Former ‘Meet the Press’ Host Meets Chizuk Amuno

Former “Meet the Press” moderator David Gregory became visibly  distraught as he shared a story about reading “Adon Olam” aloud to his father during his last days. (Justin Katz)

Former “Meet the Press” moderator David Gregory became visibly distraught as he shared a story about reading “Adon Olam” aloud to his father during his last days. (Justin Katz)

David Gregory, former moderator of NBC’s “Meet the Press” and currently a political analyst at CNN, cracked jokes, pulled at heartstrings and asked an  audience of both young and old to consider profound, philosophical questions of faith inside a packed Krieger Auditorium at Chizuk Amuno Congregation on April 10.

The topic of his discussion, which was the inaugural event of the semiannual Phyllis and Louis Friedman community lecture, was the title of his book, “How’s Your Faith? An Unlikely Spiritual Journey.”

Chizuk Amuno Congregation Rabbi Ronald Shulman introduced Gregory, 45, who began his speech on a lighter note.

It’s a bit of a jarring question  to be asked by the president of  the United States. The question (how’s your faith?) resonated  with me and stayed with me  because I was thinking about  what it means to really make  that assessment.” — David Gregory, author of “How’s Your Faith? An Unlikely Spiritual Journey”


“Whenever I’m in front of  a Jewish crowd, I like to say, ‘Yes, I am in fact Jewish,’” said Gregory, joking about his not-so-Jewish sounding last name and eliciting laughs from the crowd of 450. Gregory’s father, Don, changed his name from Ginsburg to Gregory while pursuing an acting career.

He also mentioned his recent appearance on the popular television game show, “Jeopardy,” where he managed to correctly answer, “What is a shofar?” (That episode will air the week of May 16.)

Gregory explained his new book’s title originates from his first time meeting former President George W. Bush at the oval office as the moderator of “Meet the Press.” Bush asked Gregory, “How’s your faith?”

“It’s a bit of a jarring question to be asked by the president  of the United States,” said  Gregory, who added that Bush was told beforehand that  Gregory was studying Torah. “The question resonated with me and stayed with me  because I was thinking about what it means to really make that assessment.”

He added that he personally admires Bush because, regardless of what one thinks of his policies, Bush “left office with his faith intact.”

From there, Gregory shared several personal moments of faith including discussions with his wife, Beth Wilkinson, a Methodist, best known as  an attorney who successfully argued for the execution  of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

One moment that noticeably affected the audience was when Gregory discussed coping with his father’s impending death. Gregory was visibly  distraught as he described  moments of reading “Adon Olam” aloud to his father during one of his last days alive.

“I could see his eyes filling with tears as I was listening to him,” said Shulman, who was sitting on stage as Gregory spoke, after the event. “I thought it was a profoundly powerful moment of personal faith. He was able to share it with his  father, and based on the [contents of the] book, [faith] was not his father’s interest.”

One of Gregory’s sons celebrated his bar mitzvah 10 days after Don Gregory passed away.

“[Gregory] spoke with warmth, humor and great poignancy about the rewards and challenges of a serious approach to Jewish faith within the context of an interfaith marriage in which both partners are committed to raising their children as Jews, while maintaining their own individual religious identities,” said Dr. Andy Miller, president of Chizuk Amuno Congregation.

When questions came from the audience, a man, identified as David, asked Gregory, “What is it that will make your grandchildren Jews?”

Gregory responded that many younger Jews are not as drawn to religion as their older counterparts who connected through the events of the Holocaust. He encouraged the community to not shut out younger Jews who may choose practices like interfaith marriage and emphasized that  although he has an interfaith marriage, he and his children are very religious in practice.

“I think [it’s important that we are] learning and modeling what we think is beautiful about Judaism,” said Gregory, “and not thinking that people and identity can be in and of itself the glue that holds the community together. That can’t be enough.”

Baltimore Journalist Appears on ‘House Of Cards,’ ‘Madame Secretary’



When it comes to the media, Jon Leiberman has done it all.

