Baltimore Bagels Goes Bottoms Up! New bagel pop-up has Jewish roots

 Joan Kanner and Michelle Bond on the seventh day of their first multi-day pop up on Cross Street in Federal Hill, February 2016. (Bottoms Up Bagels)

Joan Kanner and Michelle Bond on the seventh day of their first multi-day pop up on Cross Street in Federal Hill, February 2016. (Bottoms Up Bagels)

Although Joan Kanner grew up under the veil of 12 years of Catholic school, she still lays a claim to her own “Jewy center,” as she put it.

The New Jersey-born Kanner, a Baltimorean since 2005, has chosen a particularly apt  description here, considering she is the co-founder of the fresh-out-of-the-oven pop-up Bottoms Up Bagels.

It was a little more than a year ago that Kanner, along with wife and fellow Jersey-born transplant Michelle Bond, began operating Bottoms Up as a nomadic catering service throughout the Baltimore area. This includes pop-ups at such locations as the Waverly Holiday Market, Federal Hill’s Pixilated and Harbor Market.

The wife-and-wife team specializes in everything from fresh hand-rolled bagels to classic shmears (as well as their own signature creations such as house-cured lox cream cheese and house-smoked jalapeno cream cheese) to their “Kick Ass Salmon Lox” (as listed on their menu), cured in-house with salt, sugar, peppercorns, fresh parsley, dill and lemon zest.

Bottoms Up also has eight wholesale partners through such establishments as Mt. Vernon’s The Room, Catonsville’s Rooster + Hen Store and, only just this past week, Canton’s Fork and Wrench.

“We’re trying to get something in south Baltimore soon!” said Bond, who was followed to Baltimore by Kanner after time spent in the Peace Corps led to her accepting a Shriver Center fellowship at University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Bond received her master’s in intercultural communication, a field of study that has long interested her as a social activist and savvy entrepreneur.

“Our pop-up in the Lexington Market was very different than the pop-up we did in  Mt. Vernon, for example, and communication helps,” Bond said in reference to starting up and running Bottoms Up with Kanner, whom she wed in 2014.

“I come at it from a community development aspect,” Bond continued, “and food has always been part of this exchange:  coordinating and making it happen, working with the different cafes and business owners, setting things up that will not only be efficient but fun. It’s about making people feel part of the process.”

Bond went on to say that she sees the work she does schmoozing with the business owners and event planners at the various locations Bottoms Up has and continues to appear at as being “more than just a transaction. It’s  influenced by all these other things that are a part of who we are.”

By this she means that Kanner and she are largely propelled by the sense of kinetic innovation that comes with operating a mobile catering business and the constant adventure unfolding each day in working with and setting up at different businesses.

Another part of who Kanner is goes back to that colorfully “Jewy center” of hers.

Though she may not have a master’s of her own in intercultural communication, Kanner does know a thing or two about what it means to be intimately connected to other cultures, particularly Jews.

Consider the backstory of her Catholic grandmother Rose and Jewish grandfather Jacob’s interfaith marriage.

“How do you say you’ve had exposure to this amazing group of people [Jews] throughout your life?” Kanner wondered aloud during her interview with the JT.

This exposure goes beyond Kanner’s fascination with Jewish cuisine, recounting as she did stories of her grandparents going to a kosher butcher to make their “phenomenal” flanken for their borscht, and then zipping right down the street to a different butcher for cold cuts that were full of “porky goodness.”

“And I haven’t made a latke in a while,” Kanner confessed, “but I make those too. With a little basil to ‘Italian them up’ for a bit of variety.”

No, Kanner’s link to her Jewy center is stronger than the mere fact that she happens to make kugel based on her grandparents’ recipe. There’s the history of her grandparents — shunned in Poland during the early ’40s for their interfaith marriage — fleeing through the forests of their homeland to meet up with an aunt in Germany “of all places,” as Kanner laughed, before “hightailing it to Canada” and ending up in the United States.

“I know they also got restitution checks from the German government,” Kanner said, adding that she has in the past heard from other Jewish people who made their way out and thanked her for what her grandparents did in assisting them.

Kanner will never be able to forget her grandfather’s disfigured ear, missing a small piece of his skull from when a Nazi soldier bashed him with the butt of his rifle before escaping.

“It didn’t look gross,” she said. “But there was this little indentation behind his right ear and I remember asking him about these kinds of physical things I saw or hearing stories about what went on.”

Rose and Jacob Kanner at their daughter's (Joan's Aunt) wedding in the 70s. (Toncia Sosnosky)

Rose and Jacob Kanner at their daughter’s (Joan’s Aunt) wedding in the 70s. (Toncia Sosnosky)

Kanner said that, for the most part, her grandparents — who were very involved in her upbringing — were mostly silent to the point of secrecy about the horrors they experienced and witnessed back in Poland and Germany during those tumultuous earlier days.

Though Kanner herself never learned the languages of her grandparents’ native land, she said they did sometimes speak Polish and Yiddish around her, “but they didn’t really want me to learn it.

“All I really knew is that I came from these beautiful people who had undergone these unspeakable things before they came to the U.S.,” Kanner said.

Aside from the practical notion that Bond and Kanner started Bottoms Up largely because they felt Baltimore lacked the kind of traditional style bagels they grew up with in New Jersey and, later before coming here, New York City, this deeper  aspect of who they are as people greatly inspired and continues to inspire their growing enterprise.

“For us, it’s really about everything we’re talking about here: the cultural association and experience of our childhood,” Bond said.

“We were both raised in different parts of Jersey; [Kanner’s] had more of a Jewish influence and mine had more of an Italian influence … but there were  always bagels everywhere.

“In that very simple, accessible food — whether you’re going to a business meeting or working at a construction site down the street — bagels can be there for everyone. And we want to be a part of that in  Baltimore.”

Baltimore Startup Puts Fitness Online


This screenshot shows four friends taking a recorded fitness class together through BurnAlong. (Provided)

It’s that time of year where the best of intentions to fulfill those New Year’s resolutions start to falter.

It’s not hard to guess that many of those resolutions revolved around fitness and exercise. Everyone wants to be healthier, but between work, friends and family, gym routines tend to take a back seat on the priority list.

