Facelift at Fifty


(All photos by David Stuck)

Nearly 50 years after its opening, the Pikesville High School community has much more to celebrate than an anniversary.

Following a communitywide effort that involved students, parents, school officials and area politicians, the school will undergo a long-awaited, $40 million renovation, which will bring the institution on Labyrinth Road air conditioning, updated technology, new science and math wings, an updated auditorium, new classroom space and a number of other modernized amenities. The renovations begin this summer, just after graduates from the school’s 50th class depart.

Two celebrations will commemorate the half-century milestone, one for the entire school community this weekend and one for the first two graduating classes in September.

A senior at the school, Alex Jerome, served as a catalyst for the renovations by actually taking temperature and humidity measurements after having gone through some “outrageously” hot days.

Jerome saw students who were weary-eyed and dehydrated and found it hard to concentrate, just wanting to rest their heads on their desks at the end of some school days. Even teachers complained about the 100-plus-degree temperatures, he said.

“I came home one day [and] one of my papers was drenched in sweat,” recalled Jerome. “I got home and my dad asked, ‘What happened?’”

“[It] looked like he dropped it in water,” said his father, Jeff Jerome. “He said, ‘I don’t think I can take four more years of this,’ so I encouraged him to figured out if there was something that he could do.”

Alex took a digital thermometer to school and found temperatures of up to 110 degrees. He also recorded humidity levels above 60 percent, he said. He took the findings to the school board, who in turn launched their own investigation into the building’s microclimate.

What they determined was that with black doors, exterior panels and double-paned windows, the school’s design actually attracts heat.

“It felt like being in an oversized greenhouse being cooked,” said Alex Jerome.

In the end, school administrators, local elected officials and community representatives in Pikesville all rallied for better air conditioning. But because the 50-year-old building doesn’t have the infrastructure to support retrofitting for air conditioning, a complete renovation is necessary, said assistant principal Kevin Whatley.

“It is a full school renovation,” said Whatley, who has been at Pikesville for 16 years.

Major components of the renovation include the demolition of the school’s two ramps and science wing, which will be replaced by new science and math wings. The science wing will get a new greenhouse, and new spaces will accommodate STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs such as Project Lead the Way, which is in its third year at Pikesville. The school’s courtyard will be become instructional space and will include a new career and counseling center, computer labs and an interactive multimedia production facility with a television studio.

The school’s weight room will expand, and locker rooms will be renovated. The cafeteria will be bigger, and the school’s auditorium will be updated for better acoustics and get new lights and a new sound system.

The school will be updated for ADA accessibility as well, with elevators to take students to the second floor and down to the locker rooms. Chair lifts will also be installed.

Although the school won’t have a dance program, a dance studio will be built during the renovations to conform to regulations mandating such studios in new school buildings.

The front office suite will also be designed so that visitors must enter the school directly through the office during school hours.

Principal Ed Mitzel says the renovation process has been both collaborative and empowering.

Principal Ed Mitzel says the renovation process has been both collaborative and empowering.

Principal Ed Mitzel said the school has been involved throughout the process, with Whatley meeting with architects and soliciting input from the school’s department heads when necessary.

“It’s been a very collaborative process and very empowering as two school leaders to be brought in early on as part of the discussion,” he said.

While the renovations may force the removal of the school’s murals — each graduating class has added its own touch to the collective history of the school by painting a mural — plans call for digitizing the artwork and displaying it in some form in an area that will dedicated to the old school.

The renovations are scheduled to be completed in time for the 2016-2017 academic year.

Two Chances to Celebrate

With the school approaching its 50th anniversary in the fall, members of the newly formed alumni association decided to hold an all-class reunion to say goodbye to the old Pikesville High School.

The free event, which runs Sunday, May 4, from noon to 4:30 p.m., features class meet-up areas, food trucks, old yearbooks and 50th anniversary T-shirts for sale, various displays, walks through the building, a slideshow, recognition of distinguished alumni, a performance by the Pikesville Alumni Choir and a preview of the new school with state and county political leaders.

“I think the event will put an exclamation point on what a fabulous 50 years Pikesville has had,” said Jeff Jerome, describing his time at Pikesville as “almost a movie high school experience” with great music, dances and academics.

“For me, it was just what high school should have been,” he said.

A Flair for Broadcasting

Heinrich on set with Meir Einstein (left) and Ron Kofman, two of Sport5's top analysts. (Photo courtesy of Sport5)

Heinrich on set with Meir Einstein (left) and Ron Kofman, two of Sport5’s top analysts.
(Photo courtesy of Sport5)

Sport5, or Sport Hamesh as it is known in Israel, is in many ways like ESPN in the United States. It is a combination of five cable and satellite sports networks that cover both amateur and professional sports from around the globe; but instead of English, it offers its content in Hebrew.