Or at least he thought he had, having written stories for the National Enquirer, produced television packages for “America’s Most Wanted,” hosted radio segments for “The Howard Stern Show” and  anchored newscasts for WBFF Fox 45 in Baltimore.

But several months ago, Leiberman, 41, was tapped to play a news anchor in the Netflix original production “House  of Cards” and the CBS show “Madame Secretary.” Though it was his first time in front of the camera for a scripted television show, the media veteran said “it was literally just another day at the office.”

However, the thought of memorizing lines was daunting, since he was more  accustomed to reading from teleprompters. The fact there was a teleprompter present was a big relief.

“I use to tell people I’ve done it all in the media,” Lieberman said. “The fact that now I can say I’ve been on two successful scripted television shows, it just rounds out things for me and makes me happy.”

Leiberman described the experience of shooting for “House of Cards” as “a homecoming of sorts,” since he stayed at the Inner Harbor and went to Joppa, Md., for filming.

“I thought it was kind of neat that  instead of looking for an actor to teach how to play a news anchor, [the casting directors] decided to get themselves a news anchor,” said Leiberman’s mother, Shelley Sarsfield.

Keith Greenberg is a former producer for “America’s Most Wanted” who traveled the world with Leiberman for several years meeting with law enforcement officers and victims associated with the criminals profiled on the show.

I use to tell  people I’ve done it all in the media. The fact that now I can say I’ve been on two successful scripted  television shows; it just rounds out things for me and makes me happy.” — Jon Lieberman


He said he wasn’t surprised Leiberman landed the role and described him as telegenic “in addition to being a very sound reporter.”

“When [Jon is] on a story, he puts himself in the mind of the investigator and acts like one,” said Greenberg.

Sarsfield said her son’s time at AMW created comical confusion with those who misunderstood his role in the program. When her daughter was in the hospital, Sarsfield struck up a conversation with one of the hospital employees who asked if she had any other children.

“One of my youngest sons was featured on ‘America’s Most Wanted,’” Sarsfield told the hospital employee who responded —  assuming he was a criminal — “it’s good you can be so honest about it.”

Leiberman spends most of his time working in New York and Connecticut, but he said Baltimore is forever a part of him, and Greenberg saw this in him when the two traveled together.

“Just like I can always find a good Jewish deli,” said Greenberg. “Jon can always find a bar filled with Baltimoreans watching a Ravens game.”

Leiberman’s appearances can be seen in season 4, episode 7 of “House of Cards” and season 2, episode 18 of “Madame  Secretary.”

High Stakes, Mixed Expectations Elections will bring new president, senator, mayor, city council

Flag of Baltimore City (©

Flag of Baltimore City (©

In Baltimore, as in the rest of the state, candidates and residents alike are underscoring the importance of this election.

In Baltimore, as in the rest of the state, candidates and residents alike are underscoring the importance of this election. While the presidential election looms overhead, Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s seat — which she has filled for almost 30 years — is up for grabs. Baltimore City, still reeling from last April’s unrest after the police custody death of Freddie Gray and the barrage of negative attention it attracted, will elect a new mayor in a race with a wide candidate pool full of insiders, outsiders and in-betweens.

And at the even more local level, a number of Baltimore City Council seats are up for grabs as candidates step down or run for other offices. The Jewish community that resides in upper Park Heights straddling the city-county line will vote for longtime District 5 Councilwoman Rochelle “Rikki” Spector’s replacement. Spector, known as the “dean of the Council,” is stepping down after nearly 40 years in office.

There are 28 mayoral candidates (as of press time), 12 of whom are running in the Democratic primary. According to polling by The Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore, State Sen. Catherine Pugh is on top with 31 percent of likely Democratic voters favoring her, followed by former Mayor Sheila Dixon, who has 25 percent. The poll put lawyer Elizabeth Embry in third with 9 percent, businessman David Warnock in fourth with 7 percent and Councilmen Carl Stokes and Nick Mosby tied in fifth with 5 percent. Mosby has since dropped out of the race and put his support behind Pugh.

