Business as Usual?

062714_presbyterianWhile national Jewish leaders are predicting a rift in Jewish-Presbyterian relations following last week’s PCUSA General Assembly vote to divest from three American companies doing business with Israel, the situation likely will prove more affable in Baltimore.

“We have a lot of very strong relationships with the local Presbyterian Church” said Chana Siff, associate director of Israel and government relations at the Baltimore Jewish Council. “We have those relationships, we have our friends, I imagine we will not change that based upon ­what happened at a national level.”

After hours of at times emotional debate last Friday, June 20, the Presbyterian Church-USA approved a resolution by a vote of 310 to 303 to divest from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard, companies that resolution advocates said profit from West Bank security systems.

This was the second time in two years that the measure has been put to vote at the Presbyterian General Assembly. It was defeated by just two votes in 2012.

Some said this most recent decision, combined with a church assembly’s release of an anti-Zionist tract earlier this year called “Zionism Unsettled: A Congregational Study,” points toward a connection between the Presbyterian Church and groups that wish to dismantle Israel.

The “decision will undoubtedly have a devastating impact on relations between mainstream Jewish groups and the national Presbyterian Church (USA),” Rabbi Steve Gutow, the president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the umbrella body for Jewish public policy groups, said in a statement.

“We hold the leadership of the PCUSA accountable for squandering countless opportunities, not only to act responsibly to advance prospects for Middle East peace, but also to isolate and repudiate the radical, prejudiced voices in their denomination,” Gutow said.

Amendments added to the resolution during the course of the assembly sought to distance it from the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, a move that Siff said was meaningless given the intention of the resolution.

“If you’re divesting from three companies you can disassociate yourself as much as you’d like but you have participated in what the BDS movement stands for,” she said. “There’s no differentiating between those two things.”

The Anti-Defamation League, the Union for Reform Judaism, StandWithUs, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the American Jewish Committee all spoke out against the resolution, predicting strained relations in the future.

On the other side of the debate, Jewish Voice for Peace applauded the measure.

“We are grateful the church voted not to profit from the suffering of Palestinians under Israel’s 47-year-old occupation,” said the group’s deputy director, Cecile Surasky, in a statement. “Now that U.S.-backed peace talks have proven to be ineffective, we hope that others, including Jewish institutions, will follow suit. Divestment has become one of our best hopes for change.”

Rev. Craig Palmer, transitional general presbyter at the Presbytery of Baltimore, said he and other local Presbyterians are preparing for backlash.

“I’m aware, just from talking to some of our pastors, they are planning on connecting with rabbis that are … in their community or in their neighborhood where they’ve got relationships to have those conversations,” said Palmer. “The hope is that through dialogue we can continue to be in a relationship, and, obviously, all our desire is that peace may one day prevail throughout the region, and secure boundaries will be established, and no more shall there be war and violence.”

Additionally, Palmer pointed out that the commissioners sent from each region to the General Assembly are not there to vote for what they believe is popular in their local congregation. Rather, the commissioners sent to the assembly “are commissioned to discern God’s will at this time for the church in this place, in this day and age. This isn’t representative government,” he continued. “If a poll was taken of our denomination, I’m not sure where it would come out on divestment.”

The BJC’s Siff said her organization has not heard of any similar divestment efforts moving through any other Christian denominations, but the council is planning summer and fall campaigns to educate the public about Israel and strengthen relationships with the Baltimore’s Christian community.

“We will continue to advocate and share the facts with our friends so that they’re aware of them,” she said.

“Unfortunately this incident happened and they did pass this resolution but we have heard and we feel that the local position and the national position are two diverse positions,” said Siff, adding that those who voted on the measure are not necessarily representative of the whole Presbyterian Church. Conference commissioners are chosen each year from congregations around the country to represent their region and each assembly general consists of different commissioners.

“They are very frustrated,” Siff saif of the local Presbyterian groups the BJC has worked with. “They do not believe in divestment of the church. Many of them strongly support Israel. They recognize that Israel is not perfect but do not agree that divestment is the right way to go.” contributed to this story.

Police: Ner Tamid Children Not at Risk in Child Pornography Bust

After a Ner Tamid member and employee was arrested on child pornography charges, the congregation’s rabbi and its Montessori school president sent a letter out to congregants and parents assuring them that their children were not at risk.

