Jewish, Arab-Israeli Students Have Cross-Cultural Exchange

(Marc Shapiro)

(Marc Shapiro)

Arafat Osman, a biology teacher at Arab Israeli high school Al Bian School in the Galilee, believes in coexistence.

“Arabs and Jews in the  Israeli state can have a better life with coexistence, he said. “Not everyone believes in it.”

That vision, coupled with like-minded neighboring Jewish Misgav School, was the backdrop for a 10-day trip to the United States with one teacher and two students from each school through the organization Sparks of Change.

Sparks of Change was started to honor Daniel Joseph Siegel, a Baltimore native who died of brain cancer in 2010. He was a graduate of Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School and a political science student at Yale. The organization formed in his memory works to promote peace and well-being in communities as well as educational efforts and programs to decrease violence.

The four students and two teachers, as well as a representative of Oranim Academic College of Education, visited the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Md. and attended a Shabbaton with the schools’ students,  toured Washington, D.C., visited The Park School of Baltimore and toured New York City, where they saw the sites and lunched with students from a local high school and the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

In order to participate,  students wrote essays focused on the coexistence between Arabs and Jews and were  interviewed faculty members at their schools.

“Arabs and Jews in the  Israeli state can have  a better life with  coexistence. Not  everyone believes in it.” — Arafat Osman, biology teacher at Al Bian School in Israel

 

During one of the group’s days at Park School, where they were hosted by local families, the students and teachers spoke to history classes, ate lunch with students and presented at assemblies.

Ori Ziring, 16, one of the Jewish students on the trip, said she’s had interactions with Arabs in her life but never this intense. She said she was surprised to learn how similar their lives are but also noted differences in opinions regarding joining the army and the right of return.

“Opinions of our Arabs friends is something I haven’t heard before. It’s been challenging for me,” she said. “I’m still a teen. I’m not sure where I stand, so listening to other people is very important.”

Jon Acheson, who teaches 20th-century history at Park, said he could see how surprised his students were as the group spoke about coexistence, but individuals differed in what that means and how to achieve it.

“Even though they’re all peaceniks, they don’t agree,” Acheson said. “They see the complexity.”

Arab student Kassem Abu Zaid, 16, said the students have asked him really good questions.

“They asked me, ‘How do you live in Israel? What’s the solution for Israelis and Arabs?’” he said, adding that they’ve also asked about one state versus two states for the populations.

Amit Dinur, 17, an Israeli student, said he’s enjoyed discussing the Jewish-Arab relationship in Israel.

Aerin Abrams, a senior at Park whose family in hosting Amit, said he’s spoken to her family a lot about his life and where he lives in Israel. That morning, they listened to Amit’s music on the way to school rather than Aerin’s.

Students in the history classes where the group spoke were intrigued by discussions of what it’s like being Arab versus being Jewish in Israel, the Gaza situation and the differences in historical and generational perspectives.

“[We asked,] ‘What would be ideal for all of you?’” said Jennie Jacobs, a junior. “They all said the same thing, which is peace. But they didn’t know how to go about it.”

Roberta Bell-Kligler, director of international programs at Oranim, said Misgav and Al Bian were chosen because those schools share the vision of a unified Galilee like the college, which has Jewish, Arab and Bedouin students.

“It fills one with hope to see four smart, articulate dedicated students who really want to make life in Galilee better,” she said.

mshapiro@midatlanticmedia.com

Italian-based Coffee Chain Brews Success with Baltimorean

Cladiu Onigoaie has a history of brewing and enjoying high-quality coffee. As a manager, he takes pride  in Filicori Zecchini’s product. (Justin Katz)

Cladiu Onigoaie has a history of brewing and enjoying high-quality coffee. As a manager, he takes pride in Filicori Zecchini’s product. (Justin Katz)

Filicori Zecchini opened for business in the Towson Town Center in December, and while the franchise focuses on coffee, the new Maryland location is making waves in the Baltimore Jewish community because of its commitment to keeping kosher.

“There’s not a lot of places that are kosher in the area,” said Cladiu Onigoaie, manager at the Towson location. “[The owners] wanted to bring something special that you don’t find in any corner store and [have it be] kosher on top of it all.”

The Italy-based franchise started nearly a century ago, taking its name from Aldo  Filicori and Luigi Zecchini who set up shop in Bologna to begin perfecting what they saw as the key to perfect coffee: the roasting.

With the exception of food ingredients, almost everything Filicori Zecchini uses is an Italian import, from the beans for their coffee to the décor of the cozy café, which sits near Nordstrom in the mall.

