Hackerman-Patz House Celebrates Decade

Neil Meltzer, president and CEO of LifeBridge Health, joins Chandler Crews,  a Hackerman-Patz House resident who goes to Sinai Hospital for limb lengthening, at a reception honoring the building’s 10th anniversary. (Provided)

Neil Meltzer, president and CEO of LifeBridge Health, joins Chandler Crews,a Hackerman-Patz House resident who goes to Sinai Hospital for limb lengthening, at a reception honoring the building’s 10th anniversary. (Provided)

For the last decade, more than 30,000 people from 8,000 families from all over the United States and the world have had a second home at the Sinai Hospital campus.

The Hackerman-Patz House has served as a place to rest and make new friends for patients undergoing a variety of extended treatments and their families.

“Whenever we come here, it feels like coming home,” said Chandler Crews, 20, who has achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism. She has been traveling from Little Rock, Ark., to Sinai since she was 16 for limb lengthening and has gained a total of 14 inches in height from the treatment.

The house was a gift from Willard Hackerman, the former CEO of Whiting-Turner Contracting Company and renowned philanthropist who died earlier this year, and his wife, Lillian Patz Hackerman. It sits directly across the street from the Rubin Institute for Advanced Orthopedics, where limb lengthening, hip and knee replacements and other specialized procedures take place.

The 10th anniversary was marked on Thursday, April 24, with a reception that featured speeches from members of the Hackerman family and officials from LifeBridge Health, which operates the hospital.

“If Mr. Hackerman were here, he’d tell you the best Hackerman-Patz House he ever built was here at Sinai,” said Gwenn Eisenberg, coordinator of patient and family activities at the house and Willard Hackerman’s niece. “To him, a bridge was a bridge. What was meaningful to him was to build things that helped other people.”

There are six other Hackerman-Patz houses on hospital campuses such as Johns Hopkins Hospital, Saint Agnes Hospital and the St. Joseph Medical Center.

In attendance at the reception were current residents of the Hackerman-Patz House, who hail from all over the continental U.S., as well as Alaska, India and Saudi Arabia.

When the building opened in 2004, there were 10 rooms. Due to high demand, the house expanded to 18 rooms in 2006, where families from all 50 states and 43 countries have stayed.

Everything at the house, including toiletries and the canned food in the pantries, is donated. An extensive DVD and VHS collection, video-game systems and computers were all donated. While there used to be a coin-operated laundry, a fundraiser paid for new, free washers and dryers. Young children staying at the house have tutors sent by Baltimore City schools.

A family in the furniture business donated beds and Blockbuster donated enough Nintendo GameCubes for each room to have one; even the landscaping around the patio area was donated.

Other than a stove, the Hackerman-Patz House has just about everything to make patients feel at home: kitchenettes in each room, a playroom, a common area kitchen with various appliances and a projector in a common area for movies and sports.

Bill Turner, the director of the house since it opened, said he tries to create a tranquil environment for families who are otherwise under a lot of stress.

“We just try to have as relaxed an atmosphere as you can,” he said. “A lot of families come in here and will say they feel like they’re at home.”

Neil Meltzer, president and CEO of LifeBridge Health, noted Turner’s unwavering commitment to the Hackerman-Patz House by shoveling snow in the wintertime so patients wouldn’t have icy commutes or arrivals to the hospital.

“He truly cares for these families like they’re his own,” said Meltzer.

Hackerman was a good friend of Meltzer’s, they shared a love of maps and would dine together at Miss Shirley’s Café. Meltzer said that once he explained the need for housing for patients traveling from afar, it was a no-brainer for Hackerman to donate the building to Sinai.

“This is a very special place,” Meltzer said, adding that the Hackerman-Patz Houses are the only buildings Willard Hackerman put his name on.

Crews and her family can attest to that, having spent a Christmas at the house and having forged lasting friendships with families in Brazil and Norway.

“I really can’t imagine doing what we do without this place,” said Cathy Crews, Chandler’s mother. “When we got off the plane, we said we feel like we’re coming home.”


Now is the time for empowerment

runyan_josh_otPassover in a new home and a new city had gone smoothly enough, the joy of celebrating freedom alongside thousands of fellow Jews in such a densely populated space drowning out all of the last-minute stresses that had led into the holiday. By the end of the eight-day festival, the picture outside was one of serene bliss; the flowers were in bloom, the sun was shining and the kids were enjoying jacketless walks between house and shul.

But then the giant white postcard emerged ominously from the mailbox. Even without removing it, you could tell what it was: a missionary screed that, playing on Jewish themes and addressed only to “Resident,” was clearly meant to a targeted audience — Baltimore’s close-knit Jewish community.