One new company, founded by two Baltimore residents who both have backgrounds with startups and in the tech sector, is looking to help people keep their fitness resolutions through BurnAlong, a new site that aims to bridge the gap between brick-and-mortar gyms and online fitness.

Daniel Freedman and Mike Kott actually got the idea for BurnAlong from a joke. They were ribbing each other about being out of shape, despite each being previously very active and fit. Their problem-solving curiosity kicked in: Why weren’t they in shape? What was stopping them?

“It all started out in a jovially way, but it all got very serious very quickly,” Kott said.

BurnAlong first launched in beta — only those with an invite could join — in September and opened to the public the following month. The idea is fairly simple: Bring the gym to people at home, but maintain a sense of community. Freedman and Kott have partnered with a number of gyms across the country, nearly 30 so far with inquiries coming in from more, who provide filmed content of their instructors teaching a fitness class. Then users and up to three friends can take the class together, joined by a video chat platform where all are viewing the instructor.

Sue Sheain, a native Baltimorean and owner of Beach Barre Body in Bethany Beach, Del., was one of the early partners to sign on with BurnAlong. She described it as Facebook meets Skype meets YouTube for fitness. The idea of having her classes available to her students online seemed like a no-brainer to Sheain, especially since her studio is located in a very seasonal community.

“They gave me the way to do what I wanted to do myself but didn’t have the resources,” she said.

The partnering with existing gyms and studios is key, Freedman said. There are already many online fitness companies to compete with the in-person options. Their goal was to see how they could improve upon the fitness regimes people already had or remove the barriers that kept them from having one.

“We believe that people would rather work out in person than at home,” Kott said. “We’re not looking to replace the in-person experience, but supplement it.”

Also, people like having a consistency in instructors, and once they find one they like, often they will start to seek out in-person classes with that person, if they haven’t already.

“When people find a favorite instructor, they get really passionate about that instructor,” Freedman said.

Both Sheain and Charlie Bauer, a yoga instructor at fellow early partner gym Prana Studio in Annapolis, are already getting good feedback, especially from clients who weren’t able to make a class but were still able to work out with them.

A side benefit, they both said, is being able to reach audiences they may not otherwise. For both yoga and barre, Bauer and Sheain used the example of men who might feel judged going to the women-heavy classes but could try the classes out at home first.

“It’s getting people introduced to yoga who might not otherwise take a yoga class,” said Bauer, who, as the somewhat rare male yoga instructor, understands the challenge of getting other men to try classes like these. But once they do, he — and Sheain — said, they frequently find they enjoy it.

Freedman and Kott are optimistic about the next couple months. They’re adding more content as well as more gyms, and BurnAlong has already been benefiting from what Freedman calls its “viral quality.”

New year, new startup, new you!

The Ethics of Combating Terrorism

From left: Stuart Diamant-Cohen, IDF Brig. Gen. Bentzi Gruber and Leon Berg (Photo by Daniel Nozick)

From left: Stuart Diamant-Cohen, IDF Brig. Gen. Bentzi Gruber and Leon Berg (Photo by Daniel Nozick)

Warfare has changed dramatically in recent decades. On the Israeli frontlines, terrorism and guerrilla warfare persist, forcing Israel Defense Forces soldiers to make life-or-death decisions in the field.

IDF Reserve Brig. Gen. Bentzi Gruber spoke to the Jewish National Fund’s Lawyers for Israel Society in Baltimore on Jan. 24, where he talked about ethics in the field and how IDF soldiers are trained to make split-second decisions in an ethical manner. Gruber serves as the vice commander of armored divisions and leads five brigades, a total of 25,000 soldiers.

His talk came just weeks after the high-profile manslaughter conviction of IDF soldier Elor Azaria, who killed a wounded Palestinian lying on the ground after the man lunged at and stabbed an Israeli solider at a checkpoint.

In the course of his presentation, Gruber focused on how soldiers are trained to make ethical decisions on the spot, without time to wait for orders from superiors.

“We have to start with a framework — you have eight seconds to make a decision. That is the main difference between making a decision in the field and elsewhere. You have eight seconds, shoot or don’t shoot?”

Many factors can influence a soldier’s judgement. Physical and mental fatigue will dull a soldier’s senses. Gruber explained that the IDF has urban training facilities, where soldiers practice making these hurried decisions “so that the first time you are confronting a life-or-death decision is not in the field, it is in the [demonstration].”

Gruber explained that in order to make a properly informed decision, there is not a specific procedure for a soldier, but rather a specific set of simple questions for them to ask themselves that dictate what can and cannot be done.

“The first question is simple,” he said. “In the army, you can use force but only to accomplish the mission, so the first question should always be, ‘Are we using the force to accomplish the mission?’”

The example he uses is of entering a house to arrest a terrorist. If force needs to be used to restrain the terrorist, then that is acceptable because it is a part of the mission. However, to destroy the TV in the terrorist’s house does not have a purpose in accomplishing the mission and therefore is crossing the line.

“The second question is a bit more complicated,” Gruber said. “Make sure that you are only using force against the enemy, not against innocents or noncombatants. If you have a doubt, there is no doubt — you do not shoot. You can use force only if you know that it is the enemy.”

The third factor that a soldier must consider is also the most complicated — collateral damage. Gruber asserted that you are allowed to cause collateral damage to accomplish a mission “but only in proportion to the immediate threat.” Immediate is the key word.

“Even if I know that a guy killed five Israelis yesterday and five IDF soldiers two weeks ago, I will not shoot. The pilot [shooting rockets] is not a judge. He is not trying to punish someone for what they have done in the past. He is trying to avoid terror in the future.”

One ethical dilemma that soldiers often face in Gaza is that terrorists grab children to protect themselves from snipers while crossing a street.

“The sniper won’t shoot,” said Gruber. “This is a moving target, the kid is struggling and yelling. Why are they doing this? Because they know that when it comes to collateral damage, it is a big issue for Israelis. That is the difference between terrorism and soldiers — soldiers try to kill the enemy, terrorists purposefully target civilians.”

The IDF takes avoiding collateral damage at all costs so seriously that the procedure when taking control of an urban area is to alert everyone ahead of time, even the enemy, that they are coming. Forty-eight hours in advance, leaflets drop from planes asking residents to please leave the area; 24 hours in advance, people begin to call the families, and another phone call is made five minutes out.

