Dance Month Delights

Company E, which will be featured, celebrates cultural diversity. (Photos by Paul Emerson)

Company E, which will be featured, celebrates cultural diversity.
(Photos by Paul Emerson)

If February’s arctic blasts and icy roads have left you in need of a lift, you’re in luck. For the first time, Baltimore County’s Commission on Arts and Sciences, in partnership with the Gordon Center for Performing Arts and Baltimore County’s dance community, is presenting “Take a Leap,” a month-long celebration of dance in the Baltimore area.

“On behalf of the Gordon Center and the JCC, we are honored to be partnering with the Baltimore County Commission on Arts and Sciences and leaders of our local dance community on our first-ever dance celebration month,” said Randi Benesch, manager of arts and culture at the JCC. “We are shining a bright light on all of the many incredible dance programs that already exist in the county.

“And we are thrilled to feature such an incredible internationally recognized company in Company E. Their focus on celebrating cultural diversity is a perfect fit for our community center.”

Company E was founded in 2011 in a rain forest in Peru, said Paul Gordon Emerson, the company’s executive director. Though based in Washington, D.C., the repertory company spends much of its time traveling the world. In the past year alone, Emerson said, the company has performed, choreographed, filmed and collaborated with artists in Kazakhstan, Argentina, Spain, Italy and Tajikistan.

“Because we live in D.C. at the hub of the U.S. State Department, we can create programs in conjunction with the embassies,” Emerson said. “Our collaborations with the diplomatic community, both overseas and in D.C., foster everything we do — it’s why we can make it happen.”

Most recently, Company E used its diplomatic connections to commission a new work for debut at Baltimore County’s dance celebration. “Pulver,” created by Italian choreographer Walter Matteini, will be the centerpiece of Company E’s “Other Voices” concert at the Gordon Center on Saturday, Feb. 22 at 8 p.m.

“By putting this [celebration of dance] together, Baltimore County and the Gordon Center are doing something really courageous and important and necessary,” said Emerson. “We made a strategic decision to put our best foot forward and present something new for this concert.”

In addition to the world premiere of “Pulver,” Company E will present works by Spanish, Kazakhstani, and Israeli choreographers.

“Alma,” a dance choreographed by Tel Aviv-based Israeli choreographer Rachel Erdos with music composed by Alberto Schwartz, is one of the works to be featured.

“In many languages the name ‘Alma’ means ‘apple,’ ” said Emerson. “It is also a girl’s name in Hungary. The piece has 100 green apples on the stage. The dance is fun for me and perilous for the dancers. From my vantage point, the finest choreography in the world is coming out of Israel. The dance scene there is really a melting pot, and [I think] one of the reasons it is so rich is because it takes advantage of so many cultures.”

In addition to “Other Voices,” Company E will present “Jungle Book,” a family-friendly dance production based on the classic children’s story, on Sunday, Feb. 23 at 3 p.m. at the Gordon Center.

“A big part of our conversation has been about wondering, ‘How do you bring contemporary dance onto people’s radar screens and make them not afraid of it — especially young people?’ That’s a big concern for us,” said Emerson. “ ‘Jungle Book’ lends itself to dance, and what’s been the most fun [about this production] is that we’ve populated it with children from Towson University’s dance department. We have the children dancing right alongside the professionals.”

Company E’s role in Dance Month is not limited to performance. They will also be artists-in-residence for Baltimore County’s Public Schools during their visit to Baltimore.

Other upcoming highlights of Dance Month include “Meet the Artist,” with Nilas Martins, former principal dancer of the New York City Ballet, performances of “A Gershwin Rhapsody” and “The Firebird” by the Baltimore Ballet and a free screening of the dance-themed documentary, “Mad Hot Ballroom.”

Fronda Cohen, director of the Commission on Arts and Sciences for Baltimore County, said Dance Month has “ignited a creative spark in the arts community.” In fact, said Cohen, artists who work in other mediums such as the visual arts have gotten involved in Dance Month by creating interdisciplinary programs such as the visual art exhibition “Move! A Celebration of the Human Figure in Motion” from the Towson Art Collective.

“The program was developed in part to showcase the strength and variety of dance that already exists in Baltimore,” said Cohen.

“We saw that dance was a bit under the radar, and there was a role we could play in bringing together all of these companies. There is really a lot going on [with dance] in Balti-more County. We have 15 different companies participating.”

“We made Dance Month a real priority in our season this year,” added Emerson. “It’s been very powerful to get this going, and we hope to see it happen year after year.”

For tickets and information, visit jcc.org/gordon-center/dance-performances.

Adult Day Care: Right for Your Family?

You’re not alone if you’re at work, trying to concentrate on the document in front of you, but all you can think about is, “I hope Mom hasn’t forgotten she left a pot on the stove,” or, “I wonder if Dad has fallen and is lying in the bathroom.”

Caring for an elderly loved one or a special-needs adult at home can be all-encompassing. While it’s both rewarding and challenging, the key to success is having the right plan in place.

An adult day services center is one solution to meet the needs of a changing family dynamic. It can provide a safe, stimulating environment for a few hours a day for participants while allowing caregivers the chance to take care of life’s necessities free from worry.

