You Should Know … David BenMoshe

David BenMoshe (photo by Justin Silberman)

David BenMoshe (photo by Justin Silberman)

When David BenMoshe was sentenced to a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence in 2010 for selling guns and drugs to an undercover police officer multiple times, he knew his life was a mess.

Now 29, the Frederick native has rebuilt his life — part of which included finding Judaism while in prison — since being released from a Baltimore halfway house four years ago with less than $20 and no friends or family to speak of.

BenMoshe, who resides in Federal Hill, is currently finishing up his undergraduate degree at Towson University in exercise science while working as an independent personal trainer. After he graduates, he plans to pursue a master’s degree in physical therapy to continue his newfound passion of helping people with their fitness.

In his spare time, BenMoshe volunteers with Charm City Tribe as a community connector, providing young adults living in the city with new and creative ways of tapping into Jewish culture.

What was your upbringing like?

I was raised Christian, and a lot of things about Christianity just didn’t stick with me. When I was younger, around the age of 22, I was going through a rough time in my life. I got into a little bit of trouble and spent 30 months in prison. There’s a lot of time when people don’t do anything in prison, and so I had a lot of time to sit and reflect on life.

One day, I just happened to see someone studying Judaism, so I took it upon myself to do some studying because it looked interesting to me. I quickly learned that everything about Judaism made a lot of sense. For me, I would study a Jewish text, which would lead to more studying of other Jewish texts and so forth. I just really got into it, and things started to click for me once I converted to
become Jewish.

How has discovering Judaism changed your life?

I’m probably connected more now to the Jewish community than I am to the African-American community. Having been through a lot of the things that go on in the African-American community, at some point I feel like all races and ethnicities are going to have to come together. Right now, I think it’s easy to separate from the African-American community, but I want all of us to feel
connected to one another.

It’s interesting in the Jewish community, because when I go places, sometimes people will be extra nice to me. I really don’t get people around who are not doing anything good or nice to me, but I say to myself, ‘Would they be this nice if I wasn’t black?’ I’ve put a lot of work in on my chet, so whenever I give a good chet, people will go, ‘Oh, you must know a little bit of Hebrew.’

How have you connected to the Jewish community since moving to Baltimore?

I met Rabbi Jessy Gross, and she was putting together this initiative for community connectors through Charm City Tribe about a year-and-a-half ago. She told me I was very personable, easy to talk to and had a good idea of everything going on in the Jewish community.

Basically, the idea of the program is to help a lot of the young Jewish people who come into the area, and it’s nice to have them meet with someone, grab a drink and talk about what’s going on in their lives. For those people who are brand new to the area, it’s kind of hard to know what’s going on. But for someone who has been to a lot of these events, a community connector can talk to them about what events they might find appealing to stay connected to their faith.

What is your day-to-day job, and what does it entail?

I am a personal trainer and am also going to school to study physical therapy. So I train my clients at my private studio in Federal Hill during the early morning and at night, and in between that, I spend the bulk of day in class at Towson. It’s a lot of work, but it keeps me busy and focused on what I have to do.

I plan on going to graduate school in the near future for physical therapy and have already started looking at schools in Florida, Atlanta and California. I would like to continue doing personal training while adding more physical therapy into what I already do now.

jsilberman@midatlanticmedia.com

Chicken Soup for the Gold

A happy group of Cook-Off participants (Provided)

A happy group of Cook-Off participants (Provided)

The Jewish Museum of Maryland served up something piping hot and tasty on Sunday, Oct. 9.

In association with its immersive “Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America” exhibit exploring the intersection of medicine and Jewish tradition/culture that began in March and runs until January, the museum held the first-ever Great Chicken Soup Cook-Off in a dashing attempt at finding the very best chicken soup recipe in the state of Maryland.

Although there were a few no-shows at the final moments before samples of the various soups in competition were  ladled out to public tasters popping in to enjoy the festivities, museum executive director Marvin Pinkert reported that there were 14 contestants originally signed up to take part.

There were three categories for entries, including the six contestants who signed up to compete for the best “traditional” soup, six contestants who signed up for the best  “alternative” chicken soup recipe and two who signed up to compete for the best chicken soup recipe in a special category called “free-from,” in which chefs — all amateur, it should be pointed out — were to leave out one key ingredient from the garden variety chicken soup concoction in a bid for a kind of vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free machination.

Wearing a black tie festooned with a cartoon chicken at its base, Pinkert told the JT that it was five years ago — around the time he took on his role — that the museum presented a similar competition called GefilteFest. At that event, professional chefs (three, to be exact), were tasked with creating a uniquely branded gefilte fish, with the winner producing a gefilte fish “fried hot dog,” as Pinkert described it, using  red horseradish as a ketchup substitute.

chickensoup3_10-14-16Since that time, the museum has expanded its operating hours from 16 to 35 hours a week, and Pinkert hopes such competitions as the GefilteFest and Great Chicken Soup Cook-Off will continue into the future.

“It’s a way to bring people into the museum who wouldn’t normally come in,” Pinkert said, adding that not all of the contestants involved in the cook-off are Jewish and yet there’s a definite connection, he feels, between chicken soup as a kind of “Jewish penicillin” and the longstanding heritage of the culture itself.

There’s in fact an element of the “Beyond Chicken Soup” exhibit that specifically highlights the medicinal qualities of such soup that did at one time boast the colloquial moniker “Jewish penicillin.”

“I think it’s a great chance to share in both tradition and  innovation, celebrating food that is part of the Jewish tradition in both a culinary and medicinal way,” Pinkert said.

Adam Yosim, originally from North Carolina and in Baltimore for two years as an Emmy-nominated reporter for Fox 45, gave what he called a “Jewish twist” to Tom Kha Gai in boiling up a batch of his Tom Kha Chai for the “alternative” category of soup entries.

It may seem strange, melding traditional Thai coconut curry soup with “broth that you’d find in your grandma’s soup,” but it resulted in something Yosim referred to as “a melting pot of yumminess.”

