Bat Mitzvah: The Real Deal

102414_insider_real-dealOnce upon a time when my now 18-year-old daughter was 12 and preparing for her bat mitzvah, she received a package of materials from our synagogue. One of the items in the package was a book called, “Putting God on the Guest List.” I suppose the well-meaning clergy [as well as the three rabbis who wrote the book] were giving us a hint. They knew that pre-teens and their parents could benefit from some a reminder of the true significance of the Jewish coming-of-age ritual. I don’t suppose my daughter was the only one in her b’nai mitzvah class who received “the book” but never opened it. And I’ll admit it — neither did her father or I.

I tried encouraging her to take a look at the book, but when she rolled her eyes in that way that pre-teens do, I didn’t push it. By the time we began planning our daughter’s bat mitzvah celebration, she had already been on the ‘b’nai mitzvah circuit’ for months. As most parents of day school children will attest to, their children attend bar and bat mitzvot nearly every weekend for a good 18 months or so. If memory serves, our daughter, one of the youngest in her grade, was the 48th of 50 classmates to become a bat mitzvah. By then, she had seen enough of these affairs to know exactly what she wanted her celebration (and her dress, hair and shoes) to look like. The only problem? She wanted it to look like a wedding.

As we tried (in vain) to convince her of the merits of holding the celebration at a casual outdoor venue, an ice-skating rink or even a separate room in a local diner, I was met with tears and slammed doors. Attempts to focus her on the religious aspects of the event, and her required mitzvah project, seemed futile. My husband and I wondered, “What have we done wrong? This is what we get after all those years of day school? ” On several occasions we threatened to cancel the whole thing, unless she changed her attitude.

Right about now, dear reader, I am sure you are thinking that our daughter was/is a spoiled brat, and her parents, overly indulgent, were unable to set limits. I would never suggest that I am a perfect parent. In fact, I’ve had my share of troubles in the limit-setting department. My children, though loveable, aren’t perfect either. But in reality, this sort of behavior was not typical of our daughter. She was generally kind, respectful and grateful for what she received and even mindful of keeping within the family budget.

In speaking with my friends, I found that many of them were experiencing similar struggles with their own b’nai mitzvah-age children.

According to Joan Grayson Cohen, senior manager at Access Services at Jewish Community Services, there are several reasons why children may lose sight of the main event and exhibit unpleasant behavior when it comes time for bar and bat mitzvah planning. Some of these reasons may be developmental, while others may be societal, she says.

“At this age,” says Cohen, “kids are very involved with their peers. They want to be part of the group, and get invited to things. The social aspect is so significant. Kids who aren’t getting invited are trying so hard to figure out why. ‘Where do I fit in,’ they’re wondering. They are not feeling so secure. So they want to have a party that everyone wants to come to, everyone’s talking about it. They want to have what he or she had, wear what others are wearing.”

And it’s not always only the kids who are trying to fit in, or to stand out. Anyone who has seen, “Keeping Up With the Steins,” — a 2006 comedy about a family trying to outdo their neighbors by throwing the most elaborate and expensive bar mitzvah party in the neighborhood — knows that even parents can succumb to insecurities and competitive impulses. It’s only natural. “In our society, bigger is better,” says Cohen.

Not only do some parents and children feel pressure from the people they know, but they are also influenced by the materialistic, frequently ostentatious society in which all of us live. It’s a culture that has brought us b’nai mitzvah celebrations costing many thousands of dollars, featuring bands bused in from New York City or Washington, D.C., extravagant giveaways, sushi bars and scantily-clad dancers, who become role models for the girls and eye candy for the boys.

“It’s a sign of the times,” says Cohen. But not all is lost. If parents are thoughtful, creative and prepared for the issues that are likely to arise in planning their celebrations, Cohen believes they can take steps to ensure that the true meaning of b’nai mitzvah is not lost in the shuffle.

“Maybe pick a time and place that matches the message you want to give to your child and others,” she suggests. When it was time for Cohen’s three daughters (twins and their sister who was about one year older) to become bat mitzvah, Cohen said they shared their bat mitzvot.

