Middle-Aged At Middleton

012414_At-MiddletonThe college tour. It’s a rite of passage for most college-bound high school students. A new film by Baltimore natives Adam Rodgers and Sig Libowitz turns the tables on the college application process by taking a bittersweet look at two parents played by Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga. They form an immediate connection when they meet on a college tour with their children. Fed up with their respective kids’ attitudes, the two parents skip the tour and end up spending the day together.

“The great thing about this film is that everyone thinks it will be about the kids, but it’s actually about the parents,” said Libowitz, 45, the film’s producer.

Libowitz grew up in Baltimore City attending Talmudical Academy and Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. After high school, he attended New York University, where he studied acting at the Tisch School of the Arts. Now a Bethesda resident, Libowitz also has a law degree from University of Maryland.

Co-writer and director Rodgers, 47, a Pikesville High School graduate who attended Duke University and NYU’s graduate film school, said the concept for “At Middleton” was inspired by his own college tour experiences.

“A zillion years ago when I was on my college tour, I got to around the 15th stop and the fatigue set in. This girl wandered off the tour, and my 16-year-old self just drifted off with her,” he recalled.

Years later when Rodgers and the film’s co-writer, Glenn German, discussed the concept of making a movie about a college tour, they decided that focusing on the parents’ experience would be a more interesting storyline.

As the father of a freshman in college, Rodgers is familiar with the mixed emotions that arise before sending a child to college.

“You’re thrilled and excited for them, but there’s also this sense of panic and loss. People behave strangely under those circumstances,” he said. “Something about being on Middleton’s campus reignites” the characters.

“The location was central to the story,” he continued. “Like in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ when they all go into the magical forest and start acting crazy; that’s what happens when these parents arrive on this beautiful campus. The parents start acting like kids, and the kids act like parents.”

Although Rodgers and Libowitz grew up in Baltimore, they didn’t meet until they were at NYU.

“Adam wrote and directed a film while he was there, and I auditioned and got the lead,” said Libowitz. The film, which was a finalist for the top directing prize at the university, was about Rodger’s beloved Baltimore-bred grandmother, Dorothy Ellison, now 94 and living in Pikesville.

“When you’re a nice Jewish boy from Baltimore who wants to be a filmmaker, you get some funny looks. But my grandmother was always supportive,” said Rodgers.

In the years that followed their studies at NYU, Libowitz, Rodgers and German worked together on various projects. Rodgers and German had success selling their scripts and pitches to Sony, Universal and Fox studios, and Libowitz enjoyed an illustrious career in production, writing and acting. Yet, the three friends were anxious to get back to film-making.

In 2009, Libowitz and Rodgers made a short film, “The Response.” Written by Libowitz and directed by Rodgers, the courtroom drama is based upon transcripts of the Guantanamo Bay military tribunals. Among other honors, the film was shortlisted for the 2010 Academy Award for best short film in the live action category.

Libowitz, Rodgers and German’s success, experiences and Hollywood connections paid off when they set out to make “At Middleton.”

“When you make an indie film, it’s very collaborative but really begins with the characters,” said Rodgers. “What really drives a movie being made is who’s in it. Andy [Garcia] and Vera [Farmiga] wanted good parts and wanted the opportunity to play light, funny roles. Once they were on board, we had a package.”

The fact that Garcia helped to produce the film was also “instrumental in a lot of pieces coming together,” said Libowitz.

“At Middleton” premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival in May 2013, and has been on the film festival circuit since then.

“It’s been so wonderful to see it with an audience,” said Libowitz. “There’s so much laughter.”

Originally slated to open for only a limited run, the film’s popularity at festivals has convinced distributors to show it at 20 theaters around the country, said Rodgers. On Jan. 31, it will open in select theaters in New York, Los Angeles and Baltimore. The two Baltimore natives are especially excited about the film’s Baltimore screening, which will take place at the Rotunda Cinemas on W. 40th Street.

“It’s like having a second bar mitzvah without having to learn the Torah portion,” said Libowitz with a smile.

Rodgers and Libowitz, who said they are anxious to make more films in Maryland, are only slightly concerned about the fact that the film opens in Baltimore on Super Bowl weekend.

“Every Jewish woman in Pikesville needs to come see “At Middleton,’” said Rodgers. “In exchange, husbands have a pass to watch all the pre- and post-Super Bowl coverage they like. You can’t beat that deal, right?”

Diaspora Yeshiva Band Reunites After Almost Two Decades

The Diaspora Yeshiva Band took the stage for the first time since 1996 with a sold-out show at Congregation Shomrei Emunah on Jan. 11 (Marc Shapiro).

The Diaspora Yeshiva Band took the stage for the first time since 1996 with a sold-out show at Congregation Shomrei Emunah on Jan. 11 (Marc Shapiro).

Avraham Rosenblum grew up during the Woodstock generation; he even attended the legendary music festival in 1969.

But when he left behind his hippie rags for spiritual riches, he helped found a band that would pioneer Jewish rock music.

The Diaspora Yeshiva Band formed on Mount Zion in Jerusalem in 1975, creating a unique sound with lyrics based on the Torah.