“It looks like the Sheila Dixon base of support has been steady, and I think what you’re seeing with Catherine Pugh’s surge is a coalescing around her,” said Nina Therese Kasniunas, an associate professor of political science and international relations at Goucher College.

In the District 5 race, seven Democrats are running to replace Spector, two of whom are members of the Jewish community. The candidates include Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer, a small business owner and vice president of the Cheswolde Neighborhood Association; Betsy Gardner, 5th and 6th district neighborhood liaison and citywide Jewish community liaison for the City Council president’s office; Derrick Lennon, a transportation coordinator and former president of the Glen Improvement Association; Christopher Ervin, a criminal justice reform advocate; Sharif Small, a small business owner; Elizabeth Ryan Martinez, an attorney; and Kinji Scott, a community organizer. There are no Republican candidates.

For Avrahom Sauer, president of the Cross Country Improvement Association, the community is choosing between Gardner, who has been a community liaison for the past 14 years and under the three most recent mayoral administrations, and Schleifer, 27, who is involved in a variety of community and Jewish organizations.

“We have two very viable candidates,” Sauer said. “Of those two, each one has special qualifications, and people need to understand what they are and make their decisions accordingly.”

In the Senate race, Rep. Donna Edwards (D-District 4) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-District 8) are in close competition.

For many in the Jewish community, policy on Israel is at the forefront of this race. Mikulski is widely considered a friend to and advocate for Israel and the Jewish community, and voters are looking for someone to continue that legacy.

“There are two pro-Israel candidates with decidedly different perspectives on how to go about the peace process,” said Art Abramson, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council.

Don Norris, director of the school of public policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said that while the Senate race is up in the air, he thinks Van Hollen is going to win it.

“I think at the end of the day Van Hollen will pull it out by one or two points,” he said. “He’s not going to win big, but I think he’s going to be the beneficiary of the negative advertising Edwards is engaging in. I think it’s going to backfire on her.”

Nathan Willner, president of the Cheswolde Neighborhood Association, said people see a stark contrast between Edwards and Van Hollen on Middle East policy.

“Most people feel Van Hollen will be stronger on continuing the Israel-U.S. relationship,” he said.

Abramson described it as Edwards being more philosophically aligned with J Street and Van Hollen more aligned with AIPAC.

State Sen. Catherine Pugh (File photo)

State Sen. Catherine Pugh (File photo)

The Mayoral Election

Although the city election coincides with the presidential election, Norris still expects low turnout.

“Turnout in the Baltimore City primary election is always low,” he said, “so the expectation is it should be low.”

He said there hasn’t been a lot of attention paid to the city by the presidential race and doesn’t believe the senate race is engaging the electorate in the city either, and voter numbers tend to drop off in the races further down on the ballot.

Kasniunas, however, suspects that turnout could be higher for a number of reasons. Nominations in both the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries are being contested, voters can register the same day during early voting, and legislation that took effect in March allows 40,000 ex-offenders to vote in this election cycle, 20,000 of which will be eligible to vote in city elections.

She also noted that Hillary Clinton recently campaigned in Baltimore City and John Kasich visited Howard County. GOP frontrunner Donald Trump visited Maryland earlier this week, Ted Cruz campaigned in Towson and Kasich in Annapolis. Bernie Sanders visited Baltimore in December.

The choice really is not competence but the choice is that people have seen Sheila Dixon as mayor and to the extent that they’re looking for something new, it would be Catherine Pugh. Either way, the Jewish community is going to be extremely, I think, safe and is going to be very comfortable.
— Art Abramson, executive director, Baltimore Jewish Council

“I would think anything above 20 percent would be a better-than-
expected turnout for this primary, particularly because in the past, mayoral elections have not coincided with presidential elections,” Kasniunas said.

