Got a Sweet Tooth and a Big Heart: Attend Camp Mak-A-Dream Benefit Oct 16 at the Somerset Collection

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image 8Was honored to write this piece that appeared in the October 9, 2014 issue of the Detroit Jewish News. I hope I did right by the young lady featured in this story, who, attended Camp Mak-A-Dream for three summers. Catherine is now a student at Arizona State. who has become a champion for speaking out and speaking for coping with living with brain cancer. 

 

When Catherine Blotner of West Bloomfield was 17, she underwent a risky brain surgery procedure to remove a benign yet deep and invasive brain tumor that for years was causing seizures and threatened her vision and hearing. The doctors said the surgery could cause permanent speech and cognitive loss, and even the loss of her ability to walk.

Now, Blotner is 19 and a student at Arizona State University studying family and human development.  Not only did she keep her ability to speak, she is a blogger and founder of #btsm (brain tumor social media), a monthly Twitter chat open to anyone seeking resources on treating brain tumors.  Neurologists and healthcare professionals seek her out for speaking engagements and conferences focused on people coping with brain illnesses. On the back of her business card: her twitter handle – @cblotner, plus a photo of an MRI of her brain.

Her mother, Ann Blotner, attributes her daughter’s confidence, coping strength, and leadership qualities in part to the summers she spent as a camper at Camp Mak-A-Dream –  a free camp under the big skies of Montana for children and young  adults with cancer.  She has been both a camper and a counselor there, including the weeks leading up to her life- altering surgery.

“Through Camp Mak-a-Dream, Catherine has become confident and connected into a supportive network of healthcare professionals as well as a peer group who are going through similar health challenges that have changed their lives,” said Ann.

The Michigan Chapter of FRIENDS OF CAMP MAK-A-DREAM hosts its “sweet” 16th annual   “Cookies n’ Dreams” fundraiser 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 16 at the Somerset Collection in Troy. Food, beverages, entertainment and activities for all ages will be provided throughout the evening.  Admission for adults is $60; children under 17 pay their age and children 3 and under are free. For more information go to Camp Mak-A-Dream

According to Peter Grimes, the organization’s executive director, the long-standing event has attracted “eager sponsors” and area bakers donating hundreds of cookies as well as their confectionary time and expertise to the family-friendly event.  The bake-off expects to draw 600 attendees and raise at least $130,000. Funds raised in Michigan pay for the camping and transportation costs for 70 children from Michigan. Grimes added that former campers like Blotner come back to volunteer as young adults and offer support to the campers through talks and workshops.

The camp was founded by Sylvia and the late Harry Granader of Beverly Hills, Mich. Granader owned several McDonald’s restaurants and founded several Michigan-area Ronald McDonald houses. He donated 87 acres of Montana ranch land to build a camp especially created for children and young adults facing life-threatening diseases such as cancer and brain tumors. The camp welcomed its first campers in 1995. Since then it has hosted more than 6000 children and young adults, offering typical camping activities such as swimming, a ropes course, archery, hiking, arts & crafts as well as a state of the art medical center, staff and volunteers to allow the campers to get cancer treatment while they are at camp.

 

Hadar Granader of Bloomfield Hills wishes to carry on his brother’s legacy of granting sick children a summer out in nature where “no child will feel embarrassed or laughed at because of their illness.”

“Life is especially hard for kids with cancer because they become cut off from everyday life and healthy kids have a hard time relating to them,” Granader said. “At Camp-Mak-a-Dream, children with cancer get to bond and share memories and friendships that help sustain them long after the summer is over.”

For You: I will believe in what you cannot see. I believe in Unicorns

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annaschwalbIt has been an awful time, in a time that should feel like a time to be happy: The Jewish New Year and all the possible bounty it can hold. 

This is in memory of a child of my friends. A child who even Gd seemed to cry as the heavens opened up with pouring rain to match the tears inside during the funeral. 

This Obituary for Anna appeared in this week’s Detroit Jewish News. May her memory be for a blessing. May she always be a reminder to us adults of innocence, and may we try to hold onto that innocence and joy and wonder, even as sometimes cynical adults.