Choosing an adult day care center that’s right for your own special-needs adult, parent or spouse requires research and time. Here are some things to consider.

Don’t just read about a center. Make an appointment and take a tour to see it for yourself. Some things to look for are:

• Is there natural light, and are all areas well lit?

• Is there enough room through-out for wheelchairs and walkers to maneuver easily?

• Are handrails strategically placed?

• Are bathrooms spacious enough for wheelchairs and walkers?

You should also watch how staff and participants interact. Look for a warm but professional feeling. Later, you may want to show up without an appointment to observe how everything operates when no guests are expected.

Adult day care centers in Maryland are designed for adults with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, post-stroke ailments or behavioral health challenges such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Staffing regulations differ in every state, but in Maryland, staff must include a registered nurse, activity staff, social workers and program assistants.

Of course, mental stimulation is important no matter what someone’s cognitive level is. The activities at one center may better suit your family member than at another center. Your husband may enjoy a dynamic activities program with arts and crafts, intergenerational programs, music, cooking classes and exercise, or he may be more partial to low-key discussion groups, entertainment and trips.

Food is also important to adults of all ages. If a participant keeps kosher, has food allergies or is a picky eater, check if a center can accommodate those needs and assist with feeding if necessary.

For your convenience, some day care centers provide door-to-door transportation with handicapped-equipped vans.

Finally, consider how many days a week your loved one can attend and what insurance will cover. Then you’re ready to make a decision. However, even after you’ve selected a center, keep communicating to make sure it continues to be a good fit.

If a parent, spouse or special-needs adult enjoys spending time at an adult day services center, the whole family benefits and your time together is even more special.

Lauri Malin R.N., B.S.N. is nurse manager at Pikesville Adult Day Services.

Olympic Preview

Gornaya Karusel, a sports and tourism area on Mount Aibga in Krasnaya Polyana will serve as one of the venues.

Gornaya Karusel, a sports and tourism area on Mount Aibga in Krasnaya Polyana will serve as one of the venues.
(Ivanaivanova via Wikimedia Commons)

With the 2014 Winter Olympics starting Feb. 7 in Sochi, Russia, the Jewish debate on the games mirrors the discourse taking place in the broader international and athletic communities.

While some Jews say they view the games purely as sport — with social or political issues not factoring into their evaluation — not all can ignore Russia’s controversial legislation aimed at the homosexual community, political detentions and allegations of Olympic corruption as well as the recent terrorist threats against the Games.

“I personally don’t plan to attend or follow the Games and actively encourage boycotting/not attending the Games,” said Anya Levitov, managing partner at Evans Property Services in Moscow. The various sensitive issues in Russia “make these Games anything but an event to follow.”

At the forefront of international criticism leveled at the Russian government in the months leading up to the Sochi Games is the country’s recent legislation against “gay propaganda.”

Masha Gessen, a Russian-American journalist and activist who is both Jewish and openly gay, told ABC News that the propaganda law, which was signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin last June, bans the distribution of information that could harm children’s development or encourage them to accept alternative sexual relationships.

“There have already been attempts to remove children from lesbian couples. So, basically, LGBT people [in Russia] have an incredible amount to fear right now, especially if they have children,” said Gessen. Furthermore, while the law itself only bans propaganda, there has been an increase in anti-gay violence around the country.

International Olympic Committee member Gian-Franco Kasper has claimed that as much as a third of the record-high $50 billion price tag for the Olympics has been siphoned off, while Boris Nemtsov, a critic of Putin’s government, told ABC News he has evidence that Russian officials and business executives stole at least $30 billion of the funds meant for Olympics-related projects.

In a separate interview, Levitov said that the Olympic sports venues were hastily built and may be hazardous to spectators and players.

“The [Olympic] construction was done by migrant workers, many of whom were sent back home without pay,” charged Levitov, adding that anti-immigrant sentiment has been growing in the country in recent years.

(Presidential Press and Information Office via Wikimedia Commons)

(Presidential Press and Information Office via Wikimedia Commons)

Putin has denied allegations of Olympics-related corruption.

“I do not see serious corruption instances for the moment, but there is a problem with overestimation of construction volumes,” Putin recently told reporters, explaining that some contractors had won tenders due to low bids that they subsequently inflated.

Putin’s presidency has not been associated with the kind of state-sanctioned anti-Semitism that was prevalent during the Soviet era. But Levitov believes that “the rise of state-sanctioned xenophobia and anti-gay hatred … as any intolerance, is ultimately a threat to the Jews.”

International Paralympic Committee editorial manager Stuart Lieberman — who will be reporting on the March 7-16 Paralympic Games, which are also taking place in Sochi — disagrees with boycotting the Olympics.

“I don’t think you can be entirely separate from politics [as it relates to the Olympics], but I don’t think you should be avoiding countries for reasons like this,” he said. Part of the value of the games is “to inspire and excite the world and to instill change in society.”

Sochi’s Chabad-Lubavitch Center is preparing to welcome an influx of Jewish athletes and visitors to its 3,000-member local Jewish community. Chabad has acquired two temporary centers that will be staffed by 12 rabbinic interns, and its staff has equipped itself to prepare about 7,000 kosher meals over the course of the games.

