Hope Blumenthal

050914_insider_flashback-nowPikesville High alumni Hope Blumenthal (nee Gumnitzky) met her husband, Toby, through mutual friends the summer before her junior year of college at the University of Maryland. A Northern Virginia native, he was a student at Towson University. After dating for four years, Toby and Hope were married at Temple Oheb Shalom in May 2004. They held their wedding reception at Gramercy Mansion, where they make a point to visit at least once a year, usually around the time of their anniversary. Today, the couple has two young girls, ages 7 and 4. Toby is the manager of facility sales and booking at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall/Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and Hope is a reading resource teacher at the elementary school level.

JT:What first attracted you to Toby?
He was just really friendly, outgoing, just a really fun guy. Everybody knew him, everybody loved him.

How did he propose?
His parents had moved to Charleston, S.C., so we went to visit them during spring break — I’m a teacher so it was my spring break — and we actually went to the beach one morning to watch the sun rise, and he did it then. We had talked about it six months prior; we talked about the next step. And he said six months to a year, that’s when he’d be ready to do it, but I didn’t know exactly then that it was going to happen.

050914_insider_flashback-thenWhat was your wedding day like?
Our wedding day was absolutely wonderful. It was beautiful, they said it was going to rain, but the rain held off until 10 o’clock at night. All the flowers were just blooming and it was like, it’s so cheesy, but you could feel the love between everyone who was there, all of our best friends and family, it was just a magical day. It sounds cliché, but it really was. It was a lot of fun.

What did you do to celebrate your recent 10-year anniversary?
We took a trip to New Orleans to go to the Jazz Fest.

What are some of your favorite date-night activities?
He’s such a foodie, so we love going to all the different new restaurants. Every time we’ve been together we’ve gone to see live music. He works in the music business, and it keeps it really fun. So that’s definitely at the top of our list: food and music.



050914_insider_bridesmaidsBridesmaid dresses. For generations those two words have caused cringing from any woman familiar with the over-the-top — and far too often taffeta — tradition.

What seems, by most accounts, to have begun as a superstitious way for medieval brides to confuse bad spirits with a gaggle of women dressed in matching dresses, has transformed over the centuries into the bridesmaids of today — friends who help plan the extravagant parties that lead up to the main event and dress the bride for the Big Day.

But while brides may no longer fear evil spirits, the matching-dress concept has stuck around. In many cases, bridesmaid dresses provide an esthetically pleasing backdrop to the bride in photos or go well with the flower arrangements, but for some women, they can be a special kind of torture.

Karen Mazer remembers when she was a bridesmaid, and the bride picked a dress that, Mazer says, was “not quite as modest on top as I would have preferred.” Instead of having fun and enjoying the wedding and reception, she spent a lot of the day rebuffing requests made by male guests to pick quarters up off the ground.

Esther Apt’s friend allowed her and the other bridesmaids a little more flexibility in style. But what the group won in cut, they lost in fabric when the trend-savvy bride chose a specific fabric from which she wanted each woman’s dress to be cut.

“It seemed like it would be fun,” Apt says of the chance to design her own bridesmaid dress, “but it wasn’t.” Left with a couple yards of bulky, stiff silk in a color Apt describes as “mermaid green,” she was desperate to find someone who could make her a dress.

Living in Detroit at the time, Apt learned of a local woman who many Orthodox girls went to for custom dresses. She and her mother met with the woman and flipped through a book of patterns. Just a few pages in, they realized the seamstress wasn’t only popular among the Orthodox crowd.

“Her whole album was filled with modern Orthodox girls and transvestites,” says Apt.

Having had a lot of experience in working with some outlandish fabrics, the woman managed to turn the green, metallic yards of fabric into a dress for Apt, but only so much could be done to the stiff fabric, says Apt.

“It felt like I was wearing a bag,” she adds. “It felt like a costume.”

And despite the age-old “you can wear it again” line, a costume is exactly what the dress will become, says Apt. Sitting in her mother’s closet for almost eight years now, the dress is just waiting for the right young girl to pick it out for a game of dress-up.

