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

Ah, Music

David Broza will bring his charismatic and energetic music to Jewish Baltimore later this month.

David Broza will bring his charismatic and energetic music to Jewish Baltimore later this month.

David Broza is an Israeli music superstar. And with more than 25 albums, many of which have become multiplatinum, he’s also someone who gets attention worldwide.

His style has been described as charismatic and energetic, a fusion of the three countries in which he was raised: Israel, Spain and England.

In the past, Broza, 58, would tour the country singing his songs for the masses. His sound engineer was a local man, Peter Winer, who tragically passed away in a motorcycle accident in June 2012. He was 54. On Nov. 21, Broza will return to Baltimore for a concert in Winer’s honor.

The Baltimore Jewish Times caught up with Broza to ask him about his music and his friend.

JT: How are the parts of the world in which you were raised reflected in your music?
Broza:
With Spain, I spent my teenage years there. But it was only after that it had an effect on me. My connection to Spain came in the aftermath, when I returned to Israel. Then I realized how much Spain was a part of me and how I had been influenced there. I furthered that connection in 2000 when I went again to live in Spain and write music. I had three albums released in Spain.

You always put on an energetic show. But your life off stage is pretty robust, too. Talk about your passion for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
It is not a passion, but I am living in the reality of what I come from, and I have been dealing with a possible solution [to the conflict] coming on a people-to-people level, not political. People-to-people needs to be introduced at a very young age through education, and we can condition ourselves to tolerance and coexistence. This is just part of my life.

Have you done work with Palestinian artists?
I have … collaborated with Palestinian musicians, and I work in East Jerusalem a lot. I am about to release an album I recorded in East Jerusalem. This is not a show, it is part of my way of life. … I have been working with Palestinian-run studios in East Jerusalem — on an engineering level and playing together.

Talk about how music can be a catalyst for peace.
Art and music penetrate deep into the subconscious, into the heart and soul of people; it is not about intellectualizing. If you like it and you strike a tone, then people connect. … They could decide to put earmuffs on and block the sound, but if they don’t, then they get affected. It is a nice role to try to build trust, to try to break down the walls through music, which inadvertently can
help in conditioning people toward resolving the conflict. After that, the politicians have to come in and finish up the hard work. But music can penetrate the heart and mind.

The lyrics for your songs are often poems — your own and others. Talk about the importance of the rhythm versus the words. How do they interplay?
Lyrics and music are one; when I write lyrics, I try to dress them with a melody. One feeds off the other.

Talk about your connection to Peter Winer.
I met Pete when I came to the U.S. in the 1980s. He was introduced to me by a friend who used to work with me in Israel, and we struck a professional relationship. He toured with me as sound engineer. … We crisscrossed this country together for about 13 years. He got to know me very personally, and I knew him intimately. In the last years, we were each in our own worlds, and we lost touch a bit, though we tried to keep in touch. His life ended tragically in an accident. I feel honored to be able to bring [this concert] in his memory.

Is there anything special/unique that people should expect?
I like the city of Baltimore, I have always liked it and have written a few songs around that. Since Pete came from Baltimore, it was a reference point for 13 years; we started in Baltimore, or he came from Baltimore to pick me up. I have not been back in a long time, and I am looking forward to coming and playing this concert.

David Broza
In Memory of Peter Winer
Thursday, Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m.
$28 in advance; $32 at the door (subject to availability)
Visit gordoncenter.com

Maayan Jaffe is JT editor-in-chief — mjaffe@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.

Breaking The Cycle

Photos from the field: Meir Panim feeds hundreds of thousands of  impoverished Israelis. (Photos provided)

Photos from the field: Meir Panim feeds hundreds of thousands of
impoverished Israelis. (Photos provided)

When Americans think about Israel, what generally comes to mind is the Western Wall, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict andthe Iranian nuclear threat. What many people are not aware of is that 1.8 million Israelis live below the poverty line — 860,000 of whom are children.

Nonprofit organization Meir Panim is working not only to feed hungry Israelis, but also to do it in dignified ways. At the same time, it is taking steps to break the poverty cycle through creative programming.

