Author Archives: Ebony Brown

A New Beginning

This Shabbat we read parshat Noah, and the haftorah is from the Book of Isaiah.

In parshat Noah, God floods the earth because of the bad behavior of the people. He tells the prophet Noah to build an ark and fill it with a male and a female of every animal and bring them on the ark along with Noah and his wife. Noah is saved because he had a good soul throughout his life, and he didn’t engage in acts of evil as did the people and community around him. Here, God decides to create a new beginning for humanity and the world.

By instructing Noah to build the ark, God allows Noah and his family to survive and to rescue the species of animals. In this way, God decides to create a new beginning for humanity and the world. In the Haftorah, God expresses his dissatisfaction with some of the Israelites who bring empty sacrifices and don’t consider the condition of the poor and brokenhearted. This behavior is parallel to the people in parshat Noah because God does not approve of their evil doings.

Nature also plays an important role both in parshat Noah and on Rosh Hodesh. In both texts, aspects of God’s creation are evident. In Noah, God promises to never destroy the earth again with a rainbow that which symbolizes the covenant between God and Noah that the earth will never by destroyed again by a flood.

This week we celebrate Rosh Hodesh, the start of a new month. Rosh Hoshesh is marked by the new moon, which is also a powerful symbol in nature. At the beginning of each month the moon appears as just a sliver, and then as time goes on the moon waxes and becomes bigger. This process can be compared to one’s life. Each individual’s life begins at birth when one is a tiny baby. As one grows and continues to develop into an adult, life offers many possibilities. This process begins for me today, as I become a bar mitzvah this week.

Sam Braman is a seventh-grade student at Krieger Schechter Day School.

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The Ultimate Fan

A Baltimore sports fan since the 1960s, Stan Charles has created a media success with PressBox. (Provided)

A Baltimore sports fan since the 1960s, Stan Charles has created a media success with PressBox. (Provided)

Long before there were fan-related sports websites such as Bleacher Report, SB Nation, Rant Sports and Fansided, there was PressBox. For more than 31 years Baltimore sports fans have known and loved Stan “The Fan” Charles, a true Charm City icon. Charles was a local radio personality who also penned a weekly sports column for City Paper, but it was his decision in 2007 to create the PressBox brand that has spawned a mini sports-media empire in Baltimore.

Since 2007, Charm City sports fans have been reading PressBox’s signature monthly print magazine; they follow the daily happenings on its website, pressboxonline.com, and they watch its weekly television show that airs every Sunday morning on WMAR-TV at 10:30.

The success of PressBox is based on a simple premise: Give local readers every possible storyline about their high schools and colleges. Baltimore is a big city that has a passion for high school sports, and Baltimore is home to more than a dozen sports-playing colleges and universities. PressBox makes sure fans have a place to read about their favorite teams.

Of course, no Baltimore-area sports publication would be complete without extensive coverage of the Orioles and Ravens. Charles and his dedicated staff produce sports content that is fresh, current and compelling 24/7.

While many publications such as the Baltimore Sun have downsized and charge a fee for their online content, Charles and his team has ramped up coverage, making sure that PressBox deliverers more fresh content than any other area website. And it’s free.

JT: Where did you grow up? In Baltimore?  
Stan Charles: Actually, I was born in Washington, D.C., in 1952, and in 1958, my father passed away. My mother wanted to be near her family, and that meant moving to Baltimore. Mom was one of a family of 10, so I had plenty of loving aunts, uncles and cousins to help me learn everything about Baltimore. We lived near Pimlico Race Course and the Rodgers Avenue Synagogue, where I had my bar mitzvah. My passion for sports and for Baltimore grew from that amazingly loving community, around the Rodgers Avenue Synagogue.

PressBox debuted in 2007 and puts a huge emphasis on local and high school sports. (Provided)

PressBox debuted in 2007 and puts a huge emphasis on local and high school sports. (Provided)

Growing up in the old neighborhood, attending Arlington Elementary, Pimlico Junior High and Northwestern gave me a wonderful foundation, and it taught me a great life lesson on how important family and a supportive Jewish community are. Also, how relationships you develop as a kid can — if you are lucky — last you a lifetime. Throughout my career, the Jewish community of Baltimore has supported me, and it continues to do so, well over 30 years after I began my work in sports.

When did you become a sports fan?
As with most kids growing up in Baltimore in the 1960s, I listened to all the Orioles and Colts games on my transistor radio. It was the golden age of Baltimore sports with Johnny Unitas, Raymond Berry, and Gino Marchetti among the many great Colts players. Then you had the Orioles with Frank and Brooks Robinson and Boog Powell, along with the outstanding pitching of Jim Palmer, Mike Flannigan and Dave McNally. There are really too many outstanding players on both teams to name, but we loved following both teams every game. Most of the time it was listening on the radio or watching on TV. But things were always the best on those special days when my brother, cousins and uncle would go to Memorial Stadium. Those are the memories that will stay with me forever, and that is what makes sports so special.