“We even send text messages and recently have started to use social media,” said Gruber. “Why? It is unthinkable for an army to tell you when and where they will attack in advance. It goes against everything that I know, but it is to avoid collateral damage.”

Stuart Diamant-Cohen, director of JNF in Greater Washington, D.C., and Virginia, said the JNF holds no political standpoint on the issues Gruber discussed.

“However, this presentation provided a remarkable opportunity to see Israel and examine its ethical and moral dilemmas from the perspective of a living hero,” Diamant-Cohen said.

Leon Berg, co-chair of Lawyers for Israel, said that being informed about the ethics of the IDF is important for those who want to advocate on the morality of the Israeli army.

“As an advocate, this knowledge is something that you want to be able to offer to other people,” he said. “All of us are committed to being advocates of the State of Israel, and this is just one more thing to be proud of in terms of the great emphasis the IDF places on ethics in the field.”

More Than Junk … It’s Scrap! Local Jewish families ‘turned dross into gold’ and helped build 20th-century Baltimore



Everything is eventually scrap,” began Marvin Pinkert, executive director of the Jewish Museum of Maryland since June 2012.

“All materials are eventually no longer useful in their original form,” he continued. “The business itself started off as ‘junk’ before being known as ‘scrap.’ Today’s ‘recycling’ is really the same model of our being able to reuse material and is a vital part of society.”

No matter the semantics, the notion of “scrap” as an industry is based around the commerce of deconstructing new or used materials — cars, bridges, boats, industrial detritus — into manageable, much smaller and organized pieces that can then be melted down at steel mills or other facilities that transform “junk” into something that can be used again to create, well, more bridges or cars or, inevitably,  industrial materials that later become detritus themselves.

“As they say, ‘This one’s personal,’” Pinkert noted. “I grew up in the scrapyard business. This was a situation where,  because I was sensitive to the idea that the scrapyard industry was an undervalued part of our economy and an undervalued part of the Jewish experience, I thought it would be great if I could do something on a national level.”

It’s a goal of Pinkert’s to develop the  exhibit, which is set to open at the museum October 2018, as one that would travel around the country to promote “the vision and ingenuity required for the ‘un-making’ and reuse of our material culture,” as written in the project proposal.

Having grown up in Chicago where his family started and ran People’s Iron and Metal Co. before it was sold off two decades ago, Pinkert hopes the upcoming exhibit will “honor my parents and grandparents as well as others who were transformed by the industry and became a central part of the Jewish community.”

According to a 2015 report by the  Institute for Scrap Recycling (ISRI)  — scrap’s U.S.-based nonprofit trade  association that advocates for its more than 1,500 companies in front of government bodies including Congress — the  business has become a monumentally  robust industry on par with those of data processing/hosting, automotive repair and dental, generating an annual $105.81 billion in national economic activity.

In the earliest days of the industry, when one would have scoffed at the very idea of calling it such, hearty souls were simply “junkmen,” detailed, in fact, by Pinkert’s census records of his grandfather.

“It was seen as an occupation someone would enter because there was no other choice due to language skills, lack of technical training or religious discrimination,” Pinkert said. “And then folks advanced bit by bit to become business people, then entrepreneurs.”

It’s an expansive story perhaps best illustrated by the central core of scrap as an industry itself: “You’re going from material that is considered worthless to material that is integral to the creation of this country,” Pinkert said.

Like Pinkert, lifelong Pikes-ville resident Neal Shapiro, 52,  is a scion of the scrap that he  referred to as “a colorful industry for a lot of years, full of a colorful array of characters, which made it fun and interesting.”

Shapiro is himself one of this “colorful array” and a proud member of what is a major dynasty of Baltimorean Jewish family members whose ancestral patriarchs were three brothers who came over in the earliest years of the 1900s, fleeing a section of Russia that today is the country Latvia, before establishing their individual businesses all revolving around scrap.

There was Shapiro’s grandfather, Isaac aka Ike, who founded Cambridge Iron & Metal, Jacob aka Jake with his United Iron & Metal and Morris Schapiro’s company, Boston Iron & Metal.

And, yes, that “Schapiro” surname is not a typo. The original family name back in the old country was Tomke, something that changed when Morris, the first to come over in 1902, met up with a distant cousin whose address he happened to have and who was named “Shapiro.”

Morris was far more than simply the first of the three brothers to seek his fortune in the United States. His multiple enterprises would later include whiskey distilling, owning and running a “near beer” brewery during Prohibition and —  before it was sold off by his son John in 1984 — ownership of the Laurel Park Racetrack, among many other ventures. His scrapyard business would be the largest of the brothers and, as the legend goes, “the ones with the ‘c’ are the ones with the cash,” joked Jim Shapiro, grandson of Jacob.

“I can’t imagine that when they [the brothers] first started picking up scrap, they could ever imagine what it would turn into today,” said Neal,  reflecting on Morris’ adventures through the industry as well as his own grandfather’s and, of course, his own.

“So many weird things happened over the years,” Neal said. “So many crazy things.”

A Vision  for Value

From left: Leroy and his son Neal Shapiro with Sandy and his father Joe Shapiro of Cambridge Iron & Metal in 1985 (Neal Shapiro)

From left: Leroy and his son Neal Shapiro with Sandy and his father Joe Shapiro of Cambridge Iron & Metal in 1985 (Neal Shapiro)

Indeed, Schapiro’s story is a true shmata-to-riches series of adventures with echoes of John Steinbeck’s and Upton Sinclair’s work before turning into pure Horatio Alger.

A native of Czarist Russia, Schapiro started working  menial jobs at the age of 11, before a frightening encounter with a large soldier asking if he was Jewish led him to leave the country.

It was 1902 when, after  saving for nearly a decade to earn 100 rubles (approximately $50 at the time), Schapiro made his way through Europe to Hamburg, where he waited a week for the SS Pennsylvania to whisk him away to the States.

“I was sick as a dog,” Schapiro said in an oral history interview kept at the Jewish Museum. He was crammed in with 500 people in an area of the ship “worse than steerage … just like cattle. They wouldn’t permit that on any boat today.”