 May her family know that, though we cannot diminish their deep sorrow, we can bear some of it, if just a tiny bit, for them, and we have strong arms to help them through the weeks and months ahead. 

Anna Hendren Schwalb, five, of Ann Arbor, died October 1, 2014 as a result of injuries suffered when she was struck by a car Friday, Sept. 26, while walking home from a family Rosh Hashanah celebration.
She was the beloved daughter of Dr. Jason Schwalb and Dr. Samantha Hendren and cherished sister of Jessica Hendren Schwalb and Joseph Hendren Schwalb.

 

She is also survived by loving grandparents Carla Page and Robert Hendren; Rabbi J. Fredric Schwalb and Joanne Landau, and Ellen Kahne; great grandparent Sam F. Mineo; and aunts and uncles Christopher and Melinda Hendren, Micah and Katie Schwalb, Benjamin, Amit and Zhenya Schwalb. She is also survived by many loving great aunts, great uncles and cousins. She was also loved and cared for by her devoted nanny, Christina Linguidi.

 

The family would like to express their gratitude for the world-class care provided by the medical team at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor

 

The funeral was held 10 a.m. Friday, October 3 at Beth Israel Congregation in Ann Arbor and attended by hundreds of mourners, followed by a private burial.

 

Anna’s golden curls and wide smile brightened every room she entered. She loved to sing and lead songs at her preschool at the Jewish community center of Ann Arbor.  She was a happy participant at Tot Shabbat services at the Beth Israel Congregation in Ann Arbor.  This fall, she happily adjusted to kindergarten at the Hebrew Day School of Ann Arbor. She always made sure everyone was included in playgroups. She loved her friends and upon returning from school, created paintings and drawings for her friends and family.  Annie used to say that when she grew up, she wanted to be a nanny or a teacher. She loved purple and believed in unicorns.

Donations in Anna’s memory may be sent to the Hebrew Day School of Greater Ann Arbor by visiting the school website at http://www.hdsaa.org/site/giving or mail a check to Hebrew Day School of Ann Arbor; 2937 Birch Hollow Drive; Ann Arbor, MI 48108 or call (734) 971-4633.

 

Lunar Eclipse

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DSCN1579Did you see it? Did you miss it? Was it rainy in your neck of the woods?

Just in case, here it is. Don’t say I never gave you the moon, dear readers.

This was my steadiest shot on my Nikon Coolpix. It even has a moon setting, how cool is that?

The next lunar eclipse is set for April 4, 2015.

Where Jesus Walked: Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem

stacylynngittleman:

The Supreme court is about to rule on Jerusalem’s status. If Israel loses control of the Old City, Christians will no longer be able to safely visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. For that matter, without the presence of the IDF, no one’s safety in the Old City can be guaranteed.

Originally posted on Stacy Gittleman's blog:

In Judaism, if Israel is the Jewish state, then Jerusalem is Judaism’ holiest city and its eternal united capital. But it is also holy to all faiths. As recognition of this, ever since Israel reunified Jerusalem after capturing it from the Jordanians after the 1967 Six-Day War, it has made sure  that all of Jerusalem’s religious sites are open, safe and accessible to all religions.

This is why though I am a practicing Jew and a Jewish educator,  for  one of my first post-Israel posts, I wanted to show you the walk of the Via Dolorosa. As you look at these photos, keep in mind how preserved and maintained are these stations. Keep in mind that my family walked the streets of the Old City safe and without fear because of the constant present of the Israeli Defense Forces. Keep in mind that all religious sites in Jerusalem are open…

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Music Man Auditions Today and Tomorrow, West Hills Middle School

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There is just one place that can light my face!

 

Follow the link below for details, see you there!

 

Identity. In Italy.

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This summer, my husband and I celebrated our 20th year of marriage with our first European vacation.  In the cold clutches of the polar vortex, we asked ourselves, what is the one European city known to be one of the world’s most romantic destinations?

Why, Paris, of course!

