You Should Know … Shlomo Bolts

Shlomo Bolts (Photo by David Stuck)

Shlomo Bolts (Photo by David Stuck)

For nearly a decade, Shlomo Bolts, 27, has been an activist for human rights and against war atrocities as well as a proponent of Jewish-Arab dialogue. Born in New Jersey and raised Orthodox Jewish in Miami, he attended Jewish day school. He became involved in Middle East issues at Columbia University, where he majored in political science and sociology. He earned a master’s degree at Cambridge University in England, where he studied the first Palestinian intifada and the ongoing violence in India’s contested Kashmir region.

A Syrian Jew on his mother’s side, Bolts works as a policy and advocacy officer at the Syrian American Council, a lobbying group where he produces policy papers, reports, op-eds and briefings.

What is your family history?

My great-grandmother was from Aleppo, Syria, and came to the U.S. at about the time of World War I. It was a very tumultuous time in the region since the Ottoman Empire was collapsing. My father’s side is European, partly from [what is now] Belarus in the city of Vitebsk. They left before Hitler got started [with the Final Solution] in the 1930s. They came here as refugees.

Describe your great-grandmother’s journey

My great-grandmother was in Aleppo, as part of the Dweck family. There were a lot of Syrian Jews named Dweck. When my great-grandmother came here, she was in El Paso Texas, for a while, and then they moved to Brooklyn. They then went to Miami, where my grandmother grew up.

Describe your time as a political activist at Columbia.

This is where I learned Arabic. I was involved in trying to bridge the divide between Jews and Arabs. At the time, I was working on issues like Darfur, as part of campaigns to end genocide.  We did a big rally in Central Park.

And at Cambridge during the Arab Spring?

I was pushing for intervention. At one protest I was at, people held photo signs of the dictators with giant X’s on them. I was holding the sign with [Syrian President Bashir al] Assad on it.  I felt like all of the dictators had to go.

By April 2012, there was a big massacre in Homs [by the Syrian government against armed rebels]. I had to do something for them.

Then your research was on the Syrian conflict …

I remember one of my last conversations with my grandmother. She told me that Aleppo had been such a beautiful city. I remember how vigorously she said that. It was something I kept in the back of my mind.

In July 2012, I wanted to work more directly with the pro-democracy people, because the policy community wasn’t getting it. I wanted to amplify the pro-democracy groups. I worked with two groups: POMED [Project on Middle East Democracy] and Syrian Expatriates Organization. I now work with Syrian American Council.

What if Assad’s government was replaced by a radical Islamist regime?

I don’t agree with this attitude, which I know is prevalent among some in Israel, which is: “If you let the dictators go, the extremists will take power.” That’s a surface explanation. The full explanation is that the dictators are cultivating the extremists so that they force the West to keep them in power for fear of the [radicals]. The solution is to get the dictators out of power and find a group’s leader willing to participate in the democratic process, even if he is crazy.

What is your goal?

Sounding the alarm [on the Syrian civil war] is exactly it. The fact that we can ignore genocide is an idea that should have been disabused a long time ago. To the American Jewish community, I say it has everything to do with you. It’s not going to stop if we just bury our heads in the sand. This is a genocide, and it’s being carried out by many anti-Israel militias from Iranian proxies. And on the other side are people who want freedom and live their own lives.

Start Your Summer with Yummy, Healthy Foods

(David Stuck)

(David Stuck)

Memorial Day weekend truly announces the beginning of everything summer. Juicy redberries and blueberries march out in time for our patriotic red, white and blue summer holidays.
Of all the berries looking for attention, those blackberries call out to me the most.  They are simple, dark and juicy, and you can eat them, cook or bake with them or use them to garnish a fruit tray.

Taste them for sweetness first. If they are too tart, sprinkle with any sweetener and let them marinate in the fridge for a few hours. At their prime, blackberries have a short harvest, so grab the fresh ones when you can.

And blueberries are in the beginning of their prime season. Firm and sweet, they are just so versatile and healthy. As for strawberries, the local ones may be smaller and not as sturdy as those brought in from other states. And locals are not guaranteed to be sweeter. If you can, taste one before buying them.

