What’s Your Story?

Particpants in Sunday’s Limmud Baltimore Jewish Journey Storytelling  Workshop exchange stories with their partners. ( Simone Ellin)

Particpants in Sunday’s Limmud Baltimore Jewish Journey Storytelling
Workshop exchange stories with their partners. ( Simone Ellin)

Last Sunday afternoon at the Owings Mills JCC, about 15 participants of all ages and Jewish affiliations gathered for the Limmud Baltimore Jewish Journey Storytelling Workshop facilitated by local Jewish storyteller Jennifer Rudick Zunikoff. The event featured storytelling by Baltimore Jewish Times editor-in-chief Joshua Runyan as well as Gail Lipsitz, Noah Aronin and Hannah Heller, but all participants had opportunities to tell their own stories.

Limmud chair Cheryl Taragin explained that the workshop was an example of the organization’s Taste of Limmud initiative. Since Limmud Baltimore began three years ago, said Taragin, the volunteers who run the program have sought to create events that connect Jews across the denominational and organizational spectrum in celebration of Jewish culture, study and identity. Limmud Baltimore holds an annual daylong festival and two smaller programs during the year.

“Jews of all walks of life come together at these gatherings,” said Taragin. “We try not to label and really want people to feel that we are all Jews — because we are. We want to break down barriers.”

Nan Tuckett said she had attended a Limmud event previously and “thoroughly enjoyed it.” She was esp-ecially excited about the storytelling workshop.

“Storytelling is in my blood,” she said. “I come from Appalachia. I haven’t been a storyteller myself, but my uncle and my grandmother were. Tall tales, exaggerated accents … I love them!”

Zunikoff opened the program by telling a folk tale. The story’s moral was the importance of remembering the past. Storytelling, she noted, is the way people do this.

Lipsitz presented her story next, which was about her desire to have a bat mitzvah at a time when few girls had them. After the story, Zunikoff taught the rest of the group how to give a storyteller “appreciations.” Appreciations, she explained, make storytellers feel that their stories are important and encourage them to tell them again. Agronin’s story was about the centrality of Judaism in his life and how his father served as his role model.

Then it was time for the other participants to practice their storytelling. Zunikoff asked each person to pair off with someone he or she didn’t know. One person in each pair had time to tell a brief story without any interruptions. After that, each participant changed partners and repeated the exercise.

Afterward, participants shared their experiences. Alan Cohen said that he found the experience very interesting.

“I felt connected to someone without knowing them before,” he said. “There is no small talk. You jump right into your essence this way. She created a space where we felt safe and comfortable.”

Mel Winer didn’t know what to expect when his wife and a friend encouraged him to take part in the workshop. Paired with a much younger person, Winer found they made each other laugh.

“Sometimes we don’t think of our own stories as stories,” he said.

Zunikoff agreed.

“We only think that stories come from the Torah or the Midrashim,” she said. “But why are our stories any less [important]? These are stories that have happened to Jewish people.”

Participants appreciated the opportunity to speak without being interrupted, something that, most agreed, happens rarely.

The group also discussed the way that the telling of one story leads to the telling of other stories.

Carol Winer said that she enjoyed the opportunity to tell stories to a new audience: “Your family will say, ‘Oh, not that story again. I’ve heard it a thousand times!’”

Blanche Sachs was moved by the power of stories to bring back memories.

The program concluded with stories from Heller and Runyan. Both told very personal and heartfelt stories about their Jewish journeys and received many appreciative comments from others.

Bonnie Block has seen Zunikoff teach storytelling before.

“I’m in awe of her,” she said. “What Jennifer needs to do is to go to the synagogues and find the seniors. Help them to tell their stories, and maybe they can present them to the b’nai mitzvah class. Maybe seniors can be paired with one of the students.

“They can get to know each other throughout the year, and then the senior could be honored at the student’s bar or bat mitzvah,” she suggested. “Wouldn’t that be nice?”


Son of a Stitch

Photos provided

The sewing machine looked harmless enough until it almost shot him.

Mike Peisach, a veteran of the Korean War, fished a live .32-caliber bullet from under the needle plate of a machine during a routine repair. Peisach, who started repairing sewing machines when he was 15, has handed down death warrants on many machines, but this was the first one that fought back.

“She brought it in for repairs and wanted to know why it wouldn’t work. The wheel was jammed and I took the needle plates off and found it. If I’d turned the crank hard enough, the arm would’ve hit the bullet,” said Peisach.

When the woman returned for her machine Peisach asked her why she tried to shoot him.

Sheepishly, she blamed her son: “We were missing some shells.”

Peisach handed her the bullet, her working machine and suggested she watch her kids while she was sewing.

Peisach, 82, is one of the last remaining sewing machine repairmen in the Baltimore area. Working out of Weiner’s Vacs in Owings Mills, Peisach estimates he fixes 10 to 15 sewing machines a week. Most of his customers are older and dedicated to machines they’ve used for years. Peisach said that the new machines operate with a “planned obsolescence” of four to five years.

