Serving Up an Ace


Israel’s Andy Ram lies exhausted but jubilant on the court following his five-set doubles victory with partner Yoni Erlich, holding racket, over Argentina.

SUNRISE, Fla. — It wasn’t Tel Aviv, but thousands of people chanting his name at a Davis Cup match following a grueling victory was a pretty good way for Israel’s Andy Ram to leave the game of tennis to which he had devoted more than half his life.

Ram, 34, and his longtime doubles partner, Yoni Erlich, had just outlasted the Argentine duo of Federico Delbonis and Horacio Zeballos in a five-set match on Saturday, Sept. 13 that lasted nearly three-and-a-half hours.

With Ram sprawled out on center court — on his back, in tears — the crowd waved Israeli flags and “Todah [Thank you] Andy Ram” signs in Hebrew and chanted “Andyoni” and “Tishaer [Stay],” suggesting that he put off the retirement he had announced recently.

His teammates, wearing “Todah Andy” shirts, surrounded Ram, hoisted him in the air and carried him off the court. They proceeded to dump an ice-filled bucket on his head.

He would stay on the court for 20 minutes signing autographs and posing for pictures.

At a news conference afterward, Ram talked about his actions following the match, with Erlich and coach Eyal Ran at his side.

“I ran out of energy,” he said. “Then, as I was looking up at the sky and the birds, I got very emotional. And I cried like a baby.

“I thought of my father who couldn’t be here. I thought of my mom who was here. I left home at 14 to play tennis. Most of our relationship was on the phone. It meant the world to me that she was here.”

The doubles victory had put underdog Israel ahead 2-1 in the team match, but Argentina took both singles matches the following day to advance in the international tournament.

Despite the thunderous reception — as well as the Hebrew music heard frequently during the changeovers — Ram and his Israeli teammates lamented that the match was not played in central Israel, as scheduled, rather than South Florida.

In July, the Argentine Tennis Association requested a change in venue from the Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv due to security concerns surrounding the conflict in Gaza. The International Tennis Federation informed Israel in August that the match had to be moved. Israel appealed but lost; it would have to serve as host in a different location.

The Sunrise Tennis Club was selected from among several options. Much of the crowd there backed the Israelis, with a section of Argentines clad in light blue and white shirts rooting on their guys.

“We are playing here in the U.S.; it is a good feeling and yet it is not the best feeling,” Ram said. “It was supposed to be in Israel. I wanted to play in front of my home crowd.”

His teammate, Dudi Sela, was a little more direct.“The ITF made a mistake,” Sela said. “We were looking forward to playing in front of 11,000 people cheering for Israel.”

Asi Touchmair, the chair of the Israel Tennis Association, noted in a statement that Israel has hosted the Davis Cup during times of war and military operations without having to move the matches.

Despite the distance and the logistics difficulties involved, Touchmair said, “We decided to play the Davis Cup in South Florida due to the warm and welcoming relationship that Israel receives from the United States and where an atmosphere of a ‘home away from home’ will be experienced by our Israel Davis Cup team.”

Among those who made the trek to Sunrise was Andrea Eidman, an Argentine sports journalist who came from Buenos Aires.

“People asked me, who do you cheer for? And honestly, I didn’t care!” she said.

Eidman added, “For me, being present at that tennis court … with the Hebrew music going on and on, with the Israeli flags, the ‘Hatikvah,’ the shofar — it was a party from beginning to end!”

Ram, sitting in the stands on Friday with Erlich, 37, and cheering on his teammates during singles’ matches, said he had no problem looking toward the future.

“I try to put it behind me, like in the past,” he said. “I am the kind of guy who is always thinking, ‘What’s next?’

“It was fun. It was a good time. Next is to focus on my kids [aged 5 and 7]. To see them growing, to be great athletes. To find myself, my way.”

Ram and Erlich — natives of Uruguay and Argentina, respectively — reached as high as No. 5 in the world doubles rankings. They advanced to 36 finals and won 20 of them, including the 2008 Australian Open. Ram also won the Wimbledon mixed doubles in 2006 and the French Open mixed doubles in 2007.

Ram is particularly proud of his Davis Cup record of 19-5 following the one final victory — achieved despite pulling muscle in his left leg late in the fifth set.

“I sent Jonathan on a suicide mission,” Ram joked. “He said, ‘Just get the serves in. I will do the rest.’”

Erlich’s particularly strong volleys powered the duo in the final set in 91-degree heat.

Ram spoke of his partnership with Ehrlich.

“When we go on court together, magic happens. We communicate. We know what the other one will do,” Ram said.

Erlich offered, “We had motivation, energy and a lot of belief.”

Eidman summed up what much of the crowd was likely feeling on seeing Ram’s finale.

“I felt like crying when Andy Ram said goodbye to tennis,” she said, noting that the Argentina team’s Jewish captain, Martin Jaite, was playing in his final match too.

Eidman also said, “I would have loved to travel to eretz Israel instead of America. … It hurt my heart not to go to Israel because of the war.”

But, Ram said, “11,000 people screaming Andyoni is amazing!”



