Great Buys for the Jewish Music Lover in Your Life

cohenLeonard Cohen, “You Want It Darker”

Canadian Jewish singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen — best known for his songs “Suzanne,” “Bird on a Wire” and “Hallelujah” — has just released his 14th studio album. Cohen, who died in November at age 82, and his vocal style has changed as he’s aged, but it’s still a powerful instrument.

Unlike so many cringeworthy late-career entries from legendary performers (Sinatra and Elvis come to mind), Cohen’s new album is a stunner, full of rich, exquisite orchestration and haunting melodies.

In a recent New Yorker profile, Cohen professed himself ready to die, and indeed the songs on this new album delve into mortality and endings, sometimes from a very Jewish perspective. Yet, the album, despite its title, isn’t dark. Rather, it feels filled with hope and love and longing. It would make for a knockout gift.

dylanSpecial Edition “No Direction Home: Bob Dylan” 10th Anniversary Deluxe Box Set

If Leonard Cohen has an American analog, it’s probably Bob Dylan, though he once told Cohen that he considered himself a better writer than Cohen. The 2016 Nobel Prize committee apparently agreed, bestowing its prize for literature on Dylan — the first musician to receive such an honor.

Now, to celebrate the 10th-anniversary release of “No Direction Home,” Martin Scorsese’s critically praised documentary about Dylan, a box set is available for purchase for Dylan completists.

The box set includes two-disc Blu-Ray edition and two-disc DVD edition in a deluxe portfolio; three 8×10 lithographic photo prints; and a special edition Bob Dylan magazine featuring historical articles and photos. The Blu-Ray and DVD have an additional two-plus hours of never-before-seen footage, including classic Dylan performances and an unused promotional spot.

For those who don’t necessarily want all the mishegas — they just want to see the movie — it’s now available for viewing on iTunes for the first time. Either way, it’ll help explain that Nobel choice.

drakeDrake, “More Life”

Here’s one for the young R&B and hip-hop fan in your life — a new project by Drake, the Canadian Jewish (on his mom’s side) heartthrob responsible for such earworms as “Hotline Bling.” The 30-year-old, who’s dating Pennsylvania native Taylor Swift (shikse alert!), last released a full-length album, “Views,” in 2015.

His new project is reported to be a “playlist project” — at least that’s what Drake is calling it right now — with all original music, though details are scant and the release date is simply “sometime in December.”

So far, three songs from “More Life” have been made available on iTunes, with more to come, so the best gift in this case might be a late-December iTunes gift card.

beautifulphoto-joan-marcus“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical”

“So Far Away.” “You’ve Got a Friend.” “(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman.” “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.” “I Feel the Earth Move.” “Up on the Roof.” It’s hard to list all of the blockbuster hits that singer-songwriter Carole King — born Carol Klein — wrote over the years, both for herself and for other groups.

The Broadway musical “Beautiful” chronicles King’s journey as the nice Jewish girl who comes to New York at 16 to the mature woman who’s transformed American music with her songs.

The “Beautiful” soundtrack won last year’s Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album, and the show was nominated for seven Tony Awards. King herself has said the show is “effing awesome.” Treat the Brill Building fan in your life to a day trip to New York and two tickets to the show. $99 orchestra seats are available for select performances.

streisand“Barbra Streisand: Redefining Beauty, Femininity, and Power”

Speaking of Jewish songstresses, there’s no one who quite compares to Barbra Streisand — singer, writer, actor, director and activist.

The longtime Democrat, who’s married to actor James Brolin, recently told Australia’s “60 Minutes” she would emigrate to that country or Canada if Trump won the presidency. Such statements tend to engender either rage or admiration among Streisand watchers, but there’s no question that the “Yentl” director is a fascinating personality.

Though she doesn’t have a new album out, a recent biography by Neil Gabler (author of “An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood”) examines Streisand’s life through the prism of her Jewishness.

“No one is better equipped to ponder the Jewish origins of Streisand than Gabler,” said Jewish Journal’s Jonathan Kirsch of the trim bio, which was published by Yale University Press.

Liz Spikol is a reporter at the Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia, an affiliated publication of the Baltimore Jewish Times.

Lighting the Way at Baltimore’s ‘Disney Live!’

(Courtesy of Feld Entertainment)

(Courtesy of Feld Entertainment)

As families arrive at the Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric for “Disney Live! Mickey and Minnie’s Doorway to Magic” on Dec. 9 and 10, few will think of the enormous time and effort that goes into creating such an interactive show. A number of elements must come together cohesively to create a finished product that keeps the crowd in suspense and engages families to join in the adventure.

“It really is a magic show; there are several illusions that go on,” said Taylor Knight, who serves as an electrician for the production. Knight has been working with Disney as a lighting specialist on tour for nearly two years.

Knight, who attended Hebrew school and was bat mitzvahed in her hometown of Dallas, first got involved with theater in high school as a scenic artist.

“Lighting is just scenic art with a different medium,” she said. After receiving her degree in theatrical design and production with emphasis on lighting from Oklahoma City University, Knight lived in Israel for a year doing production.

As a part of an internship program, she learned more about Judaism and served as the assistant stage manager for a production of “Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat” that traveled around to different cities in Israel.