“There is — just like in America — a tremendous divide in the well-off and the not well-off,” said Deborah Brown, project director at American Friends of Meir Panim, the organization’s American counterpart. “There is a large segment of the population, almost 25 percent, that is living below the poverty line, and people are shocked when they find out.”

Leslie Goldberg, Maryland regional director for American Friends of Meir Panim, said immigrants from Ethiopia, Russia and other countries aren’t always given the help they need when they move to Israel, contributing to the country’s poverty rate.

“They just don’t have the financial resources, and they often live in impoverished communities,” she said.

To raise awareness and money for the organization, American Friends of Meir Panim is holding three events in Baltimore, the first of which is Vocaltrition on Sunday, Nov. 10. The name is a mash-up of vocal — the concert will feature Jewish and cantorial music — and nutrition, for the multimillion-dollar nutrition center under construction in Israel.

The 100,000-square-foot Mortimer Zuckerman and Abigail Zuckerman Israel Nutrition Center will be the largest food production center in Israel and will be able to prepare 30,000 meals a day for Meir Panim’s free restaurants, Meals on Wheels and after-school programs. It will also employ 200 people.

110113_Breaking-The-Cycle2“We’ll be able to deliver to our restaurants and to homebound people and children in need,” said David Roth, president of American Friends of Meir Panim.

Cantor Emanuel Perlman of Chizuk Amuno first put a concert together for Meir Panim in 2004 with the help of several other Baltimore-area cantors, including Beth Tfiloh’s Avi Albrecht, who will also be performing at Vocaltrition.

“We wanted to raise three-quarters-of-a-million dollars, and that’s exactly what we did with area cantors,” Perlman said.

He first heard about Meir Panim, which helps Jews and non-Jews alike, from Albrecht and was appalled at the figures he heard. Having worked in many charitable capacities over the years, Perlman had to get involved.

“We are living in a time where you can’t wait for somebody else to do it. … That’s not the way [of the] cantors,” he said. “We are messengers for God, so I guess now we are feeding people.”

The concert also features Temple Oheb Shalom’s Cantor Emeritus Melvin Luterman and special guest cantor, Yitzchok Meir Helfgot. Two other “American Idol”-style events in December and March will also raise money for Meir Panim.

Meir Panim advocates emphasize that the organization doesn’t just feed hungry Israelis, it feeds them with dignity.

Instead of soup kitchens, Meir Panim holds “free restaurants” for its clients.

“People can sit down and be served like a mentsch and not stand in line with a plate waiting for bread,” Brown said.

Through Israel’s welfare department, the organization distributes food cards to clients, which can be used to buy groceries. Again, to maintain dignity for the clients, the cards look and work just like regular debit cards. Clients cannot buy alcohol or tobacco with the cards.

The organization also gives vocational training and runs after-school programs. The children are given one-on-one tutoring, computer classes, other enrichment activities and a meal before they head home. Parents are engaged by coming to some of the kids’ activities and are also taught home budgeting, parenting skills and language skills, if they need them.

“We’re really trying to not just meet the immediate need, which is food and hunger, but [we are trying to] put them in a position where they won’t need this in the future,” Brown said. “They could go on to break themselves out of the cycle of poverty, and they won’t need the free meal tomorrow and their children won’t need that free meal.”

Roth echoed Brown’s sentiment.

“Meir Panim’s goal actually is to get out of business,” he said. “But our mission is, as long as there’s a hungry person in Israel, we will feed them.”

For more information and tickets to Vocaltrition, visit helfgotconcert.com. Meir Panim will be collecting donations of travel-size toiletries at the concert. For information on the Voices concerts, which include a female-exclusive event, visit voicecompetition.com.

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

The Joke’s On Us

Bryan Fogel (center), writer, director  and producer of “Jewtopia,” poses  with his acting team during filming. (Provided)

Bryan Fogel (center), writer, director
and producer of “Jewtopia,” poses
with his acting team during filming. (Provided)

Some have charged that “Jewtopia,” the new film written, directed and co-produced by Bryan Fogel, is chock full of negative stereotypes about Jews. To his critics, Fogel has pleaded guilty as charged.

“They are 100 percent right. That’s comedy.  The entire film is playing on stereotypes,” he said.