Secret Weapon


Idan Ravin reveals stories from his career as an advisor to basketball greats in “The Hoops Whisperer.” Courtesy of William Scarlett

Idan Ravin’s friends chipped in to buy him a humble but life-changing bar mitzvah gift — a basketball hoop his father attached to the roof of his garage. Little did his friends know that years later, he would be the personal trainer of National Basketball Association stars Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and Stephen Curry.

Ravin’s new book, “The Hoops Whisperer: On the Court and Inside the Head of Basketball’s Best Players,” details his rise from a Jewish upbringing to becoming a well-respected figure in NBA circles despite the fact that he never played college or professional basketball. Using unorthodox drills and improvisational techniques to improve their games, Ravin is sought after by many players and has reportedly turned down full-time positions with NBA teams to keep working one-on-one with the stars.

“I never imagined that when I first worked with Idan before my rookie year, our relationship would extend more than a decade,” Anthony says on the back cover of the book, which was released in May. “He has influenced me tremendously, and I am very grateful for his loyalty, friendship and guidance. … While some consider his methods unorthodox, the end results for me have been remarkable.”

Born to an Israeli mother and Russian father, Ravin grew up in a Conservative Jewish home. His parents were raised in observant families and chose careers in Jewish education. Both taught Judaic studies at Jewish schools and synagogues, spoke mostly Hebrew and lived modest lives.

“All of it made me who I am,” Ravin said. “When I was younger, religion and faith had one meaning, but as I grew up it took on a broader meaning. It became more of living a life of faith. The [NBA] players and I sort of live parallel lives because we both found something that we love very much, and only faith can push you through such a nontraditional journey.”

How does Ravin connect with high-profile NBA stars?

“There are several levels,” he said. “Obviously, when I walk into a room with them they are sophisticated guys, and they are incredibly bright even though some people don’t think they are. If I don’t believe in my gospel, and my gospel doesn’t make sense, they won’t listen. Within two seconds they’ll let you know you’re selling magic beans, and they’ll never let you have another moment with them. Something about what I’m saying and doing resonates substantively with them.”

While he attended the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, basketball took hold of Ravin. He practiced shooting alone in a nearby park, ran sprints in the cold, shoveled snow for a patch of driveway to practice ball-handling skills at home and came up with his own drills.

Although he played varsity basketball for most of his high school career, Ravin was never recruited to play in college and ended up majoring in finance and marketing at the University of Maryland. He went on to attend law school and coached a middle school YMCA basketball team while unhappily practicing law. His deep love for the game and his refusal to give up led him to his current line of work, starting when he helped Maryland acquaintance and future NBA player Steve Francis.

“Just because someone plays the game doesn’t mean they have a monopoly on wisdom,” Ravin said. “Not every CEO is a Harvard MBA. … It is sort of an institutional judgment that has been created in sports. Yes, there are some things that those guys have that I do not have. But … there are a lot of experiences and knowledge that I have that those other guys don’t have.”

“The Hoops Whisperer” reveals Ravin’s gifts of intuition, a sensitivity to players’ rhythms and the ability to motivate, inspire and communicate with them. Readers get a behind-the-scenes look at stars such as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and others who have benefited from Ravin’s training. In one chapter, the author details his trips to Israel as a young boy, including how his family stayed with his mother’s parents in a small two-bedroom apartment.

“Fast forward 20 years. I returned to Israel dribbling a ball, this time with New York Knicks’ All-Star forward Amar’e Stoudemire,” Ravin writes. “Amar’e felt spiritually connected to Israel and Judaism, inspired by his mother’s affinity for the religion. To prepare for his [2010] trip, Amar’e studied Hebrew with my mom. She taught him some expressions he could toss at the Israeli media.”

Ravin took the Knicks’ star to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, where he saw Stoudemire’s emotional response to a tour guide’s stories of the brutality inflicted on Jewish children by the Nazis.

In the book, Durant says Ravin “is the first guy I’ve worked with who brought something different to the workouts, who pushed me past my limits, who made me think of the game on a different level.”

“Idan believed in me when others didn’t,” says Knicks’ guard J.R. Smith. “He challenged me when others couldn’t. He cheered for me when others stopped. He praised me when others wouldn’t.”

Ravin’s book was even the subject of a rabbinical sermon at Temple Sinai in Los Angeles. The inspiration was a quote from the beginning of the book in which Janusz Korczak, a doctor who ran an orphanage during the Holocaust, explains how he was able to save many children.

“The quote is essentially the idea of how important it is to play,” Ravin said. “No matter what situation you’re in or how silly it might feel to somebody else or how tragic something might be, it’s important to always connect with that idea of playfulness in your childhood.”

The book’s usage in a synagogue sanctuary, rather than on a basketball court, is illustrative of Ravin’s broader goals for the volume’s influence.

“It’s connecting with a lot of people in a lot of different ways,” Ravin said. “It’s not a basketball book, it’s not a training book. It’s a book about life.”



Thoroughly modern ‘Altina’

Altina Schinasi studies one of her projects in this 1970 photo. (Photos courtesy of

Altina Schinasi studies one of her projects in this 1970 photo. (Photos courtesy of

LOS ANGELES — Ambitious girls of yore looking for role models among successful and accomplished women might turn to scientist Marie Curie, aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart or first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, a social justice champion.