At the age of 29, Tal Heinrich has become one of Sport5’s most popular sportscasters. She has covered the top events in the world of sports, including the Summer Olympics in London and Beijing, the European Basketball Championships and the Euro 2012 Soccer Championships. And despite her young age, she has served as both anchor and host of the network, in addition to being a field reporter. Heinrich has earned critical acclaim in Israel, as well as throughout Europe, for her work as a sports broadcaster. But it is the job of role model to thousands of Jewish girls that brings her the most personal satisfaction.

“To meet in person the young women who stop me on the street or approach me at an event and talk to them about becoming a sports broadcaster means that I am really connecting with them,” said Heinrich. “I do not for one moment take for granted that my job as a broadcaster inspires girls who want to follow me into the profession. [This is] the biggest compliment to my work and much more important than any award that I might win.

“I should also point out that we have a very talented staff of women both in front of and behind the camera at Sport5 that all work to inspire young women to enter the sports broadcasting business,” she added.

So how did Heinrich become part of Israel’s top sports network?

“I started watching basketball when I was in high school. A good friend and a neighbor of mine was a professional player, so I was following his career and cheering along with my high school friends. After I was done with my mandatory military service with the Israel Defense Forces as an Arabic translator, I knew I wanted to work in the sports TV industry,” she explained. “So at the age of 20, I started freelancing for national Channel 1 as a sideline reporter on Eurocup basketball games. When the season ended, I moved to the premier sports channel in Israel, Sport5. The network has been great to me, and I have the chance to work with some of the most talented and passionate sports broadcasters in the business. It is a true honor to be part of such wonderful network.”

Basketball provided Heinrich with a role model for becoming a broadcaster.

“ESPN/ABC college and NBA analyst Doris Burke has had the biggest influence on my career. She is extremely professional, always asks the best questions, has a rich repertoire of knowledge and is simply a very nice person,” said Heinrich. “I should add that during last year’s NBA Finals, a colleague of mine had met her and told her how much I appreciate the work she does. Doris took the time to record a video message to me, which was fed back to our studio here in Tel Aviv. I must say that I still keep it on my computer and play it whenever I need a little extra inspiration.”

It is in many ways still tough for a woman to break into sports broadcasting in the United States. According to Heinrich, the situation is reversed in the Jewish state.

“In my opinion, it is easier for a woman to start a career within the sports TV industry of Israel than it is for a man,” she said. “However, once you are already working in Israel, it is much more difficult for a woman to gain legitimacy and prestige in the eyes of the viewers, fans, athletes and coaches than it is for a man. The ‘rookie’ stage lasts longer for women. Therefore, I find my work very challenging. That said, I always love a challenge.”

While it has been sports that has made Heinrich a household name in Israel, she sees her future possibly including another area of interest. She loves politics, and so it seems natural that viewers of CNN International have had the opportunity to see her work on that network as well.

“I have been working at Sport5 for over eight years, and as of late, I have also been contributing content relating to current events and politics in the Middle East to CNN International via their Jerusalem Bureau,” she said. “I enjoy both lines of work, and I believe the experience I have been accumulating is instrumental in achieving my dream job, which is working at the highest level of reporting, covering either news or sports.”

Heinrich admits that her dream job might take her out of Israel.

“Being an NBA fan and appreciating its extensive international audience, I would love to cover live NBA broadcasts, discussing the athletes and their strategy in the pregame and the postgame shows, channeling my experience at Sport5, where I did similar work, but for a broader audience on a bigger stage,” said Heinrich. “But my passion for sports is matched by my interest in international politics. … I would love to put my language and reporting skills to use and be a part of a broadcast that will discuss pressing matters in a balanced way. So while that might mean a job in the United States or perhaps in Europe, I feel that the outstanding experience that I have gained at Sport5 has prepared me to be ready when the time comes for that dream job.”

Be sure to follow Heinrich on Sport5 at sport5.co.il and on YouTube.

Jim Williams is an area freelance writer.

Party Time

050214_israel-dayIsrael is turning 66, and you are invited to the party.

From feasting on falafel to bopping to Israeli beats, Jewish organizations across the area want you to celebrate Israel’s Independence Day in style at Yom Ha’atzmaut events next week.

Fells Point’s contemporary bar, Vale Tudo, will be decked out in blue and white on Monday, May 5 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. for Israel@66, the third annual Yom Ha’atzmaut Party sponsored by Bnei Israel Young Adults. Located at 702 S. Broadway, the party will feature Israeli music, happy-hour specials and lite Mediterranean fare. The event has a $5 cover charge with all proceeds donated to a charity of the attendees’ choice.

“The primary goal of the event is to engage Jewish young professionals downtown to celebrate Israel’s birthday,” said BIYA president Sara Brandenburg. “We aim for the event to be a nonpolitical way for young adults to come together to celebrate Israel.”

Joined by partnering organizations Beyond Birthright, Moishe House Baltimore, Charm City Tribe and the Baltimore Zionist District, the party will bring together young Jewish adults from all over the city to commemorate Israel’s birthday, said Brandenburg. “Every year, we hope that our partnerships will grow and develop. The event is a downtown communal effort to engage Jewish young adults and remind people about Yom Ha’atzmaut. We also hope it will lead to discussion and a desire to seek a way to connect to Israel that is right for them.”

