Fun for All

The JCC held its first community block party at the Weinberg Owings Mills JCC on Sunday, June 8. Approximately 4,000 people attended, 110 faces were painted by Sophia Rosman, about 300 hot dogs and sausages and 250 hamburgers were served, four bands performed while a DJ entertained on the baseball field. Community members interacted with 80 vendors and 60 program partners, and 1,000 people attended the after-party in the Rec park.
— Photos by Marc Shapiro

A Political Breakfast

Montgomery County Councilmember Roger Berliner said that private school transportation is an urgent priority for some of his constituents. (Photo by Larry Luxner)

Montgomery County Councilmember Roger Berliner said that private school transportation is an urgent priority for some of his constituents. (Photo by Larry Luxner)

Some 500 religious Jews crowded into a Potomac synagogue Sunday morning for kosher deli food and the opportunity to schmooze with 50 local elected officials and candidates — only two weeks before Maryland’s June 24 primaries.

The inaugural OU Advocacy-MD Legislative Breakfast, organized by the public policy arm of the New York-based Orthodox Union, took place at Potomac’s Beth Sholom Congregation and Talmud Torah. At the top of OU’s agenda: educational affordability and parity for nonpublic school students.

Maury Litwack, the organization’s director of state political affairs and outreach, said the No. 1 issue for his members is Jewish education. More than 3,000 children attend Jewish day schools in the D.C.-metro area, while more than 5,500 do so in Baltimore.

Other issues of importance to OU-Advocacy include transportation, universal pre-K education, special-needs funding, safety and security for Maryland’s Jewish day schools and synagogues through Department of Homeland Security grants, funding for secular textbooks for all nonpublic schools and passage of Maryland’s education tax-credit bill.

“This is an opportunity for elected officials to understand issues that we care about, and for community members to understand that the politicians are open to hearing about these issues,” Litwack told Washington Jewish Week.

Litwack said the OU has no problem with public funds going to senior-citizen homes or other social services. But some voters get offended by the concept of public assistance to private religious schools — if only to defray transportation costs for parents whose taxes support public schools even though their children don’t attend them.

“Vouchers are a four-letter word for most politicians,” he said. “If an elected official is not informed and we don’t do our due diligence, they will automatically jump to the conclusion that any form of funding to the Jewish community is vouchers. So you’ve got to start small.”

Last month, Montgomery County officials conducted a trial for the final two weeks of school at Rockville’s Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy, during which 207 students rode yellow county school buses. That took about 100 cars and minivans off the road.

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett said he wants to expand that trial into “a full-scale system that is right for our parents and our schools.”

Leggett, who received a loud round of applause upon his introduction, said that in his native Louisiana, parishes — which are equivalent to counties — already do many of these things.

“And that’s what we should be doing here. Think about the impact to families,” he said. “This is about fairness. It’s long overdue, and I’m glad we have over 50 elected officials to hear this.

“Many others feel the same way,” he continued. “Hopefully you will continue your advocacy and move beyond a pilot to something we can be proud of, and put this issue behind us once and for all.”

Silver Spring resident Sam Melamed, a lay leader with OU Advocacy-MD Leadership, said the average Jewish private school tuition in Montgomery County runs $15,000 to $20,000 per child — a huge expense for middle-class families like his own.

“It’s important that we have a chance to convey to these politicians the pain that families feel,” he explained.

Other speakers at the Potomac breakfast included Nathan Diament, the OU’s executive director for public policy; local delegate Anne Kaiser, chair of the Montgomery County House Delegation; and Craig Rice, president of the Montgomery County Council. U.S. Rep. John Delaney, a Democrat representing Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, was scheduled to speak but canceled for personal reasons.

Roger Berliner, a member of the Montgomery County Council who’s running for re-election, told Washington Jewish Week following the breakfast that private school transportation is an urgent priority for a number of his Jewish constituents.