“The Baltimore Police have made it clear, thus far, that no illegal activity took place on the synagogue or school’s premises,” read the letter, which was sent on June 18. “Most importantly, the authorities have assured us that they do not believe that the safety of our children was at any point compromised.”

Jonathan J. Lewin, 44, of the 6600 block of Edenvale Road in Baltimore, is charged with possession and distribution of child pornography. There is no evidence that Lewin had physical contact with those in the photographs, according to Baltimore County Police.

Ner Tamid Rabbi Yisrael Motzen said he was “rather shocked” when he heard the news and felt he had to tell congregants along with parents with students at the Montessori school, which is housed at Ner Tamid.

“If there’s any risk to anybody at any time, then as a synagogue and part of the community, we have an obligation to warn [congregants] of any potential issues,” he said. “Thankfully, the police have confirmed that, as of what they know right now, they don’t believe any illegal activity took place on our premises, and we are grateful and thankful that’s the case.”

Lewin was a member and a part-time employee who helped the synagogue’s custodial staff, Motzen said.

A May 16 investigation by a detective with the Baltimore County Police Department Crimes Against Children Unit found that a source at the home on Edenvale Road was sharing pornographic images of children. The detectives obtained a warrant to search the home and seized numerous hard drives, some of which had child pornography on them. Lewin, who was found to be responsible for the images, was taken into custody during the search on June 12.

Lewin was released on $75,000 bail, and the incident is still under investigation.

Baltimore Joins Three Yellow Ribbons Campaign

(From left): Lainy LeBow-Sachs, president of the BJC, Linda Hurwitz, chair-elect of The Associated, and Jason Blavatt, co-chair of The Associated’s Israel and Overseas Committee, tie three yellow ribbons around the Weinberg Park Heights JCC’s sign.  (Provided)

(From left): Lainy LeBow-Sachs, president of the BJC, Linda Hurwitz, chair-elect of The Associated, and Jason Blavatt, co-chair of The Associated’s Israel and Overseas Committee, tie three yellow ribbons around the Weinberg Park Heights JCC’s sign. (Provided)

As Israeli police and military continue their search for three teenagers who were kidnapped on June 12, the Baltimore Jewish community continues to show its support for the families and the Jewish state by joining the Three Yellow Ribbons campaign.

The campaign, started by the Embassy of Israel to the United States, has Jewish organizations tying three yellow ribbons around their signs and from trees.

“Nobody in Israel or anywhere else in the world should experience what these boys are facing,” said Linda Hurwitz, chair-elect of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. “They’re our boys, we don’t just think of them as three boys in Israel.”

Yeshiva students Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Frenkel, 16, were kidnapped on June 12 from Gush Etzion in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he holds the Palestinian Authority, which recently formed a government with Hamas, and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas responsible.

Hurwitz, along with Baltimore Jewish Council President Lainy LeBow-Sachs and co-chair of The Associated’s Israel and Overseas Committee Jason Blavatt, tied three yellow ribbons around the Weinberg Park Heights JCC’s sign Monday morning.

“This is what the Jewish community does,” LeBow-Sachs said. “People are going to tie ribbons all over until those boys are let go.”

Rabbi Chaim Landau, president of the Baltimore Board of Rabbis, read a prayer in the form of a poem for the group after the ribbons were tied.

“Oh God, please bring back our boys, and let us say, amen,” the prayer ended.

The hashtag #BringBackOurBoys went viral on social media after the kidnapping. Prior to the yellow ribbon campaign, synagogues throughout the Baltimore area held psalm recitations, and Jewish organizations such as The Associated and the Jewish Federation of Howard County expressed their support for Israel and kidnapped teens’ families and denounced the kidnappings.

At the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC on Monday morning, Baltimore County Councilwoman Vicki Almond was joined by JCC of Greater Baltimore President Barak Hermann, Jewish Community Services Executive Director Barbara Gradet and The Associated’s Chief Planning and Strategy Officer Michael Hoffman, as she and Chana Siff, associated director of Israel and government relations for the BJC, tied ribbons around the JCC’s sign.

“All of us who have children get what those families are going through,” Gradet said. “These teens are our children too.”

Hoffman said the ribbons serve as reminder that the boys are still missing.

“They need to stay in our thoughts,” he said.