Charm City Tribe program associate and Beyond Birthright committee member Ellie Brown played a major role in setting up the event. With strong ties to two participating organizations, she has promoted the event to the larger Baltimore community.

“By throwing this party and combining different Jewish organizations together for one night, you build a strong Jewish community,” said Brown. “You are introduced to different Jewish organizations that are committed to creating a space for you to engage more deeply in Jewish life as a young adult.”

Moishe House, a hub for young Jewish life internationally, is encouraging its Baltimore branch members to attend the event and expand their circles within the Jewish community.

“Yom Ha’atzmaut is an important day for Jews to celebrate,” said Moishe House member Vadim Kashtelyan. “It is great to get the entire spectrum of
Judaism — Orthodox, Conservative and Reform — to rejoice together and celebrate Israel.”

On Tuesday, May 6, Ohr Chadash Academy is hosting an evening of Israeli songs, dances, plays and flag throwing. Located at the Jewish Community Center in Park Heights, the 6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. event will feature presentations from every grade at the academy. Focusing on the development of Zionism, the celebration will feature music, a short play, a stomp by middle school boys and a performance by the Daglanut middle school girls’ flag corps. With last year’s event topping 350 guests, this year’s theme showcases the birth of Israel from the state’s beginnings to modern times.

“Ohr Chadash believes in the religious significance of the modern State of Israel and encourages our students to build a relationship with the people in Eretz Yisrael and with the land,” said media marketing committee chair and board member Terri Rosen. “At school, the day is filled with learning about Israel’s history, culture, people and food.”

The Yom Ha’atzmaut event, she said, is “a wonderful, fun way” to get the students excited about celebrating Israel’s birthday.

“They spend weeks preparing for Yom Ha’atzmaut, learning the songs and dances, and they look forward to presenting [them] to the community.”

Striking Out

A cotton candy vendor roams the Wrigley Field stands in 1994.  (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

A cotton candy vendor roams the Wrigley Field stands in 1994.
(Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Longtime fans of the Chicago Cubs know there are a few mainstays they can expect when they visit Wrigley Field: ivy on the outfield walls, a strict no-wave policy rigorously enforced by fans and, most days, disappointing play by the hometown team.

But there’s one little-known quirk at Wrigley that appears to be fading away, as the ballpark, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last week, enters its second century: the numerous Orthodox Jewish vendors who sell food and drinks in the stands.

A few subtle signs could give them away: a stray tzitzit strand flapping out of a jersey, a name tag reading Simcha, the mincha prayer minyan that used to take place in the outfield stands before or after games.

No one seems to know quite how it began, but for decades Wrigley Field vending was a redoubt of Orthodox Jews, most of them teenagers or early 20-somethings and almost all of them men.

“I went to high school at Ida Crown Jewish Academy, and it was just like a rite of passage there,” said Jon Blumberg, 41, an investment fund manager who vended for five or six summers beginning in 1989. “Once you were at the age where you no longer were going to camp or didn’t want to be a counselor, it was just what guys did.”

The tradition long predates Blumberg. The late Rabbi Moshe Kushner, the Chicago Rabbinical Council leader and Camp Moshava-Wisconsin director who died last October at age 68, vended in his youth.

Twenty years ago, it wasn’t unusual to have upward of 25 Orthodox Jewish vendors working the stands at Wrigley, selling everything from beer to peanuts.

It was seen as an ideal summer job for observant teenagers. The ballpark is a short ride from Chicago’s Orthodox neighborhoods, it wasn’t too onerous to join the union required to vend, you could make a decent amount of money in just four hours’ work, and vendors could choose when they wanted to work and when they didn’t — perfect both for Sabbath observers and teens uninterested in committing to a regular job.

Plus, there was the baseball.

“This was a dream come true,” said David Porush, 40, a lawyer who vended for a couple of years starting at age 16. “I’m a huge Cubs fan. I love baseball. I love Wrigley Field. If you were a very big fan like me, I’d make $30 or $40 and then sit down to watch the game. But if you were a very aggressive vendor, you could make a lot of money.”

Danny Altschul, now a partner at the accounting firm McGladrey, credits his five years of vending with helping pay for his wedding and the down payment on his house in the Chicago neighborhood of West Rogers Park.

“For those few hours you were out there it wasn’t the time to be lazy,” said Altschul, who could make up to $300 on a good day. “You work hard, try to work swiftly and take advantage of an opportunity when you’re in a commission-based business. It helped me pay for college.”

Like many of the vendors, Altschul also hawked wares at Chicago’s other sports arenas. He remembers fondly the day he managed to sell 31 loads of pop (Midwest parlance for soda) at a Cubs-Astros day game and then headed downtown to Comiskey Park to work a White Sox night game.

Porush says he wanted to vend ever since he was a little kid, when he’d watch Orthodox vendors at Wrigley slip free beer, ice cream and peanuts to his father, a teacher at the Hillel Torah North Suburban Day School. The vendors were former students.