For his trouble, Schapiro would also lose all but 25 cents after being pickpocketed at some point along his voyage that took him to Boston by way of New York and Providence, R.I.

A series of odd jobs and even odder experiences including hustling and being hustled followed, leading Schapiro from his cousin’s Boston to Georgia, where, with $12.75 in his pocket, he boarded a boat for $12 that happened to take him to  Baltimore.

“If the boat was going to Chicago,” Schapiro said, “I would’ve gone to Chicago.”

Arriving two weeks after the Great Baltimore Fire of February 1904, Schapiro — who taught himself English by reading newspapers and street signs — was able to find himself a job cleaning bricks just outside what would eventually become the famed Southern Hotel at the corner of Light and E. Redwood streets.

The job lasted four days, and Schapiro moved on to other vocations including working for a baker who specialized in matzoh. Running into some of his Boston relatives walking down Baltimore Street one day, he came to find they were engaged in a clever junk shop venture.

His cousins and uncle were buying up the basest material from the burned district and selling it as scrap. Infuriated by their not allowing him to join up for fear of competition, Schapiro decided to give the scrap game a shot himself.

“So I made up my mind to go into the junk business [and] went to the burn district,” Schapiro said. “[I] bargained for a whole day to buy a couple loads of iron for $7.50.”

With some help from a colleague who assisted his hauling the scrap around in a cart, Schapiro made $10 in one day, concreting his plan to be in the “junk business” forevermore.

By the end of his first week, Schapiro had $100 in his pocket. Buying up whatever he could from blacksmith shops, machine shops, chemical works and “everything where junk accumulated,” along with yet another series of unfortunate events involving a few of his family members and partners, Boston Metals was born and property of Morris Schapiro.

He soon would bring over his brother Isaac and Uncle Oscar to help him run the business that would allow him to eventually purchase his first “little house” with a $200 down payment on Woodbrook Avenue.

The shift from cutting up scrap by hand and basic tools to “oxygen” (torches) in the mid-1920s wasn’t the only major shift that later occurred in the life of Schapiro. By this time, the magnate was easily bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars every month and his empire was assured.

A humble and good-natured businessman throughout his life and multifaceted career, Schapiro’s greatest feat of vindication came down to a tale often told by his relatives involving the simple scrapping of a familiar boat.

Boston Metals would specialize in the junking of boats (at one time as many as 124 purchased from the federal government), and one day he came upon one that caught his attention.

“I was walking along and saw this great big ship,” Schapiro stated in his oral  history.

“Well, it’s for sale and you can go over to Washington to buy her,” said his colleague, and that’s just what Schapiro did, eventually scrapping the SS Pennsylvania, the very boat that took him on his horrendous journey across the seas on his way to America only two decades earlier.

The professionally produced oral history was based on an interview Schapiro granted on the occasion of his 70th birthday in 1953 — 16 years before he passed away — and donated to Pinkert’s Jewish Museum by Schapiro’s granddaughter, Barbara Katz, in March 1988.

Katz, an 83-year-old Pikesville resident, learned much about her grandfather, with whom she was extremely close growing up, from the oral history. It was the only time she heard her grand-father refer to himself as a “junkie.”

“He was a remarkable man,” Katz said. “He was very intelligent and was a great philanthropist. … But he was also very low key, very quiet.”

There was a kind of unspoken understanding in Katz’s family that “no one would ask him about his background. That was the thing about those of the first generation: You didn’t ask about it.”

“If you talk to all three families, you get three stories,” 76-year-old Pikesville resident Sandy Shapiro, scion of Ike’s Cambridge Iron & Metal, said, laughing about the notion that all they have is minor hearsay from grandfathers and uncles who mostly kept mum on the past.

Sandy had a simple reason why these men never spoke about their time back in Latvia: “Because it was rough.

“Jake once took his wife back to Latvia during the [Great] Depression just to visit where he came from,” Sandy continued, “and they went to the old house, and it had a dirt floor. Theirs was strictly a ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ story.”

As had his brother before him, Sandy’s grandfather, Ike, labored away working menial jobs from country to country before having enough money to make it to England from where he was able to embark on a boat to America and join Morris. All while speaking only Russian and Yiddish.

“These were tough guys,” Sandy said, chronicling what it was like for Ike even after he arrived in America.

“My grandfather would rent a horse and wagon for $1 a day and would get scrap in the morning with his assistant,” Sandy said, “and then he and his helper would take hammers and chisels and break the scrap apart. They were real guys.”

Needless to say, the business would always be a rough-and-tough one for laborers in the years that would follow, as technology changed and entire bridge beams or automobiles would be scrapped through machines such as “shredders” that could break gargantuan pieces of metal down to its bare elements or, in the case of “balers,” pounded into smaller cubes to be sold off to smelting plants, steel mills and the like.

“It’s not like we were dirt bags; we just got dirty,” was how Michael Hettleman put it.

K. Hettleman & Co. (Ellen Kahan Zager)

K. Hettleman & Co. (Ellen Kahan Zager)

Another Pikesville resident from the industry, 80-year- old Hettleman is the son of Isadore “Izzie” Hettleman who, along with brother Emanuel “Mannie” Hettleman, ran K. Hettleman and Sons — founded by their father, Kalman, in 1904 — until it was sold in 1962.

K. Hettleman was less a competitor with the Shapiro- and Schapiro-run companies and more of a peripheral partner (as the Schapiro/Shapiro clans more or less operated, with Jake’s company junking a lot of cars, Ike’s focusing a great deal on industrial scrap and Morris’ on boats). Ike’s Cambridge Iron & Metal, for example, sold much of its brass and copper to Hettleman, which in turn would make ingots — manageable blocks of metal — that would later be sold off to appropriate dealers.

Send in  the Jews

It’s likely the scrapyard industry flourished in Baltimore for three very important reasons.

First, as Pinkert pointed out, Baltimore at the time had its fair share of steel mills, a requirement of any successful scrap community.

Baltimore was also one of the few port towns in the United States where large boats — like those being scrapped by Morris’ Boston Metals — could be acquired. And, of course, the Baltimore fire of 1904 left a great deal of otherwise valueless material to be transformed into “junk” and “scrap” for a burgeoning field that would support the Schapiro, Shapiro and Hettleman families in the earliest days of their individual enterprises.