And the film doesn’t only stereotype Jews, Fogel pointed out. It stereotypes gentiles, too.

The romantic comedy, inspired by “Jewtopia,” the uber-successful play, which Fogel, 40, co-wrote and starred in, is about two childhood friends, Christian O’Connell (Ivan Sergei) and Adam Lipschitz (Joel David Moore). Christian (not the Jewish character incidentally) wants to marry a Jewish girl so “he never has to make another decision in his life,” while Adam (you guessed it — he’s the Jewish guy), who is engaged to a bossy, demanding Jewish woman (Jamie-Lynn Sigler), needs Christian’s help to maintain his sanity.

When Christian poses as a Jew named Avi Rosenberg to woo a rabbi’s daughter (Jennifer Love Hewitt), he asks Adam to show him how to be Jewish. Adam teaches Christian to use Yiddish words, drive waiters crazy in restaurants, eat lots of salmon, complain about his health and never to discuss power tools or guns with his prospective in-laws. Fortunately for Fogel, as a Jew, he can get away with the Jewish jokes and gets lots of laughs in the process.

Recently, the Baltimore Jewish Times caught up with Fogel to learn more about his life and work.

JT: When did you first become interested in a career in show business?
Fogel: It was in college at the University of Colorado Boulder. I was mostly interested in doing stand-up comedy and writing. After college, I moved to L.A. to look for work. It wasn’t going too well until “Jewtopia” came around.

“Jewtopia” began as a play. How did you come to write it?
It came out of a 10-minute scene about a Jewish singles mixer I wrote with my friend Sam Wolfson for a one-act play festival. People really seemed to like it so we decided to make it into a full-length play. It was really successful. The movie really came out of the success of the play, but it’s really different from the play. I’d say it isn’t so much adapted from the play as inspired by the play. It took six years to make.

You really assembled an all-star cast. What was it like to work with them?
That was really cool. It was my first movie, and I never expected to land that level of talent. We had Jennifer Love Hewitt, Rita Wilson, Jon Lovitz, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Tom Arnold, Nicollette Sheridan, Joel David Moore, Ivan Sergei, Wendie Malick, Camryn Manheim and Phil Rosenthal. … It was pretty exciting, awesome. They were great to work with.

When did the movie come out?
It was released on Sept. 20 in select theaters and On Demand. It’s really fun, a little crazy and over the top.

You starred in the play but didn’t act in the movie, right?
Yes, when the play first opened in L.A., I starred in it, and then it went to N.Y. and I must have performed it about 1,000 times. Originally, I planned to star in the movie, but I quickly realized I wasn’t right for the character. I didn’t want it to be a vanity project, and I never would have gotten the cast I did if I had starred in it. When you direct, you don’t get the glory of being in front of the camera, but I really enjoyed it. It’s like you’re captain of the ship. And since I was so close to the material, directing was the best way to see to it that my vision made it on screen.

How has it been received so far?
I’m told it is doing really well, especially On Demand.

What are you working on now that the film is done?
I’m working on a new play, it’s a one-man show, and I have two movie projects and a couple of ideas for TV.  One is animated. I’m trying to work on the content. I also do lots of
appearances at Jewish events — federation fundraisers, universities and schools.

Ever been to Baltimore?
Yes, actually. I have a funny, awful story about Baltimore. Do you remember about three years ago when there was a Nor’easter? They’d been talking about it for two weeks beforehand. I was supposed to be performing at the Hippodrome for several nights. The storm hit right then. It was terrible, we had sold 1,200 tickets, and something like half of those people canceled. It was just terrible timing. I’d love to come back to Baltimore to do a show. For me, I love when I’m able to bring my show and my humor to different cities and be involved in helping Jewish communities fund raise.

Your parents must be proud of you.
They’d be proud of me if I was a bank robber!

For more information about Bryan Fogel, visit bryanfogel.com. For more information about “Jewtopia,” visit jewtopiaworld.com.

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

‘A Genius Who Transcended Rock’

 

Lou Reed dies at 71.

Lou Reed dies at 71.

Musician and guitarist Lou Reed, the front-man for the band Velvet Underground, as well as a solo artist, died Sunday, Oct. 27.

