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Operation Moses & Princeton Lyman

08/11/2020 09:05:40 PM


Dave Sloan

Pirkei Avot & Eretz Yisrael pt. 2

08/02/2020 12:00:00 AM


Rabbi Reuben Landman

Rabbi Suson on Tisha B'Av

07/29/2020 12:00:00 AM


Parashat Devarim

07/24/2020 12:00:00 AM


Shamai Leibowitz

Pirkei Avot & Eretz Yisrael

07/19/2020 12:00:00 AM


Rabbi Reuben Landman

Parashat Matot-Masei

07/16/2020 12:00:00 AM


Shamai Leibowitz

How do you say Corona in Hebrew?

07/14/2020 12:00:00 AM


Shira Leibowitz Schmidt

Jews in the Civil War

06/30/2020 12:00:00 AM


Dr. Jon Willen

Did the Story of the Wood Gatherer Violate the Rule of Law?

06/19/2020 10:55:44 AM


Shamai Leibowitz

Rabbi Suson on the 2020 Census & Parashat Bamidbar

05/22/2020 03:12:10 PM


Rabbi Suson

Shavua Tov!

05/16/2020 10:25:20 PM


Shamai Discusses Parashat Bhar-Bechukotai

05/15/2020 01:00:53 PM


Shamai Leibowitz

A Parasha of Quarantine and Isolation : Torah Reading Tazria-Metzora

04/24/2020 11:42:34 AM


Shamai Leibowitz

Parashat Tazria-Metzora 5780

04/24/2020 11:08:38 AM


Communicating in Close Quarters : Parashat Shemini 5780

04/17/2020 02:53:05 PM


Rabbi Suson

A Preventable Death? Torah reading Parashat Shemini

04/17/2020 02:52:39 PM


Shamai Leibowitz

Let the Light In - Parashat Noach 5780

11/01/2019 01:14:25 PM


Rabbi Suson

Yom Kippur 5780

10/08/2019 11:38:21 AM


Rabbi Suson

The Kitchener Camp: When Britain Welcomed 4,000 German Jews

07/02/2019 12:42:53 PM


Linda Topping Streitfeld

Irmgard Brill was pregnant with her first child, and she was terrified. Nazis had burned down the synagogue, violence reigned in the streets, and she and her husband Walter had been forced to hide in the home of a friend. After years of increasing abuse and discrimination against Jews in Germany, this horrific night focused their dilemma. Irmgard must have wondered if they should stay in their hometown of Munich, Germany. And if not, how could they manage to get out?

Nov. 9, 1938 became known as Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, when Nazis looted and destroyed synagogues and Jewish businesses across the country. Dozens of Jews were killed, and thousands of Jewish men were arrested and imprisoned.

A short time later, Nazi police came for Walter Brill. He was sent to Dachau, one of Hitler’s German internment camps, where prisoners were starved, humiliated, tortured and literally worked to death.

This story might have ended there, one more tragedy among the 6 million, but for an extraordinary effort that was taking shape across the English Channel. A resourceful and well-connected group was working feverishly to create a safe space near the town of Sandwich, England, for Jewish men who were at risk from the Nazi regime — men like Walter.

The fascinating tale of the Kitchener Camp has remained almost unknown for eight decades.

But now, another resourceful group has revived its memory and engaged dozens of descendants. In cluttered attics, dusty boxes and German postcards, “Kitchener kids” are finding their own connections to a spare collection of wooden huts near the southeast coast of England, where, in less than two years, 4,000 men were rescued.

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Rabbi and Kids Prepare for Passover Seder

04/19/2019 11:01:58 AM


The Taming of Mt. Kilimanjaro and Frank Solomon

11/05/2018 07:02:48 PM


Frank Solomon

Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain on the African continent and the highest free-standing mountain in the world. It contains almost every kind of ecological system on earth: cultivated land, rain forest, heath, moorland, alpine desert and an arctic summit. At a colossal 19,341 feet, Mt. Kilimanjaro is one of the largest volcanoes to ever break through the earth’s crust. Hemingway made the mountain a legend in his book “The Snows of Mt. Kilimanjaro.” In Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro is known as the House of God.

On Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, ten people from various parts of the world, under the auspices of Shalva, the Center for Disabled Children in Jerusalem, attempted to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro. The group comprised four Americans; four Israelis (Two women had made aliyah from New York; one woman made aliyah from Toronto; and one man made aliyah from South Africa); one Briton, and one Australian.

Among the four Americans was Kemp Mill resident Frank Solomon, the first member to sign up for Shalva’s third Mt. Kilimanjaro climb in 15 years.

Accompanied by a British physician, the lead guide and more than 50 porters and sherpas, the group began at midnight, climbing the steep slopes to Stella Point at 18,975 feet. The climb turned out to be more tumultuous and dangerous than all the climbs the veteran Tanzanian tour guide, nicknamed A.J., could recall. The previous evening, A.J. had predicted snow and strong wind. By the time the group started, a blizzard descended, with gale-force wind whipping up to 75 miles per hour. The climbers found it difficult to balance themselves, let alone stand straight.

The climbers inched their way up on the rocky slope. They were battered by icy sleet and thunderous wind and tripping over frozen rocks. The muddy trail became solid, intractable ice blocks. Temperature was 10 degrees below zero Celsius. The wind-chill factor plunged to minus 25 degrees. At that attitude, the oxygen level was half the amount at sea level. Exhaustion hit fast with each step. Still, no one decided to pull out. Not yet.


The summit challenge was the accumulation of 10 days of trekking and climbing put together by London-based Charity Challenge, whose motto is “Never a Backward Step.” Charity Challenge runs charitable outdoor events all over the world. It typically lists these events as extreme in the sports world. The Mt. Kilimanjaro challenge is at the top of the “extreme” in physical endurance and climbing difficulty.

Shalva, which has offices in London and New York, had conducted two climbs before, the first drawing more than 50 climbers, and the second more than 25. Solomon was the first one to sign up for the third climb challenge, in 2017, months before Shalva had finalized its plans on the climb.

Solomon had visited Shalva in Jerusalem in early 2017. He was impressed by the scope and depth of Shalva’s work with disabled children in Israel regardless of their national, ethnic and religious background. He decided to raise the awareness of the need to bring disabled children and their families into the normal functioning society. 

Meanwhile, he had heard about the story of Dr. Amram Cohen, a pediatric surgeon from the D.C. area who had made aliyah and founded the Save a Child’s Heart in Israel. Save a Child’s Heart is a humanitarian organization with a mission to improve the quality of pediatric cardiac care for children from developing countries who suffer from heart disease and who cannot get adequate medical care in their home countries. Dr. Cohen grew up at Har Tzeon Agudath Achim in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Dr. Cohen died on August 16, 2001, while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. He was 47. He still has family living in the Kemp Mill area. In April 2018, the UN Population Fund presented its 2018 Population Award to Save a Child’s Heart. To date, SACH has saved the lives of more than 4,500 children with congenital heart defects.

Solomon decided to finish Dr. Cohen’s climb while helping Shalva.

The Kilimanjaro summit challenge at first also drew a British rabbi, his wife, an American woman who had made aliyah, and another British physician. The first three had to withdraw due to personal reasons. The physician did not make the climb after he raised the minimum donation of the equivalent of $10,000. The group eventually mushroomed 12 members. One, a man from New York who had raised the equivalent of $23,000—the most raised by anyone within the group—did not get clearance from his physician at the last minute to join the climb. His college-age daughter, however, went ahead with the group. With the absence of the British physician and the New Yorker, the actual number of climbers stood at 10 the day of the climb, plus the Charity Challenge-sent British physician as a staff member.

Shalva hired Charity Challenge to take on the climb’s planning and logistics because Charity Challenge had done the previous two summit challenges for the Israeli charity. Due to the Jewish nature of the group membership, Shalva sought out the challenge operator that is knowledgeable about kashrut diet law and Shabbat requirements. Charity Challenge had managed the previous two climbs, and used local operator Tanzanian Travel Company under the tour guide of A.J. 