“We ended up creating a very eclectic blend of country, rock, blues, jazz and klezmer,” said Rosenblum, 63, an ordained rabbi who is the band’s lead singer and lead guitarist.

For those attending the yeshiva alongside the band’s founding members, the music provided a much-needed outlet for students who gave up secular music.

“It’s a throwback for me to 35 years ago when I lived in the Old City,” Aryeh Goetz, a friend of drummer Gedalia Goldstein, said after a reunion concert this past weekend. “Their music filled a void for someone exploring Torah Judaism.”

All told, about 560 members of the Jewish community turned out for the first of three reunion concerts at Congregation Shomrei Emunah the night of Jan. 11. The sold-out concert, the first Diaspora Yeshiva Band performance since 1996, featured two sets of the band’s spiritual, yet eclectic blend of music. The six-piece band brought together almost all original members, who traveled from Israel, Chicago and New Jersey to play.

“We’ve been shooting emails back and forth for the last three years wondering when we were going do this again,” said Rosenblum.

With a concert booked last Sunday for New York’s Lincoln Center, the stars aligned for a series of reunion shows.

Shomrei Emunah was an obvious choice for a Baltimore concert, since the “Rockin’ Rabbi,” as Rosenblum is known, is a member of the congregation.

“I grew up with this music. For me, it’s reliving my childhood,” said Kenny Friedman, one of the concert’s co-chairs.

For Friedman and other members of the community, the Diaspora Yeshiva Band is their “classic rock.”

“I’ve been a fan of them for years. They were playing before I was born,” said Binyomin Ansbacher, a concert attendee. “To hear them all together is fantastic.”

Although the recent run only included three shows, in the 1970s and 1980s the band toured all over the United States, Canada, Europe and South Africa.

“We got to play in Jewish communities across two-thirds of the world,” and even the secular music world connected with the band, stated Rosenblum.

A couple songs into the Shomrei Emunah concert, it was easy to discern why Diaspora Yeshiva reached such a wide audience. From klezmer beats to rock songs fit for arenas to upbeat bluegrass tunes, the band’s genre-defying music was coupled with guitar harmonies, saxophone interplay and virtuosic violin playing from Ruby Harris, who switched to mandolin for several songs.

“It’s nice to be able to see Baltimore from this angle again,” a nostalgic Rosenblum told the crowd.

Having spent the previous days rehearsing for the show, the band sounded tight and polished with no indication that it had been 17 years since its last concert.

“The point of our music was always that we wanted to be able to communicate something we believe very strongly in, and that is our commitment to Torah-based Judaism and Jewish spirituality,” said Rosenblum. “Our music allowed us to really bring that message across in a very unpretentious way.”


Jewish Food: What’s The Next Big Thing?

Ethnic foods are enjoyed by Americans, Europeans, Asians and other well-traveled societies. Thai, Indian and Vietnamese cuisines have joined the ranks of French, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, Greek Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Mexican and Hungarian culinary delights and haute cuisine. As experienced worldwide travelers visit exotic places and taste a wide variety of authentic culinary cuisines, they seek out these delicious foods once they return home.

Worldwide delicacies can now be purchased in major supermarkets and restaurants, and they represent all major food groups, even those that have gotten a challenging rap in recent years.

The Start of a ‘Jewish Food’ Industry
Even with carbohydrates being attacked by those who warn of high gluten and others who think the calories will affect their hip size, crusty French breads, baguettes, Italian breads, British scones, Jewish rye bread, grissini, bagels and even matzo fill American breadbaskets.

There was a time Americans would eat only plain, soft white bread. In the South, they often cut away the crust. Then came the bagel. Bagels began rolling out of New York in the 1930s to other parts of America when Lender’s bagels made the ethnic Jewish item an American supermarket mainstay.

Thousands of bagel shops have now opened up all over the country, most serving 15 or more varieties of the crusty treat — even in areas not populated by Jews. Even Dunkin’ Donuts now places a hefty marketing budget into promoting its bagels and croissants.

(Justin Tsucalas)

(Justin Tsucalas)

In Baltimore, Goldberg’s Bagels is highly rated and has won many taste tests. An average bagel (not just at Goldberg’s, but any bagel) is about 300 calories; scooped, it is about 260.

Over the years, there have been many other examples of kosher or Jewish foods taking on a significant role in secular American life.

One of the strongest examples is when Levy’s New York rye bread and Hebrew National all-beef hot dogs underwent a Madison Avenue public relations remake, which drove home the point that kosher all-beef hot dogs and Jewish rye bread were not just for Jewish people anymore. Today, some industry sources estimate that the majority of Hebrew National hot dogs are purchased by non-Jewish Americans.

New York delis that serve oversized hot pastrami-stuffed sandwiches with mustard and a pickle became part of the culinary culture of American taste, no longer just for New Yorkers.

The sandwiches and hot dogs were joined by the kosher pickle that soon sat not only on top of deli counters but also in jars on the shelves of
grocery stores. Knishes, filled now with all sorts of flavors and not just potatoes, have become a hit too.

Chicken noodle soup and matzo ball soup are proven alternatives to medicinal remedies for the common cold. Pigs in a blanket, those tasty mini hot dogs wrapped in crusty dough, are a smashing hors d’ oeuvre.