And then there was Altina Schinasi, the subject of a new documentary feature, “Altina,” directed by her filmmaker grandson Peter Sanders.

“Tina” grew up among the opulent splendor of a New York mansion, became a painter and innovative sculptor, then an Oscar-nominated film producer, inventor, business executive, backer of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and an advocate for refugees fleeing the Nazis.

The new feature on her life was shown last month in New York City and Beverly Hills, Calif.; future screenings are planned for Washington, D.C.

Altina Schinasi-Sanders-Barrett-Carey-Miranda was born in 1907 and raised in a 12-bedroom white marble mansion that’s still standing on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, at Riverside Drive and 107th Street.

Her father, Morris Schinasi, arrived in New York as a penniless Jewish immigrant from Turkey. He invented a cigarette-rolling machine at a time when people still rolled their own, then branched out into making and selling his own brands of cigarettes packed with strong Oriental tobacco. Morris Schinasi managed to build a business empire without learning how to read or write — but he spoke eight languages fluently.

Tina Schinasi attended a predominantly Episcopalian boarding school in Wellesley, Mass., where she got her first youthful taste of anti-Semitism.

Despite her family wealth, she went to work during the Depression, designing window displays for Fifth Avenue stores. Schinasi also collaborated with the surrealist painter Salvador Dali on some assignments and studied under the German exile artist George Grosz.

She found the spectacles worn by women in the early part of the 20th century to be unflattering, so she created Harlequin — or cat’s eye — frames, which swept the country in the 1930s. Subsequently, Schinasi established her own company to distribute her invention.

The Schinasi Mansion on Manhattan's Upper West Side as it looked in 1907, the year of Altina’s birth.

The Schinasi Mansion on Manhattan’s Upper West Side as it looked in 1907, the year of Altina’s birth.

Striking out as an artist, she experimented with bold paintings, showing the influence of Picasso and Chagall. Then, turning to sculpture, she created “humanistic” benches and chairs that she dubbed “chairacters,” depicting lovers in passionate embrace or coolly turning their backs on each other.

“I never thought I was a great painter, but I had a passion for the arts,” she says in the film.

In the 1940s, she moved to Los Angeles and naturally directed her talents toward making a documentary film. Titled “Interregnum” (“Germany Between Wars”), it tracked the artistic and political career of her ex-teacher Grosz, whose biting anti-Nazi caricatures led to his forced exile when Hitler came to power.

This first-time effort won her an Oscar nomination and the prestigious Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

During the civil rights confrontations of the 1950s and ‘60s, she befriended King and obtained his agreement to make a film about his life and struggles. The project was too controversial at the time, and Schinasi was unable to find studio funding and backing, Sanders said.

During the communist-hunting era of the 1940s and ‘50s, Sanders noted, Schinasi sheltered movie director John Berry, who was trying to avoid a congressional subpoena, in her Beverly Hills home.

Alongside these varied activities she married a procession of husbands. In chronological order they were architect Morris Sanders; Eric Barrett, a Viennese doctor and concert pianist; Charles Carey, her co-producer on “Interregnum”; and finally, Celestino (“Tino”) Miranda, an artistic refugee form Castro’s Cuba who joined Tina in her painting and sculpturing studio.

Miranda makes for one of the more arresting figures in the film. He married the considerably older Tina in 1981, when she was already in her 70s. Speaking in Spanish, he tells the viewer, “She was hot, she liked sex. She didn’t just lie there, she had the stamina of a 25-year-old.”

Schinasi died in 1999 at age 92. In making his documentary, Sanders was greatly aided by the discovery of footage that Morris Sanders shot on the couple’s honeymoon in 1927 and in 1928. A two-hour interview filmed with an 84-year-old Schinasi filmed by her son Terry Sanders also was instrumental.

During the last decade of her life, Schinasi and Miranda lived in Santa Fe, N.M., and Peter Sanders joined them for half a year at their combination homestead and artists’ studio.

He remembered his grandmother as cool and private, not the hugging type.

“I tried to decode what her paintings and sculptures meant,” Peter Sanders said. “And everywhere there were animals, inside and outside, peacocks, sheep, Chinese roosters and Bernese Mountain Dogs.”

Asked about the Jewish aspect of his family tree, Sanders observed, “My grandmother Tina was proud of her Jewishness, deeply affected by the rise of the Nazis and personally furnished 13 affidavits to enable Jewish refugees to enter the United States. But we were never practicing Jews in the religious sense.”

An upbeat aspect of the film is the musical score, including ragtime and jazz, reflecting the various decades of Tina’s life.

Following five years of work, “Altina” came in at a budget of about $250,000, mainly underwritten by Schinasi’s granddaughter Victoria Sanders, who first conceptualized the film, and executive producer Diane Dickensheid.

To borrow from satirist and songwriter Tom Lehrer’s paean to the much and famously married Alma Mahler, “a woman like this makes one realize how little one has accomplished in one’s own life.”