“It’s not an inconsequential issue,” said the politician, whose District 1 covers Bethesda, Garrett Park and Chevy Chase. “About a year ago, I met with leaders of the Orthodox Jewish community. That community has said to me, ‘We’d be prepared to change our school hours if we could have a surplus bus from the school system.’ I think we can build off that pilot program. It will change peoples’ lives.”

Six months ago, he said, the OU gave its Maryland chapter seed money to hire Karen Paikin Barall as the advocacy group’s mid-Atlantic regional director.

“When Karen goes to Rockville and Annapolis to lobby on our behalf and advocate for our schools, we want every legislator to see not only this sea of 500 faces behind her, but also the thousands of other people who were not able to make this event,” said Melamed.

Larry Luxner is a Washington-based freelance writer.

Greenberg Gift Funds Hopkins Bladder Cancer Center

On the heels of National Bladder Cancer Awareness Month, the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center announced a plan to create the Johns Hopkins Greenberg Bladder Cancer Institute.

The Institute will be built in part with funds donated by Erwin Greenberg and Stephanie Cooper Greenberg. The gift from the Greenberg family is part of a $45 million co-investment with Johns Hopkins University.

Stephanie Greenberg hopes that the donation will be “a game-changer” in an underserved and under-recognized area of cancer treatment.

The family worked with Hopkins for more than a year to develop a plan for a dedicated bladder cancer clinic, for which the family’s gift would provide seed funding. For now, the clinic will be housed on the Hopkins campus while work is done to build the Institute a permanent home.

The dedicated clinic will provide more research dollars for doctors and scientists developing ways to treat bladder cancer and better access to care, therapies and screening for those diagnosed with the illness, said Greenberg.

About 55,000 men and 18,000 women will be diagnosed with bladder cancer each year in the United States, estimates the National Cancer Institute. Once diagnosed, most patients undergo surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, intravesical therapy or a combination of therapies.

“It’s always a good thing that can spare many lives and also do a lot of good, that’s what we’d like to have happen,” said Greenberg. “We feel good about it. We think it’s going in the right direction.”

hnorris@jewishtimes.com

Jewish Camp Counselors Take Birthright Trip

Counselors from Camps Louise and Airy and Capital Camps were treated to a 10-day trip to Israel, thanks to a collaboration between Birthright Israel and The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore’s Center for Jewish Camping. The 14 counselors spent 10 days together visiting Jerusalem, the Galilei, the Golan Heights and Tel Aviv and taking in iconic Israeli landmarks such as the Western Wall, Masada, the Dead Sea and Yad Vashem. They hiked, swam, ate, rode camels and participated in a volunteer project in Ashkelon, Baltimore’s sister city.

According to Barbara Schlaff, co-chair of the Center for Jewish Camping, the trip’s mission went beyond sightseeing.

“We have focused a lot of our attention on Jewish day schools and Israel trips as ways of strengthening Jewish identity for young people. We know that Jewish camping is the third leg of the stool. The theory behind the trip is that combining an Israel experience with a camping experience will compound the impact on these young people. The combination of Israel travel and Jewish camping is very powerful,” said Schlaff.

The brainchild of Camp Airy director, Jonathan Gerstl and Capital Camps director, Jonah Geller, the trip sought to create bonds between the counselors and the three camps which are situated within a half-hour of one another and created counselors better equipped and more passionate about sharing the camps’ Israel curricula with their campers.

This is the first time that Birthright Israel, the Associated and the three camps have come together to provide a trip such as this. Schlaff is hopeful that funding for the trip will be available again next year.

sellin@jewishtimes.com

Head Wrapping Team Hosts Baltimore Event

061314_wrapunzelBaltimore-based Wrapunzel, a company and website offering help and instruction on head wrapping, hosted its first Baltimore event earlier this month.

The event featured scarves for purchase in addition to tools and techniques to help women get creative with their head coverings.

“There’s an art to it and a science to it,” said Rivka Malka Perlman, one quarter of the four-person team behind Wrapunzel. She, along with husband Bezalel and partners Andrea and Yonatan Grinberg, started operating the company in January. Both women had spent years prior to Wrapunzel making and posting head wrapping tutorials.