“When it stops working, they throw it away and buy a new one. It can take an hour to take apart a new machine just to move a screw,” said Peisach. With today’s cheaper sewing machines, the repairs can be costlier than the machine itself.

But for customers attached to an older machine that they’re not willing to trash, Peisach is ready with 62 sewing machines stacked up in a corner of his tidy basement for extra parts. Peisach explains that while looking different on the outside, about five manufacturers made the bulk of the sewing machines, so the insides are the same in many older machines.

Even if the machines are similar, they’re all special to Peisach.

“I have an illusion. My thought is I own all the sewing machines in the world and I let people use them,” he said with a smile. “When they abuse them, I get very angry at them.”

Peisach, wearing a dapper brown vest over a crisp button down shirt on a Sunday afternoon, proudly showed off a picture of his parents in a frame shaped like a Singer sewing machine. A statue of a character from “Fiddler on the Roof” bent over a sewing machine is perched nearby. “My favorite part,” said Peisach as his trim and energetic wife, Barbara, bustled through the house keeping Peisach on point.

Baltimore Bound

Peisach’s family moved from Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, N.Y., to Baltimore in 1939. They happened to move on Halloween, and Peisach, 8 at the time, was in awe.

“It was 95 percent Jewish in Brighton Beach,” he recalled. “They didn’t really celebrate Halloween, and it was a big deal in Baltimore. I thought ‘Where did they take us?’”

Peisach’s parents emigrated from the Crimea area in Russia. His father’s friend, Willy Harris, “mishpocheh” according to Peisach, arrived on the same boat and was like an uncle to him. Harris moved to Philadelphia and opened a sewing machine company. Peisach’s parents were in the fish business but looking for a change due to his mother’s rheumatism.

Harris suggested they move to Baltimore and start their own sewing machine company. He helped them get started, and they opened the New York Sewing Machine Exchange in the 700 block of West Baltimore Street. In 1941, his father bought 11 N. Eutaw St. and moved the company to the new location. Peisach, his two sisters and his parents lived in a three-bedroom apartment upstairs. His parents worked the store, and Peisach helped after school.

“My first job was putting belts on treadle machines,” said Peisach. “I couldn’t get into much trouble that way.”

Peisach “learned at the bench” as he described it, working side by side with his father. When he was 16, his father handed him the keys to the car and told him he was on delivery duty that day.

They sold both factory- and family-type sewing machines and did repairs. Many customers were one- and two-man tailor shops. Wardrobe mistresses with traveling shows appearing at Ford’s Theatre or the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre always stopped at the New York Sewing Machine Exchange to get their sewing machines tuned up. The Exchange worked with Towson University’s theater department through the 1970s.

Peisach took over the family business in 1961 and ran it through 1990, when he sold the company. Until a couple of years ago, Peisach worked with Hancock Fabrics, traveling to their stores and fixing their customers’ machines. Peisach needed a new gig. His wife had vacuums serviced at Weiner’s Vacs, and it gave Peisach an idea. Customers could drop their machines with Morris Weiner at Weiner’s Vacs, and he could bring them home for repairs. Historically, vacuums and sewing machines were often sold at the same store since they attract the same type of customer.

Peisach, who’s allergic to dust and dirt, had no interest in vacuums, and Weiner never worked with sewing machines.

“I thought it was a wonderful idea. Sewing machines and vacuums go hand in hand,” said Weiner. He added that he and Peisach were such old hands that they could practically tell what was wrong with a machine as the customer walked through the door.

Back in their Pikesville home, the “starter home” that they’ve lived in for 60 years, according to Barbara Peisach, the couple showed pictures of their nine grandchildren and served hamantashen and coffee with hazelnut creamer.

Peisach’s two sons and one daughter didn’t take up the family business, but Peisach has no plans to hang up his tools and stop repairing sewing machines.

“Old sewing machine guys don’t die,” he remarked. “They just stitch away.”

To contact Peisach for a repair, call 410-274-6161. He’ll even make house calls in the Northwest section of Baltimore.

Amy Lynwander is a local freelance writer.

Foundry Row Moving Forward

An artist’s rendering shows what Foundry Row will look like upon completion. (Provided)

An artist’s rendering shows what Foundry Row will look like upon completion. (Provided)

Foundry Row developers have cleared another hurdle in their plans to build a Wegmans-anchored mixed-use center on Reisterstown Road.

Development plans by Greenberg Gibbons and Vanguard, the companies building Foundry Row at the site of the old Solo Cup factory, were approved on Feb. 24. Arguments opposed to the plans were also rejected in the decision by the Baltimore County Board of Appeals.

Demolition is 90 percent complete, with another building due to be knocked down in May, and grading and construction should start by the end of the summer, said Greenberg Gibbons chairman and CEO Brian Gibbons. LA Fitness and Sports Authority have signed on as tenants, and the company will soon sign leases with a national cosmetics company, a national clothing company and some restaurants and shops.

