Hands Off! At Tuscany’s only kosher winery, owners can’t touch the Chianti

Terra Di Seta is the only fully kosher winery in the Tuscan wine-making region of Chianti. Its goal is to produce kosher wines that match the quality of local wines produced there for centuries.

Terra Di Seta is the only fully kosher winery in the Tuscan wine-making region of Chianti. Its goal is to produce kosher wines that match the quality of local wines produced there for centuries.

CASTELNUOVO BERARDENGA, Italy — Up a windy road in the tranquil Tuscan hills, down a gravel path and past acres of grapevines, a visitor will come across a stainless steel door frame secured with a piece of clear packing tape. The Hebrew scrawled on the adhesive reads: “David Solomon.”

Almost no one may remove this tape, open the door or use the winemaking equipment in an expansive room on the other side. Another door to the same room, sealed with a white plastic strip bearing a K inside a circle, also stays locked, though visitors may peer into the room through glass panels.

During a recent visit, the winery’s owner, Maria Pellegrini, stood next door, laying out thin slices of Tuscan bread along the perimeter of a plate and topping them with tomatoes grown in her garden. She chopped pieces of fresh, kosher parmesan into a small dish.

But when it came time to open her signature bottle, the Terra Di Seta Winery’s Chianti Classico 2010 Reserve, she yielded to Yossi Metzger, an intern with little winemaking experience and a kippah on his head. Metzger twisted the corkscrew and popped the bottle open.

Maria Pellegrini, who owns the winery with her husband, grew up in a winemaking family in southern Italy.  But because she isn’t Jewish, she can’t take part in the winemaking.

Maria Pellegrini, who owns the winery with her husband, grew up in a winemaking family in southern Italy.
But because she isn’t Jewish, she can’t take part in the winemaking.

“We must be crazy to make kosher wine in Tuscany,” laughed Pellegrini, who, according to Jewish law, cannot touch the wine because she is not Jewish. “Others tried to make kosher wine, but it’s not easy. It’s not a joke.”

Other nonkosher Tuscan wineries have occasionally produced a run of kosher wine, but since it began producing bottles eight years ago, Terra di Seta has been the only fully kosher winery in central Italy’s Chianti region. It’s an area famed for the distinctive red wines its families have produced for centuries, against a landscape that looks like the backdrop to a Renaissance painting.

Pellegrini and her husband, Daniele Della Seta, are meticulous about adhering to Chianti’s high standards. They export 35,000 to 45,000 bottles per year to stores and restaurants in the United States, Israel and around the world. The winery also makes olive oil from trees in the vineyard as well as honey, another regional specialty.

Requirements for Chianti (pronounced kee-ON-tea) wine range from using the local Sangiovese grape variety almost exclusively to letting the wine age for more than two years. At the end of the process, each run is sent to a committee so it can be approved as an official “Chianti Classico” wine — complete with a serial number for each vintage.

But keeping kosher means the vintners must surrender the actual winemaking process to others. According to traditional Jewish law, only religious Jews may produce kosher wine, and though Della Seta is Jewish, he does not observe Shabbat. So mashgiachs, or kosher supervisors, hired by the OK Kosher certification agency have to handle everything from the time the grapes come to the winery’s door to when the cork goes into the bottle.

“I’ve worked with nonkosher wineries before who’ve always wanted to jump into some point of the process,” said Ian Schnall, one of Terra Di Seta’s mashgiachs. “It’s like Van Gogh saying, ‘Paint this corner in this shade, paint that corner in that shade.’”

At first, the restrictions were especially difficult for Pellegrini, who is originally from Tuscany. She grew up in a winemaking family in southern Italy and always dreamed of operating her own winery. When Della Seta, a neurology professor, got an appointment at the nearby University of Siena in 2000, the couple bought a vineyard surrounding a 400-year-old stone house and moved in. The year after their first vintage, in 2007, they decided to go kosher.

They knew it meant giving up a certain measure of control, but the couple also had to compete with families that had been producing Chianti for generations. Although some nearby wineries had produced the occasional kosher run none was fully kosher. They believed that making Terra Di Seta kosher-certified would give them an edge — and a market niche. They also believed their boutique winery would set a new standard for Italian kosher wines. (Bartenura, perhaps the best-known producer of Italian kosher wines, also has a Chianti.)

“In Italy there are hundreds of different kinds of wine, but the kosher wines are not represented,” Pellegrini said. “Our goal is to produce a kosher wine but with the same characteristics of our typical Tuscan wine.”

It began as a frustrating process, because at first their observant employees weren’t winemaking experts. Della Seta, said Pellegrini, would “stand with his hands in his pockets, suffering.” And there would be a two-week period where the wine had to be stirred twice a day that would coincide with the Jewish holidays, when religiously observant employees could not work.

By 2010, the problems were resolved. The winery installed a machine that stirred the wine automatically. The couple hired Schnall, a religious Jew with experience in the industry who grew up, he said, “drinking dry wines while everyone else was drinking sweet, syrupy Manischewitz.” In the mid-1990s, Schnall, also a pastry chef, worked in California’s kosher Herzog Wine Cellars.

Working in Italy has been different, he said.

“When you’re in this location, there’s something magical, mystical in the place because of the surroundings,” Schnall said. “It’s old world, old growth.”

