Problems Unspoken

For many Americans, the 2008 recession was the tipping point, with millions of people losing jobs and savings. Six years later, many are back at work but for wages far lower than they were making before the recession.

The Jewish community in Baltimore is no exception. And religious restrictions on some observant Jews may make just getting by even more difficult.

In the Baltimore area, according to the Living Wage Calculator provided by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the living wage for a family of two parents and three children is $53,805. For a family of two parents and two children, the living wage is $45,547.

The MIT’s figures take into account expenses such as food, child care, medical costs, housing and transportation, but what if a family keeps kosher and pays up to 20 percent more for meat and perishables? What if they want their children to receive a Jewish education and have to pay day school tuition? What about synagogue fees?

In 2012, U.S. Census Bureau statistics showed that 46.6 percent of Baltimore residents live below 200 percent of the federal poverty line ($44,000 for a four-person household), and 23 percent live below that income marker in Baltimore County. Figures for the Jewish community aren’t far off, with 12 percent of Jewish households reporting having incomes below the 200 percent mark in The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore’s 2010 community survey. For the senior population living alone, that number shoots to 27 percent.

“It is frightening and stressful to run out of food days before your next paycheck arrives,” said one Baltimore Jewish Community Services client in a letter to the organization. Just months after the client’s husband had lost his job, she was laid off from her own job, putting the family in a bind for money. After using their unemployment benefits to pay their rent and utilities, they feared they would not be able to feed their two daughters or themselves.

Today, said Rachel Goldberg, director of aging policy at B’nai B’rith International, shrinking pensions and retirement accounts are contributing to a greater need than ever before.

“People retire and are often living at a much lower standard than they did before,” said Goldberg, “so even in communities where you think of the people you know as being comfortable, there’s a real question as to how comfortable they’re going to be when it becomes time to retire, whether it’s because you want to or because physically, you have to.”

In the six years following the recession, some local organizations have had to change the way they operate in order to accommodate increased demand. JCS, an agency of The Associated, for instance, had to change the way it handles those seeking financial assistance, increasing the amount of time it provides benefits for any specific client.

The majority of the people JCS helps experience episodic poverty, said executive director Barbara Levy Gradet. They make up part of the one-in-three local Jewish households that, according to the 2010 survey, are just scraping by at best. A bump in the road, like an illness in the family or a job loss, can put them over the edge into needing assistance.

In the past, JCS — which also provides marriage counseling, parenting workshops and addiction and mental health support — provided help to those in need in the form of grocery store gift cards, career counseling and eviction prevention for a maximum of about three months. But in the past few years Gradet and her organization have had to double and even triple that length of time. Additionally, Gradet said, the yearly average for direct assistance given out to community members in the years preceding the recession was about $700,000. This year, JCS gave out $2.6 million to families and individuals unable to get by on their own.

“It’s big, and it’s real,” Gradet said of the poverty problem in the local Jewish community. Making matters worse, she added, is the stereotypical myth that poverty doesn’t exist in the American Jewish community.

“This was an equal-opportunity great recession,” she said. “The community study shows that as a group, we are better educated, we do send more of our kids to college — education is such a deep Jewish value — but in an economy like this and in a job market like this, all bets are off.

“We are better educated, but a lot of people think that makes all Jews affluent, and that is not the case,” she continued. “Those myths are alive in the Jewish community as well.”

B’nai B’rith officials, who have been reaching out to Jews in need for more than 170 years, say stereotypes have hurt their organization in the past. Part of their work involves helping ensure Jewish seniors have a home to live in, something that has become increasingly difficult for many elderly citizens across the United States, as the cost of living has skyrocketed alongside an increasing life expectancy. With a fixed income and little to no access to additional sources of funds, many seniors turn to B’nai B’rith for their affordable senior apartments.

“Obviously there are a lot of images of Jews in media as ostentatiously wealthy and all these ideas about running the entertainment industry and what not,” said B’nai B’rith’s Goldberg. “Those stereotypes about what Jews are and what Jews have still really do exist, and it affects not only public perception and anti-Semitism, but it makes it a little bit more difficult for low-income older adults who are Jewish to reach out for the services they need because people internalize those kinds of things. It’s one reason, in this community, that people are a little uncomfortable asking for help.”