A call to ‘action!’


Kevin Kline and Maggie Smith star in Israel Horovitz’s “My Old Lady.”. Courtesy of Cohen Media Group

A robust 75, the award-winning playwright, theater director and screenwriter Israel Horovitz nonetheless isn’t in the market for a new career. Too bad, for his moving debut as a filmmaker, “My Old Lady,” is a rewarding, beautifully acted story of adults overcoming loneliness and bitterness.

“[The late, great Jewish director]  Sidney Lumet once said to me about directing, ‘Get the best actors you can on the face of the earth and then get out of their way,’” Horovitz said. “And that was, in a sense, a directing style for me.”

Adapted by Horovitz from his stage play, “My Old Lady” begins with a rather unlikable New York Jew named Mathias Gold (Kevin Kline) primed to claim the Paris apartment left him by his perpetually despised and recently deceased father.

Mathias thinks his luck has finally turned and that he’s landed on easy street after a lifelong stretch of failed marriages and unpublished novels.

Alas, the apartment is a viager, which means the elderly Englishwoman (Maggie Smith) residing there with her unmarried daughter (the always-great Kristin Scott Thomas) retains tenancy until her death. Mathias’ actual inheritance, in the meantime, is the monthly payment contractually owed to the old lady. You don’t need to imagine his frustration and anger, for Mathias makes no effort to hide it.

“My Old Lady,” which opens locally on Sept. 19 at the Charles Theatre, spills many poignant secrets that expose the characters’ long-concealed connection and the scars from the past that they still bear. It makes for powerful drama, even though Horovitz excised a chunk of the original play dealing with the treatment of Jews during the Occupation.

“I found that I had to boil the whole thing down into a kind of ‘guy walks into a bar’ story,” Horovitz said, “then write a film as though I had never written [the] stage play. In the first draft of the film, which was enormously too long, all of the talk about the Nazi Occupation of Paris was in. As I boiled it down to what I thought the real theme of the film was, the real spine, it wasn’t that. It was about Mathias, his relationship with his father, and his ultimate forgiveness of his father. [Mathias] doesn’t renounce being Jewish, he doesn’t hide being Jewish. It’s just not what the movie’s about.”

Horovitz is the author of more than 70 produced plays, including such Jewish-themed works as “Park Your Car in Harvard Yard” and “Lebensraum.” He also penned the screenplay for “Sunshine,” István Szabó’s epic 1999 film about a Hungarian Jewish family spanning the 20th century.

“Being Jewish is part of my life, but it’s not my only subject,” Horovitz said.

The writer has garnered several shelves’ worth of awards, including two Obies, France’s Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Letres and a lifetime achievement award from B’nai Brith. The writer is as famous and respected in France as he is in the U.S., which allows him a unique perspective on the increase in French anti-Semitism.

“I have some Jewish friends [in Paris], some of them in high places, who are grievously alarmed, and some Jewish friends who are kind of in denial,” Horovitz said. “And then I have me, in my own skin, and when I’m in Paris I’m, quite frankly, a very highly regarded playwright, so I may not get the same kind of experience or the same kind of anti-Semitism [as] some French Jew going to synagogue in a [small] town. You couldn’t have a more Jewish name than mine unless your name was Israel Jew, so there’s no question in anybody’s mind when they meet me that I’m Jewish. Do I personally experience a lot of anti-Semitism? Almost none. Almost none that I see.”

However, Horovitz can’t say the same about growing up in Wakefield, Mass., a town about 12 miles north of Boston, in the 1940s and ’50s.

“Did I as a kid experience anti-Semitism? On a daily basis,” Horovitz said. “The overriding sentiment in my town was, ‘Why did we go to war and lose all of these American boys? We just should have given Hitler his Jews.’ Now that wasn’t everybody, but it was some people, and they were quite vocal about it. I can’t, in my wildest imagination, think that all of France or all of Paris is anti-Semitic, but the people who go out in the street with their fists in the air and do Hitler salutes are certainly visible.”

For his next film project, Horovitz is working on a screenplay based on “Park Your Car in Harvard Yard,” his play about an old Jewish retired teacher and his younger housekeeper, former student.

“I have had offers to direct other films,” Horovitz said. “That doesn’t interest me. Really, I’m not trying to build a hot career. But I think I’ve got a couple more movies in me, and I’d like to make a record of what I consider to be my best work onstage.”

Hersh’s and Charmery Make Ice Cream Magic

he sundae contained a sweet tomato blondie, ricotta ice cream, basil chocolate sauce and nut brittle.

The sundae contained a sweet tomato blondie, ricotta ice cream, basil chocolate sauce and nut brittle.

Hampden handcrafted ice cream shop The Charmery is no stranger to unusual ice cream flavors. Old Bay Caramel, Cheesecake with Graham Cracker Swirl, Chinese Food and a Movie (which features buttered popcorn and chocolate covered fortune cookies) and Mango Lassi have graced the menu, which is constantly changing.

“My friends and employees are used to us doing crazy things,” said co-owner and “master creamer” David Alima, who owns The Charmery with his wife, Laura.

