Former Employee Gifts $2M to Loyola

Mary Hyman (photo provided

Mary Hyman (photo provided

Loyola University Maryland on Sept. 14 announced a $2 million gift plan from a former employee to create endowed scholarships in education and the sciences for undergraduate and graduate students.

The gift was bequeathed by Mary Hyman, who retired in August after 26 years as coordinator of science education programs and the Institute for Child Care Education with Loyola University Maryland’s School of Education.

It is the largest gift from an employee in the school’s 164-year history and will be divided into four scholarships for  undergraduates and graduates upon Hyman’s death. The gift will be funded by the Hyman Foundation and is named in honor of her husband, Sigmund, who died in 2002.

“Loyola has been an important part of my life for 26 years, and it has been a joy to interact with so many dedicated people at the university,” Hyman said in a news release. “I don’t think I could have worked for a better place.”

The first $1 million of the gift will endow the Mary B. and Sigmund M. Hyman Scholarship Fund and will be applied  to scholarships each year to students majoring in the natural and applied sciences.

The next $200,000 will go  toward the Sigmund M. and Mary B. Hyman Fellowship Fund, which will award a fellowship annually to a graduate student in the School of Education with a Master of Arts in Teaching concentration. The Sigmund M. and Mary B. Hyman Fund in the Natural and Applied Sciences will be initiated using 50 percent of the balance of the gift.

The remaining balance will create the Sigmund M. and Mary B. Hyman Summer Fellows Fund to support summer  research opportunities for students in the natural and applied sciences.

A Stevenson resident, Hyman serves on the boards of the Baltimore Museum of Art,  the Maryland Science Center Scientific and Educational Council and the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. In addition, she is a Goucher College trustee and sits on the advisory board for Franklin & Marshall College.

You Should Know … Gal Massalton

Gal Massalton (provided)

Gal Massalton (provided)

Gal Massalton is an Israeli native who is working in Baltimore as the  Israel shlichah (emissary) for the Baltimore Zionist District (BZD).

Originally from Rehovot, Massalton, 32, took a gap year  before joining the army to volunteer locally with the Israeli scouts. She served in the Israel Defense Forces as a captain for seven years, earning a degree in education and social sciences during her service. Even after leaving the army, Massalton has continued to serve as an outside adviser to both the armed forces and businesses in Israel, developing educational and leadership programming. Before coming to the United States, she worked for the Maccabi Tzair Youth Movement as the head of their gap-year program.

How did you end up in the United States?

Maccabi Tzair has had a partnership with BZD for a long time, so my job is a partnership of three organizations, Maccabi Tzair, BZD and the Jewish Agency. Everything I needed to get here, such as training and applying for a visa, was through the Jewish Agency. I have been here for two years, and I have one year left here.

It is a shlichah program, there are about 500 shluchim in North America, but the roles vary by location. I am the community shlichah, so I do community events. I am going to schools, synagogues, really anywhere that wants me to speak about Israel and or issues related to it and putting on events there. There are other shluchim with different roles — for example, those with jobs on college campuses. We will do many of the same things, but the demands vary by job.

What do you do day to day?

I do just about anything that anyone wants me to do relating to Israel. BZD’s goal is to bring Israel to Baltimore; so if anyone wants me to speak about a specific subject like my army service or wants to do a program in high school or with seniors, I build a program. I am doing this in a few places. For example, I am working a lot with Jerusalem U. I bring a movie and then we do a discussion about it. Last year, it was a film called “Beneath the Helmet” that highlights five young Israeli high school graduates who are drafted into the army to defend their country. This year, it is “Mekonen,” about the journey of an African Jew.

We do Yom Hazikaron ceremonies, the memorial day of Israel. It is a big ceremony that we do every year. Last year, we did it in Beth Tfiloh and it was really amazing; nearly 500 people attended. I am in charge of the aliyah process. Anyone from Baltimore who wants to do aliyah needs to come and meet with me for an interview and the application process. I also help to do programs with youth movements, bringing programs here through Maccabi Tzair.

What are your goals?

I think that Yom Hazikaron was the most important project that I have worked on because it is related to Israel. I feel like the Memorial Day here in the United States is so different from Memorial Day in Israel. It was hard for me to bring the Israel ceremony and Israeli way of doing Yom Hazikaron to the United States. I think that is my main project. I cannot wait until next year to get going with that. I feel like the last two years were each bigger and more meaningful than the last. I think it was really getting to people and helping them  really understand what the day means. It is so different — sometimes people cannot understand what it means — to finish high school and go right into the army.

I didn’t know what to expect when I came to the United States, I didn’t know why there were Jews who lived here instead of Israel, to be honest. I grew up in Israel all my life, and I have traveled but not lived anywhere else. I didn’t know what to expect, but I am starting to learn about all of the ways that you can be Jewish and live to support Israel. It surprised me to see how many people from Baltimore do aliyah, there are around 70 families already this year.

I want to get to more new places, Baltimore has so many organizations and I want to reach out and speak with them. Organizations that I have worked with before will reach out to me now, I have made connections, but it gets to the point where I have booked everyone who has reached out and I need to find new places. It is really exciting to me to address new audiences; they don’t have to be Jewish.

Baltimore Jazz Alliance Bops into First-Ever Festival

Baltimore native Clarence Ward III will be performing. (Dubscience Photography courtesy of Baltimore Jazz Alliance)

Baltimore native Clarence Ward III will be performing. (Dubscience Photography courtesy of Baltimore Jazz Alliance)

Those who fear there’s been a dismal downbeat in the Baltimore jazz scene have something to swing about.