Rabbi Ari Edelkopf, the Chabad emissary to Sochi, does not take a political stand on any of the human rights or corruption issues in Russia.

“I view my role in this community as a spiritual one; I’m here to cater to the needs of the Jewish community as well as to visiting tourists,” he said. “It is our goal as an organization that the spiritual and religious needs of those living and visiting Sochi are met and hopefully expanded.”

Edelkopf did, however, note that the Sochi Jewish community is “in touch with local officials and security experts” regarding safety precautions, in light of concerns that the Sochi Olympics may be a target for terrorist attacks, particularly from Islamist groups in the Northern Caucausus region.

In December, two suicide attacks killed 34 people in Volgograd, about 700 kilometers north of Sochi. An Islamist group from the Caucausus claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Police have started to impose long-planned restrictions of access into and movement within Sochi. Up to 70,000 personnel will be patrolling the Games, according to some estimates.

What’s Next on the Gridiron?

020714_football2

The Big Blue Jerusalem Lions won the IFL’s first championship.

NEW YORK — Days before Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium, a New York City room full of players, coaches and supporters of the Israel Football League — a group spanning several generations of Israeli sportsmen — looked forward to an upcoming signature event for American-style football in the Jewish state.

The Jan. 29 gathering marked the announcement that Jerusalem will host the 2014 International Federation of American Football Flag Football World Championships from Aug. 13 to 15. Thirty teams, composed of 500 athletes from some 20 countries, are slated to participate in the largest world championship sports competition ever to be held in Israel. The World Cup-style event will face political challenges; already Saudi Arabia has withdrawn from the competition, while a Turkish team is scheduled to participate.

American football in Israel began in 1989 with flag football games started by American immigrants looking for a taste of their homeland. Within 10 years, 35 IFL teams were in place. Israeli flag football league teams have had reasonable success in competition against international teams. At the moment, the Israeli men’s team is ranked fifth in the world, and the women’s team is ranked sixth.

In less than a quarter-century, “football has become an important strategic partner to the State of Israel,” said Ido Aharoni, consul general of Israel in New York.

Aharoni called sports “the No. 1 most effective bridge builder [that] establishes camaraderie and teaches responsibility, caring and protection — all the things Israel thrives on.” Sports, said Aharoni, are also a means to help “make sure the world understands that Israel is a real country, not just a place plagued with conflicts.”

“The partnership between the United States and Israel is unbreakable and is intensified through sports,” said Rabbi Michael Miller, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.

In 2005, pioneers who wanted to play American tackle football founded the IFL to introduce the game to Israel. Initially, players hit the field without proper equipment or an official governing body. But within two years, a league was organized under the umbrella of American Football in Israel (AFI). In 2007, when players began using regulated protective tackle equipment, only four teams — the Big Blue Jerusalem Lions, the Real Housing Haifa Underdogs, the Dancing Camel Hasharon Pioneers and the Mike’s Place Tel Aviv Sabres — competed. The Big Blue Jerusalem Lions won the first championship. By 2009, the league had expanded to seven teams; 11 teams now compete. The annual championship game is broadcast on Israeli television.

Eli Groner, now Israel’s minister for economics in North America, was the quarterback of the Big Blue Jerusalem Lions. Recalling the feelings of making aliyah at the age of 15, he said football was “a place to call home, a place where people can get integrated into Israeli society. The league is a great absorption center, a real story of integration.”

The IFL counts the family of Robert Kraft, owner of the NFL’s New England Patriots, among its major sponsors. The Krafts endowed the Kraft Family Stadium in Jerusalem, the league’s first permanent home.

Football and Israel are “two of [Robert Kraft’s] major loves,” and the IFL gives him an opportunity to have both, said AFI president Steve Leibowitz. American tackle football in Israel is “a great combination — a development of teamwork that started a dream, then added instruction and support and is powered by determination,” said Leibowitz.

Betzalel Friedman, commissioner of the IFL, grew up in Indianapolis and became involved with football after he completed his service in the Israel Defense Forces. During the last six years, he has witnessed a 300 percent growth in participation in American football in Israel.

“Jews, Muslims, Christians — everyone is a team player,” said Friedman.

Yonah Mishaan, who has coached Israel’s men’s and women’s flag  football teams and will lead the Israeli national team for the 2016 European Federation of American Football, was featured at a Jan. 29 event in New York City that highlighted the growth of football in Israel.

Yonah Mishaan, who has coached Israel’s men’s and women’s flag football teams and will lead the Israeli national team for the 2016 European Federation of American Football, was featured at a Jan. 29 event in New York City that highlighted the growth of football in Israel.

Leibowitz anticipates that $400,000 in funding is needed to ready an Israeli team for competition in the European Federation of American Football in 2016. Steps are being taken to enhance the team’s personnel and equipment. Yonah Mishaan, who has coached Israel’s men’s and women’s flag football teams, has been hired to coach the Israeli national team for 2016.