When Shawn Hyatt married her husband in 2007, the perfect dress turned into a perfect nightmare just days before the wedding.

Hyatt saw the dress she wanted her bridesmaids to wear — a floor-length gown with spaghetti straps and a cowl neck — in a movie well before she even started planning her wedding. Six months before she was supposed to walk down the aisle, she had her bridesmaids place their orders. Weeks later, she and her bridesmaids took the dresses to a local tailor to be sized for the women. One week before her wedding day, Hyatt accompanied her friends to the tailors to try the dresses on one final time only to discover that they had all been cut to different lengths. Two were floor-length, another came to the top of one woman’s ankles, another was knee-length and the final dress hit mid-calf.

“I was crying,” says Hyatt. Not only was her wedding party’s attire in shambles, but “they just spent $200 on dresses.” Now, they had to start from scratch with just six days until the wedding.

Luckily for Hyatt, she and her bridesmaids were able to find new dresses at Nordstrom that same day. The color was a little brighter than Hyatt had wanted, but, she says, “[the bridesmaids] ended up liking the new dresses better.”

To the relief of thousands of women across the country, Mazer, who owns Synchronicity Boutique in Pikesville, says the trend of totally matching bridesmaids is fading.

Lately, Mazer says she has seen a lot of brides pick a color and allow their bridesmaids to select from about five or so style options.

“Imagine being asked to spend $275 on an ugly dress,” says Mazer. In the case of many traditional bridesmaid dress options, she added, “it seems like the ugliest materials are put together, and they’re expensive.”

With more accommodating trends emerging, sometimes even incorporating a spectrum of color, it’s possible that someday bridesmaids really can wear that dress again.


On Bookshelves: The Path of Names

030714_insider_inside-scoop-bookBy Ari Goelman
339 pages; Arthur A. Levine Books
(Appropriate for mature middle schoolers)

Dahlia Sherman, 13, wants to spend her summer going to magic camp. Her parents agree, but first she must attend Camp Arava, a Jewish overnight camp, where her brother, Tom, is a counselor. On her first day, Dahlia sees two girls vanish into the wall of her cabin. Determined to uncover this magic trick, she seeks clues that lead to an unsolved mystery from 72 years ago. Together with her friend, Rafe, Dahlia investigates the camp’s history while learning Kabbalah, Hebrew and friendship. Amazon compared “The Path of Names” to “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,” but for kids.

No Nuts About It

030714_insider-inside-scoopThe Centers for Disease Control indicate food allergies are now affecting an estimated 6 percent of children. Camp Shoresh, a kosher Jewish day camp in Frederick, provides a safe and fun learning environment to almost 400 campers and their parents each summer.

With safety as a primary concern, Finkelstein and staff are nurturing and sensitive about any health issues. “Camp mother” Phran Edelman, director of operations, takes necessary precautions from food substitutions to activity changes. Shoresh has become nut-free, and all counselors are trained to use an EpiPen.

“We’re always trying to be conscious of changes and have backup meals that are nutritious, fun and interesting,” says Edelman.

More than just a camp, “Shoresh involves the entire family,” says director Rabbi David Finkelstein. “From baby to bubbe, it’s an experience for a lifetime.”

Leading by Experience

Studies show that Jewish summer camp is a valuable and enriching experience, not only for young campers, but also for their leaders. This summer, Bradley Kerxton will begin his third season as director of the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC’s Top Notch Teen (TNT) program for rising seventh and eighth-graders.

As a TNT veteran, Kerxton is well-acquainted with the popular and competitive leadership development program that focuses on team building and group leadership activities. Teens in the program assist counselors in the care of preschool campers while they develop important leadership and communication skills and earn community service hours. As part of their training, the teens learn about basic water safety and participate in seminars on age-appropriate topics such as social media awareness. The program helps to grow future Jewish communal leaders as well as future camp counselors.

“[TNT] is an amazing experience, and I love every minute of helping teens become leaders. The program helps shape [them] during their teenage years,” says Kerxton.