The restaurant has taken strides to cater to the observant Jewish community by being certified kosher under the supervision of Rabbi Y. Zvi Weiss. It also stocks several kinds of milk including soy,  almond and Chalav Yisrael — a level of kosher that ensures that dairy products have been created only under the supervision of an observant Jew.

 

 “Starbucks is fine, but I can give you something better for cheaper. This is how coffee is supposed to taste, and we take a lot of pride in our coffee.” — Cladiu Onigoaie, manager at Filicori Zecchini in Towson

Onigoaie began learning about brewing coffee in his  native Romania, when a friend offered him a barista position at a high-end coffee shop. When he moved to the U.S. five years ago, he had heard about the American obsession with Starbucks so he decided to taste it for himself. He was less than impressed.

“Starbucks is fine, but I can give you something better for cheaper,” said Onigoaie. “This is how coffee is supposed to taste, and we take a lot of pride in our coffee.”

Onigoaie explained the idea behind the menu was to offer small, light food items to be paired Filicori’s coffee. While he personally favors espresso, Onigoaie recommends the hazelnut latte and cheese Danish.

The amount of attention to detail is reflected in Filicori’s drinks, which focus on crafting full-flavored lattes, mochas and cappuccinos that, unlike a traditional cup of coffee, don’t need any alterations with cream or sugar.

Diners will notice that the cheese Danish in particular  offers a little more sweetness with a creamy center and a chewy, doughy exterior — a satisfying snack for any mall goer, but light enough to not discourage walking around the town center.

“[Europeans] take time for coffee,” said Jordan Pompey, a barista at Filicori. “We don’t drink coffee while driving or on the go.”

Pompey, who is a native of Metz, France, used to live in New York, where he was general manager at a Filicori location. He moved to Baltimore several months ago when the Towson location opened and has been helping to train new staff.

He explained Americans and Europeans have a different culture surrounding coffee. While Americans are always on the go, Europeans tend to sit down more often just to enjoy a coffee.

“I have become a little more American in this way. I started to drink a lot of coffee to go because in America, I think people work more hours,” said Pompey. “I don’t have as much time to sit at a table and drink coffee, I wish I had time to do that.”

When it comes to his drink of choice, Pompey enjoys a “double espresso to wake me up.”

jkatz@midatlanticmedia.com

Rosenberg, DeMarco Endorse Cohen in 1st District

Del. Sandy Rosenberg (D-District 41) and health care advocate Vincent DeMarco endorsed Zeke Cohen, a candidate for Baltimore City’s 1st District councilman.

Cohen, who runs a youth leadership nonprofit, faces Mark Edelson, Sean Flanagan, Scott Goldman, Ed Marcinko and Mark Parker on April 26 in the Democratic primary for the council seat, which is being vacated by Councilman Jim Kraft, who is running to be a city Circuit Court judge.

There are three Republicans running for the position as well.

Rosenberg and DeMarco endorsed Cohen at an event on Friday, April 8.

“I’ve known Zeke Cohen since he joined Teach for America and taught in a West Baltimore classroom,” Rosenberg said in a news release. “I’ve supported his nonprofit work, preparing inner-city kids for college and leadership roles in the community. He would make an outstanding City Council member for the 1st District.”

DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens’ Health  Initiative and an adjunct  professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, cited Cohen’s progressive leadership.

“Zeke has already had a  profound impact on our city. He played a key role in enacting Maryland’s life-saving Firearm Safety Act of 2013,” DeMarco said in a news  release. “I know he will be an incredible City Councilman for the 1st District. I am proud to endorse his candidacy, and I look forward to working with him in office.”

mshapiro@midatlanticmedia.com

Matzoh Ball Mashup Whether Floaters or Sinkers, This Menu Item Is Sure to Bring Families Together

Matzoh Ball Mashup

Last week, the JT staff explored some contemporary meanings of the Passover story in its “Four Questions” cover story. This week, we delve into the festive meal, having diligently researched the one menu item that typically sets the tone for the rest of the repast.

Family debates may rage over the decision to serve chicken or brisket, but when it comes to tradition, everyone agrees you can’t have visions of Passover without chicken matzoh ball soup.

Yes, we agree that ultimately homemade is best. But with no steaming bowl of bubbie’s readily available, we pondered other options and decided upon eight local eateries. Why eight, you ask? Why, one for each day of course. So with nearly a century of discerning matzoh ball soup expertise among us, the JT staff sipped, supped and slurped our way through our research in anticipation of the Passover observance.