Reed, who was born to a Jewish family, was 71.

He had a liver transplant last year after years of alcohol and drug abuse. A cause of death was not made public.

Reed, born Lewis Allan Reed in Brooklyn, N.Y., became influential in rock by blending art and music in New York in the 1960s through Velvet Underground’s collaboration with pop artist Andy Warhol.  The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Reed’s vocals were featured on Velvet Underground hits such as “Sweet Jane,” “Venus in Furs,” “Oh! Sweet Nuthin,’” among others.

Reed quit the band in 1970 and focused on his solo career, which featured the 1972 hit song “Walk on the Wild Side.”

Randallstown resident and owner of Larry’s Record Shop Larry Kessler remembers Reed as a laid-back, underground and mysterious figure. He played bass in The Godz, a punk band that was coming up in Greenwich Village the same time as the Velvet Underground.

“I realize now how culturally big he was,” Kessler said. “So many bands were influenced by him … like The Ramones were influenced by him I’m sure, that kind of freedom he had in his music.”
Reed visited Israel five years ago with his musician wife, Laurie Anderson, during her world tour. He reportedly was coy about his Jewish roots. He was quoted as saying, “My God is rock ’n’ roll” and “The most important part of my religion is to play guitar.”

In 2004, Reed read a poem he wrote called “The Raven,” based on the Edgar Allan Poe classic, at the Downtown Seder. He also took part in last year’s Downtown Seder in New York City. The unique Passover event features artists, political figures, writers, poets, comedians and more.

Jewish stars such as Bette Midler, Richard Lewis and Judd Apatow, in addition to scores of musicians, tweeted about Reed’s death and praised him highly.

“Lou Reed, my friend, a genius who transcended rock,” Lewis tweeted. “My condolences to his family. A poet [first], he performed like a hit-man on a mission. RIP.”

Between Sunday night and Monday morning, streams of songs by Reed and the Velvet Underground increased by more than 3,000 percent on streaming service Spotify, according to reports.

Sunday night, numerous bands paid tribute to the late singer. Pearl Jam front-man Eddie Vedder said it was a “rough day,” and the band dedicated one of its songs to him, and covered Velvet Underground’s “I’m Waiting For The Man” at its Baltimore show. Tributes were also performed by The Black Crowes, Phish, Gov’t Mule and My Morning Jacket with Neil Young and Elvis Costello.

JTA Wire Service contributed to this article.

‘Dream Like An Artist, Dress Like A Banker’

Gilbert Trout (Melissa Gerr)

Gilbert Trout (Melissa Gerr)

What do classical music, deep-data mining, devotion to Judaism and family and commercial real estate have in common? Gilbert Trout.

Speaking very modestly, Trout attributes his talents and successes to genetics and by referring to the remarkable life of his grandfather, Arthur Jacob, who was an entrepreneur ahead of his time, who saved his family from the Holocaust and who was a world-class pianist. But as Trout talks about his personal interests, it becomes obvious that another innate quality all his own is at play. Passion.

When Trout was a teenager in Cambridge, Mass., he detested classical music, but his mother, Dr. Paulette Trout, regularly dragged him to the Boston Symphony. His tastes were more geared to the electric bass he played in a friend’s rock-and-roll band. But at the end of one concert, his mother elbowed him and said, gesturing to the genius composer and conductor who graced the stage, “There’s your model. Dream like an artist, but dress like a banker.” Those words stuck with him and, conscious or not, have been a driving force in his life.

“It’s not about being an artist, it’s not about being a banker,” said Trout. “It’s about being a creative person, who can use one’s creativity in any field as long as one has a structure of practicality with the arts. And I don’t care if you’re an accountant, a lawyer or a doctor, there’s always creativity at play. But to give free reign to that creativity in an uninhibited way and to make money doing it was a real nice lesson. And that’s similar to my grandfather — that’s been my model for music and business and even technology, the three areas of my personal interest.”

His mother replaced the electric bass with a standup bass, and Trout joined the Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra. Success was slow coming.

Then he encountered Mahler’s 5th Symphony, and there was no turning back.