Although he does not keep kosher, Della Seta says it’s “an honor” to produce a wine that he can drink at his Passover Seder table. And keeping a kosher winery has allowed the couple to meet observant Jews from around the world who come on wine tours.

It’s a population they hadn’t been exposed to and that fascinates them. Della Seta said he’s found that the New York Orthodox Jewish community can be “like a very small village in terms of sociality.”

“I receive a lot of questions about the kosher process, about the wine, my family,” said Della Seta, whose Italian Jewish ancestry dates back millennia. “They’re curious to see a kosher winery in a place they never thought they’d find it.”

For the Love of the Sport Spirit, hard work fuel Israel’s efforts in two major lacrosse tournaments

From left: Scott Neiss, executive director of the Israel Premiere Lacrosse League, U19 coaches Emily Brodsky and Hannah Deoul and Mark Greenberg, executive board member of IPLL.

From left: Scott Neiss, executive director of the Israel Premiere Lacrosse League, U19 coaches Emily Brodsky and Hannah Deoul and Mark Greenberg, executive board member of IPLL.

The Israel Lacrosse Association finished two major international tournaments this August: the 2015 Federation of International Lacrosse Women’s U19 World Championships in Edinburgh, Scotland and the 2015 European Lacrosse Federation Lacrosse Championships in Prague, Czech Republic.

The Israel women’s division finished fourth overall in Prague while the Israel youth division that competed internationally for the first time finished last in the Scotland tournament.

“We had a difficult time putting together our team, but the 17 girls who competed in Scotland have amazing spirits and learned so much about the game of lacrosse, teamwork, how to deal with adversity and what it means to represent their country,” said Emily Brodsky, one of the coaches for the U19 team and a player in the women’s division. “We had not played a real lacrosse game [together] against another team before our first game in the World Cup.”

Despite a last-place finish, the players in the youth division have kept their heads high and are proud to have represented Israel. Although most of the team consisted of girls from Israel, several players from Baltimore joined them.

Genna Portner, 17, from McDonogh School, said she was nervous about traveling with girls she barely knew, but despite the language barrier the Israelis welcomed their American counterparts warmly. Jenna Baverman, 18, from Roland Park Country School, said she relished the opportunity to represent Israel on the field.

“We knew coming into it that many people would not be supporting Israel or us playing in the tournament, but it didn’t stop my teammates and me from loving the experience,” said Baverman. “After the opening ceremony, playing in our first official game together, getting goosebumps while singing ‘Hatikvah’ and then contributing to Israel Lacrosse, it was worth it all.”

As the games progressed the team enjoyed the opportunity to compete rather than focus on the outcome of any one game.

“It was about just having fun compared to the intensity and importance winning is given in competitive lacrosse in the United States,” said Portner. “Although we didn’t win any games in Scotland, after every game it seemed like we did. Our team would dance, sing and walk off the field smiling after not scoring a single goal.”

Lilly Pollak, 17, from The Hill School (in Pennsylvania) credits Israel’s coaches Brodsky and Hannah Deoul for bringing the team together.

“They had to make a whole team for an international tournament in less than a year and with girls who had never played the sport before,” said Pollak. “I admire them and all the other coaches for doing what they did because it was no easy task.”

Deoul said that during the course of the competition, Israeli players became known for their  spirit, love, kindness and pride for the opportunity to play.

When Brodsky and Deoul finished in Scotland they immediately flew to Prague for their own tournament in the European championships, which ran from Aug 8. to Aug 15.

“As a player on Israel’s women’s team we [were] serious contenders for the gold medal. This [was] completely opposite from the position that we were in at the World Cup,” said Brodsky. “Being the coach of a team from a country with a developing lacrosse program has given me a ton of perspective and respect for the teams that I am currently competing against as a player.”

Although the women’s team demonstrably did better in ranking than the girls, Brodsky said she hopes they walked away with a similar reputation.

Said Brodsky, “I want our women’s team to be remembered for the same things the U19 players are remembered for: spirit, energy, compassion and hard work.”

Simon Says Creator of “The Wire” talks about Martin O’Malley, Charm City’s future and growing up in a house of storytellers

David Simon (right) talks with director Paul Haggis on the set of Simon’s new HBO series “Show Me a Hero.”

David Simon (right) talks with director Paul Haggis on the set of Simon’s new HBO series “Show Me a Hero.”

Yonkers, N.Y., may be the setting of David Simon’s newest TV drama —”Show Me A Hero” (premiering Aug. 16 on HBO) —but the chronicler of the streets of Baltimore —” Homicide,” “The Corner,” “The Wire” —insists the struggles remain the same.

“It was a different argument, but it was the same structural, political disconnect,” says Simon, a former reporter for “The Sun.” “The one that says, ‘I got mine. I’m not letting anyone in my club, I don’t want to risk what I have on the table to let anybody else have any share of the same.’”

Simon, a longtime Baltimore resident, shares his thoughts on fixing Charm City, former Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley’s bid for the White House and the state of the Jewish community today.

What makes a good story?