You’ll read from our survey (not a competition — What? Are we crazy?!) that the staff dutifully dug into our analysis, and the results invoked blissful praises such as “love at first taste,” “all the bells and whistles” you could hope for in a soup and “tip-the-bowl-back good.” Yes, it’s hard work, but someone had to do it.

So, is it firm or fluffy? (Pesachdik) noodles or no? What’s your perfect soup-to-matzoh-ball ratio? Let us know your personal predilections, traditions and experiments (or better yet, your secrets!) for the best chicken matzoh ball soup experience. (Obviously, with apologies to the non-gebrokts crowd.) Chag kasher sameach to you and your family.

 

Lenny’s Deli: Perfect Middle Ground

Given Lenny’s Deli’s history of more than 30 years in the Baltimore area, I was sure the matzoh ball soup would measure up.

Now, I come from the school of chopping up the matzoh ball into bite-sized pieces. This way, the matzoh ball soaks up the broth, and you can get a spoonful of soup, matzoh ball and, in the case of Lenny’s, carrots and noodles too.

The wide, flat noodles add some defining texture and the carrots more hearty flavor. The broth was not too salty — too much would be a definite deal-breaker for me. The carrots and noodles definitely add to the overall experience and give the soup pizazz.

“Oh, I got a piece of chicken! That was good,” my colleague, Daniel Schere, professed as we sampled the soup. Little chunks of chicken are always a nice surprise.

The matzoh ball itself was firm — not too mushy and not too hard. If you’re dining with a group divided on matzoh ball consistency, Lenny’s offers the perfect middle ground.

As JT photographer David Stuck so aptly put it, the soup was “very pleasing on the taste buds.” My taste buds too were pleased.

— Marc Shapiro

Suburban House: Substantive Texture and Taste

The first thing I noticed was that the broth was perfectly salted, which was wonderfully welcome. I mean, who wants to feel thirsty after consuming a liquid?

Then I noticed this matzoh ball has some gravitas to it. Contrary to some of the other melt-in-your-mouth light, airy matzoh balls — which all have their place — Suburban House’s matzoh ball has a firmer, coarser, more substantive texture and tastes very true to — believe it or not — matzoh.

As with most matzoh balls, it gets softer the more it soaks up the soup, but this ball holds its own when you take a big bite and reveal the insides.

“It’s a good texture,” colleague Justin Katz said. “It’s more like a meaty texture.”

For those who like variety in their soup, Suburban House offers the addition of curly noodles, which really do practically melt in your mouth, and tender carrots that add extra flavor.

The unsalty broth (again, a big plus in my book) wasn’t overwhelmingly chicken flavored, which allowed the taste and texture of the matzoh ball to be forefront in the experience.

When I let my Facebook friends know the Jewish Times would be tasting matzoh ball soups from around town, as a hometown boy I got a number of responses, and many said it was essential to include their favorite, Suburban House. And with such a unique matzoh ball with such character, I can see why.

— Marc Shapiro

Attman’s Deli: The Complete Package

I definitely went into this round of tasting with high hopes, since this soup was from Attman’s, a legendary Baltimore institution.

What I experienced not only surpassed my expectations, but it kind of blew my mind.

As I was serving up bowls for myself and Justin Katz, I exclaimed with delight and surprise: “Ooh! There’s these big, thick ‘home-style chicken noodle’ noodles in it.” As an Attman’s employee later told me, their house-made noodles — which I’d guess were almost 1/8-inch thick and an inch-and-a-half long — are designed just so, because thinner noodles tend to disintegrate when soup sits in a hot pot too long.

“That is a significant noodle,” Justin concurred.

As we continued our foray into this mouthwatering adventure, we realized how much thought was put into not just the broth and the matzoh ball, but also the whole package. The sizable pieces of chicken were cooked with added flavor, not just thrown into the soup. The carrots and celery were bite-size but thick enough to really be tasted.

And the broth! It was flavorful with a light film of actual chicken fat and a hint of herbs. The fluffy soup-soaked matzoh ball acted as a vehicle for the tasty combination of flavors.

“The inside of the matzoh ball looks like the moon with craters,” Justin said upon close inspection. My esteemed colleague brings up a good point about matzoh balls — what’s not there can be almost as important as what is there. The “craters” add to the matzoh ball’s fluffiness and give it a soup-infused sponge-like consistency.

This well-thought out recipe made this soup the complete package.