“I didn’t let them have a theme. The theme was the bat mitzvah. Instead, I let them choose the colors. For our centerpieces we had tzedakah boxes,” she said. “Each girl was named after a [deceased] relative so we created a booklet that was placed on each chair that told about the people the girls were named for, and what those people were like. Then we wrote about each girl and how she had some of the namesake’s special characteristics,” Grayson Cohen says. “There are many ways to keep the event Jewish.”

As for my family, after some fits and starts, the bat mitzvah came off without a hitch. We managed to make some compromises, although we could have made more. Our daughter performed beautifully during the service, and it was a thrill to watch and hear her read Torah. At the party, we danced the hora, and the room was full of ruach. It was a deeply moving occasion for our immediate and extended families. Our daughter was proud of her accomplishment and came away from the party feeling like a princess. She was very grateful and made sure to tell us so.

Several years later, when she was a counselor in training at Camp Louise, we received a heart-warming letter from her. She wrote us something like this:

“Dear Mom and Dad:
I think I have found my calling. Today we went to do a community service project with some underprivileged girls. I can’t believe how hard their lives are. I was so sad. I think I want to work with kids like that after college.” The letter confirmed what deep down, we already knew. We had raised a caring and compassionate young woman. We are so proud of her.

Destination B’nai Mitzvah

102414_insider_destinationKaren Feuerstein wanted her daughter to feel special on the day she officially became bat mitzvah, so she decided to break the mold and host her daughter’s coming-of-age ceremony at a tourist destination.

In March, Karen and her family will travel east from their home in Bethesda to the National Aquarium at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. The family belongs to a synagogue in Montgomery County, where their daughter has also attended religious school since she was 3, but when they discovered all the restrictions for hosting the ceremony at the synagogue — limited dates available, little family participation — they decided to think outside the box.

“We decided not to have our daughter’s bat mitzvah [at our home synagogue] because, quite frankly, it became too stressful, and I feared that the end result would not be a meaningful experience for my child and our family,” she says. “In a large congregation like the one we belong to, the ceremony is less about the child, and more about welcoming that child into the community.”

At first they planned a cruise for close family in which the bat mitzvah would take place, but when it proved impossible for the whole family to commit to five days at sea, the decision was made to host the ceremony and celebration in Baltimore.

In the months leading up to the big day, Feuerstein’s daughter has been working regularly with Cantor Glenn Sherman, a Florida-based cantor who has made a business out of catering to children and families who want to host their ceremony in a non-traditional setting.

“It’s a nice alternative for people who don’t belong to a synagogue who are like ‘what do I do? We have to have a bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah, what do I do?’” says Sherman. But many of his clients, like the Feuerstein family do belong to synagogues but, for one reason or another, feel more comfortable hosting the event elsewhere.

Whether it’s scheduling conflicts, hosting a b’nai mitzvah on a Saturday afternoon or allowing the family the chance to make speeches, Sherman says he is able to accommodate almost any request with his destination service.

“I don’t have any rules,” he says, adding that he has worked with teens from all sects of Judaism.

Another benefit of hosting an out-of-town bar mitzvah is the cost. While travelling to Barbados or Colorado for a bar or bat mitzvah might sound lavish and expensive, destination b’nai mitzvah operators point out that the cost is often no more — and usually less — than the over-the-top parties that have become the norm.

The big parties are a major driver for Colorado-based Adventure Rabbi’s business, according to founder Rabbi Jamie Korngold, who says many parents view the b’nai mitzvah she offers as a way to escape the consumerism they believe has hijacked many celebrations.

Adventure Rabbi works with students all over the world to plan b’nai mitzvah ceremonies in all kinds of places. Korngold will travel to Hawaii soon to preside over the bat mitzvah of an Australian girl. In the past, she or her staff have worked with students as far away as Cambodia and Iraq using Skype for instruction, a method Sherman employs as well.

“I think a lot of people are trying to simplify, and taking it out of town does just that,” says Korngold. “People don’t invite all the guests. It takes a lot of materialism out of it.