“‘Doorway to Magic’ is all about the audience experience,” Knight explained. “It is very interactive, the way that we have lights going, especially when Tinkerbell is teaching the magic words at the start of the show. Tinkerbell comes on and teaches a magic word. The audience will have to shout that word as a part of the show to help characters ask questions and overcome obstacles.”

Knight’s role in the production is to help set the mood for specific scenes with lighting and focus the audience on particular elements of what is happening onstage.

“I typically get to the production seven or eight hours before the first show,” she explained. “It is just the crew; the performers don’t come in until two or three hours before the first show starts. We generally do two or three performances a day. I help unload trucks, I put together lights, props, carpentry and wardrobe — every one works together to get the production ready. After the show, we also have to disassemble the stage.”

According to Knight, setup typically takes seven hours, and tearing the set down takes three hours.

During the show, Knight serves as a programmer for the lighting and sits in the middle of the audience at the lighting console.

“I have general looks for each of the scenes as far as lighting,” she said. “They are different for each scene. For example, it is much brighter lighting for Cinderella and much darker for the evil queen. It just depends on the tone of the scene. I direct each of the moving lights to the point of focus for the scene. There are two on-deck electricians who are on stage that I coordinate with via radio to do things such as fix a broken light or cue a fog machine.”

Knight manages about 50 lights per show.

While the production can keep her out on the road for weeks at a time, seeing the enthusiasm of the audiences makes the time away from home worth it.

“I love seeing the audience members dressed up,” said Knight. “Parents will dress up with their kids, spouses will dress up as Minnie and Mickey. It’s just so touching to be able to see that. It’s very active and high energy. Parents and kids alike come up to me after the shows and say how much they loved it. There really is something for everyone.”

You Should Know … Daniel Gomberg

ysk_gomberg-danielCobbling shoes was not the first career choice Daniel Gomberg had in mind growing up, but it is a trade he has mastered in a relatively short period of time.

Since opening Charm City Shoe Repair inside Majestic Cleaners in Roland Park this past May, Gomberg, 25, has earned the moniker “shoe doctor” from his loyal following and has completed more than 1,000 orders.

Whatever they call the Pikesville High School graduate, customers are all looking for the same thing when they set foot in Gomberg’s shop: a reasonable price and top-notch craftsmanship with a little personality.

Whether it’s a broken heel, worn-out sole or scuff marks, Gomberg, a fourth-generation cobbler, has a firm store policy that he’ll attempt to fix anything a customer brings him.

What led you to pursuing a career in the shoe repair business?
I never thought I would actually end up repairing shoes for a living. My parents came to the United States from the Ukraine in 1991 with $3,000 in their pockets to give me educational opportunities. When I was about 9 years old, I would go to my dad’s store [ESG Shoe Repair] just to see how he ran his business.

As I got a little bit older, I started polishing shoes for money and learning minor repairs such as how to clean leather and suede and do repairs on ladies’ heels. In high school, I would work with my father after school part time, which is when I got more involved. I basically got a crash course on how to deal with customers while also learning what it takes to run a successful business.

What opened my eyes to Charm City Shoe Repair full time was starting a family.

How did Charm City Shoe Repair come about?
In April 2015, after the previous longtime owner of this location passed away, the space became available for lease. I had my eye on this spot for a while. At the time, I was running my own event planning company [Dreamteam DMV], and the money wasn’t consistent. One week, I could make $2,000 or $3,000, and the next week, I could make $50, so it was a huge risk.

When my girlfriend was about six months pregnant, my father said to me, “Think about your future. You need to have a job you can go to and make money on a regular basis.” I believed my dad and knew going into the shoe repair business was something I could do to help provide for my family.

What’s the most important aspect of shoe repair?
A lot of people in this neighborhood call me a “shoe doctor.” Not only do I do a lot of orthopedic work, but I’ll do whatever it takes to give shoes a second, third and fourth life. Everything I have for shoes in my store in terms of the materials, I import from Italy. I try to stick with the best quality.

If you do a customer’s pair of shoes right the first time, they will bring back more shoes. Right now, it’s very important for me to establish my clientele base, because I have no room for mistakes. Either I’ll lock someone in right away for life if I do the repairs right or I lose them for good if I mess up. The three most important skills I have to maintain are to finish each repair on time, provide the best quality I can and maintain good customer-service relations.

What’s most rewarding about your job?
My favorite part is seeing how my customers react when they pick up their shoes. They come in and ask for one thing, but I give them back something even more. So the first thing they do is they run home, check their closet and see what other shoes they can bring me. I always try to do a little more than they ask for.

I bust my tail here, make people happy and get my hands dirty. This is a craft, one that is in really high demand and something that is really respected. I couldn’t be more thankful for all the opportunities my father has given me and I’ve earned through all the hard work I’ve put in.

Parve Nutella and Other Must-Try New Kosher Foods


Participants milling around at the Kosherfest trade show at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, N.J., Nov. 15, 2016 (Josefin Dolsten)

At Kosherfest, the world’s largest kosher trade show, Yiddish and Hebrew is heard alongside English. Some 6,000 kosher-food insiders packed the massive hall, chatting, networking and tasting samples.

