It hasn’t happened since 1888, and it won’t happen again until 2070 and 2165. After that, it will be 70,000 years until it happens again. So grab your dreidels, latkes and gravy boats, because this year Thanksgiving and Chanukah collide.

Yes, the first day of Chanukah falls on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28. Time magazine calls this event “the best excuse for overeating since sliced potatoes.”

Most are calling the holiday “Thanksgivukkah” — a word coined and trademarked by Dana Gitell, a 37-year-old marketing specialist from Boston.

Gitell said she hit on the idea in 2011 after seeing a calendar that showed Jewish holidays over the next five years.

“I was driving and thinking about what you would call that day and rolling the words around in my mind, and I came up with … Thanksgivukkah,” she said.

Gitell started a Facebook page for Thanksgivukkah that has taken off.

Thanksgivukkah has inspired enterprising commercial interests and ordinary folks alike. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will feature a dreidel balloon. You still have time to order Thanksgivukkah shirts and gifts from I found lots of fun ideas and things to see online. You can find several terrific Thanksgivukkah videos on YouTube. Click here to see Stephen Colbert’s hilarious tribute to Thanksgivukkah. I laughed out loud when he tried making a hand menorah instead of a hand turkey.

Gil and Margie Brodsky’s Thanksgivukkah version of the Chanukah song featuring lyrics such as “Come light the menurky” and “Let’s have a party with latkes and turkey” is also a riot.

Another entertaining YouTube video is “The Ballad of Thanksgivukkah,” a lively song performed by the entire staff and student body of the Kehillah Schechter Academy of Norwood, Mass. Creative lyrics include a transition from Plymouth Rock to “Rock of Ages.”

And check out PJ Library is a fantastic “Jewish family engagement program” dedicated to providing free, high-quality Jewish children’s literature and music to families across the U.S. On its site are links for child-friendly Thanksgivukkah crafts such as a pumpkin menorah made with real miniature pumpkins, a Star of David napkin ring and ideas for toddlers.

For foodies, this day is a true fantasy feast. There are unlimited ways to combine Chanukah and Thanksgiving recipes. On past Thanksgiving days, many Shabbat-observant Jews didn’t pay too much attention to serving turkey on that Thursday. This is because the very next day was Shabbat, so they often saved the turkey for Friday night. But this special Thursday event deserves the full-on turkey treatment. You even have time to order the Star of David or dreidel mold for potato pancakes at

You might consider Thanksgivukkah a fad because, let’s face it, it’s not going to happen again for a long, long, long time. But think of the many Jewish babies that will be born on this day. They surely will be celebrating the event for generations to come.

I asked Larry Levy, owner/chef of Biddle Street Catering, what he’s doing for Thanksgivukkah, as he is always on the cutting edge of food fads. Levy said his more adventurous clients are asking for more creativity for Thanksgivukkah, and he can deliver just that. I tasted his new menu additions and can attest: Levy has a great option for Thanksgivukkah gravy. His fabulous lighter Bordelaise sauce is made with wine, and he has another one that he braises the turkey in, with Manischewitz wine as an option. His yummy pumpkin cheesecake (pareve or dairy) has a delicious cranberry topping. And his homemade doughnuts are infused with jelly or pumpkin mousse. The uniquely roasted brussels sprouts have pieces of sautéed crisp pastrami. His apple/potato pancakes and homemade cranberry relish are other wonderful items that combine the holidays in delicious ways. And Biddle Street makes gorgeous garnishes of large turnip flowers, leek daisies and spaghetti shreds of carrots.

For an easy and unique turkey presentation, I use fresh kale, fresh sage, canned spiced apples and fresh cranberries or grapes to decorate my turkey platter. You can slice and prepare these herbs and fruits in advance. If you decide to plate each person’s dish, think about placing the sliced turkey on top of a large potato pancake and then drizzle with gravy.

Pumpkin pie and other pumpkin dishes can easily be made pareve by using non-dairy coffee creamer in place of the evaporated milk. Non-dairy cheese such as Tofutti can be used to make pumpkin cheesecake or dips.