The fact that in today’s day and age, the battle continues for the soul of the Jew is nothing new, even as those who stand behind such efforts try to claim the mantle of Jewish identity. (And to be sure, there are bona fide Jews, according to halachah, among the ranks of the “Messianic Jews.”) What makes this latest salvo from a group calling itself Israel Restoration Ministries so disturbing is that those behind it, as you’ll read about in this week’s JT, see nothing wrong with attempting to claim another group’s truths as their own, and in the basest of advertising strategies: If you want to reach Jews, an interview with one of the ministry’s officials admitted, target the ZIP codes with the most Cohens and Rosenbergs.

Thankfully, this campaign is so blatantly devious that few will be swayed by the postcard’s message. But that might not be true in all households or in all cities. Ruth Guggenheim of Jews for Judaism is right to be concerned and is correct in her advice that we all use this incident as an opportunity to educate our children and each other.

A mind, so goes the dictum, is a terrible thing to waste. A lack of education in general directly correlates to a poor economic future, and a lack of Judaic education in particular leaves a child in the precarious position of potentially not being able to resist the sometimes persuasive arguments of the non-Jewish world.

In most cases, communities such as ours get this fundamental truth, that education is the greatest guarantor of future success. That’s why, on the Judaic side of the equation, we have vibrant yeshivas, strong community day schools and growing religious schools. And on the secular side, we have schools such as Pikesville High, which at the close of its 50th year, is making investments in the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and math and is working to make sure that its building becomes a more-conducive place for exceptional learning.

But what about the exceptionally brilliant students who, by virtue of family background or location, aren’t privileged to enjoy the benefits of Jewish study? And what about the diligent bochurim whose brilliance in the realm of Talmudic analysis is without question but are regarded by society as having to choose between extremes?

In the end, every child will become an adult. And to provide for their own children, today’s youth will one day be forced to make their own decisions. Now is the time to empower them with the best tools at our disposal to ensure that they are not only able to lead families, but that they are able to do so as Jews.


Convicted Murderer of Orthodox Girl Will Not Get New Trial

Poster for support eventA man who was found guilty of killing an 11-year-old Orthodox girl in 1969 was denied a new trial Thursday, according to reports.

Wayne Stephen Young will continue to serve jail time for the murder of Esther Lebowitz after Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Edward Hargadon made his decision Thursday.

The possibility of a new trial came about because of what is known as the “Unger ruling,” which cites that incorrect jury instructions administered in Maryland courtrooms may have led to unfair trials. Young, now 68, has been denied parole 12 times.

Hargadon wrote in her decision that instructions were “crisp and constitutionally sound,” according to the Baltimore Sun.

About 250 members of the Baltimore Jewish community packed a March hearing in protest of the possible new trial. People traveled by bus, car and subway to attend the hearing, and many silently read from prayer books.

Lebowitz, who was a student at Bais Yaakov School for Girls, was last seen in Pikesville after being dropped off at a drugstore after school. Her body was found three days later in a ditch not far from her Mount Washington home.

Digital media editor and senior reporter Melissa Gerr contributed to this report.

‘Glitches’ in Kansas City security plan

Frazier Glenn Miller appears at his arraignment on first-degree murder charges last week in New Century, Kan.  (David Eulitt-Pool/Getty Images)

Frazier Glenn Miller appears at his arraignment on first-degree murder charges last week in New Century, Kan.
(David Eulitt-Pool/Getty Images)

The deadly shooting in the parking lots of two Jewish facilities in Overland Park, Kan., exposed “glitches” in the Kansas City Jewish community’s security plan, according to the head of the local Jewish federation.

Todd Stettner, president and chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City, said he was glad to see how competently both facilities handled the situation, quickly going on lockdown in accordance with previous training they received.

But the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and the Village Shalom Senior Living Center were unable to quickly relay an emergency warning to everyone in their communities — similar to emergency text message and email systems used on school campuses throughout the country.

More troubling in hindsight was the lack of a planned response for the specific attack Frazier Glenn Miller allegedly carried out on April 14 — a shooting in the two facilities’ parking lots.

“We practiced for one eventuality, which was a shooter coming into the building,” said Stettner, “but this shooter didn’t come into the building. It’s always hard to plan for random kind of things, and we have to take a look and see what we can do better.”

The community will undergo an audit by U.S. Department of Homeland Security personnel and receive input on changes they should make in their security procedures. They will also receive help in developing and training to handle a wider range of emergency scenarios.

Paul Goldenberg, director of the Secure Community Network, a Jewish Federations of North America affiliate responsible for addressing security concerns in Jewish communities nationally, took part in a series of meetings between local leaders and agencies such as the FBI and Homeland Security to help answer the community’s concerns about safety and to advise on security improvements.

Miller, 73, allegedly shot to death William Lewis Corporan, 69, and his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood outside the JCC. He then proceeded to nearby Village Shalom, where he allegedly killed Teresa Rose Lamanno, 53, before being arrested by police.

It didn’t take long to deduce Miller’s motives as he yelled “Heil Hitler” from inside a police car shortly after his arrest. Although first identified by his alias, Frazier Glenn Cross Jr., he was soon recognized by his real name and that he had a long history of white supremacism and anti-Semitism. None of the victims in the shooting was Jewish.