“We expect to play well but need professional equipment and help encouraging development,” said Mishaan. University of Michigan quarterback Alex Swieca, who holds dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship, is expected to be part of Israel’s national team in the 2016 European competition.

Leibowitz looks forward to establishing football centers in every Israeli city, similar in concept to the success of tennis throughout the country.

“There is an active and growing football community in Jerusalem,” said Leibowitz. “We hope to have centers from Nahariya to Be’er Sheva. We need to create a youth football league [and] high school and adult teams.”

While Israeli teams play a 60-yard, nine-on-nine game (as compared with the 100-yard, 11-on-11 American version), the IFL “must expand to a 100-yard field in order to be competitive in international play.”

Leibowitz anticipates that within a decade, 10,000 players will be involved in American football in Israel.

“What started as a part of bringing a piece of the U.S. to Israel has become much more than that,” said Groner.

‘The Monuments Men’ Recalls Allied Effort To Save Europe’s Heritage

020714_monuments-men2There’s nothing like a star-studded Hollywood movie to shine a light on a little-known piece of history.

That’s the hope of Robert Edsel, who wrote the book that inspired “The Monuments Men,” the George Clooney-Matt Damon film that opens Friday in theaters across the country.

The all-star cast also includes Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville and Cate Blanchett.

Clooney, who directed the film, teamed to write and produce it with Grant Heslov, bringing together the duo who produced last year’s Oscar winner for best picture, “Argo.”

The action-packed World War II adventure film is a fictionalized version of Edsel’s book of the same name. The book tells the compelling and surprising story of a special Allied military unit known as the Monuments Men sent into battle zones to protect historic buildings, churches and monuments across Europe.

The unit of 345 members from 13 countries — many were art historians, archivists and architects — rescued more than five million pieces of Nazi-looted paintings, sculptures and rare manuscripts. Among them were some of the world’s most treasured cultural objects, including works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt and Vincent van Gogh.

Edsel said the visibility of a major feature film offers a chance to honor the legacy of the long-forgotten heroism of the Monuments Men, provide a path to reclaim art that is still missing and galvanize the public’s concern to prevent cultural destruction in war zones today and in the future.

Edsel suggested that while he is not Jewish, he sees in the Monuments Men a story that will resonate with young Jews, a different entry point to teach about Jewish culture and the Holocaust.

The movie provides historical context to events that reverberate in headlines today, from the discovery of a trove of Nazi-looted art in Germany to the destruction of ancient artifacts in Egypt and war-torn Syria.

Clooney said that making a film about saving art isn’t just about paintings hanging on a museum wall.

“It’s about the fabric of our culture,” he said at a recent news conference in Hollywood.

In the film, Clooney plays Frank Stokes, based on real-life George Stout, an art historian at Harvard’s Fogg Museum whose proposal to protect cultural property during the war led President Franklin Roosevelt to establish the unit. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower is credited with empowering the unit to carry out its mission.

It was a watershed moment in the preservation of cultural history, said Edsel.

Through the Monuments Men Foundation he established in 2007, Edsel is backing a bill in Congress that would award the Monuments Men the Congressional Gold Medal.

Robert Edsel, author of "The Monuments Men," attends a New Orleans screening of the movie based on his book.

Robert Edsel, author of “The Monuments Men,” attends a New Orleans screening of the movie based on his book.

“It’s a race against time,” said Edsel, who would like to see the bill adopted while there are living members of the Monuments Men.

Harry Ettlinger, whose Jewish family fled Germany in 1938 when he was young, is among only five Monuments Men still alive. Ettlinger was drafted into the Army in 1944 at age 18 and eventually was assigned to the Monuments Men unit for his fluency in German.

“It makes me feel good that I did something of value for the rest of the world,” Ettlinger, 87, said from his home in Rockaway, N.J.

In the movie, British actor Dimitri Leonidas plays Sam Epstein, a character based on Ettlinger. Following a recent private screening, Ettlinger gave the film a thumbs-up.

In November 2012, Ettlinger accepted an award from the American Jewish Historical Society on behalf of all the Monuments Men. The society also awarded its legacy award in memory of Col. Seymour Pomrenze, an archivist who served 34 years of active and reserve service in the Army, for his unique leadership role in the Monuments Men recovering and restituting millions of Jewish books and artifacts and nearly 1,000 Torah scrolls confiscated by the Nazis. Pomrenze died in 2011.

In many ways, Pomrenze’s work is a parallel story to the saving of looted art, said Lisa Leff, an associate professor of history at American University in Washington, D.C., and a specialist on the fate of Jewish archives in France during and after World War II.

But while the Monuments Men’s mission was to return the art to its original countries, much of what Pomrenze rescued became “heirless,” as the original Jewish owners and entire Jewish communities perished in the war.

An organization of Jewish scholars was established to deal with the books and manuscripts and other property, which was disbursed to Jewish institutions in Israel and the United States.

While the film is not an explicitly Jewish story, Leff imagined it will garner significant attention from a Jewish audience because so much of what was stolen was owned by Jewish collectors or created by Jewish artists.