I always love food mash-ups, so Thanksgivukkah suits me fine. I combine two different stuffing box mixes, such as cranberry and cornbread, and add some sautéed onions and dry sage for a homemade taste. For quick, good gravy, I mix turkey gravy with beef gravy (can, jar or powdered mix) and add some essence from the turkey. My mother always combined the gravy she bought from the deli: one pint of beef and one pint of turkey.

Created with flickr slideshow.

Carrot Dill Soup >>
Biddle Street’s Brussels Sprouts With Shallots And Pastrami Crisps >>
Biddle Street’s Apple-Potato Latkes >>
Cranberry Crumb Bars >>

Tips & Tricks
Here are a few recipes and tips to make Thanksgivukkah delicious and memorable. Gobble Tov to all!
• Try substituting Tofutti cream cheese and sour cream.
• Make a thin potato kugel and use your Jewish star cookie-cutter to shape potato kugel pancakes.
• Spice up some store-bought apple sauce with red cinnamon candies. Heat to dissolve the candies and create pink potato latke topping.
• Fill mini-cannoli shells with pumpkin mousse or the filling from pumpkin pies. Dip the cannoli ends in cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice.

Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer

Read also, Raising a Thanksgiving Toast this Chanukah >>

Notes From The Spirit

From left, Ayelet HaShachar is  composed of Lisa Aronson Friedman, Stephanie Rabinowitz and Shalomis (Shelly) Koffler Weinreb.

From left, Ayelet HaShachar is
composed of Lisa Aronson Friedman, Stephanie Rabinowitz and Shalomis (Shelly) Koffler Weinreb.

They’ve been compared to musical acts such as the Indigo Girls and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, but local trio Ayelet HaShachar brings a unique blend of musicality, spirituality and religious devotion that sets them apart.

Ensemble members Shalomis (Shelly) Koffler Weinreb (guitarist, percussionist, vocalist and composer), Lisa Aronson Friedman (pianist, composer and vocalist) and Stephanie Rabinowitz (vocalist) have been singing together for the past 12 years. The group recently released its second CD, “Matai,” which translates to “When.” They will celebrate the new album with a concert for women only on Nov. 17.

Ayelet HaShachar started when Rabinowitz, who was trained in musical theater, met Friedman, a classically trained pianist.

“I was looking for more creative expression,” said Rabinowitz. “Lisa and I connected immediately, and we were looking for a third woman. One night, Shalomis came to a women’s music event at my house with guitar in hand. I called Lisa and said, ‘I found her!’” The three women have been making music together ever since.

The group released its first album, “Ohr Chadash,” in 2005 and have performed locally and in multiple venues in Israel. Both “Ohr Chadash” and “Matai” were produced by Jeff Order of nationally known Order Productions. Ayelet HaShachar is a nonprofit entity, and all funds from ticket and CD sales go toward band expenses and to fund free concerts for senior centers and elsewhere.

“We all come from different musical backgrounds,” said Friedman, a fact that Weinreb, whose roots are in blues, folk and pop music, believes is a strength of their collaboration.

“My influences are singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Carole King, even Motown,” said Weinreb.

Since the women of Ayelet HaShachar came to Orthodox Judaism as adults, they were exposed to a range of cultural and musical influences prior to composing and singing exclusively Jewish and religious music. As part of their transitions to Orthodoxy, Weinreb, Friedman and Rabinowitz came to accept and even appreciate the fact that they only perform for other women.

“In Jewish law, there is something called kol isha. It is part of the laws of modesty. Women don’t perform in front of men,” said Friedman. “There are different interpretations of this. We’ve decided that we won’t perform in front of men, but if men want to listen to our CDs and their rabbis approve, we aren’t going to pass judgment.”

Rabinowitz said she is perfectly happy to work within religious boundaries when it comes to performing.

“The voice is really the soul, and there are clear and beautiful boundaries,” she said.

“We have to ask ourselves why we are singing. Is it about ego or is it about spirituality?” noted Friedman. “The attitude today can be self-centered. One thing that happens when you become Orthodox is you realize the world isn’t about you. There’s a higher purpose. There is work to do.”

Weinreb admitted that when she first became religious she thought observing kol isha might be a conflict for her. She discovered it was not.