Responding to the threat
Security in many Jewish organizations has been increased since 9/11 with help from the DHS’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program — a program the Jewish Federations of North America advocated for as part of a large coalition nonprofit organization.

“The program over the last seven years has provided more than $120 million to nonprofits across the country to help with capital security improvements. Items such as vehicle bollards, closed-circuit television, blast-proof glass and training in order to ensure nonprofits are secure,” said William Daroff, senior vice president for public policy and director of the Washington office of the JFNA. “We’ve seen that, particularly in the post 9/11 environment, nonprofit organizations generally and Jewish institutions specifically are more of a target than ever before to those who seek to disrupt society and perpetuate hate.”

“Unfortunately, it’s a matter of record that they [Jewish communities] have been targeted over the past decade by both Islamic extremist fundamentalists as well as what some see as a growing number of white supremacists who are now starting to engage in more acts of violence,” said Goldenberg. “Jewish communities do need to be, and are in fact, very much pro-active partners with law enforcement.”

Attorney General Eric Holder on April 15 asked Congress to authorize $15 million to establish active shooter scenario training programs for state and local law enforcement officers.

But some in the Jewish community argue that as important as training and preparation are, such responses don’t get at the heart of the problem.

The shootings in Overland Park are “another horrific instance of an act of senseless violence involving the use of guns to take innocent lives,” said Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

“We have to ask, how many times will it take for us to recognize that the accessibility of guns allows people who are the haters, or criminals or the mentally ill — in those rare cases where their illness takes destructive forms — that the difference in having a gun and not having a gun is so often the difference between life and death,” Saperstein told Washington Jewish Week.

‘Hate is not a crime’
The Southern Poverty Law Center has followed Miller’s activities since the 1980s, when the former U.S. Army Green Beret and Vietnam War veteran organized and led the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

According to Mark Potok, senior fellow and editor-in-chief of the Intelligence Report at the SPLC, the Alabama-based civil rights organization sued Miller in 1985 after reports that he and his organization were harassing and intimidating black North Carolina residents and operating as an illegal paramilitary organization. The court battle ended with a settlement stipulating that Miller had to disband his organization and cease the harassment.

Not long after, the SPLC received photographs proving that Miller and the White Patriot Party, his new organization, were receiving stolen military weapons and training from active U.S. Army soldiers leaving bases Camp Lejeune and Fort Bragg. Though he was given a light sentence, Miller believed more charges would be coming and went into hiding.

The FBI tracked him to a trailer in Missouri, where, along with four other Klansmen, Miller was found possessing C-4 plastic explosives, machine guns, hand grenades and various other weapons as well as a plot to assassinate SPLC founder and chief trial attorney Morris Dees.

Miller agreed to a plea deal with the federal government, in which he would be given a five-year sentence in exchange for testifying against defendants in the 1988 Fort Smith, Ark., sedition trial. Miller served three.

“The irony is that the Fort Smith sedition trial was a complete meltdown disaster for the government,” said Potok. “Every defendant was acquitted of every charge. It was so bad that one of the jurors actually married one of the defendants after the trial. They don’t come much worse than that.”

Though remaining a vocal white supremacist for the next 24 years, Miller led an unremarkable life, limiting his actions to posting incendiary comments on the white-supremacy website Vanguard News Network. Because of this inactivity, federal and local agencies were not tracking him when he opened fire at the Jewish Community Center.

“Hate is not a crime, and you can’t lock somebody up or restrict someone’s activities because they spout hate,” said retired FBI special agent Jeff Lanza. “Now when it crosses the line into threats or potentially violent behavior, that’s when you can do something, and the FBI or any law enforcement agency really doesn’t have the resources for continued surveillance of people that have potential to commit violence.”

“Nor do we want to live in a country where we’re doing that type of surveillance on people, because 95 percent of [the time], someone who you think might be involved in violence is not going to be,” Lanza said.

“The reality is that there are thousands and thousands of Americans who have views that are not much different from Miller’s views, though is only a tiny sliver of those people will ever act, so as a practical matter, it’s virtually impossible to tell,” said Potok. “Sometimes you will get wind of something or you’ll be able to see a real escalation in someone’s postings, for instance, on the Internet, but more often than not, they’re acting like lone wolves, as Miller at least allegedly did.”


JNS.org contributed to this story.

Help for Jewish Women

Adina Fradkin, dietician (left), and Genny Roanhouse, director (right), of the Renfrew Center in Baltimore.

Adina Fradkin, dietician (left), and Genny Roanhouse, director (right), of the Renfrew Center in Baltimore.

Observant Jewish women who struggle with eating disorders now have a religiously sensitive treatment option close to home. Last fall, the Renfrew Center, long recognized as a leading provider of eating disorders treatment, opened a site in Towson. On May 21, the center will present “Feasting, Fasting and Eating Disorders” a seminar for health and mental health professionals, educators and clergy on eating disorders in the Jewish community.