Mark Olshan, associate executive vice president at B’nai B’rith, can recall one not-so-distant memory of a town in southern Florida denying the organization’s zoning request to build affordable senior housing there because, town officials and community members said, “there’s no poverty in the Jewish community here.” A nearby town got wind of what happened and offered land for the units, but the experience was a wakeup call, said Olshan.

A Lofty Goal

Jesse Schwartzman is the MLL’s all-time winningest goalie. (Photos provided)

Jesse Schwartzman is the MLL’s
all-time winningest goalie. (Photos provided)

Pikesville’s own Jesse Schwartzman is on the U.S. national team’s 23-man roster for the Federation of International Lacrosse World Championships in Colorado.

He was named to the team following a tryout process that began locally at Goucher College last September. Additional tryouts were held in Orlando, Fla., in January. The final team was selected from a 31-player roster that attended training camps in Connecticut and Massachusetts and competed in the Major League Lacrosse All-Star Game at Harvard Stadium in Cambridge.

“It was long, strenuous, stressful,” Schwartzman, a goalie, said.

Schwartzman, 28, was a two-time All-American at Pikesville High School and then played for Johns Hopkins University. He now handles gaol-tending duties for the Denver Outlaws. This season, he became the MLL’s all-time winningest goalie with 62 career victories.

Just days after the roster was named, Schwartzman and his teammates headed to a training camp at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs to prepare for the world championships, which started Thursday and run through July 19 in Denver.

Playing by international rules for Team USA is very different from playing for the Outlaws, he said.

“All the rules are different, the style of play is different,” he said. “The only similarity is that you’re familiar with some of the players.”

A record 38 nations, including Israel, are playing 142 games over 10 days, with the U.S. defending its title. The American men defeated Canada for the 2010 championship in Manchester, England. For lacrosse fans, the championship brings a World Cup level of excitement.

“It happens every four years in a different country, so it’s exactly like the World Cup,” said Schwartzman. “There’s round-robin play, then the elimination rounds.

“The skill level is off the charts,” he added. “The best players in the world are here.”

071114_lacrosseIn addition to the U.S.-Canada rivalry, Schwartzman says fans can look for excitement from the Iroquois Nation Native American team.

Baltimore boasts fervent lacrosse fans, and Schwartzman finds much of the country is also onboard.

“There’s definitely a ton of excitement with social media for sure,” Schwartzman said. “There are big billboards where the games are being held. There’s a big sense of excitement.”

About 10 friends and family members are in Denver to cheer Schwartzman on.

In addition to his busy lacrosse schedule, Schwartzman finds time to actively give back to the community. Working with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, he hosted, in May, a young cancer patient and lacrosse fan from New York, Kyle Norton, who spent a weekend with the Outlaws

“I’ve always done charitable work,” said Schwartzman. “I feel that giving back to the community is very important. Helping those who are less fortunate is very important to me and my family. I grew up that way.”

When he was at Hopkins, Schwartzman spent time volunteering at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

Schwartzman still lives in Baltimore — he flies to Denver for Outlaws’ games — and remains active locally.

He helps coach a couple of Maryland Lacrosse Club teams and recently spent a couple hours coaching kids at the JCC sports camp in Owings Mills.

Amy Landsman is a local freelance writer.

From Odessa with Love

It was early on a Monday morning, but youngsters at Camp Milldale were full of pep. About 80 5- to 10-year-olds and their counselors were gathered in the Big Max all-purpose room, and spirits ran high. Janna Zuckerman, program manager of the Center for Jewish Camping at The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore was trying to get their attention in order to introduce two visitors who had come a long way to bring a piece of Ukraine to Reisterstown.

Irina Gokhman and Dima Garkavluk arrived in Baltimore last week from Odessa, Ukraine. Their trip to the U.S. was funded through the Baltimore-Odessa Partnership, a program of The Associated. Gokhman and Garkavluk, both in their mid-20s, work for the Jewish Agency for Israel, which sponsors programs for Russian-speakers in the Former Soviet Union, North America, Germany, Australia and Israel.