The Baltimore Jazz Alliance is tuning up for its family-friendly and free jazz festival, which takes the stage on Oct. 1 at Druid Hill Park. The BJA Jazz Festival is ostensibly the first local musical showcase focusing solely on what many believe to be the only American-born art form, pioneered by such luminaries as Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Benny Goodman.

“Even the events that have some jazz mixed in tend to relegate it to a sideline,” said Ian Rashkin, a software developer for Johns Hopkins University who has operated as president of the BJA for the past year.

Rashkin discovered his passion for jazz by way of performing in punk rock bands as a young Northern Californian prior to his arriving in Maryland 11 years ago with his Baltimorean wife. Rashkin was disheartened by what he saw as jazz being merely “something extra” at music events he attended in his new hometown and felt, along with BJA founder Barry Glassman and longtime habitué Bob Jacobson who initially spawned the concept of the festival, that it was time to give the genre  its own full day in the local limelight.

Rashkin has also found that “there are a lot of people who are interested in jazz but simply aren’t aware of its presence in our town. Our festival is a way of presenting it to them in one big dose.”

BJA’s mission is one of “letting people know about the jazz that’s happening in the area and encouraging more of it to happen in Baltimore,” Rashkin said. “We try to support artists by having, for example,  concerts and producing CDs of local artists, along with a calendar of jazz events, our writing of articles about these artists and local venues in order to let people know more about the music in their community.”

What makes me interested in it is this feeling I get playing jazz  surrounded by all these people. Their happy faces give me this  feeling and energy that’s just right.” — Brandi Scott, Dunbar Jazz Ensemble


It was eight years ago that Rashkin joined the BJA, three of the last of which he spent as a board member before recently tackling the role of president. His dedication to the group stems from his personal interest in finding opportunities for live jazz, something that led Glassman — another area transplant — to start the organization in the first place, 12 years ago this month.

“As a new guy to Baltimore, I was surprised that the few places that put on jazz shows were always empty,” Glassman said. “I kept wondering why there weren’t more people coming out to enjoy this surprisingly good music.”

Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Glassman has been retired from the finance industry for nine of those 12 years and said he has been a fan of jazz for nearly all of his 72 years on this planet. Before settling in Baltimore, Glassman spent 10 years in lower Manhattan, where there was a solid and bustling jazz scene that he found lacking in Charm City.

Glassman spent much of his working life “trying to put food on the table during the day and going to as many jazz shows at night as possible,” simply due to his love his jazz. As far as performing, Glassman said he “tried,” chuckling as he recounted bygone days of harboring fantasies about living off of his clarinet and saxophone skills that did at one time lead to an audition for mainstay Roberta Flack’s first project.

“Then I realized all those great ideas in my head will never make it to my fingers,” Glassman said. “So it was time to get a real job.”

Such terra firma fiscal concerns are largely responsible for Baltimore’s languishing jazz scene that Rashkin concedes has dwindled since the halcyon heyday of mid-century local giants Cab Calloway and Eubie Blake.

“There’s a lot of great jazz and talent here, but it’s not the moneymaking genre it used to be or that other live music can be,” Rashkin said. “Actually, live music in general is so difficult for moneymaking these days.”

Hence why, Rashkin reasoned, previous festivals failed to come together: A lack of financial interest and support meant big money problems for promoters, presenters and performers.

“Though we don’t want to lose money, our approach in the festival is to elevate the musicians and give people an opportunity to hear jazz,” Rashkin said, adding that his festival came together only after receiving support from public resources such as Baltimore’s Department of Recreation & Parks and Office of Promotion & the Arts, along with private grants and individual and corporate underwriting, fortified by grassroots crowdfunding.

“Our expectations are realistic,” Rashkin said. “Since we’re not trying to make money, it hasn’t been as daunting of a proposition to put on the festival.”

Baltimore native and professional jazz musician Clarence Ward III, 35, agrees that a star-crossed collusion of finances and preponderant ignorance of jazz has led to the current dearth of interest in jazz.

Ward will perform at the festival with his Clarence Ward III All Stars project, comprised of various world-touring musicians (such as himself) who he refers to as “top notch, ‘A-level’ performers who you’ll get to see for free. Anywhere else, these guys get paid crazy amounts just to play, and so it’s a real positive thing for the city that people will be able to come and see them and a variety of other bands for free.”

Ward sees the BJA and its forthcoming festival as a means of overcoming the hurdle of those who are either unaware of or even unwilling to give this multifaceted music a chance. The latter’s a particularly frustrating claque to Ward who compared jazz to chicken: “You can bake it, you can fry it, you can grill it, so there’s something there for everyone, just like all the different kinds of jazz.”

For Ward, a crucial element here is education and creating platforms for the different  varieties of jazz to be accessible to larger audiences. Many times, he’ll play a specific brand of jazz to those who might otherwise claim to dislike the genre before they realize, “Wait, this is jazz too? This, I like.”

“A lot of people just don’t know any better,” Ward said. “And we gotta change that.”

Ward credits jazz with all but saving his life as a young student at Lake Clifton High School who “ran into some trouble when some guys were looking for me” before his parents transferred him to Paul Laurence Dunbar High, where he was placed in a band class and handed a flute. His parents had told the school he could play … despite the fact this hadn’t been true since he’d been in third grade.

The flute quickly led to an alto sax and, courtesy the tutelage of “father figure” Charles Funn, Ward became adept at multiple woodwind and brass instruments, kick-starting what would become a successful full-time career as a musician who now specializes in the trumpet.

Funn continues to teach and inspire students at Dunbar today, including 16-year-old Brandi Scott who has been playing the trombone for three years and will perform at the BJA Jazz Festival with the Dunbar Jazz Ensemble.

“I didn’t have any idea how to play the trombone, but Mr. Funn appointed me to it and taught me really well,” Scott said. “I’d listened to jazz before, but I wasn’t as interested in it as I am now. I’m really looking forward to the festival; I’m telling everyone about it, and I want people to come and see us play!”