Cheesecake-stuffed strawberries
Dairy or Pareve

A pint or quart of fresh large strawberries (depending on size) or 24 large strawberries
24-ounce container of Philadelphia Cheesecake Filling (dairy) or homemade pareve filling
Mini-chocolate chips, graham cracker crumbs, crushed almonds  or other topping

For pareve filling:
12 ounces pareve cream cheese, at room temperature
1½ teaspoons vanilla
4 tablespoons confectioners sugar
A few drops of milk (use pareve milk  or creamer substitute if making nondairy) to reach consistency for filling berries

Clean and dry berries as suggested above. Using a strawberry huller or very sharp paring knife, remove the leaves and most of the inside of each berry but do not cut into the bottom. Spoon or pipe the dairy or pareve filling into each berry and gently dip into any toppings. Lay the berries on their sides or upright on a cookie sheet. Cover loosely with waxed paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate a few hours or overnight. To serve, place the berries as upright as possible on serving tray.

> To make pareve filling: Combine all pareve filling ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Healthy broccoli fritters

1 cup cooked broccoli, chopped small
2 egg whites, beaten stiff
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons flour or fat-free pancake mix
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
A few twists of black pepper

Coarsely chop broccoli into small pieces. Add remaining  ingredients and mix until combined. Coat a nonstick pan with cooking oil spray. Form the broccoli mixture into patties. Place patties in heated pan and press them down slightly. Cook on low to medium heat until brown on one side, about 5 minutes.  Turn and pat down again. Cook until brown on other side, about  5 minutes more. Makes 2-4 servings.

Easy blackberry or blueberry cobbler
Dairy or pareve

4 cups sliced or whole fresh blackberries or blueberries, dry on paper towels
3/4 cup butter, or 11/2 sticks; use margarine if making pareve
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
11/2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
11/4 cups milk (I use coconut milk, which is pareve.)
Optional: ice cream or, for pareve, nondairy ice cream

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Melt butter in a 13-by-9-inch baking dish as the oven heats. Mix 11/4  cups sugar with 1/2 cup flour. Add blackberries and gently toss. Let it sit so the sugar dissolves a bit. In a separate bowl, mix remaining 11/2 cups flour and  3/4 cup sugar, baking powder and salt. Add milk. Whisk until mixture is smooth. Remove dish with melted butter from oven. Pour batter over melted butter. Do not stir. Spoon berry mixture on top of batter, but do not stir. Bake one hour or until cobbler is golden brown and bubbly. Serve warm. Optional: Serve with ice cream. Yields approximately 24 strawberries.


Tips & Tricks
> To clean berries before eating, gently roll them in  a clean damp kitchen or bath towel.
> Rub some sesame oil and sesame seeds on corn before grilling, slowly turning to get grill marks. While hot, season with salt, pepper and a splash  of sugar.
> Wash and dry the perforated bags that grapes come in. Use them for transporting salad greens to your picnic. They keep greens crisp in refrigerator.

Ilene Spector is a Maryland-based consumer, food and travel writer.


You Should Know … Eric McCormick

Eric McCormick (Provided)

Eric McCormick (Provided)

Columbia resident Eric McCormick runs Critter’s Inflatable, which makes life jackets for our four-legged friends. His dad started the company eight years ago after getting a patent and turned the business over to his son last year. McCormick, 35, grew up in Bowie and Severna Park, attended Temple Solel in Bowie and became involved in Jewish activities throughout high school and college. He also leads a Cub Scout troop, where he tries to meet the Scouts’ religious  requirements without ruffling feathers in his multifaith group.

How did Critter’s Inflatable get started?
My dad was working for the Coast Guard and he noticed that only adults are [required] to wear inflatables. So he looked at how to apply [inflatables] to other things. He’s even had people come to him who have quadcopters that fly over the water and they want to make sure they have something [for their devices].

What types of animals wear the life jackets?
Mostly cats and dogs, but  basically it’s for any four-legged animal that weighs 6 pounds and up. There have been people who have asked for inflatables for horses. A miniature horse would be OK, but 250 pounds is the max.

Do your cats use them?
They do not. One of mine is actually scared of everything, even me most of the time, so I don’t take him out on a boat.

Is there demand?
I would say there is demand. Most people don’t buy this product until they’ve actually lost an animal. [On an overnighter] people wake up in the morning and ask, “Where’s Fluffy?” and Fluffy’s nowhere to be found  because sometime in the night, the dog fell or jumped off the boat.

Could a dog use this as a swimming aid?
When we first were advertising these, we thought this would be great for dogs in physical therapy because you can adjust the inflation. And the way it’s made doesn’t put pressure on the throat but gives the head a lot of buoyancy. However, dogs get so comfortable that they just float, which is kind of funny. You would think they would want to swim. No, they just want to relax in the water like everyone else.