The programs promote Jewish culture and unity through a continuum of immersive Jewish experiences, said Andrew Razumovsky, co-chair of The Associated’s Baltimore-Odessa Partnership committee. Razumovsky explained that particularly in the Former Soviet Union, summer camps are a major focus of the program, introducing 3,000 Jewish youth to Judaism and Israel though week-long summer camps.

According to JAFI, the Former Soviet Union was once home to 800,000 Jews. Now that number has dwindled to approximately 160,000, although JAFI estimates that three million Russian-speaking Jews reside elsewhere in the world. According to the organization’s website, these Russian-speaking Jews barely participate in “mainstream” Jewish life. The programs JAFI offers are designed to increase their Jewish involvement.

After they were introduced to Milldale’s youngest campers, Garkavluk told the youngsters a popular Odessan fairy tale. Afterward, Gokhman asked for questions and reactions from the children. Then she explained they would be making group collages to illustrate the story. There was organized chaos as materials were distributed and counselors tried to direct their charges’ attention to the task at hand. A few minutes later, campers were busily cutting and pasting old issues of the JT. Then it was time for the children to present their work.

Soon after the presentations, the campers filed out of the all-purpose room, and another group of campers filed in. Gokhman and Garkavluk would spend the rest of the day and the next at Camp Milldale and the following Wednesday with campers at the Owings Mills JCC’s Maccabi Sports Camp and Top Notch Teen program.

So far, both young adults said they are enjoying their visit to Baltimore and their first time in the U.S. In addition to visiting the JCC Camps, Gokhman and Garkavluk spent Shabbat with other young adults at Moishe House, toured the Jewish Museum of Maryland, met with Jewish communal professionals and lay leaders and visited Washington, D.C. They admitted that they were nervous prior to leading the storytelling activity at Camp Milldale.

“In Ukraine, we are used to working with much smaller groups,” said Gokhman. Yet, after meeting the campers, Gokhman and Garkavluk agreed they were no different from the children in Odessa.

Before his trip to the U.S., Garkavluk said he only knew about the U.S. through “film and cereals.”

“I like Baltimore,” he said. “It’s quite interesting and has more to [offer] than a lot of other cities.”

Garkavluk said he learned about Judaism when his grandmother began bringing him to visit the Jewish programs in Odessa when he was 5 years old.

“When I was 15, I realized I wanted to be a camp counselor to bring practical knowledge to Jewish kids,” he said. “Many of the children in Odessa don’t study at Jewish schools. They have many questions [about Judaism]. I try to teach them basic Jewish [facts] that are relevant to their lives.”

Gokhman said her family had always celebrated Jewish holidays, but she did not attend religious schools when she was a child. After she went on a JAFI-sponsored Birthright Israel trip, she knew she wanted more of a connection to Judaism and Israel.

“I decided I wanted to create something, to have an impact by bringing Jewish education to Odessa,” she said.

Baltimore Remembers the Lubavitcher Rebbe

More than 600 people marked the 20th anniversary of Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson’s passing. (Provided)

More than 600 people marked the 20th anniversary of Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson’s passing. (Provided)

More than 600 people showed up at Johns Hopkins University’s Shriver Hall last week to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson.

A joint effort of Chabad-Lubavitch centers throughout the greater Baltimore area, the June 29 event brought together Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, and radio talk show host Dennis Prager to discuss the Rebbe’s influence on individuals’ lives and the world at large. Weinreb spoke about how his interactions with the Jewish leader changed his life, as well as the Rebbe’s scholarship.

Following each speaker’s talk, members of the Peabody Conservatory performed a musical tribute composed by Jared Weissbrot.

“You had really two perspectives, which I thought was extremely interesting,” Chabad of Maryland regional director Rabbi Shmuel Kaplan, who hosted the event, said afterward. “Rabbi Weinreb shared a very personal story by special request and then spoke about the Rebbe’s extraordinary contribution to Torah knowledge, which people are not aware of. Then you had Dennis Prager speaking from a much more general Jewish point of view and the incredible impact the Rebbe had on Jewish life.”