Yosim confessed that he had originally intended on entering a “traditional” soup, but when it was relayed to him that there were already too many contestants entering that portion of the competition, he thought he’d see if he was up to the challenge of doing something a little off-kilter.

The gambit clearly worked, as Yosim would end up taking home the trophy for best soup in the “alternative” category.

chickensoup6“I love to cook,” Yosim said, noting that though he has competed in additional foodie competitions in the past — one in Kentucky, for example, in which he took home a “big chicken trophy” — the contest at the museum was for him all about fun, something he had been made aware of rather last minute by his fiancée who works for The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

“Feel free to jazz up your soup with some accoutrements,” Yosim said in handing over a sample of the opalescent brew teeming with delicious-looking chunks of veggies and chicken.

Such “accoutrements” were an essential part of Marcie Cissel’s “traditional” chicken soup, which she jokingly  referred to as “minimalist.”

“You’ll need some salt and pepper,” she said, handing over her sample and chuckling that, “The recipe is shorter than the directions to make it!”

On the flip-side of such “minimalism” was Amy Fossett’s Maryland Style Chicken Soup, which was entered in the “alternative” category and which, she said, was a typical crab soup without the crab (replaced, of course, with chicken). Fossett took home the People’s Choice trophy at event’s end, a prize based on those attending who were not official judges.

Soup tastings started around 1 p.m., with docent-led tours of the Lloyd Street Synagogue and B’nai Israel taking place along with an interactive set of culinary activities at a table nearby the main proceedings and hosted by Edible Eden Baltimore Foodscapes.

Voting for best chicken soup closed at approximately 2:45 p.m., with the awards ceremony taking place shortly after.

In speaking about what it meant to be brought in as one of the judges, WTMD DJ Sam Gallant mused, “Aren’t we all experts of chicken soup?”

He said that as a longtime fan of the museum, when he first heard of the competition, he contacted the staff and asked how he could both personally and professionally become involved. He would later become not only a judge, but an award ceremony emcee.

“There’s something about chicken soup that makes me really happy,” Gallant said.

“I don’t think I was expecting to necessarily learn anything about it or be blown away by some crazy soup recipe,” he continued.

“It was more about the classics, what might remind me of bubbie’s recipe. And that’s what I was looking for: something that would make me think of my grandfather’s apartment. A certain carrot or onion that snaps me back there.”

Overall winner Betsey Kahn told the JT she had been making her Good Old Fashioned Chicken Soup “for years and years” and hadn’t expected to win.

“When my name was called, I thought, ‘That’s my name!’”

Kahn said the win felt “fabulous” and she was beaming throughout the final award ceremony. The feeling of delight was certainly contagious.

“Depending on how this goes,” Pinkert said, “we may do something like this every fall. I’m pushing for kugel next year.”

For a list of the winners and recipes, visit bit.ly/2e4T6Gn.

mklickstein@midatlanticmedia.com

Chicken Soup Cook-Off Winners and Recipes

Best Chicken Soup in Maryland: Betsey Kahn’s “Good Old Fashioned Chicken Soup”

INGREDIENTS:

1  Roasting chicken
3 Carrots, sliced
4 Celery stalks, sliced
3 medium Onions, sliced
2 large Cloves of garlic
½ large Lemon, juice and rind
1 Tsp Pepper
1 Tbsp Salt
1 Tbsp SeasonAll
6 C Water
1 ½ C medium Barley
2 pkts Chicken HerbOx
2 32 oz Chicken broth
1 16 oz Frozen corn
1 16 oz Frozen peas

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Place the chicken, either whole or cut up, in a 4 qt. pot,
  2. Put celery, carrots, onions, and garlic in the pot.
  3. Add 6 cups of water, salt, pepper, lemon juice, lemon rind, and SeasonAll.  Cover the pot and bring the liquid to a boil, turn the heat down and cook for at least 2 hours.  The chicken will be “fall off the bone” at that time.
  4. With a slotted spoon, remove the chicken from the pot to a plate and remove the skin from all the parts.  BE CAREFULL TO REMOVE ALL BONES FROM THE BROTH.
  5. Add as much of the pulled chicken as you want in the broth.
  6. Add the barley to the broth and cook for another ½ hour.
  7. Add frozen corn and peas to the broth as well as the 2 packets of HerbOx and (2) 32 ounce boxes of chicken broth.
  8. Continue cooking for another ½ to ¾  of an hour.
  9. ENJOY EATING MY GOOD OLD FASHION CHICKEN SOUP!

 

The People’s Choice: Amy Fossett’s “Chicken Soup Maryland Style”

 

Best Traditional Chicken Soup: Mary Brady’s “Schmaltzy Soup”

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Take a chicken, young or “stewing” (e.g., OLD). This recipe does not discriminate.
  2. Discard the neck and Chop up the giblets.
  3. Cover the chicken in cold water in a BIG pot. Boil that devil for a few minutes and then simmer it for an hour, until the meat falls off the bones.
  4. For each chicken, shred a pound of carrots, celery and shallots.
  5. Saute the schredded vegs and giblets in schmaltz for Kosher version; butter for non-Kosher version.
  6. Add Minor chicken base to the stewing chicken (this is the top-knotch chicken stock; available at BJ’s; if you can’t get it use any chicken stock.) Add vegetable stock, as well – about a quart of stock for each bird.
  7. Pick out anything you don’t want to eat, e.g. bones and giant pieces of skin. Leave some skin in.
  8. Combine the sautéed vegs and the meat and simmer all for an hour.
  9. Cool in the fridge overnight and then take off most of the fat – leave about a third.
  10. Bring to a boil – add a pound of Maneschevitz curly egg noodles – cook until the noodles are al dente.
  11. Enjoy!

 

Best Alternative Chicken Soup: Adam Yosim’s his “Tom Kha Chai”

INGREDIENTS:

3 lb chicken wings
1 large onion, quartered
1-2 garlic cloves, smashed
3 quarts water

Soup

2-3 quarts chicken broth
1 T ginger, chopped
1 T garlic, chopped
1/4 cup red curry paste
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 cups shiitake mushrooms, de-stemmed and sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
1 can of coconut milk
1 lb boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
2-3 T fish sauce
2-3 T cilantro
optional: scallions, lime wedges

For the broth:

  1. Place quartered onion, smashed garlic cloves, chicken wings, water, salt and pepper in a crockpot.
  2. Cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 6-8.
  3. Remove solids and strain broth.