“The irony is it does exactly the opposite of what many people think it does,” she says. “A lot of people think, ‘well, it takes you away
from the community.’ It doesn’t. It takes you to your actual community, because the 25 people who come with you, or the 10 or the four, you have this really profound experience with them of sincere group building.”

Many of the families Ellen Paderson works with through her company, Smiles and Miles Travel, are trying to find a way to get together for the special occasion at a time when many families are spread out all over the country, even all over the globe.

“What I hear from people who call is ‘We just don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a three hour party, it’s ridiculous, we don’t want to have to keep up with the Jones’, and this gives us a way to invite just our closest friends and family,’” says Paderson.

In the end, she says, the family walks away with a unique shared ­ memory.

Says Korngold: “People are looking for an authentic, connecting experience.”

Flashback: Sara Love Hoffman

081514_flashback_nowSara Love Hoffman, 39, realizes that living in Baltimore since she was 11 still makes her a newcomer by Baltimore standards. Still, she did get here in time to attend Franklin Middle School and Franklin High. After she headed to college in Florida, Love Hoffman didn’t expect to find herself back in town. Yet, Baltimore’s unique Jewish community lured her back. A special educator who owns her own home-based tutoring company, Love Hoffman is married to Geoffrey Hoffman, also a special educator, and the couple has two children, Hayden Skye, 8 and Maya Raine, 5. They live in Reisterstown.

iNSIDER:Your family moved to Baltimore from York, Pa., in 1986. What was the reason for the move?
Love Hoffman:
We moved here because there were almost no Jews in York and my parents wanted me to grow up with a Jewish community. After joining Chizuk Amuno Congregation, where we still go, the first place I went was to the JCC.

What was it like for you to be suddenly in a Jewish community?
It was great. I got really involved. My parents have always showed us the importance of being involved in the community. My mother is very active in the synagogue and Hadassah. On my 18th birthday, I became a life member of Hadassah. I also went to Camp Louise from the time I was 8.

Has being involved in the community affected the way you are raising your children?
Yes. Both of my kids are graduates of the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC Early Childhood Center. Now my son goes to religious school at Chizuk Amuno and he really enjoys it. We do Shabbat. It’s very important to us that they grow up like I did. They look forward to celebrating holidays and they know that’s when family comes. This week my son went to Camp Airy with his father for the first time. He’ll get a different sense of Jewish culture there. He’s supposed to come home on Sunday, but I don’t know if he will. He seems to be having the time of his life!

081514_flashback_pastWhat might surprise your high school friends?
Well, I don’t know if they would be too surprised. I’ve always been involved in every extracurricular possible. I volunteer with my kid’s schools and I just completed The Associated’s D’or Tikvah program.

What was your favorite part of D’or Tikvah?
It was really interesting to get behind the scenes of the agencies. I knew CHANA and I knew CHAI, but I didn’t know how they worked. They showed us how the agencies run, where the money goes, how The Associated makes decisions on how to allocate it. Then I get the opportunity to use that knowledge to pick anywhere in the system where I can use it. I will be serving on the Center for Jewish Camping committee. I heard about that and thought it would be interesting.

Adding It Up

081514_mathWith the advancement of Common Core and the debate over education reform heating up, math disabilities are getting more attention at some local schools than ever before.

“We started with a traditional [math education] program, and we scrapped it within three months,” says Jamie Caplan, founder of the Legacy School, a Sykesville-based school focused on helping children with dyslexia. The school focuses on small classrooms and learning at an independent pace.

According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, dyscalculia, or math learning disability, affect between 5 and 9 percent of children. While many children with dyscalculia are also affected by other kinds of learning disabilities, it is not uncommon for dyscalculia to appear alone. The disability often appears in the form of difficulties remembering number facts, relating quantities to the numbers themselves and recognizing patterns, says the NCLD website.

For parents who suspect their child may have dyscalculia, Caplan says one telltale sign is a discrepancy between what that child understands and what he or she is able to produce.