Edsel said he hopes that a toll-free hotline set up by the Monuments Men Foundation will lead to the return of some of the art that is still missing. He hoped, too, that increased prominence of the Monuments Men story will inspire similar efforts today.

“Looking forward,” Edsel said, “we want to put their legacy to use so that the U.S. and other countries re-establish the high bar set by Gen. Eisenhower during the war.”

Wishing Upon a Star

Laura Stern (Provided

Laura Stern (Provided

Many little girls dream of being a Disney princess, but for Laura Stern, the dream has become a reality. For the past three years, the 24-year-old figure skater and actor has been performing with “Disney On Ice.” This year’s show, which celebrates the 100th anniversary of Walt Disney’s legacy, is at the Baltimore Arena Feb. 5-9.

The daughter of a competitive ice skater, Stern, who grew up in Granada Hills, Calif., began skating at the age of 6.

“My mother always took me to the rink while she skated, and I wanted to try it,” she said. “One day she said ‘yes,’ and I really took to it.” Stern hasn’t left the ice since.

From the beginning, Stern was passionate about performing. She skated competitively throughout high school, winning many awards and relocating to Colorado without her family to train. She was just 16.

“I was a competitive pairs skater, and it’s always so difficult to find a partner,” said Stern. “One partnership ended so I went to a tryout in Colorado, and one of the partners [I skated with] there worked out. So I went there and lived with another family for almost a year.”

While in Colorado, Stern underwent rigorous training, but toward the end of her first year, she suffered an injury and was forced to return home.

“It was bittersweet,” she said. “I got to go to college and study theater, so I think it happened for a reason.”

Although her injuries brought an end to competitive skating, they wouldn’t put an end to her skating career.

Stern graduated with a bachelor’s degree in theater arts from California State University at Long Beach in 2011. In her last year there, she and a friend auditioned for “Disney On Ice” and were hired. It was a perfect opportunity to combine her passions for theater and ice skating. Disney also gave Stern an opportunity to see the world. Since joining the production, she has visited the Middle East, South America and Puerto Rico.

Stern was raised in a Reform family with strong ties to a synagogue and a tight-knit Jewish community.

“I had a bat mitzvah, went to Hebrew school and was in youth group all throughout high school,” she said. “It’s been a challenge being on tour and not being able to go to temple. But my parents raised me with good values, and whenever I go home, I go [to temple]. I celebrate all the Jewish holidays with my family even if it’s over Skype. Being Jewish is a huge part of my life.”

In this year’s “Disney On Ice” program, Stern’s roles include a bride in “Mulan” and a can-can girl in “Pinocchio.”

“I’m in the ensemble so I play many different parts. We have fun costumes, and the show offers a little bit of everything for both boys and girls,” she said. “This show has Aladdin and the princesses, classics like Pinocchio and newer characters from ‘The Incredibles’ and ‘Finding Nemo.’”

Stern says that like many Disney fans, she grew up loving the company’s movies and princesses such as Ariel and Belle.

“After the shows, we get to go into the audience and shake hands with the kids,” she said. “It’s pretty cool to see how much it means to them. It’s a great job.”

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit baltimorearena.com/events/disney-on-ice/.

sellin@jewishtimes.com

Landmark Deli Takes Baltimore Flavor to Potomac

013114_attmansHe might just be the only deli owner/doctor in the country, if not the world, and he’ll put his corned beef up against any of those fading New York delis: Katz’s, Second Avenue, Zabars.

Pikesville resident Marc Attman is a proud third-generation deli owner. He notes his ZIP code, 21208, as part of his identity. Attman’s famous deli on Lombard Street in downtown Baltimore since 1915 — the original Corned Beef Row — is very nearly the last deli standing in what was once a teeming immigrant Jewish neighborhood with delis, bakeries, kosher butchers and the like. Just around the corner stand the historic Lloyd Street and B’nai Israel synagogues, these days housing the Jewish Museum of Maryland, but the gentrifying neighborhood belies a time in the early and mid-20th century when the area was proudly and authentically Jewish.

The Jews of Baltimore have long since moved away from Lombard Street, first to Catonsville, then to Park Heights, Reisterstown and Pikesville and now to Owings Mills. But Marc Attman, who took over the family deli business when his father, Seymour, died in 2002, wanted to expand the clientele, and he saw his opportunity not around the Baltimore Beltway but in the affluent Jewish community of Montgomery County.

“A lot of our families have moved out here [to Potomac and Rockville],” Attman said over Dr. Brown’s cream soda at his new place in Potomac, “and we decided we wanted to be a part of the Jewish community again and bring back that flavor of the deli world, which is what we know and love.”

This past summer he brought Corned Beef Row to the heart of Potomac, opening an Attman’s Delicatessen in the Cabin John Shopping Center. It may not have the worn-down, shabby authenticity of the original place, with its Formica counters, assertive signage — “corned beef on rye with mustard, not mayonnaise, any questions” — but this dive with its scuffed tiled floor has served presidents, governors, senators, and just plain folks with a hankering for a good piece of meat and a bit of lip from a wise-guy counterman. And this spot also has restaurant service in the back Kibbitz Room, in addition to the counter service and tables up front, something Attman felt the more discerning Potomac patrons would prefer.