How do you incorporate  religion into Scouting?
Religion, or at least some view of a higher power, is a part of Scouting. The oath is, “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country.” But when it comes to doing the [religious] requirements, most people don’t know how to handle it, so they skip it as an activity. My goal is to bring in religion a little bit more. There are many religions out there, and you want to make sure that you are inclusive and respectful at the same time. Many packs are under the guidance of a church or temple, where everyone is of the same religion. But we are a pack that is not associated with any religious group, and I have boys of many different religions and backgrounds.

What types of events do  you have?
At Temple Isaiah [in Fulton, Md.], we did a scout Shabbat. In the past, I had reached out to Rabbi [Craig] Axler to see if there was any type of event [that we could do]. He said it was not allowed because of the [Scouts’ policy] of not allowing gays to serve as leaders. They recently changed that policy, and so the temple is kind of softening up on that. One of the scouts wanted to have a scout Shabbat as his bar mitzvah project. So they ran it.

Kids’ Soccer Leagues Aim to Bridge Israel’s Religious Divide

Members of the Tzav Pius team for 13-year-olds sing the team anthem following a practice. (Ben Sales)

Members of the Tzav Pius team for 13-year-olds sing the team anthem following a practice.
(Ben Sales)

PARDES HANNA, Israel — When Yoel decided, at age 8, to begin observing Shabbat, there was one problem: It meant he couldn’t join most of Israel’s youth soccer teams, which played games on Saturday.

Yoel, now 12, has always lived in the increasingly large gray area between Israel’s starkly divided religious and secular Jewish societies. His father observes Shabbat, his mother doesn’t. He attended a religious elementary school but transferred to a secular school this year.

He enjoys how Shabbat forces him away from TV and video games, allowing him to relax. But as a budding soccer forward, Yoel also likes the feeling of grass under his cleats. Few things excite him more than going one-on-one against a goalie and kicking a “missile” into the goal.

Yoel no longer has to decide between Shabbat and soccer, thanks to a team run by Tzav Pius, a not-for-profit organization that aims to bridge thedivides between religious and secular Israeli Jews. Tzav Pius teams play games during the week, from Sunday to Friday, allowing religious Israelis to participate.

“Tzav Pius lets me play soccer,” said Yoel, who as a minor couldn’t give his last name without a parent’s permission. Saying he has religious and secular friends, he adds: “I know how it feels to be in two different societies.”

Tzav Pius, which has organized 96 youth soccer teams across Israel, is aiming to change how the country’s religious society and soccer establishment view each other. Because Israel’s most popular sport is played on its day of rest, about one-third of Israeli Jews — the proportion that observes Shabbat — cannot watch, attend or play games.

What has resulted is a largely secular soccer culture. Soccer fandom, which unites nations and cities worldwide around their favorite teams, has become another wedge within Israeli culture, creating two groups that have two different passions on the same day.

“There’s a secular culture of sports that has no connection to Shabbat, and religious Jews want to be part of it,” said Avner Michaeli, a Tzav Pius youth counselor who is secular. “As a kid, my whole world was that Saturday was soccer. So as a religious Jew, you could say, ‘Don’t go crazy, it’s just soccer.’ Just like a secular Jew can tell a religious Jew, ‘It’s 2016, why can’t you drive [on Shabbat]?’”

Each of Israel’s 1,200 youth soccer teams, for children ages 10 to 18, is linked to one of the country’s 234 professional teams. Kids try out for the youth league, and the best athletes are groomed to play pro. Israel’s abbreviated weekend begins Friday afternoon and ends Saturday night; teams play on Saturday afternoon because weekend games are easier on families.

Until Tzav Pius began fielding youth teams 12 years ago, aspiring religious soccer players would either break Shabbat to play or give up on the sport. Moshe Yazdi, who now coaches the Tzav Pius team in Pardes Hanna, a city between Haifa and Tel Aviv, grew up religious but loved soccer. Beginning at 16, he was accepted to the local youth team and would sneak out Saturday afternoons, without telling his parents, to play games and ride the team bus, if necessary.

Tzav Pius teams now play on weekday afternoons, and the league requires rival teams to schedule their matches accordingly. Still, difficulties can arise. One Tzav Pius team forgot to request a rescheduling, so the players had to walk the five miles from one city to another rather than violate Shabbat by driving. Last year, a team had to stay overnight in a synagogue to play a Saturday game.