Pointing to recent polling, experts predict Baltimore’s next mayor will be Sen. Catherine Pugh, who is the state senate majority leader, or Sheila Dixon, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s predecessor who resigned in 2010 after being convicted of a misdemeanor charge of stealing gift cards that were intended for needy city residents.

“[Pugh] is doing a clever job of not dissing Dixon but dissing her by saying ‘move the city forward, not back.’ Everybody understands what that means,” Norris said. “A lot of voters look at Dixon and say ‘no, I can’t do that.’”

Kasniunas added that voters have literally seen Pugh in action during the recent legislative session, which has given her a bit of an edge.

“She has at her fingertips access to a lot of information and data that she quickly turns around when she talks to people,” she said. “That gives people confidence.”

Abramson said he’s known both Pugh and Dixon for more than 25 years. The Jewish community has had a “superb” relationship with both of them, and Abramson has traveled to Israel with both Pugh and Dixon in different capacities.

“The Jewish community looks at one thing: effectiveness. Both of them in their different roles have been very effective,” he said. “The choice really is not competence but the choice is [that] people have seen Sheila Dixon as mayor and to the extent that they’re looking for something new, it would be Catherine. Either way, the Jewish community is going to be extremely, I think, safe and is going to be very comfortable with who the voters choose in the end.”

Former Mayor Sheila Dixon (File photo)

Former Mayor Sheila Dixon (File photo)

Willner said he’s seen some support for Embry and Warnock, and has seen Pugh put some resources into courting his community.

“Overall, I’m beginning to see a real groundswell for Catherine Pugh,” he said. “I’m seeing the community as a whole slowly solidify their support behind her.”

At a recent televised debate, candidates spoke about their plans to bolster city schools, improve police-community relations, drive down crime and bring more jobs and job training to the city.

Dixon has campaigned on the work she did as mayor and the fact that she would not have a learning curve going into office. She has pointed to work she did in health initiatives, minority business programs, engaging neighborhoods and crime, pointing to the gun registry she created. On the police department, she wants to increase foot patrols and update technology.

Pugh has touted her work as a state senator, state delegate, city councilwoman, small business owner and banker. Like Dixon, she would like to undergo a marketing campaign for Baltimore and added that she would like to provide incentives for police officers to move to the city.

Abramson said a major factor on voters’ minds is trying to avoid a situation like last year’s unrest, which depends on having and strong and effective police department working in conjunction with the mayor.

“The second factor is to try to resolve many of the roots of that tragic event, and the Jewish community, certainly the Baltimore Jewish community, has strongly supported the initiatives that have come out of the governor’s offices as well as the legislature.”

But Molly Amster, Baltimore dir-ector for Jews United for Justice, said that little has changed in a year. The CVS in the Penn-North neighborhood that was burned down during the unrest has been rebuilt, but the neighborhood is the same, she said. Other issues are weighing on her mind as well.

“The mayor, in an unbelievable move, has cut after school programming for kids and is entertaining the Port Covington TIF [tax increment financing], which is an unbelievable corporate giveaway at the direct expense of the city,” she said, referring to the possible $535 million in public financing for Under Armour’s mixed-use real estate project in South Baltimore. “So in particular, I will be looking to elect someone who is not going to allow TIFs like the Port Covington deal to go through, will invest in neighborhoods — the ones where we really need to incentivize development — and will include citizens of those neighborhoods in the process.”

From left: Baltimore City Council District 5 candidates Christopher Ervin, Betsy Gardner, Derrick Lennon, Elizabeth Ryan Martinez, Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer and Sharif Small. Not pictured: Kinji Scott. (Marc Shapiro)

From left: Baltimore City Council District 5 candidates Christopher Ervin, Betsy Gardner, Derrick Lennon, Elizabeth Ryan Martinez, Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer and Sharif Small. Not pictured: Kinji Scott. (Marc Shapiro)

The Council Race

In the District 5 council race, property tax rates, city services and public safety have been front and center in the discussion.