BJA supporter Bob Jacobson is elated that such local jazz figures as Ward and Funn are having an ameliorating effect over the growing contingent of area jazz enthusiasts.

Jacobson started the Jazz For Kids program in 2006 for this very reason, hoping to make the music genre more palatable for young people in the area. Along with the sale of beer, wine, jewelry and the running of arts-and-crafts and clothing booths at the festival, another alternative activity will be Jacobson’s own “Musical Petting Zoo,” which will grant children the opportunity to learn about various instruments that they can handle and play with, guided by an experienced assistant.

“Certainly it’s true a lot of young people might not be as interested in jazz,” Rashkin said, “but the Musical Petting Zoo should be a lot of fun for kids joining us with their families at the festival. We also have a lot of live-wire musicians performing, and they’re going to attract audiences for sure.”

At least one young person couldn’t agree more with Rashkin’s sentiment.

“What makes me interested in it,” Scott said, “is this feeling I get playing jazz surrounded by all these people. Their happy faces give me this feeling and energy that’s just right.”


The Baltimore Jazz Festival Alliance Festival is a free, family-friendly event taking place on Oct. 1 from noon to 8:30 p.m. at Druid Hill Park, 900 Druid Lake Park Drive, Baltimore. For more information, visit

To read an online exclusive about Jews and jazz, visit

Alternative Worship Chavurot provide another means of Jewish connection

(Tree illustraion collage of: © and anamad)

(Tree illustraion collage of: © and anamad)

Synagogues in greater Baltimore and all over the world will be packed with crowds for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services in the coming weeks. For some, the High Holy Days kick off another Jewish year in which Shabbat will be observed, holidays will be celebrated, and life will flow according to the Jewish calendar. For others, it may be the only two times this year they set foot in a Jewish congregation.

Outside of the traditional brick-and-mortar buildings, there is an alternative means of worship some turn toward to celebrate the Jewish New Year and Day of Atonement.

Chavurot, smaller groups of like-minded Jews who place a similar emphasis on culture, history and family, have  become popular for many Baltimoreans looking to practice their faith in community-led worship and programming.

Rabbi Kerry Olitzky, executive director of Big Tent  Judaism, formerly known as the Jewish Outreach Institute, said chavurot have begun to effectively buck the trend of  established Jewish denominations.

“I think [chavurot] are providing a different experience,” Olitzky said. “I think the onus of the synagogue and the  rabbinate is to help people to understand what the value is that is added and what’s the benefit of participation. I think members of chavurot like the informality of intimacy of it all, which is often gained in small groups.”

The East Bank Havurah’s Havdalah service celebrates the end of Yom Kippur in 2013. (provided)

The East Bank Havurah’s Havdalah service celebrates the end of Yom Kippur in 2013. (provided)

When the Baltimore Jewish Cultural Chavurah formed in 1998, it was aimed to provide a sense of community and cultural fostering not commonly offered in most traditional synagogues.

“We’re the only chavurah in town that is cultural,” said Bob Jacobson, a former co-president and current member of the BJCC. “It started mainly for people who identify as Jews  culturally, not religiously, though we have members who both do and don’t belong to shuls.”

The East Bank Havurah, formed in 1979, sought to create an “egalitarian fellowship of people of diverse backgrounds and ages seeking to practice Judaism in a joyful participatory manner.”

“It’s hard to define ourselves,” Stephen Siegel, a 69-year-old member, said, “but we’re probably still ‘Jewish Renewal,’ which some people say isn’t a denomination … even though it really is.”

“We’re probably somewhere between Radical and Conservative,” he said, laughing.

Another group of Baltimoreans meet only during the High Holidays for services  run by the Reform Temple, which began in the early 2000s. While the organization is not  a chavurah, the services were  inspired by one woman’s dissatisfaction with the overall movement and provide a family-friendly accessible service more in line with classic Reform  Judaism.

Part of the East Bank Havurah’s attraction is a lay-led chavurah that features particpation. (Provided)

Part of the East Bank Havurah’s attraction is a lay-led chavurah that features particpation. (Provided)

“The classic Reform that I was raised with, it was more  of a philosophy, social ethics and the Ten Commandments,” said Susan Dudley, one of the founders of the Reform Temple.  “We didn’t keep kosher or make Aliyah; we would drive on Shabbat. Now, all of those are written into the principals of modern Reform movement. All the focus is on having people perform rituals that make them think they are being religious. The Reform Judaism that I was raised with was intellectual — you really needed to know everything that the Talmud said and be able to figure out what parts of that worked for you and why.”

Connecting  to Culture  

Today, the BJCC includes  22 members — made up of  individuals and families — and offers a High Holiday  experience unlike many other traditional or nontraditional places of worship in town. Annual dues run from $120 for a single-adult household and $240 for a household with two or more adults, but that number is adjusted for those whose  incomes don’t permit that amount.

Jacobson, 65, said the manner in which the BJCC rings in the High Holidays is one of the  aspects that piqued his interests when he joined the group  several years ago.

“Being a part of this group, it’s one that has always been interested in the Jewish heritage and all that comes with it,” Jacobson said. “It’s a very small group of us who belong to synagogues and don’t belong to synagogues, which I think has always made for a nice mix of people at all of our programs.”