An adherent of traditional Jewish customs mandating the covering of a married woman’s hair but not a fan of wigs, Perlman had always admired the way Israeli women were able to wrap their hair in big, colorful updos. “I would just experiment all the time,” she said. The secret, she learned, was using more than one scarf. On any given day Perlman said her head wrap can include as few as two or as many five scarves wound and tied together.

Though Perlman and Andrea Grinberg began their tutorials as a resource for other Jewish women, head wrapping, Perlman said, has brought them together with women from all different walks of life. The first head wrapping expo the pair attended together was a largely Muslim event.

“I feel like when a woman wears a scarf, there’s something very relatable about her,” said Perlman. “It’s just like the light shines out of her face.”

Since both women are residents of the Baltimore area, their local event was a little more low-key than some of the other expos they’ve participated in. It’s fun just to see the confidence a colorful wrap gives a woman, said Perlman.

After all, she said, “We’re not here to sell, we’re here to share.”

hnorris@jewishtimes.com

The Battle for District 2

Paula Hollinger hasn’t held an elected office since 2007, when she left the Maryland State Senate after an attempted run for U.S. Congress.

After nearly three decades in the Maryland General Assembly, having first been elected as a delegate in 1979, she opted not to return to her state senate seat.

“Twenty-eight years was a long time,” said Hollinger, who is now associated director of health workforce at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “I left a nice trail of good things behind me.”

But at least one person thought she should get back into the politics game. In March, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz approached her on the steps of the state house with a proposition, she said.

Vicki Almond (Marc Shapiro)

Vicki Almond
(Marc Shapiro)

He asked her if she would be willing run against incumbent District 2 Councilwoman Vicki Almond or state Sen. Bobby Zirkin.

“My answer was, ‘No,’” she said. “I said, ‘I’m not running anymore, and I’m not fundraising anymore’ and the answer was, ‘Well, we can take care of that.’”

After a series of contentious zoning decisions that pitted Almond against developers, it seems her standing with Kamenetz and certain developers has turned sour, and a steady effort to replace her has coalesced. So when Jon Herbst declared his candidacy in the Democratic primary for Baltimore County’s District 2 Council seat, the race had already emerged as one of the most hotly contested local primaries in Maryland.

With accusations of changing parties for political expediency and candidates being backed by development money, shifting political allegiances and a history of heated zoning debates, the race for the county’s Second District has amounted to a complicated and somewhat hostile contest.

Kamenetz, along with executives from Towson-based developer Caves Valley Partners, has been a player in the race through a campaign fund called A Better Baltimore County Slate. Through slates, contributors can back multiple preferred candidates. The fund lists Herbst, Kamenetz and District 7 Councilman John Olszewski Sr., who is not running for re-election, as affiliated candidates.

In a report filed by the slate published on May 27, there were two $6,000 poll-related expenditures paid in May to Annapolis-based OpinionWorks and a $16,307.51 expenditure paid to Baltimore-based Fontaine and Company for consulting and phone services.

Jon Herbst (Marc Shapiro)

Jon Herbst
(Marc Shapiro)

And at least one area resident believes a phone call she received from a pollster in May came from a group working on behalf of Herbst due to its focus on the County Council race and the phrasing of some questions.

“From the questions, that’s what made me realize who these people were working for and for what reason,” said Pikesville resident Jean Carton, who answered the pollster’s questions with her husband, Buddy.

The pollster asked Carton who she is voting for in the governor’s race, if she wants to see Almond re-elected, if she thinks the county executive is doing a good job and what the most important issue facing her in the election is.

It also asked if she was more or less likely to vote for someone who accepted money and favors from developers, is a woman, is Jewish (Herbst is Jewish), has been described as ineffective because of “her” reputation of not working well with County Council colleagues and the county executive, has been described as fiscally irresponsible because of shortsighted zoning decisions, has increased the number of failed businesses and made zoning decisions without considering the impact on small businesses, Carton said.