New Outlook for Myerberg

062714_seniorclassesIt’s not news that people are living longer and staying healthier than ever before. Baby boomers don’t feel like senior citizens, they don’t behave like senior citizens, and they may not envision themselves spending time at a senior center. At the Edward A. Myerberg Center in Pikesville, board and staff members get it. About two years ago, the center, which is open to people 55 and up, removed the word “senior” from its title, and according to director of life-long learning Autumn Sadovnik, the center’s name isn’t the only thing that’s evolved.

“The Myerberg Center is no longer a place where people just come to have lunch and play cards,” said Sadovnik. “We just had 25 people in an advanced aerobics class. One member, who trained at our fitness center, is now riding his bike across Europe. We are growing and diversifying our offerings in fitness and wellness, academics and the arts,” she said. “It’s become a place where people can come and do the things they may have not had time to do when their work schedules were heavier.”

Some members, Sadovnik added, still have full-time jobs, and the center is expanding its hours to accommodate them. For example, now the fitness center is open three evenings per week, and the center is beginning to schedule fitness classes in that time slot as well.

The Myerberg Center’s summer program lineup reflects the changing needs and varied interests of its members.

Sadovnik said the program kicked off on June 2 with a program called, “Down Memory Lane with Camp Louise.” Former campers saw a slide show with photos from Camp Louise from its earliest days to today and shared a traditional camp lunch.

“We served sticky buns with cottage cheese,” a treat Sadovnik, a 1990s-era Louise camper, said was once a camp tradition. “The women saw photos of themselves and their mothers! It was really a great day.”

On June 8, the Myerberg hosted its annual Grace Schnitzer summer art show, and on July 25, members will have lunch and be treated to a performance by the Tzofim Israel Scouts.

Other new and expanding programs include the Bagel Boys men’s club, technology workshops and classes such as introduction to poetry, Tai Chi, digital photography and conversational Yiddish.

The Myerberg’s Dorothy Orfus Stein art program is already well known for its high quality. The center has also formed partnerships with the Jewish Museum of Maryland, the Baltimore Zionist District and the Creative Alliance, enabling innovative programs that include the museum’s salon series, Creative Alliance’s intergenerational lantern-making workshop and a series called “Israel Promise and Politics” taught by Israeli scholars and AIPAC and BZD members.  There will also be an expanded music program, a genealogy course and a World War II program taught by a survivor of the Japanese occupation.

The Myerberg Center’s state-of-the-art fitness center, built in 2008, may be the best deal in town. The 2400-square-foot facility features strength-training equipment, cardio machines and free weights. For $30 per hour, members can work with one of the center’s personal trainers. The cost for membership at the Myerberg Center is $42 per year, and membership at the fitness center costs $315 per year. Fitness classes include aerobics, circuit training, Zumba and yoga. And although much of the center’s new programs are geared toward the “younger” set, the Myerberg Center hasn’t forgotten its older and frailer population. They also offer chair Zumba, chair Pilates, seniorcize and a new miniseries called Exercise for Strong Bones. “That program has really taken off,” Sadovnik noted. “Sometimes women who haven’t worked out before think they can’t do it. But that shouldn’t stop them. Everyone who signed up for the strong bones series ended up registering for aerobics. Not only do we see people living longer, they are living better.”

Other area senior centers are also offering new and innovative programs for the summer months. At Pikesville Senior Center, July programs include wellness-themed programs such as a lunch and learn program on reflexology, a brain fitness presentation and a Salad Extravaganza on July 9. For the politically minded, the center will sponsor a Q&A session with Sue Cohen, a representative for Congressman Michael Sarbanes, on July 8. On July 14, members can attend a Jewish history discussion with Rabbi Dovid Lefkowitz, director of senior Jewish learning at the Etz Chaim Center. The Pikesville Senior Center also boasts a state-of-the-art fitness center, where classes in Zumba and yoga are offered.

Area community colleges waive tuition for adult learners over 60 years old. Offerings include arts courses such as painting and drawing, computer literacy courses in social media and Adobe photoshop, history and politics. With campuses located in Hunt Valley, Catonsville and Owings Mills, as well as online, the courses are easy to access.

And don’t forget the JCC. Both locations offer group fitness, acquatics and ceramics classes specifically geared toward older adults, said Melissa Berman. In addition, the JCC presents its Warm Houses programs, which “are designed to develop connections among seniors to create a support system and connected community,” said Berman. “Groups gather weekly in their homes, in their own comfort zones, [and seniors have a chance] to participate in conversational activities and educational activities. Participants also gather monthly for large-scale special programs with featured presenters and opportunities to interact in a larger group setting.”

