State Highway Administration Repairing Beltway Bridge

Motorists traveling on Park Heights Avenue should prepare for temporary and long-term lane closures until fall 2015, as the Maryland State Highway Administration makes repairs to the bridge that carries the street over I-695.

The $5.6 million repair includes removing and replacing the riding surface and concrete sidewalks, replacing a steel beam that was damaged by trucks, replacing the overhead bridge lighting with light poles, rehabilitating the concrete supports and abutments at each end of the bridge, cleaning and painting the steel and reconstructing the pavement on the approaches to the bridge, according to an SHA news release.

The project should be completed by fall 2015, weather permitting.

The bridge will remain open to vehicles and pedestrians throughout the project, which began last week. Crews began single-lane closures on the bridge last week between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, with closures ending the following morning. Single-lane closures on I-695 under the bridge will occur between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday and between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Friday.

Nighttime single- and double-lane closures on I-695 will occur between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, with closures ending the following morning.

Beginning this fall, one lane in each direction will be closed 24 hours a day until the project is finished.

“SHA encourages drivers to plan ahead for extra commuting time on Park Heights Avenue and drive with caution in the I-695 interchange work zone,” SHA district engineer David Peake said in a statement. “Pedestrians should also look ahead for changing traffic patterns in the work zone and stay within the designated crossing area on the bridge.”

For questions about the project, contact SHA’s District 4 Office, Construction Division at 410-229-2420, 866-998-0367 or shadistrict4@sha.state.md.us.

And, the Price is Right

Meat lovers rejoice, because there’s a new kosher game in town that rivals in both price and quality the wood-paneled, white-tableclothed varieties that have for years plied their trade in offering decidedly treif hunks of juicy steak.

The brainchild of Accents Grill and Cocoaccinos owners Lara and Larry Franks, Serengeti aims to do for Baltimore kosher cuisine what such establishments as Ruth’s Chris and Capital Grille have done for everybody else; its mission is to be no less than the final authority when it comes to competitively priced, high-quality dining that, while offering gourmet flavors, focuses on, as Lara Franks said in her South African lilt, “giving diners a healthy portion of protein at a good value.”

With a décor heavy on earth tones and angular designs and metal antelope heads hung on the walls, Serengeti evokes the spirit of an African hunting lodge or a rustic cabin. On a recent Wednesday evening, the place was packed, and a hurried Franks, who serves as hostess, revealed that the indoor location — the OU-supervised restaurant sits behind Accents in the Atrium mall at the Greenspring Shopping Center off of Smith Avenue — has had steady dinner and lunch crowds ever since a soft opening in late June. Reservations, she said, are highly recommended.

That the restaurant gets by essentially on word of mouth — Serengeti is just now beginning an advertising campaign — is a testament to the niche its owners identified several years ago, said Phil Rosenfeld, who manages the front of the house. “The idea is a classy steakhouse, something that was missing from the Baltimore kosher scene.”

Appetizers run from $7.50 for the soup of the day — it happened to be beef brisket split pea this particular night — to $17 for what Rosenfeld said is the restaurant’s most popular dish, a plate of sweet and spicy bourbon-braised short ribs served over creamy grits and topped with crispy onions. The meat, offering a substantial dose of smokiness with a hint of spice against a background of peppercorn, falls off the bone, while a tuna ceviche tower ($12) presents alternating layers of diced raw fish on “crackers” of tortilla chips and dollops of avocado cream.

For the main course, the Franks, along with Chef Daniel Neuman — a returnee to Baltimore after stints in New York kosher catering outfits — are taking an all-encompassing approach. Their menu leans heavy on steaks to be sure — grilled rib eyes can be ordered on the bone or boneless in both 12-ounce and 16-ounce cuts, spice rubbed or accompanied by one of three house sauces — but diners can also choose from braised lamb shank with red wine reduction ($27), a fish dish, two chicken entrées ($18), a vegan lentil shepherd’s pie ($18) or four entrée-sized salads ($15-$25). The chili-rubbed seared steak tournedos with peppercorn sauce ($42 for 16 ounces/$32 for 12 ounces) comes as thick as any chophouse filet and just as tender, while the grilled honey chipotle marinated rib eye steak ($32 for 16 ounces/$25 for 12 ounces) evokes images of Texas ranch hands enjoying a meal of well-deserved barbecued sustenance after a hard day’s work.