A good story has a beginning, a middle and an end. It seems so elemental but … once you get a franchise, if you get it up, there’s so much money involved in sustaining [it] that you basically do everything you can to keep it going. So if people like more of this, you give them more; if they like less of that, you give them less. You stop thinking of the story for its own sake, that every story is finite, you run it out until you glean the last viewer for the last possible episode. … When the stories are complex and they’re not gratifying people right away, the way people are accustomed to being pleased by television, it’s hard to find an audience. They find it years later, on a shelf, and realize, “Oh, they were building something.”

Is that why it took so long for people the discover “The Wire”?

Yeah. There were a lot of people who said, “Boy, these guys don’t know how to make television,” and hey maybe we didn’t. … We’re now getting to the point where people are evaluating things in terms of seasons or possibly complete arcs of shows. In the sense that places like HBO are becoming lending libraries, you watch it when you want to. Even though I probably haven’t punched my weight for ratings, I’ve probably punched my weight in terms of their subscription model. I’m part of what’s on the library shelf for them; maybe it helps them down the road. I hope so. Otherwise I don’t understand the business model. I don’t know why they are paying for me.

Was there a lot of storytelling during your childhood?

I came from a very literate household. My father had hundreds of hundreds of books. He was a writer, the public relations director for about 30 years for B’nai B’rith. …We argued current events all the time. That’s how you got the attention of the family was by staking out some position on what was going on in the world and trying to hold it.

Did you have a bar mitzvah?

Yeah. Even davened Musaf. I didn’t just read the Siddur. I came from a very liberal Jewish New Deal Democrat household. I grew up in the ‘60s: The fundamentals of integration and civil rights and what was at stake in terms of sharing power were almost completely assumed. That was the one thing my family got very, very right, and I’m grateful to them because right after college I found myself the police reporter in a majority black city and I had to pay attention to lives that were different from my own. I had to be able to walk into a room where I’m now in the minority, and I didn’t think much of it until I saw how hard it was for other people at my paper. My parents gave that to me.

What shul?

I’ve been a member of Beth Shalom in Columbia [where his now college-age son grew up with his former wife]. I have a daughter who’s 5, and she’s getting ready to become engaged in Hebrew stuff so I’m going to end up in a shul in Central Baltimore. … I find the insular nature of the Jewish community to be disappointing. Nobody likes it when I say that. But it’s how I feel. I’m a leftie. I’m very proud of that tradition in the Jewish community. Jews are now by and large an established community in a way that other immigrant communities are not, other people who’ve gotten to the economic pie later than us. We’re not looking behind us the way we used to.

What’s your take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

I’m a Zionist.  I want Israel to endure, but I’m also for a Palestinian state … As [former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak] Rabin said, you don’t negotiate with your friends, you negotiate peace with your enemies. I worry they’re missing what might be that last window.

Will print journalism endure, or is it similarly moribund?

The cutting down the trees and throwing it on people’s doorsteps is. Ultimately, the need for it to be a profession will reassert itself, and they’re going to figure out a way to create a revenue stream. … At some point I don’t believe a million points of blogger light equals the beat structure of a professional news organization. The paper part of the newspaper
I don’t care about; the newsroom part of the news I do care about. The professional newsroom produces a much better, more systemic, more comprehensive project, and it does so with an ethical rigor that is at least superior to what the Internet is now, and that will always be the case.

You’ve had some harsh words for former Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Listen, my politics are such that if I have to vote —and I do have to vote —I’m voting for the Democratic nominee. If it’s Marty O’Malley, I’m voting for Marty O’Malley. I have some real admiration for things he did with regard to gay rights [and] eliminating the death penalty in Maryland; in terms of the budget struggles after the market crash, he handled them well as governor. But in terms of the claims about dropping crime in Baltimore 40 percent and doing so without the wholesale destruction of the Fourth Amendment and civil rights for black people? That’s a lie. It’s a dishonest use of statistics.

Can Baltimore have a better future? If so, how?
We have to end the drug war.  It’s completely destructive. This level of incarceration is astonishing. No other country in the world would tolerate it. … There’s two Americas. We’ve hyper-segregated one. I live 20 blocks from the worst stuff, but it might as well be 100 miles. My chance of being a homicide victim in my city is the same as if I lived in Omaha, Nebraska because I’m white. Meaning, I’m living in a different Baltimore. If I was an African-American, a significant cause of death would be violence. That’s what “Show Me A Hero” is about.

What’s your Jewish practice today? Do you celebrate the holidays?
I’m fairly secular. I celebrate the High Holidays. I do Passover with myfamily. My kids were bar mitzvah’ed. I have a hard time with theology. I’m certainly with [Baruch] Spinoza. I’m much more pluralistic in my view of whether there’s a god and if there’s a god and what he’s up to, but culturally and philosophically, I’m very Jewish. I don’t know how that works.

I find the Jewish community drifting a little bit away from what I thought was its most admirable stance in American life. We’ve become a little bit more monied, more suburban, more self-obsessed. Years ago, after I wrote “The Corner,” I ended up doing a series of talks at synagogues in Northwest Baltimore. I kept urging Jewish people to re-engage with the inner city; there’s no Jewish presence in inner-city Baltimore, very little at that time. Everywhere I turned when I was doing “The Corner,” the infrastructure that was trying to help people was all the Catholic charities. I very much urged re-engagement and an end to the divorce instilled by the riots of the late ‘60s, ‘70s. It was disappointing to me that I would go and speak at these places, and I would finish 30 minutes of passionately auguring that there has to be one Baltimore, and I’d get down off the bimah and some bubbie would come up and point her figure in my chest “But they started it.” I’d be like, “Oy.” I find myself alienated from structural Judaism, not necessarily my own shul, and I try to exert within the synagogue I belong to.