At The Legacy School, Caplan says teachers focus on cementing the basic building blocks, like subtraction and addition, before moving on to more complicated material. For some students, the addition and subtraction unit can last just a couple of weeks, but for others, it may take months. Caplan says her teachers are instructed to take as long as the children need to be completely confident in each lesson before moving on.

“In math you need that strong foundation,” says Caplan.

Fran Bowman, a former teacher and current educational specialist, agrees.

“Think of it like climbing a ladder,” says Bowman. “You can’t climb the eighteenth rung if you’re missing rungs 15, 16 and 17.”

Bowman has seen a lot of changes in education over her more than four decades of working in the field of education. In the past, she says, some educators have approached learning disabilities by taking the same lessons and strategies they use for other children but moving slower. While this may have seemed like a reasonable tactic, she says, it didn’t address the heart of the problem: that each student learns differently. Strategies that work for one student may not resonate with the student in the neighboring desk.

At the Jemicy School in Owings Mills, Beth Franks, head of math at the lower school, says the school deals with math disabilities by placing students in classrooms organized not by level, but by learner-type. For example, she has some second- graders who sit in math class with third- or fourth-graders. It works, she says, because the classrooms are small, allowing a lot of one-to-one time, and because the students are all being taught in a way that makes sense to them.

Another essential ingredient to teaching students with math disabilities is allowing the children to do the math physically.

“You have to get creative and you have to stick with what works,” says Franks.

Each math classroom at Jemicy has manipulatives for students to use. When they’re learning about geometry, they use Popsicle sticks to create the shapes being discussed. When they’re adding, multiplying, diving or subtracting, the children have access to wooden blocks to place in groups and move around.

Franks says the school often uses the following metaphor, discovered by a fellow Jemicy staff member and originating from the teachings of spiritual leader Paul Solomon, to explain the learning process: “People can describe a strawberry to you, what it looks like, what it feels like, its color and shape, but until you have tasted the strawberry you can’t really know what the strawberry tastes like.”

In other words: Each student has to experience what the equations they are solving mean. Instructors at Jemicy start with the concrete and connect it to the abstract ideas math is centered on.

In the end, says Frank, the biggest difference of all comes when a student realizes he or she has the ability to understand subjects like math or reading and excel.

“Many kids come in and really, really lack confidence,” she says. “When they learn to read, it’s almost like, ‘Hey, I am smart,’ and it sort of transfers over.”

Kinderkool: College Prep

Created with flickr slideshow.

Get ready for dorm life with decorative designs from

Online retailer, was founded in 2011 by mother/daughter team, Karen (right) and Amanda Zuckerman of Potomac. After shopping for dorm supplies prior to her freshman year at Washington University, Amanda and her mother discovered that it was challenging to find fashionable home products for younger consumers. They founded to create unique, fashion-forward design options for teens, college students and first-time apartment dwellers.


081514_carpoolFive work deadlines, four kids, three schools, two cups of coffee, one tired parent.

From crawling in traffic to sprinting to afterschool pickup, busy working parents never get a break. Luckily, the digital world makes their lives a little easier. With new phone and computer applications, many parents are indulging in modern technology to deal with the stresses of carpooling.

“The combination of phone, email and text keeps my carpooling schedule in check,” says father of two Aaron Mannes. “My carpool involves several children in several locations. There needs to be a lot of technological communication going on to make it all work. Some of my biggest questions of the day include, ‘Do I take the minivan?’ and ‘Which child has a doctor’s appointment today?’”

Serving as a researcher at the University of Maryland’s Lab for Computational Cultural Dynamics, Mannes strikes a balance between work and carpool life. With flexible hours, he is frequently responsible for afternoon pickup.

“Often, I’ll get an afternoon email from working parents asking if I can pick their child up,” he says. “I have run carpools where my kids are not even involved.”

Mannes shares his carpooling adventures in a parenting blog, “For Fathers Only.” Under the pen-name Father Goof, Mannes reveals the comical ins and outs of the everyday dad.

“I’m not going to lie; talking about carpooling is good material for a blog,” says Mannes. “I try to make it both funny and sweet. It is a great way to cap off my day.”