Eight different sides can be ordered al a carte and sandwiches include lamb burgers, hamburgers, grilled chicken and veggie varieties. Desserts run between $6 and $9.

A prix fixe option, at $50 per person, includes an appetizer, salad or soup, entrée with a side and desert.

For his part, Neuman relishes the chance to interact with his diners one on one, although he admitted that the cooking arrangement has taken some getting used to as both Accents and Serengeti share the kitchen.

“I’ve got two lines here going on simultaneously!” he shouted as assistants and wait staff scurried to and fro. When he was reminded that hotels and cruise ships frequently have multiple restaurants using central cooking facilities, he laughed: “Cruise ships! They have bigger kitchens!”

Franks, who got her start in the restaurant industry by running corporate lunch counters and catering kitchens in Southern California, said her foray into kosher dining and move to Baltimore a decade ago has been interesting. She and her husband preside over an ever-expanding empire of restaurants and, judging from the mix of people, Jewish and non-Jewish, patronizing their newest establishment, they seem to be answering a need. Less than a month since opening, some patrons have already become regulars and order without the help of the menu.

“When we designed this, we made sure that we were comparable and competitive to the non-kosher steakhouses in the area,” said Franks. “We know what the standard is on the open market and we’re going to deliver that same quality.”

Serengeti is located at 2839m Smith Ave. in Baltimore. For reservations, call 410-413-6080.


Created with flickr slideshow.

Boys’ Night Out

The grills were fired up and the strong smell of Scotch filled the air on a recent Sunday, as approximately 150 Jewish men spent the evening with the Etz Chaim Center for Jewish Living and Learning to “raise the steaks.” Literally.

Raise the Steaks II, held at Bruce Sholk and Beth Kaplan’s private Baltimore estate, celebrated Etz Chaim’s impact on the Baltimore Jewish community. The lavish evening affair featured a steak barbeque, live music, wine tasting, local microbrews and a Corvette car display. With corporate sponsors Quarry Wine and Spirits, Union Craft Brewing, DC Dental, Purgistics, Allstate, Northwest Savings Bank, Shimmy Braun and LA Properties, the one-night-only event was meant to bring out both current and future heavy-hitters.

“We planned the Etz Chaim Raise the Steaks event to engage the next generation of donors,” said Rabbi Yisroel Porter, director of Etz Chaim Owings Mills. “We wanted to throw a benefit that would attract a broad audience and find common ground across generations. I mean, steak, beer, wine — can’t go wrong with that recipe, right?”

With a mission to attract Jewish students from every walk of life, Etz Chaim works to cultivate Jewish learning and identity in a non-threatening atmosphere. It offers guest speakers, Shabbat dinners, Israel tours and community-based programs.

“We are a people with a mission,” said its executive director, Rabbi Nitzan Bergman. “We have a purpose, a homeland and, ultimately, a Jewish identity. I love the members of the Etz Chaim community, and I want to continue doing more good work.”

The July 13 affair kicked off with a Scotch and bourbon tasting for donors who had contributed at least $360 to the organization. Other guests arrived for the dinner that followed. Italian glassblower Gianni Toso was among those who joined the festivities.

“When I moved to Baltimore, I wanted to find a Jewish community,” said Toso. “I started going to Beth Tfiloh, and soon after, I met Rabbi Porter and Rabbi Bergman. I think the two have done a wonderful job, and I have given them artwork from my studio. I’m thrilled to be a part of this special group.”