But then there’s the obvious question: Why were so many scrapyard families Jewish?

As it turns out, it’s a trend that resonated throughout the country. Historian and author Carl Zimring writes in his 2009 book “Cash For Your Trash” that in the mid-1930s, while the scrapyard industry was really on the rise throughout the United States, 70 to 90 percent of the business was Jewish owned and operated.

“It was considered an undesirable and filthy business,” Neal said. “Jews [at the time] were not allowed to do a lot of things, and this was relatively inexpensive to get into. As long as a person could get a horse and cart, he could start something.”

Jewish immigrants, or “refugees” as Sandy put it, speaking little or no English, having little or no education, money or resources, were able to discover something in “junk” that so many other communities at the time simply found untouchable.

“Some of it may have been the merchant mentality that came from Eastern Europe,” Neal continued in speculating. “Collecting, buying, selling, haggling.”

Ellen Kahan Zager, granddaughter of Mannie Hettleman and cousin to Michael, also believes that the Jewish dominance of the industry was greatly related to the community’s culture of communication.

“There is deal making in the scrap business, and that is a  reflection of a communication process that is very embedded in the Jewish culture,” Zager said.

“[The scrap business is] not very straight forward, so there’s a lot of give and take, and this is a very Jewish way of communicating, from the very beginning to the very end,” Zager said. “It’s not about  ‘retail.’ It’s built on relationships and trust … or at least it used to be.”

End of  an Era

“When [Pinkert] reached out to me, I was a tad hesitant just because I was trying to break free of the industry and head in a new direction,” Neal said about what has become his retirement since the doors on Cambridge Iron & Metal closed in 2016.

“But then I thought this was a great way to honor our heritage and everything my grandfather did for me.  He started something; he built it and passed the torch to my dad and uncle who passed it onto me.

“And while I never got the opportunity to physically meet him, in a way, I had a connection to him because I was able to continue something he started. That was something too that was really hard for me when I shut down the business; I felt I lost that connection.”

These original businesses no longer exist for reasons ranging from rapidly accelerating technological expenses to stricter environmental constraints, growing competition or the simple reason of owners feeling it was time to move on and sell (as in the case of United).

Such tales as those told here are responsible for making the scrap industry “part of who you are — you do it long enough and it gets in your blood,” according to Neal. And yet, he confessed that he doesn’t really think he wants his own children to go into the business.

“I had always been cognizant of trying to keep the business going long enough so they had that option,” Neal said, “but I don’t think either of them wanted to, and I’m OK with that.

“Friends of mine around the country, they’re not grooming their kids for the business because it’s changing too much.”

“I wouldn’t want my children to do it,” Sandy confirmed.

Sandy is satisfied that “we all did well, we were in a good business. We had nothing to be ashamed of, and all the families worked hard.”

He nevertheless recently began seeing “Jewish kids coming out of college becoming lawyers and doctors, saying [about going into scrap], ‘You gotta be kidding me!’ So the families didn’t see another generation and were selling their businesses.

schematics for the exhibit they’ll have at the Museum of the show revolving around this topic. Said schematic needs to be credited to: JMM/Alchemy Studio and it must state that these are “conceptual outline” or “conceptual rendering” in captions/labels.

Conceptual architectural rendering for the exhibit (JMM/Alchemy Studio)

“What was important about it?” he asked rhetorically. “It was about tracing a larger history, all that stuff about what it meant to be Jewish, how they were able to do all of this and become prominent, make their money and let their families take it to other places around the country to start furniture companies and department stores wherever their train would stop. … They were  able to send their kids off  to college …”

They were able to fund the lives of those who never had an interest going into the same business, be it Sandy’s own brother Burt Shapiro, who became such a renowned classical music and film critic in the area, the Charles Theater honored him by name on their marquee after he died in 2014.

Scrap helped lay the foundation of the education of the likes of Jill Vexler, the Jewish Museum curator involved  in the upcoming exhibit and, of course, executive director Pinkert himself. The recipients of opportunities that came from ancestral tireless toil are those such as Pinkert’s cousin Mandy Patinkin, the Tony and Emmy Award-winning actor from such beloved films  as “Yentl” and “The Princess Bride.”

These descendants of the scrap industry were able to achieve their dreams because of the “figurative and literal alchemy” that was their parents and grandparents “turning dross into gold,” Pinkert said.

“They created so much from things other people threw away.”

Muslim Ban Inspires Protests in Maryland

Nadia Hassan, a member of the American Muslim Democratic Caucus, protests in Highlandtown on Jan. 26. (Photo by Daniel Nozick)

Nadia Hassan, a member of the American Muslim Democratic Caucus, protests in Highlandtown on Jan. 26. (Photo by Daniel Nozick)

Protests erupted nationwide in the wake of an executive order from President Donald Trump that bars citizens from seven majority Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 days and suspends the admission of refugees for 120 days.

Airports around the country, including Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport, were crowded with thousands of protesters on Sunday. At BWI, Jewish communal officials, members of Congress and elected officials were among the demonstrators.

“I think people are concerned that [the executive order] is potentially unconstitutional and is fundamentally out of step with the values we want to project around the world,” said Congressman John Sarbanes, who, along with Congressman Elijah Cummings, addressed the crowd at BWI.

Just three days earlier, more than 200 people gathered at the Salem-Baltimore Hispanic United Methodist Church in Highlandtown for a solidarity vigil in support of immigrants, Muslims and refugees led by the Baltimore Jewish Council, CASA de Maryland, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and Jews United for Justice (JUFJ).

A federal judge in New York issued an emergency stay on Jan. 28 that temporarily allowed people who traveled to the U.S. with a valid visa to remain, following a petition by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Hameed Khalid Darweesh and Sameer Abdulkhalq Alshawi following their detainment upon arrival at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

According to the ACLU’s website, “The lead plaintiffs have been detained by the U.S. government and threatened with deportation even though they have valid visas to enter the United States. One plaintiff, Hameed Darweesh, an Iraqi husband and father of three, worked for the U.S. military [as a translator], and his life was in danger in Iraq due to that relationship. [Alshawi’s] wife and son were threatened because of their perceived ties to the United States. U.S. Customs and Border Protection detained both men in JFK Airport in New York as they entered the country.”