In addition to helping younger children, TNTs also enjoy a variety of electives including art, drama, fitness, sports and trips. Summer registration is in full swing and filling up quickly. Contact Bradley Kerxton at 410-559-3547 or bkerxton@jcc.org.


Packing for camp is no fun. It’s time consuming (and expensive), especially for those of us who aren’t especially organized … Where did we put that flashlight from last year? And although trunks are still permitted at some camps, many overnight camps advise parents to use duffel bags instead. Any heavy duty duffel should do the job, but when it’s time for a new one, there’s no reason it can’t be cute! These duffels from Pottery Barn Teen, (pbteen.com) will send your child to camp in style. No procrastinating now … Get packing!

Bunk Life Revisited

simone_ellin_squareWhoever said being a kid was easy must have a poor long-term memory. Trying to navigate the big world without much experience is a lot harder than it looks. Camp offers a unique opportunity to practice many of the skills of self-preservation that will come in handy later on. I’ll never forget one of the first times I stuck up for myself in a hurtful social situation.

I was about 14 and away at camp for the first time. It was the 1970s and supervision was pretty lax at the hippy camp in Upstate New York where my parents sent my sister and me. I was a newbie, a first-time camper who came for the second session. Most of the other kids were there from
the beginning of the summer, and many of them had been attending the camp since they were 6 or 7. A girl in my bunk would sneak out most nights to meet up with her boyfriend. On one occasion, she brought the boyfriend back to the bunk when she assumed all of us were asleep. I had trouble sleeping most nights and was wide awake when they entered. I pretended to be asleep though. The boy came into the bunk and looked around. “Who’s that,” I heard him ask, referring to me. “It’s a new girl. She’s stupid,” replied my bunkmate. Then the two of them left.

All night long, I lay awake fuming and thinking about what I should have said. The next morning, I got up the nerve to confront her. I told her that I had heard them, and I pointed out that she should’t say I was stupid since she hadn’t made an effort to learn about me. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but I do remember she was flustered and embarrassed. And I think she apologized. Things got better for me after that. I gained her respect, and by extension, I gained the respect of the other girls in the bunk. By the end of the session, I was beginning to feel like one of the group.

Nowadays, sneaking out of the bunk at night is a major offense, and mean behavior among campers is strongly discouraged. That doesn’t mean it never happens, but it does mean that most camps make strenuous efforts to prevent it. Counselors are trained to handle conflicts between campers, and victims are taken seriously when they ask for help. In this issue, iNSIDER looks at how today’s camps attempt to create bully-free zones so that every camper can enjoy his or her summer camp experience. At the same time, camp remains a wonderful place to practice social skills, make relationships and build self-confidence.

This month’s iNSIDER also looks at a new program specially designed for Russian Jewish campers, and also visits area yoga camps, and gets a taste of today’s camp food trends.

Namaste and Happy Trails,
Simone Ellin,
iNSIDER editor


Yoga For Youngsters

Yoga camps for kids are playful and age appropriate

Yoga camps for kids are playful and age appropriate

Ellie Schwartz of Roland Park is only 12 years old, but she’s already an experienced yoga student. Schwartz had a yoga birthday party when she was 8 and has been taking classes on and off since she was 9.

Last year, she took part in a week-long yoga camp at Baltimore Yoga Village in Mount Washington. Dianne Schwartz, who helped organize the camp, says yoga and Ellie are a good fit.

“She has mindfulness, flexibility, calm,” says Schwartz.

Guilford mom Laura Wrigley signed up her two oldest kids, Isabella, 10, and Enzo, 7, for the Yoga Village camp. (Her youngest, 5-year-old Lilly, was too young.)

“I thought it would be a great experience for them,” she says. “I like the community (at Yoga Village), so it was nice to hook my kids into that as well.”

Wrigley adds that camp was particularly helpful for Enzo, who underwent multiple surgeries last year to repair a narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to his kidneys.

“The yoga camp started right when he was able to be active after his first surgery, so it’s a really safe place for him,” says Wrigley. “It was very therapeutic.”

The half-day camp featured a yoga class, snacks and an art project that encouraged mindfulness. The campers also spent some time in nearby Robert E. Lee Park.