“It doesn’t bother them to play in the middle of the week,” said Iddo Diamant, director of Tzav Pius’ soccer program. “The kids come to play soccer. That’s what’s great about it. They don’t care about who’s religious and secular.”

Founded after the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin stoked bitter religious-secular tensions in Israel, Tzav Pius runs a network of joint religious-secular schools, kindergartens and summer camps that promote what it calls an “integrated” society.

Tzav Pius — literally “reconciliation order,” a play on the Hebrew phrase for a draft notice — doesn’t shy away from advancing its coexistence message during practices. A couple times each month, before the kids run drills and scrimmage, they attend an hourlong educational session on the field featuring games and exercises designed to imbue tolerance and an appreciation for pluralism. Some activities also aim to counter racism among Israeli soccer fans and players.

In one exercise on Monday, this city’s 13-year-olds’ team divided into two groups. One was allowed to play by normal rules, with the advantage of two goalies. The other had the usual one goalie, plus its players could only touch the ball twice before passing it. The exercise aimed to teach the kids how to handle an uneven power dynamic between two groups.

Michaeli, who runs the exercises, has experience playing with groups from different backgrounds. The child of a kibbutz, he grew up playing in a league with city kids, Arabs and Jews. While Michaeli said the kids enjoy the educational activities, they don’t always succeed. He recalled one exercise about breaking Shabbat to play the game — the core dilemma Tzav Pius is addressing. The ensuing argument ended up splitting the team along religious and secular lines.

“It’s all nice in theory, but in practice it isn’t always,” Michaeli said. “Everyone goes to their own corner and isn’t ready to give up on his space. Secular will remain secular, but I think the kids on the team will be a little more open.”

Although Tzav Pius allows Yoel, the 12-year-old forward, to play, he still feels a conflict between religion and soccer. Were he not Shabbat observant, he said, he could join the best youth teams and try to work his way up.

But Yoel knows one thing for certain: While he appreciates coexistence, he’d rather skip the educational exercises and play the game.

“I would rather have fewer activities,” he said. “Kids don’t enjoy that. We have education at school.”

You Should Know: Randi Leshin

Randi Leshin (Photo by Justin Katz)

Randi Leshin (Photo by Justin Katz)

Randi Leshin, owner of the All About U! salon in Savage, has deep roots in Howard County. The 29-year-old Columbia native went to Graham Webb Academy, a cosmetology school in Arlington, after graduating from Atholton High School. Much of her extended family lives in Howard County.

With nine years of experience as a stylist and two as an owner, Leshin is far from a stranger to the cosmetology world, but she’s also gone head first into Jewish life in Howard County, co-chairing one of the largest events this year of the Jewish Federation of Howard County, a Purim event that drew an estimated 1,500 attendees. She and her husband are the parents of Landon, 3.

How did you go from being a stylist to the owner of the salon?
I was working for my previous boss and she wanted to retire. She approached me about purchasing the business. She owned the salon first, and I bought it from her.

What were the challenges of becoming an owner?
The hardest thing about transitioning from co-worker to owner/manager is the other stylists realizing that I’m the boss now. It can be difficult for people to take direction from someone who was [their] equal. After having some conversations, I was able to gain the respect as a leader.

What’s the vibe of the salon like at peak hours?
All About U! definitely has a “Cheers” vibe. We have a very “everybody-knows-your-name” thing going.  All the clients talk to each other. I know all about the other girls’ clients, and they know mine. It’s just a loud, talkative party in the salon. All the clients are talking, the stylists are talking. … It’s a bunch of women having a great time.

How have things changed since you took the reins?
I have made a few cosmetic changes over the last two years, but I would say the biggest change is the growth. A few of the girls were new to the business, and I love seeing them get busier and building a solid clientele.

What do you enjoy about working in a salon and cosmetology?
I’m not a huge fan of sitting still and doing the same thing every day. The whole appeal of something different every hour and every day, even if it’s four highlights, it’s still not the same. And I’m a social person, so I enjoy the aspect of having conversations and being busy all day.

What’s it like owning a business so close to home?
Owning a business where I grew up is fun and cool. People are always walking in the salon and saying, ‘Oh, I know you.’ It’s very connected; it’s like its own world. I have two aunts and uncles, my mom, sister, my in-laws — [they all] still live in Howard County. [My husband, Ricky,] graduated from Hammond High School. We’re a very Howard County family.