Gleefully, we dreamt of a Paris vacation. In the evenings, we played a Paris Jazz Café station on Spotify. Without a single semester of French between the two of us, we spoke sweet nothings to each other in fake Parisian accents.

I dug out my college art history textbooks and plotted my visit to the Louvre.

Then we checked in with the news coming out of France, and our dreams crumbled like a stale baguette.

Anti-Semitism in France has been on a steady incline in recent years, even before Hamas’ most recent war with Israel.  In 2012, a survey conducted by the Anti-Defamation League revealed that 40 percent of approximately 1,200 French Jews said they avoided wearing Jewish identifiers such as kippot or Jewish stars. For me, all it took was one YouTube video filmed on Jan. 26 with throngs of protesters repeatedly shouting “Jews Out” through the streets of Paris, to rethink our plans.

So, forget Paris. We instead spent 10 memorable days in Italy touring Tuscany,

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and Florence

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eating fresh pasta

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Italy was far from a consolation prize to France.

However, all that wine did not cloud my awareness that war was still raging in Israel (my daughter spent the summer in Israel), and anti-Semitism was all around us in Europe. Still, I refused to be afraid to be outwardly Jewish. In the Jewish ghetto of Venice, I purchased a star of David made of Murano glass and wore it for the duration of my trip.

In Italy, an appreciation for Judaism’s contributions to humanity on the surface outweighed any animosity towards the Jews.  An orchestra in Venice’s St. Mark’s square played Klezmer music.

DSCN0620In Florence, tourists wait on line for hours to see Michelangelo’s David, the boy would be king of ancient Israel.

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I know he is made of stone, but I can’t help having a crush on David.

Read More…

Dear Fellow Liberals: I’m Done Apologizing for Israel

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stacylynngittleman:

May Gd bless and protect your son, and thank him for me for protecting MY daughter while she was there all summer. I’m done apologizing too. Liberalism and unwavering support for Israel need not be two separate things.

Originally posted on TIME:

Some years ago, I was seated at dinner next to a British law professor, whom my husband, also a law professor, had invited to a conference that he’d organized. The conversation soon turned, as conversation often does among professional intellectuals, to Israel, specifically to the then-recent conflict between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian fighters in the West Bank town of Jenin, which my dinner partner (and much of the European press) referred to as the “massacre of Jenin.”

Oops—forgot about it already? Here’s a refresher: in 2002, the IDF went into Jenin during the Second Intifada, after Israel determined that the town served as a launching pad for missile and rocket attacks against Israeli civilians. The 10-day operation claimed the lives of around 50 Palestinian gunmen, and 23 Israeli soldiers. My acquaintance, after repeating Palestinian claims of atrocities committed by Israeli forces—claims that had already been roundly debunked—capped off his assessment…

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Please, no cheesy touristy selfies here

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Another year.

13 years.

It took us a while to get here, but finally, a fitting memorial has been built to nearly 3,000 victims or more who were snatched from this earth, from all who loved them on this horrible day here at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.

I finally made my way to the 9/11 memorial this summer. I was simultaneously taken by the beauty and the heavy leaden feeling of grief as I stared into the waters that seemed to fall forever into an abyss.

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I know there are some who want to come here, but have not the strength to stand here.

I found some names of those I knew, if only peripherally. Like Mark P. Whitford. A firefighter. A fellow high school classmate  a few years younger than me who wrestled for my dad. Just another NYFD firefighter who died trying to save lives. I remember falling to the floor in shock when my dad told me he had been killed.

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For those who lost someone here, and for all native New Yorkers, this place is very personal. Very intimate and very sacred.

So, visitors to NYC, take note.

We are so happy to have tourists in town.

But this is not just another tourist attraction. Don’t turn it into such.

This is a homicide area.

This is a memorial.

This is a mass grave.

So when you come here, please.

No cheesy selfies.

And please, when you come here and take photographs, please don’t smile.

Channeling Anger into Healing: IsrAID is first to respond in Floods, Earthquakes, Tsunamis

eight Israeli volunteers from IsrAID cleared out and cleaned up damaged basements of Detroiters affected by last month's floods.