The crowd skews male and Orthodox — in fact, it may be one of the only events where the men’s bathroom has a longer line than the women’s one.

The annual two-day expo being held this week at the Meadowlands Exposition Center here is a food mecca for those who observe Jewish dietary laws.

Among the more than 325 exhibitors are vendors touting everything from the kosher staples — beef salami, latkes and Israeli wines — to new and unexpected foods, such as a line of Korean products.

Here are some exciting and unique kosher products that are new to the market or will be hitting stores soon.


S’mores and a pizza kit are part of a new line of Manischewitz matzah-themed treats. (Josefin Dolsten)

Passover s’mores and pizza kits

Manischewitz is launching a line of matzah-themed treats that will make Passover a bit more fun for kids — and maybe adults, too. Prior to Passover in April, the company will introduce two do-it-yourself food “kits”: matzah s’mores and matzah pizza.

“This year at Manischewitz, it’s all about kids,” the company’s president and CEO, David Sugarman, told JTA. “We sat around and thought about what fun items can we come up with for Passover that would get kids engaged in Passover.”

The s’mores kit, which won Kosherfest’s award for best new kosher-for-Passover product, comes with all the necessary ingredients — mini matzahs, chocolate and marshmallows. The pizza kit, however, contains just triangle-shaped matzah and sauce; moms and dads must provide the cheese and any other toppings.

The kits are so appealingly designed that parents may be tempted to partake.

“We think there’s going to be a lot of adults with kids that are going to be sneaking these items while their kids are off at school,” Sugarman said.


Dyna Sea surimi crab cakes (Josefin Dolsten)

Faux-crab cakes

Dyna Sea is a pro in the world of imitation shellfish — “surimi,” as it is called in Japanese — having been in business for nearly 20 years. The kosher food company even has Japanese consumers buying its products, according to owner Daniel Berlin.

These imitation crab cakes, which won Kosherfest’s best new product award for frozen foods, are made with imported Alaskan pollock. Berlin said they taste very close to the real deal.

“It has such a beautiful, rich, seafood flavor and a texture, a mouthfeel, that really simulates the real thing,” he said.

And though this reporter has never had a real crab cake, she couldn’t help but go in for a second faux one.

Parvella hazelnut chocolate spread (Josefin Dolsten)

Parvella hazelnut chocolate spread (Josefin Dolsten)

Parve Nutella

Kosher-keeping chocoholics know the pain of overly sweet parve chocolate spreads that lack the richness of Nutella — and never quite hit the spot.

But this new Italian-produced spread — tapped the best new product at Kosherfest — is a game changer. Parvella CEO Gabriele Zarrugh worked for two years to develop the spread, saying he was motivated by the desire to make a delicious kosher product that was accessible to those with dietary restrictions. Parvella is milk, dairy, egg, peanut and palm-oil free.


Highland Pop kettle corn (Josefin Dolsten)

Birthday cake and churro-flavored kettle corn

Highland Pop President Kimberly Cohen has a thing for popcorn.

In 2012, she opened a small popcorn shop in suburban Chicago. Since then, Cohen has developed nearly 100 flavors of the addictive snack, which she is hoping to distribute nationally.

Kosherfest deemed Highland Pop the best new savory snack. Cohen’s inventive varieties accurately evoke their namesakes: The birthday cake flavor is topped with colorful sprinkles; here’s a kick of cinnamon on the crispy exterior of the cinnamon churro kettle flavor.

Cohen uses coconut oil to cook the kernels both for its health benefits and flavor, she said.

“It’s my passion; coming up with a new flavor makes me feel so good,” she told JTA. “This [churro kettle] is my favorite one right now, although next week I’ll probably have a different flavor that I like.”


Israeli-made Marzipan rugelach (Josefin Dolsten)

Marzipan rugelach from Israel

The Marzipan shop in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market has been for decades nearly as much of a tourist destination as the Western Wall.

Once you’re in the shuk, the bakery isn’t hard to locate. The rugelach’s sweet, chocolatey scent wafts its way through the market, enticing visitors to pay a visit and buy a pastry — or maybe 10.

Now the rugelach is available for purchase in the U.S. The chief marketing officer for M Bakeries, its distributor in America, said the company was inspired to get on board after learning that Americans would bring home suitcases full of the pastry from Israel.

“[T]hey got so addicted to this particular rugelach that is considered the best in the world,” Milton Weinstock said.

The rugelach, which is made according to a secret family recipe, is best served warm, said a person working the Marzipan booth.

This reporter agrees: Fresh out of the oven, the chocolate filling and dough become irresistibly gooey.

Jews Onscreen! A Jewish-themed 2016 film wrap-up

With award season rapidly approaching, it’s time to take a step back to reflect on the impressive litany of films that came out in 2016 revolving around explicitly Jewish themes or that were otherwise directly related to the Tribe.

A Tale of Love and Darkness

Released in the United States this past summer after it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2015 (at which it was nominated for a Caméra d’Or), Jerusalem-born actress Natalie Portman’s feature film writing and directorial debut brings to the big screen author Amos Oz’s autobiographical novel of the same name. Portman, who is best known for her indelible work in such films as “Leon: The Professional,” “Black Swan” and the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy, chose to present her film entirely in Hebrew, allowing for a deft portrait of an almost surreal period in the time of the Jewish people vying for statehood in Israel.