The day after the Baltimore event, tens of thousands of people from across the world descended on Cambria Heights, N.Y., to visit the Rebbe’s resting place at the Old Montefiore Cemetery.

Baltimore Mourns For Hope

The search for Israeli teenagers Gilad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach came to a bitter end, but in the eyes of those gathered at Beth El Congregation last week, hope, in spite of sorrow, remains.

Hosted by the Baltimore Board of Rabbis, the July 2 memorial service brought the Baltimore Jewish community together to collectively grieve and honor the lives lost.

“We are mourning as a community,” said Beth Goldsmith, co-chair of the Israel and Overseas Committee at The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. “It’s what we do; it’s the point of shiva.”

But the gathering was about more than mourning, said Goldsmith, who has been involved with communal affairs since 1978 and travels to Israel at least three times a year.

“The only hope is that with every senseless death, people stand up and make a difference,” she said. “The time for peace is now.”

The memorial commenced with a reading and song of Psalm 121, “God, Our Guardian,” by Cantor Roger Eisenberg. Following was a solemn but hopeful musical selection by clarinetist Dr. Eyal Bor, who had just one night to prepare for the piece adapted from the violin. Cantor Emanuel Perlman of Chizuk Amuno Congregation sang the traditional “El Male Rachamim” prayer.

“[I felt] shock and horror [learning] about the deaths of these children,” Rabbi Amy Scheinerman of Howard County Hospice said in her remarks. “This was senseless, cruel violence.”

Scheinerman chanted Psalm 23 as photos of each of the boys were given to all in attendance. Her prayer interpretation, along with a rendition of “Sim Shalom” by Cantor Thom King and the Beth El Choir, provided a visibly emotional backdrop. Several members of the audience fought back tears.

“As family from afar, we gather to provide strength and support for loved ones,” said Scheinerman. “It is too easy to retreat into fear; though we are not unscathed, we are not bitter. This psalm shows our grief and sorrow but also our hope.”

The ceremony took place as the discovery of the murder of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir, presumably a revenge attack by Israelis, sparked riots in the eastern sections of Jerusalem.

“This is not our way, and I am fully confident that our security forces will bring the perpetrators to justice,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said in a statement. “I call on everyone to exercise restraint.”

Amid the rising tensions, Rabbi Chaim Landau, president of the Baltimore Board of Rabbis, promoted a message of peace.

“There needs to be time to heal, and we need more speakers to speak at the nation to realize that the biggest act of revenge against the Palestinians is silence and kindness,” Landau said at the Beth El service.

At the conclusion of the service, yellow ribbons that had been displayed after the Israeli teenagers went missing in June were replaced with black ribbons.

“It’s a tragedy for anyone to lose a life,” remarked one attendee.

“We are never far when something happens to a Jew. It’s felt very strongly. We embrace the concept ‘every Jew is responsible for another,’” said Landau. “Distance is not a representation of how far we are, especially with news and social media represented.”

Andy Katz, assistant administrator at Beth El, said that the service was very much a communal gathering.

“[This service] strengthens the bonding and also allows us to grieve and find outlet in our own surroundings,” he said.

Lauren Root is a local freelance writer.

Keeping Them Safe


The Iron Dome missile defense system launches an intercepting missile near the Gaza border in southern Israel on Tuesday, the first day of Operation Protective Edge.
(David Buimovitch/Flash90)

According to Israel Defense Forces reports, the Islamist terror group Hamas launched as many as 170 rockets from Gaza into southern Israeli communities Monday and Tuesday, including Baltimore’s sister city of Ashkelon. The onslaught provoked the commencement of Operation Protective Edge, a military offensive that so far has resulted in the launching of approximately 50 targeted missile strikes on sites in Gaza.

In preparation for a possible ground offensive, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz called up 40,000 reservists for deployment, and bomb shelters opened in Ashkelon, Ashdod and Beersheba with many more to planned to open in Tel Aviv. Sirens warning residents to take cover sounded in area towns throughout Tuesday.

Beth Goldsmith, co-chair of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore’s Israel and Overseas Committee, said that the situation for those living in Ashkelon has become increasingly frightening and — especially for those who do not have safe rooms in their homes — very uncomfortable.