“There’s a slow movement … it’s all strings, one harp, no brass, no winds, no percussion,” said Trout. “And you know teenagers have a lot of emotion, and it can go in all sorts of directions. But if you listen to this slow movement, it’s just unraveling of pure beauty and love. … Music is a gift, where a regular person could see inside the mind of a genius. And the genius could talk to him from a different century and a different part of the world and communicate. I remember getting the shivers and thinking, ‘Whoa, there’s something deeper going on in this piece.’”

Trout continued, “There’s a reason that something so unpractical would still be around today. There’s a higher power there that I can’t really put my finger on. Where words stop, music continues. The chasidim have a unique musical tradition called niggunim, which are musical pieces that are sung, but they don’t have words. They’re vowels like ‘noi noi noi’ or ‘dai dai dai,’ because once you put the framework of words onto it, saying this is the meaning of this melody, it’s tied down to words, it’s tied down to a message. They’ve liberated that by taking away the words, and there’s a higher level of spirituality there. I don’t know why, but it exists.”

Trout was committed. He attended New England Conservatory and trans- ferred to Indiana University, where he met his wife, Miriam. He became an accomplished classical bass player, joined the National Orchestra in Greece, and while living there he and his wife became more observant of Jewish traditions. He loved music, but it became a personal conflict to perform on Shabbat. Just then Trout encountered another person who would impart advice he would come to live by. Sir Simon Rattle (now chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic) was touring Greece when they met. Trout explained the encounter:

“He said, ‘Gilbert, I have a piece of advice. What do you like about music?’ I said, ‘I like this, I like that.’ He said, ‘Good. Are you passionate about it?’ ‘Absolutely!’ Then he said, ‘I want you to remember everything you said and take all that passion you have for music and say why don’t I be passionate about other things? Figure out what makes you tick and see how you can apply it across other things, and at the same time don’t stop your music.’”

This thinking helped catapult Trout to the next stage of his music career. He began conducting and composing with great success. Both provided him more control over his schedule, and his passion and talents transferred naturally. Trout and his wife returned to the U.S., where he received his masters in composing at Tufts University, and it was there he also discovered the multimedia lab. The combination of arts, education, and technology was seductive. Then came another stage.

“I got very involved in that, and I realized that I was a closet geek, I loved technology, I could sit for hours and make it do what I wanted it to do,” said Trout.

His technology talents landed him a job at Perot Systems conducting deep-data mining and later at Harvard creating distance education multimedia programs featuring the best of Harvard lectures. He also continued to conduct and compose. Still curious about how his knowledge and passions could evolve, eight years ago Trout applied an arts-centric approach to real estate using data-mining and marketing skills, and now he is director of investment sales at Trout Daniel & Associates.

“I vigilantly work for the client from when they reach out to me to way past the settlement table,” said Trout. “However, I can help them improve their lot financially. I’m like a Swiss army knife. I try to bring in every tool they want to succeed. If that means bringing in leasing, I’ll bring it in; if it means management, I’ll bring in management; if they need marketing, I’ll bring in that; if they need technology, I’ll bring in that. I’m intensely loyal to clients.”

Trout continued: “Being the son of a Holocaust survivor I have a type of, let’s call it, ethical vengeance on behalf of my clients. I really want to dig in and see them succeed. There are lots of dangers in life, and I want to help people succeed.”

Trout explained what he meant by ethical vengeance.

“I really feel that my mother survived the war through people’s creativity, people finding ways for her to survive,” he said. “I feel my mother survived the war because of people who made an ethical choice at the end of the day, who said, you know, I don’t want to be with the masses, I don’t want to just shut my eyes to the problem. And there were people who rescued my mother’s family and preserved her life. … So there were people intensely loyal to my family to help them survive, and that’s been brought down from the generations from my mom.”

As his commercial real estate work grows, his music continues to be performed around the world, as well. His latest musical compositions utilize technology, enabling Trout to write, perform and produce pieces himself. As a busy father, and his wife the assistant director of the Bais Yaakov preschool, it’s impressive how he fits it all in.

Trout said, “I would feel guilty if I didn’t do them. The good Lord gives you talent — I’m not saying I have talent, but if the good Lord gives you talent, you have the obligation to use it … We’re in the generation that we can choose what we do in life. We can do things like compose at wee hours of the morning or create fascinating multimedia projects — we can do that, that’s a real gift.”