“When historians write about this period in time, they’re going to call it the era of transition. We don’t know when this era will conclude, and the only thing we can be sure of is the Jewish community will look nothing like it does [now] when this era began.” — Rabbi Kerry Olitzky, executive director of Big Ten Judaism, formerly known as the Jewish Outreach Institute

“When historians write about this period in time, they’re going to call it the era of transition. We don’t know when this era will conclude, and the only thing we can be sure of is the Jewish community will look nothing like it does [now] when this era began.” — Rabbi Kerry Olitzky, executive director of Big Ten Judaism, formerly known as the Jewish Outreach Institute

A standard Rosh Hashanah program — the BJCC does not use the word service — consists of holiday-themed readings,  poetry and songs compiled from various Jewish sources and, of course, plates of apples and honey. The festivities usually take place at a social hall in  the evening, but scheduling conflicts this year have forced the group to put on a morning program at a member’s home in Lutherville.

Generally, Jacobson said, the BJCC has not celebrated near a body of water, leading the group to use a variety of unconventional methods to repent for sins from the last year. In the past, members have taken part in the ritual using fire and a paper shredder, among other items, to ask for forgiveness while ridding themselves of past sins.

“We’re just looking to recognize some of the sins and  misbehaviors from the last year, so I don’t think it’s necessarily contingent to be at a body of water for the same point to get across,” Jacobson said.

Olitzky, referencing his 2013 book “Playlist Judaism: Making Choices for a Vital Future,” believes breaking the mold from those types of conventional practices is what many find  attractive about chavurot.

“A lot more Hebrew and singing of songs that hadn’t been heard before were added to services. ... I continued to belong because I felt that it was my obligation.” — Susan Dudley, founder of the Reform Temple

“A lot more Hebrew and singing of songs that hadn’t been heard before were added to services. … I continued to belong because I felt that it was my obligation.” — Susan Dudley, founder of the Reform Temple

“I think members of chavurahs like the informality and intimacy of it all, which is often gained in small groups,” Olitzky said. “Also, I think it’s reflective toward previous trends of what might be called ‘do-it-yourself Judaism.’”

For Yom Kippur, meanwhile, the BJCC will celebrate the night before this year in the community room of one of the member’s condo building, not allowing them to break the fast together.

Still, they will continue with many traditions that have  become popular within the group over the years. Among them includes listening to the recording of “Kol Nidre” from famous musicians such as Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt, a world-renowned cantor and composer in the late 19th and 20th centuries, and Johnny Mathis, a 20th-century African-American jazz icon.

“I think only once we have had musicians within our group do “Kol Nidre,” which was pretty interesting and very entertaining,” Jacobson said. “But it’s also great and fascinating to hear it from people you never would have expected to record a Jewish song like that.”

While members participate in a shortened version of the Tashlich for Rosh Hashanah and the Al Chet for Yom  Kippur, they spend more time harping on good deeds they have contributed around the community.

“We like to look at all the good things that we have done to see how we can continue moving forward,” Jacobson said. “I think it’s important to be proud of the good things we accomplish while working on improving in other aspects of our lives.”

At Rosh Hashanah, Jacobson or another group member will come up with a laundry list of positive behaviors to share and then encourage others to think of their own on the spot. One of the biggest emphases placed on this particular exercise is to build a sense of camaraderie and trust among liked-minded individuals who share many of the same values, Jacobson said.

“It’s not like we’re jumping off a building or plane or anything like that,” Jacobson said. “But it’s just a creative thing we do to accompany the listing of the good things our group members have done from within the last year.”

More information is available at

Offering a Modern Perspective  

A sense of belonging is key to the chavurah movement. (Provided)

A sense of belonging is key to the chavurah movement. (Provided)

East Bank Havurah is the putatively second-oldest organization of its kind in Baltimore.

“I’m pretty sure we’re also the oldest havurah that still  actually operates regularly,” said Siegel, a lifelong Baltimorean who graduated from the University of Maryland, studied electrical engineering and now works in finance and advertising on a semiretired basis.

Siegel has been a member of his chavurah since its inception under the guidance of Rabbi Zalman Schacter Shalomi, the founder of the Jewish Renewal movement.

That movement was popularized to some extent by Shalomi and fellow rabbis Shlomo Carlebach and Abraham Joshua Heschel, along with  Israeli philosopher Martin Buber in the 1960s and 1970s. Also considered “neo-Chasidism,” Jewish Renewal is a modern re-envisioning of Judaic traditions through the cipher of modern perspectives such as  social justice and contemporaneous environmental concerns.

The movement’s participatory and inclusive sensibilities are concomitant with East Bank Havurah’s pseudo-anarchic communalism. This ethos has become attractive for a younger generation of Jews somewhat disenchanted with the rigid formalism they see gilding conventional congregations.

“I think [chavurot] transcend any specific denomination for religious framework, because we see variations of these groups,” Olitzky said. “Whether we call them a chavurah, an independent minyan or an emergent prayer community, we see them in various places along the religious and psychological continuum.”

It was, in fact, the group’s “spiritually led, nonhierarchical, participatory Judaism” that piqued the interest of world-traveled Joshua Rosenstein, 40, and his wife Teri Jedeikin to the East Bank Havurah shortly after the two were married in 2013.

“We both came to Baltimore in many ways in search of an alternative Jewish community and found it at East Bank Havurah,” said Rosenstein, who runs a small backyard farming company called Eden Baltimore Foodscapes. “Both my wife and I have extensive Jewish backgrounds but haven’t found a home in a more formal Jewish situation.”

This informality manifests itself through the chavurah being lay-led, meaning each service is guided by a different person or family at a different location.

“Baltimore has such a diversity of Jewish options, but chavurah being a home-hosted community requires a little more  engagement than just being able to stop by a synagogue at your convenience,” Rosenstein said.

East Bank Havurah is the alternative Jewish community Josh Rosentein and his wife, Teri Jedeikin were looking for. (Provided)

East Bank Havurah is the alternative Jewish community Josh Rosentein and his wife, Teri Jedeikin were looking for. (Provided)

“It becomes a question of finding people who have enough Jewish background to feel comfortable in an informal, lay-led scenario but who don’t necessarily feel a sense of  belonging with more conventional mainstream Judaism.”

