Meet Dr. Joanne Block Rief

Posted: September 9, 2016

Joanne Block

Practices: General and Cosmetic Dentistry. Originally from: Annapolis. Moved to Baltimore:to attend Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, University of Maryland. Mother of: Erika, 25, and Austin, 22. Lives in: Owings Mills with her husband, Marshall. Participated in: Chapter Two, a 10-month, high-level engagement program for women.

What surprised you about Jewish Baltimore? When our Chapter Two group visited CHANA I was so surprised at the magnitude of domestic violence in the Jewish community. I had no idea beforehand how much we needed a place to help abused women move on and heal.

So now you are involved in a volunteer project, through The Associated’s Jewish Volunteer Connection (JVC) that incorporates your professional skills. Yes. I was inspired to do something else from Chapter Two and really wanted to incorporate my professional skills in a project that helped the community. Erica Bloom (from JVC) matched me with Sarah’s Hope, which has locations at Hannah Moore in Reisterstown and downtown. My staff and I split the two locations and we talked about dental hygiene, tooth decay and healthy snacks. It’s really important for children to have good oral health for long-term health benefits.

You mentioned enjoying the Jewish Museum. I understand your family has history preserved there. I loved the Jewish Museum and learning about how to research family history. In fact, when my daughter interned at the Jewish Museum, she saw scissors in their collection from my grandfather who was a custom tailor in Baltimore. She also saw a cash register from my relative’s jewelry store in Bel Air. It’s amazing – the history of Baltimore that is preserved there.

Was Chapter Two your first Associated experience? Actually, my kids have been involved in a number of Associated programs for a while. Both did Maccabi. My daughter went to Odessa when she was a teen – it’s amazing how much I understand Odessa has changed. When she went it was really grassroots work in the Jewish community there. From what I hear now, Odessa has a thriving Jewish community.

Anything else? Yes, she went on Birthright and is involved in Moishe House. My son did Teen Giving Initiative and Onward Israel, where he held an internship at Tel Aviv University.

Have you been to Israel? Twice. I remember the first time I saw Independence Hall in Tel Aviv. Watching them sign (for the hearing impaired) Hatikvah and learning how Israel became a state. I couldn’t hold back the tears.

What else did you enjoy in Israel? We went to the underground bullet factory which was interesting. And I loved everyone we met. The Israelis are such great people. And who can forget the food. The hummus and pita. And the fresh fish!

On another note, we’re almost at the High Holidays. I love the High Holidays, walking to synagogue from where we park the car. You see people in synagogue you haven’t seen in a while. We see families who have sat next to us for years. I love watching the kids grow up – one moment they are two and now they’re in college. And I love to cook for the holidays!

What do you cook? I make great matzoh balls. And I make baked gefilte fish in loaves. It’s a family tradition from my husband’s family. It’s served cold over lettuce with cucumber and a cherry tomato, stuck with a toothpick, on top. My daughter loves helping me make it.

GFS Celebrates Festival of Sukkot with Campus Sukkah Build

Posted: September 25, 2015

As part of the celebration of the Jewish Festival of Sukkot, students and faculty at Garrison Forest School built a sukkah, a temporary hut constructed for use during the week-long festival, outside of Alumnae Hall on Thursday.

The Jewish Student Alliance (JSA) of GFS sponsored the sukkah build to help bring awareness of the holiday celebrated by Jewish people worldwide to both the GFS community and other area schools. The JSA also gave presentations about the Festival of Sukkot to Lower, Middle and Upper School students.

The Jewish Volunteer Connection, the volunteer branch of the Associated Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, provided the materials for the sukkah and led the students and faculty in building it. The on-campus sukkah replicates traditional sukkahs which are often topped with branches and decorated with autumnal, harvest or Judaic themes. All students and faculty were invited to help build the sukkah, and are welcome to eat meals inside of it while it is standing for the next two weeks.

GFS will also host dessert in the sukkah for students from GFS and area independent schools on Monday, September 28 from 7 p.m. – 8 p.m. All Baltimore independent school students are invited. Please register here.