Rugelach is now popular even at non-kosher Italian stores. For example, Zabar’s, one of America’s premier gourmet shops located in Manhattan, sells chocolate babka under its own Zabar private label. It’s one of the biggest sellers in its bakery department … but it is manufactured by a Chassidic bakery in Brooklyn. Who makes the babka is a trade secret, but its name is a color (and it’s not red, yellow, silver, purple, orange or gold). It’s green. And that same babka is sold at both Seven Mile Market and Shopper’s in Baltimore.

Similarly, Middle Eastern cuisine — both Arabic and Israeli — has grown in popularity. Sabra hummus attracted the corporate eye of PepsiCo, Inc. that now manufactures and sells tubs of the creamy chick pea paste to supermarkets throughout America. A new local company, The Wild Pea, has six flavored varieties of hummus, many of which can be found at Seven Mile Market, Wegmans and Whole Foods.

What’s the next Jewish culinary dish or treat to follow the success of the bagel, hummus and kosher hot dog?


This Jewish dish is still a culinary secret, a dish enjoyed by mostly
Orthodox Jews who do not cook on the Sabbath.

But what is cholent?

It is similar to chili, a one-pot meal that slow-cooks for 24 hours. This is helpful for observant Jews, as cooking raw foods and igniting a flame are among Shabbat prohibitions. Being that cholent is pre-cooked and ready before the Sabbath begins on Friday evening, keeping it hot over the Sabbath is not cooking and is therefore permissible.

Where did we get it?

According to “The Book of Jew-ish Food” by Claudia Roden, “In medieval times in France, the French made cassoulet, a dish of meats, including goose and sausage, with beans slowly cooked in plenty of goose fat. There were Jews living in Languedoc, where cassoulet originated. Many lived off the land; Toulouse, Narbonne, Nimes, Lunel, Beziers and especially Montpellier were centers of Talmudic study.”

When Jews fled France and went to Germany, cholent was enhanced as a one-pot Sabbath meal so additives such as kishke and potato kugel were often added to the pot.

How the name cholent was given to this tasty dish is debatable. The derivation of the world cholent may come from the medieval French words chault, which means hot, and lent, which means slow.

Another idea: In Europe, on Fridays before the Sabbath, families sent their sealed cholent pots to Jewish bakeries and to communal kitchens and would fetch the hot steaming pots after synagogue on Sabbath morning. There is a theory that since the Yiddish word for synagogue is shul, it is possible cholent came from a combination of the words shul and end, which referred to a dish that was picked up at the end of a synagogue service.

New Orleans Jazz Lives On

Ben Jaffe (right) and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band play at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall on Nov. 29, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

Ben Jaffe (right) and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band play at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall on Nov. 29, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

Ben Jaffe practically learned how to crawl and walk at Preservation Hall.

The legendary New Orleans venue, located in the city’s French Quarter, was transformed into an integrated jazz club in 1961 by Jaffe’s parents, Allan and Sandra Jaffe. The couple was instrumental in putting the first form of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band on the road using musicians who frequented the venue.

“Some of my earliest memories were being on the road with the Preservation Hall Band,” Ben Jaffe, 42, said. He was raised blocks away from the venue and has very early childhood memories of being in Alaska, Hawaii and Japan with the band.

“You grow up and literally everybody you know and everything you do revolves around music,” he said.

Jaffe, now the band’s creative director and double-bass and sousaphone player, brings the Preservation Hall Band and its historic New Orleans jazz sounds to the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall for three shows, Nov. 29, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

“The music we’re playing today is directly connected by blood and DNA to the original pioneers of jazz,” he said.

Baltimore attendees can expect a mix of New Orleans jazz staples but may also hear some songs they don’t recognize as standards. That’s because in July, the band, which has been in existence for 50 years, released its first album of completely original material.

“That’s It!” was co-produced by Jaffe and Jim James of My Morning Jacket. Jaffe said when he first met James in 2009, when the singer and guitarist contributed vocals to another Preservation Hall Jazz Band record, the two of them immediately had an unspoken connection.

“Jim, over time, became the fifth Beatle or whatever you call it,” Jaffe said. “He became a part of the band, and he took us out on the road with My Morning Jacket.”

One night backstage, the two were talking about James working on an album with the band, and he asked Jaffe if the band had any original compositions. When Jaffe shrugged his shoulders, James just said, “Hmm,” and walked away. The band would later accept that challenge.

“To him, as a writer of music, it’s so obvious, but as a member of a community that is based on repertoire songs that have been handed down to us, it’s not so obvious that we would even consider that,” Jaffe said. “I just felt like in that one moment, in that 10 seconds it took him to say that, it changed our lives.”

Jaffe described the writing process as daunting and intimidating but rewarding and exhilarating, and said with the help of James’ inspiration and production, the record captured the band’s essence. He saw the original music as part of the band’s responsibility.

Hurricane Katrina, which forced Preservation Hall to close for a few months for repairs in 2005, got Jaffe thinking about his band’s catalog and its responsibilities as a cultural institution.

“That’s part of our mission, not only to protect our traditions, but to honor them and to create new traditions,” he said.