At the Highlandtown church gathering on Jan. 26, Maya Perez, an immigrant from Mexico and a member of CASA de Maryland, spoke about how her parents came to the U.S. illegally. “Everything I am, the reason I am here right now, is thanks to my dad,” she said. “Our parents decided to leave their countries, their homes, not knowing what would happen to them.”

This spur-of-the-moment gathering and another protest in Annapolis on the morning of Jan. 27 called on Gov. Larry Hogan to reject the implementation of the ban in Maryland as well as to support the Maryland TRUST Act, legislation that would prevent police in Maryland from continuing to detain individuals once they are eligible for release if continued detention is only for the purpose of assisting federal immigration enforcement efforts, according to the ACLU.

“It’s not just citizens who have equal protection under law, it is all people in the country,” said Molly Amster, Baltimore director of JUFJ. “When people who are undocumented fear that involvement of police will result in deportation or the loss of their livelihood or even physical danger, they are unlikely to go to the police. It puts them in an incredibly vulnerable position where they can easily be taken advantage of. This law creating a separation between police and immigration is critical to protecting people’s rights.”


The Highlandtown vigil in support of immigrants, Muslims and refugees (Photo by Daniel Nozick)

Madeline Suggs, director of public affairs for the Baltimore Jewish Council, attended both protests and addressed the crowd in Annapolis. She shared that after the two bomb threats to the Park Heights JCC, the first people that she heard from were members of the Muslim community. The BJC received phone calls as well as two dozen letters from Muslim elementary school students to show their support.

“We really wanted to return that support on Thursday and Friday,” said Suggs. “It is really important to stand with all of these minorities that are feeling scared.”

The BJC’s statement on the Muslim ban reflected this sentiment and said, “We believe the United States has a moral and historical obligation to create a welcoming environment for individuals and families looking to start a new life after suffering atrocities in their native countries. Laws that implicitly target specific religious groups should be avoided to the greatest extent possible, and we stand with our friends and neighbors in the Muslim community who are concerned about the effect this ban will have on refugees suffering violence abroad.”

Del. Shelly Hettleman (D-District 11), who also attended the BWI protest, felt similarly.

“I think people are really upset at the xenophobia and at the ham-handedness by which this administration rolled out its changes,” she said. “I understand people’s security concerns, but I have a hard time believing that when it’s mostly women and children, the two-year vetting process they go through isn’t enough to give us security.”

Andrew Miller, who helped spur others to attend the BWI protest, said there was a strong Jewish presence, with a number of people wearing kippot.

“I think it is vital to be involved,” he said. “If we start to differentiate between refugees based on their country or religion, we aren’t adhering to Jewish values or human rights. It is an outrage to the fundamental values on which this country was founded.”

Seasons Next Season?

Seasons plans a late-spring opening. (Photo by Daniel Nozick)

Seasons plans a late-spring opening. (Photo by Daniel Nozick)

While contractors are working inside the future home of Seasons kosher market to install electrical and plumbing systems, officials remain tight-lipped on an opening date for the store, which has been in the works for about three years.

A series of delays combined with little public information from Seasons has left the community in the dark about a much-anticipated franchise that will provide the Reisterstown Road corridor’s many kosher residents with a second kosher market.

In a phone interview, general manager Zachary Richards said the store, at 1628 Reisterstown Road, most likely will open in late spring but declined to give a specific date.

“We are working on installing electrical systems and plumbing before we move to equipment installation,” he said.

When plans to open a Seasons in Baltimore were first made public, it was slated to be the first of the market’s stores outside New York. However, since the announcement of the Baltimore store, two Seasons markets have opened in New Jersey while progress in Maryland has been notoriously absent. There are four locations in New York.

Despite grumblings about parking, Richards, in a previous interview, said it “was a challenge but, thankfully, has been resolved.”

The Reisterstown Road location had been sitting empty for months before the recent restart of construction. The approximately 15,000-square-foot store will have produce, bakery, sushi, fish, meat, deli and grocery departments. There will also be shop-from-home and delivery options.

Baltimore County District 2 Councilwoman Vicki Almond and her office have been in contact with Seasons and issued the following statement: “One of the questions that I am frequently asked in the Pikesville community is the status of the Seasons market on Reisterstown Road. Work has resumed at the site. Seasons has not committed to a date for an opening. I will continue to monitor the progress on this project.”

This is What a JCC Bomb Threat Sounds Like

A view of the Lawrence Family JCC in San Diego (Screenshot from YouTube)

A view of the Lawrence Family JCC in San Diego (Screenshot from YouTube)

(JTA) — On Tuesday, for the third time this month, a string of Jewish community centers across the country received bomb threats. Many of the 17 JCCs that received the calls evacuated their facilities and contacted law enforcement, which is investigating the threats. Baltimore- and Washington-area JCCs did not receive threats this time.

JTA has obtained a recording of one of the bomb threats made on Jan. 18, during a previous wave of threats. The brief call sounds like it was made using voice-disguising technology that protects the caller’s identity.

Audio of the call and a transcription are below.


It’s a C-4 bomb with a lot of shrapnel, surrounded by a bag (inaudible). In a short time, a large number of Jews are going to be slaughtered. Their heads are going to [sic] blown off from the shrapnel. There’s a lot of shrapnel. There’s going to be a bloodbath that’s going to take place in a short time. I think I told you enough. I must go.

Minimum Wage Showdown: City Decries State Effort to Limit Powers

The debate over whether local jurisdictions should have the power to raise the minimum wage has taken center stage at the Maryland General Assembly in Annapolis.

Baltimore City Council members on Jan. 26 slammed Democratic state lawmakers at a news conference over a bill that would prevent the city and other jurisdictions from enacting their own minimum wage laws.

Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, a Democrat who represents the 14th District and has long been a champion of raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, said Baltimore should be able to determine a wage level that is best for the city.

“Even those opposed would agree: Don’t rob us of the right to set those wages locally, a right decades old and crucial to our future resurgence,” Clarke said.