Warm Houses programs take place at Weinberg Village and other residential facilities along the Park Heights Avenue corridor.

For more information, about summer programs for seniors, contact the Edward A. Myerberg Center ( at 410-358-6856; the Pikesville Senior Center (baltimore at 410-887-1245; and the JCC ( at 410-356-5200.

Brown, Hogan Best Opponents



Supporters of Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown entered the crowded University of Maryland’s Samuel RIGS IV Alumni Center Tuesday night already prepared to celebrate his win in the Democratic primary race for governor.

“We’re ready to party,” declared Marilyn Kresky-Wolff of Potomac, long before the official election results began appearing on the huge television screen supporters had gathered to watch. Brown beat his nearest opponent, Attorney General Doug Gansler, 51 to 24 percent.

Brown and his running mate will  face off against Republicans Lawrence J. Hogan Jr., a Cabinet secretary under former Gov. Bob Ehrlich, and attorney Boyd Rutherford in the Nov. 4 general election. The Hogan-Rutherford team won the Republican primary with 43 percent of the vote, defeating three other candidate teams.

Sporting a bright blue Brown-Ullman T-shirt, Jen Brock-Cancellieri of Baltimore couldn’t contain her excitement about Brown’s primary victory. “I think that he has the commitment to the issues I care about like clean air for every Marylander, protecting families from pesticides and investing in renewable energy,” said Jen Brock-Cancellieri, deputy director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters.

When the votes were in, a jubilant Brown took the podium as the Democratic nominee, and as he has done throughout his campaign, waxed hopeful about a Maryland that offers great schools for all and quality middle class jobs. He offered few specifics about his plan on the campaign trail, however, and offered no more on election night. He told a cheering crowd: “It’s up to all of us to decide what the future will look like over the next four years.”

Meanwhile, at the Marriot Hotel and Convention Center in North Bethesda, Gansler spoke to a dwindling, but warm audience.

“If today’s voting and turnout shows anything, it is that people are very frustrated in our state,” Gansler told the 100 or so supporters who had gathered inside the hotel’s ballroom. “The middle class is being squeezed by taxes going up and getting less from a government that is supposed to work for them.”

Calling himself a fighter, Gansler conceded that he had lost this bout: “We fell short today, not from a lack of hard work or conviction or dedication. We worked hard, you all worked hard … But tomorrow we wake up, we shake off the dust and we each do what we can to help others build a better life here in Maryland,” he continued. “That’s our mission, that’s our cause and that’s our fight.”

Turning already to that upcoming race in his victory speech, Brown promised that his party would create a better future for all Marylanders, while predicting that Republicans would whittle away the achievements the O’Malley administration made by cutting taxes and public programs.

Brown and running mate Howard County Executive Ken Ulman led in the polls right from the start of the campaign, maintaining their often-double-digit lead throughout the race. Brown campaigned on his record as a member of the O’Malley administration and his intention to bridge the gap between rich and poor, institute universal prekindergarten and create new jobs. Brown often cited health care reform as a major focus of his campaign despite the dismal start of Maryland’s new health-insurance exchange, for which he was the point person.

U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards, a Democrat representing Maryland’s 4th District, was a strong Brown supporter right from the start. “I think Anthony Brown has demonstrated the temperament, the integrity and the leadership to move our state forward,” Edwards said.

If victorious — and Maryland has only elected one Republican governor in the past 48 years — Brown will become Maryland’s first African American governor. The fact that Brown is African American and Gansler is Jewish did not appear to have much of an impact on the race, agreed Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, and Karen Barall, Mid-Atlantic director of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center.

The JCRC has good relations with both Brown and Gansler, according to Halber, who noted that both men have had “a ton of exposure” and have attended many Jewish events. About 10 years ago, the JCRC took Brown to Israel, Halber recalled, adding that he believed that regardless of whether Brown or Gansler had been victorious, the Jewish community is “well situated. We have friends and allies in both” political camps. Also, Halber said, both men were “predisposed toward helping the Jewish community.”

The JCRC asked all the candidates for governor five questions earlier this year, including what they believe can be done to strengthen business ties between Maryland and Israel. “As governor, one of my first trade visits will be to Israel, in order to further strengthen our trade and business  relationships,” Brown responded, adding that the O’Malley-Brown team had increased the state’s annual grant to the Maryland/Israel Development Center from $100,000 to $275,000 currently and invested $20 million in Israel bonds.