How are you involved with the Jewish Federation of Howard County?
I am in the current jLeads class [a young adult leadership program] at the federation. I was the co-chair for Purim Palooza this past year, and I’m involved in a couple of other committees. I also help with the PJ Library committee with planning and organizing different family events. I dipped my toe in the pond [at the federation] two years ago and was doing full laps in the pool a year, year-and-a-half ago. They got me and roped me in quick.

How would you describe Howard County’s Jewish community?
The Jewish community is extremely close and tight-knit. If you sit down and play Jewish geography with someone from Howard County, or even Columbia specifically, you’re without a doubt within 4 degrees of someone.

You Should Know: Ross Lewin

Ross Lewin (Photo courtesy of Ross Lewin)

Ross Lewin (Photo courtesy of Ross Lewin)

Ross Lewin uses photography to pursue both his professional and personal ambitions. The 27-year-old Columbia native abandoned a marketing career to follow his passion behind the camera.

As a photographer, Lewin shoots portraits as well as sports teams. And he founded Cameras for Cancer, a non-profit that channels funds to research and pays cancer patients’ hospital bills.

How did photography transform from a hobby to a profession for you?
My father was a hobbyist photographer and he would have people over for photography clubs. I wasn’t extremely interested in it until I finished my sophomore year at University of Maryland — College Park, when I took a summer job as a telescope photographer in Ocean City.

So you did your undergrad in marketing with photography in mind?
Not even. The first time that I picked up a camera was that job in Ocean City. I really excelled because I brought my personality to it. You have to be very demonstrative, and have good social skills. I had to run along the beach, talking to families, and couples, convincing them to do a photo shoot. They come to the studio later, and you sell them pictures. It’s a sales job mixed with photography.

Describe how the entrepreneurial side of your career came to be?
I wanted to do what I really love to do, and was willing to work really hard. I started HoCo Photo right then.  I just jumped into it. Every day, I’d go to a different sporting event at the Howard County high schools, and I would show up at a JV game. I would take pictures in the first half, and then I’d go up in the stands, talk to people and pass out my business cards. In that first year, I shot over 400 high school athletic teams. I registered my company name with the Maryland government and I got business insurance.

Why shoot high school sports?
As a high school wrestler growing up, I remembered there were never any pictures of me on the mat. Also, my dream was to be my own boss. I’d do these shots during the day, and at night I’d go onto YouTube and try to teach myself even more. I learned based on necessity.

Did you photograph at schools since you didn’t exactly need media credentials?
I wanted to shoot every day, and I didn’t have gigs then. I just picked places where I could just show up.  I looked into the Howard County Public School web page. From that, I started to make a name for myself. My first gig was County Sports Zone. They hired me to be their photo blogger. Parents [of student athletes] would ask me if I did headshots or family portraits.

What do you remember most about your Birthright experience in Israel?
[Israelis] have great pride in fighting for their culture. When going to the Wall, I wanted to feel some presence of God — and in a sense I did. I remember feeling the collective energies of the millions of people that fought for that spot. I felt more closely connected to my Jewish friends. I felt great Jewish pride.

Describe Cameras Against Cancer.
I gathered beauty professionals, massage therapists, and asked them to volunteer for a total modeling experience for our donors. Because of the volume, we’re able to charge affordable rates. All of the donations from these prints go to cancer research and support. The donors are paying for the photo shoot. We’ll take anyone that’ll be a model.

We’re donating all of the proceeds to Zaching Against Cancer, a nonprofit in Howard County that provides financial support to families needing to pay their cancer bills. Our next event [on May 15] is at Haven on the Lake at the Lakefront in Columbia.

The Holocaust’s Youngest Survivors

Holocaust survivors (from left) Eva Clarke, Mark Olsky and Hana Berger Moran were on hand during the annual Days of Remembrance ceremony held in the U.S. Capitol on May 5. (Photo by Daniel Schere)

Holocaust survivors (from left) Eva Clarke, Mark Olsky and Hana Berger Moran were on hand during the annual Days of Remembrance ceremony held in the U.S. Capitol on May 5. (Photo by Daniel Schere)

Hana Berger Moran, Mark Olsky and Eva Clarke, all 71, have more in common than just their age. They were all born in or on their way to Nazi concentration camps, making them among the youngest survivors of the Holocaust. The three are also subjects of the book “Born Survivors,” by British writer Wendy Holden.

They attended the annual Days of Remembrance event in the U.S. Capitol on May 5, and all say they discovered the circumstances of their births at young ages, but did not understand the horrors of the Holocaust until later. Clarke said her mother told her the story in “tiny snippets.”