Coming Together LGBT discussion at Enoch Pratt led by change-makers

Yitz Jordan, also known as Y-love, speaks about his experiences coming out as a gay man at Enoch Pratt Public Library in Baltimore City. (Justin Katz)

Yitz Jordan, also known as Y-love, speaks about his experiences coming out as a gay man at Enoch Pratt Public Library in Baltimore City. (Justin Katz)

Yitz Jordan, whose stage name is Y-love, has seen hate, prejudice and racism throughout his life, but when he and several other LGBT activists shared their stories in Baltimore on July 21, the negative wasn’t the focus of their discussion.

“Taking a negative and making it a learning experience,” said Jordan, “[People have heard] a lot of stories of struggle and horrible things that have happened to people, but all those experiences have been transformed into something positive.”

Jordan, a gay Orthodox Jewish hip-hop artist, was a panelist in a discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore City. The discussion was centered on Dr. Joe Wenke and his new book “The Human Agenda.”

Wenke thought of the title when he was writing an article about the persistence of the phrase “the homosexual agenda.”

“It became apparent to me that there is no such thing as the homosexual agenda,” said Wenke, during the panel. “There’s only the human agenda: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. How controversial is that message? We’re all human beings.”

Other panelists included Gisele Alicea, a transgender activist who talked with Wenke for his book, Saida Agostini, director of LGBTQ resources at the FreeState Legal Project, and Keith Thirion, director of advocacy and programs for Equality Maryland.

Although Wenke interviewed many for his book, he picked Jordan and Alicea to accompany him on a panel discussion for their unique stories.

“Gisele and Y-Love have unique human stories to tell,” said Wenke. “I think if you have an open mind and a good heart, it’s hard to judge people for who they are.”

Jordan grew up in East Baltimore, and although his mother was catholic, he always had a deep interest in Judaism. After seeing a commercial on television that said ‘Happy Passover’, he began researching Judaism. His mother was doubtful that his interest would last.

But Jordan’s interest in Judaism only increased; at age 9, he insisted on celebrating Chanukah instead of Christmas, in high school he taught himself to read Hebrew, and in 2000, he converted. Although his engagement with Judaism was growing, his relationship with his mother was declining.

“When I was 13, my mother and I fought like cats and dogs. It became a mantra: ‘The Jewish community will not accept you,’” said Jordan. “Ironically, it was tzedakah that paid for my mother’s funeral in 2004.”

Jordan attempted to come out when he was a teenager, but between the lack of support from his mother and his efforts to join the Orthodox community, he went back into the closet.

While Jordan’s life has not always been easy, what makes his story more impactful is when people hear it side-by-side with Alicea’s story, as they did at Enoch Pratt.

“When I came out of the closet my mother was hurt, and she did cry, but she was so supportive,” said Alicea. “She let me live my life freely and didn’t question me after that,” said Alicea. “[My mother] and I didn’t always have a perfect relationship but when it came to gender she was very accepting.”

Alicea, who is transgender, had a very different childhood compared with Jordan’s. Most of her family was supportive with one exception.

“My father initially had an issue. He banged his hands on the table and shouted, ‘My son is not going to be gay’” said Alicea.

Alicea’s father eventually came around when he saw her after she transitioned. Although Jordan’s mother passed away before he came out of the closet again in 2012, he ended up receiving support from places he didn’t expect.

When Jordan and a friend were studying at a yeshiva in Jerusalem, they’d use music and rhyming to help them with Talmudic studies. After performing at an open-mic night in Tribeca, N.Y., the owner invited them to come back for a regular slot.

Jordan stopped performing for some time when his rabbis told him that it would hurt his integration into the Chasidic community. But after seeing Matisyahu grow in popularity and losing both his mother and grandmother in 2004, he had a change of heart.

In 2005, one of Jordan’s friends from yeshiva, Erez Safar, got him signed on to record at Modular Moods, which would become Shemspeed, the premier Jewish-owned-and-operated label.

The success helped him come to terms with his sexuality, but not without hesitations.

“Before coming out I was preparing myself for backlash of epic biblical proportions,” said Jordan. “I was literally expecting people with pitchforks to bang on the door.”

To Jordan’s surprise, when stories appeared about his coming out in  2012, social media comments started flooding in showing support.

“I was expecting extreme hatred when I came out, but it got thousands of shares on Facebook, and lots of tweets through social media,” said Jordan. “People were saying, ‘I don’t understand Y-Love, but I support him.’”

Jordan was later approached by Wenke to participate in “The Human Agenda” with Alicea and other LGBT change-makers.

Wenke’s approach to writing his book and guiding the panel discussion was simplistic but direct.

“What if I just have conversations with amazing people in different communities across the country,” said Wenke during the panel. “Unique and amazing human beings telling stories about their lives and sharing their experiences. Maybe that would be a way of reaching people who have open minds and hearts but need to be educated.”