Through stories and games, instructor Jenny Berkowitz introduced the kids to the philosophy of yoga and the background of some of the postures.

Yoga camp helps children to be calm, centered and relaxed

Yoga camp helps children to be calm, centered and relaxed

“A lot of learning happens through exploration, through different games,” says Berkowitz, adding that campers wrapped up the day with a restorative Shavasana: kids on their backs, eyes closed, focusing on their breathing.

Baltimore Yoga Village is holding the camp again this year, although the dates and specifics are still being finalized.

Avalon Yoga Studio in Catonsville also is holding a week-long, half-day yoga and art camp. This summer will be the camp’s fourth year, and the dates will be July 7 to 11 and July 28 to Aug. 1.

Avalon owner Leslie Coombs says instructors Sara Murphy, Missy Wheeler and Emily Kimak engage the campers through stories, games and activities.

“It’s always a noncompetitive, very nurturing environment for them,” says Coombs.

During camp, Wheeler sometimes had the kids sit perfectly still and then share what they experience. “They’ll say, ‘I felt quiet in the whole room.’ ”

At the same time, says Kimak, it’s not all stillness and quiet. In fact, classes are playful and kid appropriate. “Last year, the kids were so excited and really got into the art projects and learning different yoga poses.”

Coombs believes yoga is part of a well rounded summer.

“Some of them, they do this one week, then they go to soccer camp,” she says. “The parents want to develop all aspects of the child.”

“Over the summer it’s a great opportunity, because during the school year they’re so overscheduled … summer’s a really great time to start to build the wellness habit,” adds Maura Rother-Gormley, office manager for Baltimore Yoga Village.

Kids’ yoga is a great idea, agrees Charm City Yoga instructor Edith Brotman, who says youth teachers don’t expect children to hold any yoga pose for very long, and kids’ classes are more talky and, yes, a little louder than adult classes.

Brotman is the author of a new book called “Mussar Yoga” (Jewish Lights Publishing, Spring 2014). Mussar means “instruction” in Hebrew, and Mussar Yoga combines Jewish contemplative practice with yoga.

There’s no conflict at all between Judaism and yoga, says Brotman, explaining that yoga is a spiritual practice, not a religion.

“It’s not meant to be a replacement for religion or to be a religion,” she says. “A lot of the concepts you find in yoga you also find in Jewish spirituality. There’s nothing too foreign that you’ll find in yoga, especially in a kids’ class.”

While there are a couple of local yoga-specific camps, many camps and summer programs include yoga in their roster of activities.

Camp Red Fox of the Greater Pikesville Recreation and Parks Counsel offers a Magical Mats Yoga for campers ages 4 to 12.

Magical Mats owner Chelsea Smith takes a playful approach to the lessons. She has the younger kids put a Beanie Baby on their chests so they can watch it rise and fall as they inhale and exhale. The elementary-age kids play a sort of Yoga Twister. All ages work on balance, flexibility and strength.

Of course, there’s no guarantee your child will return home from the camp yoga class calm, centered and relaxed. Anecdotally, however, it seems to do the trick.

“I had multiple parents say, ‘Our kids come home in the afternoon and they’re so calm and centered,’ ” says Berkowitz. “I had a couple of kids who came in with a little anxiety, and parents say by the end of the week the kids weren’t stressed out.”

Wrigley says Isabella and Enzo like how they feel after they’ve meditated and enjoyed meeting other kids who were into yoga, just like them. She’ll likely sign them up for yoga camp again this summer.

Interested in learning more? Visit Baltimore Yoga Village’s website at baltimoreyogavillage.com and Avalon Yoga and Wellness Center’s website at avalonywc.com.

A Culinary Revolution

Tug-of-war competitions, ghost stories, bad-movie nights and new friendships are just some of the memories that youths will take from their time at camp.

Years ago, when grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and celery were the norm in camp dining halls, food probably wasn’t part of the “remember that time when … ?” camp experience. Now, however, dining at camp might just be something that sticks with campers the most.