In February, Brown attended a meeting with the Orthodox Union and spoke of his vision of universal prekindergarten that included nonpublic schools and the importance of tight security in schools.

On election morning, Ira Ungar, who voted at the Col. E. Brooke Lee Middle School in Kemp Mill, said that Brown’s reputation for integrity would be prove to be his biggest selling point as a candidate.

Brown graduated from Harvard University, where he was a member of the Army ROTC. After graduation, he spent five years flying helicopters with the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Division in Europe. He then returned to Harvard law school, where one of his classmates was Barack Obama.

After law school, Brown clerked for Chief Judge Eugene Sullivan of the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. He then practiced law before becoming a member of the Maryland House of Delegates in the 25th District.

During his second term as a delegate, Brown was deployed to Baghdad in 2004 for 10 months where he delivered humanitarian assistance, receiving a Bronze Star for his efforts.

He returned to the House of Delegates, where O’Malley, who was mayor of Baltimore at the time, asked him to be his lieutenant governor.

Dmitriy Shapiro and Simone Ellin contributed to this report.

Frosh Wins Primary

Surrounded by his supporters, Maryland state Sen. Brian Frosh, the Democratic Party nominee for attorney general, delivers his victory speech on Tuesday night at the Woman’s Club of Chevy Chase. (Marc Shapiro)

Surrounded by his supporters, Maryland state Sen. Brian Frosh, the Democratic Party nominee for attorney general, delivers his victory speech on Tuesday night at the Woman’s Club of Chevy Chase. (Marc Shapiro)

Brian Frosh had trouble getting to the stage at his election party Tuesday night to give his victory speech. The Democratic candidate for Maryland attorney general was bombarded with hugs and handshakes as supporters cheered, applauded, took photos and cellphone videos.

“You guys won this election,” Frosh, a state senator, told those gathered at the Woman’s Club of Chevy Chase. “I will do everything I can to make sure that people in Maryland are safe in their neighborhoods, in schools, at home, online, that people have clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, they’re free from frauds and cheats and scams, and I will fight like hell for justice.”

Frosh defeated Dels. Jon Cardin (District 11) and Aisha Braveboy (District 25). He will face two challengers, a Republican and a Libertarian, in the general election.

“We ran a great race, we ran a positive race,” Cardin told supporters at his election night party in Baltimore. Moments before, he had called Frosh to congratulate him on the victory. “I hope that [Frosh] will look out for the interests of all Marylanders.”

Frosh, for his part, said he’d seek the advice of Cardin and Braveboy.

“I’d like to emphasize a number of things: public safety, environmental protection, consumer protection [and] equal opportunity,” he said. “I’m looking for ways to protect Marylanders and improve their lives.”

Frosh, an attorney with a private practice in the Washington, D.C., area, has been representing his Montgomery County district in the state Senate since 1987. He is chair of that body’s Judicial Proceedings Committee, vice chair of the Rules Committee and sits on the Executive Nominations and Legislative Policy committees.

Frosh was endorsed by many high-ranking current and former Maryland politicians, including Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Frosh’s legislative accomplishments touch on issues such as gun safety, domestic violence, environmental protection, infant safety and open meetings. He was the lead Senate sponsor of the Firearm Safety Act of 2013, which banned assault weapons and ammunition magazines of more than 10 rounds. He advocated for legislation ensuring that companies drilling near water supplies will be held responsible for contamination, that allows Maryland residents to bring suit to enforce the Open Meetings Law and that eases the burden of proof required for domestic violence victims to obtain protective orders, among others.

Frosh won the three-way race with 49 percent of the vote. Cardin trailed with 31 percent, and Braveboy took 20 percent of the vote.

“People feel his integrity,” said Mary Silva, who coordinated canvassers for Frosh’s campaign. “This is a fair, just human being.”

As she was canvassing, she found it easy to speak to people face-to-face about Frosh.

“It’s easy to talk to people … when the candidate has the qualifications, the work history,” she said. “It’s very easy to lay out why he should be attorney general.”

Rob Smith, vice president of Fitzgerald Auto Mall, said he’s supporting Frosh because he needs a pro-consumer attorney general.

“He may not always agree, but he’ll listen,” Smith said.

In November, Frosh faces Jeffrey Pritzker, a Republican Towson attorney, and Leo Dymowski, a Libertarian Maryland Parole Commission hearing officer.