“Whomever is leading can be quite creative,” Siegel said, noting the inclusion of poetry, the bringing in of photographs from Greece by an artist leading a discussion on the topic and his own wife’s guiding their group in a session of meditation and chanting.

Siegel laid out a highly  active and, of course, participatory series of events for the High Holidays. For Yom Kippur, East Bank Havurah members will take a retreat to the Pearlstone Center, where they’ll have pre-holiday dinner before spending the night on the communal farm and enjoy services the following day for a full 26 to 28 hours (depending on weather) of observation.

East Bank Havurah members will spend Rosh Hashanah on a farm owned by their own Myrowitz family. There’s a small stream on the property at which the group will perform Tashlich.

“The Yom Kippur retreat is a particularly meaningful and inclusive program,” Rosenstein said. “It was [my wife’s and my] first exposure to the chavurah, and we’ve subsequently led different components of it since. We’re really looking forward to gathering at the Myrowitz farm.”

“From the little bit I know from reading about them, what we’re doing reminds me a little bit of old neighborhood shtetls,” Siegel said. “It really is a community rather than trying to be a community. It’s family. We encourage people to be as involved as they’re comfortable being. Even though one person is leading each meeting, we’re all a part of it. No matter if male,  female, young or old, we’re  all there to create that sacred space.”

More information is available at



Rise of the Reform Temple

Susan Dudley has always had a wonderful association with Reform temples — after all, generations of her family have been members and founders, finding Reform Judaism to be “a doctrine to live happily and beautifully by.” However, when the national Reform movement began to change a lot of things about Reform services and philosophies, she felt that her needs were being overlooked.

“I continued to belong  because I felt that it was my obligation,” she shared, but she stopped going eventually and would just read a prayer book at home instead. After a while, she decided to see if other people were interested in  experiencing the classical  Reform Judaism that she grew up with. For her first service, she rented a space for 20 people at the Grey Rock Mansion in Pikesville, thinking she would be lucky to have that many people attend.

However, before the service had even started, she had to upgrade to a 100-person ballroom instead, and even then people were on the steps and out the doors. The popularity of her service made Dudley wonder why people went along with the modern Reform movement if they didn’t enjoy the changes and concluded that it was not left up to congregations.

“A lot more Hebrew and singing of songs that hadn’t been heard before were added to services,” Dudley explained. “They started putting out kippahs for people to wear, there began to be a plethora of people wearing head covers and prayer shawls. Rabbis started instituting things that to me were not intellectually acceptable, like making people turn around to welcome the Sabbath bride and davening and marching the Torah around every week.”

According to Dudley, a religious person is one who treats other people the way he or she would want to be treated. She cited Hillel, saying that to be religious, you just have to be a caring human being. It is this ideology around which the Reform Temple revolves.

cover7The Reform Temple only meets for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. “People are forced to pay a lot of money to have somewhere to go for these holidays, and I think that’s cruel,” said Dudley. “A lot of people can’t afford to pay for seats. You shouldn’t have to pay to practice your beliefs. The best part of my no-pay-to-pray is the whole families I see stretched across the rows, with their neighbors together. It should be a family affair, and the fact that people can’t afford the number of seats they need to be together on such an  occasion is just not right.”

“I like that Christian people come and can understand what we are saying,” explained Dudley. “A lot of people who have worked for Jewish families forever always wanted to know what it was. There was a minister who was painting my house and wanted to know so he came. There are a lot of people who have interfaith marriages. It can be difficult to ask a spouse to spend that kind of money to practice a  religion that they weren’t raised in.”

The Reform Temple’s services are designed to appeal to everyone, she said. “We talk about things that are relevant to ethics and make for a better society and a better you,” Dudley explained. The service, in English, lasts about an hour. In its Rosh Hashanah service, little bags of candy are distributed to participants for a sweet new year, because “apples and honey are a complete mess, and we care about the custodians.” For children, plastic shofars are handed out.

“I think what we’re seeing is an interesting trend where people are still marking Jewish time, but they’re doing so in nontraditional ways outside of traditional institutions,” Olitzky said. “To me, that’s the critical change that has taken place.”

Douglas Zinn was significantly influenced by services at the Reform Temple. After attending its services for over a decade, he decided that he wanted to start his own organization in the same vein as the Reform Temple but for Shabbat services. He liked that it was open to the public and there was no membership. He put out feelers and made an announcement after a Reform Temple service. Five years later, Zinn’s services attract anywhere  between 10 and 30 people for Shabbat services, which are held the first Friday of each month in Hunt Valley. Known by the name Sharing Shabbat, the events typically entail a brief, 15-minute service, a Shabbat dinner and discussion.

Looking at the bigger picture, Olitzky said, the rapid growth of chavurot is part of a bigger phenomenon that’s here to stay for the foreseeable future.

“When historians write about this period in time, they’re going to call it the era of transition,” Olitzky said. “We don’t know when this era will conclude, and the only thing we can be sure of is the Jewish community will look nothing like it does [now] when this era began.”

Pikesville High Is Now a Cut Above

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz gets ready to cut the ribbon. To his left are BCPS superintendent Dallas Dance and Pikesville High principal Sandra Reid. (Photos provided via VISUALS)

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz gets ready to cut the ribbon. To his left are BCPS superintendent Dallas Dance and Pikesville High principal Sandra Reid. (Photos provided via VISUALS)

At 9:37 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 19, the 1-foot-tall, stage-length purple ribbon representing the team color of Pikesville High School was cut by ceremonially gigantic scissors (also purple rimmed), commemorating the completion of the school’s two-year, $50 million  series of renovations.