Both of the two previous challenges ran daily minyans and had certified kosher food and cooking utensils. Both groups rested on Shabbat, complete with an eruv on the mountain. This time the third group had the same vegetarian food and Shabbat regimen. Because there were only six men and four women, there was no daily minyan. Instead, individual members davened on their own each day.

The climbers flew into Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Monday morning, Oct. 15, from various parts of the world and then onto into Arusha, Tanzania, a 3-hour drive from Arusha, the town closest to Mt. Kilimanjaro. They spent the first night at the Arusha Planet Lodge, another 2.5-hour drive from the gate to Mt. Kilimanjaro, meeting one another and A.J. and checking their equipment.

Supported by a company of 56 drivers, chef, porters and assistants and accompanied by the Charity Challenge physician, Dr. Ross, the group began its journey on Tuesday morning, Oct. 16, trekking 7 to 12 hours a day uphill to reach the next base camp. The group climbed to higher ground each day before descending to lower altitude to camp to acclimatize to the thinning oxygen supply. The scene changed from rainforest or Moorland to Alpine as they moved along. The temperature plunged as the group ascended. Each night the group arrived at a designated camp site, where many other groups from around the world had already camped out, all with the same goal of taking on the summit. Most of the climbers shared a tent with another. The days were hot. The nights were frigid. The climbers woke up each morning to find their tents' ground cover sheets soaking wet and their tents covered with ice.

Throughout the trek, Solomon couldn’t help noticing the discrepancy between the all-white climbing group of 11 and the all-black support crew of nearly 60. As each of these guides and sherpas raced past the climbers with 33 pounds of supply, tents, chairs, cooking utensils, food and water, he noticed that most of the support staff lacked basic equipment, warm clothing, and hiking shoes. The picture of porters without gloves and proper hiking boots trudging up the mountain against the backdrop of a nation and a continent that seemed forgotten by the modern world reminded him of E.M. Forster’s “A Passage to India.”

Before sunset on Friday, Oct. 19, the group arrived at the mountain’s most spectacular spot, the Barranco Wall, a cliff dropping hundreds of feet to that day’s base camp with views over Mount Meru and the expansive valleys below. Shabbat began at this mountain camp site. Porters set up an eruv around the group’s tents before the climbers arrived. Lights were mounted outside the two make-shift toilets so that none of the climbers had to switch on electricity to use the facilities. That evening the group had a kabbalat Shabbat service at 12,870 feet. They spent the next day resting within the eruv. The group sang Havadallah and danced outside under a clear sky above the clouds. The porters and sherpas joined the dance.

The next day, the group summed up all its energy and scaled up the steep Barranco Wall, a surge of more than 600 feet. They continued their ascent for two more days, ending at 15,180 feet at Barafu Ridge toward the ice fields before the summit night.


The group ascended amid the 75-mile gale-force wind, pitch darkness, minus 25 degree Celsius temperature, and half of the amount of oxygen available at sea level. Ice hardened their clothes. Sleet battered them with blinding whiteness. The decreasing oxygen supply made it impossible to move fast without great exhaustion. One misstep could plunge a climber to death nearly 20,000 feet down the cliff. Two women talked about halting their climb and being carried downhill. Along the way, no fewer than 12 climbers—11 women and one man—were escorted down by a guide each because they could not continue to climb.

The ascent to Stella Point, one of the three summit points, at 18,975 feet was supposed to take 6 to 7 hours. It took 8 hours for the group to reach that point. Each time someone lost balance or was falling backward, a porter behind would pop him or her up. After several hours and midway toward the summit, the group split into several different sections, each scaling for the best spot to land the next step so as not to fall into the dark abyss below. Icicles and sleet covered their clothing, effectively turning each person into a moving ice bar in slow motion. 