Between the main course and dessert, a series of Etz Chaim speakers provided insights on the organization as a whole. Following opening remarks from Porter and a gift presentation for hosts Sholk and Kaplan, the microphone was handed to a number of Etz Chaim enthusiasts who discussed their relationship with the organization. Marcus Rothberg, 27, a former skydiving instructor with an engineering degree, emphasized how his relationship with Etz Chaim led him to a life-altering decision.

“Etz Chaim means the tree of life,” he said. “I am looking at the roots of this organization right now. I always dreamed of going to Israel. Etz Chaim provided me with the golden ticket to go. I have now decided to make aliyah and become a tour guide in Israel. Etz Chaim has changed the entire course of my life.”

After Rothberg’s testimonial, several tables of men broke out in song and dance. As the dessert buffet opened, raffle winners claimed prizes including a Baltimore tour for two on a private plane, a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from Covenant Winery, two tickets to an Orioles game, a 15-year old bottle of Tomatin Scotch, two round-trip tickets to Atlantic City or New York, free dry cleaning and one airplane ticket to anywhere in the United States.

“The Raise the Steaks event, like last year, came out great,” proclaimed Porter. “Events like these showcase the past, present and future of our organization. Everyone had a wonderful time, and I believe Etz Chaim is growing stronger and stronger every day.”

Allie Freedman is a local freelance writer.

12-Year-Old Makes Video for Humane Society

Max Sternlicht (provided)

Max Sternlicht (provided)

An aspiring young filmmaker made an online video for the Baltimore Humane Society that drew more than 1,000 views in its first week.

“I love animals and I wanted to find a way to help, and my favorite hobby is filmmaking,” said 12-year-old Max Sternlicht, whose mother volunteers at the Reisterstown no-kill shelter.

Max, who will be in sixth grade at the Gilman School in the fall, spent about a week at the shelter, taking about four hours of footage each day.

“I had an outline in my head and tried to follow it as much as I can,” he said. It took about a month of after-camp editing to get the video together.

“I’ve been getting a lot of friendly feedback,” he said. “Someone from the Middle East commented on my video a few days ago, so that was pretty amazing. Someone from the other side of the world liked my video.”

Max, who also sold lemon sticks at a stand at last year’s DogFest to raise money for the Humane Society, plans to film a video at DogFest this September.

The young filmmaker has been making movies since kindergarten, when he started filming his toys on camera. In first grade, he started making videos with his friends dressing up like Star Wars characters, and by third grade he had learned how to make films with Lego stop-motion. He made a Gilman-centric music video with Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy,” called “Gilman Happy,” which took first place in the Gilman Film Festival. He’s also written screenplays in recent years.

“I either want to be a filmmaker or cardiologist,” Max said. “I haven’t decided which one.”

The Baltimore Humane Society, located on Nicodemus Road in Reisterstown, is an independent, no-kill shelter, which offers veterinary care, a pet cemetery and grief support services.

Watch Max’s video.

Baltimore Stands with Israel

The events unfolding in Israel are geographically far from Maryland, but Jewish Baltimore showed its solidarity and support for the Jewish state through prayer, gatherings and messages sent directly to the soldiers taking part in Israel’s ground offensive in the Gaza Strip this past week.

National, state and local politicians joined with religious leaders, community members and an Israeli embassy representative Monday, July 21, at a gathering of solidarity at the Gordon Center for Performing Arts at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC. The event, which was hosted by the Baltimore Jewish Council and co-sponsored by The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, was organized to create an opportunity for the Baltimore community to demonstrate its support for the State of Israel and the country’s right to defend itself.

“When your home is under attack you have to defend it,” BJC President Lainy LeBow-Sachs said to the packed auditorium.

Oren Marmorstein, counselor for public affairs and national coordinator of academic affairs at the Israeli Embassy, used the opportunity to thank the Baltimoreans in attendance for their support of Israel.

“Every person in Israel is aware of this support,” he said. He described to the community members gathered his own experiences with hearing warning sirens and having to take cover with his wife and young daughter, and said much of what is portrayed of the conflict in the media is incomplete or inaccurate. It is hard, he added, to describe to people what life is really like in the Jewish state.