What followed was an immediate groundswell of thundering applause from the 300 audience members seated in the school auditorium — a third of whom were current Pikesville High students — punctuated by a burst of cheers from both the seats and the stage crowded by variously aged personnel, some of whom blew bubbles to hail a propitious high point in the school’s 52-year history.

“We are proud of our 21st-century schoolhouse and the impact it will have on the achievement of our fortunate students,” voiced the school’s staff and students as represented in the printed program handout.

“Our current mission is to be a premiere school in Baltimore County, the state and the nation,” declared the first speaker, Principal Sandra Reid, who was recently named 2016-17 BCPS Principal of the Year.

Reid championed the “bright and shiny” appearance of the school whose faculty she joined about a year ago after operating for nearly a decade as principal of nearby Pine Grove Middle School.

Joining in Reid’s extolling of the school’s new look was 18-year-old Pikesville High junior Antwan Williams, who was one of many volunteers handing out programs and, later, guiding tours through the building.

“It looks really nice here now,” Williams said in the white and purple balloon-lined entryway filled with attendees and scored to the live soundtrack of a student string trio.

Wearing both a bright smile and a purple (of course) shirt emblazoned with the school motto — “PRIDE. HONOR. SUCCESS.” — on its back, Williams too admired the “nice and shiny” school he’s  attended since his freshman year when the luster of the building was lacking and inner halls radiated a dim “brownish lighting” as per his recollection.

“It just makes you want to go to school, because it looks so awesome,” echoed another student speaking in a brief  introductory video on loop playing off of a massive screen hovering over the auditorium stage while audience members filed inside to find their seats.

Two Pikesville students share their enthusiasm with Kevin Kamenetz.

Two Pikesville students share their enthusiasm with Kevin Kamenetz.

“It was remarkably done,” concurred Adam Carney, now in his second year as assistant principal. “The building looks beautiful.”

As was stated throughout the proceedings, Carney was quick to add that the changes made to the school over the span of time he’s been there are far more than superficial.

Carney was not alone in his electric excitations over the school’s newly integrated central air conditioning that will allow for students and faculty alike to enjoy a much more comfortable day in class, thereby decreasing both unnecessary distraction from schoolwork and gratuitous absences.

The installation of a robust central air system at Pikesville High is part of an expansive program to have the feature become standard in every  Baltimore County classroom, courtesy the prodigious investment umbrella of the Schools For Our Future initiative, which has been running since 2011 and will continue through 2021 “all without raising the income tax or property tax rates in our country,” promised a Sept. 15 Baltimore County media release.

Additional improvements beyond mere physiognomy and climate control will bolster Pikesville High’s cachet, already regularly recognized as it is by The Washington Post as one of “America’s Most Challenging High Schools” (based on superlative student proficiency in Advanced Placement work and high levels of student  participation in general).

These additions include ADA-compliant elevators for students with disabilities and/or injuries, security cameras that will provide for a safer campus environment, as well as the  establishment and upgrading of state-of-the-art facilities such as on-site television production studios and the Interactive Media Production program that grants students opportunities to engage in advanced multimedia educational endeavors.

“We’re now pretty much on par with any other top school, technology-wise,” Carney said before referring to the fact that Pikesville High has become one of only three Lighthouse schools in the county, meaning every one of the 850 students enrolled receive their own HP Elitebook Revolve 810 G2 tablet PC.

“We’re proud of Pikesville High’s being one of three Lighthouse High Schools,” Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz — whose brother graduated from the school long ago enough to make him laugh at the memory of it — told the JT.

During his own portion of the ceremony onstage, Kamenetz expanded on the notion that the renovations were about modernization.

Leaps made in the technological accessibility will allow students to better “learn the language spoken in the digital age,” Kamenetz continued.

“Investing in the school is a sign of pride for the future of student success,” Kamenetz said, echoing Carney’s own confidence in his students  becoming the next leaders of the 21st century.

In Kamenetz’s estimation, such potential encourages the continued support of the community at large, making way for area denizens to rally around the school’s progress.

“Great schools lead to great neighborhoods,” Kamenetz  reminded audience members during his speech.

“When I look into the eyes of the students here today,” BCPS superintendent Dallas Dance said onstage, “I see hope not only for Pikesville High School, but for all of Baltimore County.”

“In a word,” Reid concluded during the ceremony’s introduction, “we’re ecstatic.”

Wegmans Opens at Foundry Row

(David Stuck)

(David Stuck)

The opening of the much-anticipated Wegmans at Foundry Row on Reisterstown Road was officially realized on Sunday, Sept. 18. This year, Wegmans was ranked as the No. 1 supermarket in the nation, a favorite of consumers in the northeast region of the United States.

The new Owings Mills Wegmans offers a vast assortment of kosher goods, in addition to a labeling system designed to make finding kosher product simple and easy.

Bill Dell, Wegmans’ kosher category merchant, has been in charge of everything kosher at the store. He conservatively estimated that the store carries more than 8,000 separate kosher items but shared that it is more likely between 10,000 and 12,000.

In order to ensure that kosher goods are easy to locate, “kosher” has its own label throughout the store. All kosher food is denoted by a blue label that backs price listings, all labeled  as “kosher.” Kosher foods are grouped together to make these sections easily identifiable. Additionally, separately colored labels will denote foods that are kosher for Passover come spring time.

Wegmans Owings Mills Tour

As the store worked on its kosher offerings, a call to the  Owings Mills JCC put Wegmans into contact with Rabbi Jay Goldstein of Beth Israel Congregation.