When did you know you wanted to be involved in sports as a profession?
I remembered listening to Benny the Fan, who used to have a radio sports show in the 1960s. He knew his stuff and was very entertaining, and it was Benny and another Baltimore radio personality, Charley Eckman, who really got me interested in sports broadcasting. I got my start on radio in 1981 at WFBR, and I knew that was what I wanted to do. There is something about the interaction with the fans, the players and the people in power that seems to always make for a great story. At the same time I was honing my craft learning everything I could as a broadcaster. I also wrote a weekly column for City Paper called “A Fan’s Notes,” So my career as a sports broadcaster and as a columnist began to take shape and flourish.

What is next for PressBox?
We continue to grow and expand the brand as best we can. We are now an affiliate of Monumental Networks, and we launched our new PressBoxDC.com website this year. We not only cover Baltimore, but we have also taken on covering sports in the nation’s capital. We have a Washington-based staff for the new website. My partner, John Coulson, and I both feel very strongly that the way we cover events and the people involved in sports in Baltimore will translate well in Washington. At a time when newspapers are reducing staff or going to an online pay service, we want to keep our sports content fresh, up to date, local and free. It has been a recipe that has served us well for the past seven years, so we will stay true to our brand, as we grow in this ever-changing media world.

Jim Williams is a local freelance writer.

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Building on the Positive

Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief

Jewish history is rich with stories of families making great sacrifices for the sake of their children’s education. In many communities, education was the last thing to go, even as the “Old Country” depredations of poverty and government- sponsored anti-Semitism robbed people of their livelihoods and homes. It was not unheard of for struggling parents in Eastern Europe to send children away to other towns to pursue their studies — this practice continues today in many parts of the world, including in the United States, lacking Jewish schools — because private, values-based education was not seen as a luxury; it was a necessity.

For many Jewish families, education, especially of the religious variety, was recognized as the guarantor of Jewish continuance, the method by which
sustainable Jewish futures would be secured. Judging from last year’s Pew Report on the American Jewish community, the supposition appears to be correct: Graduates of day school were more likely to identify as “Jews of religion” as opposed to “Jews of no religion” and were more likely not to be intermarried.

But the Jewish commitment to education applies to the secular varieties as well. High achievement has been a source of pride in modern Jewish communities in the United States and Europe, and Jewish adults are more likely than the general population to hold post-graduate degrees.

None of this is particularly newsworthy, because it tends to confirm long-held beliefs. But here in Baltimore, we can see the Jewish commitment to education in real time: As you’ll read in this week’s JT, the number of Jewish households in the greater Baltimore area has increased 16 percent over the past decade. Those families came here for a variety of reasons, to be sure, but many have settled around Charm City because of the wealth of its Jewish educational opportunities. That puts Baltimore among such cities as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles as destinations for Jewish families looking for schools.

But to say that our schools are top-notch would be to look at the clearly positive news through rose-colored glasses. Our schools are great, but there is always room for improvement.

Our Jewish day schools — like the surrounding public schools and some nonsectarian private schools — face the same challenges of swelling student populations, budget pressures and antiquated facilities. Their nonunionized teachers, like their unionized public school peers, work long hours for relatively little pay — the average teacher salary in Maryland is $43,235, according to the National Education Association, while U.S. Census data pegs the median household income in the state at $72,999 — and their families struggle to pay tuition year after year.

The community has stepped up considerably, and the support offered schools by donors and The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore puts other communities to shame, but there continue to be families who face the horrific choice between education and food. That families choose to move here is wonderful, but the good news must serve as motivation to do more. When no less than the state of the Jewish future is at stake, there’s no time to be satisfied.

jrunyan@jewishtimes.com

Firing Back

Hasan “Jay” Jalisi, a Democratic candidate for District 10 delegate, has responded to the petition filed earlier this month by a Republican challenger intent on removing him from the Nov. 4 ballot on the basis that he is not a resident of the district he seeks to represent.

“I live in Owings Mills, within the boundaries of my 10th legislative election district,” Jalisi asserted in an email last week. “The allegation that I do not is a pure fabrication and a malicious attempt by the Republican candidate to influence the election, which he otherwise cannot win. My driver’s license shows my Owings Mills residence as my place of domicile, and I am registered to vote from there as well.”

Jalisi said he was not aware of the petition until days after it was filed.

“I condemn the negative politics by the Republican candidate — who has run twice before for the same seat and lost both times — and look forward to winning the general elections on Nov. 4, and thereafter working for the benefit of the residents of my district in the Maryland General Assembly.”

Jalisi ran for District 11 representative on the Democratic Central Committee in 2010 and lost with only 6 percent of the vote. In June, he secured a spot on the general election ballot by winning the primary for delegate in neighboring District 10.