Jordan believes Wenke’s method is appropriate, and the event at Enoch Pratt is proof.

“What could be a better catalyst for change than just a simple conversation, where we come and explain why we’re human beings,” said Jordan after the event. “There were no confrontations, no heckling, no anger, it was literally just coming together as humans.”

jkatz@midatlanticmedia.com

Believing in Baltimore City students express feelings about unrest with help from renowned musicians

When Baltimore City saw riots and looting following the death of Freddie Gray in April, Believe in Music founder Kenny Liner was scared for his students and spent the night fighting the urge to hop in his car to make sure they all were OK.

The Living Classrooms program, which aims to uplift Baltimore’s inner city youth through music and self-expression, was started for those students — many who live in the very neighborhoods that were affected by the unrest — to learn how to tell their stories through writing and recording music.

In the days that followed, Liner had his students drop everything to write a song about the recent events.

From left: Believe in Music students Caprice Martin, Taniyah Kutcherman, Yamaudi Pinder and Amira Winchester. (J.M. Giordano)

From left: Believe in Music students Caprice Martin, Taniyah Kutcherman, Yamaudi Pinder and Amira Winchester. (J.M. Giordano)

In the program’s almost three-year history, students have performed at music festivals, there have been three packed benefit concerts at the Maryland Science Center and Believe in Music has been featured in international media. But July 20 was arguably one of the most special days for Believe in Music, when a song “Believe in Baltimore,” a plea for positivity and togetherness in the wake of Baltimore unrest written and sung by students backed up by some of Baltimore’s most well-known musicians, was released.

“I want people to realize that it’s not really about being black or white, it’s about all of us coming together,” said 15-year-old Yamaudi Pinder. “I think once people listen to it and listen to the lyrics, they’ll realize that we’re all a big family. We’re all human.”

Pinder, one of the song’s lead singers, wrote the lyrics to the bridge: “Unification can show the whole nation that we are together by association/through all the struggle and tragedy, violence and anger turn to peaceful harmony.”

The video can be viewed at bit.ly/1MD8kMX.

I want people to realize that it’s not really about being black or white, it’s about all of us coming together.

As the students worked on the song, Liner reached out to Baltimore musicians to get involved with the project. He got in touch with members of internationally renowned Baltimore band Future Islands, who were in town with a few days off, and as he said, “it kind of snowballed” from there.

With the help of Sam Sessa, Baltimore music coordinator at Towson University’s listener-supported radio station WTMD, the cast of musicians expanded to include members of Lower Dens, Celebration, The Bridge and Mt. Royal as well as Caleb Stine, Letitia VanSant and more. Local filmmaker Chris LaMartina shot a music video featuring scenes from around Baltimore as well as the recording sessions at WTMD, and the video was produced by 15Four.

Sessa said when he put feelers out, the response was overwhelming.

“I basically reached out to some of the best Baltimore musicians I could think of and I just went right down the list,” he said. “It’s amazing how these musicians wanted to give their time to this. It’s not often that so many great Baltimore musicians come together for one song. But these kids are so talented, I’m glad it’s this song.”

Future Islands’ touring drummer Mike Lowry and bassist William Cashion, who have spent much of 2015 touring, arranged the song. Jana Hunter of Lower Dens coached the kids through the song just days after returning from England opening for Belle and Sebastian.

“I don’t think [the students] knew who these bands were going in but realized quickly how talented these musicians are,” Sessa said. “This project has made an impact on these kids’ lives.”

Liner said the whole process, from his students writing the song to the response of local musicians to the recording and music video, has been amazing for him to be a part of.

“I’m just so appreciative that people are interested in what the kids are saying and their feelings about what’s happening in Baltimore,” he said. “Their little lights are shining so bright, and you can really feel and hear the talent and the depth in their voice.”

mshapiro@midatlanticmedia.com

Alfresco Enjoy delicious meals for summer dining

©iStockphoto.com/gkrphoto

©iStockphoto.com/gkrphoto

We still have many luxuriously long summer days to entertain at home, enjoy a large outdoor concert event or have a cozy family picnic. The last large outdoor event I attended became a veritable United Nations as I looked around at other families to find so many ethnic foods. On one blanket was an Asian group eating Ramen noodle sandwiches, another spot found a Muslim family enjoying roasted tomatoes and shish kabobs. And of course, there were buckets of fried chicken with familiar sides all around.

As for summer food, remember that quiche can be eaten warm, room temperature or even cold. Assorted sandwiches, wrapped in waxed paper rather than plastic wrap, can be made special; add some olive oil and
capers to tuna salad or spice up egg salad with hard boiled eggs, curry powder and butter lettuce. Cold peanut noodle salad or gazpacho in a thermos can be welcome additions to any menu. I always serve an Israeli tomato/cucumber salad as a “shout out” to my Jewish roots. The Hawaiian chicken kabobs can be made on a stovetop or outdoor grill and served with any flavored rice, quinoa or couscous. Get the wooden skewers at a Dollar Store and soak them for a few hours before “threading.”

Tips & Tricks

  • Wrap picnic sandwiches in waxed paper, then cut in half with serrated knife. Waxed paper will keep bread   from getting soggy.
  • G Use a tiny Jewish star cookie cutter to cut shapes on white bread. Gently fry in oil until golden. Add to soup or  salad as homemade croutons.
  • G Add interest to sandwiches by mixing different breads for tops and bottoms.