Schleifer has campaigned on transparency and increasing communication between residents and city hall. In addition to prioritizing public safety, he wants to bring the city up-to-date technologically and thinks property tax rates should be lower. He also wants to make sure each neighborhood gets its share of city services.

“I believe we can do better,” he told a crowd of about 100 at a recent debate.

Gardner, who has been endorsed by Spector, is running on her experience and has highlighted her knowledge of and connections to the inner-workings of the city.

“I know how to get things done. I know who to call,” she said at the same debate.

Schleifer brought the city’s free summer lunch program to the Jewish community for kosher and observant kids for the first time last summer and is involved in organizing his neighborhood’s National Night Out event. He pleaded with Mayor Rawlings-Blake to add more resources to the city’s crime lab, and soon after that conversation, she created 10 new positions there. He was appointed Northwest Liaison under Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and is a member of the Democratic State Central Committee.

In her time at the City Council president’s office, Gardner has worked on Homeland Security grants for synagogues, worked in conjunction with the Baltimore Jewish Council to get security cameras installed on Park Heights Avenue and worked with police districts across the city to ensure synagogues have proper coverage for the High Holidays. She helped Hatzalah of Baltimore get linked into the city’s fire and 911 system, she helped Chabad with its menorah car parade and lighting in the Inner Harbor and helped move the city’s chametz burning to its current location after it outgrew its previous location.

Willner, who sits on the Cheswolde board with Schleifer, said he’s seeing a lot of enthusiasm in the community for the primary election, and sees a lot of support in the community for Schleifer. Local rabbis have information on their websites urging people to vote as a moral obligation, he said.

“I’ve not seen that kind of push in previous elections in the community,” Willner said. He’s even noticed a number of people changing their party affiliations from Republican to Democrat to vote in various primary races, notably the council and senate races.

Sauer said he’s seeing less engagement and more apathy in the Cross Country Neighborhood. He attributes this to a number of factors: the lack of favorable presidential candidates, the primary election being on Passover when a lot of people will be out of town and the fact that Maryland’s primary is late in the season and the state doesn’t have a large number of delegates.

“[People] don’t realize what’s at stake with the local election. They don’t understand the value or the necessity or the urgency to go and vote,” he said, adding that he feels the council race is of utmost importance.

He said among those who are engaged in the council race, he thinks people will have a tough choice between Gardner and Schleifer.

“I do see very strong support for both. Betsy has done an enormous amount in our neighborhood, that which [people] know and that which they don’t know,” he said. “Yitzy has done a great job but has very little experience working with people in the political system. He’s a novice, he’s young, he’s brash but that may help allow him to usher in his agenda. … He has a lot of friends in the area.”

As Willner sees it, a lot of these races boil down to a single issue.

“I think the number one issue in the Jewish community is safety and security and that is something that is of critical importance in the mayor’s race and in the city council race,” he said.

At Least 15 Reportedly Injured in Jerusalem Bus Explosion

JERUSALEM — At least 15 people are reported injured in an explosion Monday afternoon on a public bus in Jerusalem that is being investigated as a bombing or an engine malfunction.

Two of the injured in the explosion on Derech Hebron Road, in the Talpiot neighborhood southern Jerusalem, are in serious condition.

Police believe a bomb may have been placed in the engine of the bus, considered a more sophisticated way to attack, Israel’s Channel 1 reported. However, they also are looking into the possibility that there was a fault in the engine.

A second bus and a private vehicle reportedly caught fire in the explosion.

The bus reportedly was empty at the time of the explosion. The injured were on the second bus that caught fire.

The injured were taken to three Jerusalem-area hospitals.