“There’s a spiritual kind of sisterhood that you feel when you’re performing for a women’s audience — they really get it,” said Weinreb.

“You go from performing to get something to performing to give something,” said Rabinowitz.

Ayelet HaShachar performs only original music, and their intimate knowledge of one another as people and musicians means that Friedman and Weinreb write music with individual ensemble members in mind.

“Each new song feels like a new child,” said Rabinowitz.

After more than a decade working together, group members feel their sound has matured and tightened. Although “Matai,” like “Ohr Chadash,” deals with spiritual and religious themes, Friedman said the group feels more like an ensemble.

“There are fewer solo pieces on the new CD,” she noted.

“I think our music has become more complicated because our lives are more complicated,” said Rabinowitz. “We have shared each other’s experiences. There’s a depth to it that wasn’t there in the first album. … There is a pleading [quality in the music] like the album’s title, ‘Matai,’ (‘When’). When are you [God] going to bring us home?”

“Harmonies are really the hallmark of our sound,” said Weinreb. “When we sing the same note together we sound like one voice, but it’s not the voice of anyone of us. We are friends on and off the stage. We call each other sisters, and that shows up in the music. People have remarked on how well we get along onstage, and it makes the audience feel good.”

The three believe their music is accessible to less religious women as well as women of other religious traditions, and they hope to draw music lovers from outside the Orthodox community to their upcoming concert.

“Sometimes the fact that men can’t come is a barrier,” said Weinreb. “But think of it as a ladies night out.”

The Ayelet HaShachar CD release concert (for women only) will take place on Sunday, Nov. 17 at 8 p.m. at 3209 Fallstaff Road. For additional information, email Basia Adler at or call 410-358-9492. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $8 for students. Concert sponsorships are also available. CDs by Ayelet HaShachar will be available at the concert and are on sale at and Pern’s Bookstore and Shabsi’s Judaica Center.

Preview Ayelet Hashachar’s album, Matai here

Simone Ellin is JT senior features reporter —

Ah, Music

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maayan Jaffe is JT editor-in-chief —

Easier For Women

No woman really relishes the idea of having an annual gynecologic examination, but it’s one of the most important things that she can do. Many female organ diseases are undetectable without this vital yearly process. If a problem is discovered, early diagnosis and treatment are associated with a better outcome. If the gynecologic condition requires surgery, how that surgery is performed can also determine a patient’s outcome.

What gynecologic surgeons have learned over the past 20 years is that the size of the incision made to the abdomen — not the actual magnitude of the surgery — most often determines how easy a patient’s recovery is. Traditional surgery with a large abdominal or pelvic incision usually requires days of inpatient hospitalization and a prolonged recovery that’s more painful than what would have been experienced with minimally invasive surgery.

Minimally invasive, or laparoscopic, surgery requires a few tiny keyhole incisions and sometimes can even be done with a single surgical cut made inside a patient’s navel. Small instruments and a camera are inserted through these incisions, and the surgeon sees the surgical site on a television screen, as he or she maneuvers the instruments. Because the patient’s pelvis and abdomen remain closed, there is much less risk for infection or blood loss.

When gynecologic procedures are performed as minimally invasive laparoscopic surgeries, they can be done on an outpatient basis. Recovery with a return to normal life is significantly faster than with traditional open surgery. Rather than being out of commission for four to six weeks — as one often is with an open procedure — many patients who have had minimally invasive surgery report being able to return to work in about a week.

Not insignificantly, the cosmetic results with minimally invasive surgery are better as well. Instead of a prominent pelvic scar, patients who have had a minimally invasive procedure usually have smaller, almost unnoticeable scars that are often hidden in the navel or bikini line.

Almost all major gynecologic surgeries can now be performed using laparoscopy or robotically assisted laparoscopic methods. The list of conditions that require a traditional open surgery approach is growing shorter every day. In all cases, when performed by skilled and specifically trained GYN surgeons, women can enjoy the benefits of minimally invasive surgery.

If your doctor determines that you need gynecologic surgery, be sure to ask if he or she is trained to do it with a minimally invasive method. If not, you owe it to yourself to seek another opinion from a gynecologist with expertise in minimally invasive surgery.