For the soup:

  1. Heat a stock pot to medium heat. Cook garlic, ginger and red curry paste for 5 minutes until fragrant.
  2. Add chicken and stir for 2 minutes.
  3. Add onions, mushrooms and red pepper. Cook for 2-3 more minutes.
  4. Add chicken broth, coconut milk and fish sauce. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Serve with fresh herbs, scallions and squeezed lime juice.

 

Best “Free From” Chicken Soup: David Guy-Decker’s “No Chicken Chicken Soup”

 

Director’s Choice: Lan Pham Wilson of Morestomach Blog‘s “Lemongrass Chicken Soup”

Serves 6-8

INGREDIENTS:

Homemade stock:
1-2 kosher chicken carcasses, depending on how big they are
3 large carrots, washed, tips trimmed and rough chopped
3 stalks of celery, washed and rough chopped
6 lemongrass stalks, trimmed and slightly bruised
2″ knob of ginger, slightly smashed
3-4 garlic gloves, whole but slightly smashed
handful of kefir lime leaves
1 small-medium onion, quartered
3-4 red thai chilis, whole and scored
palm-full of whole black peppercorns
water

Soup:
2-3 carrots, washed, peeled & diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
meat of kosher rotisserie chicken, shredded
1/2 cup rice
1/8-1/4 cup kosher fish sauce (i used Red Boat)
1 TBL oil, olive oil or grapeseed

Extra flavoring:
2-3 lemongrass stalks, slightly bruised
1″ knob of ginger, slightly smashed
1-2 garlic cloves, slightly smashed
1/2 small onion, cut in half
1-2 red thai chilis, whole and scored
splash of neutral oil, like grapeseed

Garnish:
limes
chopped cilantro
chopped red chili (very, very optional)

  1. In a crock pot, add all the stock ingredients in and add water till it covers everything. lid, turn on low and walk away. i’ve done it for as short of amount as 4 hours and for as long as over night (about 7-8 hours). strain and set aside.
  2. to make the extra flavoring, in a small frying pan gently warm a splash of oil and saute all the ingredients. be gentle, you’re just warming the ingredients through so they can release their aroma and flavor. keep on low, kinda sorta ignore and every so often move the ingredients around so they don’t feel neglected and burn.
  3. in a big pot, heat up the oil and saute the diced onion until softened, you’re not looking to caramelize it though so be careful. add in the minced garlic, carrots and celery and mix thoroughly. carefully pour in the stock. add in the extra flavoring & shredded chicken, and bring to a boil.
  4. lower heat.
  5. add in the 1/2 cup of rice, stir, lid and let simmer for 15 minutes, or until rice is cooked.
  6. season with fish sauce, to taste.
  7. at this point, you can fish out the random flavorings, or just avoid them when ladling the soup.
  8. serve with lime wedges and topped with chopped cilantro and chopped red chili.
  9. BAM!

 

Best Presentation: Beth Hogans’ “Homemade Wonton Chicken Soup”

 

“A Cluck Above” (Judge’s Special Award): Monica Shuman’s “Omi’s Great Chicken Soup”

You Should Know …
Casey Yurow

Casey Yurow (Photo provided)

Casey Yurow (Photo provided)

Pearlstone Center program director Casey Yurow has two primary aspirations in this life: working to create an inspirational model for what can be achieved in community farming that he hopes will be emulated by cities beyond his hometown of Baltimore … and profoundly radicalizing the perception most people have of vanilla.

“I’m a huge fan of vanilla,” the 35-year-old, who lives with his Israeli wife of four years in Stevenson, said.

“I love the taste and it’s an exotic orchid flower,” Yurow added. “It gets a bad rap sometimes, often being equated with ‘plain.’ But I’m on a sort of personal mission toward a largescale renewal of appreciation for vanilla.”

Yurow has meanwhile enjoyed the opportunity of working  toward his secondary life’s work during his tenure at Pearlstone, a full-functioning farm and Jewish retreat center for visitors from all lifestyles.

Having grown up “down the street” from the estate, after his family moved from Park Heights to “the countryside of Owings Mills” when he was in the fourth grade, the space was long in Yurow’s purview.

After graduating with a bachelor’s in the fairly new discipline of environmental sciences/policy from the University of Maryland,  College Park, stints living in locales as close as Connecticut and as distant as California and Israel followed.

Yurow joined the permanent staff at Pearlstone in 2008 as education director before leaving to California in 2010. He came back as program director at Pearlstone in 2015.

“This is Chapter 2 for me here at Pearlstone,” Yurow  declared proudly.

How did you get interested in the intersection between Jewish connectivity and community farming?

While I was at the University of Maryland, I got really turned onto the Jewish community for the first time. It was very interesting to me and became an important part of my life. After graduation, I decided I wanted to spend some time in Israel and was there for two years, from 2003 to 2005. I was learning and traveling and playing throughout Israel, then came back to work at a place called the Teva Learning Center, the only full-time Jewish environmental education center in the country, in northwest Connecticut. They really sent me on my professional career path — experiential outdoor Jewish education — that’s been going strong for 11 years.

How did you end up coming home to Baltimore and  ultimately Pearlstone?

For the three years I worked as an educator for fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders at Teva  during the seasons — spring and fall — I would go to Israel every winter and fall. I also led a month-long backpack trip there with some teenagers, which was awesome. At the same time, I was involved in Palestinian-Israeli peace work, playing music and just being Jewish in places like Jerusalem. After those three years, I was ready to plug into a place again and this was around the time Pearlstone’s farm started, around 2007.

There was a lot of growth there both personally and programmatically, but my partner at the time (who is now my wife), wanted to expand her own learning and I was still young and up for an adventure, so I went with her to California where she studied herbal medicine. On the way, we stopped at Eden Village Camp in New York and worked there for what was the first summer of this new residential, pluralistic, organic farm sleepaway camp that two of our best friends started. I was farm director, and my wife was spirituality director.

