance to lone soldiers, running soldier homes and recreation centers, and providing support for bereaved families.

Sgt. Berry says that even though he grew up with a strong Jewish identity and attended a Jewish day school, he always felt like something was missing. Now, as a soldier for Israel, it seems he has truly come home.

Visit IDF Blog.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/idf-blog-blogs/trading-in-maryland-for-the-mediterranean/2013/08/19/

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