With that mentality came yet another unlikely mash-up of flavors. Alima joined forces with Josh Hershkovitz, chef and co-owner of Hersh’s in South Baltimore, to make a take on a Caprese salad.

The sundae was available for one night only, on Tuesday, Sept. 9. It was the second sundae in The Charmery’s guest chef series, the first of which featured a Heath Bar Bread Pudding sundae with Chad Gauss from The Food Market.

To arrive at the final product, Hershkovitz and Alima did a lot of brainstorming. It started with Hersh’s house-made ricotta cheese.

“We thought it would go well with a lot of different things, and so we decided to do a blondie,” said Hershkovitz, whose restaurant features pizza and Italian food. “But instead of doing it traditionally, we pulled back a little bit on the brown butter and added some of the tomato paste that we make at the restaurant inside.”

The ricotta comes in with the ice cream.

“We took about three-and-a-half pounds of the cheese and put it in our ice cream, and we did a little bourbon and a little Tahitian vanilla,” Alima said. “Then we took our chocolate sauce and infused some fresh basil in it.” It’s all topped off with a nut brittle.

Of course, when trying to make a salad-inspired sundae, at least one of the creators had some trepidation.

“When people approach me with their idea I’m always like, ‘Phew, you know we’re an ice cream shop here?

Josh Hershkovitz (left), co-owner  and chef at Hersh’s, and David Alima, co-owner of The Charmery, make a Caprese salad-inspired sundae.

Josh Hershkovitz (left), co-owner and chef at Hersh’s, and David Alima, co-owner of The Charmery, make a Caprese salad-inspired sundae.

I don’t know how that’s going to work,’” Alima said. “And slowly it kind of builds and builds and builds into this kind of thing that’s delicious and something I could never have thought of on my own.”

Customers who tried the sundae called it “interesting” and like something they’ve never had before, and were happy with their dessert purchases.

“I was expecting more of an oddball thing, but it’s delicious,” said Patrick Boyle.

“It’s crazy how well it all goes together,” said Soraya Bailey.

The night not only offered a one-time sundae, but a dollar from each sundae sold was donated to Seeds of Peace, the charity of Hershkovitz’s choice. The contents of the night’s tip jar were also donated to the charity.

Seeds of Peace engages young leaders from regions of conflict with various programming in hopes of achieving lasting peace.

“A few of the camps have Israeli and Palestinian kids staying in bunks together,” Hershkovitz said. “They play sports and what not, but they sit down and really start talking about things and try to get past some of the stereotypes they have of each other and really start dealing with ‘how do we make this a more livable world?’ … It seems so hopeful.”

Another recent charitable effort landed Hersh’s in the national spotlight. After Ray Rice was cut from the  Ravens on Monday, Sept. 8, amid a domestic violence scandal, Hersh’s offered a free pizza and a $2.70 donation to House of Ruth for every Ray Rice jersey brought to the restaurant that week. Customers brought in about 50 jerseys on Monday, Hershkovitz said, and its Facebook page grew from 1,400 likes to nearly 2,600 as of press time. Hershkovitz, who was wearing purple Nikes at The Charmery event, was also trying to get the Ravens to donate directly to House of Ruth for Hersh’s collected jerseys once the team announced it was instituting its own buy-back program.

On Thursday, Hersh’s announced via its Facebook page, where the trade-in was first announced, that it would not be talking to the media about the jerseys anymore because of threats to the restaurant and expressed regret that “all of the media attention turned this story into a circus.”

“We are Ravens fans and season ticket holders at Hersh’s, and we found the news on Monday terribly troubling,” the Facebook statement said. “While we appreciate reasonable statements of all kinds, whether in agreement with our actions or not, we are highly troubled by the profanity and threats of physical violence we have received via Facebook and via telephone calls to the restaurant.”

As for The Charmery, Alima is scouting other guest chefs, thinking about bringing some tea flavors into his shop and debating bringing back last year’s Apples and Honey ice cream for Rosh Hashanah.

“We’re always trying to do some new, different things,” he said.

Ice Cold But Red Hot


Maryland native Nicole Feld, along with her team at Feld Entertainment, turned “Frozen” the movie into “Frozen” on ice. (Provided)

Baltimore just got a lot cooler. The Snow Queen is coming to town.

“Disney on Ice: Frozen,” an adaptation of  the highest-grossing animated movie of all time, will be at Royal Farms Arena from Oct. 29 to Nov. 2. Among those most excited to bring the Academy Award-winning retelling of the Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Snow Queen” to the area is Marylander Nicole Feld.

Feld, who is producing the ice-skating adaptation, said she first got wind of the project from the movie’s executive producer, John Lasseter.

Lasseter “called me excitedly when they first began working on the movie,” said Feld, a native of Potomac. “He told me, ‘We are working on the perfect ice show for you. It is even called ‘Frozen.’ We saw early cuts of the film and worked directly with animators to create the production.”

Disney’s latest box-office smash, ‘Frozen’ tells the classic story of two Scandinavian princesses, sisters Elsa and Anna, but it also provides a modern feminist twist on the fairy tale. With a Broadway score, decadent costumes and intricate sets, it seamlessly transitions into a live show for Disney On Ice’s 34th production.