“I came home from school and I found a brown suede shopping bag on the back of the kitchen door, and it had the letters AN,” Clarke said. “My mother’s name was Anka.” But Clarke’s father’s name didn’t begin with N.

“And she sort of took a deep breath, and she said, ‘You’ve heard about the war. … You had two daddies. One daddy was killed in the war and now you have another daddy.’ That’s all she said.”

Clarke’s biological father was a German who fled the country in 1933 to escape persecution by the Nazis. He met Clarke’s mother in Prague and the two married in 1940 and were sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp a year later.

“When the Nazis discovered that my mother was pregnant, they made my parents sign a document that said when the baby was born, he or she would have to be handed over and killed,” Clarke said. “Except they didn’t use the word ‘kill.’ They used the word ‘euthanasia.’”

Her brother George was born in Theresienstadt in 1944, the same year Clarke’s family was transferred to Auschwitz-Birkenau. George died of pneumonia at age two months.

“His death meant my life and my mother’s,” she said. “Because had my mother arrived in the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp with my brother in her arms, she would have been sent straight to the gas chamber.”

Clarke was born in April 1945, the same month Auschwitz was liberated. Clarke said her mother weighed as little as 70 pounds when she gave birth.

“She had a very optimistic nature, and despite seeing all the death around her she always thought she’d survive,” she said.

For Olsky’s mother, it was a different story of survival.

“My mother said that about a month before I was born, she found a rotting head of cabbage, and it had things crawling on it, and it smelled awful,” he said. “She said it was the best thing she ever tasted, and she was sure that was part of why she was able to survive. She said one of the German guards saw her pick up the cabbage. Normally she would have been beaten or killed for it. This guard turned out to be kinder than most and stood there and watched her eat it and didn’t say anything.”

Olsky was born on April 20, 1945, in a cattle car on a train that was making a 17-day journey from Freiberg, Germany, to the Mauthausen concentration camp. The Americans liberated the camp on May 5, just as mother and son arrived. Olsky spent his childhood in Germany and Israel.

Now a doctor in Madison, Wisc., Olsky met Clarke and Moran six years ago during the 65th anniversary of the Mauthausen liberation.

Moran, who was born in a forced labor factory in Freiberg, said her mother told her about her birth when she was 8, but did not make a big deal of it.

“My mother explained to me that her parents, her sister and other relatives were killed in the concentration camp, as well as my father, because they were Jewish, and I replied that I want to be Jewish, too,” she said. “Her way of life was not to dwell too much on the horrors and the sadness, but to be very positive. So anything she said was, ‘We’re here, we survived and life is for the living.’”

Author Holden attended the Days of Remembrance event as part of a book tour. She said her project began a few years ago when she learned that a woman in Canada who had had a baby and survived Auschwitz, had died.

“I thought, gosh, I wonder if any babies ever survived the Holocaust,” she said. “And I did a search, and then Eva’s name came up, and by luck she lived an hour from me, so I went and spent a day with her. And at the end of the day, I asked if she would do me the very great honor of writing her great story.”

When the two met, Clarke touched Holden on the shoulder and said she had been waiting for her for 70 years. Clarke then told the writer about Olsky and Moran.

“Once I realized how close they’d become, I knew I’d have to encompass all three,” Holden said. “You can’t identify with 6 million, but you can identify with three young mothers.”

Poetry Place

Sunday is Mother’s Day, a day for giving flowers and cards, a day for spending time with family. But for those whose mothers have passed away, Mother’s Day can be filled with grief and reflection.

“I’m not normally a poet, but after my mother died, I looked for ways to express my grief,” said Roslyn Zinner, a local therapist and artist.

mom mosaic2high res

Mosaic of Betty Jane Ehudin by Roslyn Zinner

In 2011, when her mother, Betty Jane Ehudin, was in her late 80s, Zinner created a colorful mosaic to depict her mother. But after Ehudin passed away in 2012, Zinner wanted to speak about her mom through words rather than through stone and tile.

While Zinner regularly writes lighthearted verse, it was not until three months after her mother passed away that she wrote “Endurance,” her first serious poem. “I decided to put down on paper what she had been through,” Zinner said, reflecting on the first stanzas of her poem. “I wish her last years had not been so difficult.”

After adding more stanzas about her mother’s younger years, Zinner felt that her poem offered the reader a true and thoughtful picture of her mother.