The American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists published a position statement in 2010: “It is the position of the AAGL that most hysterectomies for benign disease should be performed either vaginally or laparoscopically and that continued efforts should be taken to facilitate these approaches. Surgeons without the requisite training and skills required for the safe performance of VHs [vaginal hysterectomies] or LHs [laparoscopic hysterectomies] should enlist the aid of colleagues who do, or [they] should refer patients requiring hysterectomies to such individuals for their surgical care.”

In this modern era, women should demand minimally invasive surgical care or be given a reason if their doctor won’t do so. Women deserve no less.

David L. Zisow, M.D., F.A.C.O.G., is a gynecologist and the associate chief of the Division of Minimally Invasive Surgery at Northwest Hospital, as well as its director of the Fellowship in Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery.

Kosherfest And More

110813_kosherfest-and-moreThis year, the annual Kosherfest celebrated its 25th anniversary. A lackluster economy may be the reason that the 2013 event seemed scaled down. However, there was no lack of enthusiasm by the many attendees, who scoured the aisles for delicious products to sample.

Each year, there are competitions for the best in show in many categories. Best New Gift or Novelty Item went to AGIV Ltd. Publishing for its Passover haggadah in the shape of a wine bottle. Best New Kosher for Passover Item went to Finchi’s decadent chocolate mousse by Aunt Rashi’s Goodies. Premier Tasty Meats won Best Meat/Poultry/Seafood for its hickory smoked beef brisket — sliced and packaged for retail sales.

A neighbor of mine smoked a brisket this year, and it was fantastic, especially sliced thin. I will let you know if and when Premier’s Brisket is available in Baltimore. (Hint: A smoker would be a great Chanukah gift this year.)

I was not part of the judging, but I had my own Kosherfest favorites. I loved the new Star of David shaper for potato pancakes by The Kosher Cook. I was also delighted by artist Nina Sabaq’s magnificent hand-painted wine bottles. They are available online at, but you truly have to see these glasses up close to appreciate the labor of love and talent put into them.

A few booths did acknowledge the upcoming Thanksgivukkah. Leave it to Manischewitz to have a Thanksgivukkah recipe contest. Go to its website for details. Hurry, though. The deadline is Sunday, Nov. 10. If you enter an original Thanksgivukkah dish using at least one Manischewitz product, you could win some real gelt. Both holidays are so steeped in traditional recipes, it shouldn’t be hard to do.

Here are some of my favorite recipes that may inspire your creativity. Thanksgivukkah tov to all!


Tips & Tricks
• I make homemade potato pancakes using Manischewitz’s homestyle box mix and add fresh or refrigerated shredded potatoes and chives. Freeze ahead.
• Look through your photos for pictures of your guests to place on a toothpick in mini-pumpkins, apples and pears for great place cards.
• Big Lots has an extra-large bag of chocolate gold coins for $5 to spread all over your table.

Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.

Stamping Out Intolerance

Special education teacher Janna Freishtat (left) and English teacher Cyndie Fagan have been instrumental in moving the Six Million Stamps Project forward. Shown here, they sit with a tub of thousands of stamps, many still waiting to be processed. (Photo by Melissa Gerr)

Special education teacher Janna Freishtat (left) and English teacher Cyndie Fagan have been instrumental in moving the Six Million Stamps Project forward. Shown here, they sit with a tub of thousands of stamps, many still waiting to be processed.
(Photos by Melissa Gerr)

Six Million.

For the past five years, since 2008, students at Mount Hebron High School have been working on a project trying to comprehend what those words stand for and to create something tangible that could adequately represent their meaning.

As part of their curriculum, incoming freshmen read “Night,” a memoir by Elie Wiesel about surviving Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Many students had not heard of the Holocaust or had difficult questions, struggling to grasp what six million means. High School teacher Cyndie Fagan wanted to help them understand.

She began by showing students a book from the Paper Clips Project (Tennessee high school students collected 15 million paper clips to have a tangible reference and commemorate those who perished in the Holocaust), and Fagan’s class thought something similar would help them comprehend the number and the gravity of the Holocaust. The class decided stamps would be a good way to commemorate the lives lost.