Jaffe, who came on as creative director immediately after graduating from Oberlin College in 1993, takes that job and responsibility seriously and personally. As creative director, a separate position from band leader, it is Jaffe’s job to push the band’s creative boundaries and turn its musical wishes into realities.

To ensure the music would continue to resonate throughout the generations, he brought the band to new audiences, playing music festivals such as Bonnaroo and Coachella and collaborating with artists such as Tom Waits, Dr. John and the Del McCoury Band.

He also created the Preservation Hall Outreach Program, something his father, who passed away in 1987, wanted to do but never got around to. The program allows the band to directly pass its traditions on through a junior jazz band, bringing younger audiences to the hall, going into schools while on tour and giving lessons and master classes.

But jazz isn’t the only tradition Jaffe hopes to pass on to the next generation. He and his brother were both raised in synagogue, had bar mitzvahs and grew up celebrating the Jewish holidays.

“They have Jewish jazz services in New Orleans around Jazz Fest,” Jaffe said. “There are a lot of Jewish musicians in New Orleans, and [jazz] definitely finds its way into the community.”

He notes that Jews, in New Orleans and beyond, have always been involved with music as writers, performers, producers and venue operators among other capacities.

The Jewish sense of community extends beyond religious brethren, Jaffe said.

“We spent a lot of our time at churches playing for different functions,” he said. “I think in New Orleans, it was just a natural extension of [my parents’] Jewishness [by them] becoming involved in the African-American community.”

While Jaffe is not a strict religious Jew, he said he’s been thinking about religion a lot more now that he and wife Sarah have a 1 1/2-year-old daughter. The time he spent at synagogue, the Jewish Community Center and at Jewish summer camp during his childhood helped him become the person he is today.

“Those are experiences I want to be able to give my daughter,” he said. “I want to give her a sense of identity and purpose, and I think Judaism gave me that.”

Marc Shapiro is a JT staff reporter — mshapiro@jewishtimes.com

Notes From The Spirit

From left, Ayelet HaShachar is  composed of Lisa Aronson Friedman, Stephanie Rabinowitz and Shalomis (Shelly) Koffler Weinreb.

From left, Ayelet HaShachar is
composed of Lisa Aronson Friedman, Stephanie Rabinowitz and Shalomis (Shelly) Koffler Weinreb.

They’ve been compared to musical acts such as the Indigo Girls and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, but local trio Ayelet HaShachar brings a unique blend of musicality, spirituality and religious devotion that sets them apart.

Ensemble members Shalomis (Shelly) Koffler Weinreb (guitarist, percussionist, vocalist and composer), Lisa Aronson Friedman (pianist, composer and vocalist) and Stephanie Rabinowitz (vocalist) have been singing together for the past 12 years. The group recently released its second CD, “Matai,” which translates to “When.” They will celebrate the new album with a concert for women only on Nov. 17.

Ayelet HaShachar started when Rabinowitz, who was trained in musical theater, met Friedman, a classically trained pianist.

“I was looking for more creative expression,” said Rabinowitz. “Lisa and I connected immediately, and we were looking for a third woman. One night, Shalomis came to a women’s music event at my house with guitar in hand. I called Lisa and said, ‘I found her!’” The three women have been making music together ever since.

The group released its first album, “Ohr Chadash,” in 2005 and have performed locally and in multiple venues in Israel. Both “Ohr Chadash” and “Matai” were produced by Jeff Order of nationally known Order Productions. Ayelet HaShachar is a nonprofit entity, and all funds from ticket and CD sales go toward band expenses and to fund free concerts for senior centers and elsewhere.

“We all come from different musical backgrounds,” said Friedman, a fact that Weinreb, whose roots are in blues, folk and pop music, believes is a strength of their collaboration.

“My influences are singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Carole King, even Motown,” said Weinreb.

Since the women of Ayelet HaShachar came to Orthodox Judaism as adults, they were exposed to a range of cultural and musical influences prior to composing and singing exclusively Jewish and religious music. As part of their transitions to Orthodoxy, Weinreb, Friedman and Rabinowitz came to accept and even appreciate the fact that they only perform for other women.

“In Jewish law, there is something called kol isha. It is part of the laws of modesty. Women don’t perform in front of men,” said Friedman. “There are different interpretations of this. We’ve decided that we won’t perform in front of men, but if men want to listen to our CDs and their rabbis approve, we aren’t going to pass judgment.”

Rabinowitz said she is perfectly happy to work within religious boundaries when it comes to performing.

“The voice is really the soul, and there are clear and beautiful boundaries,” she said.

“We have to ask ourselves why we are singing. Is it about ego or is it about spirituality?” noted Friedman. “The attitude today can be self-centered. One thing that happens when you become Orthodox is you realize the world isn’t about you. There’s a higher purpose. There is work to do.”

Weinreb admitted that when she first became religious she thought observing kol isha might be a conflict for her. She discovered it was not.

“There’s a spiritual kind of sisterhood that you feel when you’re performing for a women’s audience — they really get it,” said Weinreb.

“You go from performing to get something to performing to give something,” said Rabinowitz.

Ayelet HaShachar performs only original music, and their intimate knowledge of one another as people and musicians means that Friedman and Weinreb write music with individual ensemble members in mind.