“This is not happening only one night,” he said of the sirens. “It’s happening every single night. This is something that is happening every day.”

U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, who has been a vocal supporter of Israel during his tenure in office, also spoke at the rally, thanking the people who came to show their support and asserting Israel’s right to defend its citizens. He was followed by Amian Kelemer, whose daughter recently completed her service in the Israel Defense Forces. Kelemer talked about her experience as a “soldier mom,” fearing for her oldest daughter every day.

Meanwhile, another crowd gathered at Light and Pratt streets from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to protest racism and war, focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the situation along the Mexican border and the city’s newly stricter youth curfew.

“The racist apartheid settler state of Israel is once again attacking the people of Palestine in Gaza and the West Bank,” read a release promoting the rally. “The pretext this time was the death of three Israeli teenagers, but the results are all too familiar,” it added, pointing to the number of Palestinian casualties.

Rabbi Moshe Hauer of Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion Congregation, who spoke at the Gordon Center event, has put a call out to Jewish camp directors asking that campers design small notes or cards that will be included in care packages for soldiers. He extended his request to anybody in the community who would like to create and send a note of solidarity to Israeli troops.

Hauer will be traveling to Israel and plans to deliver the cards himself.

Agudath Israel of America is asking that all Jews pray for the safety of the Israeli soldiers and the citizenry of Israel, and “to undertake meaningful acts of kindness, charity, Torah study and special observances to help merit divine protection of our brothers and sisters in [Israel], on the front lines and everywhere else,” a statement read.

The Shmira Project, an organization that enables people to “adopt” one or more soldiers by doing a specific mitzvah in their honor and praying for their protection, was recently reestablished. Shmira means “guarding” or “protecting” in Hebrew.

“Any mitzvah that you do on behalf of a soldier truly makes a difference, to the soldier and to Jewish unity,” states the Center for Jewish Education’s website. “Write your soldier’s name out and post it where you’ll see it … near the Shabbat candles, on the refrigerator, in your car, in your phone. Then, when you are going to do something positive in the world, stop and think of your soldier and include him or her in your mitzvah.” For more information about the Shmira Project, go to shmiraproject.com or text 240-393-4836.

mgerr@jewishtimes.com
hnorris@jewishtimes.com

Photo by David Stuck

Honored!

Matthew Bernstein, 17, and Theodore Weinberg, 18, both recent graduates of Oakland Mills High School in Columbia, have won National Merit Scholarships funded by the college or university of their choice. They join 44 other teens from schools in the greater Baltimore/Washington, D.C., area who will be enjoying tuition reductions through the National Merit program.

This year’s National Merit Scholarships were awarded based on the 2012 scores of juniors nationwide taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. In September 2013, approximately 16,000 semifinalists were announced as the highest-scoring entrants from each state. Finalists, who were selected after completing a detailed application that included an essay portion, had to participate in community activities, enjoy outstanding academic records, receive an endorsement from a school official and achieve qualifying scores on the SAT test.

Bernstein, son of Eileen and Richard Bernstein, attends the Calah Congregation in Columbia. He’s chosen to attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., where he will study applied physics.

Bernstein said he and classmate Weinberg found out they were chosen as semifinalists for the scholarships in an unusual manner.

“We were called out of English class down to the principal’s office,” recalled Bernstein. “We’d never been called down before, and this was a brand new principal.”

He added they were feeling uncomfortable about it and didn’t really know what was going on as they walked slowly down the hall to the office. Upon seeing the teens, the principal said to them, “Congratulations guys.”

Bernstein credited Donna Ueckermann, a guidance counselor at his school, with helping him navigate the process of submitting subsequent materials to become a finalist.

Upon hearing the news about his award, Bernstein’s mother said, “We were very proud, but we knew he was going to do well no matter what, because he really works hard.” She added that her son prefers smaller colleges and wanted to be near mountains and cooler weather because “he hates hot summers.”