The suit, which was filed on Oct. 7 in Anne Arundel Circuit Court by Republican candidate William Newton, claims that Jalisi lives in District 11, not District 10. The Democratic primary race for delegate in District 11 ended in a landslide victory for incumbent Dels. Dana Stein and Dan Morhaim, as well as newcomer Shelly Hettleman, the former campaign manager for U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin. Del. Adrienne Jones was the only incumbent in the Democratic primary for District 10 delegate.

The JT first reported discrepancies in Jalisi’s residency claims in June, citing property and tax records that suggest the Democratic candidate’s primary residence is an address on Greenspring Avenue in Lutherville-Timonium rather than the address he has used in campaign filings on Reisterstown Road in Owings Mills. Jalisi has been receiving a homestead tax credit at the Lutherville address, which is valued at almost $575,000, since 2009. The tax credit is only applicable to a person’s primary residence.

Jalisi recently told The Daily Record that the reason for the confusion is that he and his wife separated in 2013 and he moved out. But his wife has been spotted with Jalisi numerous times during the campaign.

Maryland law makes it difficult for a candidate to be disqualified for reasons relating to residency, especially if — as in Jalisi’s case — the candidate owns multiple properties in the area. The deadline to challenge the residency of a candidate is just days after the deadline for declaring one’s candidacy and election law requires only that the candidate be domiciled in the district in which they run for office, a legal standard that does not necessarily mean that their primary residence is in the district.

hnorris@jewishtimes.com

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Baltimore Bound

102414_coverstory-Ariel-BedineAccording to The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, approximately 3,600 new Jewish families have moved to Baltimore over the past three years. With 15 Jewish day schools and 17 preschools from which to choose, many are lining up to join the thriving Jewish community.

“We just love Baltimore,” said new arrival Howard Goldstein. “The whole community is so tightknit. There are numerous Jewish schools, synagogues on every block and of course, the delicious kosher supermarket Seven Mile Market. This community is very unusual and special. There is no place like it.”

According to The Associated’s 2010 Greater Baltimore Jewish Community Study, the number of Jewish households in the greater Baltimore area has increased by 16 percent over the past decade. While 54 percent of all Baltimore Jews hail from Maryland, 10 percent of new Baltimore residents come from outside the United States, with 4 percent from the former Soviet Union.

Reporting that 47 percent of Jewish children to 4 years old are enrolled in a Jewish preschool or nursery school, that more than 40 percent of children are enrolled in Jewish day school and that almost all are enrolled in some sort of Jewish educational program, one likely conclusion of the study is that Jewish families are attracted, among other draws, to Baltimore for the schools.

Ariel (right) and Dvir Bedine are loving their Beth Tfiloh education. (Photos Provided)

Ariel (top) and Dvir Bedine are loving their Beth Tfiloh education. (Photos Provided)

“The schools play a huge role in why Baltimore is so top-notch,” said Rabbi Ariel Sadwin, director of Agudath Israel of Maryland/Mid-Atlantic Region. “My job is to advocate for Jewish rights, and my office opened up seven years ago. I am proud of how strong the Baltimore Jewish community has grown.”

Since he promotes and lobbies for policies benefiting the Jewish community, such as for the adoption of universal pre-K programs in Maryland, he is thrilled by how the Baltimore Jewish community is prospering. After growing up in Silver Spring and attending Ner Israel High School/Rabbinical College in Baltimore, he decided to establish his home here.

“As a Baltimore resident myself, I can see how Baltimore entices the greater Orthodox community,” said Sadwin. “The housing and tuition prices are affordable, and there is a lot of harmony between the different groups. With Washington, D.C., and Baltimore City so close, Baltimore provides tons of job opportunities for residents. I also think The Associated and its various programs play a big role in growing the community.”

But the attraction isn’t solely among Orthodox families.

As the only egalitarian Jewish Day School in the Greater Baltimore area, Krieger Schechter Day School (KSDS) serves grades K through 8 in a coeducational, small classroom environment.

“Many people find out about Krieger Schechter from word of mouth,” said Liz Minkin-Friedman, the school’s director of community outreach and engagement. “This year, we had families move to Maryland from Massachusetts and Virginia. Many of our families learn about our school from colleagues when they move to Baltimore for a job. Others hear about it from mothers at the playground.”

Owned by Chizuk Amuno Congregation, KSDS caters to all Baltimore Jews. It boasts a 9:1 student-faculty ratio, and according to Minkin-Friedman, one of the biggest draws is its dual-language curriculum.

“We teach 40 percent in Hebrew and 60 percent in English,” she said. “Our curriculum involves both general and Judaic studies. We are part of a national movement, and we provide a strong Jewish foundation for our students.”