“Each new song feels like a new child,” said Rabinowitz.

After more than a decade working together, group members feel their sound has matured and tightened. Although “Matai,” like “Ohr Chadash,” deals with spiritual and religious themes, Friedman said the group feels more like an ensemble.

“There are fewer solo pieces on the new CD,” she noted.

“I think our music has become more complicated because our lives are more complicated,” said Rabinowitz. “We have shared each other’s experiences. There’s a depth to it that wasn’t there in the first album. … There is a pleading [quality in the music] like the album’s title, ‘Matai,’ (‘When’). When are you [God] going to bring us home?”

“Harmonies are really the hallmark of our sound,” said Weinreb. “When we sing the same note together we sound like one voice, but it’s not the voice of anyone of us. We are friends on and off the stage. We call each other sisters, and that shows up in the music. People have remarked on how well we get along onstage, and it makes the audience feel good.”

The three believe their music is accessible to less religious women as well as women of other religious traditions, and they hope to draw music lovers from outside the Orthodox community to their upcoming concert.

“Sometimes the fact that men can’t come is a barrier,” said Weinreb. “But think of it as a ladies night out.”

The Ayelet HaShachar CD release concert (for women only) will take place on Sunday, Nov. 17 at 8 p.m. at 3209 Fallstaff Road. For additional information, email Basia Adler at info@ayeletmusic.org or call 410-358-9492. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $8 for students. Concert sponsorships are also available. CDs by Ayelet HaShachar will be available at the concert and are on sale at ayeletmusic.org and Pern’s Bookstore and Shabsi’s Judaica Center.

Preview Ayelet Hashachar’s album, Matai here

Simone Ellin is JT senior features reporter — sellin@jewishtimes.com

Stamping Out Intolerance

Special education teacher Janna Freishtat (left) and English teacher Cyndie Fagan have been instrumental in moving the Six Million Stamps Project forward. Shown here, they sit with a tub of thousands of stamps, many still waiting to be processed. (Photo by Melissa Gerr)

Special education teacher Janna Freishtat (left) and English teacher Cyndie Fagan have been instrumental in moving the Six Million Stamps Project forward. Shown here, they sit with a tub of thousands of stamps, many still waiting to be processed.
(Photos by Melissa Gerr)

Six Million.

For the past five years, since 2008, students at Mount Hebron High School have been working on a project trying to comprehend what those words stand for and to create something tangible that could adequately represent their meaning.

As part of their curriculum, incoming freshmen read “Night,” a memoir by Elie Wiesel about surviving Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Many students had not heard of the Holocaust or had difficult questions, struggling to grasp what six million means. High School teacher Cyndie Fagan wanted to help them understand.

She began by showing students a book from the Paper Clips Project (Tennessee high school students collected 15 million paper clips to have a tangible reference and commemorate those who perished in the Holocaust), and Fagan’s class thought something similar would help them comprehend the number and the gravity of the Holocaust. The class decided stamps would be a good way to commemorate the lives lost.

Fagan, who collected stamps as a child said, “Each of those postage stamps tells a story, just like each person who died had a story.”

Dozens of ninth-graders each year become involved with collecting, cutting out and counting the stamps. The completed work is stored in dozens of huge plastic tubs in closets and Fagan’s classroom. They get lots of donated stamps (they’ve inherited them from deceased collectors, and a parent who owns a utility company regularly donates several hundred stamps from mailed-in payments). They still have a long way to go, and many students remain involved well after ninth grade.

110113_Stamping-Out-Intolerance2“It’s kind of a way to make people aware because six million is so intangible,” said sophomore Tara Bellido de Luna. “It’s hard to realize how many stamps and how many people that really is. … It does represent people in the Holocaust, but it could also represent what potentially could happen if we don’t start tolerating people. … People don’t fear other people, they fear the difference in what they don’t know. That’s kind of what starts it all.”

Junior Emily Kader has been involved since her older brother Joey was a freshman, the year the project began. She’s collected stamps when attending Camp Louise; neighboring Camp Airy participated, too. Her synagogue, Beth Shalom in Columbia, also contributes.

“My zayde [Fred Kader] was actually a Holocaust survivor, and so the whole cause is important to us; he helped us cut and count the stamps and has been a part of the process,” said Kader.

Freshman Amogh Arun just joined the project, and he’s building a website to get out the word for more stamps. Freshman Evan Johnson’s brother chose this for his bar mitzvah project, so his family has been gathering stamps the whole year. Collectively, the students are working on a video to send to the Ellen DeGeneres show, “Ellen,” in hopes that she’ll help get the word out and that stamps will start flowing in.

Special Education teacher Janna Freishtat co-teaches the English class with Fagan. Her grandmother is, and her late grandfather was, a Holocaust survivor.

“What I can bring is the personal story, and it makes it more real for them because they say, ‘Oh, you mean you wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for that they lived?’ They were shocked that I would have been affected if I lived at that time. They couldn’t grasp that until we explained, ‘Your teacher or your neighbor could be taken,’” Freishtat said.

Fagan is determined to complete the project, and Freishtat claims, in addition to stamp donations and the students’ work, it is Fagan’s energy and perseverance that keeps it going. To give some perspective, six million stamps would cover three-and-a-half football fields. When finished, plans are to create a mural with the stamps dedicated to tolerance of others, and the remaining would be held in a giant Plexiglas cylinder near the mural.