While some parents use technology to decompress, others use technology to help their carpools run smoothly. A number of new smart phone mobile applications are geared at carpooling parents. Free applications such as Carpool: School Edition, Karpooler, Car Pool Party, Looptivity, and more, allow stressed parents to organize their carpools directly from their smart phones.

Android and iPhone application Toogether, for example, connects drivers offering rides to passengers needing them. The application also displays how much the driver wants to be compensated, provides suggestions for local carpools and links different drivers together via social networking.

“I don’t use any technological applications, but maybe I should,” says Baltimore mother and Jewish religious school educator, Zahava Kimelfeld. “With six children, everything has to run smoothly. If we are even one minute behind schedule, everything falls out of place.”

As the mother of six, Kimelfeld must remember all of her children’s schedules by heart.

“Our entire schedule is based on transporting the children and making sure everyone is ready,” says Kimelfeld. “From my husband driving back home to switch from the car to the minivan, to staying up until 2 a.m. preparing school lunches and Friday night dinner, my life is a juggling act. It can often be a lot for one person to remember. Staying organized is the best way to take care of my big family.”

With mobile applications such as Cozi, parents like Kimelfeld can program all of their children’s timetables into their mobile phones. With close to 12 million users registered, Cozi comes to the rescue of busy parents.

“We got started because we saw that families had literally no tools to help them manage the chaos of day to day life,” says Cozi cofounder and CEO Robbie Cape. “The Cozi family organizer includes family calendars, shopping lists, to-do lists, family journals and meal planners. The mobile application integrates all parts of family life and helps families with everything they have to do.”

While Cozi sets up the calendar, KangaDo is a parent organizer. The application allows parents to chat and coordinate schedules with their friends. From carpool planning to daycare pickup, the application is equipped with private, free messaging that can share photos and current locations. In addition, users can turn a chat into an event on their iPhone calendar.

As great as the new technological wonders are, fathers like Mannes joke about wanting more.

“Through technology, my children always know where I am,” says Mannes. “I am always getting texts asking how close I am, and I can tell them instantly when I am stuck in traffic. I am still waiting for the day when Google makes those self-driving cars. That would make my carpooling life so much easier.”

Allie Freedman is a local freelance writer.

New and Notable in Baltimore

With autumn just around the corner, Baltimore parents are spoiled for choices when it comes to their children’s educations. Baltimore schools provide an array of programs — far too many to cover in one article — catering to students’ individual needs. From mastering modern technology to conquering learning disabilities, Baltimore schools are creating innovative curricula that enhance and stimulate their students’ learning. Here, iNSIDER takes a look at some under-the-radar schools, and others that while well-established, have undergone recent changes.


Students at Arts and Ideas Sudbury School choose how and what they learn.

Arts and Ideas Sudbury School:
Sometimes, school can feel like a dictatorship. At the Arts and Ideas Sudbury School in Baltimore, power is given back to the students. Schoolchildren live out their educational dreams at the school, where they are able to choose how they spend their days and study only what peaks their curiosity.

“When students have an authentic say in how the school is run, they feel ownership and want to take care of their community,” says founder Caroline Chavasse. “Our school philosophy is based on how human beings learn. Other schools are wrapped around the idea of how to teach. We give students more freedom.”

With a democratic system of education in place, students learn on their own timelines, based on their own motivations. While one student is mastering the art of algebra, another might be devoting his time to music. Attending Judicial Committee meetings, students at Arts and Ideas make decisions on how the school is run, vote on school rules and even elect staff members.

“Our school believes that children should not be denied the rights and freedoms that adults enjoy,” says Chavasse. “We observe that children are capable decision-makers and by providing a school where they can practice independence and responsibility in a safe community, they become independent, responsible and successful adults.”

For more information, visit

Talmudical Academy: 

Almost a century old, Talmudical Academy has been teaching young Jewish men Torah since 1917. Offering programs for preschool through Grade 12, the longtime Baltimore institution packs a rigorous curriculum of general studies and Jewish religious education into each full day.