David Landsman, an accountant who now lives in New Jersey, used to cut school to vend on Opening Day and used a similar tactic to avoid trouble.

“In Chicago, everyone would play hooky on Opening Day,” Landsman recalled. “As long as I gave the assistant principal something from what I was selling, it was fine.”

In recent years, the stream of young Orthodox Jewish vendors has slowed to a trickle. Seniors at the two Orthodox high schools that served as the main feeders — Ida Crown and Skokie Yeshiva — said through an administrator that students aren’t becoming vendors anymore. Vending isn’t as lucrative as it once was; the rising number of night games makes the job less suitable for teens and the setting isn’t that compelling to young people.

“My kids, they don’t get it,” said Blumberg. “They don’t understand why you’d ever go to a Cubs game because they’re so pathetic. The ones who want to go say they want to go to the Sox.”

The number of young Orthodox Jewish vendors at Wrigley has shrunk to just four or five, plus about an equal number of older full-timers, according to Joe Bulgatz, an Orthodox Jew in his 50s who has been vending at Wrigley and other sports venues in Chicago since 2004.

“Between the Cubs’ performance and the economy, a lot of people are just saying, ‘Hey, it’s not worth it,’ ” he said.

With so many God-fearing Jews vending — and sometimes praying — at Wrigley, the Cubs’ dismal performance might seem like a challenge of faith.

Porush says he doesn’t see it that way.

“I’d like to think we’re getting our reward in the next world,” he said. “I’ve seen lots of heartache as a Cubs fan, and I think it is parallel to being a God-fearing Jew.

“We live through difficult times and all we can say is, ‘Next year in Jerusalem.’ A Cubs fan is always saying, ‘Wait till next year.’ That’s who we are.”

So what will happen first — the coming of the Messiah or a Cubs World Series title (the last was in 1908)?

“I really hope Moshiach comes first,” Porush said, “because the Cubs aren’t going to be a contender for at least another two years.”

Postmarked Jesus

050214_messianicIsrael Restoration Ministries, the same California-based Messianic Jewish organization that distributed postcards in the fall displaying the logos of numerous local Jewish organizations, is back at it.

Postcards with the headline, “Seder without a Passover or Seder with a Passover?” arrived in mailboxes across some of Baltimore’s most densely Jewish neighborhoods just in time for the end of the Passover holiday. While these cards lacked the logos that caused a stir months ago — none of the local Jewish organizations had consented to the use of their logo, and all spoke out against it — many community members were annoyed nonetheless, said Ruth Guggenheim, executive director of Jews for Judaism.

To the many people who have called Jews for Judaism to express their frustration with receiving yet another proselytizing mailing, Guggenheim said the best advice she has is to throw it away.

Better yet, she said, this most recent effort by the Messianic Jewish community can be transformed into an opening for Baltimore’s Jewish community.

“We should use this as an opportunity to raise awareness [about what we as Jews do believe],” she said. The average Jew won’t be converted by a postcard or a video distributed online, she added, but parents and rabbis can use these efforts as a way to teach children about why they believe what they believe and strengthen their own faith.

“What we’re seeing is another effort by Tom Cantor and Israel Restoration Ministries to try to demonstrate to the Baltimore Jewish community that they should be considered as Jews,” said Arthur Abramson, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council. The Council passed a resolution in January denouncing deceptive proselytizing by Messianic Jewish and Hebrew Christian organizations.

The resolution reads: “Jewish people who accept Jesus as their savior, calling themselves ‘Messianic Jews’ or ‘Hebrew Christians,’ actually have adopted a religion that is not Judaism and have removed themselves from the Jewish community. … It is disconcerting that these ‘Messianic Jews’ or ‘Hebrew Christians’ have created a false and misleading setting that purports to allow Jews to retain their Jewish identity while at the same time embracing Jesus.”

The organization is making another effort to prove that it is “Jewish,” said Abramson, “and again, it fails.”

For the time being, though, it doesn’t seem organizations such as Jews for Jesus, Israel Restoration Ministries or Chosen People will stop targeting Jewish populations any time soon.

Eric Rader, a member of Israel Restoration Ministries, said his organization purposefully sends their materials and volunteers to ZIP codes with large Jewish populations in an effort to reach Jews who, in their opinion, have been “indoctrinated” by rabbis and other Jewish leaders over the course of history. This mailing, he said, went out to ZIP codes in 18 different cities across the country.

“If it’s real and it’s the truth, why wouldn’t we tell people?” he asked, comparing spreading the message of Jesus to telling neighbors or friends about a new and improved vacuum. “It’s like presenting some new something-or-other.”


Remembering in Howard County

In sharp contrast to the spring-like weather and bright skies this past Sunday, a standing-room-only crowd filled Howard County’s Oakland Mills Interfaith Center to commemorate what most believe is the darkest period in modern history. This year’s Yom Hashoah commemoration was dedicated to the 1.5 million children who perished in the Holocaust, said Rabbi Seth L. Bernstein of Columbia’s Bet Aviv Congregation, who chaired this year’s event.