Part of the goal is to help students connect the experience and the project to something bigger.

Fagan said, “My hope is that something we shared with them during this ninth-grade year, that when they’re adults, they will hear something or see something, and it will trigger that ‘aha’ moment for them.”

No donation is too big or too small
Mount Hebron students have collected two million stamps, and they need more. As the students are saying: “Please send stamps!”

Mail stamps to:
Mount Hebron High School
Attn: Cyndie Fagan
9440 Route 99
Ellicott City, MD 21042

For more information, visit click here.

Melissa Gerr is JT senior staff reporter and digital media editor — mgerr@jewishtimes.com

Dinner And A Movie

110113_Dinner-And-A-Movie1“This is my Bible,” said a smiling Ira Miller, referring to a large book called “Motion Picture Exhibition in Baltimore” by Robert K. Headley.

“The Pikes opened in 1938 and closed in 1984. It was built by John Eyring and originally had 650 seats. It was art deco and located on the Eastern edge of Pikesville. It was owned by the Garmin and Beck Organization,” he read aloud.

“I booked the Pikes for 25 years,” he added.

Since 1967, Miller, who said his career in the film industry was a “sheer accident” has worked buying, booking and managing movie theaters across the Baltimore region and beyond. His career took him to Washington and New York, where he was vice president of marketing for MGM. In 2005, after a 20-year absence, he and his wife of 35 years, Karen, returned to Baltimore to open the Rotunda Cinemas and Beltway Movies.

“I’ve done this my whole [adult] life. I eat, drink and sleep movies,” said Miller.

And at a stage of life when many of his contemporaries are beginning to look toward retirement, Miller, 66, is gearing up for a brand new challenge.

110113_Dinner-And-A-Movie2“My belief is that neighborhood movie theaters are making a comeback,” he said. “Because of the cost of gas and for convenience sake, people want to stay in their neighborhoods. Also, they want a more intimate experience when they go to the movies.”

Today, Miller reopens The Pikes Theater.

The newly renovated Pikes, which includes two small theaters of approximately 80 seats each, is located right next to the Pikes Diner, which will continue to operate. Miller will run a mix of art, independent and commercial films and hopes to tap into local filmmaking talent. He stressed that while he will show some films of particular interest to the local Jewish community, he will not be competing against the JCC’s Jewish Film Festival. Rather, Miller said, he is highly motivated to collaborate with the JCC, as well as other Jewish organizations and synagogues.

“The feedback from Pikesville has been phenomenal, and [Baltimore County councilwoman] Vicki Almond [District 2] has been my ‘angel in the wings,’” he said.

For her part, Almond believes the movie theater project is great for Pikesville.

“Ira had such excitement and vision that I became a cheerleader,” she said. “He really wants this to be a boon for this part of town, and we’re trying to incorporate the whole community into it. We’re thinking of holding matinees for seniors and to do coupon deals with local restaurants. We want to make this part of Pikesville sustainable and a destination.”

Almond noted that, in addition to the new theater, there are also plans to rehabilitate the burned-out Suburban House building, as well as that entire corner at Reisterstown and Hawthorne roads.

Miller said he has arranged for abundant parking for film-goers to make the Pikes Theatre experience convenient.

“Hopefully, I’m in the right place at the right time,” said Miller

The Pikes’ first screenings are “Hava Nagila,” a documentary about the history and cultural significance of the iconic song, and the smash hit “Gravity.” On Nov. 8, “When Comedy Goes to School,” a documentary about Jewish comedians in the Catskills, will replace “Hava Nagila.”

The Pikes is located at 1001 Reisters-town Road in Pikesville. For more information, visit horizoncinemas.com.

It All Started With A Deli

M. Hirsh Goldberg’s latest book focuses on the inspiring story of the Attman family. (Melissa Gerr)

M. Hirsh Goldberg’s latest book focuses on the inspiring story of the Attman family.

Author M. Hirsh Goldberg knows a lot about Baltimore, and he knows a lot about Jews. Yet even he was surprised to learn some of the impressive details uncovered about the extended Attman family, which comprise his latest book, “It All Started with a Deli: A Remarkable Story of Business and Family Success” (Apprentice House).

“The deli was approaching its 100th anniversary,” said Goldberg. “Then learning more about the family I felt the story really had to be told.”

Harry and Ida Attman, patriarch and matriarch of the Attman clan, emigrated from Kusmien, Russia in 1912 and Podwoloscycka, Poland in 1915, respectively. Like many immigrants they started out with nearly nothing. Harry opened the deli at 1019 Lombard in 1915 (with a business partner until 1940), and Harry and Ida were married on Oct. 25, 1918. The Attmans subscribed to a strong work ethic and a deeply held belief that you always can — and should — be willing to help someone out. The book is filled with colorful anecdotes and illustrates how that sentiment has imprinted upon the DNA of three generations of Attmans, and still counting.