Bernstein recently completed an internship at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics lab and was hired by the lab for the summer. This is a rarity, his mother explained, because typically they only hire students at the college level.

“We keep teasing him that he skipped the Burger King phase” of summer jobs, she said, laughing.

Weinberg, son of Jacquie and Eric Weinberg of Columbia, will attend University of Maryland, Baltimore County, to study computer science.

“It was pretty exciting; we were just really pleased he was named a finalist because we knew he was a good student who has worked really hard for four years,” said his mother. “And the monetary award was appreciated.”

“I had a month to write the [finalist application] essay,” recalled Weinberg. “I ended up writing a lot about a volunteer opportunity” at the Oakland Mills middle school, assisting teachers during summer sessions for elementary and middle school students.

“It was a good time, and I learned a lot from it, he said. “I benefited along with them.”

Weinberg wanted to stay in Maryland for school and said UMBC, where his brother is a student, has one of the best computer science programs in the area. He wasn’t interested in attending University of Maryland, College Park, “which is just too big,” he said.

Weinberg’s mother praised her son’s guidance counselor, Kara Fick, for helping guide the teen.

“All the counselors are outstanding. We have a wonderful administration team and counseling center,” she said. “We’re lucky to have them there, encouraging [students] to apply and helping them in the process.”

Weinberg said winning the scholarship “made the PSAT matter a bit more. A lot of people don’t think that test is important at all, and surprisingly it turned out to be very important.”

This year more than 7,000 merit scholarships were awarded, with funds ranging from $500 to $2,000 annually being applied to tuition for up to four years of undergraduate study, ultimately totaling approximately $33 million.


mgerr@jewishtimes.com

Local Businesses Hold Their Own

Ray Hinish, who owns Expert Nutrition Center and the building that houses The Flying Avocado Café and Admiral FITT Personal Training, welcomes the competition Foundry Row will bring. (Marc Shapiro)

Ray Hinish, who owns Expert Nutrition Center and the building that houses The Flying Avocado Café and Admiral FITT Personal Training, welcomes the competition Foundry Row will bring.
(Marc Shapiro)

When Foundry Row is up and running in 2016, an LA Fitness will be next door to Lynne Brick’s and only a few miles from Brick Bodies and Planet Fitness, all three owned or franchised by the same local company.

But Lynne Brick, president and founder of the female-only Lynne Brick’s and coed Brick Bodies and operator of local Planet Fitness gyms, isn’t worried about another national fitness chain coming to the Owings Mills area.

“We’re a hometown business, locally grown,” Brick said. “We’ve been at it for 30 years now, and I think a lot of people in the community know our name.”

Other business owners share Brick’s sentiment and even look forward to the new center being built at the former site of the Solo Cup factory and the increase in traffic they expect to bolster interest in the area.

“We know what we’re doing here. We’re established here,” said Larry Lawrence, a manager at Beauty Supply in the Painters Mill Shopping Center. “If there’s more traffic, it’s better for business.”

In June, Foundry Row developer Greenberg Gibbons announced future tenants LA Fitness, Sports Authority, DSW, cosmetic shop Ulta, Panera Bread, fast-casual Mediterranean eatery Zoe’s Kitchen, cook-to-order Smashburger and build-your-own eatery Nalley Fresh. These businesses will join Wegmans, the anchor of the center with a 130,000-square-foot store.

If past projects are any indication, Brick and Lawrence may be accurate in their assertions, said Jesse Tron, spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers.

“In most areas, there’s a large shopping complex with a collection of national brands and there’s typically a Main Street with local retail, local mom-and-pop shops,” he said. “Typically there is a coexistence there. Different retail formats serve different purposes for different consumer wants and desires.”

Tron added that projects such as Foundry Row often bring people to the area, who then find local retailers that don’t necessarily have the marketing dollars to reach potential customers.