“All of the summer programs, schools, camps have shut down [in Ashkelon], and many parents are staying home with their children,” she said. “Those who don’t have shelters in their homes are relocating. When the sirens go off, you have only 15 seconds to get to a safe place.”

Goldsmith said that The Associated has been monitoring events on the ground.

“One Israeli group we support called AMEN, a volunteer program to engage at-risk teens, has been manning the shelters helping to calm and engage the children there, trying to minimize their trauma,” she related. “We also have staff based in Israel who are running things and keeping us apprised of what’s going on. We certainly hope this does not go any further.”

While there are no Associated-sponsored travel groups in Ashkelon, two programs, the Associated-supported Onward Israel for young adults and the Baltimore Zionist District Teen Experience, currently have about 50 young adults participating in programs elsewhere in Israel.

Onward Israel’s 26 participants are halfway through their program and for four weeks have been living in individual dorm rooms on the Tel Aviv University campus, said Mary Haar, director of the Israel and Overseas programs for The Associated. During most days, the college-aged students work at internships tailored to their interests as part of the program. They also participate in group trips and other events.

“They had a group trip today in Tel Aviv learning about Israeli society, and when they arrived home about 5:30 p.m. there had been a rocket [aimed at Tel Aviv] intercepted by the Iron Dome,” said Haar, referring to the Israeli anti-ballistic missile system. “There was a siren, they went to the shelter [within the dorm].”

Haar added that during a warning siren, it is typical to stay about 10 minutes in a shelter until receiving further instruction.

She said that the students are no longer in the shelter but have been asked to stay in the dorm until further notice from the Onward Israel professional security team, which includes IDF and other security liaisons. The security professionals check in with all group participants, said Haar, and assessments will be made in terms of any travel to internships throughout the week or for other necessary instruction.

“It is definitely an ever-changing situation,” said Haar, “and safety and security is the highest priority for our participants. We, of course, hope it quiets down and calms down quickly.”

At press time, several Onward Israel participants, two of which are from Baltimore, had chosen to leave Israel and travel back to their homes.

Rabbi Michael Meyerstein, executive director of BZD, said his office is in daily communication with partners in Israel.

“We rely on them to be our eyes and ears on the ground,” he said. “We constantly update our parents so that they can feel a bit more comfortable about their children’s situation.”

Meyerstein said BZD can alter the program, which includes 26 teens from Maryland and one from New Jersey, almost at a moment’s notice and re-direct students to a different part of the country or change the itinerary even for part of a day, if necessary.

Associate Director Fran Sonnenschein explained the group just came off of a three-day stay at a Beit Kama kibbutz in southern Israel, and she had just spoken with a parent of one of the teens on their program.

“They spent a couple of hours in a bomb shelter,” she said, “and one student was Skyping with her mother.

“Right this moment, they’re at Mitzpe Ramon — they didn’t go where they were originally going; now they are much farther south,” she added.

Pikesville Run/Walk serving up kosher breakfast

Participants race in last year’s Pikesville 5K Run/Walk. (Provided)

Participants race in last year’s Pikesville 5K Run/Walk. (Provided)

This year, for the first time, the Pikesville 5K Run/Walk will cater (literally) to participants who maintain a kosher diet.

“I noticed a lot of Orthodox friends were talking about the races they run, and it suddenly dawned on me: At the Pikesville 5K, the only things they can eat are apples and bananas,” said Jessica Normington, executive director of the Pikesville Chamber of Commerce. “So I reached out to Sherri Zaslow [director of marketing and sales] at Tudor Heights Senior Lifestyle to discuss the possibility of having kosher food at the post-race party. She thought it was a great idea, so Tudor Heights will be providing a kosher breakfast.”

Kosher food offerings after this year’s 14th annual race — which benefits the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults as well as the Pikesville Chamber of Commerce — will include eggs, French toast and offerings from Goldberg’s Bagels.

Normington said the race typically attracts about 800 runners and walkers with an additional 400 family members. The event will take place July 13 at the Woodholme Center and will include activities such as face-painting and moon-bouncing for children, a DJ and prize drawings for sports equipment and gift certificates.