When we moved to California, I worked as one of the founding team members for Urban Adamah (“Earth” in Hebrew), which was just starting as a new model of a Jewish community center. Instead of being based in a building, it was based on a one-acre farm in the middle of Berkeley, Calif. It was a tremendous four years I was there, first as director of education and then  associate director. Then I left there and moved back here.

You play music, too?

I’ll play anything I can get my hands on but mainly mandolin and guitar. Also flute, drums, kitchen tables and pots ’n pans!

mklickstein@midatlanticmedia.com

Some New Twists on the Old Traditions

(David Stuck)

(David Stuck)

All family Jewish holiday dishes have a story: recipes from your mother, grandmother or aunt. The tastes and flavors of our past are what brings us into the  future. I always celebrate the traditional with a few out-of-the-box new recipes for the holidays.

Today, you can find influences of Persian, Asian and Cuban foods on holiday tables. Although meat and/or turkey are usually my entrees, it’s those side dishes that I use to surprise guests. Healthy roasted sweet potatoes can be combined with roasted apples. Add some freshly chopped rosemary, fennel, olive oil and salt and pepper.

Apples are a must, and I recommend the smallest you can get. Here’s how I serve the tiny apples. Cut off the tops and scoop out the apples. Dice the apple “meat” and season with margarine, cinnamon and sugar. Put chopped, seasoned filling back in each apple and bake until soft. After baking, generously drizzle honey over them.  Each person can have their own. Extra slices of apples can surround each plate to scrape up excess honey.

Your honey cake finale can be transformed by using chai tea in place of coffee — a unique and welcomed flavor.

A few days before your dinner, purchase a bunch of grapes, fresh kale and curly parsley to garnish serving platters. Roast the grapes by gently coating them in a plastic bag with a little olive oil and sugar.  Place on an oil-sprayed baking sheet. Bake in a 375-degree oven until they caramelize. Use as a garnish for entrees, side dishes or dessert, cold or warm.

Fish symbolizes the prosperity and knowledge that we hope will come our way in the new year. For gefilte fish, which is usually plated ahead, I like to garnish with something special. Mayonnaise can be enhanced with a variety of flavors. Try adding chipotle chili sauce or simply some lemon juice and fresh dill. “Smear” the sauce across each plate before adding your fish.

As for your chicken soup, you can add a plethora of vegetables to give it some color and zip.  Besides carrots, celery and onion, add turnips, kohlrabi, rutabaga and celeriac. I dice them very small and parboil just to soften, adding at the  beginning of soup cooking (very low simmer, of course). Now comes the best surprise. Use a spiralizer and make “carrot noodles” instead of pasta noodles as a healthier addition to chicken soup.  I parboil them and add the last 60 minutes of simmering soup.

Recently, I watched Bobby Flay make stuffed cabbage on TV.  So I adapted his ideas into my classic stuffed cabbage recipe.  I used savoy cabbage instead of regular and made much smaller rolls.  I added finely chopped pistachio nuts and raw yellow saffron rice to the meat (ground turkey or beef) mixture. In place of regular raisins, I added smaller currants to the tomato sauce. I called it Persian cabbage rolls and got thumbs up for it.

When I have eight or more guests, I always use place cards.  But this year, in order to stimulate some conversation, I will place an appropriate question inside each card for the guest to answer or discuss: ”Why apples and honey? Why round challah?” Write them according to the ages and knowledge of guests.

When the doorbell rings, get out of the kitchen and greet each guest with a big warm welcome! Wishing a good year to you all. May you share plenty of food and family together.

Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.


ISRAELI CHICKEN
(Meat)

2 chickens, cut into eighths, or equivalent of boneless pieces
2 onions, cut into large chunks
2 lemons
12-16 sprigs fresh oregano
8 cloves fresh garlic, thin slices
Fine sea salt, to taste (I leave it out and it is still good)
Dash of freshly ground pepper
½ cup olive oil
1 cup white wine
1½ cups Kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
½ cup Kalamata olives, whole, for garnish

> Preheat oven to 450  degrees.  Place chicken in single layers, skin side up, into two 9-by-13-inch baking pans. Add the onion chunks.  Slice the lemons in half lengthwise.  Squeeze the lemon halves over the chicken.  Cut each lemon half into 4 pieces; add to the chicken.  Set aside 4 sprigs of oregano and strip the oregano leaves from the rest.  Scatter the leaves and the stripped sprigs over the chicken. Add the garlic and season with salt and pepper.  Drizzle with the olive oil and wine. Toss the mixture together.  Sprinkle the chopped olives over the chicken.

Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the chicken is fully cooked. Transfer to platter and garnish with whole olives and reserved oregano sprigs. 8 servings.

NEW PERSIAN STUFFED  CABBAGE ROLLS
(Meat)

1 very large head Savoy cabbage
2 pounds ground beef or turkey
2 small to medium onions, chopped small
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, shredded on coarse grater
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 cup uncooked yellow or saffron rice
½ to ¾ cup finely chopped pistachio nuts

Sauce:
2-4 tablespoons tomato paste
6-8 cups of your favorite simple tomato sauce, tomato juice or V8 (I like the V8)
¼ cup honey
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup small currants, optional

> Cut the core out of the cabbage, but leave it whole. Place it, with the empty core area facing up, in a large bowl. Boil a small pot of water and pour the water over the cabbage, and let it sit for 10 minutes. Or, I freeze the cabbage overnight and then defrost it in the microwave before using. Heat the oil in a very large pot. Cook the onions until they are soft, add the carrot and celery, and sautÈ them for a couple extra minutes — until they are also soft. Season the mixture with salt and pepper, transfer it to a bowl and let it cool a bit. Mix in the meat, rice and pistachio nuts, and season again with salt and pepper. Drain the head of cabbage. Pull off large leaves, and cut out the large vein; if the leaf is very large, you can make two rolls from each; if it is smaller, you can cut the vein out partially and pull the sides to overlap before you roll it into one roll. Pat the leaves dry with towels. Roll about ¼ cup of filling in each small leaf (I like them small) and arrange/carefully layer in a very large, wide pot. Combine sauce ingredients to create a sweet and sour sauce. Taste and add more honey or brown sugar for sweetness. Pour in enough sauce to cover the rolls. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat, letting them simmer, covered on the stove on very low for about 45 minutes. If sauce has thinned a bit, you can heat up any additional sauce you didn’t use and pour it over as you serve the rolls. 8-10 servings depending on size of rolls. Freezes well.