Adina Fradkin, who is Jewish, is a registered dietician at the new treatment center. Fradkin hopes the Towson location’s special track for Orthodox Jewish girls and women will encourage them to feel more comfortable seeking help. She believes that shame may be a contributing factor to the reluctance of some in the Orthodox community to address their eating disorders.

According to Renfrew’s research department, a 2008 study from Toronto published in the The American Journal of Psychiatry found that 25 percent of Jewish females ages 13 to 20 reported eating disorder behaviors, compared with just 18 percent in other religious affiliations. Another study published in 2004 in the journal Epidemiology found that Jewish women between the ages of 36 and 45 were twice as likely to meet criteria for an eating disorder as women in the same age group affiliated with other religions. Between 2007 and 2012, 8.5 percent of patients seeking residential treatment at the Renfrew Center were Jewish.

Sarah Bateman, the Renfrew Center’s Jewish liaison, is not convinced there is enough evidence to substantiate the claim that Jewish women are more prone to suffering from eating disorders, but she noted that Renfrew has seen more Jewish women seeking treatment for eating disorders in recent years.

“We have explored the possibilities that Jews may be seeking treatment more than the general population,” said Bateman. “Over the past few years there has been more recognition of eating disorders in the Jewish community, thus perhaps lowering the stigma and increasing the number of people seeking treatment.”

One thing that makes Renfrew a more comfortable environment for Orthodox girls and women from the get-go, said Fradkin, is the fact that the center only treats female patients.

“That is such a benefit to a young Jewish girl who has gone to an all-girls school and is not used to being around boys,” explained Fradkin. “She might not feel comfortable sharing her feelings in a mixed group.”

In addition to having Jewish clinicians on staff, Renfrew’s Jewish track approaches such religiously rooted themes as Bishvili Nivra Ha’Olam (“self-esteem”), Shidduch V’Zivuggim (“dating and marriage”), HaGuf beMar’eh (“body image”), Sh’ma beKoli (“my voice”) and the place of food in Jewish life with sensitivity and an understanding about Orthodox Jewish customs.

“It’s nice for people to feel they are not speaking a different language. In order to treat Orthodox women, you need to be aware of dietary laws, holidays, dress and the role of food in Jewish culture,” said Fradkin with a chuckle. “It seems we are always eating!”

“I’ll give you just one example,” said Bateman. “It’s Passover. We have found that 80 percent of Jews, regardless of affiliation, attend a Seder. This is stressful for all Jews but even more stressful for someone with an eating disorder. It is [one of the] most restrictive times for eating. Even the recurrence of the Sabbath meal every week is stressful.

“I often do a pre-Passover seminar to help patients before the holiday,” she added. “Imagine how much stress someone with an eating disorder might feel before Thanksgiving? It’s eight days straight for Passover!”

An additional stressor for Orthodox girls and women, said Fradkin, is the fact that “these women are on a timeline to some extent. They’re done with school and studies, then they are getting matched and dating and getting married. Treatment can be an impediment to that timeline.”

The Renfrew Center offers a continuum of care, ranging from residential treatment at their Philadelphia and Coconut Creek, Fla., locations to day treatment, intensive outpatient treatment and individual treatment programs all located at the Baltimore site. “As part of our assessment, we provide recommendations for the treatment level that we feel best fits the need of the patient,” said center director Genny Roanhouse.

Patients in Renfrew’s day treatment program eat two supervised meals at the center, and those in the intensive outpatient program eat one supervised meal there. In order to meet the needs of their Orthodox patients, the Renfrew Center serves food prepared under the strict supervision of Orthodox rabbis. These meals comply with USDA guidelines that meet standards for moderation, balance and variety of food groups.

“At least one staff member eats with the patients at every meal,” said Fradkin. “The staff member eats exactly the same food the patients eat and can model healthy eating for them. After each meal, there is a meal support group, where we process everything that happened during the meal. Was there something they struggled with? Or maybe it went really well and they tried a new food. We have challenge meals where we serve foods that the patients haven’t allowed themselves to eat. It’s a great way to show that there are no good foods or bad foods. It’s all about moderation.”

In addition to the regular mealtimes and challenge programs, Roanhouse said that the program includes family meals.

“During treatment, each patient has the opportunity to have her family bring a meal for them to eat at the center together,” said Roanhouse. “A therapist is at the meal to monitor conversation. It’s a great teaching tool.”

For additional information, or to register for the seminar, “Feasting, Fasting and Eating Disorders,” visit renfrew.contextdevel.com/locations/non-residential/baltimore-md or call 1-800-RENFREW.