“I try to keep her alive by [thinking] about what she would say and how she would react to things that are happening,” she said. Three years later, “I think of her a little bit every day.”

Zinner advises others to creatively express their thoughts about their own mothers.

“Don’t worry about whether you have talent,” she said. “It doesn’t matter. The  important thing is to express yourself.”

Zinner suggests that adult children “keep the memory alive anyway you can, by talking about [your mother], writing, sharing stories and doing something that would make your mother proud.”

Endurance By Roslyn Zinner

 In memory of my beloved mother, Betty Jane Ehudin, Nov. 26, 1924
to Aug. 30, 2012

Soaked, softened, and shucked,
padded and shimmed,
battle weary from skirmishes with orthotics
My mother’s feet.
Pried opened and unclogged,
stented, cauterized, catheterized
My mother’s arteries.

Scanned, monitored, measured, calibrated,
coaxed into playing nicely with the lungs,
My mother’s heart.

Tested and retested,
needled into tubes.
pressure treated
Thinned and thickened and thinned again.
Life sustaining and dangerous
My mother’s blood.
Incised and gutted of disease
The rosy remainder bullied into
working with the heart.
her breath medicated,
nebulized, and oxygenated.
My mother’s lungs.

Long before she endured
the declines of her body

She was
a young Jewish girl named Betty
growing up in a
poor, secular, loving family.
She was
a New Yorker, a little sister,  an A student.

A father with heart disease.
The family moved to Miami
where she met
a handsome soldier on the beach.
They wedded in the rabbi’s study
moved to Baltimore and
planted their sapling marriage where
she was embraced
by his Yiddishe momma and papa.

Always first to each other
Dad birthed and nurtured
an ad business.
she birthed and nurtured
three daughters.
My mother, the family’s nerve center.

An early Federal Hill homesteader
shop owner, real estate agent,
world traveler to
China, England, Switzerland,
and many islands
My mother’s adventures.

After nearly 50 years together
When Dad died
she felt like
half the tree of her life was
lopped off.

But small, new buds sprouted.
At nearly 80 years
she moved,
painted her walls lavender
worked a little job for extra cash
and enjoyed cocktails
with new friends.
My mother’s resilience.

She spoiled us with her apple cake,
crispy outside
moist inside
But in her mirror
the traditional bubbie never  appeared.
Cooking, said my mother
is so overrated.
While her peers avoided email
she tracked her funds in Quicken
shopped online and
wore bright batik jackets.
My mother’s modern spirit.

Bruised by chronic disease
like an overripe pear
whose sticky juices start to drip
while the whole remains solid and sweet
My mother’s heart.

Outspoken yet kind
When the flow of her breath
required oxygen
Her reservoir of tact
began to dry up
But even then
ever present in her gut
coiled and ready to spring forth
My mother’s love.

Jennifer Rudick Zunoff is a Jewish  storyteller, educator and coach.


Money, Social Media, Memories Rule Matrimony Trends



A wedding is one of the most important days of a person’s life. And like many other things today, the hottest trends in weddings are dominated by technology and its ability to capture the moment and how to keep costs down to avoid many of dreaded bills that can follow.

“I think that with the internet, people see what’s out there more,” said Heidi Hiller, owner and creative director of Innovative Party Planners, an Owings Mills-based special events planning company. “They aren’t just opening a magazine. Now you see all these crazy [options for] lighting, draping, flowers, caterers. … You can get carried away.”

In addition, celebrity nuptials and their planners have plastered social media with only the finest shots of their special days. This means for most people who roam their favorite A-lister’s Pinterest page, they are in awe of the beautiful photos — but not so much by the price tag.

“We have a budget conversation with anyone who is charge of contributing money,” said Diana Venditto, owner of Eventi, a Towson-based full-service event planning company. “We tell them, ‘If this is the look you like, this is the cost. If this is the band you like, this is what it costs.’ Money isn’t a comfortable conversation, but you have to have it up front and get it over with.”

Hiller echoed Venditto’s comments and added that few of her clients have a realistic budget in mind when they first approach her about planning their wedding. Despite how costly photographers can be, Hiller said photography is one of the first things she thinks about when it comes to trends.

Money isn’t a comfortable conversation, but you  have to have it up front  and get it over with.”  — Diana Venditto, owner of Eventi


“Who brides pick as a photographer is a huge a decision for them,” said Hiller who explained that people no longer want posed photographs in front of solid-colored backgrounds. Instead many couples are looking for “wedding moments,” where photographers capture the small, intimate interactions between the couple and their guests that made their special day just a little bit more memorable.