Rachel Weisz as writer and historian Deborah E. Lipstadt in “Denial” (Photo Courtesy of Bleecker Street)


Another film based on a true story as told by its author and subject, historian and Jewish studies scholar Deborah Lipstadt (who recently spoke with the JT about the film and her speaking engagement at Towson University this past October), “Denial” adapts to the screen Lipstadt’s memoir detailing her intense courtroom embattlement with notorious Holocaust denier David Irving.

The People vs. Fritz Bauer

Short-listed for the upcoming 89th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film (Germany), we have yet again a true-life story of supreme import to the global Jewish community. It’s 1957 and Germany’s Attorney General Fritz Bauer (Burghart Klauflner) becomes a crucial component of the takedown of Nazi war criminal and one of the primary organizers of the Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann (Michael Schenk).


(Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)

Danny Says

Danny Fields was a prime mover and shaker in the ’60s and ’70s music world, “accidentally” promoting the “story” of John Lennon suggesting The Beatles were bigger than Jesus and, later, more or less managing the nascent scene of bohemian rockers who would become the foundation of punk. This biographical documentary on Fields offers an intimate portrait of a man forever seeking out his identity as Jew, gay man and, ultimately, a person desperate for connection.

American Pastoral

Based on 1998’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by consummate Jewish nebbish Philip Roth, the film unwraps the complex story of Ewan McGregor’s “Swede” Levov, an astounding Jewish athlete and son of a traditionally quirky glove maker whose factory he takes over throughout the course of the proceedings. Coincidentally, McGregor was, like Portman, featured in the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy, with this film being his directorial debut. His Swede is meanwhile torn between the safety of his factory threatened by social unrest- infused riots outside its doors, his progressively wild daughter (Dakota Fanning) and his wife on the fringe of losing her mind (Jennifer Connelly) during the volatile 1960s.


It was originally supposed to be a behind-the-scenes look at the triumphant political campaign of (what would end up becoming) the disgraced New York Congressman Anthony Weiner during his mayoral bid. The documentary ended up being a wildly compelling fly-on-the-wall insider’s view of Weiner’s failure due to his now infamous social media sexual proclivities tainting his political career forevermore.


Loosely based on a series of actual events, “Harry Potter” star Daniel Radcliffe continues to stretch his acting muscle in this eerie character study of a young, idealistic FBI agent (Radcliffe) who goes under deep cover as a skin-headed, budding white supremacist in order to infiltrate a possible terrorist bombing plot. Passionate about his mission, Radcliffe’s Nate Foster finds himself immersed in a scene of virulent anti-Semites and racists, each one more frightening than the next and spouting out a hateful rhetoric often resulting in violent tendencies that threaten both Radcliffe’s cover and life.


(Courtesy of Amazon Studios)

Author: The JT Leroy Story

Jewish writer, performance artist and singer Laura Albert had it all at the turn of the 21st century: mainstream credibility, the adoration of popular celebrities and an ever-growing luxurious lifestyle based on the fruits of her tireless creative endeavors. The problem? None of it was hers. Technically. This spellbinding “truth is stranger than fiction” documentary from the filmmaker behind indie darling rock docs “The Devil and Daniel Johnston” and “Half Japanese: The Band That Would Be King” attempts a balanced appraisal of what many have since called the fraudulent career of Albert who originally produced her novels and, later, songs under the name of an avatar she created called JT Leroy.

When “Leroy” — a fictional teenage male runaway living on the hinterlands of society — suddenly becomes famous as an author of multiple books, song lyrics and even film work (such as “Good Will Hunting” director Gus Van Sant’s “Elephant”), Albert must devise a means to bring three-dimensional reality to the character she’s invented in order to keep what many believe to be her series of public lies and economic larceny alive in the eyes of the press and mainstream media that had come to find Leroy as a kind of new age hero.

Crisis in Six Scenes

Though it’s not a film per se, it’s worth including this six-part mini-series of a sort by the unflappable Woody Allen who returns once more, this time creating what is essentially his first work in “television” (aka streaming on Starring Allen, comedy legend Elaine May and millennial pop star provocateur Miley Cyrus, the film sheds light on a disintegrating suburban family in the 1960s disrupted by Cyrus’ wrecking ball entry in a comedy of manners typical of the work of the filmmaking maven … with a televised twist.


(Courtesy of


Admire him or bemoan him, it’s hard to deny author Philip Roth has had a triumphant year at the movies with his second adaptation hitting the screen in 2016. Written and directed by James Schamus (whose previous writing work includes “The Ice Storm,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Hulk”), the film grants us a typically Roth-ian story of a young Jewish college student played by Logan Lerman (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: Lightning Thief”) as he deals with his expanding sense of self, challenging sexual repression and heritage against the backdrop of the Korean War in 1951.

After the Feast, Scrumptious Leftovers

Whether one day or one week after Thanksgiving, leftovers are still enjoyed by many. Frozen and then defrosted can bring back the memories of a delicious feast throughout the winter months. Chanukah is just around the corner, and many of those side dishes go so well for a latke party!