It also asked for her take on Foundry Row, a development in Owings Mills that will be anchored by Wegmans, which was the subject of a heated zoning battle. Almond and the Baltimore County Council ultimately rezoned the property — the former Solo Cup factory — for retail in August 2012, despite protest from neighboring developers, including Howard Brown, chairman of David S. Brown Enterprises.

Between August and September, seven contributors tied to Caves Valley donated $23,000 to A Better Baltimore County Slate. Between January and May, seven other developer-linked donors, six of which did not contribute in the previous period, gave an additional $14,000 to the slate. While Kamenetz originally transferred $101,500 from his own campaign fund to the slate, he later transferred $90,000 to Olszewski’s fund, which can be used to support other candidates.

Two other development firms linked to the slate by way of contributions are Chesapeake Realty Partners, a joint venture partner of Caves Valley, and Southern Land Company, which owns property in several areas of Baltimore County.

Although Caves Valley Partners, which has property near Foundry Row, did not publicly campaign against the project like Brown, the company and Almond staked out opposing positions on another zoning issue, when she was the only councilperson to vote against zoning for Caves Valley’s $300 million mixed-use project Towson Row last December.

Almond said her relationship with both Caves Valley and Brown soured after Foundry Row was zoned for retail.

“They did support my campaign the last time,” Almond, a Democrat, said. “Perhaps I was naive, but I assumed if I was elected I was going to be an independent person on the Council. I didn’t realize that you get punished when you don’t go along and get along.”

Caves Valley officials could not be reached for comment.

The Candidates
Baltimore County’s 2nd councilmatic district includes parts of Pikesville, Owings Mills, Reisterstown, Lutherville-Timonium and Ruxton. Through some minor redistricting changes, the Mays Chapel area in Lutherville-Timonium became a part of District 3, and District 2 picked up areas of northern Reisterstown.

This is not the first time Almond, 65, and Herbst, 36, have faced each other in the District 2 contest. Herbst was defeated in the 2010 race, when he ran as a Republican.

Though nearly three decades separate the candidates, both have a wealth of community advocacy experience.

Herbst practices real estate, commercial and business law at Royston, Mueller, McLean & Reid, a Towson-based law firm. He was appointed to the Baltimore County Planning Board in the summer of 2013 by Kamenetz, has served as treasurer of the Pikesville-Greenspring Community Coalition since January 2012, was president of Sports Boosters of Maryland in 2012 and 2013, where he is still chairman of the board, and serves of the board of directors of the Robert E. Lee Park Nature Council. He is also active in the Baltimore County Bar Association, where he has served on the executive council and several committees. He and his wife, Irina, own AME Pharmacy in Catonsville, where Irina is pharmacist in charge.

Almond’s community involvement started in schools as a volunteer in the 1980s. She spent time as PTA president at Franklin Middle School and Franklin High School, was parade chair and president of the Reisterstown Festival and spent two terms as president of the Reisterstown-Owings Mills-Glyndon Coordinating Council. Former Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening appointed Almond to the Rosewood Advisory Council, and former Baltimore County Executive (now Congressman) Dutch Ruppersberger appointed
her to the Baltimore County Commission for Women. Almond rallied the community behind establishing the School Resource Officer Program, which stations uniformed police officers in Baltimore County schools. That program is now a national and international model.

Almond was elected to the County Council in 2010 and served as its chair in 2012, making her the first woman to hold the position since 1983.

In a recent debate between the two candidates at North Oaks Retirement Community in Pikesville, both candidates said they would focus on public safety and education, but most of the talk centered on economic issues. Herbst expressed his dissatisfaction with the Reisterstown Road corridor, in particular downtown Pikesville.

“I’m just not happy with what I see out there when drive up and down Reisterstown Road,” he said, referring to vacant storefronts.

As councilman, he would try to attract more small businesses to the area, he said, and wants to bring back the Pikesville Redevelopment Fund, which the county used to give grants to developers to rehab long-vacant properties. He criticized Almond for not developing an overall Reisterstown Road corridor redevelopment plan that includes downtown Pikesville, which she advocated for during her 2010 campaign.