As Greenberg Gibbons applies for grading permits, David S. Brown Enterprises’ million-plus-square-foot transit-oriented development, the Metro Centre at Owings Mills, is also taking shape nearby.

The newest tenant there, Subway, joins Baltimore County Public Library’s largest branch, the Community College of Baltimore County and Metro Crossing Apartments.

Howard Brown, the chairman of the Metro Centre developer who was staunchly opposed to Foundry Row — he favored redevelopment at the Owings Mills mall — appeared to be looking on the bright side.

“When you look at, in between the Wegmans project and in between the Metro project and what’s going on in Owings Mills, I think it’s going in the right direction,” he said.

Gibbons, as well as Councilwoman Vicki Almond, have been hyping the synergy between the projects from the start.

Neither Almond nor Brown have heard anything about the fate of the more-than-half-vacant Owings Mills mall. A representative of would-be redeveloper Kimco Realty did not return emails seeking comment. The company said it would halt plans to redevelop the mall into an open-air center if Foundry Row got the zoning it needed to house retail on the site, which it did in August 2012.

Gibbons said his company offered to buy the mall and was rejected.

While opposition to Foundry Row, which began more than two years ago, has consisted mostly of legal challenges to plans in recent months, the issue is likely to come up in this year’s race for Baltimore County’s 2nd District seat.

Vicki Almond’s challenger, attorney Jon Herbst, said he would have approached Foundry Row differently. While he said the project will “probably be good for the community,” he said he would have considered phasing in the zoning, perhaps using the Planned Unit Development Process (PUD), which would have required additional community input.

“She came out in favor [of Foundry Row] at the start,” Hebst said of Almond. “I think that created a lot of resentment, and it’s not just with the big developers.”

His concern is about the impact bringing in national chains will have on neighboring local businesses, offering the example of of LA Fitness moving next door to Lynne Brick’s fitness club in the St. Thomas Shopping Center.

Some residents remain concerned about potential traffic issues as well as impacts on the local economy. Members of the Valleys Planning Council had widely different opinions, so the organization took a neutral position on Foundry Row, said executive director Teresa Moore.

“A lot of people are excited about it,” she said. “They want the upgrade in the area, they want the ability to shop, and other people are concerned about the impacts.”

While a traffic study released by Kimco in March 2012 said Foundry Row would increase traffic in the area, Greenberg Gibbons’ assessment, which includes road work and widening as well as traffic light improvements, said the development will improve the area’s traffic.

“The traffic will be better with our project, with all the improvements we are doing, than it is today,” said Gibbons.

Foundry Row will feature 360,000 square feet of retail and 60,000 square feet of office space. Wegmans will occupy 130,000 square feet and is expected to open in 2016, a spokesman for the chain said.

The Metro Centre will be home to 1.2 million square feet of office space, 300,000 square feet of retail, 1,700 apartments and a hotel with up to 250 rooms. Brown said plans for the hotel and high-rise apartment buildings are being finalized.

Almond thinks Foundry Row will become the new center of Owings Mills, and economic development will spread from there. She thinks whatever retail doesn’t open at the center, which will be about half the size Hunt Valley, will still want to be close by, making the Metro Centre an attractive option.

“I am feeling excited and optimistic,” said Almond. “I think this is the time for Owings Mills.”


Boycott Update

Maryland’s anti-boycott bill may not be dead, but it’s on life support.

Two weeks after hearings on the bill in the Senate Budget and Taxation and House Appropriations committees, the bill that dropped in the House of Delegates with 51 co-sponsors has undergone a lot of trimming, including an amendment that would strip it of the penalties that had put the Baltimore Jewish Council and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington at odds earlier this month.

“This has been a tough issue for us,” said Cailey Locklair, deputy director of the BJC. “To have the community divide in front of legislators was not something anybody wanted to see.”

With just 10 days left before the end of the Maryland General Assembly’s 2014 legislative session, proponents of the bill have a few options left before time is up. If the session closes without action on the measure, supporters must wait until 2015 to reintroduce similar legislation, something they say they are more than willing to do.

According to Locklair, one option includes drafting a resolution in which the state would publicly condemn academic boycotts of states with which Maryland has a declaration of cooperation.

The bill stems from the American Studies Association’s boycott of Israel and set those who condemn any attempt to stifle academic freedom against those who equally condemn all attempts at delegitimizing Israel.

In the weeks since the March 5 and 6 hearings, the BJC has worked with legislators and representatives of the Maryland system to edit the bill into something both parties can agree on. Where there was once a 3 percent penalty on schools using public funds to reimburse faculty for ASA expenditures, there is now a preamble singling out the boycott of Israel and denouncing anti-Semitism and academic boycotts.

Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, predicted that the bill is headed in the direction of what the JCRC had argued for from the start.

“Now the solution that is developing is the same solution that we called for in the first place,” said Halber. “Legislators in Annapolis don’t want to pretend that they’re the House Foreign Affairs Committee.”

According to Halber, all the bill accomplished was to give those in support of the boycott the platform to voice their views.

“The ASA has actually used this bill as a way to grow their membership substantially by claiming to be defending academic freedom,” he explained. “By having this bill proposed, there had to be a hearing, which gave a wonderful opportunity for several anti-Semites and several anti-Israel activists to appear in Annapolis before the legislature, giving them their day in the sun.”

Delegate Ben Kramer (D-District 19), who sponsored the House bill, said he was disappointed in the lack of JCRC support for the bill.

“As a consequence of their aligning themselves with the pro-Palestinian organizations, there is a lot of push back from the Jewish community in the Washington area,” said Kramer. “I’ve had a number of calls from folks who are incensed at what the JCRC has done. … It has created confusion among legislators.”

Although the current form of the bill and the version Halber said his organization would support are, at this point, nearly identical, Kramer said he is no longer seeking JCRC backing.

“I certainly have no interest in their support,” he said.

For his part, Halber said he hopes the two Jewish organizations can work together in the future to accomplish shared goals.

In the case of the bill turning into a resolution, Halber said, “Our goal is that we would join together with the Baltimore Jewish Council in maybe issuing a joint statement or maybe working with the Baltimore Jewish Council and sending out a similar action alert and encouraging our people to support it.

“Hopefully, this one-time public faux pas or miscommunication will just remain that,” he added, “and it will just go into the annals of history as one that everybody forgets about a few years from now.”


Community Protests Murderer’s Appeal

Members of the Jewish community wait in a security line prior to the hearing. Approximately 250 people attended. (Melissa Gerr)

Members of the Jewish community wait in a security line prior to the hearing. Approximately 250 people attended. (Melissa Gerr)

Approximately 250 people, primarily from Baltimore’s Jewish community, traveled by bus, car and subway train to protest the appeal trial of Wayne Stephen Young, who was convicted of killing 11-year-old Esther Lebovitz in September 1969.

A fifth-grade student of the Bais Yaakov School for Girls, Lebovitz was last seen alive on her way home from school when she stopped by a tropical fish store, which Young owned, in the 5500 block of Park Heights Avenue. Her body was found three days later in a ditch not far from her Mount Washington home.

The courtroom, almost stiflingly hot, was beyond capacity Thursday, March 20 with spectators filling the benches, aisles and perimeter. The lawyers were even permitted to fill the 13 juror chairs to make more room.  On the buses and in the courtroom, many people silently read from prayer books. Lebovitz’s immediate family, who moved to Israel shortly after the incident, was not in attendance.

Young, who was 24 at the time of the murder and has been denied parole 12 times, requested appeal of his conviction based on a recent ruling by Maryland’s appellate court. Known as the Unger ruling, it cites incorrect jury instructions administered in Maryland courtrooms that may have led to unfair trials. More than a dozen Maryland prisoners convicted before 1980, when the jury instructions were amended, have had their convictions retried and have been released. The state reviews these appeals on a case-by-case basis.

Now 68, gray and balding, Young was dressed in a Department of Corrections-issue blue shirt and pants and sat silently next to his defense attorney, Erika J. Suter. He seemed relaxed and appeared to be following the lawyers’ testimony. Suter gave the opening statement requesting to reopen the conviction for a retrial based on the Unger ruling.

“It is not in the interest of justice to reopen this trial,” began assistant state prosecuting attorney Antonio Gioia, who spoke for more than 20 minutes. He read from transcripts detailing the heinous crime, including autopsy results of Lebovitz being beaten with a blunt instrument at least 17 times and of sexual molestation.

Gioia also read a statement made by the officer who administered a polygraph test to Young, who had pleaded temporary insanity at the time of his trial.

“I did this,” the officer testified that Young told him. “I killed that little girl.”

Frank Storch, 56, was 12 when Lebovitz was murdered. Storch, whose father was president of Bais Yaakov at the time, said of the murder that he “remembers it like it was yesterday.” He organized transportation to leave from the Seven Mile Market so that community members could show their support in the courtroom.

“In silence our community gathered,” Storch said after the hearing, “and spoke millions of words.”

Neil Schachter has been president of the Northwest Citizens Patrol since 2000. He explained that when someone comes up for parole he is typically notified far in advance. Because Young’s appeal was not parole-based this time, Schachter heard about the hearing only days before from Abba Poliakoff, a cousin of the Lebovitz family. His organization got the word out via Facebook, websites and letters to community rabbis.

“[Poliakoff] got a phone call last week,” related Schachter. “He called me and said we need to do something. … We didn’t have much time to put this together to garner this support.”

Schachter was thankful and impressed with the number of people who came out.