— Marc Shapiro

Miller’s Deli: A Hardy Meal

With three locations throughout Baltimore, Miller’s Deli certainly aims to satisfy as much of the Baltimore Jewish community as it has the manpower for, and satisfying is a great word to describe its matzoh balls too.

One of my favorite childhood memories during Passover was cutting into my matzoh balls so I could get a nice chunk with every spoonful of soup. Miller’s offers a firm, hearty matzoh ball that feels like it could quell the largest of appetites.

“It feels like they took two matzoh balls and compressed them together,” said fellow reporter Marc Shapiro. “You could have a meal out of this soup.”

He added that it tastes “eggier,” and colleague Daniel Schere agreed.

Firm and dense, or as JT photographer David Stuck put it: “It’s like snow compacted on your driveway,” and in a positive sense.

Stuck also particularly enjoyed Miller’s noodles, scooping as many as he could onto his spoon before eagerly digging in.

Aside from the matzoh ball itself, the broth favors the savory side over the sweet, so those who enjoy this style would do well with choosing Miller’s.

— Justin Katz

Gourmet Again: Tip-the-Bowl-BacK Goodness

Gourmet Again lives up to its name when it serves matzoh ball soup. And as Marc Shapiro put it, “It was “tip-the-bowl-back good.”

The presentation is wholly more colorful than my grandma’s matzoh ball soup ever was, which focused on the simplicity of a strong chicken broth and a rich matzoh ball. Alternatively, for those who enjoy pleasing the visual sense during a meal, Gourmet Again is quite the looker.

The matzoh ball presents a fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth exterior while remaining firm and nicely textured on the inside.

But the greatest strength of Gourmet Again’s matzoh ball soup is how it brings together a medley of small strips of chicken, finely diced onions, chopped carrots and bits of celery resulting in an explosive hearty broth, with just the right amount of salt.

All in all, this matzoh ball soup has all the bells and whistles one could hope for.

And as managing editor Melissa Gerr pointed out, I literally “tipped the bowl back” to get those last delicious drops.

— Justin Katz

Dougie’s: Tongue-Tickling Good

If one were to describe the gestalt of Dougie’s matzoh ball soup, there could be a lot of descriptors, but the JT’s social media guru, Esther Apt, put it best.

“It tastes like the matzoh balls from my childhood.”

This is an “apt” description for the simple but flavorful soup that conjures memories of reclining around the Passover table with relatives, young and old.

With a flavor-forward broth, evenly tempered matzoh ball and spaghetti-like noodles, the simplicity of the soup reminds me of what my grandma served when we were young. (And what Jewish adults don’t enjoy reminiscing about their loving Jewish grandmothers? I always have.)

The matzoh ball itself has a smooth exterior and expresses a middle-of-the-road texture and consistency that allows anyone to sit down and enjoy a bowl, regardless of preferences. It also complements the flavor of the broth, which colleague Marc Shapiro describes as “tongue-tickling good.”

— Justin Katz

Steve’s Deli: Sweeter and Softer

Conveniently located for us just around the corner from the JT office in Owings Mills, Steve’s Deli is a common lunch destination for me. But up until recently I hadn’t sampled their take on matzoh ball soup. So I was pleasantly surprised when I sat down with a bowl and experienced a sweeter and softer version of the Jewish delicacy we all cherish.

After my first few spoonfuls, I detected character within the broth that had a sweet kiss to it, which complemented the melt-in-your-mouth texture of the matzoh ball.

“It’s easy to get on the spoon,” said fellow soup connoisseur Marc Shapiro as he dug into the delectable orb. “You don’t have to fight too much for it.”

Steve’s also offers linguini-thin noodles to complement the matzoh ball, and that will give you something else to get excited about. You’ll need to self-police your noodle intake in order to ensure that the proper noodle-to-matzoh-ball-to-broth ratio is achieved, however.

“I love the pile of noodles when you finish the bowl,” enthused colleague Justin Katz.

Steve’s recipe includes tiny chicken chunks hidden throughout that add a bit of gravitas to what is an otherwise romantic broth that goes down smoothly. The soup’s warm white florescence and easygoing personality make it the big brother or big sister you never had. If ever there was a need for comfort soup, Steve’s has the answer.

— Daniel Schere

Accents grill: Traditional and Delicious

For a traditional and delicious matzoh ball soup, Accents Grill is the place to go, and tasting Accents’ soup was love at first taste for me.