Some couples let their guests compile photos for them.

“A lot of people are using hashtags for their weddings and [putting them] on print materials like invitations or menus,” said Sandy Sanders, who works for Mount Vernon-based Feats, an educational, social and corporate event production company. After the event, the couple can use the hashtags as a tool to find all the moments their guests captured throughout the day.

Then there is the complete opposite approach. Some couples ask their guests to enjoy the moment for what it is, which means cellphones should be turned off or left in the car.

“Some people don’t want their wedding all over Facebook,” said Hiller.

While it might fly in the face of the incessantly social, technology-obsessed millennial, there is also a practicality to asking guests to leave photography to the professionals. It’s not uncommon for an overeager photo-taking guest to ruin a professional’s perfect shot simply by getting in the way.

The Knot, a website that surveys brides and grooms every year on the cost of their weddings, found that Baltimore and Washington, D.C., wedding photographers on  average charge between $2,500 and $3,000 per event.

“Intimate” is a trend that extends beyond the photographer. Venditto said she encourages couples to “take the time to write a personal note or a memory they have” with each guest as a way to make large-scale weddings feel more personal.

Regardless of all the small details and how they come  together, Hiller said the key to a wedding is “it’s not about what goes wrong, it’s how you deal with it.”

You Should Know: David Greisman

David Greisman (Provided)

David Greisman (Provided)

David Greisman, 34, is following a boxing writer’s dream. While the Columbia native continues his day job in media and communications, he is steadfastly honing his craft as a boxing writer.

When you were growing up, did you want to be a sports writer?
I liked all of the local teams, and I watched the fights on occasion with my father, mostly on HBO. I loved sports, and I would take The Washington Post’s sports section to school with me every day, and I just loved good writing.

Which sportswriters were your favorites?
Sports Illustrated’s Gary Smith and boxing writer Thomas Hauser were big influences.  These two are always good, and I’m always trying to be as good. Hauser looks at his writing as chapters in history.

What to you is great writing?
Sometimes it’s about the turning of a phrase. Sometimes it’s the insight, or the get. It could just be getting a good interview and bringing it forward. When I taught my students, I told them the same thing.

Where did you teach?
McDaniel College [in Westminster]. I was an adjunct professor for three semesters.  I told them: ‘Your job as a writer is either to tell the story that nobody knows or to tell the story everybody knows but tell it better than anyone else has done it before.’

As a freshman in college, you noticed that an online boxing site was accepting submissions.
Yes, this was I was working for the school newspaper, and I watched lots of boxing matches online.  I saw on the bottom of the page that they were looking for writers.  At the time, they were based in New York, and now the editor is in Las Vegas, of course. His name is Rick Reeno.

Perfect for him to be in Vegas.
Yes, I began sending him my material. The fact that I’ve been along for the ride [all of these years later] means that I’ve gotten to grow with him. I’m thrilled that those who were reading us back then have remained with us.

So what’s it like now?
Frankly, it’s a grind. The thing that makes it work is the fact that I’ll turn around a lot of news briefs for the boxing sites, I will do lots of interviews [with fighters], go to press conferences, and can work quickly.

Which news sites are usually the ones that commission you for stories?
When I cover the fights, I’m traveling with I have a regular gig for Ring magazine … and Everlast — a sports equipment company. I write boxing results pieces for them. USA Today has commissioned me a few times.

Like a boxer, have you ever felt that you’ve had to constantly prove yourself and continue to overcome obstacles?
The difference between professional boxers and myself are that my struggles have been self-imposed, and theirs are something that society has dealt upon them. I had stopped being a good student at one point, and that made things more difficult. I limped to the finish line in high school. I was a retail manager who had no idea whether I’d have a future. I’m proud of where I’ve gotten.

As for your connection to Judaism?
I didn’t really find my Judaism until later in life. I wasn’t bar mitzvahed until I was 26 atop Masada — through Birthright.

What other Jewish affiliations do you have?
As I got older, I felt like I had to be more aware of the traditions. I wanted to get more connected. When I lived in New England, I found a great synagogue in New Hampshire, and I got more connected with the faith. The trip to Israel kindled that, and when I came back, I did some weekly Torah studies with a friend.

Are there any Jewish fighters you’ve covered?
Yuri Foreman. I saw him fight in June 2010 at Yankee Stadium. He came to the sounds of the blowing of the shofar. It was the only time I heard “Hatikvah” being played at a fight.