Additional Eating Disorder Resources

• Jewish Community Services, jcsbaltimore.org/prevention/programs/

• The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt, eatingdisorder.org

• Johns Hopkins Medicine Eating Disorders Program, hopkinsmedicine.org/psychiatry/specialty_areas/eating_disorders/





The Art of the Craft

Unique handcrafted works, process demonstrations, music and artisan foods all come swirling together to make up the 38th annual Sugarloaf Crafts Festival this weekend in Timonium, just north of Baltimore.

The 250 jury-selected artists will be exhibiting their works in ceramics, sculpture, glass, jewelry, fashion, furniture, home décor, leather, fine art and photography. In addition to art for sale, the public will be invited to watch the artists at work, perhaps one of the more unique aspects of the festival.

“Seeing [the demonstration and] the educational aspect brings a whole different level of appreciation,” said DeAnn Verdier, president of Sugarloaf Craft Festivals. “Otherwise it’s hard for people to imagine the hand you just shook made the piece you’re going to buy. You can watch them take a lump of clay and create a beautiful form before your eyes.”

Artisan food exhibitors will be bringing candies, chocolates, soups, breads, jams, dips, syrups and olive oils for visitors to sample and purchase as well.

Plate by John Akkus

Plate by John Akkus

John Akkus, originally from Istanbul and now living in Virginia, has been participating at Sugarloaf since 1996. He is the artist behind A Touch of Silver and will be selling everything from jewelry to Judaica, as well as demonstrating his unique artistry called metal spinning. Metal spinning combines spinning with a Turkish method of engraving, primarily using copper.

“The metal spinning exists, but not very many people do this anymore,” explained Akkus. “It started in the 1800s but then was lost, and high tech took over. [The technique] is very different and exclusive, and it’s interesting to watch.”

Smadar Livne, originally from Israel, now works from her studio in Owings Mills. Present at Sugarloaf for about 20 years, Livne is best known for her large acrylic paintings on canvas, utilizing mixed media and featuring bold contemporary colors.

“Every time, I come [to Sugarloaf] with a new series,” said Livne. “People will be expecting to see my bold colors; this time I’m going with pastel — and gold and silver.”

Livne explained she is still working some of the same themes, but the change in palette evokes a very different feeling. “It’s very fresh and light,” she said. “And the gold and silver … because of the metallic, it becomes a totally different painting.”

Menorah by Olga Goldin

Menorah by Olga Goldin

Olga Goldin, her husband and two young sons came to Baltimore from Belarus. This year will be her 14th at the festival. She creates from clay, applying multiple glazes and firings; her pieces are all hand built. She makes Judaica, such as menorahs and Kiddush cups, but is perhaps best known for her figurines.

“Customers collect my pieces,” said Goldin. “They buy figures with instruments — they’re little characters with a 1920s and 1930s shtetl feeling. When I was living in Belarus, in Minsk, I would see the pieces in my grandparents’ house. Those memories have influenced my work.”

Livne hopes that the public will not only shop, but also take the time to talk to artists and experience the event.

“They don’t know what’s behind the scenes,” said Livne. “The artists all work very hard. They create from nothing — it’s about the feeling. Try to get the creative inspirational feeling from this event. … Take the time to talk to the artists and get to know what’s behind what they’re making.”

The Sugarloaf Crafts Festival will be held Friday, April 25 and Saturday, April 26 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, April 27 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Maryland State Fairgrounds, 2200 York Road in Timonium.

Admission is $8 when purchased online and $10 at the door, and a ticket is good for all three days of the show. Children under 12 are free. Free parking is available on site.

For more information, including exhibitor lists, directions and admission discounts, visit sugarloafcrafts.com or call 800-210-9900.


Still Funny (After All These Years)

Comedian/actor Paul Reiser has fond memories of Baltimore and his role in “Diner.” (Provided)

Comedian/actor Paul Reiser has fond memories of Baltimore and his role in “Diner.”

Baltimore will always hold a special place in comedian, actor and author Paul Reiser’s heart. It was here after all, where “Diner,” Reiser’s first movie — and the first of filmmaker Barry Levinson’s trilogy tribute to his hometown — was filmed and took place. In “Diner,” released in 1982, Reiser played Modell, a hilariously neurotic young man who spends most of his time hanging out with his friends at a local diner. Modell and the other male characters in “Diner” were based upon Levinson’s own buddies and his experiences growing up in Jewish Baltimore.

On May 8, Reiser will headline Baltimore Hebrew Congregation’s fourth annual Night of the Stars benefit, which honors Dot and Henry Rosenberg and benefits the E.B. Hirsh Early Childhood Center as well as BHC’s religious school and youth programs.

“That was my first job, like ever,” Reiser said of “Diner” during a recent interview. “It was the first time I ever saw a camera. The whole crew of us were pretty green, so there was this shared excitement. I didn’t know it would be such a big deal. For a first break, it was magical, really.”

Reiser said that although “Diner,” which also launched the careers of Kevin Bacon, Mickey Rourke, Daniel Stern, Steve Guttenberg and Ellen Barkin, wasn’t considered a commercial success at the time, it was seen and appreciated by many people in the film industry.