The recipe features Accents’ firm, thick matzoh ball, which transforms the soup from an appetizer into a main course and actually leaves you feeling full but not stuffed. It’s accompanied by carrots and legit-sized pieces of chicken that are emblematic of the diversity of ingredients we so expect in a good soup. There is absolutely no shortage of flavor with all of those lovely culinary components.

“This is the bomb,” JT photographer David Stuck proclaimed emphatically upon taking his first sips. Stuck said the soup “tickled his taste buds.”

Additional rave reviews came from Marc Shapiro, who added that the vegetables make it “more soupy,” and circulation coordinator Rochel Ziman said that the soup is strong enough to stand on its own with “no noodles necessary.”

The broth contains the right amount of salt to maintain the authentic Ashkenazi flavor of matzoh ball soup without going overboard. It’s no wonder Esau elected to consume a bowl of soup in exchange for his brother receiving their father’s birthright.

Accents’ soup is the gold standard when it comes to maintaining the proper balance between matzoh ball, chicken and vegetables. This recipe has both the look and personality of a great soup. You can take it out on a date and even take it home to your mother.

— Daniel Schere

mshapiro@midatlanticmedia.com; jkatz@midatlanticmedia.com; dschere@midatlanticmedia.com; mgerr@midatlanticmedia.com

Cardin, Ruppersberger Talk Defense, Iran with Netanyahu

Sen. Ben Cardin (left) and Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger recently met separately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Middle East diplomats. (File photos)

Sen. Ben Cardin (left) and Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger recently met separately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Middle East diplomats. (File photos)

Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin and Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger recently met separately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss Iran, defense and the U.S.- Israel relationship moving forward.

Cardin and three other senators visited Israel, Qatar and Saudi Arabia to gauge the climate in the region and alliances with the United States after the passage of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

“It was an encouraging visit,” said Cardin, who went on the trip in his capacity as the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Cardin was joined by Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) on the trip, which lasted from March 18 to 26. The senators were in Israel from March 22 to 25.

Ruppersberger traveled from March 28 to April 3 in his capacity as a member of the House Appropriations Committee, in which he sits on the Defense Subcommittee and the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee. His trip included stops at naval bases in Bahrain and Spain, as well as visits to the United Arab Emirates, Iraq and Israel.

Cardin and the other senators met with leaders of Qatar; King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia and the crown prince and deputy crown prince; chief Palestinian negotiator/Palestine Liberation Organization Secretary General Dr. Saeb Erekat; and Israeli leaders including Netanyahu.

“The attitude in Qatar and Saudi Arabia toward the Middle East and Israel [is that] they see Israel as a country that shares their same objective to prevent Iran from influencing their regional partners,” Cardin said. He added that the Saudis and Israelis are both concerned about the situation in Yemen as well.

Ruppersberger spoke about this commonality with Netanyahu, with whom he also discussed U.S. support of Israel’s defense capabilities.

“Israel and those countries have the same common enemies, and if there’s ever a time to pull those counties together … to fight ISIS and to fight Iran and to stand up to them [this is that time],” he said. “I pointed that out to Netanyahu and he said ‘look we’re willing to talk all times but I think you’re going to have issues with the other side because they refuse to acknowledge [Israel’s existence].’”

Ruppersberger said he has spoken to the White House about this issue.

On his meeting with Netanyahu, Cardin said the prime minster is committed to signing a 10-year memorandum of understanding (MOU) with President Barack Obama on the United States’ defense assistance to Israel. The current MOU, which expires in 2018, provides about $3 billion in defense assistance to Israel annually.

“[Netanyahu] remains very concerned about Iran’s influence in the region,” Cardin said, adding that the prime minister is concerned about Iran’s support of Hezbollah as well as its impact on what’s happening in Lebanon and Syria.

Ruppersberger assured Netanyahu there are sanctions that are not connected to the JCPOA that could be reauthorized if Iran continues “exporting terrorism,” he said.

Cardin also spoke with Netanyahu about the peace process with Palestinians: “He reiterated his support for a two-state solution, but he regretted the climate was not conducive for moving forward,” Cardin said.

They also spoke about the egalitarian portion of the Western Wall.

“We want to go forward with this, make this a permanent site where men and women can pray together,” Cardin said. “I think the prime minister understands the importance of moving forward with it, so I think he is looking for a way to do this … in a way that’s not confrontational with his coalition.”

While in Israel, the senators also visited Palestinian forces that are being trained by the international community, saw the technology used to discover Hamas’ tunnels and visited the Iron Dome facility, which Cardin found quite impressive.

“These young Israelis are 22 years old and are making decisions on whether to intercept incoming missiles or not,” he said.