A longtime member of Chizuk Amuno in Pikesville, Attman said the deli will never be kosher. It was only strictly kosher for about a decade or so, he said, in the 1930s. He admits: “Kosher is not my style. It’s not for me. First of all, to be a kosher restaurant you need to be a strictly Orthodox person to own it, otherwise you’re not going to be supported. I’m a Conservative Jew. I’m always going to be a Conservative Jew, so I’m not going to be supported.”

“Second, in the world of delicatessen, there’s not any good food out there in a strictly kosher deli,” he insisted. “I’ve eaten the best deli in the world, and you just can’t find a good strictly kosher deli. It’s not that good.” Kosher-style has been and will remain Attman’s calling card.

Marc Attman insists that the pristine new restaurant and deli with its attractive blue-and-white tiles in Montgomery County serves the same authentic corned beef, pickles and hot dogs with a snap as the well-worn Baltimore joint. But the surroundings — unmarred new tables, gleaming deli cases and spotless counters — belie the 100-year family history that goes into the corned beef, which is made daily in the on-site kitchen. The knishes, classic potato and now new-fangled sweet potato and spinach for more modern taste buds, are also made on site, not imported frozen like so many other delis do from a New York purveyor.

Attman, who divides his days into seeing patients at his optometry practice and overseeing — and basting and tasting — the corned beef and glad-handing customers, said: “We Attman’s boys, we keep working. My dad worked until the very end. He died of a stroke on the floor of the deli. Then we took him to the hospital. Basically that was it. His last words were: ‘So, we have bagels?’ That’s how it’s always been; we just keep going. My uncle is 94; he still works. He runs Attman’s catering division. My other uncle goes to work every day. We all work. All my cousins. There are no playboys in the program.”

The deli doc has his hand in every part of the business, and while he makes it out to Potomac just once or twice a week, his wife, Debbie, works the floor as a hostess and manager during the week. The grandson of founder Harry Attman has been working the deli since he was 8 years old. He said the work hasn’t changed all that much: “I did then what I do today: clean tables, make sure the floor’s clean, count money, say hello to people, introduce myself, tell them I’m a third-generation owner of Attman’s Delicatessen. I always say: ‘Are you happy with everything? Is there anything I can do to make you happier?’ I’m very happy with what I do, and we serve the same food we’ve served forever. I enjoy it.”

Attman has noticed some differences in his clientele’s preferences. In Baltimore, hotdogs are a big deal, and many customers come in and order a sandwich and a hotdog. In Potomac, not so much. “Look at this couple,” he said to a well-dressed older couple at a nearby table. “Nice people, but they’re not going to eat a sandwich and a hotdog. Every other person who comes into Lombard Street to get a sandwich gets a hotdog or splits a hotdog. Some people will come in and say, ‘Give me three hotdogs to eat.’ I’ll never sell three hotdogs here. It’s a cultural thing.”

Corned beef on rye is the most popular sandwich in Potomac and in Baltimore. But in Potomac people want their corned beef lean or extra lean. While Attman and his deli workers will comply, he notes that a good authentic piece of corned beef requires some fat. He also points out that Baltimore deli is sliced thinly, not like the thickly cut slabs of meat New Yorkers often pine for.

“Here [in Potomac] they don’t want any fat. On Lombard Street we sell pastrami with fat; here don’t even think about it. Fat is like a four-letter word here in Potomac,” he added.

The deli makes its corned beef fresh daily and goes through 30 to 40 pieces of 8- or 10-pound cuts of corned beef. “We’re probably the biggest users of corned beef on the East Coast,” he boasted. “We used more corned beef than Katz’s in New York.” Relinquishing on another deli meat: “They might use more pastrami.”

Another distinction between Lombard Street and Potomac is the preference for mayonnaise on the sandwiches in Baltimore or even a combination of mustard and mayo. In Montgomery County, it’s mustard all the way.

While Attman loves the corned beef — and the hotdogs — his favorite? The brisket. “We have a really delicious brisket,” he said. “I learned from my father who learned from his father. It was my grandmother, Ida, who made the recipe. And all the [Attman] mothers learned how to make it. My wife makes it. I’m telling you we make some delicious brisket.”

So what’s the secret?

“I can’t tell you,” he said with a smile. “The truth is about how you really keep basting the brisket. You don’t just let it sit and bake. Also it makes a difference where the brisket comes from; you don’t want a brisket from too far down [on the cow]. You want it to come from the shoulder. You don’t want the brisket to be too lean. You want to let the fat melt away.”

Attman, who eats corned beef and a hot dog every day, pointed at his pleasingly plump physique and said, “It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to taste it.”

Jewish Geography Tackles Super Bowl

From left, Rabbi Josh Snyder and his family — Shalva, Ayelet, wife Neely and Nava — cheer for the Seahawks.

From left, Rabbi Josh Snyder and his family — Shalva, Ayelet, wife Neely and Nava — cheer for the Seahawks. (David Stuck)

If you’re a Ravens fan — and few Baltimoreans aren’t — Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVIII showdown between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., is shaping up to be a bit of a bummer. But take heart. At least you’re not a Baltimore native and diehard Ravens fan who happens to live in Denver, like Philip Hyatt.