“This is giving us an opportunity to keep people here,” said Colleen Brady, president of the Reisterstown-Owings Mills-Glyndon Chamber of Commerce, noting that people often travel to Towson or Hunt Valley for some of the same stores that will open at Foundry Row. “It’s a good way for us to look around and see what is in our backyard.”

Those backyard businesses may have an advantage over national chains, Brick theorized, by having visible owners who are often invested in the community. Her company, for example, is involved with the Reisterstown Festival and supports local 5K runs and community groups, and the owners can be spotted at the gyms, talking to customers and doling out workout advice.

“I’m not sure a big chain is going to be capable of doing that,” she said.

Ray Hinish, who owns the building that houses the Flying Avocado Café, Expert Nutrition Center and Admiral FITT Personal Training on South Dolfield Road, welcomes the competition.

“I think there are plenty of hungry people to go around,” he said. “A little competition never hurts, it only helps you become better.”

He believes the smallness of the business also helps, as some people are turned off by chain establishments.

For others, the coming of Foundry Row is an opportunity to look toward the future. Jessica Normington, executive director at the Pikesville Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber is discussing updating its strategic plan, which is about 10 years old. The plan would look at the chamber’s vision and goals, its board structure, bylaws and what businesses the chamber would like to attract to the area.

“Right now, we don’t know how it’s going to impact [the area],” she said. “We could see a whole transformation that could trickle down to Pikesville.”

Governor’s Office Announces Expanded Outreach Plan for Interfaith Domestic Violence Coalition

Gov. Martin O’Malley was on hand July 15 to help Maryland’s Interfaith Domestic Violence Coalition celebrate its second year.

While the primary focus of the organization in its first year was the Baltimore area, the 2014 coalition includes faith leaders, experts in domestic violence and victim support organizations from Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Montgomery counties and Baltimore City.

The coalition was started in 2013 by Baltimore’s Judge Karen C. Friedman, a former chair of CHANA and current Baltimore City Circuit Court judge, and comprises more than a dozen organizations including CHANA, the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Muslimat Al Nisaa, Sinai Hospital, the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, the Governor’s Office of Crime, Control & Prevention and the Baltimore City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, among others.

Last year, the organization worked with faith leaders to encourage discussion of a topic often considered a taboo in many synagogues, churches, mosques and other places of worship. During the Weekend of Ministry last October, interfaith leaders from across the Baltimore area dedicated part of their service to broaching the subject of domestic violence in the hopes that religious leaders may come to be viewed as an ally by victims of domestic violence, willing to listen to them and connect them to help.

More information about the Interfaith Domestic Violence Coalition can be found at community.maryland.gov.

JCC Employee Charged

   Charles David Beaver is charged with sexual solicitation of a minor. (Provided)

Charles David Beaver is charged with sexual solicitation of a minor. (Provided)

A JCC Aquatic Center employee has been charged with sexual solicitation of a minor after telling an undercover detective posing as a juvenile that he wanted to engage in sexual activity with two teenage boys, according to Baltimore County Police.

Charles David Beaver, 58, of the 3000 block of Main Street in Manchester, was held at the Baltimore County Detention Center and released on $100,000 bail.

Barak Hermann, president of the JCC of Greater Baltimore, and Will Minkin, chairman of the board of the JCC, sent an email to members and guests explaining the incident and saying they are “deeply disturbed and concerned.”

“Obviously we’re very disappointed and troubled by the situation,” Hermann said. “We want to make sure that all of our professional staff and everyone who works at the JCC puts the best intentions of children, individuals and families first.”

The letter he and Minkin wrote said that all prospective JCC employees have a rigorous background investigation that includes fingerprinting and a search of the Criminal Justice Information System.

“He had a completely 100 percent clean record,” Hermann said. “Obviously, we hire people to work with children, parents and families, and we do a very rigorous check.”

Beaver has been terminated from the JCC effective immediately, the letter said.

Hermann said Beaver was a member of the aquatic staff who taught American Red Cross certification classes, lifeguarded and gave swim lessons at both the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC and the Weinberg Park Heights JCC. Although police reported that Beaver told detectives he was in charge of the summer camp pre-K through third grade, Hermann said that is not true and Beaver had no management responsibilities.