Pritzker, grew up in Baltimore City and County. He was a published staff member of the Maryland Law Review as a student at the University of Maryland School of Law. He is a partner at Margolis, Pritzker, Epstein & Blatt P.A. He has almost 40 years of experience as an attorney. He previously ran for attorney general in 2002, losing in the Republican primary by two percentage points to Edwin MacVaugh, who lost in the general election to J. Joseph Curran Jr. Pritzker is a member of Beth El Congregation in Baltimore.

Pritzker says if elected he would reform the tax system, examine state regulatory agencies and expand arbitration and mediation services at the attorney general’s office.

Dymowski, a Dundalk resident, spent 15 years as a trial attorney prior to his current position. He holds a master’s degree in urban planning and management, which he earned while working for the Housing Authority of Baltimore City. He served as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. In 2002, he ran for Congress in Maryland’s 2nd District, losing to Dutch Ruppersberger.

Dymowski says he would work to stop the arrest, prosecution and incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders, which his website says would reduce crime, save taxpayer money, pave the way for marijuana legalization and protect students from losing financial aid or being denied college admission for minor drug offenses.

The Maryland attorney general is the state’s chief legal officer; the office is not term-limited. The attorney general serves as the legal adviser to virtually every state government agency, and houses several divisions and units within the office including Antitrust, Consumer Protection and Educational Affairs divisions; Environmental Crimes, Internet Privacy and Juvenile Justice Monitoring units, among others.

Other Primary Winners
• Dutch Ruppersberger — Congressional District 2 (D)
• John Sarbanes — Congressional District 3 (D)
• Charles Long — Congressional District 3 (R)
• Delores Kelley — State senate District 10 (D)
• Lisa Gladden — State senate District 41 (D)
• Adrienne Jones, Jay Jalisi, Benjamin Brooks — House of Delegates District 10 (D)
•  Shelly Hettleman, Dana Stein, Dan Morhaim — House of Delegates District 11 (D)
• Jill Carter, Nathaniel Oaks, Samuel “Sandy” Rosenberg — House of Delegates District 41 (D)
• Kevin Kamenetz — Baltimore County Executive (D)
• George Harman — Baltimore County Executive (R)
• Vicki Almond — Councilmanic District 2 (D)
• A. Wade Koch — Councilmanic District 3 (R)
• Julian Earl Jones — Councilmanic District 4 (D)


Heather Norris contributed to this report.

Gansler Visits Seven Mile

Attorney General Doug Gansler, who is running for governor, spent the morning at Seven Mile Market talking to customers and employees.

Attorney General Doug Gansler, who is running for governor, spent the morning at Seven Mile Market talking to customers and employees.

On Friday morning, sporting a bright orange Baltimore Orioles tie, gubernatorial candidate Doug Gansler toured Seven Mile Market in Pikesville doing some last minute schmoozing with members of the Jewish community.
“Good Shabbos,” he told passers-by. When asked what brings him to the kosher supermarket, Gansler joked, “I want to remind people to vote. It turns out there’s an election on Tuesday.”
Gansler said that he has a long-time connection to the Jewish community. “We spent Pesachs with my mother’s college roommate on Marcy Drive,” he said.
“We need a candidate who knows Baltimore and knows the Jewish community,” continued the Democrat. “I’ve been doing this for 22 years. That’s the difference between me and the other candidates. I have a record.”
Gansler met Chava Elgamil and her 13-year-old daughter, Kayla, in the ice cream aisle where they were deciding on what flavor to buy. Elgamil, a Pikesville resident, said she plans to cast her vote for Gansler on Tuesday.
“He has a good track record, but mostly I don’t like how things are going in this country and I feel like Brown will just be an extension of that. He has the same political affiliations as the current governor. We need someone different.”

Singing In Sisterhood

Chevy Chase was the scene of the annual Women Cantors’ Network Conference earlier this week, as more than 80 cantors, educators, soloists and other Jewish musical professionals filed in to town for the biggest WCN event of the year.

“It’s a great way to reconnect with our roots,” said Lisa Levine, who chaired the event as cantor at the host congregation, Temple Shalom.

WCN has members from denominations including Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist from all over the world, something that Levine considers one of the organization’s strongest assets.

“We cross denominational boundaries,” she said. “We’re trans-Judaic.”

The conference program reflected the diversity of the group’s membership.