Almond maintains that the Pikesville business community is alive and well, citing growing membership in the Pikesville Chamber of Commerce, renovations at the Pikes Diner and the reopening of the Pikes Theatre, which Almond helped get proper zoning.

Rezoning the former Solo Cup factory for retail in August 2012 to make way for Foundry Row tainted Vicki Almond’s relationships with some developers. (Melissa Gerr)

Rezoning the former Solo Cup factory for retail in August 2012 to make way for Foundry Row tainted Vicki Almond’s relationships with some developers.
(Melissa Gerr)

The councilwoman counts Foundry Row among one her biggest victories and believes the development will uplift the Reisterstown Road corridor. While it was opposed by Howard Brown, who is building the massive transit-oriented development Metro Centre at Owings Mills, and Kimco, the company that was originally planning to redevelop the Owings Mills Mall, many community members ultimately rallied behind the project. Some community members, including a group called the Say No To Solo Coalition, had concerns about traffic and the local business impact.

Herbst criticized Almond for her immediate support of the project, and said he would have tried to put in more protections for local businesses, which he fears may be trumped by big-name retailers at Foundry Row such as LA Fitness. Herbst did say, however, that bringing Wegmans to town was a “no-brainer” and he would have approved Foundry Row.

Only one council member, District 4’s Ken Oliver, voted against rezoning Solo Cup for retail to make way for the project.

Almond maintains that while Baltimore County designated White Marsh and Owings Mills growth areas, Owings Mills fell behind while White Marsh flourished.

“This was an opportunity that was going to pass us by if we didn’t act on it,” she said.

Throughout her time as a councilwoman, Almond has maintained a presence in the small business community. In addition to her work with local chambers of commerce and groups trying to revitalize Reisterstown’s Main Street, the councilwoman has helped organize three small business summits during her time in office.

Herbst believes his real estate and business background would help him navigate complex zoning decisions and their effects on local businesses.

At the debate and outside the debate, Herbst has faced criticism of his switching parties. He replies that while he is conservative on fiscal issues, he is more liberal on social issues. He got involved with the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee around the time of the last election, but he said he didn’t fit in there and that the party was moving too far to the right.

Endorsements and Campaign Contributions
Herbst has been endorsed by Kamenetz, who has close relationships with David S. Brown Enterprises and Caves Valley Partners and was the District 2 councilman for 16 years, as well as by Zirkin. Almond was a volunteer, and then campaign coordinator for Zirkin when he ran for a delegate seat in 2002.

“He broke my heart,” Almond said of Zirkin’s endorsement. “It wasn’t just political, it was personal.”
Zirkin declined to comment, and Kamenetz could not be reached for comment.

Another endorsement of Herbst’s, from the Greater Pikesville Owings Mills Reisterstown Small Business Coalition, has been drawing criticism from Almond and her supporters, who said they have never heard of the group. Heads of both the Reisterstown-Owings Mills-Glyndon Chamber of Commerce and Pikesville Chamber of Commerce said they have never heard of the group.

Andy Hoffman, owner of Gourmet Again in Pikesville, said the coalition is a business networking group that formed about a year ago. Hoffman, who grew up with Herbst, said the endorsement is the group’s first political activity. When asked to name other members, he referred to Herbst, who was able to name one other person involved in the group.

Both candidates have traded jabs as to who is the “developer’s candidate.”

While some have painted Herbst to be the development candidate because of the slate and support from Caves Valley executives, several of which
attended a fundraiser Herbst held at Tark’s Grill at Green Spring Station, Herbst is quick to note that Almond’s campaign has received numerous
contributions from those connected to the Foundry Row development. While three contributors — two executives from the company that demo-lished the Solo Cup factory, Chesapeake Contracting, and the wife of a Foundry Row attorney — gave to Almond before Foundry Row was granted retail zoning, the vast majority of contributions came after that decision.

Reaction and Analysis
Herbst is quick to point out that Almond was part of a campaign slate in the 2010 election cycle. And he is correct, the District 11 team slate still lists Almond, Delegates Jon Cardin, Dan Morhaim and Dana Stein and Zirkin as affiliated candidates.