It was Bernstein’s idea to build the commemorative service around a performance of “Cantata: Childhood Memories,” written by Cantor Stephen Freedman and adapted, produced and directed by Toby Orenstein of Toby’s Dinner Theatre, Cantor Jan Morrison of Columbia Jewish Congregation and Stephanie Gurwitz Zurier. The rabbi first heard the cantata in 1990, when it was performed in Worcester, Mass.

“People still talked about it 15 years later,” said Bernstein, who explained that the cantata was a means of honoring Holocaust child victims, while it also exposed the young people of Howard County’s Jewish community to the horrific events that fellow Jews underwent. The afternoon program also included prayers, performances by the cantors of Howard County’s Jewish Community and a Yom Hashoah candle-lighting service.

Amy Steinhorn, 13, and her sister Julie, 14, were among the 24 young vocalists who performed along with actors Robert Biederman, Susan Porter and Lilly Ulman. Amy, Julie, their 18-year-old sister, Alyssa, and their cousin, Rachel Steinhorn Raful, accompanied their 85-year-old grandmother, Harriet Steinhorn-Roth, who survived the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, as she lit candles during the commemorative service for those who perished in the Holocaust.

Amy Steinhorn said that being part of the children’s choir was especially meaningful to her because of her grandmother’s history.

“My grandmother and her mother and some of their cousins survived, but her two sisters and father didn’t make it,” she said. “I felt I was honoring them.”

The girls’ father, Mark Steinhorn of Highland, Md., was a member of the Howard County Yom Hashoah Holocaust Remembrance Committee.

“My mother was born in Lodz, Poland in 1929,” he said. “She was 10 years old when the war began.”

At that point, he said, the family was forced to move to Poland’s Skarzysko Ghetto. Three years later, Steinhorn-Roth was separated from her family and sent to a series of forced-labor concentration camps.

“[In Bergen-Belsen] she was 14 years old and very sick. The Nazis used to move all the sick to the infamous Barrack 9. [Because they were sick] they weren’t useful to the Germans, so every week Barrack 9 was emptied, and all of the inmates were taken out, shot and put in mass graves,” said Steinhorn.

Steinhorn-Roth, who now lives in Silver Spring, escaped death because of her sister, Lita, who managed to sneak out of the ghetto and came to the fence of the camp to give Steinhorn-Roth a pillow, a stack of photographs and a letter from their parents. A Jewish guard at the fence coveted the pillow so Steinhorn- Roth’s sister made a deal, said Steinhorn.

“She told him, ‘I’ll bring you a pillow if you promise to take care of my sister.’ A man and a woman came to Barrack 9, covered my mother with a blanket and brought her to the men’s barracks, where they nursed her back to health. When she was leaving the barrack, all the sick people were yelling to her, ‘Tell them what happened here!’ Watching my mother, 71 years later, lighting the candle surrounded by her granddaughters today, I was thinking back to all those sick people,” said Steinhorn.

Steinhorn said his mother had always felt compelled to tell her story, even writing a book of plays for children called “Shadows of the Holocaust” based upon her memories. Steinhorn-Roth also taught religious school at Shaare Tefila Congregation in Silver Spring.

As part of the commemoration, some individuals lent Holocaust-related artifacts for a lobby display. The Steinhorn family lent a photo of Pinchas Feldman, father of Harriet Steinhorn-Roth, grandfather of Mark Steinhorn and great-grandfather of Alyssa, Julie and Amy Steinhorn, that was taken in the Skarzysko Ghetto in 1940.

Maly Moses, 85, lent a jacket worn by a concentration camp victim that her late husband, Salomon Moses, who survived Mauthausen, brought with him after the camp was liberated when he was 22.

“He was 35 pounds when he was saved. They brought him out on a stretcher and put him in an Army hospital,” said Moses, a survivor of a labor camp in Siberia, where she and her family lived from 1939 to 1945. After the war, Moses’ family returned to Poland. She met her husband when he also returned to Poland, hoping to find someone from his family.

“One day I was going to school and a handsome man came toward me,” recalled Moses. “He wanted to know if the town had a Jewish community. I said, ‘Yes,’ I’ll take you there. He said, ‘You’re Jewish?’ I thought you were a shiksa!’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘I’m Jewish.’

“So I brought him to my house, and we gave him chicken soup and all kinds of Jewish food and he fell in love — not with me but with my mother and father. I believe in beshert. If I hadn’t been on that street corner and he hadn’t walked by, we would never have met.”

Turning to the event, Moses exclaimed, “The kids should know about this. We’re dying!”

Yom Hashoah was also commemorated in Baltimore at the Baltimore Jewish Council’s annual program held at Beth Tfiloh Congregation in its Dahan Sanctuary. Approximately 550 people turned out for the Sunday event, which included a tribute to Leo Bretholz, who passed away on March 8. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) presented Bretholz’s family with the final pen Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley used to sign railway legislation in 2011 that passed unanimously. The legislation requires all rail companies applying to work in Maryland to disclose any involvement with the Nazis during the Holocaust.