“I have a 3-year-old daughter. When I’m not directing ‘Frozen,’ I’m watching ‘Frozen’ with her,” said Feld. “From ‘Let It Go’ to ‘In Summer,’ the music excites me. This movie was made to be on ice.”

The production comes as part of Feld Entertainment’s 35-year partnership with Disney. Feld joined the family business in 2001 and has produced more than 30 shows during her tenure. Her grandfather, Irvin, started the company after acquiring the rights to produce the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus in 1967.

“I love continuing my grandfather’s work,” said Feld. “From seeing children dressed up in costumes to watching the audience’s eyes light up, I am privileged to bring these magical movies to life.”

With 39 performers and 20 crew and staff members, “Disney on Ice: Frozen” uses state-of-the-art special effects, modular set pieces, a snowflake-shaped stage and digital video projections, and seasoned ice skaters, producers and directors create a larger-than-life experience for fans, said Feld.

“They know every song, every line and every dance move” she said. “Because the bar is already set so high, there is a lot of pressure to live up to the fans’ expectations. We created the princesses’ castle, the North Mountains and even brought a blizzard and Marshmallow monster onstage. We do not want to disappoint our fans.”

By working closely with the animators from Day 1, Feld was able to meld Disney’s initial ideas into the show.

“We went through intensive character development with our skaters. The filmmakers showed us tiny nuances they used to create each character,” said Feld. “While Elsa’s movements are more definitive and sharp, Anna’s are more whimsical. If she slips and falls on the ice, you will never know if it was on purpose or accidental.”

While human characters such as Elsa and Anna were easier to get onstage, characters such as Olaf the Snowman proved to be more difficult.

“We had to sprinkle some Disney magic and use some tricks of the trade to create Olaf,” said Feld. “He does not come out until the second half, but when he does, the crowd goes wild. It is not easy to re-create a character with removable body parts.”

After nine months of development, “Disney on Ice: Frozen” opened to audiences in Orlando, Fla., last month.

“Surprisingly, our initial visualization of the show is almost identical to the final product,” said Feld. “We usually take a year to create productions, but this movie is so popular that we worked on a tight deadline to start our tour.”

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Orioles Rally

More than 300 people participated in an Orioles rally at Stevenson University as part of the team’s “We Won’t Stop” campaign on Monday. The event featured former Oriole Scott McGregor, the Oriole Bird and trivia with signed memorabilia as prizes.

The Right Call

Orioles fans celebrate before the last out against the Toronto Blue Jays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Sept. 16. The O’s clinched the American League East that night with a 8-2 victory. (Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire 255/Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire/Newscom)

Orioles fans celebrate before the last out against the Toronto Blue Jays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Sept. 16. The O’s clinched the American League East that night with a 8-2 victory. (Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire 255/Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire/Newscom)

Jewish baseball fans, journalists, broadcasters and players face a very important decision this week. They must choose between baseball or attending Yom Kippur services.

The Orioles won the American League East title and hosted the Detroit Tigers, winners of the Central Division, in the league’s Division Series opener on Oct. 2. Forty-three south, the Washington Nationals won the National League’s East Division and open their division series on Oct. 3.

The Nationals’ game will be played on Erev Yom Kippur, and Game 2 of that series on Oct. 4, which is Yom Kippur. Game 2 of the ALDS between Orioles and Tigers also will be played on Erev Yom Kippur at Oriole Park.

The Lerner family, who own the Nationals, announced last week that it will not attend any games —  including the playoffs — that fall on Jewish holidays including, of course, Yom Kippur. Neither the Orioles nor the Nationals has a Jewish player.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Alan “Bud” Selig, who likely will be in Baltimore on Oct. 3 and in Washington on Oct. 4, will have to choose between baseball or Yom Kippur. So will Tigers manager Brad Aumus and his star second baseman, Ian Kinsler, who are in Charm City Friday night.

There are other Jewish players in the playoffs who will have to make the same choice: Ike Davis (Pittsburgh Pirates); Sam Fuld and Nate Freiman (Oakland A’s); and Joc Pederson (Los Angeles Dodgers).

Historically, two of the most famous of all Jewish baseball stars, Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax, faced the same decision: play or pray.

Greenburg, a first baseman for the 1934 Tigers, was the team’s best player. His Tigers were in the middle of a hot American League pennant race. It was Rosh Hashanah, and he had been pressured for more than a week from rabbis and Jews nationwide, some telling him not to play, others telling him that he could not let down his team.

See Orioles Rally pictures here.

Greenburg chose to play and hit two home runs, including one in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat the Boston Red Sox, 2-1. Nine days later, he sat on Yom Kippur, and the Tigers went on to represent the American League in the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Greenburg had an outstanding Series, but the Cardinals rode the strong arms of standout pitchers — and brothers — Paul and Dizzy Dean to win the championship.

However, it was Koufax who made national headlines in 1965 for choosing “praying over playing.” He wasn’t just any other pitcher; the future Hall-
of-Famer was the Major League’s very best at the time.