030714_insider-cullinary-revolutionWith numerous healthy menu options, homemade food for Shabbat, cooking classes, the burrito craze and food straight from camp gardens, Greater Baltimore-area Jewish camps have found new and innovative ways to provide a memorable and enjoyable food experience for campers.

Healthy, considerate menus
One thing camps need to consider before the start of summer is prospective campers who have dietary restrictions. While the food at Camps Airy & Louise is kosher style, and the food at Capital Camps and Camp Moshava is certified kosher, campers may have food allergies, such as soy or gluten intolerance, or may simply be picky eaters.

All three camps make sure they provide food options for those with gluten, dairy, soy and other allergies.

“One thing that sets us apart is we operate all year long,” says Sam Roberts, director of Capital Camps. “We have full-time executive chefs who accommodate dietary restrictions.”

In the case of picky eaters, oldies but goodies, such as grilled cheese sandwiches, are always an option.

“[At the start of a session] we focus on comfortable and familiar foods,” says Jen Silber, executive director at Camp Moshava. “We want them to get settled in. Later on, we’ll try to serve different things, but we always have options that are familiar and easy, like peanut butter and jelly.”

The camps also make sure that vegetarian options are available at every meal, and sometimes vegetarian meals can be a huge hit.

“One of our most popular meals is vegetarian burritos,” says Silber. “The kids love it because they can build their own burrito. For some kids, it’s new and not something they would necessarily eat at home.”

Healthy eating is another important part when it comes to camp dining. “We know camp food can be challenging, and we want to make sure our kids feel healthy and satisfied,” says Roberts.

Garden and kitchen creativity
A culinary phenomenon that has been on the rise, and usually ensures great tasting food, is the farm-to-table concept. All three camps have gardens in which campers young and old have the opportunity to plant and harvest vegetables and are then able to eat the “fruits of their labor,” as Roberts puts it.

Camps Airy & Louise have Culin- AIRY Arts, a cooking class with cooking clinics and competitions for campers, and Camp Moshava assigns groups with different jobs, two of which include gardening and vegetable cutting.

Every summer, says Silber, a group of campers cares for an organic garden, where they weed and water plants and feed farm animals. When vegetables are ready to be picked, campers harvest and bring them to the kitchens, where they’re incorporated into meals.

One year, Moshava campers harvested kale, and they were able to taste their work in an interesting way.

“Our cooks made kale chips, and the kids loved them,” says Silber. “Because they picked it, they were really excited to try it and eat it.”

Moshava has also been taking its younger campers to First Fruits Farm in Freeland, Md., where they’ve helped harvest fruits and vegetables that go to a local soup kitchen.

The dining experience
While the types of food served and how the food got to the table both show how these camps are becoming more culinarily innovative, the actual experience of sitting down and enjoying a meal with fellow campers is another camp element in itself.

“We’re deeply committed to making sure our kids enjoy their dining-room experience,” says Roberts. “We look at it from a programmatic standpoint.” Roberts says Capital Camps has musical lunches and theme-night dinners.

At Camps Airy & Louise, Airy director Rick Frankle says singing is a huge part of the dining experience, as is Shabbat.

“We have a whole bunch of programs that take place in the dining hall on an ongoing basis,” says Frankle. “It could be something simple like a bingo breakfast. [The dining hall] is definitely the hub of the camp community.”

Dining halls can sometimes even stir up controversy among campers. Silber says last summer Moshava did away with the salad bar and decided to serve salads family style on each table. The reasoning, she says, was to create a more peaceful mealtime and encourage campers to eat healthier by making salads more accessible.

For campers who enjoyed the salad bar, the change didn’t sit well. After Silber explained the reason for the change, the pro-salad bar group staged a protest. Eventually, compromises were made.

Campers agreed to take turns going to the salad bar in exchange for fulfilling a promise to eat more vegetables. “This issue became a learning opportunity for our campers — about organizing and protesting ‘unfair’ policies,” says Silber.

Who knew salad bars could become a focal point for social activism?

For more information on these camps and their programs, go to airylouise.org, capitalcamps.org and campmosh.org.