The program included a candle-lighting ceremony in memory of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. Candles were lit by Hermien Hamburger, Bertha Schwarz, Harold Weiss, Adam Block, Frania Block, Nancy Kutler and Tracy Paliath. Special recognition was given to the memory of Inge Weinberger, who passed away in August 2013.

The keynote address was presented by Menachem Rosensaft, founding chairman of the International Network of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors.

At the ceremony, the Ponczak-Greenblatt Families Holocaust Endowment Fund awarded three students with Israel bonds for their winning essays that answered the questions, “What are the most important lessons of the Holocaust?” and “Why must they be taught to every generation?” Carley Bynion of The John Carroll School won first place, second place went to Alisha Zaveri of Perry Hall High School and third place went to Mason Bernstein of the Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School.

“As more survivors are leaving us, it is essential that we, as a community, honor their memory and the memory of those that remain,” said Erika Schon, chair of the Holocaust Remembrance Commission.


Hackerman-Patz House Celebrates Decade

Neil Meltzer, president and CEO of LifeBridge Health, joins Chandler Crews,  a Hackerman-Patz House resident who goes to Sinai Hospital for limb lengthening, at a reception honoring the building’s 10th anniversary. (Provided)

Neil Meltzer, president and CEO of LifeBridge Health, joins Chandler Crews,a Hackerman-Patz House resident who goes to Sinai Hospital for limb lengthening, at a reception honoring the building’s 10th anniversary. (Provided)

For the last decade, more than 30,000 people from 8,000 families from all over the United States and the world have had a second home at the Sinai Hospital campus.

The Hackerman-Patz House has served as a place to rest and make new friends for patients undergoing a variety of extended treatments and their families.

“Whenever we come here, it feels like coming home,” said Chandler Crews, 20, who has achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism. She has been traveling from Little Rock, Ark., to Sinai since she was 16 for limb lengthening and has gained a total of 14 inches in height from the treatment.

The house was a gift from Willard Hackerman, the former CEO of Whiting-Turner Contracting Company and renowned philanthropist who died earlier this year, and his wife, Lillian Patz Hackerman. It sits directly across the street from the Rubin Institute for Advanced Orthopedics, where limb lengthening, hip and knee replacements and other specialized procedures take place.

The 10th anniversary was marked on Thursday, April 24, with a reception that featured speeches from members of the Hackerman family and officials from LifeBridge Health, which operates the hospital.

“If Mr. Hackerman were here, he’d tell you the best Hackerman-Patz House he ever built was here at Sinai,” said Gwenn Eisenberg, coordinator of patient and family activities at the house and Willard Hackerman’s niece. “To him, a bridge was a bridge. What was meaningful to him was to build things that helped other people.”

There are six other Hackerman-Patz houses on hospital campuses such as Johns Hopkins Hospital, Saint Agnes Hospital and the St. Joseph Medical Center.

In attendance at the reception were current residents of the Hackerman-Patz House, who hail from all over the continental U.S., as well as Alaska, India and Saudi Arabia.

When the building opened in 2004, there were 10 rooms. Due to high demand, the house expanded to 18 rooms in 2006, where families from all 50 states and 43 countries have stayed.

Everything at the house, including toiletries and the canned food in the pantries, is donated. An extensive DVD and VHS collection, video-game systems and computers were all donated. While there used to be a coin-operated laundry, a fundraiser paid for new, free washers and dryers. Young children staying at the house have tutors sent by Baltimore City schools.

A family in the furniture business donated beds and Blockbuster donated enough Nintendo GameCubes for each room to have one; even the landscaping around the patio area was donated.

Other than a stove, the Hackerman-Patz House has just about everything to make patients feel at home: kitchenettes in each room, a playroom, a common area kitchen with various appliances and a projector in a common area for movies and sports.

Bill Turner, the director of the house since it opened, said he tries to create a tranquil environment for families who are otherwise under a lot of stress.

“We just try to have as relaxed an atmosphere as you can,” he said. “A lot of families come in here and will say they feel like they’re at home.”

Neil Meltzer, president and CEO of LifeBridge Health, noted Turner’s unwavering commitment to the Hackerman-Patz House by shoveling snow in the wintertime so patients wouldn’t have icy commutes or arrivals to the hospital.

“He truly cares for these families like they’re his own,” said Meltzer.

Hackerman was a good friend of Meltzer’s, they shared a love of maps and would dine together at Miss Shirley’s Café. Meltzer said that once he explained the need for housing for patients traveling from afar, it was a no-brainer for Hackerman to donate the building to Sinai.

“This is a very special place,” Meltzer said, adding that the Hackerman-Patz Houses are the only buildings Willard Hackerman put his name on.

Crews and her family can attest to that, having spent a Christmas at the house and having forged lasting friendships with families in Brazil and Norway.

“I really can’t imagine doing what we do without this place,” said Cathy Crews, Chandler’s mother. “When we got off the plane, we said we feel like we’re coming home.”