Fagan, who collected stamps as a child said, “Each of those postage stamps tells a story, just like each person who died had a story.”

Dozens of ninth-graders each year become involved with collecting, cutting out and counting the stamps. The completed work is stored in dozens of huge plastic tubs in closets and Fagan’s classroom. They get lots of donated stamps (they’ve inherited them from deceased collectors, and a parent who owns a utility company regularly donates several hundred stamps from mailed-in payments). They still have a long way to go, and many students remain involved well after ninth grade.

110113_Stamping-Out-Intolerance2“It’s kind of a way to make people aware because six million is so intangible,” said sophomore Tara Bellido de Luna. “It’s hard to realize how many stamps and how many people that really is. … It does represent people in the Holocaust, but it could also represent what potentially could happen if we don’t start tolerating people. … People don’t fear other people, they fear the difference in what they don’t know. That’s kind of what starts it all.”

Junior Emily Kader has been involved since her older brother Joey was a freshman, the year the project began. She’s collected stamps when attending Camp Louise; neighboring Camp Airy participated, too. Her synagogue, Beth Shalom in Columbia, also contributes.

“My zayde [Fred Kader] was actually a Holocaust survivor, and so the whole cause is important to us; he helped us cut and count the stamps and has been a part of the process,” said Kader.

Freshman Amogh Arun just joined the project, and he’s building a website to get out the word for more stamps. Freshman Evan Johnson’s brother chose this for his bar mitzvah project, so his family has been gathering stamps the whole year. Collectively, the students are working on a video to send to the Ellen DeGeneres show, “Ellen,” in hopes that she’ll help get the word out and that stamps will start flowing in.

Special Education teacher Janna Freishtat co-teaches the English class with Fagan. Her grandmother is, and her late grandfather was, a Holocaust survivor.

“What I can bring is the personal story, and it makes it more real for them because they say, ‘Oh, you mean you wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for that they lived?’ They were shocked that I would have been affected if I lived at that time. They couldn’t grasp that until we explained, ‘Your teacher or your neighbor could be taken,’” Freishtat said.

Fagan is determined to complete the project, and Freishtat claims, in addition to stamp donations and the students’ work, it is Fagan’s energy and perseverance that keeps it going. To give some perspective, six million stamps would cover three-and-a-half football fields. When finished, plans are to create a mural with the stamps dedicated to tolerance of others, and the remaining would be held in a giant Plexiglas cylinder near the mural.

Part of the goal is to help students connect the experience and the project to something bigger.

Fagan said, “My hope is that something we shared with them during this ninth-grade year, that when they’re adults, they will hear something or see something, and it will trigger that ‘aha’ moment for them.”

No donation is too big or too small
Mount Hebron students have collected two million stamps, and they need more. As the students are saying: “Please send stamps!”

Mail stamps to:
Mount Hebron High School
Attn: Cyndie Fagan
9440 Route 99
Ellicott City, MD 21042

For more information, visit click here.

Melissa Gerr is JT senior staff reporter and digital media editor —

Dinner And A Movie

110113_Dinner-And-A-Movie1“This is my Bible,” said a smiling Ira Miller, referring to a large book called “Motion Picture Exhibition in Baltimore” by Robert K. Headley.

“The Pikes opened in 1938 and closed in 1984. It was built by John Eyring and originally had 650 seats. It was art deco and located on the Eastern edge of Pikesville. It was owned by the Garmin and Beck Organization,” he read aloud.

“I booked the Pikes for 25 years,” he added.

Since 1967, Miller, who said his career in the film industry was a “sheer accident” has worked buying, booking and managing movie theaters across the Baltimore region and beyond. His career took him to Washington and New York, where he was vice president of marketing for MGM. In 2005, after a 20-year absence, he and his wife of 35 years, Karen, returned to Baltimore to open the Rotunda Cinemas and Beltway Movies.

“I’ve done this my whole [adult] life. I eat, drink and sleep movies,” said Miller.

And at a stage of life when many of his contemporaries are beginning to look toward retirement, Miller, 66, is gearing up for a brand new challenge.

110113_Dinner-And-A-Movie2“My belief is that neighborhood movie theaters are making a comeback,” he said. “Because of the cost of gas and for convenience sake, people want to stay in their neighborhoods. Also, they want a more intimate experience when they go to the movies.”