“When I came to L.A. a year or two later, everyone knew me,” he said.

Reiser, 57, was born in New York City to Sam and Helen Reiser. His father was a wholesale health food distributor. He grew up in the Stuyvesant Town neighborhood of lower Manhattan and attended the East Side Hebrew Institute, Stuyvesant High School and SUNY Binghamton, where he was active in the theater department. Reiser began his career as a comedian during the summers of his college years, performing in nightclubs in New York City. After graduating in 1977, Reiser continued working as a stand-up comedian and was eventually discovered by Levinson.

“I had been taking acting classes for about a year, and I said, ‘Give me a scene and I’ll show you my stuff.’ But Barry said, ‘No, we’re just going to talk,’” recalled Reiser. “He had a very clear image of what he wanted.”

After “Diner,” Reiser appeared in such films as “Beverly Hills Cop” (I and II), “Aliens,” “The Marrying Man” and “Bye Bye Love.” He co-starred in the television series “My Two Dads” but is best known for co-starring, writing and producing NBC’s hit comedy “Mad About You” from 1992 to 1999. The sitcom focused on young, urban married couple Paul and Jamie Buchman and their wacky friends and families. It was well-loved for its honest depiction of married life, and Reiser said it was largely autobiographical. “Mad About You” made Reiser and Helen Hunt stars and won Reiser multiple nominations for Emmy, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and Satellite awards.

In addition to his acting credits, Reiser is also the author of “Couplehood” (1995), “Babyhood” (1998) and “Familyhood” (2011). Reiser, who is married to a woman he met in the early 1980s — “Sometimes you know it’s right,” he said — has two sons, 13 and 18.

“Every day is a beauty,” said Reiser, adding that the idea to write the first book came from taking his comedy act and committing it to paper.

He likes the last book the most.

“There was a big 15-year gap between the second and third book,” he said. “I had two kids and was in my 50s. It was more introspective. By that time, I had things to talk about that were too complicated to do on stage. It was a little deeper.”

Ranked 77th on a Comedy Central list of the 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time, Reiser has returned to his roots as a stand-up comedian in the past few years.

“I started as a stand-up but didn’t do it for 20 years. I wanted to get back to it. For a year, I just went to local clubs and worked on my material,” he shared. “I said, ‘Whoever wants to see me, I’ll go.’ People are coming to see me because they know me from ‘Mad About You,’ so it feels as if I am getting together with old friends.”

When he performs at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, Reiser said it will be like performing for family, or in his words, “like a huge Seder.”

For additional information and to purchase tickets to Night of the Stars, visit bhcong.org or call 443-524-0284.


Kosher Wine Compromise

Diana Coyle and Michael Fishman stand with some kosher wines at newly opened Canton Crossing Wine & Spirits. (Marc Shapiro)

Diana Coyle and Michael Fishman stand with some kosher wines at newly opened Canton Crossing Wine & Spirits. (Marc Shapiro)

Maryland residents looking for a wider variety of kosher wines should have more options by 2015.

A compromise reached between the Baltimore Jewish Council, the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA), Licensed Beverage Distributors of Maryland, Inc., and the state comptroller’s office will create an online list of wines available, increase the number of wines available in Maryland to 1,000 by 2015 and educate retailers on how to make special orders.

“It is my sincere hope that this resolves the difficulty so many Marylanders have had to obtain quality kosher wine,” wrote Delegate Sam Arora (D-District 19) in a letter to Delegate Dereck Davis (D-District 25), chairman of the House Economic Matters Committee, withdrawing legislation known as HB 830 in light of the compromise.

While a 2011 direct-to-home wine shipping bill in Maryland opened up consumers’ ability to order from wineries in the United States, most kosher wines are made overseas.

“The problem for observant Jews is there are only about six kosher wineries in the United States,” explained Cailey Locklair, BJC’s director of government relations and public policy.

The lack of kosher wine options stemmed from several factors. Although the U.S. imports thousands of wines every year, only about 4 percent wind up in Maryland, said Locklair. The Beverage Journal, the “alcohol Bible” for retailers, she said, only had 14 wines listed in its kosher section, although the BJC found 253 kosher wines in the journal after combing through it.

In areas with small Jewish populations, stores wouldn’t stock kosher wine, and placing a special order sometimes meant ordering an entire case rather than one bottle.

“They have to go out of their way to do this,” Locklair said of those retailers. “I think it was easier for them to say, ‘No, I’m really sorry. I can’t help you.’”

Under the compromise, as outlined in Arora’s letter, the comptroller has created an online listing of all the kosher wines available in Maryland and the distributors who sell them. Distributors will regularly submit lists of the kosher wines they sell semiannually to the comptroller, and the MSBLA will educate retailers and consumers on how to special order wines not listed in The Beverage Journal. The journal will also be updated to reflect available kosher wines.