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

Let’s Get This Party Started

Lara Friedman, in purple tank top, shows a group of girls how to get down.

Lara Friedman, in purple tank top, shows a group of girls how to get down.

Growing up with three older sisters and a videographer father, Lara Friedman attended a lot of bar and bat mitzvah parties. As a dancer, there was always one aspect of the parties that piqued her curiosity.

“I always thought, ‘How much fun would that be to get paid to dance at a party?’” she said. “… I just love that atmosphere and the energy that a party provides. It’s just all around a good time.”

The 22-year-old has fulfilled that dream as a dancer for DJ Mike on the Mic, Pikesville native Mike Pachino’s company. Friedman is in her last semester at Towson University, student-teaching to become a certified K-12 dance teacher. She dances at DJ Mike’s events on the weekends.

Pachino says most of his dancers are in some kind of dance education program, either at Towson or Loyola universities, or work in other entertainment capacities. One dancer works for Disney cruises, and Pachino has had Ravens cheerleaders work for him as well.

Pachino started out in the party business at age 11 by helping his father’s company, Entertainment by Joe Pachino. These days, the two companies share dancers, and Friedman is one of DJ Mike’s favorites.

“She really knows how to get them going,” he said.

As Friedman explains, working a party, and getting the crowd going, takes a lot more than simply showing up and dancing.

Friedman and the other dancers — there are two or three at each gig — wear all black, and DJ Mike gives them sparkly sequined tops to wear, usually ones that match the party’s colors.

To kick the party off, they’ll often dance to an energizing song and try to get the guests involved by doing some moves with easy hand gestures that even the most uncoordinated can follow. The dancers make sure the party flows well, from dancing to popular music, to the horah, to the candle lighting, to dinner and dessert.

“A big part of our job is the horah … We’re supposed to make sure everyone’s grabbing hands,” Friedman said. “We join in for the horah; [at this point] we’re a part of the party.”

DJ Mike has a particular way he likes the horah to run. The dancers help form two circles, one with the family in the middle and an outer circle of guests. After the chairs are raised in the air, the dancers lead them in a conga line around the room and bring them back to the dance floor to make a tunnel with their hands that the bar or bat mizvah can run though.

“Everyone really enjoys it every time,” Friedman said.

Each party is different, and the guests that are most engaged vary with the parties.

“Sometimes the boys are more into it because they’re like, ‘Yeah, I want to learn how to dance and show off these moves to impress the girls,’” she said. “Sometimes the girls stick to their little cliques.”

At some parties, the grandparents and parents are easier to engage. But the goal is always the same: to “get everyone on their feet ready to dance and ready to have a good time,” Friedman explains.

Fortunately, Friedman hasn’t experienced any bad or difficult parties. The worst situations she has encountered are when floor space is limited in restaurants, for example, and when some guests just want to sit and talk. She still tries to encourage them with hand motions and gives them party favors anyway.

“You want [to still have] a cohesive party feeling,” she said. “Everyone’s having a good time.”

Friedman has seen some pretty extreme parties. She recalls one with a sports theme that had foosball tables, a Nintendo Wii setup and raffles that included equipment, jerseys and Ravens tickets.

Friedman was brought up in a Conservative Jewish family and said the upbringing helped her with what she does now.

“Knowing the whole routine — candle lighting, what kids do, they have a speech, the horah, the challah, the motzi — just knowing that and knowing the structure of the party has helped tremendously,” she said. “And knowing how to say ‘mazel tov.’”

In college, Friedman has been active in Towson University’s Chabad and traveled on a Birthright Israel trip with the Chabad rabbi during her junior year.

“Judaism will always be a part of my life,” she said.

But will bar and bat mitvah dancing remain a part of her life once she’s out of college and teaching?

Definitely, she said. “I love it. It’s one of the best jobs ever.”

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

A Celebration For The Ages

The current adult b'nai mitzvah class at Baltimore Hebrew  Congregation just began its two-year process. Class  members are (from left): Alma Bergman, Chris Erd, instructor  Cantor Ann Sacks and Marci Messick. Not shown is Erin Gleeson.