Cranberry sauce makes a delicious topping choice with apple sauce and sour cream on a latke bar.

And stuffing can become the star entree with my new idea. I use a box of home-style potato pancake mix; mix according to the directions, and add one cup store-bought shredded potatoes (fresh or frozen defrosted), one teaspoon of onion salt and one heaping tablespoon of oil. Using large, well-greased muffin tins, press the potato mixture into individual “cups.” Bake at 375 degrees until crispy, about 40 minutes. Now you have your vehicle for the stuffing filling.

For the “homemade” stuffing, I combine one box of corn bread stuffing with one box turkey stuffing. Follow the directions on the boxes. I add one bag of sauteed frozen, defrosted chopped onions and chopped fresh sage. Customize with any herbs of your choice. Scoop into “cups” and freeze or heat in oven to serve.

And of course, never throw away your turkey frame! Save and freeze it for a snowy day to make the very best turkey soup. I season some matzo balls with chopped fresh sage and add to turkey soup. Leftover turkey meat can also be frozen for later use. Keep a box of refrigerated pie shells on hand. Add leftover shredded turkey with vegetables for a delicious pot pie. Or mix the pie ingredients and cover with mashed potatoes. These freeze great! Any cooked chicken recipe can be substituted with turkey — think turkey tacos or turkey tetrazzini.

Canned pumpkin is seasonal and can be used throughout the winter. It enhances so many wonderful recipes.



(Edited From Manischewitz)

1 28-ounce can fire roasted diced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 small onion, chopped, or 1 bag frozen chopped onions, defrosted and drained
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon curry powder, optional
3 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon fresh chopped or freeze dried parsley
*1 small carrot, very thinly sliced
1½ cups tomato sauce (or juice)
5 (14-ounce) cans Manischewitz turkey broth (about 8 cups or 64 ounces)
2 cups of cooked shredded turkey
*I’ve been using the new frozen “riced” carrots.

Tortilla chips, broken up or strips
Sliced avocado

Directions: Pre heat oven to 375 degrees. In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil. Add the onions and saute for a few minutes. Add the cumin, curry powder, minced garlic and parsley and mix well, making sure the onions are well coated. Saute for another minute or two. Add the carrots and mix well. Continue to saute for 5 minutes longer, and then add the chopped tomatoes and tomato juice. Heat the
vegetable mixture until it begins to bubble. Then
add broth. Bring the soup to a full boil. Add the shredded turkey, stirring occasionally. Lower heat and simmer until ready to serve.

To serve: Ladle soup into bowl(s). Garnish with
tortilla strips and sliced avocado. 8-plus servings.




2 cups canned pumpkin puree (1 regular size can)
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, slightly
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or a dash of nutmeg

Directions: Cream together pumpkin and cream cheese. Add in all other ingredients until well blended. (I use a food processor.) Refrigerate a few hours or overnight. Serve with thin (Anna’s) ginger snaps and/or graham crackers. Can be made a few days in advance and refrigerated. Makes a lot!


2¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon each: baking soda, baking powder
and salt
¾ cup unsalted butter, cold and cubed
1 large egg

¾­­ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups canned pumpkin
1/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of salt

Directions: Prepare a 9-inch springform pan with a circular piece of parchment paper on the bottom
for easier removal to a serving plate. Have all the
ingredients ready in advance for easier prep. Combine flour, ¾ cup sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Cut the cubed butter into the flour mixture using your fingers, a hand mixer
or pastry blender until it’s in small pea-sized lumps. Reserve and set aside ¾ cup of this mixture for
topping later. In a separate bowl, combine the sour cream, egg and vanilla. Stir this into the flour/butter mixture until if forms a loose, smooth dough. Wet your hands slightly with cold water, shaking off
excess, and place the loose dough into a 9-inch lightly sprayed (spray the parchment paper)
springform pan. Try to get an even thickness on the bottom, and press the dough about 1 inch up the sides. In a medium bowl, using a hand mixer, mix
together the cream cheese, sugar, pumpkin, eggs and spices until smooth. Pour this pumpkin mixture into the coffee cake “shell.” Sprinkle the reserved crumb topping evenly over all. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until center is set and slightly brown around the edges, about 60 minutes. Let cool before removing from pan and store in the refrigerator.
12-16 slices. This is so yummy!

Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.

You Should Know … Aaron Kovelman

(Photo by Jordan August Photography)

(Photo by Jordan August Photography)

Baltimore-born Aaron Kovelman, 25, started out playing music, but these days lights up the stage as the lighting designer for The Chainsmokers, who won favorite electronic dance music artist at Sunday’s American Music Awards.

Kovelman always wanted to make it big and go on tour. Lighting design came into his life on a whim one night when he was attending a show at The 8×10 in Baltimore. He saw someone running lights from a laptop and asked them to show him some things and not soon after found himself running lights at the Federal Hill venue, often for free.

He got to fulfill his dream of hitting the road when local funk/jam band Pigeons Playing Ping Pong invited him on tour to Colorado with them. Although the gig was a one-off at first, by the time the tour had been concluded, Kovelman found himself in a full-time position with the band.