“But I can tell you, if needed we could have gotten thousands of people,” he added. “We could have gotten even more than the Orthodox Jewish community.”

Rabbi Yaakov Menken was one of the throngs of people who took time off in the afternoon to attend.

“It’s important to stand as a community when something so horrible has happened that affects the entire community,” he said.

Debbie Lowenstein, from Pikesville, patiently waited in a long line outside the courthouse as each person was shuttled through security.

“I’m here because as soon as I heard that story [as a young girl] it affected me greatly … because it was so close to home,” she said. “And any Jewish girl is like a sister — it’s like family, and you think how could this happen and they cannot let this man go.”

Baltimore Circuit Judge Edward R.K. Hardagon did not make an immediate decision. He explained he must review records and would issue a written statement at a later date, but he acknowledged the enormous show of protest by the community when he spoke to those in the courtroom.

“It does not go unnoticed how many people are here,” he said. “Thank you for coming.”

Outside the courthouse after the hearing, Dr. Bert Miller of Park Heights, a retired teacher from Bais Yaakov, said Lebovitz would have been in his 11th-grade class had she not been killed. He added it wasn’t just Lebovitz who was murdered that day but her future children and even grandchildren.

“We have a saying,” he said. “One who takes one life kills the whole world.”


Crime a Trend or Random Uptick?

032814_crimeThe Northern Park Heights community has seen peaks and valleys of criminal activity over the years, but recent incidents have some concerned they’re seeing a new normal.

A March 4 home invasion in which a man and his daughter were tied up and had their home robbed was one of several incidents that sent shockwaves through the community. An attempted carjacking, burglaries and auto thefts likewise have some on edge.

“I don’t remember for quite some time a crime wave of this magnitude, nor the brazenness of it,” said Avrahom Sauer, president of the Cross Country Improvement Association. “It reminds me of the times almost back in 1979, 1980. There was terrible crime [then], and you couldn’t walk on Park Heights Avenue at nighttime.”

Others in the area are concerned but not feeling as alarmed. Sandy Johnson, president of the Fallstaff Improvement Association who has lived in the area since 1978, said crime often comes in waves; arrests are then made, and the amount of incidents slows down.

“I think we probably are a lot better off than a lot of parts of Baltimore City,” she said. “I like this area because there’s less crime than in other parts of Baltimore City.”

Burglaries and robberies in the Northwest District, and citywide, have decreased compared with last year, according to statistics provided by Baltimore City police. A year-to-date comparison to 2013 shows that robberies are down 43 percent and burglaries down 3 percent in the Northwest District. Citywide, robberies are down 15 percent and burglaries are down 8 percent.

Betsy Gardner, the neighborhood liaison for the Jewish community in the 5th, 6th and 7th Baltimore districts for City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, said the Northern Park Heights area is lucky because it has two dedicated police officers – Ken Dickstein, the police department’s citywide liaison to the Jewish community, and Sam Bennett, liaison to Northwest Citizens Patrol.

“We have confidence in our Northwest District,” said Gardner.

Baltimore County police have changed things around in response to recent incidents.

“We are aware of the concern in the community about the recent home invasions, and the operations of Precinct 4 personnel have been adjusted in response,” said Capt. John McGann, commander of the Pikesville Precinct. “Detectives are actively investigating these cases to identify those persons responsible and bring them to justice.”

Area resident Frank Storch said he hasn’t seen a wave of incidents like the recent crimes since 1981, when he helped form the Northwest Citizens Patrol. During that time, there were muggings, car thefts, bicycle thefts and other small incidents happening on a regular basis, he said. His family helped pay for CB radios for the group.

“It was important that the community would know that there is a group that’s going to be proactive and try to make sure that we stop the amount of incidents that were happening,” he said, “and work with the police department on trying to make the entire neighborhood safer.”

Storch said the area experienced “a major decrease in crime” after NWCP formed.

Neil Schachter, president of NWCP, likened the recent incidents to an uptick in burglaries and break-ins the area experienced eight years ago, around the time Shomrim of Baltimore formed. Back then, community leaders got together with police and other officials, and through community and police work, culprits from three groups committing the crimes were caught.

A similar meeting between religious leaders and county and city police took place in December, said Schachter, adding that he saw increased patrols following that meeting. By his count, five arrests have been made between the county and city, and burglaries and break-ins have slowed down.

“This is Baltimore, and unfortunately we have crime all the time,” explained Schachter. “The beginning of that [wave] was surprising. When it kept on coming, that shows it was something unusual. … We’re hoping that it’s over.”

Shomrim spokesman Nathan Willner said people are keeping a close watch on suspicious activity and being proactive in the neighborhood, as evidenced by an increase in calls to the neighborhood group. While he acknowledged that crime is going down in the city overall, he said statistics offer little comfort to people who are victims or know victims of crimes.

“I think the main thing is not to cause panic but really make sure people are cognizant of what can happen,” said Willner. “You can’t make it inviting for a would-be criminal to target your house.”