Ruppersberger also visited the Iron Dome as well as David’s Sling and Arrow 3, Israel’s other missile defense systems.

Cardin noticed it was quieter in Israel, considering that it was the week of Easter and tourists should have been out in full force. There were places he couldn’t drive to, there were sections of the Old City the embassy told the senators not to visit, and the shops in the Old City weren’t as crowded as they usually are.

“I’m not sure we totally appreciate the constant terrorist activities in Israel. … It was not generally crowded,” Cardin said. “You don’t see as many people out. People are staying a bit more conservative.”

mshapiro@midatlanticmedia.com

Mercaz Celebrates New Building

mercaz

Green Meadow Parkway was packed with hundreds celebrating Mercaz Torah U’Tefilla’s new building and Torah on April 10. (photo by Marc Shapiro)

Hundreds marched and danced down Green Meadow Parkway in the late afternoon on Sunday, singing and dancing around the newly inscribed Torah as a band played and sang celebratory songs.

It was the chanukas habayis (housewarming or home dedication) and hachnasas sefer Torah (inauguration of a Torah scroll) for Mercaz Torah U’Tefilla, a Chasidic congregation located on the corner of Green Meadow Parkway and Baythorne Road.

As Gabbi Aaron Friedman, a founding member of the congregation, said: “Within a few days of the synagogue opening five years ago, it was apparent we were going to need bigger facilities.”

The congregation started about five-and-a-half years ago, when Rabbi Yissochor Dov Eichenstein moved to Baltimore from Israel. He’s a Chicago native and son of the Zidichover Rebbe, Rabbi Yehoshua Heschel Eichenstein.

“He’s infusing some of the younger individuals within the community — some of the young lay leaders — with a sense of energy and warmth in their Judaism,” Friedman said, “and he’s somebody that cares about each and every individual no matter what their background is.”

The new facility is going to allow the rabbi to fulfill his mission of building a tent within the community that is going to house more Torah, tefillah and chesed.

— Gabbi Aaron Friedman, Mercaz Torah U’Tefilla

Friedman said the shul consists of a few hundred families, many of which are younger families who recently settled in the Ranchleigh neighborhood.

Even neighbors have taken notice of the new synagogue. Shalom Addi, who was in attendance on Sunday, said his son is a member.

“It’s a very warm place, very welcoming place,” he said. “The rabbi, he’s very much involved with each individual and each family. A lot of people are drawn to it.”

Friedman said the rabbi’s “different approach” is what attracts members.

“It’s wide-open. Everybody’s welcome. Everybody’s given an opportunity to feel welcome,” he said.

The synagogue offers minyanim throughout the day, multiple kolels (study groups) and seven different daf yomi (Talmud study classes) each day. The rabbi also studies one-on-one with congregants, Friedman said.

The rabbi’s wife, Reizal, who is the daughter of a Montreal rabbi, has an equally welcoming spirit. Friedman said the women of the congregation look up to her, and having grown up in a rabbinical family, she understands the needs of different community members.

Funds for the multimillion-dollar building were raised mostly over the course of the last two years, with efforts being spearheaded by the rabbi, co-presidents Nechemia Weinreb and Dovid Charnowitz and building committee chairmen Aryeh Gross, Marc Loeb and Yaakov “Yanky” Stanton.

Following the procession through the streets on Sunday, as well as speeches and blessings in front of the new building by prominent rabbis including Baltimore’s Rabbi Yaakov Hopfer, a banquet was held. The men’s banquet had 300 in attendance, 250 women celebrated inside the new building, and there were activities for almost 300 children.

“It was a monumental day for us. It was a day a lot of dreams are coming to fruition. A lot of pride, a lot of excitement,” Friedman said. “The new facility is going to allow the rabbi to fulfill his mission of building a tent within the community that is going to house more Torah, tefillah and chesed.”

mshapiro@midatlanticmedia.com

Youthful Baltimorean Brings New Energy to Old Problem

From left: Rebecca Fishkin, Jill Feinberg, David Fishkin and Stephanie Fishkin. (Justin Katz)

From left: Rebecca Fishkin, Jill Feinberg, David Fishkin and Stephanie Fishkin. (Justin Katz)

Helping others is a value deeply rooted in Jewish tradition, and Stephanie Fishkin has taken it to heart through her community-service project for which she’ll gather backpacks, linens, clothing and other items for those in need.

Her efforts and level of hands-on involvement are  exceeding the expectations of the community, especially since the Mount Washington resident is only 12 years old.