Eventually, he was offered a job back in Baltimore with a friend’s company and began to transition into doing more lighting design for dance music. The connections that he had made through various gigs landed him with The Chain-smokers, and he has been touring with them since California festival Coachella in April.

What was getting started like?

You’ve got to get your hands dirty and start from the bottom and work your way up. Ground zero is usually being a stagehand. I had none of that experience; I was a musician. I didn’t know anything about power, about lamps, about anything. Except I knew music, I understood the mood.

Once I jumped to the big leagues from Pigeons, there was a huge learning curve that I fell significantly behind on because I came from the artistic side and didn’t know every little detail. I tried my hardest working the extra amount, and there is still even more for me to learn, but you can’t teach the artistic element of lighting. That is an innate talent.

I first toured with Pigeons for three weeks and decided it was the life I wanted to live. It was a huge light going off in my head, “I’m going to be a touring production guy.” Even though I was at the bottom of the scale of production, I was like, “This is it. This is what I want to do.” I was extremely hesitant to leave Pigeons when I was offered to do so. It was heartbreaking, but I was so excited to go from running eight lights a night to 500 or 1,000 lights.

How do you prepare for a show with The Chainsmokers?

My typical routine right now is I will have the stage design sent to me a week ahead of the show. At home, I spend between one and four hours preparing my file for that show, getting all of the lights lined up as needed on my laptop.

I typically get to the show between three and six hours before doors open. I am at the board, setting up, making sure that the lights all work. As soon as the doors open and the music starts, I’m there plugging away.

You approach it the same way you would any show. The show must go on.

Does the show vary a lot for you?

I typically keep the same moves in mind and in my pocket: “I’m going to do this when this note comes.” But there are two ways to run a lights show.

One is called time code — you spend a lot of hours in advance programming it so when the song starts, you hit play and nothing else and the lights all move perfectly in coordination. I don’t like to do that, I do everything manually. It’s called busking, so that if all of a sudden they want to change and play a different song, I’m ready to adapt. But the goal of running my show manually is to make it look like it’s a time-coded show, everything is right on time and lands perfectly, but I’m sitting there controlling exactly how long everything takes.

It’s kind of like playing an instrument for me. I know where all the keys are and I lay it out the same way every time.

The element of the picture and the photograph has totally revamped the way that I run my lights show — realizing that at the end of the day, all that matters is that perfect picture from the back of the room. That has drastically changed how I run my show, trying to create as perfect of a vision for the camera as possible.

My Yiddisha Make Ahead Thanksgiving

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

Thanksgiving is a national holiday that Jews can truly embrace. After all, it is not a religious holiday. Spiritually, however, it is reminiscent of Sukkot — a time to be thankful for a bountiful harvest. The secret to planning a successful Thanksgiving feast is to choose a menu with as many dishes as possible that can be made in advance. Since Shabbat comes the day after the holiday, and since Shabbat cooks are used to advance planning, you can easily extend your Thanksgiving feast into Shabbos and beyond. First off, be sure to roast an extra-large turkey so you will have plenty of meat left over. Then on Shabbat, use frozen puff pastry to make succulent turkey pot pies for Shabbat. I always make a large batch of turkey soup and freeze it to serve on future Shabbats with challah.

I also make my mashed potatoes one day in advance. I pour a thin layer of non-dairy creamer on the bottom of my crock pot when serving the potatoes, which keeps them moist and saves oven space. I love to use the bags of small cut carrots. I place them in a plastic bag with a few teaspoons of olive oil, and a little salt and pepper and shake to coat. I then roast them at 400 degrees until they’re soft and starting to brown. This can be done two days in advance. When ready to reheat, place them on an oiled cookie sheet and drizzle with maple syrup; roast in the oven until glazed and brown.

An easy to plan and prepare starter buffet course for Thanksgiving is a Charcuterie Platter. This is pronounced “shar-KOO-tar-e:” and just saying it aloud correctly will make your guests think you attended Le Cordon Bleu! Hard to say, but so easy to do. Using a wooden board makes it look rustic and inviting. Simply place an assortment of olives, grapes, assorted sliced salami, cornichons and other pickled veggies on the platter and serve with whole grain mustard and cocktail or baguette slices of bread.

It is also easy to make pumpkin fillings in advance for rugelach or hamentashen style desserts. How about Pumpkin Spice Krispy treats for the kids? You can find recipes online for variations of the old Rice Krispy Treats. I love the one below. Adding pureed pumpkin certainly makes a gooey sweet a bit healthier!

For Thanksgiving place cards, pick some not-too-dry leaves outside and write names on them with magic markers. Place the “name leaves” on the napkin or above the plate. Forget fancy flowers; place colored fall leaves around candles or a pumpkin for a seasonal centerpiece. We usually go around the table and have everyone give two to three things for which they are thankful before we eat. Jews are all about personal gratitude and this Thanksgiving, make everyone’s known to all your guests.


* Always have a jar or can of store-bought turkey gravy on hand to increase your own.
* Have enough good plastic containers for leftovers. The foam separated ones can be used for guests to take home some leftovers (have the kids decorate them in advance).
* If you’re not into making homemade gravy, go to a deli and purchase a pint of beef and a pint of turkey gravy.  Mix together for a really good substitute!