Del. Derrick Leon Davis, a Democrat who represents District 25 in Prince George’s County, introduced a bill Jan. 25 that would prohibit any county or municipality from passing a law “that regulates the wages or benefits provided by an employer other than the county or municipality.”

A spokeswoman for Davis, chairman of the Economic Matters Committee, said he would not comment on the legislation until after a public hearing in Annapolis Tuesday, after press time.

City Councilmembers Zeke Cohen, Kristerfer Burnett, Ryan Dorsey, Shannon Sneed, Robert Stokes and John Bullock flanked Clarke around a lectern in City Hall to express their displeasure for the proposed state measure.

Cohen, a Democrat who represents the 1st District, told the JT afterward he adamantly opposes any legislation that curtails the power of the City Council to make rulings in favor of Baltimore residents.

“To me, this is about usurpation of local authority,” Cohen said. “I wouldn’t go into P.G. County and assume to tell Del. Davis how he should run his jurisdiction. That is not acceptable.”

Supporters, meanwhile, think a statewide minimum wage mandate would help improve the business climate in Maryland, which Forbes ranked 31st in 2016 as the best state for business.

C.T. Wilson, a Democrat who represents District 28 in Charles County, is a co-sponsor of Davis’ bill, which he believes will stop unfair competition for businesses across jurisdictional lines in the state.

“Our goal is to make sure we have the same uniformity in the state and that we help both our employers and employees,” Wilson told the JT. In my experience meeting with business owners and regular people, it becomes very difficult to monitor what laws and regulations there are from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, which gets even more difficult when employees work in multiple jurisdictions. The goal really is to try and continue attracting business to Maryland.”

The current minimum wage in Maryland is $8.75 and will rise to $10.10 by July 2018.

In Prince George’s County, the County Council has already passed a law to raise the minimum wage to $11.50 by 2017. Montgomery County has done the same, passing legislation last month to raise its minimum wage to $15 by 2022.

Marc Elrich, a Montgomery County councilman and Democrat, joined the City Council to stand in solidarity with its efforts. He said the Montgomery County Council and Montgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett, a Democrat, are unanimous in their opposition and would be working hand-in-hand with the Baltimore City Council to ensure the bill does not pass.

“I think we are stronger when we work together, and we absolutely have to work together,” Elrich said. “This is one of those moments where we have to decide where we stand and what we’re going to do. I am tired of hearing about starter wages, because nobody gets starter food and nobody gets starter rent. There’s no starter anything, except for the private sector.”

Some political experts wonder if the long-term goal behind Davis’ bill is to get state lawmakers on the same page to fight for a $15 minimum wage together.

Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College, speculated that advocates of the bill may be working behind the scenes to generate more support at the state level for such a measure.

“Maybe they feel like strength is in the numbers. If they want to fight for $15 per hour, then they have to have everyone fighting together in the same battle,” Kromer said.

This past August, the city council squashed an effort to raise the minimum wage to $15 by July 2022, voting 8-6 with one abstention to send the bill back to committee. But with a new, more progressive and younger council, Clarke, the bill’s sponsor, hopes to introduce another version of her legislation later this year and get enough votes for passage. She previously told the JT she planned to introduce that legislation last month.

Baltimore City Councilman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer, a Democrat who represents the 5th District, said he has not taken a position on whether he supports a $15 minimum wage. But he acknowledged any decision impacting the city such as a minimum wage proposal should be made by elected city officials.

“Anytime the state tries to override and take control of city decisions, it hinders that ability to properly represent the people we’re sworn to represent,” Schleifer said.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh has backed the City Council’s stance against Davis’ bill, telling the JT in a prepared statement that “we must be aware of that impact as conversation around a minimum age increase goes forward.” She also added that she is in favor of seeing minimum wage regulations discussed at the state or regional level.

Passage of  legislation in major metropolitan cities such as Seattle and San Francisco, among others, adds fuel to activists that Baltimore will one day join that list on its own merit.

For his part, Cohen called on residents throughout Baltimore to reach out to their local legislators to make their voices heard.

“If we’re not going to stand for ourselves, then who will? If not now, then when? This is Baltimore’s moment,” Cohen said. “We should stand up.”

End-of-Life Option Act Draws Jewish Debate

(Supporters rally for the End-of-Life Option Act.)

Supporters rally for the End-of-Life Option Act. (Justin Silberman)

Betty Kupinsky had always been in control of her life. At least, until an aggressive form of lymphoma had spread throughout her body, leaving her bedridden and waiting for nature to take its course.

It eventually did, but only after six weeks of emotional distress and much suffering.

At the age of 90, Kupinsky had begged her son, Dr. Michael Strauss, to help end her life while she was receiving hospice- level care. But because state law does not allow for such measures, Strauss was unable to help grant his mother’s request.

Motivated by his mother’s death in December 2014, Strauss, a 63-year-old Montgomery County resident, has dedicated much of his time to advocating for the highly debated End-of-Life Option Act.

“Had the [End-of-Life Option Act] been around, she would have ended her life [in] about a few days to a week with the appropriate means,” Strauss said of his mother. “For a small portion who suffer with physical or emotional pain, it’s just a comforting option to have.”

Strauss, a retired internist and current health policy consultant, was one of nearly 200 people who packed a room on Jan. 25 in Annapolis, where advocates rallied for the End-of-Life Option Act. Many wore bright yellow T-shirts from Compassion & Choices, a nonprofit organization that advocates for end-of-life choice.

Under the bill, which state lawmakers are tackling for the third consecutive year, terminally ill patients with six months or less to live would be allowed to end their lives using a lethal drug prescribed by a doctor.

“Someone else doesn’t know better than I do what my destiny should be,” Del. Shane Pendergrass, a Howard County Democrat who represents District 13 and is the bill’s lead sponsor, told the JT. “Why should somebody think they know better than I what’s good for me?”

Patients would be required to visit with a doctor multiple times — once in private — and would also have to request the life-ending prescription three times. The doctor would have to decide whether patients have six months or less to live, have the mental capacity to make a sound medical decision and could administer the medication on their own.

Previous legislation failed to garner enough traction to make it out of the Senate Judicial Proceedings in each of the two previous years, but supporters believe more progress has been made since then.