CHAI HONEY CAKE
(Pareve)

3 large eggs
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ fresh grated lemon rinds
⅓ cup vegetable oil
1 cup honey
1 cup warm strong chai tea
3¼ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1¼ cup flat almonds for garnish

> Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan. Place the eggs, lemon juice, lemon rind, oil, honey and coffee in a bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on low speed until well blended. In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cream of tartar, sugar and cinnamon with a fork until mixed. Gradually add the flour mixture to the eggs mixture, mixing for about 5 minutes or until well blended. Pour the batter into the tube pan. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until a toothpick  inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

 

You Should Know … Diana Goldsmith

Diana Goldsmith (photo by Justin Silberman)

Diana Goldsmith (photo by Justin Silberman)

Diana Goldsmith has been an active participant in the greater Baltimore Jewish community her entire life.

An Owings Mills native, Goldsmith, 22, spent three years in HaSTY (Har Sinai Temple Youth) during high school, serving one year as religious cultural vice president and the other as president. She also played an instrumental role in the creation of BEIT-RJ, a Jewish educational initiative for post-bar and bat mitzvah-age students affiliated with the  Reform movement.

Since May, the Towson University graduate has put all that experience to good use in her job with Repair the World Baltimore, an organization that works alongside Jewish Volunteer Connection — an agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore — to engage young Jewish adults in volunteerism.

As one of two program  associates, Goldsmith works closely with many local nonprofit organizations to create service project programs to help raise awareness about  education equality and food justice.

How did you end up landing a job with Repair the World Baltimore?

It was a long process, but  Repair the World just wanted to make sure it got the right people for the job. I did a phone interview and two in-person  interviews, one of which I had to present a volunteer project. The whole process took a couple of months and was very intense. I didn’t hear back for a few weeks, so I didn’t even know if I was going to get the position.

Then, I got hired at the  beginning of May, along with my co-worker, Josh Sherman, and started working at the end of that month.

What does your position  entail on a daily basis?

Well, it’s a lot of emailing and a lot of meetings. There’s a lot of practical, logistical things I have to do in order to do all the programming we do. We’re always looking forward to our next event and preparing for that. I’m still getting into the groove of figuring out timelines and planning, so it’s just a matter of seeing what needs to get done for our events. I’m in the workshop on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and  Friday, and on Tuesday, I work from the Park Heights JCC.

I like to joke that Josh and I are two full-time people doing the work of six to eight fellows. Also, the phrase that keeps coming up is that this is a ‘launch and learn,’ meaning we’re experimenting with this new program to play with and figure which things do and don’t work.

What are your long-term plans?

I’ll be with Repair the World for the foreseeable future. This opportunity is really great, and I’m lucky to have it. I’m also considering graduate school for international development at some point, which I think will be really useful for the work I’m doing now in terms of community development. Learning more about ethical and sustainable volunteering is really where my heart lies. I  really like doing this work  locally, but my education and passion lie internationally.

Traveling is high on my list, which is why international  issues are at the top of the list for me. America is great and all, but I want to see more of the world. We have such an opportunity in the modern world to be able to literally  access the entire world online and physically, so I’d love to do some more traveling.

How do you like to spend your spare time?

Something I’ve been doing the last five years is acting on Urban Pirates, which is an  interactive, hour-long adventure cruise with games, songs and a hunt for stolen treasure on a ship downtown. People ask me all the time since I am now more focused in nonprofit work and volunteering, ‘Oh, you used to do acting?’ And I like to say that I still do acting, because I have Urban Pirates, which is a great outlet for me to act all the time.

I mean, what other job can you dress up as a pirate every day? I loved playing dress-up as a kid. Now, I get to play dress-up all the time and go and play this character, Ruthless Ruthie, so it’s good to have something fun to do on the side. It’s so much more than an acting job, because I have to be able to think on my feet and don’t care what people think, which helps me in all aspects of my life.

jsilberman@midatlanticmedia.com

Emmys 2016: The Show’s Most Jewish Moments

Director Jill Soloway and actor Jeffrey Tambor, who both won Emmy Awards for the series “Transparent,” backstage at the 68th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Steve Granitz/WireImage/GettyImages)

Director Jill Soloway and actor Jeffrey Tambor, who both won Emmy Awards for the series “Transparent,” backstage at the 68th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Steve Granitz/WireImage/GettyImages)

Put enough Jewish talent and Hollywood brass in a room and you’re bound to create some memorable Jewish sound bites — and the 2016 Emmy Awards on Sunday night were no exception to this rule. From a shout-out to New York Jews to a tribute to late Jewish stars, here are the Jewiest moments from TV’s biggest night.

Jeffrey Tambor used  Hebrew to tell the house band to shut up
In accepting his speech for best actor in a comedy series (for his role as a transgender woman in Jill Soloway’s “Transparent”), Tambor spoke about some of the social issues the groundbreaking show tackles. When the band began to play (signaling that his time was up) Tambor said “sheket bevakasha” — meaning “quiet please!” in Hebrew — so that he could say that transgender actors should be given more jobs in Hollywood.

‘Veep’ producer dedicates win to ‘chubby’ Upper West Side Jews
It might not be so surprising that David Mandel, an executive producer of “Veep,” dedicated the satirical show’s win for best comedy series to “chubby Jews from the Upper West Side or wherever you are.” Mandel was formerly a producer of Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and was a writer during some of the late seasons of “Seinfeld.”