Junior Maccabi Games coming to town

050214_maccabbiMore than 700 young Jewish athletes from 15 cities will pour into the Owings Mills Jewish Community Center next week to compete in the Junior Maccabi Games.

“It’s looking pretty good,” said Bradley Kerxton, middle school program director at the JCC of Greater Baltimore, of the local delegation’s odds of success this year. As the host, Baltimore gets to bring more athletes than any other community. This year, the team is 145 athletes strong.

The kids will compete in sports that include soccer, basketball, swimming, tennis, table tennis and baseball. Tryouts were held in March to assemble the teams, which will be coached by Avi Krief, Richard Waxman, Hector Vento, Barry Flaks, Rebecca Chinsky, Shawnise Crawford, Adam Stein and Eddie Hutchins.

Last year, Baltimore took home its first-ever gold medal in girls’ basketball. This year, they’re hoping for even more success, said Paul Lurie, Maccabi experience director at the JCC. In the past, Baltimore has been strong in the individual sports, but with two teams competing in many of the sports this year, the chances of success are even greater.

The day kicks off at 8:30 a.m., when the kids, ages 10 to 12, march in the opening ceremony parade at the Owings Mills JCC. From there, the day breaks into round-robin tournaments before lunch is served. After lunch, the day splits into single-elimination medal rounds before the conclusion of the day at 5:30 p.m.

“It’s a pretty big undertaking,” said Lurie. “It’s a lot of stuff in one day.”

In addition to the JCC campus, competitions will also be held at New Town High School, Owings Mills High School, McDonogh School, Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School and Stevenson University.

Volunteers are still needed for many of the events, and more information can be found at jcc.org/teens/jcc-jr.-maccabi-2014.

Finding Inspiration

Rabbi Yisroel Porter and his wife, Chaya, head up the Etz Chaim Jewish Family Institute. (Justin Tsucalas)

Rabbi Yisroel Porter and his wife, Chaya, head up the Etz Chaim Jewish Family Institute.
(Justin Tsucalas)

Since 2010, Rabbi Yisroel Porter and his wife, Chaya Porter, of Baltimore’s Etz Chaim Center have been offering programs for young families of all Jewish affiliations through their Jewish Family Institute. Programs for Jewish women such as free women’s trips to Israel through the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project, Roughly Rosh Hodesh and the Jewish Moms Coffee Club are among JFI’s most popular.

On Sunday, May 4 from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., JFI will present its inaugural Women’s Day of Wisdom.

“From what we’ve seen, moms usually put themselves last,” said the rabbi. “They are taking care of their husbands and children, working and [usually] relegate their own personal growth for later.”

Porter said that JFI has made an effort to provide activities designed to help women take time to focus on their own Jewish journeys. Women’s Day of Wisdom will feature presentations by two Jewish women who Porter believes will inspire women to attend.

One is Slovie Jungreis-Wolff, author of “Raising a Child with Soul.” Jungreis’ topic is “Spa for the Soul: Bringing Joy and Blessing into your Life.” The other is Nili Couzens, co-founder and executive director of Jewish Life Seminars, an outreach organization in Philadelphia and an organizer and group leader for the Renaissance Project’s free trips to Israel. Couzens will present “Three Secrets to an Amazing You.”

The Porters engaged Jungreis-Wolff on the recommendation of Claire Tesh Stoltze, a wife and mother of two who works in Washington as a community education center manager at the American Council of Immigration. Tesh Stoltze met the Porters shortly after she moved to Baltimore and has taken part in JFI programming ever since.

“I’m a member of Beth Am, which is amazing,” said Tesh Stoltze. “But Etz Chaim gives me a foundation. They do really good workshops and make it fun to learn.”

About a year ago, Tesh Stoltze went on one of JFI’s trips to Israel.

“I had just lost my father, and I needed a spiritual jump-start,” she recalled. “It was amazing.”

After she read “Raising a Child with Soul,” Tesh Stoltze approached the Porters about having Jungreis-Wolff come to Baltimore.

“I said, ‘Look, if you bring her here, I will fund it,’ ” said Tesh Stoltze, who will introduce the author at the Women’s Day of Wisdom, which she has dedicated in loving memory to her father, the late Arnold Tesh. She is also preparing a poem for the occasion.

“Being in a life with a lot of business travel, the book just inspired me to slow down,” she said. “It’s one thing to read the book, but to be in a room with all these amazing women learning together, maybe it will help us all to think about how to slow down.”.

Jungreis-Wolff echoed Tesh Stoltze’s sentiments.

“We live in very challenging times, and we have the wisdom to get through those times. We will discover the pockets of peace and serenity in our lives based on the Torah,” said Jungreis-Wolff.

“We will discuss this with personal stories and find solutions and true inspiration.”

For additional information and to register for the Women’s Day of Wisdom, visit happyjewishkids.com/womens-day-of-wisdom.html.