A goal of the compromise is to increase the number of available kosher wines in Maryland to 1,000 by 2015. The BJC is helping distributors determine what wines to carry and has already added 71 new wines. As more wines become available, distributors will update the comptroller’s kosher list, the letter said.

Retailers will also be able to order consumers single bottles of kosher wine, said Locklair. Special orders may require working with out-of-state distributors or importers.

“It seems really straightforward that you should be able to walk up to the counter and say, ‘Hey, I want to order one bottle of wine,’” said Locklair.

Antonio Busalacchi, wine consultant, climate scientist and director of the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center at the University of Maryland, said international sales of kosher wines are up 12 percent this year compared with 2013.

“Kosher wine is no longer your old grandfather’s Manischewitz,” said Busalacchi. “The quality is on par with other wine regions around the world.”

He said non-Jewish populations are interested in wine from the Middle East, and kosher wine goes through high-quality processing that is required by the laws of kashrut.

At Quarry Wine and Spirits, wine consultant Michael Fishman stocked his Quarry Lake store with more than 100 varieties of kosher wine. His wife, Diana Coyle, who co-owns the store with a business partner, just opened Canton Crossing Wine & Spirits downtown.

Although the Canton store will be focused more on beer because of the area’s younger demographics, the 12 varieties of kosher wine it carries will be displayed among the non-kosher wines.

“The wines that we’re carrying are of great quality; they’re every bit as good as the wines they’re sitting next to,” said Fishman. “We want people who maybe wouldn’t go into a kosher section to have the opportunity to taste the wines and try them. We don’t want to pigeonhole them.”

At the Canton store’s opening on April 8, there was a small section of kosher for Passover wines, which included wine from Yarden, a subsidiary of the Golan Heights Winery, Galil Mountain Winery, Ella Valley Vineyards and Ein Karem — all Israeli wineries, alongside Manischewitz.

Fishman said he’s seen the selection of kosher wine increase in recent years with more retailers and distributors carrying it.

“I think the supply chain has increased,” he said. “I think that we’ve come a long way.”

Locklair is already seeing progress.

“At least in Anne Arundel County, the liquor stores I’ve been in have signs that say, ‘Ask us about ordering kosher wine,’ “ she said.

The comptroller’s kosher wine list is available at taxes.marylandtaxes.com/Business_Taxes/Business_Tax_Types/Alcohol_Tax/Reports_and_Statistics.


Peace in Our Time

The year 1939 saw an upheaval the likes of which the modern world has rarely experienced. German troops marched into Poland that September, ushering in a world war that would ultimately change the maps of Europe and the Middle East, lay waste to vast swaths of land spanning three continents and wipe out millions of Jewish families and entire Jewish communities.

There are those who argue that conflict on the scale of World War II will not happen again, that the seeds of territorial discord and the virulent hate that marked the regime of Adolf Hitler were unique for that time and place. The world of today, they point out, is vastly different from the world of 1939. Information is available on a global scale, with the democratization of news affording those in the slums of urban India the same access to the marketplace of ideas as the college-bound American teenager. And colonialism, that hallmark of 19th-century geopolitics, is a thing of the past; in its place, self-determination has become the order of the day for all of the world’s ethnic and political groups.

Such claims, though, aren’t exactly true. And even if they were, the kind of hate that enabled whole swaths of seemingly cultured Western Europe to either stand idly by while the Nazis exterminated Jews – or helped them do it – still exists today. One need only look to the shootings in Overland Park, Kan., for proof, but a march of thousands of neo-Nazis through the streets of Paris last month and the firebombing of a synagogue in Nikolayev, Ukraine, last weekend also indicate that the world in 2014 might not be as different from the one in 1939.

The question, of course, is what do we do about it? Seventy-five years ago, a group of Baltimoreans had an answer, joining together to form the Baltimore Jewish Council, which, as you’ll read in the pages of this week’s JT, is still going strong. What this group saw back then was a need for a unified voice from the Jewish community to respond to a sea of anti-Semitism. In later years, that voice was needed on such issues as the nascent State of Israel, the civil rights movement and the fate of Soviet Jewry. We hear that voice continue in the corridors of power in City Hall and at the statehouse in Annapolis.

But while the BJC continues to portray a unified front in the non-Jewish world, the need for unity within the Jewish community has never been stronger. The global Jewish community may never agree on issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the preservation of religious rituals, but judging by the invective employed in letters to the editor of late, it is clear that we need to employ the same tolerance of each other that we demand from the non-Jews around us.

As a group, those who argue against a two-state solution are not bigots. By the same token, those who backed the peace efforts of the Obama administration are not, by virtue of their stance, irreligious lunatics. It is possible to have an honest difference of opinion, whether in the realm of politics or in religious fervor. If a peaceful, more tolerant world is what we seek, let’s not forget that the real work begins closer to home.