He sat out Game 1 of the World Series against the Minnesota Twins. Koufax, one of the most private superstars in sports history, fasted and prayed in his hotel room in Minneapolis rather than draw attention by attending services at a local synagogue.

Don Drysdale took Koufax’s place in Game 1, and the Dodgers lost. Koufax started Game 2, and he too lost. But the Dodgers rallied to win the Series, as Koufax pitched shutouts in Game 5 and the decisive Game 7.

For journalists who have followed the Orioles and Nationals since February, when both teams started spring training, it has been an exciting nine-month, 162-game ride. Yes, the playoffs are what we all had hoped for; and yes, each one of the games is special. But there are far more important matters.

Despite wanting to cover the Orioles and Nationals, I will be attending services at Chizuk Amuno, not only because, to me, it is the right thing to do, but if the great Sandy Koufax can choose to sit out starting Game 1 of a World Series, one of the most exciting experiences in sports, out of respect and love for being Jewish, I can surely miss three first-round playoff games.

Jim Williams is a local freelance writer.

Playing a New Tune

Jose Antonio Bowen (Provided)

Jose Antonio Bowen (Provided)

With the selection of Jose Antonio Bowen as its 11th president, Goucher College has jumped with both feet into the 21st century. Since the semester began just weeks ago, Bowen, 52, an award-winning educator, author, arts administrator, jazz musician and composer, has begun signaling the Goucher community, as well as the academic establishment at large, that the times are changing at the Towson-based liberal arts college.

Yet, despite his modern outlook, Bowen said he chose to come to Goucher because of the institution’s “great history, stellar academics, financial health and commitments to inclusion and social justice.”

The new president, who is of Cuban and Jewish ancestry, spent most of his childhood in Fresno, Calif., and went on to earn four degrees from Stanford University: a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, master’s degrees in music composition and humanities and a joint Ph.D. in musicology and humanities. In 1982, Bowen became Stanford’s director of jazz ensembles, leaving in 1994 to become founding director of the Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music at the University of Southampton, England.

In 1999, Bowen returned to the United States to occupy the first endowed Caestecker Chair of Music at Georgetown University. At Georgetown, Bowen created and led the now Department of Performing Arts. He was dean of fine arts at Miami University before moving to Southern Methodist University in Dallas in 2006 to become dean of its arts school. By the end of his time at Meadows, the school topped USA Today’s 2014 rankings for schools of music.

Bowen has published more than 100 scholarly articles, is the editor of the Cambridge Companion to Conducting and received a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship. He contributed to Discover Jazz (Pearson, 2011) and is one of the editors of the six-CD set, ”Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology” (2011).

For 35 years, he has performed, composed and toured through the U.S., Europe, the Middle East, the Americas and Asia with jazz greats, including Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Brubeck, Bobby McFerrin, Liberace and Stan Getz. But Bowen even found musical ways to pay homage to his Jewish roots, composing a body of Jewish music including jazz Shabbat and klezmer services, Jewish choral music, a song-cycle with text from Anne Frank’s diary called “Voice from the Attic” and a Chanukah play for children.

Despite Bowen’s strong credentials, some may wonder why Goucher chose a president whose background has been so musically focused. But Bowen explained that music, especially jazz, lends itself well to his work as a college president.

“Musicians must be great collaborators and great listeners,” he said. “Especially in jazz, you must be spontaneous and know when to fit in your part and when to sit back and let someone else play. Ultimately, it’s the total product that matters.”

Although he hopes to continue composing, teaching and performing music, Bowen said that for the time being, most of his time will be spent focusing on his work as Goucher’s president. He and his wife, Kimberly, live on campus, and Bowen said they rarely have had occasion to get off campus since they moved to Baltimore. The couple has a 21-year-old daughter, who is a senior at SMU.

Soon after his arrival, Bowen made headlines with his announcement that the college will soon permit students to side-step what for many has been a tortuous application process and instead apply to Goucher by submitting a two-minute video presentation and two pieces of work — one written — of which they are especially proud. The groundbreaking policy has pleased some and raised red flags for others.

Bowen was quick to explain that the alternative application process will not affect the majority of students who apply to Goucher and that the new process is “only experimental.”

“If it doesn’t work, we’ll stop,” he said. “It is simply a different way to look at talent. We’re looking to start conversations with more students who might find the traditional application process too intimidating.”

As evidenced by the new application process, his robust website and his blog and tweets, Goucher’s new president is clearly a fan of technology. Yet his book, “Teaching Naked,” which won the Ness Award for the “book that best illuminates the goals and practices of a contemporary liberal education,” advises educators to remove technology from their classrooms. “Teaching Naked,” said Bowen, “is about the value of face-to-face study.”

With the wealth of information available free on the Internet and the tremendous cost of college education, he said, parents must be convinced that students will receive significant benefit from their time in the classroom. If teachers follow certain techniques, Bowen believes that they will be convinced.

“The Internet has changed everything. Today, there is more information on our phones than can be gotten from any scholar in any class. The best place for technology is outside the classroom,” he insisted.