Yerushalayim Shel Lego

Architect Stephen Schwartz and his wife, Bunny, hauled 70,000 Lego pieces from their Building Blocks Workshops in New Jersey to Beth El Congregation last weekend to host Lego Jerusalem — an event one had to see through to the end to believe.

At 10:15 last Sunday morning, about 130 third-, fourth- and fifth-graders from Beth El’s religious school and about 60 grandparents and parents entered the synagogue’s Offit auditorium. On the floor lay a 400-square-foot architectural map of Jerusalem. It included details where walls, gates and historic landmarks were to be constructed, filling in the streets of the Old City. The multigenerational builders, expertly shepherded by Schwartz and his wife, were tasked to finish building the Old City by 11:45 a.m.

“I don’t think it’s going to work,” said Betty Cohen of Owings Mills, who attended with her grandchildren, Avery and Merrick Porter.

“Too much frutummel,” echoed her husband Norman Cohen.

According to Schwartz, he is used to hearing these comments from people at the outset. He admits it can seem like a daunting task and said “it looks like total chaos. However, I have this so orchestrated I know where we need to be at every minute.”

Schwartz began creating building-block events when his daughter, a second-grade teacher at the time, invited him to talk to her class.

“When I saw you could teach second-graders about city planning with Legos, I knew I was on to something,” said Schwartz. “I saw that people understand three-dimensional models so much more clearly than a two-dimensional drawing. It turns on the light.”

Someone at his synagogue heard about it and asked if he could add Jewish content. That was 18 years ago. Now Schwartz and his wife travel around the country hosting the construction events and have expanded to include cities and landmarks such as Masada and the Warsaw Ghetto and, most recently, a windmill map of New Jersey, helping people visualize where the windmills will be placed.

In the auditorium, grandparents, parents and children were shuffling around in stocking feet — a requirement for participation to protect
the map they all worked on — scooping up armfuls of building blocks and spreading out at tables or on the floor after receiving their structure assignments.

“I think it’s fabulous,” said Marlene Nusinov, attending with her granddaughter, Ella Nusinov. “I think it’s really smart, bringing grandparents and kids together. It brings families together and brings out the best in all the families.”

Brendan Collins attended Lego Jerusalem with his grandparents, Rona and Larry Snyder. Collins is a Lego fanatic and has a bin full of 450 Legos at home.

“I’m excited,” he said after being assigned to the team building David’s Tower.

Bernard Fox was hard at work on a section of wall around the city. His granddaughter, Jenna Aiken, was working with him.

“I didn’t start off excited, but I was curious,” said Fox, adding that working on the model was reminiscent of his childhood.

Lego Jerusalem was sponsored by Beth El’s Israel Affairs Committee and the Berman-Lipavsky Religious School. The event was designed for a Yom Hashoah remembrance and Israel celebration.

“We’ve taken the approach that we want to provide programs and activities that help educate and inform people about Israel, and that can take many forms,” said chairwoman Hedy From. “[The programming] is an opportunity to broaden our congregants’ and community’s understanding of all things Israeli. … This is not like anything we’ve done before.”

Lego Jerusalem was also intentionally scheduled in conjunction with the Bring Your Grandparent, Parent or Special Friend to School Day.

“In order to educate, we need to bring in hands-on activities that involve grandparents and children,” said Dr. Eyal Bor, director of education at Beth El. “Grandparents now have a greater impact on a child’s Jewish education than parents, different from what I witnessed 25 years ago.”

Matthew Sachs is a seasoned builder, and when his grandmother, Gloria Luchinsky, heard about this event she thought it was a perfect fit. Sachs likes to build 2,000-piece structures and has visited Jerusalem but said he has “never seen a bird’s-eye view of the city” like the map he worked on at Beth El. His grandfather, Ira Luchinsky, was seated on the floor opposite Sachs, working on his own section. Luchinsky laughed when he explained he grew up using Lincoln Logs and erector sets because “Legos hadn’t been invented yet.”

To the astonishment of most people in the room, right on time at about 11:45 the whole city really began to take shape. Groups that had been working “off the map” on the perimeter of the room began to place structures on their designated spots. The wall around the city was complete, the gates were in place, David’s Tower was in view.

“I didn’t think it would come together,” said Gerard Title, grandfather to Emily, Jessica and Rachel Bowers.

Then about 150 additional religious school children entered to partake, as Schwartz conducted his “walking tour” of Jerusalem for the group.

“So they get this amazing visual picture. Now they understand the city; they’ll never forget the Jaffa Gate because it’s on the Jaffa side,” said Schwartz. “I give them geography [during the tour] as well. And it stays with them as a visual lesson.”

Schwartz said in addition to the educational component, Legos have a creative component.

“I say, ‘I want you to use all your favorite colors. Because when we’re finished, I want you to be able to see what you contributed,’” said Schwartz. So it’s an activity that incorporates teamwork and individual expression.

At the end of the activity, as buildings were deconstructed and the blocks sorted back into bins, Israel Affairs Committee member Robert Cherkof observed of the event, “It went across all generations, just like the Ravens and the Colts.”