KOSHER STUFFED PICNIC LOAF

HAWAIIAN CHICKEN KABOBS

HUMMUS VEGETABLE POWERHOUSE SANDWICH

Grodnitzky Going High Tech Local singer/artist now making videos

Pikesville artist Betty Grodnitzky’s home is filled with her paintings, many of which depict Israel.

Pikesville artist Betty Grodnitzky’s home is filled with her paintings, many of which depict Israel.

She sings, she paints, and she works around the clock to make sure everything she does meets her own standards of perfection.

Meet Betty Grodnitzky, known to many by her Hebrew name Bracha-Shira. Her home in Pikesville is filled with detailed paintings, posters and other works of art depicting Israel that could easily be displayed in a museum

Grodnitzky’s newest project is a series of 10 videos that are a collection of prayers to Israel and one that is a prayer for the United States.

“I was not trained in this video avenue, but my thought was, why don’t I take this music, the artwork that I’ve done and put it all together?” she said.

The newest work is a three-minute video entitled “Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem,” which is a collage of images ranging from iconic sites such as the Kotel and Temple Mount to moving images of rallies for Israel from around the world. Grodnitzky’s paintings also appear in the video. It is set to a song by the same name from her first album from more than 30 years ago with her appearing in a shiny, golden dress.

Grodnitzky has the unique ability to sing in four octaves and has sung every genre of music from light rock to opera.

“It’s like when I came out of my momma’s womb I was singing and dancing,” she said.

Grodnitzky began her musical career when she was in her 30s by taking lessons with Alice Stringer and produced an album that aired on the radio in Baltimore.

“I had had some previous study with a classical teacher,” she said.

After the success of her first album, she was offered a singing contract in Las Vegas, but declined.

“That wasn’t the avenue I felt I could take,” she said.

After Grodnitzky married and had children, she met tragedy twice. Her husband, Stan, died of a heart attack in 1989, and seven years later her daughter, Kandye, took her own life. She made a pilgrimage to Israel to help aid in the grieving process.

“I thought [Israel] was the only place that’s going to bring me back to life after my husband died,” she said.

Grodnitzky says the art she’s created since losing her husband and daughter has been therapeutic. In 2007, she published “Tribute to Jerusalem, Art from the Heart” to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. The book was dedicated in honor of Stan and Kandye.

“The most beautiful works of art, poetry — so often come out of pain,” she said. “This is how it was, and this is how it is.”

In late 2012, Grodnitzky turned to Stacy Gillis, a video production specialist who co-founded Advanced Video Systems with her husband, Larry, in 1983, to produce her videos.

“This nice lady comes in the front door; she brings in an audio cassette tape, and she says, ‘I have these songs, these seven songs that I would like on CD,’” she said. “So we transferred all her music onto a CD, and I showed her around. And she was just such a lovely, lovely woman. We just totally connected.”

For “Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem,” Gillis videotaped Grodnitzky singing along to her original recording from 30 years ago then synchronized the lip-synch imagery of Grodnitzky with the original audio track so the result is a video of her singing in the present day.

Other imagery in the video is a menorah drawn by Grodnitzky as well as her photos of a sunset and video of leaves blowing in the wind.

Gillis said the two would sometimes spend 50 hours fixing one particular piece of video that Grodnitzky was not satisfied with.

“She would take it home and analyze it and then change her mind,” she said.

Gillis said Grodnitzky is the type of person whose brain never slows down.

“When an artist is into her work, she won’t put the paintbrush down,” Gillis said. “That’s Betty. She puts
her heart and soul into everything she touches.”

All of Grodnitzky’s videos can be found on Gillis’ YouTube page at goo.gl/FQLuS4. Grodnitzky says she expects to launch a Facebook page soon under the name Bracha-Shira.

“I don’t know where I get the chutzpah,” she said. “Something comes over me when it comes to standing up for Israel.”

dschere@midatlanticmedia.com

Charm City Theaters Sun photographer captures history, images of Baltimore’s theaters

Amy Davis (photo by Justin Katz)

Amy Davis (photo by Justin Katz)

About 140 people filled the Jewish Museum of Maryland on July  12 to hear Amy Davis, full-time staff photographer at the Baltimore Sun, discuss her new book “Flickering Treasures: Rediscovering Baltimore’s Forgotten Movie Theaters.”

Many of Davis’ photos are on display at the “Cinema Judaica” exhibit, which illustrates how films countered America’s isolationist mind frame during World War II and changed the post-war perception of the Jewish people. The exhibit, which is divided into two sections: the war years and the epic cycle, was originally curated by Hebrew-Union College to explore the effect of movies across the country, but JMM is focusing on Baltimore movies and theaters specifically.

Davis began working on her book when she noticed one of her favorite theaters had an uncertain future.

“I lived near the Senator Theatre when it faced foreclose in 2007, and I was attached to it as my neighborhood theater,” said Davis. “As I thought about it I realized that its state might be the same as all the
others in Baltimore because it was the last single-screen theater Baltimore.”

Davis began researching other theaters and published a piece about it in the Baltimore Sun. She received feedback from many people who wanted to discuss their favorite movie theaters that weren’t featured in the piece.