On July 15, police got a tip that Beaver wanted to pay for sex with a 16-year-old boy and a 15-year-old boy, the news release said. A detective posing as a pimp began online communication with Beaver and later posed as a 15-year-old boy. A meeting with the boys was scheduled at a Baltimore County hotel room. When Beaver arrived, an undercover investigator answered the door and took him into custody.

Detectives also said that Beaver is a retired Carroll County school teacher who had been a soccer coach.

The investigation was conducted by Baltimore County detectives and members of the Maryland Child Exploitation Task Force, which includes Baltimore County Police, the FBI and other local jurisdictions.

Detectives are not sure if Beaver actually abused anyone but are asking anyone with information to contact police at 410-307-2020.
mshapiro@jewishtimes.com

Annapolis Approves New Eruv

Annapolis Eruv Vice President David Cohen (left) and Annapolis Mayor Michael Pantelides dedicate the new Annapolis Eruv. (Provided)

Annapolis Eruv Vice President David Cohen (left) and Annapolis Mayor Michael Pantelides dedicate the new Annapolis Eruv. (Provided)

For Annapolis, it is the beginning of an eruv.

On Thursday, July 17, Annapolis Mayor Michael Pantelides held an official dedication ceremony to authorize the Maryland state capital’s new eruv around the city.

Pantelides signed the official proclamation at City Hall in the City Council chambers in the presence of Annapolis Eruv President and Kneseth Israel Rabbi Moshe Weisblum, Eruv Vice President David Cohen and Kneseth Israel President David Sliom. The new eruv, which is affiliated with Annapolis’ first synagogue, Kneseth Israel, aims to attract more Jews to the state capital.

“I had the pleasure of welcoming the president of the Eruv of Annapolis to City Hall,” Pantelides said in a statement. “As per Jewish tradition, they presented me with a silver dollar and a proclamation in accordance with Torah observant Jewish law, which constitutes payment in full for the rental rights of the domain within eruv district.”

An eruv is an enclosed area within a city or town that allows observant Jews to carry certain objects outside their homes on holy days. Some of these objects include strollers, walkers, canes, tissues and medicines. Using telephone poles and wires from BGE and Verizon, the new eruv creates a physical boundary around the designated area that makes it easier for Annapolis Jews to walk to synagogue.

David Cohen, vice president of the Eruv of Annapolis, presented a map marking the official boundaries of the eruv. Bordering Forest Drive, Tyler Avenue, Primrose Road and Spa Road, the eruv encompasses a radius of a few miles and took nearly three years to create. From receiving company utility permits to construction, the final piece of the puzzle is symbolically purchasing the land from a highly ranked city official.

“Today is a historical day for Judaism in Annapolis,” Cohen said at the ceremony. “The Annapolis Jewish community dates back over a century … The presence or absence of an eruv affects the lives of people with limited mobility and people taking care of the lives of children. The main incentive for starting the eruv project was actually to push our children to synagogue on a Saturday. Today, we are purchasing the land from the mayor for a bargain, one silver dollar.”

Weisblum believes the eruv will open new doors for the Kneseth Israel Congregation.

“I personally have been dreaming about the eruv for 12 years,” Weisblum said. “Like Martin Luther King, I have a dream. The area is connected to the synagogue and [is] part of the heart of Annapolis. Our synagogue is 108 years old, so this is big news for us.”

With hopes of increasing the framework even further, both Cohen and Weisblum anticipate larger congregations at Kneseth Israel due to the new eruv.

“After three years, I am proud to say we have completed the eruv of Annapolis,” Cohen said. “In the near future, we hope to expand the eruv to cover a larger area of Annapolis.”

The eruv is dedicated to David Cohen’s sister-in-law, Joelle Benchmuel, who died of Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 32, and the three Yeshiva boys, Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel, who were recently murdered in Israel.

Allie Freedman is a local freelance writer.