After sending her children to a Solomon Schechter Day School in Boston, new Baltimore resident, and parent of two, Vicki Williamson felt that KSDS was the most natural fit.

“We moved to Pikesville over the summer because we wanted to be closer to our extended family,” said Williamson. “Krieger Schechter was exactly what we were looking for. They match up perfectly with our Jewish values, and I think the academics speak for itself.”

Howard and Sally Goldstein recently moved to Baltimore to find programs for their two younger adopted children. The family of six moved from St. Louis, Mo., and enrolled the pair in the Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School.

“My wife and I always wanted more children, so we adopted two children from Texas: one Hispanic and one African-American,” said Goldstein. “We had to send our first two children away for school when we lived in Missouri because there were no strong Jewish schools in our area. We didn’t want to repeat that with our younger two.”

102414_coverstory-Sarit-GoldsteinSince their older child attends the University of Maryland, College Park, they believed that Baltimore was ideal for its proximity.

“We have a multicultural family, and Beth Tfiloh truly caters to our children’s needs,” said Goldstein. “Even though our children look different, they have never felt out of place. We heard rave reviews about Beth Tfiloh from students and alumni and thought it would be perfect for our children.”

Shifra Weinstein, who moved to Baltimore 10 years ago from Riverdale, N.Y., stressed that Baltimore has many educational options. Before she moved to the area, she went “school shopping” in three different communities in three different states. The moment she came to Baltimore, she knew she found her new home.

“We were looking for all-girl schools at the time,” said Weinstein. “I remember visiting Bnos Yisroel on my own. Immediately, I wanted to send my girls there. I called my husband that day and said, ‘That’s it, we’re moving!’”

While Weinstein could not wait to send her five daughters to the Bnos Yisroel School of Baltimore, first-week classroom complications reassured Weinstein that she made the right choice.

Howard and Sally Goldstein’s two adopted children, Sarit (above) and Elisha, feel at home in Baltimore. (Photos Provided)

Howard and Sally Goldstein’s two adopted children, Sarit (above) and Elisha, feel at home in Baltimore. (Photos Provided)

“My daughter, Yocheved, started getting sick during the first week,” she recalled. “She is asthmatic, and we realized she was having problems with the school building since her classroom was in the basement. I called up the principal, Sara Itzkowitz, [and I] panicked. We did not want to switch schools now.

“[Itzkowitz] said, ‘Give me two days. We’re not losing you.’ She then hired an industrial cleaning purifier,” continued Weinstein, who went on to serve as president of the school’s parent-teacher association for three years, “and our daughter never had a problem with asthma in the school again. At Bnos Yisroel, the kids come first. After Yocheved’s first year, she was never in a basement classroom again. Mrs. Itzkowitz made sure of it.”

Three years ago, Odeya and Jeremy Bedine moved to Bethesda from Atlanta for job opportunities. Falling in love with Beth Tfiloh and the Baltimore Jewish community, the family left their D.C.-area home and moved to Pikesville in May.

“Pikesville is the full package,” said Bedine. “While we looked at schools in D.C., nothing quite fit like Beth Tfiloh. My husband was commuting back and forth from Baltimore to D.C. before landing a job in Columbia, but we knew it was worth the commute.”

As families move to Baltimore for the schools, Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc. (CHAI) helps new arrivals transition into the heavily Jewish neighborhood of Park Heights. In the last fiscal year, 32 percent of families seeking housing assistance from CHAI were out-of-towners.

“Last year, we helped many families moving into Baltimore,” said Rachel Elliot, CHAI’s director of organizational advancement. “We helped seven from out of state and two from Baltimore County. Of the out-of-staters, we assisted three families from Israel, two from New Jersey, one from Canada and one from Iran.”

Providing $253,000 in loans and assistance and another $80,000 in grants for new home buyers, CHAI’s mission is to make Baltimore easier to afford.

“We know that many Jews want to live in Baltimore. We try to make it easier for them,” said Mitchell Posner, executive director. “Many of our houses have two sinks and multiple bedrooms for large families. We are set up for the Jewish migration.”

Concentrating on Northwest Baltimore, CHAI also rebuilds playgrounds, creates neighborhood programming and provides home-buyer counseling. In 2014, CHAI implemented 38 enrichment programs in Baltimore schools with a total of 893 participants.

“Many people move to Baltimore for the schools. We want to keep the community strong once they arrive,” said Posner. “We have renovated over 20 houses and even knock on doors to ask people in the community how we can best serve them.”

With the kosher restaurants, numerous synagogues, several Jewish community centers and educational choices, Bedine said it’s easy to be comfortable amid such Jewish infrastructure.

“People who are from Baltimore have no idea how special it is,” said Bedine. “We moved here for the schools, but we stayed for the community. It took a long time to find, but we are most definitely home.”

afreedman@jewishtimes.com