The current adult b’nai mitzvah class at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation just began its two-year process. Class members are (from left): Alma Bergman, Chris Erd, instructor Cantor Ann Sacks and Marci Messick. Not shown is Erin Gleeson.

Gina Barr thought she knew almost everything there was to know about Judaism. Then she decided to have a bat mitzvah.

“Boy,” Barr says of the two-year process leading up to the ceremony, “Let me tell you, it’s an eye-opener.”

Barr is one of a relatively small number of Jewish adults choosing to undergo b’nai mitzvah studies later in life. At many Baltimore-area synagogues, classes of anywhere from one to 20 or more people complete the milestone every year.

For Barr, 53, who converted to Judaism from Roman Catholicism three decades prior, the decision to have a bat mitzvah at the age of 48 was easy. In many ways, it was almost a logical progression.

“I just wanted to keep discovering what this religion is about,” she says.

A self-described “Jew by choice,” Barr spent years immersing herself in her new religion. She kept kosher and attended services in every new town she and her military family moved to, but still she wanted more.

“Jews by choice have this ferocious appetite,” Barr says, and completing the bat mitzvah process was her solution.

In some ways, Barr envies her Jewish friends, with their long family histories full of Jewish tradition.

“We [Jews by choice] don’t typically have that history behind us,” she says. “We really have to build it for ourselves.”

The reasons behind the decision to have an adult bar or bat mitzvah ceremony are plenty, says Cantor Ann Sacks of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation (BHC,) head of the adult b’nai mitzvah program at the synagogue. Some participants are women who were unable to have bat mitzvah ceremonies at their childhood synagogues, others converted as adults and still more underwent the process at the age of 13 but choose to repeat it to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the ritual.

“We try to have ongoing support for adults who never received solid Hebrew educations when they were kids,” says Cantor Sacks.

The process for adult b’nai mitzvah candidates differs in some ways from that of their teenage counterparts. For one thing, adults at BHC attend two years of classes before their ceremonies. Classes are held on Sundays and are held collectively, creating a strong group dynamic.

“We were like a family,” says Barr of her class. “We all helped each other.”

Barr recalls her group learned to adjust to each individual’s strengths and weaknesses, even helping to accommodate a tone-deaf student who struggled with chanting.

The first year of the b’nai mitzvah preparation program focuses on the Hebrew language. Hebrew ability varies from person to person at first, explains Sacks, who teaches Sunday Hebrew classes. The classes aim to get group members on the same plane so they can better understand the prayers. Some candidates come in with a solid knowledge of Hebrew, so they can opt to take another class offered by the synagogue, but most people beginning the process prefer to brush up on their Hebrew, says Cantor Sacks.

While Sacks teaches the first year by herself, students work with BHC’s other cantor and the congregation’s two rabbis in the second year of learning before finally being called to the Torah.

The process is undoubtedly time consuming, but between taking her son to Hebrew school classes, raising her family and maintaining her own career, Barr managed to fit it in.

“I picked the time,” she says. “I could have done it earlier. I could have done it later. I said, ‘This is the time.’ I saw a window of opportunity.”

When the day came for Barr and her peers to lead the congregation, the temple was packed with friends, family and other supporters.

“It just really gave you chills,” she remembers.

The experience allowed Barr to reflect and gain a deeper understanding of the prayers she had been reciting for decades, but she was surprised to find she was able to keep a lot of her emotion at bay.

“You think you’re going to be crying and bawling,” Barr says. “But it was just so delightful.”

Now a veteran of the b’nai mitzvah process, Barr, who prior to her own bat mitzvah had observed her daughter and eldest son as they prepared for their simchas, watched her youngest son go through the process earlier this year from a whole new vantage point. This time, she did so with the full knowledge of an insider. Having experienced everything just a few years prior, she was relaxed.

In addition to the understanding she gained through the process, Barr says she has found the value of her adult bat mitzvah transfers into her life outside of a formal religious setting.

“I even have it on my resume,” she says. “It’s listed under my personal endeavors section because I thought it was such an accomplishment.

Heather Norris is a JT staff reporter — hnorris@jewishtimes.com