This year, a new elementary school general studies principal is joining the team as TA brings Rabbi Zev Silver back to Baltimore to strengthen the core curricula after a 21-year absence. Devoting the past 19 years of his career to Akiba Academy in Dallas, Texas, Silver is delighted to bring his talents to TA in a quest to improve the program even further.

“I find TA to be a very engaging school and very child centered,” says Silver. “There is a strong commitment to excellence in education, and it is truly a happy place with happy students and exceptional educators who care deeply about each and every student. My objective is to reach and teach every child. I want them to get beyond their comfort zone. I don’t want any child to plateau.”

As the general studies principal, Silver will incorporate his passion for education into enhancing the school’s core academic subjects.

Already a fan of TA’s work, he looks forward to overseeing classrooms and working directly with students and staff.

“The teachers are empowered and want the students to learn and grow. I’m looking forward to improving an already strong program,” says Silver. “In addition to strong academics, I am impressed with the school’s inclusion of children requiring special education. The Shemesh program has really helped cater to students with special needs. It is just a privilege to be a part of such an incredible school.”

For more information, visit

Gateway School:
Have you heard about Google Glass? At the Gateway School, students use it every day. The head-mounted computer that displays information in a hands-free format and responds to voice commands helps students with a variety of communication disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders, developmental delay, hearing loss and speech-language challenges. Gateway School will utilize the technology to help students with both interpretive and therapeutic work.

Part of the Hearing and Speech Agency (HASA), Gateway is one of five schools selected from 1,300 applications to win Google’s prestigious Google Glass grant for the 2014-2015 school year.

“It’s very gratifying to be recognized by Google for our innovative spirit and we look forward to using Google Glass in the year ahead,” says executive director Susan Glasgow.

In addition to Google Glass, the Gateway School is expanding to accommodate children as young as 24-months in its Little Learners program. Younger students have already taken advantage of the school’s one-on-one speech-language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and audiology. Now, educational director Jill Berie looks forward to inviting little learners into the classroom.

“Our mission at Gateway School has always been to establish a base for lifelong learning for children with special communication needs related to autism, speech-language delay or hearing loss,” says Berie. “Opening our doors to children at age 24 months allows us to establish that base as early as possible.”

For more information, visit

Legacy School:
Located in Sykesville, the Legacy School, which opened in 2011, focuses on students with language-based learning disabilities. The school provides students with dyslexia, dysgraphia and other language processing difficulties with an environment in which to flourish.

“When I founded the school, I was working with several families that needed a place for their child to go to school,” says founder Jamie Caplan. “These families were essentially out of options because their children could not thrive in the public school setting.”

Accessible to students all over the Baltimore metropolitan area, the Carroll County-based school currently offers bus transportation to and from Baltimore County. The Legacy School’s many offerings include daily one-on-one tutoring, a 2:1 student/teacher ratio and a thematic multi-sensory curriculum.

“We create a safe environment for students with daily one-on-one reading and language tutoring to remediate their learning weaknesses,” says Caplan. “This way, students can succeed and learn at their own paces.”

Baltimore resident and Legacy School parent Elizabeth Malis says that more Baltimoreans should know about this institution. When searching for a school for her now nine-year-old daughter, Melinda, she struggled to find a fit in the Baltimore area and was thrilled to discover the Legacy School.

“When we adopted Melinda, she was a 4-year-old girl living in an orphanage in Eastern Europe,” says Malis. “It took years for us to realize she has language based learning difficulties, since English is not her native tongue. As we desperately searched for schools, we came across the Legacy School with help from a therapist. With one-on-one tutoring and in school speech therapy, Melinda comes home every day learning new words. We cannot believe how much she is learning and how much her vocabulary has grown.”

For more information visit

At the Auburn School, students receive lots of individual attention from staff.

At the Auburn School, students receive lots of individual attention from staff.