Enthused by the response, she pursued the subject further. For her upcoming book, she interviewed more than 300 people such as political activist Shoshana Cardin who worked at a theater her father owned.

“The imagery will be nostalgic,” said Marvin Pinkert, executivedirector of JMM, describing the “Cinema Judaica” exhibit.

Nostalgia was the atmosphere during Davis’ presentation. When she asked the audience who had been to the Crest Theatre, the majority of people in the room immediately raised their hands.

One person Davis interviewed who had fond memories of the Crest Theatre was Baltimore filmmaker Barry Levinson. According to Davis, Levinson took his first date to the Crest Theatre and across the street was a parking lot near the Hilltop Diner. Whenever Levinson would see his buddies’ cars in the parking lot, he would know to end the date quickly and go to the diner.

“I think it’s a lot of fun for people to be reminded of going to the movies and seeing your favorite movie at the local theater,” said Joanna Church, collections manager at JMM. “It’s a reminder that history is fun and can be relevant to your own life.”

For many others like Levinson, the theaters also represent memories.

“I went through [the exhibit] with people who’ve lived in Baltimore their whole life and they say they
remember those theaters from their childhood,” said Pinkert.

The memories are bittersweet for some because so many of the theaters that Davis has photographed are either demolished or in rough condition. She hopes her book will make people step back and remember the life
theaters brought to Baltimore’s streets.

“I hope my book, in a gentle way, will spark a dialogue about what’s happened when you look at how
vibrant these streets were with their movie theaters,” said Davis. “And how troubled some of them are now and it’s my effort at tikun olam, repairing the world.”

Davis added, “I was really gratified to see the large turnout. It confirmed the sense that I’ve gotten all along working on this book that there is tremendous interest in this subject.”

jkatz@midatlanticmedia.com

Charm City Theaters Sun photographer captures history, images of Baltimore’s theaters

Amy Davis (photo by Justin Katz)

Amy Davis (photo by Justin Katz)

About 140 people filled the Jewish Museum of Maryland on July  12 to hear Amy Davis, full-time staff photographer at the Baltimore Sun, discuss her new book “Flickering Treasures: Rediscovering Baltimore’s Forgotten Movie Theaters.”

Many of Davis’ photos are on display at the “Cinema Judaica” exhibit, which illustrates how films countered America’s isolationist mind frame during World War II and changed the post-war perception of the Jewish people. The exhibit, which is divided into two sections: the war years and the epic cycle, was originally curated by Hebrew-Union College to explore the effect of movies across the country, but JMM is focusing on Baltimore movies and theaters specifically.

Davis began working on her book when she noticed one of her favorite theaters had an uncertain future.

“I lived near the Senator Theatre when it faced foreclose in 2007, and I was attached to it as my neighborhood theater,” said Davis. “As I thought about it I realized that its state might be the same as all the others in Baltimore because it was the last single-screen theater Baltimore.”

Davis began researching other theaters and published a piece about it in the Baltimore Sun. She received feedback from many people who wanted to discuss their favorite movie theaters that weren’t featured in the piece.

Enthused by the response, she pursued the subject further. For her upcoming book, she interviewed more than 300 people such as political activist Shoshana Cardin who worked at a theater her father owned.

“The imagery will be nostalgic,” said Marvin Pinkert, executivedirector of JMM, describing the “Cinema Judaica” exhibit.

Nostalgia was the atmosphere during Davis’ presentation. When she asked the audience who had been to the Crest Theatre, the majority of people in the room immediately raised their hands.

One person Davis interviewed who had fond memories of the Crest Theatre was Baltimore filmmaker Barry Levinson. According to Davis, Levinson took his first date to the Crest Theatre and across the street was a parking lot near the Hilltop Diner. Whenever Levinson would see his buddies’ cars in the parking lot, he would know to end the date quickly and go to the diner.

“I think it’s a lot of fun for people to be reminded of going to the movies and seeing your favorite movie at the local theater,” said Joanna Church, collections manager at JMM. “It’s a reminder that history is fun and can be relevant to your own life.”

For many others like Levinson, the theaters also represent memories.

“I went through [the exhibit] with people who’ve lived in Baltimore their whole life and they say they remember those theaters from their childhood,” said Pinkert.

The memories are bittersweet for some because so many of the theaters that Davis has photographed are either demolished or in rough condition. She hopes her book will make people step back and remember the life theaters brought to Baltimore’s streets.

“I hope my book, in a gentle way, will spark a dialogue about what’s happened when you look at how vibrant these streets were with their movie theaters,” said Davis. “And how troubled some of them are now and it’s my effort at tikun olam, repairing the world.”

Davis added, “I was really gratified to see the large turnout. It confirmed the sense that I’ve gotten all along working on this book that there is tremendous interest in this subject.”

 

Cinema Judaica
Through Sept. 6
Jewish Museum of Maryland
15 Lloyd St., Baltimore
Call 410-732-6400 or visit info@jewishmuseummd.org for more information.

jkatz@midatlanticmedia.com

League of Their Own Hockey Moms take to the ice and find fitness, fun, camaraderie

Evie Altman, 50, shot a solid pass across the ice and immediately thrust her hockey stick high in the air, cheering on herself and her fellow Hockey Moms.