In addition to the overall neighborhood campaign to make sure people lock their cars, lock front doors and windows and don’t answer the door for strangers, city police gave Shomrim a packet that explains other things residents can do to be proactive. The packet includes some of that same advice but also recommended keeping lights on at night, getting a dog, installing alarms and locking sheds and garages. It also advised how to catalog a home in case items are stolen.

Some are taking the police’s advice and getting alarms and even security cameras installed, according to Sauer, who owns the M. Sauer Company — Security Unlimited. His firm has been inundated with requests to update security systems, installing alarms as well as camera systems and wireless cameras, he said.

“People do not feel safe the way they once did,” said Sauer. “They’re concerned for themselves, their families. That’s the fear that’s out there.”

Some are going beyond that, he said, adding that he knows about a dozen people who said they’re going to buy guns for protection.

Baltimore County Councilwoman Vicki Almond, whose district includes Pikesville, said she understands that people are concerned but does not think recent incidents are indicative of a long-term problem.

“I don’t think that’s our future. I think [the home invasion] was a freak thing that happened,” she said. “I don’t think it’s the beginning of a trend.”

Rabbis at some congregations in the area said they haven’t heard anything from their congregants about crime.

“No congregants have brought it to my attention, so it’s not a serious issue, obviously, from my point of view,” said Rabbi Steven Fink of Temple Oheb Shalom. Baltimore Hebrew Congregation’s Rabbi Andrew Busch said that while he’s heard about the incidents, no congregants have brought them to his attention either.

Baltimore City Councilwoman Rikki Spector said that while she has seen great cooperation from volunteer groups and police in the neighborhood, there is a shortage of police manpower. Additionally, criminals seem to move around when police activity is stepped up, she said.

“It’s been my understanding that the crime isn’t going away. When you beef it up somewhere, it just moves,” said Spector. “They’ve beefed it up around the areas surrounding Park Heights, so the bums move.”

And while she maintained it’s a wonderful neighborhood to be in, she has seen some new kinds of incidents that the area hasn’t seen before, citing the arrest of a 15-year-old at Northern Parkway and Roland Avenue who had a gun and was driving a stolen car.

“There is a difference,” she admitted, “and you have to be careful.”

Regardless of the incidents, said residents, no one is packing up and leaving, as the community is determined to be proactive in keeping Northern Park Heights a family friendly area.

“The community, instead, has come together and resolved that they’re not going to let this take over their lives,” said Sauer. “No one is going anywhere.”


Brochin Bids Farewell to Pikesville

Sen. Jim Brochin (File)

Sen. Jim Brochin (File)

After 12 years of representing Pikesville, state Sen. Jim Brochin’s 42nd District will no longer include the area due to redistricting.

Brochin, who sits on the Judicial Proceedings Committee, Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review and the Senate Special Committee on Substance Abuse, was first elected in 2002 and joined the Maryland General Assembly in 2003.

“I knocked on 15,000 doors and raised $250,000. As a Democrat, I was trying the impossible — to be the first Democrat to represent Towson in the Maryland Senate since the 1950s,” he said in a letter to constituents. “When the votes were counted, it was my Pikesville precincts at Summit Park and Pikesville High, my alma mater, which put me over the top.”

In his letter, he highlighted his being a key vote in favor of authorizing stem cell research, same-sex marriage and medical marijuana. He has sponsored legislation to give gun offenders tougher sentences, eliminate fees collected by speed camera operators and create a hybrid school board in Baltimore County that would include elected and appointed members and a student.

His district, which included parts of Towson and Pikesville, will now include areas of Northern Baltimore County that border Pennsylvania.

“No Democrat has ever won up there, but perhaps we’ll prove them wrong again,” Brochin said in his letter.

He faces Dundalk native and former Delegate Connie DeJuliis in the primary; the winner will face Republican Tim Robinson, who is running unopposed in the primary.

With a big race coming up and an uncertain legislative future, Brochin wants to wish his soon-to-be former constituents well.

“I wanted to say thank you for your confidence, support and votes that made me a senator,” his letter said. “I haven’t squandered the opportunity you gave me, and from the bottom of my heart, I’m forever grateful.”


Tamir Goodman Stays in Game

032814_tamir-goodmanWhen he was sidelined by injuries during his time as a professional basketball player in Israel, Tamir Goodman’s mind was still in the game.

“Specifically during that time when I wasn’t playing, I was spending my time in rehab, but I’d go to every game, I’d go to every practice, and I’d study if there was a scouting report,” said Goodman. “I just spent hours on the sidelines thinking, ‘What’s really needed in basketball, what are the coaches expecting from players?’”

Goodman’s homework paid off, culminating in his creation of the Zone 190 — a basketball training tool that combines trampoline-like material with a 190-degree, professional-grade carbon steel frame that allows players to practice a wide range of skills without the presence of a partner. After spending three years in development, Goodman rolled out the first “real model” of the Zone 190 earlier this year.