“What’s also interesting was discovering the simultaneous events happening in the world over almost 100 years,” said Goldberg. “For instance, not many people know that in 1919 the Spanish flu hit worldwide and killed 25 million people, and Baltimore was the fourth-largest city to have victims of the flu. The deli survived through that … [and through] the Depression and World War II.”

Goldberg would like people to come away with the optimism the Attman story offers: Even when you have very little, you can do a lot with your life. That was demonstrated with Harry and Ida who had nothing and put in long hours with hard work and had much success. They genuinely cared about their employees, their customers and family. These tenets were passed on to their off spring as well.

Harry and Ida’s three children, Edward, Leonard and Seymour, all went on to become dedicated in business as well as philanthropy. Seymour further developed the deli with success, Edward started Acme Paper, and Leonard established FutureCare Health and Management Corporation. All of them have been generous, creative supporters of many different causes, as are their own children, the grandchildren of Harry and Ida.

In Goldberg’s book there is a single line that quintessentially describes the Attman legacy: “It’s more than making a living, it’s making a life.”

“It was Harry and Ida,” said current Attman’s Deli owner Marc Attman (son of Seymour). “They told us, ‘Slow but sure, give tzedakah, go to shul, be nice to people and listen to what people have to say.”

Attman continued, “My grandfather said you’re never going to get poor giving charity. And you know what? He’s always been right. There’s nothing wrong with always going into your pocket and helping out someone in need. Even with my grandchildren. Now we always talk about tzedakah at the dinner table: ‘What did you do for someone else today?’ ‘Who did you talk to that you didn’t know?’ ‘Who did you make a friend with?’ It is just the philosophy of the Attman family. That’s what we do, I’m happy to say … and it started with my grandfather and grandmother.”

M. Hirsh Goldberg has written five other books, “The Jewish Connection,” “Just Because They’re Jewish,” “The Book of Lies,” “The Blunder Book” and “The Complete Book of Greed.” Goldberg (and some of the Attman family) will be featured and sign books on Sunday, Oct. 27 at 4 p.m. at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, 15 Lloyd St., Baltimore For more information, call 410-732-6400 or visit jewishmuseummd.org.

Melissa Gerr is JT senior staff reporter and digital media editor — mgerr@jewishtimes.com

‘Highs in the Low Fifties’


Marion Winik’s new book talks to middle-aged women interested in romance. (Melissa Gerr)

“I’ve always been the kind of person who sees the humor in something, and what these events — we won’t call them relationships —seemed to have in common, they had a strong ludicrous element,” said Marion Winik of her latest book, “Highs in the Low Fifties, how I stumbled through the joys of single living” (skirt! press), which is about dating as a middle-aged woman.

Winik’s book begins when she arrives in Baltimore in 2008 after her second marriage ends. Now she’s a resident of the Evergreen neighborhood in Roland Park, a community she loves.  She lives with her daughter, Jane, and Beau the dachshund (both featured prominently in the book) and teaches writing at the University of Baltimore.

Winik had a more difficult time publishing this book than others.  She was surprised when one publisher, after reading the first few chapters, said she would have nothing to do with it.

“I felt like I was writing a porno book or something,” said Winik. “There is this reaction that, I think, has to do with middle-aged women not generally viewed as people who are interested in sex and romance; people seem to find the subject slightly distasteful.  There’s almost no sex in it, sorry to say, but the idea for a middle-aged woman to be dating seemed to be very outrageous to people.”

Winik’s book is a memoir, but reading it feels more like sitting down with her over coffee and listening to a good friend’s hilarious and sometimes wince-inducing anecdotes about dating.

“Even though my writing is very therapeutic for me, I’m writing for other people — that’s foremost in my mind,” said Winik. “I have to entertain or offer them some reason why they would possibly care.”

And you likely will care and even laugh out loud. “Highs in the Low Fifties” recounts her two marriages (the first was to a gay man who died of AIDS, and the second was a “debate-club-on-steroids” marriage that ended in divorce) and the litany of men Winik meets via online dating and through friends. There are even those who just happen to be working on her house.

It’s ultimately a book filled with love and laughs and many instances where you might find yourself thinking, “You did what?”

But Winik’s book isn’t a how-to book of dating secrets, and it doesn’t offer the tidy endings that you might find in fiction. Instead, it’s real and heartfelt and brave — much like Winik.

“We crave to know how other people are on the inside because part of what makes us all lonely is the sense that we don’t know if other people are like us and if they feel the same things, and fiction tells you that,” said Winik. “But memoir tells you that in a way that’s extremely intimate. What memoir has is an actual real communication between real people. Even though these readers might not meet me, we are having a true interaction. When you read a [fiction] novel you’re interacting with the fictional person, not the author.”

There are two opportunities to experience that real (and likely hilarious) communication with Winik. She reads at the 510 Series at Minas Gallery in Hampden on Oct. 19 at 5 p.m. and at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC on Nov. 5 at 7 p.m.  Her books will be available for purchase and signing at each event. Learn more at marionwinik.com.