Although online registration is closed, Normington said that it is still possible to register in person at Charm City Run stores in Timonium and McHenry Row and Fleet Feet Sports in Pikesville.

For more information, visit

To Everything There is a Season

Krieger Schechter Middle School will experience a changing of the guards when Robyn Blum (left) replaces Shelley Hendler as middle school head this fall. (David Stuck)

Krieger Schechter Middle School will experience a changing of the guards when Robyn Blum (left) replaces Shelley Hendler as middle school head this fall. (David Stuck)

It was the first week of summer recess and the halls and classrooms at Krieger Schechter Day School were almost empty. But outgoing middle school head Shelley Hendler and incoming middle school head Robyn Blum had work to do. Hendler was putting the finishing touches on her 14-year legacy with the school and Blum was preparing for a new challenge as Hendler’s successor. Both said they were looking forward to the next chapter in their lives.

Though outsiders to the school might have been surprised by her decision to call it quits at the end of the 2013-2014 school year, Hendler,  56, said it was carefully thought out.

“I’ve been considering this for a while,” she said. “I knew I wanted to be here to help make the transition for two years with Bil [Zarch, KSDS head], and for a year between [former lower school head] Saundra Madoff and Josh Bender, who just finished his first year at the school.”

Hendler said she found the change in leadership over the past two years, and the new ideas and conversations it has generated, “exhilarating.”

“Having a change in the head of school does put you in a place where you look at yourself,” she explained. “I’ve valued that — the push for the faculty to look at themselves and to explore and look at instruction creatively.

“For instance,” continued Hendler, “this year, a number of us received training in a program called Facing History and Ourselves, which looks at social justice and has far-reaching components. We were also part of a cohort called Digital Badge for the sixth-graders. The program is about communication and includes Internet safety. We also rolled out a program called STEAM, in which our eighth-graders created innovations. Programs like these breathe new life into the school.”

Regardless of the new programming, Hendler, who became middle school head in 2012, said that the middle school has remained relatively unchanged.

“The faculty is a nice blend of experienced and new teachers,” she said. “Robyn and I had already been working together — she has moved from the classroom to head of Judaics to assistant middle school head and now to head. It was a natural progression.”

She admitted that it will be strange to say goodbye.

In the past two years, Hendler has chosen to “live Krieger Schechter,” she explained. “I really wanted to be here 100 percent to the very end. I didn’t want to take time off to think about next steps. I wanted to embrace the end of the year.”

As she looks back on her legacy, Hendler said, “I’m most proud of creating a culture in which teachers love to learn and love to learn from each other.”

Meanwhile, Blum, 39 and a mother of two, said she has felt well-supported in transitioning to her new position.

“It’s going to be a very exciting year,” said Blum, a Harvard graduate who holds an M.A. in Jewish Education from Jewish Theological Seminary and is completing her doctoral dissertation at the University of Maryland in curriculum and instruction in the social studies. Blum said she sees a lot of similarities between the study of Jewish texts and the study of history.

“It was important for me to have both,” she explained. KSDS is “a wonderful community. We all love the school and hold its mission in our hearts. It’s all a partnership, and we all come together.”

Blum credited Hendler and the school’s past and present leadership and faculty for making the school what it is, but she acknowledged that the new leaders have made some changes over the past two years.

“We are building upon what others have done,” she said. “I think the changes are responses to where our community is. For example, anyone would have seen that we need to be very thoughtful about technology. We’ll continue to face the challenges and the opportunities that technology offers. How can we harness this tool in a meaningful, enriching and educational way?”

Blum stressed that students need to be taught the beauty of technology in combination with the responsibility of being a good “digital resident.”

Also, I think that families today are looking for communities where they and their kids are valued and their contributions to the community are valued.”

Dr. Randi Braman’s involvement with KSDS began with her daughter, Maddie, who was at the school from kindergarten through the eighth grade. Maddie will be a senior at Garrison Forest High School this fall. Braman’s son, Sam, will be a seventh-grader at KSDS. A primary care physician who lives in Owings Mills, she said she and her husband, Baltimore attorney Darrell Braman, have been consistently pleased with the school.