In the stands, her 14-year-old daughter, Marxe Orbach, took her eyes off her phone long enough to notice her mother’s play. “I like watching her. I love my mom, and I love watching her enjoying herself, and she enjoys herself so much when she’s playing.”

Call it payback.

Altman has been supporting her daughter’s pursuits all her life. She drives Marxe, a goalie and recent graduate of Westland Middle School, to and from practices at the Rockville Ice Arena on Southlawn Court. She makes sure her daughter has the proper pads, skates and uniform, and, yes, she cheers.

Forty-five mothers who know what it’s like to carpool, rush to practice and then hang around the lobby waiting for that practice to end have formed a league of their own. And “darn close to 50 percent” of those hockey-playing moms are Jewish, according to their coach, Steve Sprague.

On Sunday nights, from May through August, these women strive to replicate all the moves their children already have conquered. From 6:45 p.m. to 8:10 p.m., they skate around the rink, jump, stop and pick up one leg. There is no checking. These are not the Washington Capitals. In fact, it’s not unusual to hear them say, “I’m sorry,” following a poor pass.

“It’s a very nurturing environment. They encourage us to do our best and be a little adventurous,” said Irina Kebreau, 41. “You know, we are no spring chickens.”

Joyce Kammerman agreed. “We are not an aggressive bunch. A lot of us are just learning,” said the 49-year-old Rockville resident.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t trying.

“It’s very challenging. You need to be coordinated,” watch the puck and skate “all at the same time,” said Kebreau, of Silver Spring. She has two sons and a stepdaughter who play hockey and said one of the most important things she has learned after taking to the ice herself is not to be so critical of her children.

Several of the women vowed never again to say a disparaging word when their children take a long time to put on their pads, even when they put their pants on before their pads and have to start over. They also admit to being more reticent to criticize when a shot is missed.

Playing ice hockey “is not as easy as it looks,” Kebreau said as she sat on a bench in the arena’s lobby, pulling up her leggings and adjusting the bright pink helmet her daughter no longer wears.

Unlike the rest of her teammates, Kebreau chooses to steer clear of the ice rink’s locker rooms. Those rooms smell as bad as a boy’s bedroom, she said.

The lobby resembles a busy airport, with people of all ages rushing in and out, either lugging a huge bag of equipment or pulling a suitcase on wheels.

Many parents fill the time waiting for their children to finish by chatting with other parents they have met through numerous hockey seasons.

“We joke, when the kids play, at any time you could have a minyan” in the lobby, said Rori Kochman, 45, of Potomac, who is in her second season with Hockey Moms.

Playing “is exhilarating and a little bit scary,” she said. Her 15-year-old daughter, Julia, called it “hilarious” to watch her mom play. “I found someone as bad as me.”

Bonding with teenagers requires special skills. Sharing a sport helps, said Kammerman. “I think every woman here would say that it helps you relate to your kids.”

Agreed teammate Lisa Milofsky-Pinard, “There’s a lot of bonding that goes on.”

At first, the 49-year-old Silver Spring woman “never, ever thought I would play ice hockey.” Cycling, yes. Roller blading, yes, but not hockey.
“I thought it was too dangerous. And all those rules.”

She gave it a try last season, borrowing equipment from family members and friends. About three-quarters of the way through the season, she treated herself to her own gear.

Her sister, Alison Milofsky, 45 of Chevy Chase, “always wanted to play. I did play field hockey.” Not only does she work up a sweat during practice, but she claimed to be already perspiring by the time she finished donning her son’s jersey, her husband’s old gloves and helmet and her sister’s old skates.

At a recent practice, the sisters faced off, laughed loudly throughout.

Hockey Moms is the joint creation of Sprague and assistant coach Hilary Murphy.

“We joked about it for three years,” said Sprague.

Last year, she decided if it was ever going to happen, the time was now.

“I went to the rink, got some ice time, and was hoping to get 20 moms,” Sprague said. “We had 20 in the first week. After 40, I had to cut it off.”

Hockey Moms “is for beginners, for those who want to learn to skate, to understand the game better,” Sprague said, who has been coaching hockey for 13 years.

“They really want to be there. Most of them have told their spouses and kids, ‘Don’t come. Let me learn on my own,” he said. These are the same moms who “drive their kids back and forth, make dinner, bring snacks.”

Murphy, who normally takes to the ice with younger players, said, “adults learn faster. They are always so focused. They are quick learners.”

While focused, the women aren’t on the ice to conquer. Assistant coach Larry Boles recently demonstrated turning in a tight space. “If you can do a 360 [degree turn], you can do anything. If you fall down, you fall down. Most of you will.”

Only one skater fell, probably because most of the women slowed their skating speed to near zero as they tentatively attempted their turns.

Falling isn’t so bad, Kammerman said. After all, “you’re covered in what’s basically bubble wrap. There’s a level of protection.”

After they completed their turns, the women complimented each other on their success, banging their sticks on the ice in unison.

They soon finished their drills, followed by a few minutes of three-on-three and four-on-four scrimmages. Then it was back to the locker room for a quick change and out to the parking lot for 30 minutes of tailgating — wine, beer, cheese, crackers — before heading back to their roles as chauffeurs and nurturers.

spollak@midatlanticmedia.com