Melissa Gerr is JT senior staff reporter and digital media editor — mgerr@jewishtimes.com

Not Only for Art’s Sake


Dr. Dean Kane, with the help of his wife, Lauri, will hold his first exhibition later this month. Proceeds will benefit The Red Devils. (Photos by David Stuck)

Dr. Dean Kane spends his life making people’s lives, and the spaces in which they live and work, more lovely. As one of Baltimore’s leading plastic surgeons, Dr. Kane, 59, has been helping patients improve their appearances for more than a quarter-century. As an artist, he has added color, texture and beauty to their surroundings. In both cases, Dr. Kane’s work has transformed the lives of others not only by aesthetic standards, but also by the emotions they inspire in both patients and art lovers.

He and his wife/business partner, Lauri, 58, will make an even more significant impact when they host Art for Hope, an event celebrating the opening of Dr. Kane’s first public art exhibition, which will benefit The Red Devils, an organization that supports Maryland’s breast cancer patients and their families. The event will take place on Oct. 16 in The Gallery at The Ritz-Carlton Residences located on the Federal Hill waterfront. The evening will include light fare, an open bar, signature cocktails and a silent auction and raffle.

Art for Hope will honor Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and her mother, Dr. Nina Rawlings, a breast cancer survivor.

“My art has evolved since the 1960s when I first became involved with photography,” Dr. Kane said.
“I began taking photographs when I was 13, and by 14 I had my own dark room.”

As time went on, Dr. Kane was drawn to more sculptural work and developed an interest in metals. With the advent of digital photography, he discovered Adobe Photoshop that would eventually enable him to create a technique that he calls PhotoSculpture.

PhotoSculpture starts with a single photograph. Dr. Kane takes a digital image, uploads it to his computer and then manipulates it — embellishing it, changing its shape, reconfiguring it, reconstructing it and enhancing its colors. Once he has an image he likes, he prints the photo, making as many as 50 copies. He then formats the picture by cutting out each part of each image by hand.

“Each petal is part of a photograph I took,” said Dr. Kane, pointing to a large three-dimensional flower that hangs on The Ritz-Carleton’s gallery wall. “Then, I layer the cut-out parts of the images on top of each other over and over again until I get the three-dimensional image I envisioned.”

Each cut-out layer is decorated with acrylic paint; wires and metal mesh, or other materials are added; and finally, the whole image is lacquered. The art ranges from 10-by-10 inches to as large as 40-by-40 inches, said Lauri Kane.

One of the most striking aspects of Dr. Kane’s work are the vivid colors.

Dr. Dean Kane’s decorative three-dimensional art is inspired by photography. “Each petal is a part of a photograph I took,” he said. (Photos David Stuck)

Dr. Dean Kane’s decorative three-dimensional art is inspired by photography. “Each petal is a part of a photograph I took,” he said. (Photos David Stuck)

“You can’t get colors like this with pigment, but you can when you work with photography,” he said. “When you deconstruct a photo with Photoshop and then reconstruct it with layers, the original image takes on a whole different character.”

Dr. Kane’s collection includes a series of sculptures and modular pieces, some based on subjects such as Ray Lewis, the Ravens and the Orioles; others depict the doctor’s interpretations of natural phenom-ena (such as the four seasons), Van Gough’s lilies and many types of flowers. Dr. Kane said his work has been influenced by pop artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Jackson Pollock.

Not all of Dr. Kane’s work is exclusively decorative. He has also created usable art in the form of a set of
multimedia vases.

“If you do everything on the wall, you’re missing the ceiling and the base,” he said.

The vases, which are constructed similarly to his other works, are made functional by a glass vase that is placed inside the decorative outer shell.

One of his most original creations is a three-dimensional scrapbook of his life that Dr. Kane calls “MyWall.”

The scrapbook consists of images attached to modular squares that can be removed or rearranged as desired. Each square represents important people and events in Dr. Kane’s life; there are images of family members, friends and scenes of New York, where the Kanes used to live.

Much of Dr. Kane’s art has been inspired by the traveling he and Lauri have done over their 40 years tog-ether. In fact, he is quick to credit his wife with much of his success.

“I may have a unique gift for art, but Lauri’s gift is communication,” said her husband. Lauri Kane, who has a Ph.D. in public health, was instrumental in obtaining The Ritz-Carlton’s gallery space for her husband’s exhibition, as well as organizing the fundraiser for The Red Devils. She is extremely proud of the work the organization does with only one full-time (and one part-time) staff member.
“Everyone else is a volunteer,” she said.
“We are in 40 hospitals, all in Maryland, and we raise about $600,000 a year. Our funding takes care of child care, transportation, BGE bills, rent and food for breast cancer patients — and their families — while they are undergoing treatment,” said Lauri Kane, who is on the board of directors for The Red Devils. “And what’s really great is that we do this without red tape. There is no paperwork, no waiting. Women and their families receive funds immediately as long as a nurse practitioner says they need it.”

The Kanes also contribute to Hadassah and Susan G. Komen, among others.

“All the pieces [on display in the gallery] are for sale, and a percentage of the sales will go to The Red Devils,” said Lauri Kane.

The raffle will be a personalized commission of the winner’s own personal photo.

Art for Hope takes place on Wednesday, Oct. 16 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in The Gallery at The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Inner Harbor, 801 Key Highway. The event is free, and complimentary valet parking is provided. For more information and to RSVP, visit deankaneart.com.

Simone Ellin is JT senior features reporter — sellin@jewishtimes.com