Contributions to the slate, during this election cycle and in 2010, have primarily come from the affiliated candidates’ campaigns. Expenses include pay for campaign workers, advertising, field expenses, yard signs and fundraisers.

A government watchdog group, Annapolis-based Common Cause Maryland, said that slates similar to the District 11 team slate can make sense, with candidates who share tickets pooling their resources for items such as mailers, TV and radio ads, polls and consultants. But they can also be used to raise and deploy money in a targeted fashion.

“They’ve become very distorted over time because they are unregulated,” said Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, the organization’s executive director. “Because they’re not transparent, these slates definitely influence elections in [ways] voters can’t always track.”

Candidates can become part of slates and contribute unlimited amounts of money from their own campaign funds, Bevan-Dangel said. A person or corporation can contribute a maximum of $4,000, but a person with multiple LLCs can contribute $4,000 through each LLC, a loophole that will be closed in future elections. Direct expenditures are “pretty unlimited,” she said.

“Slates are somewhat unique to Maryland and something Common Cause has been trying to reform for some time because they’re easy to abuse.”

John Bullock, an assistant professor of political science at Towson University, said that while it might be unusual that a county executive is endorsing a challenger to an incumbent, it appears he’s endorsing someone who may be more amenable to his policy proposals. And developer money being involved in elections is not unique to this race or to Baltimore County, he said.

“Campaigns are run on money and developers have a lot of it,” Bullock said. “I’m not saying it’s an all-out bribe, but what campaign contributions allow you are access to an ear.”

The Council race has raised the eyebrows of several community members who keep a close watch on local politics.

Reisterstown resident Mary Molinaro said she thinks Herbst may be unduly influenced by developers and is concerned by his change in party affiliations. Her concern is also local.

“He has not had a relationship with Reisterstown in the past, and I have no idea what he would do to assist us with the projects that we have,” she said.

Cheryl Aaron, a longtime community activist and the zoning committee chair of the Greater Greenspring Association, said that while all candidates have money coming in from various sources, the development dollars stick out to her as most prominent in Herbst’s campaign.

“The irony is not lost that the same people who are backing Jon Herbst also financed Kevin Kamenetz. It’s all pretty obvious,” she said. “What worries me most is, what are they expecting in return? Hopefully, we won’t have to go there, and [Almond] will be successful in the primary.”

Bob Frank, who was a state delegate for District 11 from 1995 to 1998, takes a more neutral position.

“I think you have to recognize that Jon is somebody who’s run before. I think anybody who said he’s a prop for somebody else ignores the fact that this is
obviously a serious young man who has an interest in politics,” Frank said. “That being said, I think some of the things happening around him would suggest some other people are trying to steer things in a certain direction.”

Breaking Ground

060614_towson

Groundbreaking for the new Chabad Student Center is the first step in a $3 million building that will include a synagogue and guest suites. (Provided)

On Sunday, June 1, the Chabad Jewish Student Center at Towson and Goucher celebrated the official groundbreaking for the organization’s new building. The new location will allow the expansion of programs at a time when both Towson University’s and Goucher College’s Jewish student populations are growing, according to Rabbi Mendy and Sheiny Rivkin, who currently operate the center from their two-story home in Towson.

The Rivkins, who moved to the area in 2008 to offer a welcoming Jewish experience for college students, have always felt strongly about Jewish youth and the need to strengthen their Jewish ties.

“We want to give students the opportunity to explore, to figure out who they are as Jews,” said Mendy Rivkin. “It’s their journey of self-discovery, and we want them to own it.”

At the decidedly rustic and airy outdoor ceremony, a video documented student and alumni reflections of the Chabad House. Speakers included academic and political officials and donors, including Baltimore County Councilman David Marks and Towson University vice president Gary Rubin.

“It’s a wonderful development,” Rubin said of the expansion. “Towson is a very diverse and cultural campus. It’s very important to understand all religious beliefs.”