“[Stephanie] cares deeply about everything she does, and she cares about excellence,” said Baltimore Hebrew Congregation Cantor Ann Sacks. “The fact she is doing this is impressive, but it’s a reflection of who she is and the depth of what she feels.”

Stephanie will have her bat mitzvah at BHC and is working with Paul’s Place, a charitable organization located in Pigtown, whose mission is to improve the quality of life for the Washington Village/Pigtown neighborhood as well as surrounding Southwest Baltimore communities.

She was first introduced to Paul’s Place while attending Camp BHC. After enjoying the experience, she convinced her parents and younger sister to join her on a second visit.

“I liked the feeling [at Paul’s Place] that everyone was being treated like family just like in my Torah portion,” said Stephanie. “I believe that everyone is family, and that’s why I decided to do this project, because I wanted to help everyone.”

With her bat mitzvah coming up on May 28, her Torah portion, Behar, focuses on the  jubilee year, which emphasizes that material items are ultimately borrowed and should return to their original owners every several decades. The idea is to keep everyone economically equal.

Stephanie is collecting items using a “reverse yard sale concept.” Instead of people buying items from her, they bring items to her to donate, which she’ll donate to Paul’s Place.

Working with her mother, Jill Feinberg, she will have collection points in the community at the Roland Park Elementary/Middle School’s annual May Mart, at the Mount Washington Village Festival and at BHC.

Feinberg said her daughter’s commitment to helping others comes from her father, David, who is a public defender.

“She is completely her father. They are very thoughtful, kind people who think expansively about the community at large,” said Feinberg. “Social justice is a theme for Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, and it’s one [for our] family as well.”

Jayna Powell is the volunteer coordinator at Paul’s Place and said that beyond a willingness to help, Stephanie seeks out how to have the greatest impact.

“What I appreciate [about Stephanie is she] came for a tour and said, ‘What do you need?’” said Powell. “I was able to say what we need, and I  also can ask ‘What are you passionate about?’”

Powell explained that items such as backpacks are in high demand because carrying  belongings in a backpack, as opposed to a plastic bag, elicits more dignity and respect for someone in a difficult situation.

Brad Cohen, director of education at BHC, said social justice based on what a community needs is the right approach.

“When you look at social  action, sometimes it’s what your community does for someone else,” said Cohen. “But what it should be is, what are [the] needs and how can you meet those needs?”

During her first few visits to Paul’s Place, Stephanie greeted and assisted guests; a job that would be a big ask for her, a self-described introvert. However, her motivation trumps her shyness.

“I know that I’m doing something to help,” said Stephanie. “That motivates me to be louder and to know that I’m doing something good, so I should represent myself well.”

jkatz@midatlanticmedia.com

Israeli Community Emissaries Reflect on Culture Swap

Yuval Sadon (left) and Matan Adar are surprised by the similarities of the United States and Israel. (Provided)

Yuval Sadon (left) and Matan Adar are surprised by the similarities of the United States and Israel. (Provided)

Israel is, and likely will continue to be, a hot-button issue in American politics, but trying to define an entire country by a few politicians who garner international  attention can be a mistake. That’s where the role of the shlichim, or emissaries, comes in to play.

The goal of the community shlichim is to break through the stereotypes and misconceptions by bringing a small piece of Israel to their host cities.

“There are different types of shlichim in the United States, about 200,” said Hadar Shahar, 27, the shlicha for the Jewish Federation of Howard County. “My position is a community shlicha. We work with different age groups and bring Israel here. Usually, you learn about Israel’s history or culture, but the shlicha brings a personal perspective.”

Shahar and other shlichim are halfway through their year-long stays in the United States, which are coordinated by the shlichut program,  organized by the Federations and the Jewish Agency for  Israel. In Baltimore, the program is also funded by The  Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore’s  Israel Engagement Center.

Despite their individual  positions and cities, the shlichim in Howard, Baltimore and Montgomery counties echoed each other when reflecting on the similarities and differences between the United States and the Jewish state.

 

I was in the supermarket doing my checkout, and I heard people talking about [their food] in  Hebrew. If I forgot that I was in America, I swear it was the  supermarket next to my house.” — Danielle Flicker, shlicha at the JCC of Greater Washington

Yuval Sadon, 19, from Ashkelon, who works at The Associated, said, in terms of similarities, the support and size of the Jewish community surprised her. Matan Adar, who is also a shlicha from Ashkelon working at The Associated, felt the same and added that daily life is strikingly similar, considering the two nations have thousands of miles between them.