‘Game of Thrones’ creators cleaned up
The “Game of Thrones” books may be written by George R.R. Martin, but the massively successful HBO series based on the fantasy novels is spearheaded by a pair of Jews: David Benioff and Daniel “D.B.” Weiss. The pair helped make history on Sunday, as the lauded series overtook “Frasier” for the most wins in Emmys history (38). Benioff mentioned his wife Amanda Peet — who wrote a children’s book last year about a Jewish girl who feels left out on Christmas — twice in an acceptance speech.

Some legends were honored
Gene Wilder (“Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” “Young Frankenstein,” “The Frisco Kid”), Anton Yelchin (“Star Trek”), Abe Vigoda (known for his roles in “Barney Miller” and “The Godfather”) and Fyvush Finkel (a star of the Yiddish theater world and winner of a 1994 Emmy for his role in “Picket Fences”) were all mentioned in the show’s poignant “In Memoriam” segment.

A Jewish-Danish director has her day
Susanne Bier is best known for her Danish feature films, which have garnered Academy Award nominations (“In a Better World”) and spawned American remakes (“Brothers”). But on Sunday she won an Emmy for best directing for a limited series for her work on “The Night Manager,” an AMC miniseries. Bier has an interesting Jewish backstory — her father fled Germany for Denmark in 1933, where he met her mother. When Nazis began rounding up Jews there, her parents fled to Sweden in a boat. She has said her Jewish upbringing instilled in her a strong sense of family.

Rabbi Moishe Mayir Vogel is executive  director at the Aleph Institute-North  East Region.

You Should Know … Gal Massalton

Gal Massalton (provided)

Gal Massalton (provided)

Gal Massalton is an Israeli native who is working in Baltimore as the  Israel shlichah (emissary) for the Baltimore Zionist District (BZD).

Originally from Rehovot, Massalton, 32, took a gap year  before joining the army to volunteer locally with the Israeli scouts. She served in the Israel Defense Forces as a captain for seven years, earning a degree in education and social sciences during her service. Even after leaving the army, Massalton has continued to serve as an outside adviser to both the armed forces and businesses in Israel, developing educational and leadership programming. Before coming to the United States, she worked for the Maccabi Tzair Youth Movement as the head of their gap-year program.

How did you end up in the United States?

Maccabi Tzair has had a partnership with BZD for a long time, so my job is a partnership of three organizations, Maccabi Tzair, BZD and the Jewish Agency. Everything I needed to get here, such as training and applying for a visa, was through the Jewish Agency. I have been here for two years, and I have one year left here.

It is a shlichah program, there are about 500 shluchim in North America, but the roles vary by location. I am the community shlichah, so I do community events. I am going to schools, synagogues, really anywhere that wants me to speak about Israel and or issues related to it and putting on events there. There are other shluchim with different roles — for example, those with jobs on college campuses. We will do many of the same things, but the demands vary by job.

What do you do day to day?

I do just about anything that anyone wants me to do relating to Israel. BZD’s goal is to bring Israel to Baltimore; so if anyone wants me to speak about a specific subject like my army service or wants to do a program in high school or with seniors, I build a program. I am doing this in a few places. For example, I am working a lot with Jerusalem U. I bring a movie and then we do a discussion about it. Last year, it was a film called “Beneath the Helmet” that highlights five young Israeli high school graduates who are drafted into the army to defend their country. This year, it is “Mekonen,” about the journey of an African Jew.

We do Yom Hazikaron ceremonies, the memorial day of Israel. It is a big ceremony that we do every year. Last year, we did it in Beth Tfiloh and it was really amazing; nearly 500 people attended. I am in charge of the aliyah process. Anyone from Baltimore who wants to do aliyah needs to come and meet with me for an interview and the application process. I also help to do programs with youth movements, bringing programs here through Maccabi Tzair.

What are your goals?

I think that Yom Hazikaron was the most important project that I have worked on because it is related to Israel. I feel like the Memorial Day here in the United States is so different from Memorial Day in Israel. It was hard for me to bring the Israel ceremony and Israeli way of doing Yom Hazikaron to the United States. I think that is my main project. I cannot wait until next year to get going with that. I feel like the last two years were each bigger and more meaningful than the last. I think it was really getting to people and helping them  really understand what the day means. It is so different — sometimes people cannot understand what it means — to finish high school and go right into the army.

I didn’t know what to expect when I came to the United States, I didn’t know why there were Jews who lived here instead of Israel, to be honest. I grew up in Israel all my life, and I have traveled but not lived anywhere else. I didn’t know what to expect, but I am starting to learn about all of the ways that you can be Jewish and live to support Israel. It surprised me to see how many people from Baltimore do aliyah, there are around 70 families already this year.

I want to get to more new places, Baltimore has so many organizations and I want to reach out and speak with them. Organizations that I have worked with before will reach out to me now, I have made connections, but it gets to the point where I have booked everyone who has reached out and I need to find new places. It is really exciting to me to address new audiences; they don’t have to be Jewish.

dnozick@midatlanticmedia.com

Baltimore Jazz Alliance Bops into First-Ever Festival

Baltimore native Clarence Ward III will be performing. (Dubscience Photography courtesy of Baltimore Jazz Alliance)

Baltimore native Clarence Ward III will be performing. (Dubscience Photography courtesy of Baltimore Jazz Alliance)

Those who fear there’s been a dismal downbeat in the Baltimore jazz scene have something to swing about.

The Baltimore Jazz Alliance is tuning up for its family-friendly and free jazz festival, which takes the stage on Oct. 1 at Druid Hill Park. The BJA Jazz Festival is ostensibly the first local musical showcase focusing solely on what many believe to be the only American-born art form, pioneered by such luminaries as Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Benny Goodman.

“Even the events that have some jazz mixed in tend to relegate it to a sideline,” said Ian Rashkin, a software developer for Johns Hopkins University who has operated as president of the BJA for the past year.

Rashkin discovered his passion for jazz by way of performing in punk rock bands as a young Northern Californian prior to his arriving in Maryland 11 years ago with his Baltimorean wife. Rashkin was disheartened by what he saw as jazz being merely “something extra” at music events he attended in his new hometown and felt, along with BJA founder Barry Glassman and longtime habitué Bob Jacobson who initially spawned the concept of the festival, that it was time to give the genre  its own full day in the local limelight.