Blinded by the snow and caked in icicles, Solomon counted his average speed: one step for 12 seconds. Each breath became harder. Each step pushed the edge of his physical and psychological limits. In contrast, he noticed the strength and quiet resilience of the porters and sherpas in front and behind him. The contrast between the climbers' modern, layered winter clothes and the tattered grab of their porters did not escape him. Many of them did not use headlamp or gloves. They relied on the moonlight to see. The moon was nowhere to be seen.

After about two hours, Solomon became so exhausted that he could not stand up. For about 20 minutes, he crawled uphill on his frozen gloves and boots like a giant lizard moving at a snail’s pace. His sweat froze underneath his thermal underwear.  The blinding whiteness and howling wind could have blown a 2-ton boulder down his path. Sleet hit his face like bullets. His face and eyelashes turned into ice.

The chill and wind storm continued without a break. The expected breath-taking sunrise didn’t arrive at 5:30 a.m. Eventually, the climbers arrived at the summit in groups of two or three at Stella Point at different times. It took another hour to reach Uhuru Point at 19,453 feet, a mere 400 feet higher than Stella Point. Solomon was the last one to reach Stella Point. He took 1.5 hours to reach Uhuru. 

The summit was too cold for anyone to stay for more than a few minutes. By the time Solomon reached Uhuru Point, the rest of the group had already begun their 3-hour descent to the Barafu Ridge base camp. For some unknown reason, Solomon was among the first ones to get back to the base camp even though he had a 2-hour delay in reaching the summit. 

After a quick lunch, the group took three hours to descend to Millennium camp, at 12,375 feet, to gain more oxygen for the night. Altogether, the summit day took 15 hours to go up and down. The next day, the group trekked downhill for 8 hours to the Mweka Gate.  Two men from the group had to be evacuated by ambulance at the last stretch of the 8-hour descent, where the ambulance raced up the one-lane, muddy path toward Kweka Gate. After lunch at a village shop, drivers picked up the climbers and took them back to the lodge in Arusha to spend the night. All the climbers, with the exception of the physician, went on a safari in the morning before flying back home.

As of Oct. 28, the 12 members (10 went on the climb) of the group had raised $139,220 for Shalva.  Solomon was grateful for the amount of $10,000-plus he raised from the Kemp Mill community—KMS, Maayan Chaddash, Silver Spring Chabbad, Young Israel Emunah, Har Tzeon Agudath Achim, Tifereth Israel and Tikvat Israel, neighbors and friends. If you wish to sponsor Kemp Mill resident Frank Solomon, please click on this link:

Climb 1: Frank Solomon, far right. Dr. Ross, the Charity Challenge physician, is the third on the left in the blue T shirt.
Climb 2: at the Starting Gate before the climb. Solomon is on the far left.
Climb 3: Members of the group and porters caked in ice before the Uhuru point at the summit
Climb 4: Summit night, half way up the hill in pitch darkness, below freezing temperature and gale-force wind. All clothes and sweat froze.
Climb 5: At Karanka Camp, one of the camps along the trek. Solomon is on the far right.
Climb 6: Solomon scaling the Baranco Wall, a cliff-like dropping 600 feet.
Climb 7: Slow climb up the summit. Solomon with green day pack and second from the last.
Unamed picture DSCF4556: Solomon prays for the late Dr. Amram Cohen, founder of Save a Child's Heart, against the backdrop of the snow-capped Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Shabbat Hazon, Devarim, Tisha B'Av, Tu B'Av 5778

07/20/2018 12:35:46 PM


Kol Ish in Concert

05/15/2018 03:18:19 AM


Passover 5778

04/02/2018 10:22:55 PM


Rabbi Steven Suson

Kol Ish Live in Concert - Beatbox

02/08/2018 11:45:49 PM



02/08/2018 09:00:07 AM


Frank Solomon

Did you know the U.S. government’s first official counterterrorism office was created in response to an attack on Israelis? In fact, many of the components of the U.S. responses to terrorism were prompted by developments affecting Israel.

During his Shabbat morning guest lecture on Jan. 27, Michael Kraft, a 19-year veteran of the U.S. State Department’s counterterrorism office, shared these and many other insights about about American cooperation with Israel and other allies in combating terrorism. Kraft spoke at Congregation Har Tzeon-Agudath Achim in Silver Spring, Maryland.