Although Hyatt, 45, and his wife, Nicci, 41, maintain an apartment that is within walking distance of M&T Stadium and are still Ravens season-ticket holders, they’ve spent most of their time in Denver for the past six years.

After relocating to the Mile High City, they had trouble finding places that televised Ravens games and missed watching games with other Baltimore fans. So Nicci Hyatt decided to start a meet-up group for other likeminded souls living in Denver.

“In the beginning, Nicci found a handful of people, and we’d get together in a tiny corner of a bar to watch the games,” said Philip Hyatt. “Now, we have almost 400 people in the group.”

“A local bar here, Choppers, has given us their back room every week for our games,” the Pikesville native continued. “We usually have over 50 people each week, and big games draw over 150. Everyone is from Baltimore, and someone’s always coming back with crab chips and Bergers cookies. Invariably, you end up knowing somebody. It’s Smalltimore, you know.”

Last year, the Ravens pulled off a stunning AFC playoff game upset in Denver on their way to winning the Super Bowl. The Hyatts and their meet-up group were in full glory after that unlikely 38-35 double overtime victory over the Broncos.

“Last year was the pinnacle,” Philip Hyatt said. “[Nicci and I] were on the front page of [The Baltimore Sun] and on TV. All the networks — ABC, CBS and NBC — everyone was calling my wife. This year, with the Broncos doing well, it’s kind of fueled the fire and turned our indifference [toward the Broncos and their fans] to hatred.”

Since Ravens games are usually televised earlier in the day (Mountain Time), those backing Denver and Baltimore can typically avoid being in the same place at the same time.

But “there are a lot more Broncos fans than Ravens fans in Denver, [and] things can get a little testy,” said Hyatt. “Sometimes they will spill over into the back room where we are, and we’ll usually boo them.”

Unlike the Hyatts, Goucher Hillel executive director Rabbi Josh Snyder, a Philadelphia native, finds himself living in Baltimore but obsessed with the Seahawks. He first embraced the Seattle team while in middle school.

“I wasn’t really into sports, but then my friends started getting into football,” said Snyder. “I never really liked the [Philadelphia] Eagles, and I saw the Seahawks and started liking them as an underdog team.”

Snyder recalled watching the Seahawks beat the Broncos in November 1992; he’s looking forward to seeing them do the same Sunday.

“There’s a feeling among Seahawks fans that this is it,” said the rabbi. “I’m really hopeful that I will be able to get a ticket. But either way, it’s exciting. Especially after being in Baltimore last year, you get a sense of what this means to a city. I was happy for Ravens fans last year, and this year a lot of friends are excited for me. They’ve been calling and texting.”

As for the Hyatts, they aren’t planning anything special.

“I’ll probably just sit home and cry,” said Philip Hyatt jokingly. But he will still be watching. “It’s the Super Bowl after all. What are you going to do?”

The financial planner isn’t sure who he’ll root for.

“I’ll be happy for the friends I have here who are Broncos fans,” he said, “but I won’t be too unhappy if they lose.”

In Sundance Premier, a Look at Shin Bet Methods

From left: Filmmaker Nadav Schirman’s “The Green Prince” is a documentary detailing the spying exploits of Gonen Ben Itzhak and Mosab Hassan Yousef. (Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

From left: Filmmaker Nadav Schirman’s “The Green Prince” is a documentary detailing the spying exploits of Gonen Ben Itzhak and Mosab Hassan Yousef.
(Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

PARK CITY, Utah – Perhaps the most difficult thing about watching the new documentary “The Green Prince” is feeling that you should not be there, that everyone in the theater should be asked to leave before any more Israeli intelligence secrets are divulged.

When the Israeli newspaper Haaretz first broke the story in 2010 of how the son of Hamas leader Hassan Yousef spent a decade as Israel’s top informer in the West Bank, it warned that Israeli intelligence officials would not be happy to see so many of its secrets revealed: how it recruits and handles its Palestinian agents; how it managed to break the second intifada; and how it identified terrorist leaders so they could be arrested or assassinated.

The film version, which had its world premiere here this week at the Sundance Film Festival, is narrated by two voices: the Green Prince himself, Mosab Hassan Yousef, and his Shin Bet handler, Gonen Ben Yitzchak. Based on Yousef’s autobiography, “Son of Hamas,” the film tells the story of his odyssey from young militant to spy for Israel’s security service to Southern California asylum seeker fighting to avoid deportation back to the Middle East.

Yousef’s code name within the Shin Bet was derived from the green color of the Hamas flag and his near royal pedigree among Palestinians. Told through a combination of interviews, re-enactments and archival footage, his story takes the viewer inside two worlds.

For Yousef, Hamas was “our family business.” His father spent more than a decade and a half in Israeli prisons for his leadership role in Hamas. Most recently, he was arrested in 2011 and released on Jan. 19, two days after the film premiered.

The younger Yousef was arrested at age 17, and not for the first time, for buying guns. It was during the months-long confinement that followed in Israel’s Megiddo prison that he came to understand Hamas’ brutality. Yousef decided he had been living a lie and agreed to become a spy for his sworn enemy.