Rashkin has also found that “there are a lot of people who are interested in jazz but simply aren’t aware of its presence in our town. Our festival is a way of presenting it to them in one big dose.”

BJA’s mission is one of “letting people know about the jazz that’s happening in the area and encouraging more of it to happen in Baltimore,” Rashkin said. “We try to support artists by having, for example,  concerts and producing CDs of local artists, along with a calendar of jazz events, our writing of articles about these artists and local venues in order to let people know more about the music in their community.”

What makes me interested in it is this feeling I get playing jazz  surrounded by all these people. Their happy faces give me this  feeling and energy that’s just right.” — Brandi Scott, Dunbar Jazz Ensemble

 

It was eight years ago that Rashkin joined the BJA, three of the last of which he spent as a board member before recently tackling the role of president. His dedication to the group stems from his personal interest in finding opportunities for live jazz, something that led Glassman — another area transplant — to start the organization in the first place, 12 years ago this month.

“As a new guy to Baltimore, I was surprised that the few places that put on jazz shows were always empty,” Glassman said. “I kept wondering why there weren’t more people coming out to enjoy this surprisingly good music.”

Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Glassman has been retired from the finance industry for nine of those 12 years and said he has been a fan of jazz for nearly all of his 72 years on this planet. Before settling in Baltimore, Glassman spent 10 years in lower Manhattan, where there was a solid and bustling jazz scene that he found lacking in Charm City.

Glassman spent much of his working life “trying to put food on the table during the day and going to as many jazz shows at night as possible,” simply due to his love his jazz. As far as performing, Glassman said he “tried,” chuckling as he recounted bygone days of harboring fantasies about living off of his clarinet and saxophone skills that did at one time lead to an audition for mainstay Roberta Flack’s first project.

“Then I realized all those great ideas in my head will never make it to my fingers,” Glassman said. “So it was time to get a real job.”

Such terra firma fiscal concerns are largely responsible for Baltimore’s languishing jazz scene that Rashkin concedes has dwindled since the halcyon heyday of mid-century local giants Cab Calloway and Eubie Blake.

“There’s a lot of great jazz and talent here, but it’s not the moneymaking genre it used to be or that other live music can be,” Rashkin said. “Actually, live music in general is so difficult for moneymaking these days.”

Hence why, Rashkin reasoned, previous festivals failed to come together: A lack of financial interest and support meant big money problems for promoters, presenters and performers.

“Though we don’t want to lose money, our approach in the festival is to elevate the musicians and give people an opportunity to hear jazz,” Rashkin said, adding that his festival came together only after receiving support from public resources such as Baltimore’s Department of Recreation & Parks and Office of Promotion & the Arts, along with private grants and individual and corporate underwriting, fortified by grassroots crowdfunding.

“Our expectations are realistic,” Rashkin said. “Since we’re not trying to make money, it hasn’t been as daunting of a proposition to put on the festival.”

Baltimore native and professional jazz musician Clarence Ward III, 35, agrees that a star-crossed collusion of finances and preponderant ignorance of jazz has led to the current dearth of interest in jazz.

Ward will perform at the festival with his Clarence Ward III All Stars project, comprised of various world-touring musicians (such as himself) who he refers to as “top notch, ‘A-level’ performers who you’ll get to see for free. Anywhere else, these guys get paid crazy amounts just to play, and so it’s a real positive thing for the city that people will be able to come and see them and a variety of other bands for free.”

Ward sees the BJA and its forthcoming festival as a means of overcoming the hurdle of those who are either unaware of or even unwilling to give this multifaceted music a chance. The latter’s a particularly frustrating claque to Ward who compared jazz to chicken: “You can bake it, you can fry it, you can grill it, so there’s something there for everyone, just like all the different kinds of jazz.”

For Ward, a crucial element here is education and creating platforms for the different  varieties of jazz to be accessible to larger audiences. Many times, he’ll play a specific brand of jazz to those who might otherwise claim to dislike the genre before they realize, “Wait, this is jazz too? This, I like.”

“A lot of people just don’t know any better,” Ward said. “And we gotta change that.”

Ward credits jazz with all but saving his life as a young student at Lake Clifton High School who “ran into some trouble when some guys were looking for me” before his parents transferred him to Paul Laurence Dunbar High, where he was placed in a band class and handed a flute. His parents had told the school he could play … despite the fact this hadn’t been true since he’d been in third grade.

The flute quickly led to an alto sax and, courtesy the tutelage of “father figure” Charles Funn, Ward became adept at multiple woodwind and brass instruments, kick-starting what would become a successful full-time career as a musician who now specializes in the trumpet.

Funn continues to teach and inspire students at Dunbar today, including 16-year-old Brandi Scott who has been playing the trombone for three years and will perform at the BJA Jazz Festival with the Dunbar Jazz Ensemble.

“I didn’t have any idea how to play the trombone, but Mr. Funn appointed me to it and taught me really well,” Scott said. “I’d listened to jazz before, but I wasn’t as interested in it as I am now. I’m really looking forward to the festival; I’m telling everyone about it, and I want people to come and see us play!”

BJA supporter Bob Jacobson is elated that such local jazz figures as Ward and Funn are having an ameliorating effect over the growing contingent of area jazz enthusiasts.

Jacobson started the Jazz For Kids program in 2006 for this very reason, hoping to make the music genre more palatable for young people in the area. Along with the sale of beer, wine, jewelry and the running of arts-and-crafts and clothing booths at the festival, another alternative activity will be Jacobson’s own “Musical Petting Zoo,” which will grant children the opportunity to learn about various instruments that they can handle and play with, guided by an experienced assistant.

“Certainly it’s true a lot of young people might not be as interested in jazz,” Rashkin said, “but the Musical Petting Zoo should be a lot of fun for kids joining us with their families at the festival. We also have a lot of live-wire musicians performing, and they’re going to attract audiences for sure.”

At least one young person couldn’t agree more with Rashkin’s sentiment.