Goodman said the product, priced at $699, has garnered sales at every level of basketball — from camps to high schools to colleges to the NBA’s Detroit Pistons.

Hoopsters previously only had access to “one-dimensional” training tools such as pitch backs or toss backs, Goodman explained. While such tools are traditionally placed under the net to deliver the ball to shooters in a straightforward manner, they require the recruitment of multiple practice partners for a shooter to replicate receiving the ball from the array of spots on the court from which passes in a real game would come. Goodman said the 190-degree frame of his product changes that reality.

“The uniqueness of the Zone 190 is that it allows players to replicate game-like scenarios,” said Goodman. “In basketball, you get the ball from multiple angles. If you’re a post player you get the ball from both sides of the block; if you’re a guard you’re getting the ball from multiple areas passed to you — the top of the wing, the wing or [elsewhere] depending on where you are. Depending on from where the ball is coming to you in a game, you have to set your hands and feet accordingly.”

The Zone 190 further simulates game-like situations in that it is “the first basketball training system that comes with defensive distractors,” its website says. The tool includes a defensive hand that can be raised, lowered or removed to accommodate each user.

Nicknamed the “Jewish Jordan” after being ranked among the Top 25 high school players in the country, Goodman was profiled in Sports Illustrated and went on to play collegiately for Division I Towson University and then professionally in Israel. As an observant Jew, he sported his yarmulke on the court in front of national television audiences.

A 32-year-old Baltimore native who now lives in Cleveland, Goodman began a career as a coach and motivational speaker after injuries forced him to retire from Israeli professional basketball in 2009.

When he was at Towson, Goodman’s coaches reworked their team’s entire game schedule to accommodate his strict observance of Shabbat and Jewish holidays. Goodman will be similarly accommodated for his Zone 190 presentation on April 6 in Nashville at the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association National Convention, held annually in conjunction with the Final Four of the NCAA Division I Women’s Tournament. In recognition of Shabbat, the WBCA has allowed Goodman to move his Zone 190 presentation from Saturday to Sunday.

“When I was a little kid, I had this dream of playing Division I basketball and professional basketball, and doing this without playing Shabbat and always wearing my kippah, and that was seen as pretty much impossible,” said Goodman. “But thank God I was able to live out my dream, and now through Zone 190 I’m almost continuing the same dream. Everyone accommodated me through my playing days, and now the WBCA has accommodated me as well in my post-playing career. It has just been such a great blessing, and I’m just so thankful to everyone for their help.”

Bonnie M. Norman, manager of professional development and legislation for the WBCA, said the association turned to the Zone 190 to address “education around the art of shooting” at this year’s convention.

“We know there are lots of great coaches and shooting instructors out there; we decided to go with Tamir because his product allows players
to have an independent shooting workout with a real game-like feel in any location,” explained Norman. “The Zone 190 allows players of all levels, from beginner to pro, to work on foundational fundamentals such as ball handling and their hand-eye coordination and catch-and-shoot skills. Because one piece of equipment can offer so much, it puts developing these skills back in the hands of the player in the offseason.”

Norman, who calls the Zone 190 “unique,” said that if she were still a coach at the scholastic level, she “would have purchased one because it is affordable even for programs that fundraise for everything they purchase.”

To enhance the experience of those who buy the product, the Zone 190 website features a series of instructional videos for drills in ball handling, shooting, passing, post skills and conditioning. Goodman said he has used the Zone 190 to work with thousands of kids from all levels, noting: “The same tool can help a 7-foot center, a point guard, an NBA player, a special-needs kid, and anybody in between.”

In fact, the Friendship Circle of Cleveland — a nonprofit that pairs teenage volunteers with children with special needs, primarily for social interaction — is using the Zone 190 “to stimulate ball movement so that the children with special needs feel empowered to play along,” said Rabbi Yossi Mazarov, the organization’s executive director.

“It’s purely a matter of confidence,” explained Mazarov, “when kids can throw a ball and it comes back to them, like they’re playing catch, … You don’t have to throw it into a small, defined net. They can use it in this zone, which has so much space and is so intuitive. [Zone190] just works for them. For many of the children who have handicaps and disabilities or are weakened, they find a sense of confidence in this type of equipment.”

Mazarov adds that Goodman is “purely genuine and humble, when he brought the Zone 190 and started interacting with the children, you could see the kids’ faces light up; you could see that difference that he makes, that he’s there and doing ball movement with the kids.”

This summer, Goodman will employ the Zone 190 in his work at two Jewish camps in Pennsylvania — Camp Nesher and Camp Ramah in the Poconos.

“I’m always working with a lot of Jewish athletes throughout the year, and I’m very passionate about teaching young Jewish athletes the lessons of basketball, the lessons that they can apply to their life, which is maximize your potential and help everyone around you as well as time management, teamwork, respect,” said Goodman.