Sharing in the celebration was a longtime friend of Rivkin’s from rabbinical school, Rabbi Yudi Steiner of Chabad GW.

“Jewish life will grow in places that no one expects,” said the fellow campus rabbi. “All you have to do is answer the call.”

Towson alumna Danielle Gold, who was co-president for a year-and-a-half at Chabad House, spoke highly of the warm environment that the Rivkins cultivate. From Sheiny’s delicious Shabbat dinners to a menorah lighting in town, Gold learned that there was always room for one more at the center, she said.

Above all, “I learned how to be a leader and delegate,” she said. “Having never considered myself a religious person, I learned more about Judaism, what it meant and what it means to be a Jewish woman.”

She added that she has used her Judaic knowledge to lead the best and most informational Passover Seder her family has ever celebrated.

Parents also attended.

“[The Chabad House] is a place to go as a home away from home — that’s really how they make you feel,” said Robyn Barnett, whose daughter recently graduated.

Mendy Rivkin recalled that even from his first years in the area, Shabbat dinners routinely drew a crowd. It became so popular, he said, that students worried they would lose their seats if they stood up.

And with three young children and another on the way, the expansion, his wife noted, is coming at the right time for his own family.

“As our family is growing and with the new Chabad House, it will allow for more programs at varying times,” said Sheiny Rivkin. “We want to work very hard to keep the [student] family atmosphere.”

The new building will have three floors and will include a library and conference room for in-depth research and debates, a synagogue, a large dining room that can accommodate more than 120 students, a professional kitchen, a student lounge and guest suites for visitors and parents.

“I’m very happy to see this come to fruition,” said Rabbi Joshua Snyder, director of Hillel at Goucher College. “The more resources the better.”

Donors have covered 60 to 70 percent of the total cost for expansion, approximately $3 million, according to the Rivkins. Construction is expected to start as soon as possible and is estimated to take six to eight months.

The Chabad House offers a variety of programs, including inter-student education, social events, Birthright trips to Israel and a Shabbaton in New York City. Of the students he serves, Mendy Rivkin said, “We challenge them.”

For more information, visit jewishtowson.com or call 410-825-0779.

Lauren Root is a local freelance writer.

Beth Israel USY Named Chapter of the Year

Provided

Provided

For the second year in a row, the Beth Israel chapter of United Synagogue Youth was awarded Chapter of the Year for the Seaboard Region.

“The first time it was insane. We worked so hard for it, and it felt really great to win it,” said Josh Rosenbaum, Beth Israel USY’s president. “The second time we won it, we didn’t really see it coming. We had a good year, and we were all really proud of what we did, but we weren’t expecting it as much, and it was crazy. I don’t even know how to put it into words.”

The teen group found out late last month at the Seaboard Region USY’s annual spring convention. The region includes chapters from all over Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia and parts of North Carolina. In all, the Owings Mills group faced 31 other chapters vying for the title.

The award is given to the chapter with the most impressive combination of funds raised, unique events and programs held and interest generated.

“We managed to fit a lot of stuff in in one year to stand out as a chapter,” said Rosenbaum, who counted the organization’s mystery bus-ride adventure, where members pack onto a bus and are not told what the day’s fun activities will include until they arrive at their destination, and the annual Claire Sodden Memorial Weekend Shabbaton, a day-long Shabbat event in memory of a Beth Israel teen, among the chapter’s best programs.

Rosenbaum, who graduated from Franklin High School earlier this week, said he hopes the awards help to grow the Beth Israel chapter.

“It’s worth all the time and all the effort,” he said. “The friendships that come out of it — I would recommend it to everyone I can.”

hnorris@jewishtimes.com

Sinai Dedicates Six-Story Stoler Tower

Photo Provided

Photo Provided

Leonard and Roslyn Stoler’s healthcare philanthropy is reaching new heights.

On Sunday June 1, the six-story Stoler Tower was dedicated on the Sinai Hospital campus, made possible by the Stoler’s $3 million gift to the new patient-care facilities.