“It’s a close community that creates a love of learning,” she said. “They have good students and get the best out of them. It was great for my daughter. She’s become an independent thinker who really enjoys learning. And Shelley was a huge part of the middle school experience. She’s haimish — a combination mother, administrator and cheerleading section for each child. When there’s drama in the class, Shelley is the voice of reason. The kids knew they could count on her to be level-headed. She doesn’t lose her cool.”

Braman is also confident about Blum.

“Robyn is smart,” she said. “She has a good handle on the school’s mission and an eye on the school’s emphasis on derech eretz. She’s always working on that. When it comes to Judaics, kids feel comfortable sharing their opinions. I think it’s important for kids that they don’t feel that they are being force-fed Hebrew and Judaics and Israel politics. It’s important that the school continue to be forward-thinking.”

Trails to the Future

Guests enjoy a dinner made with ingredients from Pearlstone’s gardens in addition to local farms. (Melissa Gerr)

Guests enjoy a dinner made with ingredients from Pearlstone’s gardens in addition to local farms. (Melissa Gerr)

It was a farm-to-table experience on Monday night at the Pearlstone center, honoring outgoing board chair Ilene Vogelstein and incoming board chair P.J. Pearlstone, and attendees were invited to partake in all that nature offers in typical Pearlstone style.

Visitors could try their hand at pickling or goat’s-milk cheese-making or even play with baby goats and peek in at newborn chicks in the center’s newly acquired portable chick-hatching cart.

It was a family-friendly evening with approximately 150 people seated at tables stretched out upon the west lawn, overlooking the 160 acres of rolling hills that are Camp Milldale in the distance and the pastures, woods and farmland of Pearlstone in the foreground. The center’s potted plants and cut flowers decorated the tables, and fresh mint mojitos and watermelon coolers were offered to guests, as they arrived on a typically warm Baltimore summer evening.

The evening opened with a moment of silence in memory of the three teenage boys kidnapped in Israel whose bodies were found earlier in the day.

After the brief interlude, the program continued with First Vice President Rachel Steinberg Warschawski, who thanked the community for their support and reflected on the “justice, kindness and profound thanks for our natural gifts that is core to Pearlstone.”

Linda Hurwitz, chair of planning and allocations at The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, addressed the crowd next, praising the “innovation and reflection” that the center has provided for the community and introducing incoming board chair P.J. Pearlstone.

Pearlstone thanked the staff at the center for their “passion, talent, dedication and creativity” that has made the center what it is today. He also acknowledged the importance of standing “on the shoulders of past leaders” in anticipation of the leadership he will bring to the center.

He also announced the investment by the Pearlstone family of more than $2 million toward a capital expansion, including enhancements to the current facilities, an eventual on-site community village, a retreat center expansion and more farm facilities.

Moving forward, Pearlstone explained, the campus and grounds — including Milldale, which is owned by The Associated — will now be “managed holistically and known as the Pearlstone Campus for Living Judaism.” He added that he hoped the campus will have “an amazing impact for years to come.”

Pearlstone said that under the new direction, Pearlstone’s “warm hospitality, living Judaism and environmental stewardship” will still prevail and invoked the vision and generosity of his grandparents, Jack and Peggy Pearlstone, founders of the center.

Executive Director Jakir Manela said he was “inspired for the partnership of working together in the future” with the incoming chair and touched upon the many other partners in the community who support Pearlstone.

Manela had the honor of presenting the 2014 Pearlstone awards. The Retreat Group of the Year went to CLAL (the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership); Baltimore Hebrew Congregation received the Program Partner of the Year award; Volunteers of the Year were Eddie Wingrat and Aaron Shamberg; and Artist of the Year went to Balage Bologh for the murals of ancient Jerusalem he is currently painting in one of the meeting rooms.

Finally, Manela recognized outgoing board chair Vogelstein and called her “a no-nonsense woman” and thanked her for being “direct, honest, strategic and savvy.” She was presented with a plaque, which featured a painted landscape of the Pearlstone grounds and honored her service on the board.