For Yousef’s handler, turning the son of a Hamas founder was a career-making achievement. Ben Yitzchak, the son of an Israeli army general, was inspired to join the Shin Bet following the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Yet all was not to end well for the agent.

Ben Yitzchak grew close to his source and, from the Shin Bet’s perspective, betrayed the agency, trusting Yousef over his senior officers and breaking with procedure by meeting with him alone in the field and allowing him vacation time in Israel, including a rental car and a hotel.

From Ben Yitzchak’s perspective, it was all necessary to maintain the relationship and save Israeli lives. Haaretz reported that the pair had prevented dozens of planned attacks, including a plot to assassinate President Shimon Peres and former Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

“So many people owe him their life and don’t even know it,” Ben Yitzchak told the newspaper.

Eventually Ben Yitzchak was fired from the Shin Bet, but the bond between them grew stronger. Yousef declined to work with subsequent handlers and had reached the breaking point after 10 years of living his underground life. He was allowed to relocate temporarily to San Diego under the guise of needing dental surgery.

The Israelis thought the break was temporary, but Yousef had other ideas. Once in the United States, he began a new life, joining a Christian church, writing a book and applying for political asylum. But his application was denied, and U.S. authorities began proceedings to deport him as a terrorist.

In the end, only Ben Yitzchak was willing to attest to the veracity of Yousef’s claims, flying from Israel to San Diego for a decisive hearing in 2010. The gambit worked, thanks in part to a campaign that included letters from members of the Israeli Knesset and the U.S. House of Representatives. Yousef remains in Southern California to this day, disowned by his family but embraced by many new friends and supporters.

At a question-and-answer session following one of the screenings, Yousef, Ben Yitzchak and the film’s director, Nadav Schirman, spoke of their partnership in making the film, referring to each other as close friends and brothers. For Schirman, aside from the cloak-and-dagger quality of the story and the revelations about both Hamas and Shin Bet, the heart of the film is the relationship that evolved between his two subjects.

“I found their connection so full of hope in the sense of ‘see what happens when people dare trust one another and go against preconceived notions,’ ” said Schirman. “The best of enemies become the best of friends.”

He added: “Their humanity defies all the rules and breaks all the boundaries.”

A Polish Opera Director in the Judean Desert

“La Traviata” director Michal Znaniecki says “Masada is a perfect backdrop” for the opera’s “life-and-death theme.” (Provided)

“La Traviata” director Michal Znaniecki says “Masada is a perfect backdrop” for the opera’s “life-and-death theme.”
(Provided)

Pre-state Israel experienced its first opera premiere when the Russian-born conductor and visionary, Mordechai Golinkin, directed Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata” in September 1923. With no opera house in Tel Aviv at the time, the opera had to be performed in movie theaters. In Golinkin’s quest to pioneer opera life and culture, “La Traviata” was one of the first of several operas that he directed in the early years leading to Jewish statehood.

But now, more than 90 years later, that same opera is making its appearance once again in the Holy Land — this time under very different circumstances. The Israeli Opera today is internationally recognized, and Tel Aviv boasts a state-of-the-art Opera House at the city’s Performing Arts Center.

However, the new production of “La Traviata” will take place at Masada June 12 to 17 as the main performance of the fourth Israeli Opera Festival. In the past, the festival featured other Verdi operas — “Nabucco” in 2010 and “Aida” in 2011 — and also near the lowest point on earth.

“We want to give these stones life,” said Chana Munitz, Israeli Opera’s general director, in reference to Masada, a rugged natural fortress not far from the Dead Sea, where holdouts of the Jewish revolt against Roman rule chose death rather than slavery. “Producing opera in an opera house is one thing, but producing an opera event in the desert is quite another.”

The “La Traviata” production is directed by one of the world’s most renowned opera directors, Michal Znaniecki, who specializes in open-air productions. The show also will feature internationally acclaimed Israeli conductor maestro Daniel Oren.

Znaniecki, originally from Warsaw, told Tazpit News Agency that producing “La Traviata” in Masada “was a natural choice.”

“Masada’s history is a perfect backdrop,” he explained. “The life-and-death theme in the story resonates with what took place in Masada in addition to the landmark’s importance for the people of Israel.”

The Polish director began his career in 1994 and has directed 180 new productions of opera, theater plays and musicals in Poland, France, Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Norway and Argentina, among other countries.

Znaniecki has been working on the “La Traviata” production for the past three years and related that he is “excited to see the project finally happen in the Judean desert.”

It will be the largest and most complex opera production ever seen in Israel, employing some 2,500 people in addition to 700 participants and operating teams. The festival will also feature the Israel Philharmonic led by Kent Nagano and the Idan Raichel Project as well as singers from the Israeli Opera’s Meitar Opera Studio.

The Israel Ministry of Tourism expects 50,000 people from Israel and “cultural tourists” from abroad to partake in the festival. This year, the Israeli Opera Festival will also reach Akko (June 19-21) and will feature a weekend of Mozart at the subterranean Crusader Halls in Akkoís Old City.