Exhibit Explores Eugenics, Nazi Medicine

Students at the Berlin School for the Blind examine racial head models, circa 1935. Students were taught Gregor Mendel’s principles of inheritance  and the purported application of those laws to human heredity and principles  of race. During the Third Reich, German-born deaf or blind, like those born with mental illnesses or disabilities, were urged to submit to compulsory sterilization as a civic duty. (Blinden-Museum an der Johann-August-Zeune-Schule für Blinde, Berlin)

Students at the Berlin School for the Blind examine racial head models, circa 1935. Students were taught Gregor Mendel’s principles of inheritance and the purported application of those laws to human heredity and principlesof race. During the Third Reich, German-born deaf or blind, like those born with mental illnesses or disabilities, were urged to submit to compulsory sterilization as a civic duty. (Blinden-Museum an der Johann-August-Zeune-Schule für Blinde, Berlin)

The idea of eugenics, the study and practice of improving mankind through selective reproduction, was widespread in the scientific community decades before the Nazis took power.

Many credit 19th-century British anthropologist Francis Galton as the father of eugenics, which was popular before much was known about hereditary traits.

“He had a very positive vision focusing on people considered more desirable to have more babies,” said Susan Bachrach, curator of special exhibitions at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “and more desirable meant people like him, more educated types.”

The early history of eugenics and its role during the Nazi reign and Holocaust is chronicled in “Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race,” which is exhibited at the Health Sciences and Human Services Library at the University of Maryland, Baltimore through April 30.

Not only did eugenics inspire racist marriage laws and permit sterilization in the U.S., but some scholars say it laid the groundwork for the Nazis to carry out genocide of the Jewish people.

“They were concerned about the health of the German nation, and the way they defined nation was a very ethnically exclusive idea,” said Bachrach, curator of the exhibit.

“I think few people walk through here and leave with the same sense of mind they came in with,” said Aphrodite Bodycomb, associate director for administration and operations at the library.

The exhibit captures the sobering truths about the spread of eugenics, which got support from the German government and medical community in the 1920s, as well as the doctors and nurses who killed disabled adults, children and, later, Jewish people under what was once a widespread scientific idea.

“We show [the doctors] as respectable, sometimes even prominent, figures in their profession to show people, to try to dispel the myth that Nazi doctors were fringe quacks, these ideas that distance us conveniently from this history because we don’t want to think these were normal people engaging in their work,” said Bachrach.

In the U.S., eugenics spread, especially among Americans paranoid about immigrants adding to their gene pools. In 1924, Virginia enacted a law prohibiting Caucasians from marrying those of “other blood.”  A book titled “Mongrel Virginians” was printed in 1926 by the Williams & Wilkens Company, based in Baltimore. By 1933, 26 states had laws permitting sterilization. About 16,000 Americans were sterilized between 1909 and 1933, half of them in California.

“We printed this stuff,” said Bodycomb. “We were talking about this stuff in the U.S.”

In 1927, the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics opened in Berlin, raising German health officials’ confidence in eugenics.

“Many physicians and scientists who embraced eugenics legitimized and helped implement Nazi policies,” an exhibit display said. “Many also collaborated in purging Jews and political ‘unreliables’ from universities, research institutes, hospitals and public health care.”


The Nazis sponsored eugenic research, public education campaigns — some of which included information about the dangers of alcohol and nicotine — and implemented sterilization of adults and children with disabilities. Around 400,000 Germans were sterilized between 1934 and 1945. Propaganda included items such as the “Ten Commandments of Choosing A Mate” and charts defining Jews and “hybrids,” people with Jewish blood.

Under Nazi rule, Germans began a program they called “euthanasia.” Between 1939 and 1945, 5,000 Germans boys and girls born with physical and mental disabilities were killed through starvation, medical overdoses and other means. Some doctors, many of whom were never brought to justice, saw this as a research opportunity.

“[One doctor] commented on what a wonderful opportunity this was to get a hold of hundreds of brains of children with different kinds of conditions you would never have access to,” Bachrach said. “So, it was an opportunity for his career and science.”

An estimated 200,000 adults were killed in similar ways. Between 1940 and 1941, 70,000 institutionalized German adults, most of whom were not Jewish, were killed in gas chambers disguised as showers in Germany and Austria. The idea of using chambers to gas people and crematories to dispose of corpses would extend to concentration camps, with many medical staffers from “euthanasia” facilities manning the installations of gas chambers.

The exhibit features films of women who were sterilized recounting their experiences, photos of disabled children who were killed in the name of eugenics, photos that were used to point out facial features and information on the doctors who took part in eugenics.

Bodycomb said the exhibit serves as a great education piece for students at the university, who are from all over the world and have varying degrees of knowledge about this piece of history.

“There’s no built-in moral compass in these fields, so we need people thinking about ethical issues related to use of medicine in science,” said Bachrach.

The message resonated with visitors. Some wrote that they cried over the lives lost, while others wrote that it was difficult but important to see.

“We cannot forget,” one post wrote. “We must educate and stop these practices.”