The Stoler Tower is the new home to Sinai’s ER-7 Emergency Department, the Margaret and Benjamin S. Schapiro Cardiac Diagnostic Center, the Rose and Joseph Lazinsky Neuroscience Center, Sinai’s Intensive Care Unit, the Louis and Phyllis Friedman Neurological Rehabilitation Center and Sinai’s Intermediate Care Unit.

The gift enabled the building or renovation of each unit, and the facilities are equipped with state-of-the-art technologies as well as family-centered amenities that have become hallmarks of Sinai. All rooms are private, and the non-ICU in-patient rooms feature sleeper chairs for the comfort of extended stays by loved ones.

mgerr@jewishtimes.com

At 88, Sztajer Graduates!

Rubin Sztajer’s living room is  decorated with family photographs. He lost his parents, three siblings and many other relatives in the Holocaust. (David Stuck)

Rubin Sztajer’s living room is
decorated with family photographs. He lost his parents, three siblings and many other relatives in the Holocaust.
(David Stuck)

Baltimore Jewish Times readers and schoolchildren throughout the mid-Atlantic region and beyond know and love Rubin Sztajer. The 88-year-old survivor of six Nazi death camps has frequently shared his story with reporters, historians, educators and, most importantly, thousands of students. Since February 2014, when the JT covered his visit to Boys’ Latin School, Sztajer has spoken to students at 41 other schools. In the past month alone, he has addressed 17 school groups.

Therefore, it was only fitting that on Thursday, June 5, Dallastown (Pa.) High School presented Sztajer with an honorary diploma, a document long overdue for a man who has spent hours upon hours addressing students in their classrooms.

In a letter notifying Sztajer and his wife, Regina, that he was to be honored, social studies teacher Molly Dallmeyer explained why the school and school district had chosen to bestow the diploma.

“I know that this honor is one that is unexpected, but due to your presence at Dallastown and the lives you have touched through the years by sharing your story, I find that no one person can truly express how much you have made a difference not only to my own life, but on those of my students in my Holocaust Studies classes the past five years,” she wrote. “This honor will surely express our gratitude and thanks. If anyone is deserving of such an award by the graduates and families of Dallastown students, it would be you and the hope, perseverance and commitment you have made to teaching future generations about what it is to truly survive and live with dignity.”

Despite the value he places on education, the Holocaust interfered with Sztajer’s ability to complete high school.

“When the war broke out in Poland, I was 13, and my education ended,” said Sztajer, who lost his parents, three younger siblings and many other relatives in the Holocaust. “When I came here, I had to make a living and support a family.”

At first, he noted, it wasn’t easy.

“I hit the pavement for seven weeks trying to find a job,” he said. “I had no family, no money, no education, and I didn’t speak the language.”

Finally, Sztajer, at 23, met a Yiddish-speaking man in Baltimore who offered him a job in his wholesale warehouse. Although the job paid less than he was receiving from his public assistance check, he took the job.

“The first day I cleaned bathrooms and swept floors. You’ve got to start somewhere. I did pretty well,” he said, looking around his Timonium living room in the apartment he shares with his wife of 61 years. The room, comfortable and neat as a pin, is decorated with artwork and photographs of his three children and seven grandchildren.

“All of my kids are college graduates, and my last grandchild just finished college. A couple of them have master’s degrees,” he said. “Education was always the No. 1 thing for me and my wife. When the first kid came, we decided she would be a stay-at-home mother. Her job was to make sure all the children got good educations. Mine was to support us. Somehow we managed.”

Although he lacked a high school diploma and was therefore unable to matriculate credits for courses he audited at Towson University while in his 70s, for the past three decades Sztajer has spent much of his time in school. It’s where he loves to be.

“I only speak to children. I give them hope and encouragement, and they realize there are so many opportunities for them,” he said. “I give them advice: ‘Go home and tell your family how lucky you are that you have them!’ Reading a book [about the Holocaust] isn’t the same. Seeing a person tell their story makes an impact. Kids [who have heard the story before] actually sneak in to hear me again. I don’t think anyone can say they’ve been hugged more.”

sellin@jewishtimes.com