“What makes me interested in it,” Scott said, “is this feeling I get playing jazz surrounded by all these people. Their happy faces give me this feeling and energy that’s just right.”


 

The Baltimore Jazz Festival Alliance Festival is a free, family-friendly event taking place on Oct. 1 from noon to 8:30 p.m. at Druid Hill Park, 900 Druid Lake Park Drive, Baltimore. For more information, visit baltimorejazz.com.

To read an online exclusive about Jews and jazz, visit bit.ly/2crQjry.

mklickstein@midatlanticmedia.com

Documentary’s Message Promises to Inspire at MMAE Event

(mekonen.jerusalemu.org/press-kit/)

(mekonen.jerusalemu.org/press-kit/)

Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah Hebrew Congregation (MMAE) will celebrate Selichot Saturday, Sept. 24 with a special screening of the recently released film “Mekonen: The Journey of an African Jew.” Production representatives will introduce and discuss the mini-documentary that tells  of eponymous Ethiopian IDF soldier Mekonen Abebe’s homecoming as means of reconnecting with his African roots.

The free event, which is open to the public, will include a  musical Havdalah, an inspirational invocation by Rabbi  Yerachmiel Shapiro and the musical stylings of Cantor Shlomo Abramson, who comes directly from Israel specifically for MMAE’s unique, family-friendly evening gala. Abebe’s commander, Eden Adler, will speak after the film.

“Those who come will feel inspired by the accomplishments of one person who overcame great difficulty,” Shapiro said about the film that he believes will help viewers “realize that they have great potential to not sell themselves short from their life’s mission.”

There’s a terrific connection to the Holy Days in their same central message: remembering  that we should all try, no  matter what challenges come our way, to make a difference and that every day we can decide to be better people, to better our community.” — Nechama Abramson

“Mekonen” presents a spin-off of acclaimed 2014 documentary “Beneath the Helmet: From High School to Home Front,” which explores the experiences of five young Israelis graduating from high school and taking part in their compulsory military service.

“Helmet” is streaming now on Netflix and was produced by Jerusalem U — as was “Mekonen” — a nonprofit company that produces online courses and films, whose primary mission is to promote a better understanding of the complexities  affecting modern Israelis and Jews today. Jerusalem U is also responsible for 2011’s “Israel Inside: How a Small Nation Makes a Big Difference,” which aired on PBS.

Viewers of “Mekonen” are offered an individual storyline of one soldier featured in the film’s predecessor. After being introduced to 20-year-old Abebe, whose aliyah as a younger person was fraught with a number of singular tribulations, viewers travel with him through his at times conflicted but ultimately triumphant return to Ethiopia.

“Many people don’t know that a lot of Ethiopian Jews are coming to Israel,” Shapiro, who has been with his modern Orthodox congregation for the past seven years, said.

“They are told these nasty things about Israel, and the truth is the opposite,” he continued. “It’s very liberal, open to people of different sexual orientations, religions and races. This is just one example of such a story, that of a young man who left everything he knew and made it to this new country. You can’t say everything is perfect in Israel, but if you look at the society as a whole, there is an embracing of various cultures. And this film talks about that.”

Having shown “Helmet” last year, Shapiro said he trusted the judgment of Abramson’s wife, Nechama, who suggested she bring “Mekonen” with her for 2016’s Selichot. As the marketing director for Jerusalem U, the Manhattan-born Nechama (who has lived with her native husband Abramson in Israel since 2005) said her company’s goal is to inspire young Jews.

“We want to instill in them Jewish pride and a love for  Israel,” she added. “We understand that the best way to do that is by telling personal stories, harnessing the power of film to show people who are just like them: young people interested in the same things they are, who have the same value systems.”

Although Shapiro doesn’t necessarily see a direct connection between “Mekonen” and the High Holy Days per se, Nechama respectfully disagrees, illuminating that, as with that of Israel’s and the Jewish community’s overall, Abebe’s is not a simple tale.

“The film shows how he woke up every morning to make his day better; it shows the people who helped him go to high school and become part of the army,” Nechama said.

“There’s a terrific connection to the Holy Days in their same central message: remembering that we should all try, no matter what challenges come our way, to make a difference and that every day we can  decide to be better people, to better our community.”

MMAE Brotherhood’s outgoing president Vito Simone, who has been a member of the congregation for seven years and still  assists with promoting events  there, noted that Abebe’s story  “connects with the experiences of our shul.”

Simone pointed out that MMAE has, for example, raised money to send winter fleeces and hats to soldiers in Israel. A number of MMAE members were themselves IDF soldiers, one member has a daughter who just finished her service, and Simone has a son who was an IDF paratrooper for three years.

He referred to his as “a very active, social shul. Very down to earth and easy for people to blend in and participate.”

MMAE’s rather “warm and haimish” informal sensibility, as Simone puts it, is one reason for their bringing in Abramson as Selichot cantor for the past five years.

Simone praised Abramson’s “unique voice, which carries a special meaning for all of our congregants. There was an  instant connection as soon as everyone met him. I don’t know how to explain it. Even though they may be half a world away, his wife and he are very connected to our shul.”

Shapiro revealed that while going through audition tapes of potential cantors, he was immediately struck by Abramson’s “spectacular” voice.

“It’s not a pure, traditional cantorial voice,” Shapiro clarified. “[Abramson] blends the traditional cantor’s voice with a ‘pop-Israeli’ sound. He plays guitar, he sings from the soul. He gets everyone singing together.”

Simone too is delighted by Abramson’s modern melding of traditional Jewish music, davening and prayers with Beatles songs and other pop favorites.

“This helps bridge the gap between older congregants and younger ones,” Simone said. “It always makes for a very welcoming service.”

Selichot and the screening of “Mekonen: The Journey of an African Jew” take place the evening of Saturday, Sept. 24, starting at 9, with services led by Cantor Shlomo Abramson starting at 10:30, at MMAE, 7000 Rockland Hills Drive, Baltimore. Light refreshments to follow.  For more information, visit mmae.org/events.html.

mklickstein@midatlanticmedia.com