“All these attributes you learn through basketball, and I think Zone 190 is the physical tool that can help that.”

Regarding the injuries that led to his brainstorming on the bench in Israel and thus his eventual creation of the Zone 190, Goodman said he is “just grateful that I’ve been able to turn a negative experience around to a positive.”

“I’m unable to play professionally again,” he said. “At least my team and I have created something that is going to be able to benefit the next generation of players and the current generation of players.”

To Your Health

Magic of Life Gala co-chairs Laura B. Black and Brian J. Gibbons, along with LifeBridge Health president and CEO Neil Meltzer and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame headliner Jackson Browne, are making sure that, as Browne might say, the health care organization never “runs on empty.” The April 5 biannual gala, which benefits the entire LifeBridge Health system, has raised a total of $20 million since it began in 1998. This year’s goal is $3.1 million, a sum Gibbons said he is confident the organization will meet.

“The community that supports LifeBridge is very philanthropic,” said Gibbons, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Greenberg and Gibbons, an Owings Mills-based real estate development company, and a board of directors member of both Sinai Hospital and Hospice of the Chesapeake Inc. “LifeBridge Health’s doctors, nurses and support staff play an integral role in our community.”

Black, whose three children were born at Sinai Hospital, agreed.

“No one wants to ask or to take. If you have the ability to give it’s a gift and incumbent to set an example,” she said. “Health care is important to our community, and LifeBridge is our community health care provider. I’m acutely aware that when we’re at our most vulnerable, LifeBridge is there.

“LifeBridge has been there for the myriad of medical procedures that our families have required through the years,” added Black, president of LCB Ventures, LLC and a member of Sinai’s board of directors and the LifeBridge Health Strategic Planning Committee. “Now it’s time for us to give back.”

Meltzer said that the gala committee chose Browne to headline the 2014 Magic of Life event because he is a musician who appeals to most people and also because of his good works. Browne is known for his commitment to issues of human rights, the environment and arts education, he said.

The Morgan State University Choir will also perform at the gala, said Meltzer. More than 1,500 guests are expected to attend the event at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

LifeBridge Health continues to expand its services, said Meltzer. The corporation recently launched a new cardiovascular institute and is expanding its emergency department.

“What’s nice is that we now have approximately 200 community physicians, and that number is growing,” he said. “In preparation for the Affordable Care Act, we are focusing on [helping members of the] community maintain their health.

“Our hats go off to the volunteers who do fundraising,” he added. “We really have extraordinary leaders, and we couldn’t pull off something like this without them.”

For more information and to purchase tickets visit lifebridgehealth.org


Baltimore County Police Release Photos in Connection with Home Invasions

2014-0326 02The Baltimore County Police Department released five photos in connection with a robbery and a home invasion that occurred on March 4 in Pikesville.

Police are not referring to the individuals in the photos as suspects.

“They are people we wish to talk to,” said Cpl. John Wachter, police spokesman. “We want to talk to them about what happened.”  

Police are seeking information on a home invasion that occurred in the 3200 block of Hatton Road and a robbery that occurred in the 700 block of Leafydale Terrace, both on March 4. Police believe the incidents may be related, according to a statement.

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In the Leafydale Terrace incident, two men wearing masks and armed with handguns approached a man getting out of his car in front of a home at 7:50 p.m. They took the man’s cell phone and wallet, walked him to a nearby house and went inside. The robbers noticed many people inside the home, and fled the scene towards Milford Mill Road after one of them commented that there were too many people there, according to police.

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At 8:15 p.m. that same night, two men knocked on the door of a Hatton Road home, and one was holding an empty cup and asked for some water. The man who answered the door took the cup and turned to go

to the kitchen, at which point the two men entered the home. One of them brandished a handgun, forced the man and his teenage daughter into the living room, tied them up and robbed them, police said. They suffered minor injuries that did not require transport to a medical facility, police said.

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The men stole computer tablets, jewelry, a camcorder, a wallet, cash, an iPod Touch and a cell phone, police said.

In the Leafydale Terrace incident, one suspect was described as a black male, 30 to 40 years old, 6 feet tall, was wearing a black leather jacket, ski mask and

dark blue jeans and had a silver handgun. The second suspect was described as a black male, 18 to 26 years old, 5 feet 8 inches tall, was wearing a black jacket, ski mask, black jeans, brown boots and had a dark colored handgun, police said.

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In the Hatton Road incident, one suspect is described as a black male, 28 to 30 years old, six feet tall, wearing a black parka-style jacket, a brown mask that covered his face from the nose down, black pants and brown work boots, and had a silver handgun. The second suspect was described as a black male, 18 to 20 years old, 5 feet 10 inches, wearing a black jacket, black mask that covered his face from the nose down and black pants, police said.

Those who recognize the individuals in the photos are asked to call 410-887-1279 or 410-307-2020.