“For me as a rabbi, it is a very exciting thing, and I am grateful that [Wegmans] gave me the opportunity to have some input into the design,” he said. “I think it is a wonderful addition to Owings Mills, to allow the people in this area to shop at a place that really contains all of the food that meets their needs. Those people who keep kosher can easily come in and buy their fresh fruits and vegetables and an array of kosher products. And even better are the kosher labels that they put around the store that make it much easier to realize where kosher foods are.”

“We want to know what the community is looking for and simplify finding it for them,” Dell said. He personally contacts kosher companies to ensure that the store is well stocked on their products. For example, Dell made certain to contact Rosendorff’s Artisan Bakery for its challah.

Wegmans’ “Kosher Entertaining” guide for 2016-17 lists an array of options available to the kosher customer, ranging from prepared meals such as brisket and turkey to more traditional kugel offered at its kosher deli to baked goods. The guide also has a section dedicated to holiday and Shabbat meals, including selections such as gefilte fish, latkes, blintzes, homemade apple cobbler and babka.

The store employs 475 employees, 425 of whom are from the local community.

Jews in Jazz

The Baltimore Jazz Alliance will hold its first-ever BJA Jazz Festival on Oct. 1 at Druid Hill Park from 12 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The Baltimore Jewish Times recently spoke with longtime BJA member Bob Jacobson who created the Jazz For Kids program in 2006 to help make the musical genre more accessible to young people and envisioned the upcoming festival’s “Musical Petting Zoo,” in which children can experience and play various instruments with the assistance of an experienced guide.

Part of jazz edification, in Jacobson’s estimation, is reminding novitiates of the indelible Jewish influence on the scene. Along with early innovators such as Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Stan Getz, Jacobson is personally impassioned by the work of Baltimore’s own Hank Levy who established the nationally-lauded jazz program at Towson University and composed such notable tunes as “Whiplash,” which was prominently featured in the Academy Award-winning 2014 film of the same name.

“The jazz repertoire has traditionally come largely from the Great American Songbook — those songs written throughout the ’30s and ’40s for Broadway and Hollywood movies of the time – and those composers and lyricists like George Gershwin and Irving Berlin were predominantly Jewish,” Jacobson said.

Aside from several of the BJA board members being Jewish, Rashkin too sees a clear connection between Judaism and jazz that spans a long history that includes Jewish producers and promoters, as well.

Donkey Redemption Is Rare Ritual in Judaism

The Beirig family’s donkey was adorned with a serape and jewelry on its walk to the podium. (Lori Samlin Miller)

The Beirig family’s donkey was adorned with a serape and jewelry on its walk to the podium. (Lori Samlin Miller)

CHERRY HILL, N.J. — The Torah is specific when it  describes what a Jew should do about his first fruits, his first harvest and his firstborn male children. Is it any wonder that it is equally precise about what to do about a firstborn donkey?

Such was the subject of a rare mitzvah performed last Sunday, with 300 people gathering on the lawn behind the Torah Links synagogue in Cherry Hill, N.J., to witness a pidyon petter chamor — literally,  redemption of a donkey’s first issue — ceremony. As the crowd spilled over onto the parking lot that sunny afternoon, participants pondered the significance of a ritual that was likely practiced often thousands of years ago, but in the Western world, according to a survey of news reports, has happened only a handful of times in recent memory. (One report from JTA concerned the redeeming of a donkey in Australia in 2009.)

“This is a mitzvah that I suspect 99.9 percent of the people here will witness for the first time today,” said Rabbi Yisroel Tzvi Serebrowski, founder and director of Torah Links of South Jersey.

Discussed in the Torah in three locations, the mitzvah known as pidyon petter chamor applies to the firstborn male issue of a Jewish-owned donkey, which retains a level of holiness and is therefore forbidden to be used for work. The  redemption is designed to transfer the holiness to another  animal, such as a cow, goat or sheep, so that the donkey can be used for work. The other animal used in the transfer is then given to a Kohen, or member of the Jewish priestly class, who typically eats it.

The ceremony is similar in its rationale to the redemption of a firstborn male child known as a pidyon haben — in which a month-old baby is  redeemed with five silver coins that are given to a Kohen — as well as the fact that other firstborn domesticated animals were sacrificed in the First and Second Temples because of their acquired holiness. Tradition ascribes the acquiring of holiness in such cases to the fact that firstborn Egyptians and the firstborn of their flocks and herds perished during the Ten Plagues.

The donkey is the only nonkosher animal whose firstborn male is born holy and must be redeemed.

Outside the Jewish world, the idea of redeeming a donkey may sound strange, but according to Rabbi Bernard Rothman, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Sons of Israel in Cherry Hill, “this is a very great and wonderful opportunity” to fulfill a divine command.

It was suggested by Rabbi Yerachmiel Milstein, who came from Lakewood, N.J., for the event — and echoed by the dozen or more rabbis who were on hand — that the mitzvah is exciting because it is so rarely seen today.

“It carries with it the opportunity to recall our gratitude to God for everything he has done for us, all the blessings he gives us, and all that he will do for us in the future,” Milstein said.

The donkey is the only  nonkosher animal whose firstborn male is born holy and must be redeemed.


With so few Jewish farmers living near urban areas,  opportunities to participate in the ritual — let alone the knowledge of what to many is an arcane concept — are few.

“A few years ago, I purchased some goats and baby lambs and a set of very young donkeys that were less than a year old, and I bought them to live and graze on our property,” recalled Danny Bierig, a partner in Bierig Brothers, a family-owned kosher slaughterhouse in Vineland, N.J., that operates under the supervision of the Baltimore-based Star K kosher certification agency.

“Apparently, the rabbis who work as the schochtim — the ritual slaughterers who work with us — had been watching the donkeys with some amount of curiosity as to what was going to happen, especially when the female became pregnant,” Michael Bierig, Danny’s brother explained. “When she gave birth to a firstborn male donkey, one of the rabbis  explained that there was a mitzvah we needed to do so the baby donkey could be  redeemed.”