Guests were invited to a dinner catered by the center with ingredients from Pearlstone’s gardens in addition to some local farms. The menu featured fresh kale chips, gazpacho, shaved fennel salad, poached salmon, vegetable strudel, corn muffins with raspberry jam and a chamomile and blueberry tart for dessert. JT

Associated Posts ‘Strong’ Numbers

Linda Hurwitz

Linda Hurwitz

Linda A. Hurwitz enjoys telling people at Jewish federations across the country that she hails from Baltimore. Hurwitz, who travels to Jewish communities in her capacity as national campaign chair of the Jewish Federations of North America, explained last week that Baltimore has a “reputation” in the federation world.

“We are rare,” she said during a meeting at the downtown offices of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, which recently released annual fundraising numbers, notable both in terms of their size and the fact that, the sluggish economic recovery notwithstanding, they did not decrease. “People know that our community and The Associated are exceptionally strong.”

At the same meeting, Michael Hoffman, chief planning and strategy officer for The Associated, called the $30 million raised through the federation’s unrestricted annual campaign “strong.”

“We’ve raised additional funds through other sources, including endowments and funds and foundations,” added Hoffman. “That brings our total amount of allocable dollars to $47.2 million.”

That is good news for the 14 agencies and programs that rely on funding from The Associated. According to Hoffman, all of them will receive at least 100 percent of the funding they received from the federation last year.

“In this age of restrained resources, we have raised the necessary dollars to keep our community whole while making sure that each dollar raised has the highest impact in meeting our mission, vision and values,” said Hurwitz, who, in addition to her role on the national stage, is outgoing chair of community planning and allocations and incoming chair-elect for The Associated.

Hurwitz pointed out that so many of The Associated’s donors make gifts that are unrestricted. Of the $17.2 million raised from sources other than the annual campaign, only $5 million was restricted by use.

“There is a trust factor when someone gives an unrestricted gift,” said Hurwitz. “They are saying, ‘I trust you to use my dollars to do what’s needed most.’”

Hurwitz credited internal auditing of Associated-funded programs with securing the trust of donors, as well as the federation’s goal of seeking feedback and recommendations from a broad swath of the Baltimore community through its commissions and committees.

Hoffman said that The Associated views its agencies as full partners.

“We meet with each agency two or sometimes three times a year and ask them what they need,” he explained. “There’s a level of transparency and a partnership that we’re proud of.”

Hurwitz noted that at one time, agency executives had the impression that they had to give The Associated a “dog-and-pony show” in order to obtain the funding they needed. Nowadays, she said, this is not the case.

“We don’t micro-manage the agencies,” said Hurwitz.

While The Associated will be funding most agencies and programs at the same level as last year — three specific programs, including the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore, are even seeing increases in funding — that doesn’t mean that they don’t have areas of special concentration.

“Even in 2008, when people were telling us to give all of their contributions to social service agencies, we knew we had to spend money on the next generations,” Hurwitz said. “We are making a concerted effort to appeal to younger people.”

One example, said Hurwitz, is the launching of The Associated’s new Center for Jewish Camping. Another example is by involving young adults in leadership programs through the Center for Community Engagement & Leadership and IMPACT. As a result, Hoffman said The Associated has enjoyed a 26 to 30 percent increase among younger donors to the annual campaign.

In addition to the JCC, which will receive extra funds to help its campers obtain financial aid, other agencies that will see their disbursements increase are Jewish Community Services and the Pearlstone Center.

In another nod to the importance of engaging younger Jews, the PJ Library will be expanded to serve families with older children, said Hurwitz.

“These are families that might not otherwise connect to the Jewish community,” she explained. “We’re going a step further by offering PJ Library on the Town and PJ Library theater programs.”

The Associated has also expanded PJ Library offerings by partnering with local synagogues and secular institutions such as the Maryland Zoo and the National Aquarium, where they can provide onsite Jewish learning opportunities.

“We meet them where they are,” said Hurwitz. “We’ve learned that young families don’t only live in the 21208, 21209 and 21215 ZIP codes. We’ve started offering downtown JCC programs. We engage wherever we can. You give us a pinky and we’ll take the whole arm and bring you in.”