The Auburn School:
The Auburn School’s Baltimore Campus is all about social interaction. The Lutherville-based school offers small class sizes and personalized instruction. Auburn specializes in improving communication, organizational skills and behavioral support for children with Asperger’s syndrome/ASD, PDD-NOS, NVLD, ADHD through social skills training and pragmatic language development. Auburn has high educational standards and is geared for students with normal or above normal intelligence. Students who may have felt ostracized in their public schools will benefit from the close-knit and accepting community environment at Auburn.

For more information,

Baltimore Home School:
Homeschooling doesn’t always mean learning at home. Located in Pikesville, the Baltimore Home School is sort of like a home away from home, providing a gathering place for home-schooled students where they can enroll in classes, take part in group activities, interact with adults other than their parents, and perhaps most importantly, get to know other children and teens. Courses at the Baltimore Home School include creative writing, taekwondo, music, Spanish, English, science, wellness and more. From $1 movies to field trips to “homeschool” dances, folks at the Baltimore Home School are kicking the “home” out of homeschool.

For more information visit

Allie Freedman is a local freelance writer.


081514_inside-scoop-letsmoveDuring the 2011-2012 school year, the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC Roslyn and Len Stoler Early Childhood Education Center took first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” childcare challenge. The challenge called for childcare centers and preschools to adopt practices that promoted healthy eating and exercise as means to preventing childhood obesity.

In order to qualify, the ECE made changes in the types of foods and beverages they gave children at school, added more physical activity to the school day and encouraged ECE families to limit screen time to no more than two hours. The result? The ECE’s Healthy Choices program was recognized for exceptional work by the Let’s Move initiative.

The program, developed for the ECE by Chris Sigman, R.N., director of Healthy Choices programming for the ECE, is one of only 12 childcare and preschool programs in the country and the only program in Maryland to be recognized. In 2013, the ECE was contacted by Penn State’s Better Kid Care program about being videotaped for the program’s online, on demand educational system for childcare providers. Videotaped lessons from the ECE’s Healthy Choices program are now online at

For more information about the ECE Healthy Choices program, visit

iNSIDER Insights: Schools of Thought

simone_ellin_squareI have always been a fan of the back-to-school season. New shoes, school supplies, haircuts, fresh starts. But this year, things are different — unlike any back-to-school season I have ever experienced.

This year, my daughter goes to college and life will never be the same. Any parent who’s been through this knows the range of emotions that accompany a milestone such as this. There is pride, excitement, but also grief — for the loss of the child who is now grown up, for the emptiness in the house now that she is gone. Whether your child is starting pre-school, kindergarten, middle, high school or college, transition is always rife with feelings.

This month’s iNSIDER looks at education from many different angles. Our cover story debunks many of the myths around community college education and explores its many benefits. In this age of skyrocketing college tuitions, it is well worth a read.

We’ve all heard plenty about language-based learning differences, but what about help for children who face challenges with math? iNSIDER talks with local experts to discover the latest thinking on dyscalculia.

Baltimore families are lucky to have both good public schools and independent schools with educational philosophies that run the gamut from Montessori to parochial to progressive. In this issue, iNSIDER checks out some schools you may not have heard about and reports on recent changes taking place in our most established educational institutions.

We also check out some new apps that claim to help busy parents with those sometimes frustrating but oh so necessary carpools.

Wherever you and your children are in the educational journey, I wish you a wonderful back to school season and a heartfelt shana tova.

Simone Ellin
iNSIDER Editor

Holocaust Studies

T081514_inside-scoop-educationeaching the Holocaust is no easy feat. How do teachers find the resources they need to educate students about what is arguably the most atrocious period in human history? Thanks to the annual Jewish Museum of Maryland’s summer teacher’s institute, they have support. Every summer in late July or early August, the JMM and co-sponsor the Baltimore Jewish Council offer three days of training, including presentations, discussions and activities that provide Maryland educators with the tools to teach their students about the Holocaust. The program includes a bus trip to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. The theme for this summer’s program, which took place July 28-30, was Keeping the Memories Alive: The Voices of the Holocaust and included presentations by the USC Shoah Foundation: The Institute of Visual History and Education and Centropa: Preserving Jewish Memory-Keeping History Alive.