In 1972, Palestinian terrorists kidnapped and killed 11 Israeli athletes during the Munich Olympics. This attack prompted the U.S. to establish a formalized counterterrorism effort. “In reaction to the killings and the botched German rescue operation, President Nixon established the first U.S. government interagency counterterrorism organization,” Kraft said. That effort led to the creation of the Office for Combating Terrorism, which is now known as the Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism, in the State Department.

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Sen. Cardin Urges Jews to Speak Up Against Bias and Injustice

12/17/2017 08:10:16 PM


Frank Solomon

To help repair the world is in the DNA of Jews, according to U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin.
"Our upbringing and culture teach us to be concerned about the rest of human beings, to help correct the wrong, and to help repair the world," Maryland's senior senator said on Hanukah Shabbat at Har Tzeon Agudath-Achim. "This is our Jewish value. This is in our DNA as a people."
"We must not be afraid of speaking up when we see evil things. There are many bad things that are happening around us, it's our responsibility to speak up against evil and bad things." Cardin was particularly vocal about human rights violations across the world and vowed that he would always be on the forefront condemning human rights abuse.
The senator quoted Elie Wiesel in emphasizing the importance of not be silent when we see injustice. "Elie Wiesel understood the terrible power of silence, the danger of not speaking out against evil," Cardin said.
Cardin was the Shabbat scholar at the Traditional synagogue on University Boulevard in Silver Spring, Maryland. He and his wife, Myrna, participated in the entire Shabbat service with about 150 members of the congregation on Dec. 16. The senator gave a short speech, and took part in a lengthy Q&A session, moderated by the synagogue's Rabbi Steven Suson. 
In his speech, Cardin, the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, affirmed the close relationship between the United States and Israel. He urged both the Jewish community and those who support Israel not to be distracted by other issues agitated by both the ultra-right and the ultra-left. "We have to be singularly focused on keeping the close relationship between the United States and the state of Israel. For we know that the United States is the only friend Israel can count on ultimately on in the world."
Rabbi Suson asked questions on the U.S.-Iran nuclear treaty that the Obama administration implemented, the recent U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and the rising anti-Semitism in the United States and the world. He then fielded questions from high school and college students as well as members of the congregation. Many congregants asked questions about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and why Israel seems to be doing a poor job in public relations on the world stage.
Iran nuclear treaty: Cardin said that despite the fact that he voted against the treaty, he would not support backing out of the treaty at this time. He said, however, he would want to make sure that everything Iran does is "verifiable." "If we walk away from the treaty, we will lost our leverage," he said. "And Iran will most likely continue to develop its nuclear capability and, in a few years, have nuclear weapons without our being able to check on the.."
Recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital: Cardin said that Jerusalem "is the capital of Israel." "It has been for decades. So what is new here?" The senator, however, said the Trump administration did not use the occasion to advance the peace efforts. "It would have been much better had the administration used this opportunity to move the peace negotiations forward, but it didn't."
The BDS movement: Cardin said the movement has been co-opted by anti-Semitic movements with anti-Israeli activities. "Instead of being a forum for discussion the Middle East process, it has been turned into an anti-Israeli movement," Cardin said. "There is no place for anti-Semitism anywhere. We must not allow people to turn international events into anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli activities."
Israel's "poor" public relations job: One congregant asked why, despite the many things that Israel does to benefit the rest of the world---being always among the first to help other nations and children in need, regardless of politics, ethnicity and national origin, Israel seems to be always the bad guy on the world stage. Cardin said Israel lacks the resources to do an excellent public relations job. He said the United States must help publicize its ally's many actions that help the rest of the world. "Israel can't do it alone. We must help them."
Israel and the United Nations: Another congregant asked, given the bias of the United Nations against Israel, why the United States doesn't just walk away from the world body. Cardin said the United Nations does "many good things remarkably well," especially on humanitarian and nutritional fronts. He said that the bias situation actually has become "much better" in the last decade. "Under U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley, things have improved tremendously along the anti-Israel front at the United Nations." He said Israel wants to be in the world body in order "to have a voice."
Sen. Cardin's appearance is the latest of a series of Shabbat scholar events at Har Tzeon. On Jan. 27, terrorism expert Mike Kraft will speak about U.S.-Israeli cooperation on counter-terrorism, especially in the United States and the Middle East.
*Frank Solomon is a member of Har Tzeon and lives in Kemp Mill.