6 tablespoons butter or margarine
6 tablespoons flour
4 cups chicken broth or 4 cups turkey broth
salt and pepper
pan drippings from turkey

In a medium saucepan, melt butter or margarine and whisk in flour.

Cook over medium-high heat until flour is incorporated and white bubbles begin to form on the top of the “roux.”

Cook the roux for 2-3 minutes after the white bubbles have formed, whisking constantly.

Gradually add the broth, whisking constantly until the gravy is thickened and comes to a boil.

Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.

At this point, you can cool, cover and refrigerate the gravy base for as long as 4 days. Reheat in a medium-sized pan. When turkey is done, skim off fat and pour drippings into gravy base and bring it to serving temperature. Makes 4 cups.


4 large sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup cranberry juice
1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Scrub sweet potatoes; pierce several times with a fork. Bake one hour or until tender. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat butter over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook and stir until tender. Stir in cranberries, syrup, cranberry juice and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, 10-15 minutes or until berries pop, stirring occasionally. Stir in walnuts and mustard; heat through. When cool enough to handle, cut each potato lengthwise in half; sprinkle with pepper and remaining salt. Top with cranberry mixture; sprinkle with chives. 8 servings.
* Sprinkle with the nuts just before serving.

Note: To toast nuts, bake in a shallow pan in a 350̊ oven for 5-10 minutes or cook in a skillet over low heat until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.


3 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 10 ounce bag kosher mini marshmallows plus one cup
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of allspice
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of kosher salt
6 cups crispy rice cereal

Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish (or a smaller dish — see Note below).

In a heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, melt butter or margarine over medium-low heat. Add the pumpkin puree and continue to cook until it is warmed through. Fold in 10 ounces of the marshmallows, stirring frequently until almost completely melted. Stir in vanilla, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and salt and remove from heat. Allow the marshmallow mixture to cool 10 minutes; fold in the remaining cup of marshmallows. Continue to cool the mixture for another 20 to 25 minutes until it is room temperature (failure to cool the mixture will result in soggy rice crispy treats.) Add the puffed rice cereal and stir, using a silicone spatula, until combined.

Press the mixture into the greased rectangular baking dish. Let set for 30 minutes before cutting and serving. 12 servings.

• Note: This calls for a 9×13-inch dish here, but I often use an 8×11-inch because I like taller treats. Any size in this range should do.

Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.

Young Soloist Flies with BSO

Gabe Orsini

Gabe Orsini

Most vocal performers wait a lifetime for the honor to sing with a prestigious major metropolitan symphony. Reisterstown’s own Gabe Orsini has earned the opportunity at the age of 13.

The Sudbrook Magnet Middle School seventh-grader, who became a bar mitzvah this past Oct. 15, will be singing with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra as part of its performance of Howard Blake’s score for the 1982 Academy Award-nominated short film “The Snowman” based on the beloved children’s book by Raymond Briggs.

Orsini will sing the only song with lyrics, “Walk in the Air,” for the BSO’s five performances, conducted by BSO associate conductor Nicholas Hersh, from Wednesday, Nov. 30 through Saturday, Dec. 3.

“Ever since I can remember, I have always loved to sing,” Orsini said via email.

In addition to his creative education at Sudbrook, Orsini has undergone intensive musical study through the ultra-competitive, internationally renowned Peabody Conservatory Children’s Chorus (through Johns Hopkins University) under the direction of Doreen Falby since he was 6 years old.

When he first found out about the BSO audition, he was “so excited that I spent that entire weekend learning the song. The weeks before the audition, I worked with my vocal coach to make sure I sang the song perfectly.”

Believing “Walking in the Air” to be “a really beautiful and magical piece,” Orsini said that when he sings it, “I can imagine flying in the air with the snowman and seeing the world below like the boy in the movie.”

“When I think about the story, I feel like it’s about friendship, adventures and imagination,” Orsini said. “I think these things are very important in life.”

Music is only one “big part of my life and happiness,” Orsini continued, adding that the support and encouragement of his parents (as well as big brother Max, 15, who plays the cello) are crucial to his success.

“Without my parents, I don’t know where I would be without my music,” Orsini said. “They encourage me to go after my dreams, try new things. … I’m very lucky to have a family that believes in me and supports me doing something that I love.”

“It’s really amazing to us, his parents, to listen to him sing,” said Orsini’s mother Carley. “We’re always kind of amazed what comes out of his mouth.”

Carley confessed that though she “can’t sing at all,” Orsini’s father can indeed “hold a tune.” The musical apple doesn’t fall too far from the maternal tree, though — Carley also attended Peabody as a young person and played cello in its orchestra for 13 years.

“So I had a little bit of what he has, but in my fingers,” Carley said, laughing.

As part of his multidisciplinary edification at Sudbrook, Orsini is also perfecting his skills with the double bass and theater performance.

Singing nevertheless remains Orsini’s indisputable number one passion, according to his mother.

“Gabe is very serious about his music,” Carley said. “He wants to sing forever. He loves everything from [classical singer Andrea] Bocelli to [pop star] Bruno Mars.”

Gabe’s precociously young age is something that his various instructors have been working with the singer on.