I still don’t understand where all the Israel bashing comes from. Ignorance? Brainwashing? Plain old Jew hatred? 

Against all odds, Israelis, especially those living in the south just kilometers from the Gaza Strip, refuse to become vengeful or embittered by terrorism.

The evidence?

Within days of the flood that besieged many Detroit residents, Israeli NGO IsrAID came to town to help. Taking the skills in teamwork and collaboration that come with years of serving in the IDF, IsrAID volunteers have been on the ground all over the globe where there has been natural disasters: Japan. Haiti. Indonesia. And the United States. 

Here is a brief story I wrote about them in this week’s issue of the Detroit Jewish News. 

Lending a hand to the cleanup efforts of last month’s flood, eight Israeli volunteers with disaster relief agency IsrAID left their own war-ravaged country and set their eyes, hearts, and hard work on healing flooded neighborhoods in Metropolitan Detroit. Some got on a plane here just days after finishing their military service and will be cleaning out basements and restoring stability to the lives of flood victims for the next two weeks.  

Beth Shalom in Oak Park has become the temporary home for the volunteers, where over half the congregants there have had damage to their homes due to flooding, said Rabbi Robert Gamer. The volunteers sleep and eat at the synagogue on air mattresses, linens, towels and toiletries donated by community members. The synagogue men’s club, the Jewish Community Center, the Salvation Army and other charitable agencies prepare their meals.

“These floods have become big news around the world and Detroit has many connections in Israel,” said Rabbi Gamer, who hosted the volunteers for a Shabbat dinner at his home. “My congregation is thrilled that they are here to help those in need. We often think about us helping Israel but here Israel is helping us.”

Nevonel Glick, 27, of Tel Aviv, IsrAID program director and the lead volunteer coordinator in Detroit, said the volunteers, highly trained in the art of efficiency, coordination and teamwork after their service in the Israel Defense Forces, help break the downward spiral of depression and hardship commonly experienced after a natural disaster by helping flood victim. Glick has been with IsrAID for over six years guiding relief projects in Japan, Haiti, the Philippines, Kenya and several places in the United States, including New York City after super storm Sandy.

Unlike some of the poorer countries he has, Glick said IsrAID understands that relief work in the United States does not need Israel’s doctors or search and rescue teams. What victims of natural disasters here need is a path back to financial and emotional stability.

 “After a disaster hits, the victim can be stuck in this downward spiral of depression.” Glick said.  “All your possessions from many generations may have been lost. Your house is damaged and you don’t know where to start. IsrAID volunteers understand this and we are here to remove that load off your back, both physically and emotionally, moving the victim from utter chaos to a clean house, a clean slate.”

IsrAID helped Shelly Legg, 61, of Oak Park, a woman out of work on medical disability who found herself with not only a flooded basement and a loss of personal possessions, but now without a car, nor the means to purchase a new one.  Last week, the volunteer crew helped her sort her possessions between what could and could not be salvaged, tore up and disposed of the basement flooring and wood paneling and drywall which black mold had already started to grow. Next, they thoroughly disinfect and dry the basement for future renovations.

According to Glick, this work saves such a homeowner between $3 to $7K. He expects the team to be able to clean approximately 1-4 homes per day depending on the size of the home and the extent of the damage.  

Glick said that his work aligns his Jewish, Israeli and global identities because the work is something he is proud to stand behind. Speaking for some of his volunteers who live in southern Israel, which has endured the brunt of the rocket attacks, the work lets them “channel their anger and frustrations into something good and healing.”

“Disasters foster a lot of unity and resilience and coming together,” said Glick. “It puts things into perspective in my own personal life. Every place we go, we get back more than we give.”

Summer in Israel: a self-portrait

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The Hebrew written in the black and white portrait above is from Genesis 22:17: 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his[a] enemies

The words above are headlines from this summer. 

The rest I will leave to the viewer’s interpretation. Look at this portrait. What do you see? Leave your comments below. 

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