Today, Miller reopens The Pikes Theater.

The newly renovated Pikes, which includes two small theaters of approximately 80 seats each, is located right next to the Pikes Diner, which will continue to operate. Miller will run a mix of art, independent and commercial films and hopes to tap into local filmmaking talent. He stressed that while he will show some films of particular interest to the local Jewish community, he will not be competing against the JCC’s Jewish Film Festival. Rather, Miller said, he is highly motivated to collaborate with the JCC, as well as other Jewish organizations and synagogues.

“The feedback from Pikesville has been phenomenal, and [Baltimore County councilwoman] Vicki Almond [District 2] has been my ‘angel in the wings,’” he said.

For her part, Almond believes the movie theater project is great for Pikesville.

“Ira had such excitement and vision that I became a cheerleader,” she said. “He really wants this to be a boon for this part of town, and we’re trying to incorporate the whole community into it. We’re thinking of holding matinees for seniors and to do coupon deals with local restaurants. We want to make this part of Pikesville sustainable and a destination.”

Almond noted that, in addition to the new theater, there are also plans to rehabilitate the burned-out Suburban House building, as well as that entire corner at Reisterstown and Hawthorne roads.

Miller said he has arranged for abundant parking for film-goers to make the Pikes Theatre experience convenient.

“Hopefully, I’m in the right place at the right time,” said Miller

The Pikes’ first screenings are “Hava Nagila,” a documentary about the history and cultural significance of the iconic song, and the smash hit “Gravity.” On Nov. 8, “When Comedy Goes to School,” a documentary about Jewish comedians in the Catskills, will replace “Hava Nagila.”

The Pikes is located at 1001 Reisters-town Road in Pikesville. For more information, visit

Breaking The Cycle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roth echoed Brown’s sentiment.

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

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

Marc Shapiro is a JT staff reporter

The Joke’s On Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information about Bryan Fogel, visit For more information about “Jewtopia,” visit

Simone Ellin is JT senior features reporter

Date Night

rabinowitz_elishevaWhat is the key to marriage? The answer, according to John Mordecai Gottman, a professor emeritus in psychology who is known for his work on marital stability, is friendship. Therefore, you might ask yourself, “How can I keep, build and maintain friendship in my marriage?” One method is to make time for each other with date nights. Here are some things to consider when planning a date night, based on discussions I have had with couples I counsel.

How often should you go on a date?
Some couples may prefer frequent, short dates (about a half-hour) to reconnect instead of a longer date, which might be a few weeks away.

Discuss with your spouse how often you want to plan date night and make it an appointment on your calendar. I find that couples who establish date night as an appointment are more likely to keep the time set aside for themselves. I explain to couples: “Just like you don’t cancel a doctor’s appointment, you need to ensure you keep this appointment, too. Your relationship is just as important as any appointment.”

How can you ensure the date is productive to the relationship?
I recommend that couples turn off their cell phones because then they can focus on each other without interruption. If children or someone very important needs to reach you, I suggest setting up a code ahead of time to indicate that the call is urgent, such as texting “311.” (“I can’t find anything I like to eat in the house” is not urgent.)

Also, I recommend that you plan the date, so you can have fun and connect. When couples get in the car and start discussing where they want to go, this can lead to frustration. Stay away from: “Where do you want to go?” “I don’t know.” “Where do you want to go?” “I don’t know.”

In addition, I suggest that you agree to leave the business issues at home and make your date a time to bond.

Some of the biggest challenges on a date are time and expense. Babysitters can cost an average of $10 per hour. When added to a $30 dinner, a date can be cost-prohibitive. Ideas?
To save money, find a friend that you trust. They can watch your kids twice a month, and you can watch their children in exchange.

Also, not all fun costs a lot of money. Go on a hike or take a long drive. The possibilities are many.

The bottom line is that you make your marriage a priority by taking time to nurture it.

Lisa (Elisheva) Rabinowitz is a local licensed clinical professional counselor. She can be reached at 410-736-8118 or Her suggestions are for couples in healthy relationships and exclude those in abusive relationships.