A World View Shaped from a Small Town Jewish Perspective

12/08/2017 02:11:22 PM


Daniel S. Mariaschin, B'nai Brith Executive VP & HTAA Past President

A World View Shaped from a Small Town Jewish Perspective
by Daniel S. Mariaschin, B'nai Brith Executive VP & HTAA Past President

In 1955, just before I entered the first grade, we moved from Englewood, New Jersey, to Swanzey, New Hampshire.

To go from the center of the Jewish universe–the New York metropolitan area–to a region with some 25 Jewish families, represented a major transition.

In New Jersey, we had Jewish neighbors on our block; in New Hampshire, there were but four Jewish families in our semi-rural town of about 3,000 people, just outside the small city of Keene. Kosher food? Readily accessible before we moved; but when we were in New England, my uncle in Boston sent a box of meat once a month on the bus from Boston, 85 miles away. Organized Jewish life? In New Jersey, the Jewish Community Center was a 15-minute walk from our house; in Keene, the small synagogue, housed in a grand, former house on a tree-lined street, was the center of activity for everything Jewish.

So why the move? My parents had an opportunity to purchase a women’s clothing store and a chance to run their own business. My mother, an immigrant from Lithuania in the early years of the last century, was raised in Maine, so the return to New England was not so difficult. My father, who emigrated from Russia, was raised in Brooklyn and always loved to vacation in Maine, with its rocky coastline and fresh air. And we had relatives in Boston, close enough to reach if need be.

To call our Jewish community a minority, would be an understatement. There were other small ethnic communities in our area, but they were all bound, in one way or another, religiously with the rest of the population. I was, for a time, the only Jewish student in my school, later to be joined by several others a bit younger than me.

School would no sooner open in September than I would be out for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The Christmas/Chanukah season always presented the same dilemma: how to explain to my friends that I didn’t receive gifts under a decorated tree but around a menorah, which we lit for eight nights. In the third grade, my teacher asked me to present the story of the Maccabees to our class, which I did, notwithstanding my uneasiness at being front and center different than all my classmates.


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11/16/2017 04:44:58 PM


Kami Troy - Kol HaBirah News

Silver Spring historian Professor David Rotenstein was the latest lecturer in Congregation Har Tzeon-Agudath Achim’s adult education series.

Today we think of Silver Spring, Maryland, as a very Jewish area, but this wasn’t always the case. In reality, Jews were banned from living in Silver Spring for decades as a result of restrictive residency covenants and land-use laws explicitly prohibiting the sale of property to specific groups.

Professor David Rotenstein has extensively studied the history of Silver Spring and its strict land-use laws dating back to the first half of the 20th century. His research gives us insight into how Jews have thrived and built strong communities not just in Silver Spring but in suburbs across America.

On Sunday, Nov. 5, Congregation Har Tzeon-Agudath Achim (HTAA) in Silver Spring hosted Dr. Rotenstein as part of its adult education lecture series. Dr. Rotenstein, who holds a doctorate in folklore and folklife from the University of Pennsylvania, gave a lecture entitled “The Arc of the Covenant: the Jews of the DC Area and the Jews in Silver Spring.”

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Congressman Jaime Raskin's visit to HTAA!

10/18/2017 03:12:19 PM


Frank Solomon

Mazal Tov to Frank Solomon  for his recent write-up in Kol HaBirah on Congressman Jaime Raskin's visit to HTAA! 

Click Here To Read The Article! 

Wed, February 28 2024 19 Adar I 5784