Speakers both from within the organization and from outside addressed topics that affect cantors from all denominations of Judaism. One talk focused on creating music that appeals to all demographics represented in congregations. Another talked about strategies for helping congregants deal with loss. Another  discussed ways female cantors can bring some of the rituals and practices of Jewish women into the congregation.

“So many of us are isolated and don’t get the opportunity to listen to music and learn new music,” said Levine, adding that WCN fills that need.

Levine joined the organization in 2011 after attending one of WCN’s conferences to promote a book she had written on yoga and Judaism.

“I just totally fell in love with this group of women,” she said. “It’s a great group.”

But not all members of WCN are women.

“The conference has a sense of camaraderie that appeals to me,” said Alan Rubinstein, one of the group’s few male members. He tried other cantor groups, but WCN offered him the support he was looking for, and the opportunity to meet and learn from leaders from other denominations was an added bonus.

“This is a very warm group,” added Rubinstein, who is cantor emeritus at Baltimore’s Bolton Street Synagogue.

This year’s conference was titled Roots and Wings, a name that reflects WCN’s mission to both connect to the past and move toward the future. One of the highlights involved touring the Library of Congress to see some of the Yiddish documents housed in the nation’s capital.

Jinny Marsh co-chaired the event with Levine. She has been a member of WCN since 1992, when female synagogue leaders were few and far between. Since then, she said, WCN has provided a support system for women as they begin to play a bigger role in synagogue life.

“It’s a collective of knowledge and support,” she said of the organization. In addition to the yearly conference, WCN operates a listserv where members can email questions or concerns and receive input from fellow Jewish musical professionals in response.

“We’re there to help each other grow and learn,” said Marsh.

Along with programs and workshops for attendees, the conference also featured more than 20 vendors selling jewelry, CDs and other Judaica. Ten percent of the proceeds made by venders at the event were donated to dreamMakerS, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that serves children of parents with multiple sclerosis.

Orthodontist’s App Expands To Five Languages

With technology for braces improving, Orthodontist Michael Noorani thought he could leverage other available technologies to help patients.

In January 2013, he launched AlignerMeter, an app that has patients take photos of their teeth which can help orthodontists determine if they are good candidates for invisible aligners.

On Thursday, June 12, the app expanded to include five languages. While it had previously included English, Chinese and Italian, the new version of the app includes Portuguese and Spanish.

“I noticed that there’s a vast majority of adults, they have crooked teeth or they’re not happy about their teeth,” he said. “They don’t want to get braces so they don’t feel like there’s a lot of options out there.”

The app has users take three photos of their teeth — one of the front and one of each side — which Noorani can look at and decide if they’re good candidates for invisible aligners such as Invisalign.

Noorani, a partner in Cramer and Noorani Orthodontics, which has offices in Glen Burnie, White Marsh and Bel Air, networked with international orthodontists on LinkedIn, who helped him with the other languages on the app.

The app gets about 50 downloads a week, and Noorani himself has seen 12 new patients. Six of them have started using invisible aligners, and he’s working with the other six on their cases.

While the app isn’t producing any revenue for Noorani, he hopes it will in the future. Patients using the app can search for an orthodontist in their area, and he’s hoping as the app spreads, doctors will pay fees to be listed higher up in those lists.

“We’re having kind of an exciting time to see how it works out,” Noorani said. “It’s been very interesting. It’s like a little hobby.”

JT Polls Are Now Open

As part of an effort to open up its news-gathering operation to its readers, the Baltimore Jewish Times has launched a regular feature of online polls designed to provoke audience engagement and contributions.

“There are a host of issues that we cover, and we don’t only want to listen to the experts,” said Editor-in-Chief Joshua Runyan. “Nobody knows what you want better than you.”

The feature launched June 13 by asking readers who they would be voting for in the June 24 Maryland gubernatorial primaries. Less than a week later, more than 300 readers had responded online, with 35 percent choosing Democrat Doug Gansler, the state’s attorney general. Del. Heather Mizeur, another Democratic candidate, won 19 percent of the votes, while Lieutenant Gov. Anthony Brown — the favorite among statewide polls of the Democratic field — received 17 percent.

On the Republican side, Harford County Executive David Craig received 19 percent of the total votes, with businessman Larry Hogan coming in second place. Del. Ron George and Marine reservist Charles Lollar tied for third.

This week, the JT wants to know: Should the U.S. increase its troop commitment in Iraq beyond protecting the embassy in Baghdad?

Go to to cast your vote, and stay tuned for the results.