The family decided to perform the ritual in Cherry Hill.

“This allowed us to share the mitzvah with everyone in the community,” Bierig said.

“Let’s face it,” said Sam Bierig, Danny and Michael’s father, “who knows when  another opportunity like this will come along?”

Not only did the Bierigs bring along their baby male donkey for redemption, they also bought along a goat that was just one week old to use in the redemption ceremony.

After several speeches from invited rabbis, Serebrowski  invoked a moment of silence in honor of the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The Bierig donkey and a goat were then brought in.

As the donkey brayed quietly behind 200 seated guests and in front of the standing-room-only overflowing crowd, Michael Bierig and his two oldest sons, Ethan and Jonah, prepared to the walk the donkey to the podium. Bierig placed a colorful serape and jewelry on the donkey’s back and led it through the audience on a leash. Ethan carried the goat in his arms.

Jake Bierig said a blessing over the donkey, while Ethan gave the goat to Rabbi Yitzchok Kahan, director of Chabad of Medford, N.J., the ceremony’s Kohen. Kahan said a blessing that roughly translates to, “You have given me this goat in place of this donkey. In this merit, may you receive many blessings.”

The donkey will remain at the Bierigs’ Vineland facility with its parents, where, according to Danny Bierig, “it can graze and play to its heart’s content.” At last check, the goat was still living there too.

Lori Samlin Miller is a freelance writer for the Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia.

Filmmaker Hopes to Shed Light on ‘Birth Fathers’

Ian Hochberg (Daniel Nozick)

Ian Hochberg (Daniel Nozick)

Ian Hochberg has an interesting story to share. It’s about his experience as a “birth father,” which he will be relating to the world in the form of a documentary by that name.

He was in relationship with a Catholic woman for exactly a year. Just as their relationship began to close, it was discovered that she was pregnant. She decided that their child would be relinquished for adoption, as Catholicism does not endorse abortion.

“Every father is a birth father. However, this documentary is defined by my experience,” the Pikesville resident shared. “A birth father, defined according to my life, is someone who  fathered a child out of wedlock and relinquished that child for adoption.”

According to Hochberg, 60, there is a lot of support for birth mothers and adoptees but almost nothing for or about a father’s role and reaction to adoption. “I feel that it is time to do something about this,” he said. Although he is still fundraising, Hochberg hopes that production on the film will begin relatively soon.

Richard Yeagley is serving as director of the film. “With independent, low-budget pieces like this, it all benefits from the passion of the creator. It is a much more compelling story hearing Ian talk about his  experiences in person than it is when reading the script,” Yeagley explained. “The emotion and subtext on his face when conveying the story made me think that this documentary would work perfectly as a one-man show. All that it needs added are cinematics behind him.”

There is an array of difficulties that one encounters in the adoption process. For example, if someone who put a child up for adoption wants to meet their biological child, they must wait until the child is 21 years old. It requires money to start a search and to go to the jurisdiction in which the child was adopted and get information requires legal action.

In 2010, Hochberg attended an adoption conference and connected with someone who introduced him to adoption support for the first time. In spite of having such difficulty dealing with the feelings of being forced to give away his child, this was the first time Hochberg was made aware that adoption support and counseling existed.

Rather, Hochberg had been searching for support on his own. He recalled that at the conventions “it was almost all women. There were men there, but the men there did not understand where I was coming from.” A sociologist who he met was talking about birth fathers said, “There is no information about fathers. Why is that?”

Hochberg believes that there a lot of men in similar situations who may not even know that they are fathers. He also believes that many men wouldn’t want to stand by and support their child, preferring the ease of running away. “Every adoptee, whether they are aware of it or not, has an abandonment issue,” he said.

Hochberg’s docu-drama will be about solely his experiences, starting from the time before his child’s mother got pregnant up to the present day, where the culmination of experiences and emotions has led Hochberg to record his experience for those in the same predicament.

“People should be interested in contributing to my fundraising campaign because it will change lives,” said Hochberg. “Fathers are hidden; they are not part of this process oftentimes. Things are changing now, there is open adoption, but that is not my experience. I want to create this film to help people who feel their lives are not complete — to help adoptive families and other people to better understand a father’s experience.”

Hochberg has two main goals for the film. The first is to inform — he wants to let other birth fathers know that it is far easier to be engaged and show up than to run away. The second is to encourage individuals in similar predicaments to open up and share. “A lot of men are not comfortable  expressing their emotions,  especially for something like this,” Hochberg said. However, he believes that a rule of open communication will improve the lots of all involved with the adoption process.

For more information,  contact Ian Hochberg at

Cheswolde Celebrates National Night Out

Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer

Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer

The Cheswolde Neighborhood Association came together on Sept. 6 for its National Night Out event.

National Night Out, a  nationwide initiative that has been held annually since 1984, is meant to foster police-community relations.

“We always try out hardest to get out to community events during back-to-school season; we like to be involved,” an  officer who attended said. “National Night Out is a great way to just let people know we are out here, and we are keeping an eye out for everyone in the community.”

The event was hosted in the backyard of Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer, the uncontested Democratic nominee for Baltimore City’s 5th District council seat.

For Schleifer, hosting the National Night Out in his backyard was also an opportunity to magnify his community’s needs to officials in attendance, such as Democratic mayoral candidate Catherine Pugh.

“This neighborhood has no park; there are no real open spaces here,” Schleifer said. “This celebration stopped for years because there was nowhere to have it without blocking the street, so I volunteered to host.”

Schleifer hopes highlighting the lack of recreational facilities in a neighborhood brimming with young children will help to bring new amenities to Cheswolde.