Strauss said a major hurdle was cleared when the Maryland State Medical Society (MedChi) voted last fall to alter its position on the issue from opposed to neutral.

While a number of legislators, including Pendergrass, and supporters who back the legislation are Jewish, the community is largely split on the issue.

Prior to the rally for the legislation, Pendergrass told the JT that the legislation is a matter of personal “autonomy” and that people “should have control over their own bodies” without government intervention.

A number of members in the Orthodox Jewish community, however, staunchly oppose the practice of medically assisted suicide, citing the Torah and the Talmud as the deciding factor of when people are born and die.

The Rabbinical Council of America, a group representing more than 1,000 Orthodox rabbis, recently said it “vehemently protests legalizing any pathway for killing the ill, since society thereby supports and normalizes the act of murder.”

Rabbi Ariel Sadwin, director of Agudath Israel of Maryland, said he once again will testify against the bill this year at a public hearing on Feb. 16.

“The concept that someone can go ahead and say, ‘Well, enough is enough,’ that’s not a decision that’s up to you,” Sadwin said. “It’s not our decision to decide when people are born and when they die.”

In the Reform community, meanwhile, some rabbis have softened — or altered — their stance in opposition regarding such legislation.

Rabbi Steven Fink of Temple Oheb Shalom initially opposed the legislation two years ago but is now netural after hearing “compelling” testimony from those who support it.

“I understand that there are some circumstances in which the provisions of this bill are called for,” said Fink, who added he would need to review the current bill before deciding to throw his support behind it.

Rabbi John Franken of Bolton Street Synagogue said he is “broadly sympathetic” to the concept of the legislation but has yet to form an opinion on the bill itself.

“I think in our Jewish tradition, we need to be really open-minded and look at this issue very carefully,” Franken said. “If there are ways to compassionately help people in the process of dying without robbing them of their dignity, and when it’s an inevitability in an imminent fashion, then I think it really behooves us as Jewish leaders to be open to that.”

Franken, president of the Baltimore Board of Rabbis, said the organization has yet to take a formal position on the subject.

In recent years, the bill has faced resistance from the Baltimore Jewish Council, which adopted its position in 1997 and reaffirmed that view two years ago after a group of rabbis from across the denominational spectrum unanimously agreed to oppose the bill.

Despite that, BJC executive director Howard Libit said his organization is not making the legislation a particularly “high priority” on its agenda this year.

“The decision making of the BJC on issues like these aren’t driven by opinion polls,” Libit said. “In matters with significant life-impacting matters that are deeply rooted in Jewish heritage, we feel like we’re obligated to follow our Jewish spiritual leadership.”

Norma Cohen, a Mount Washington resident and active participant in Compassion & Choices, said she had hoped the BJC would have taken a different approach.

“I’m not looking for [the BJC] to support the bill,” Cohen said. “They’re not going to do that, and I understand that. I don’t expect them to do that. But I think they should either ignore it or they should come out and be neutral about it.”

For some who attended the rally, such as 76-year-old Anne Arundel County resident Ellen Dinerman, there is more at stake than just religious beliefs.

“I think of this as a civil rights issue,” said Dinerman, a volunteer with Compassion & Choices. “It’s my body and my decision. If you have religious beliefs that don’t let you think that way, then don’t choose this option. It’s all about having choice.”

The practice is legal in five states — Oregon, Washington, Vermont, California and Colorado. Montana has not enacted such a law, but the Montana Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that state law does not prohibit a physician from honoring a terminally ill patient’s request to end his or her life.

A MedChi poll last year found that 65 percent of Maryland residents support end-of-life measures, and 60 percent of physicians either support it or are neutral on the issue.

“This issue should be between a doctor and his or her patient. Nobody else should be involved,” Strauss said. “That’s how most medical decisions should be.”

At Least 17 Bomb Threats Called in to JCCs Nationwide in Third Wave of Harassment

A view of the Lawrence Family JCC in San Diego (Screenshot from YouTube)

A view of the Lawrence Family JCC in San Diego (Screenshot from YouTube)

(JTA) — At least 17 Jewish community centers across the United States were targeted with bomb threats in the third wave of such mass disruption this month.

Paul Goldenberg, the director of Secure Community Network — an affiliate of the Jewish Federations of North America that advises Jewish groups and institutions on security — said the threats were called in late Tuesday morning. Some of the messages were live, he confirmed.

“[I]n the past we know that the numbers can grow exponentially,” he said, adding that perpetrators have been “leveraging technologies to make mass calls.”

Goldenberg confirmed that threats had been called into JCCs in Albany, New York; Syracuse, New York; West Orange, New Jersey; Milwaukee, San Diego and Salt Lake City. JCCs in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., area did not receive threats.

The JCC in New Haven, Connecticut received a live call at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday threatening violence. The JCC is housed in several locations following a Dec. 5 fire, and evacuated about 100 people from those places following the call. After law enforcement determined that the threat was not credible, the evacuees returned. The New Haven JCC was also targeted in a wave of bomb threats about two weeks ago.

“We recognize that we live under a new set of circumstances that we have to be responsive to, and take every possible precaution to keep our people safe,” said New Haven JCC CEO Judy Diamondstein. “While we are disrupted, we refuse to be daunted by this.”

Diamondstein said the JCC has drilled safety protocols extensively in order to be prepared for a situation like this. Diamondstein had a previously scheduled meeting Wednesday afternoon with an FBI officer to sharpen procedures for dealing with an active shooter.

“We have been diligent in looking at our security for a while now,” she said.

Goldenberg said his organization was instructing the JCCs to be in touch with local police to determine if they should evacuate. The JCC MetroWest in West Orange, New Jersey announced an evacuation at 11:42 a.m.

“In light of the newest bomb threats, we must remain a resilient community, and we need to ensure that we are back at our JCCs as soon as local police advise the all-clear,” Goldenberg said.

He added: “Our Jewish community centers are focusing on security today more than ever before, and in spite of these continuous bomb threats I’m confident that our institutions are taking security seriously — and in many cases Jewish institutions are more secure than institutions frequented by the general public.”

On Jan. 18, some 30 Jewish institutions in at least 17 states received bomb threats. On Jan. 9, such threats were called into 16 JCCs across the Northwest and South, forcing the evacuation of hundreds.