“Before I came here, I thought it would be so different,” said Adar, 19. “I discovered it was more similar than what I thought. One of the similarities I saw here is about sports.  People here are really passionate, and in Israel, we don’t share the same sports, but we’re passionate about them.”

Danielle Flicker, 23, a shlicha from the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, said that living in Rockville, Md., where there are many Israelis, can sometimes make her forget she’s not still at home.

“I was in the supermarket doing my checkout, and I heard people talking about [their food] in Hebrew,” said Flicker, who is from a city east of Netanya called Kfar Yona. “If I forgot that I was in America, I swear it was the supermarket next to my house.”

When it comes to differences, Shahar, Adar and Sadon all spoke about the organization and advanced planning Americans use for everything from Shabbat dinners to large-scale community events.

“People here are really  organized. When you want to set up a meeting or you want to see someone, you need to make arrangements. Back home, where I live, it could be the same week or same day that people can ask you to have dinner or meet.”

This is an important difference for the shlichim to  understand because their roles involve planning events for their respective communities.

“If you want to plan an event [in Israel], nobody will talk to you more than a month in advance,” added Shahar, who has decided to stay for a second year in Howard County. “You can try as you might to book a speaker more than a month before, but it’s not going to happen because it works differently.”

While she didn’t see it as a culture shock, Shahar said communication in general can be indirect compared with  Israel.

Said Shahar, “Everything is more direct. In Israel, when you get an email, it’s usually one line without an opening or an ending. Here, when you get an email, it’s like a scroll.”

jkatz@midatlanticmedia.com

Pieces of Owings Mills Mall Up for Auction

(David Stuck)

(David Stuck)

From vacuums to flagpoles to dressing rooms, remnants of the Owings Mills Mall are up for bidding in an online  auction that runs until April 21.

Kimco Realty paid $11.5 million for General Growth Properties’ 50 percent share of the mall earlier this year and also purchased the parcels owned by J.C. Penney and Macy’s for $5.2 million and $7.5 million, respectively.

Kimco plans to raze the entire mall to develop a new center.

Also included in the auction are lamp posts, multilayered glass awnings that adorned the entrances to a department store, handicap sign posts, concrete benches, elevators, escalators and counters.

The auction is being held by Grafe Auction, a commercial equipment and real estate  auctioneer.

Redevelopment at the Owings Mills Mall has been in the pipeline for years. Kimco dropped plans to build an outdoor shopping center that  incorporated the structures of J.C. Penney and Macy’s when Foundry Row was given the go ahead to move forward by the Baltimore County Council in 2012. Foundry Row, situated on Reisterstown Road in  Owings Mills at the former site of the Solo Cup factory, is expected to open this fall.

Visit the auction at bit.ly/1SpVHWJ.

mshapiro@midatlanticmedia.com

County Police Arrest Two for Attempted Burglary, Auto Theft

Baltimore County Police  arrested a 17-year-old male and a 19-year-old male, both from Baltimore, in connection with auto theft and attempted burglary in the early morning hours of March 22.

Baltimore County Police  responded to the 2300 block of Blackberry Road at 3:15 a.m. for a report of suspicious individuals walking through the neighborhood pulling on door handles.

When officers arrived, they saw a black Dodge Avenger and a dark SUV. After an  officer shined his light into the Dodge, the SUV made an abrupt turn and the Dodge  accelerated and turned onto another road. The Dodge stopped nearby, and three people ran from the car. Officers were able to find two of the three people who ran with the help of K-9 assistance and Maryland State Police Aviation.

The Dodge had been stolen from the 1400 block of Rosewick Avenue in Rosedale the previous day, police said, and the SUV, a 2001 BMW X5 that was found crashed into a parked car and abandoned, had been stolen from the 4200 block of Star Circle in Randallstown earlier on March 22.

Police said that the suspects tried to break into two homes on the 2300 block Blackberry Road and a vehicle on the 2300 block of Sweet Meadow Road.

The driver of the Dodge,  a 17-year-old male from Baltimore, is being charged as a  juvenile and was released to relatives. The second suspect, who was a passenger in the Dodge, is Michael Jermaine Williams, 19, of East Baltimore. He is charged with auto theft, attempted burglary and related charges and is being held without bail at the Baltimore County Detention Center,  police said.

Police are still investigating the incident and working to determine if the suspects are responsible for any other crimes. Anyone with information on this case or others can call police at 410-307-2020 or Metro Crime Stoppers at 866-7LOCKUP.

 

mshapiro@midatlanticmedia.com