Bowen suggests that teachers use technologies such as social media to keep students engaged and thinking about ideas generated during classroom interactions when they are outside of class. “The value of the classroom is more about pedagogy— teaching students to think,” he explained. “The trick is to [teach
students to be] discerning and analytic. Students need to learn the difference between fact and fiction. Can they sort through all the stuff on the Internet and find what they really need? This is more important than ever.”

Liberal arts colleges and universities that aren’t prepared to rethink their methods of education, concluded Bowen, may not survive. In fact, he said, 30 to 40 percent of these institutions will fail in the next 15 years.

“Every year, we lose a couple of dozen,” said Bowen. “The number of high school graduates has fallen, and the baby boomers are over; the median income is down, and skepticism about liberal arts education has increased. The real answer is that each campus must be unique.”

End-of-Life Insights

“Redefining Moments” wasn’t written only for the terminally ill. (Beaufort Books)

“Redefining Moments” wasn’t written only for the terminally ill. (Beaufort Books)

Gordon Zacks was a successful businessman, a leader of Jewish life and a confidante and adviser to President George H.W. Bush. He knew that he had prostate cancer, but doctors advised him that it was very slow growing and nothing to worry about. Then came the day when the doctors told him his cancer had metastasized to his liver and that he had only three months to live.

Zacks — who would die in February 2014 — decided to make his bedroom a school in which he and those he loved would study together about how to live at the end of life. What a school it was and what a faculty gathered at his bedside. The details are chronicled in Zacks’s posthumously published book, “Redefining
Moments: End of Life Stories for Better Living.”

Natan Sharansky — the refusenik Zacks helped rescue from the Former Soviet Union and now head of the Jewish Agency for Israel — showed up at the door one day just to say “thank you,” but ended up staying longer to discuss the meaning of life. Leslie Wexner and Jay Schottenstein, both renowned figures in Jewish education, showed up to thank the man who had given them their start on careers in Jewish philanthropy. Perhaps the most important of all the visitors was Zacks’ 7-year-old granddaughter, who crossed the country just so that she could give her grandfather a hug and a kiss before it was too late. Zacks taught those who convened for this informal seminar that each person must find his passion—whatever it is—and follow it to the very end. Whoever does that will have done his part in making this world a better place.

One of Zacks’s daughters recalled that when she was in Israel during her gap year between high school and college, a teacher in the seminary she was attending quoted something from the Talmud that she thought was morally offensive. She called her father back in Columbus, Ohio, and told him about how much the teacher offended her. The next morning, she opened the door, and there was her father! He had flown all the way from Columbus to Jerusalem to be with her and to help her resolve this moral issue. He took her to Rabbi David Hartman, the open-minded Jewish philosopher who was known for taking on Jewish tradition with both love and honesty, and they spent the whole day studying together. Hartman showed them that the offensive passage did exist in Jewish tradition, but that it had to be understood in its historical context and it needed to be matched against the many moral passages in the Talmud that teach the opposite.

Zacks’ daughter thanked her father during the “seminar” for what he did that day in Israel, and rightfully so. How many fathers can you think of who would fly halfway across the world, on a day’s notice, simply to help a daughter understand tradition as it should be understood? I imagine that there were probably lots of plaques on the wall of Zacks’ home that bore testimony to his generous donations to worthy causes over the years, but I must say that this gesture he performed for his daughter was probably worth more than all of them put together.

At several points, Zacks — ever the organized executive — offered some sets of questions that he felt every person should ask himself as his end draws near. These questions, in my estimation, should be posted on the mirror of every hospice room. One set reads: “Do I still have an overarching purpose and a task to attend to — even now? Am I trying to complete the tasks I still have to do? Do I ask for help from others now that I realize that I can no longer do what I once could by myself? Have I conveyed my goals and entrusted my unfinished tasks to others who will take them up after I am gone? Have I come to terms with the disappointments in my life, and am I now focused on the doable, instead of dwelling on the things that I did wrong but can’t undo? And even if the end of my life is not close, do I still give the things that count the most priority in my daily life?”

There are more insights in this book that everyone should think about at the end of life — and beforehand. For instance, Zacks asks a question that most of us dread: What should I do if I reach the stage when I need to use a walker, a wheelchair or even diapers?

The instinctive reaction most of us would have to such a question is: How can I live without my dignity? But Zacks gets past that question and says that what we think of as “dignity” may sometimes be vanity in disguise. He says that man doesn’t give dignity to man—God does. Therefore, a person should come to terms with who he is now and what he can and can’t do now and must understand that dignity doesn’t depend on appearances but rather on a commitment to his tasks and values, even when he can no longer live without the help of others.

You don’t have to be terminally ill to learn from this book or to think of organizing such a “seminar” for those you love, although impending mortality does concentrate the mind. You only need to have strong convictions and goals, the desire to teach them to your children and the hope that they will carry them on when their turn to lead comes. If you have these convictions and goals, this is a valuable book to study — and then to emulate.

“Redefining Moments: End of Life Stories for Better Living,” by Gordon B. Zacks, edited by Catherine Zacks Gildenhorn, Beaufort Books, New York, July 2014, 158 pages, $19.95.