“Usually at Peabody, they don’t let boys take vocal lessons until they’re older than 13 since their voice will change,” Carley said. “But they took on Gabe because they wanted to work with him as his voice changed.”

Carley said that Orsini’s teachers, such as international opera singer and Peabody vocal department chair Madeleine Gray, “can sort of mold [his voice] into what it can be, letting his vocal cords do what he wants to do.”

“They say the quality of his voice should stay the same; it will just be [later as Orsini matures] an octave lower,” Carley said. “I don’t think he’ll ever stop singing. He loves it.”

Such determined labor is important in a performance of this level, especially as Orsini typically sings as an alto, and “Walking in the Air” is to be sung in soprano, a higher octave.

Another aspect of Orsini’s musical experience is how impressively modest he is in the eyes of his close-knit circle. Carley revealed that when Gabe first got the part with the BSO performance, he didn’t tell anybody at school, including his friends.

Gabe did not even reveal the great honor during an interview conducted with him for Baltimore County Public Schools’ Face of the Week at the end of October.

Carley had to write a letter to the principal to let the school know that, yes, Gabe would be soloing with the BSO, and they might want to be prepared for the press inquiries to come.

“He’s just excited to sing and the recognition is not important to him at all,” Carley said. “He’s really very humble, very encouraging to other people. He always talks about other talented people at his school and at Peabody. He’s very inclusive with everyone. He’s very cool in that way.”

BSO director of community engagement and education programs Nicholas Cohen was present at Gabe’s audition and agrees that aside from his obvious talent, the singer is clearly “an outstanding young man — all smiles and energy, which we like to see — even before notes came out of his mouth.”

“We love to see students with his talent, but also that he’s very enthusiastic to be doing this,” Cohen said.

The BSO and Gabe Orsini will perform “The Snowman” Wednesday, Nov. 30, at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., Friday, Dec. 2, at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. and Saturday, Dec. 3, at 11 a.m. Performances will take place at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral St. For more information, visit

You Should Know … Jon Herbst


Terrance West and Jon Herbst (Photo provided)

Jon Herbst did not set out to be an NFL agent. As an attorney at the Royston, Mueller, McLean & Reid law firm, the Pikesville native was representing an NFL agent in 2013 when was presented with a proposition to launch an agency.

Shortly thereafter, Herbst, now a partner at Friedman & Friedman, formed PFS Agency with the help of two partners to provide NFL athletes with a full-fledged service to meet all of their needs.

A graduate of Pikesville High School and the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, Herbst, 38, represents Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb, running back Terrance West and defensive back Anthony Levine Sr. All told, Herbst boasts a client list of about 12 players who are spread across a number of the NFL’s 32 teams’ 53-man active rosters and 10-man practice squads.

In his role at PFS Agency as vice president, Herbst negotiates clients’ contracts, handles all legal matters and serves as general counsel. He resides in Pikesville with his wife, Irina, and their two children, Madelyn, 2, and Sam, 3 weeks.

How did you end up becoming a sports agent?
It started out as side gig. It’s kind of funny how it happened. I represented another agent at a big agency who left, and he brought a bunch of his players with him several years ago. Basically, I just ended up going into business with him. He didn’t really have the ability to pay legal fees to set up a new company, and there was  a dispute with [his] old agency. He told me, ‘Why don’t you go and get licensed, because I might need some help.’ The next thing you know, I’m a sports agent. It’s pretty crazy how it all happened and how it came together so quickly.

What does it take to get licensed and certified by the NFL?
Every sport is different in terms of what it takes to become a certified agent. In the NFL, the Players Association requires an agent to get certified. Even if you’re a lawyer and are licensed to practice law, you can’t negotiate a contract with an NFL club unless you’re certified by the players’ union. Every July, the NFLPA offers an exam, and you go to Washington, D.C., for a two-day class. At the end of the second day, you sit and take an exam. You only have to take and pass the test once, but you have to negotiate at least one contract every three years or you get decertified.

[The NFLPA] doesn’t want people to just go and take the test and say they’re an agent and not really be in the business. There are a lot of people who take the test in the hopes of starting an agency or breaking into the business. But it’s very difficult to do that unless you know someone.

How many clients do you represent, and where does that number put your agency in the industry?
In this business, it’s a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league. Right now, my agency has about a dozen players either on active rosters or practice squads. In terms of the number of players we represent, I would say we’re up there as one of the top 20 agencies.

We’re not exactly small time, but at the same time, we’re not on the level of some the huge agencies. We have a good niche market in that we have the experience and credibility and are able to effectively recruit some of the players who are a little bit off the radar from some of the big agencies. We’re able to provide the one-on-one attention that the biggest agencies just can’t when they have upward of 100 clients.

How do you sell prospective clients on your agency?
It’s competitive. This business is very cutthroat, and it’s not for everyone. We’re going up against big agencies who are promising all kinds of things. Some of them are doing things they shouldn’t be doing, such as giving [prospective clients] gifts, cars and things like that. You’re not actually allowed to do that, but it happens all the time. Those are the kind of factors we’re up against. We try to target the mid-round draft picks, even late-round picks, because it’s really hard to get a first- or second-round draft pick unless you are one of the four or five biggest agencies.