Howard County Faith, Lay Leaders See PATH Against Intolerance

The interfaith dialogues happening in Howard County have been attracting more than 200 participants, including Jews, Christians, Muslims and people of no particular faith. (Provided)

The interfaith dialogues happening in Howard County have been attracting more than 200 participants, including Jews, Christians, Muslims and people of no particular faith. (Provided)

In direct response to last  December’s attacks in San Bernardino, Calif., which left 14 dead and 21 injured, Howard County faith leaders and People Acting Together in Howard, a broad-based community action group, held several  interfaith dialogues as a way  to fight against anti-Muslim sentiment.

“After the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, PATH began having conversations with members of the [local Muslim community] who were feeling uncomfortable and like they were being watched and targeted,” said Jake Cohen, lead organizer at PATH.

Started in 2004, PATH is  affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundation, the nation’s first and largest community organizing network that brings clergy and lay leaders together in Howard County to tackle issues that affect people in their congregations.

There are 12 member organizations listed on its website  including Beth Shalom Congregation, the Maryum Islamic Center and St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, all of which have hosted dialogues that attracted 100 to 200  participants on average.

The first gathering was at the Maryum Islamic Center, and Father Gerard Bowen said it gave him a warm feeling to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with people of different faiths  and come together for the  expressed purpose of supporting one another.


 “I have a real fear that it’s a simple matter for the country to gravitate toward  fascism and call it  American.”  — Father Gerard Bowen,  St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church

Many of Bowen’s congregants attended the dialogues, and one person said to him, “You know Father, there was a day when we’d have to confess this.” Having grown up during the era of McCarthyism, Bowen is aware of how important it  is to not let history to repeat  itself.

“I have a real fear that it’s a simple matter for the country to gravitate toward fascism and call it American,” said Bowen. “The other side of that is there are people saying, ‘This is not who we are.’ There is a struggle for the definition of what it means to be American.’”

Hassan Elkharbibi, who does community outreach for MIC, helped to organize the dialogues and attended alongside the center’s spiritual leader, Imam Mahmoud Abdel-Hady.

“We realized everybody showed interest in following up [after the first dialogue] and that people didn’t want to just talk about politics, they wanted to know each other,” said Elkharbibi.

“I have met some wonderful people with different backgrounds, faiths and ideologies and am able to speak with them as friends, brothers and sisters,” said Alan Zeman, president of Beth Shalom Congregation. “[These meetings] allow us to see past superficial differences and to realize we are all human,”

Recently, Maryland Rep. John Sarbanes dropped in on an interfaith dialogue held in Howard County, where he was exposed to some of the community’s concerns. In an interview afterward with the JT, Sarbanes emphasized the best way to counter extremism and the isolation of minorities is to “run toward them” rather than run away.

“I have to give a lot of credit to leaders in the Jewish community who have clearly perceived and identified that the kind of rhetoric which [Donald Trump] is using against Muslims, immigrants [and others] can turn on a dime and go after other communities,” said Sarbanes. “Some  expression of solidarity in the face of that venomous language is important.”

Elkharbibi regrets the terrible situation that had to occur for the dialogues to begin but is hopeful the sessions will continue to gain momentum.

“I don’t want this [issue] to go to sleep until something happens again” said Elkharbibi. “I really hope other counties will follow the steps of what we are doing in Howard County.”

Baltimore Teen Pirouettes Her Way to Israel

Jennifer Wienner (Cathy Davis of cbdPhotography)

Jennifer Wienner (Cathy Davis of cbdPhotography)

From Baltimore and Washington, D.C., to New York and San Francisco, Jennifer Wienner has performed throughout the United States, and this summer she’ll add Tel Aviv to her resume when she trains with some of the Jewish state’s finest dancers.

The 17-year-old Baltimorean was accepted to three summer intensives — full-time programs in which dancers train up to 12 hours per day —  including one held by the highly selective Batsheva Dance Company.

Led by artistic director, Ohad Naharin, the company offers upward of 250 performances each year entertaining about 75,000 spectators. The program only accepts 160 dancers from around the world for each session.

Beyond learning modern and contemporary dance, the intensive also provides instruction for Gaga — not to be  confused with the dodgeball-like Israeli sport — which is a movement language developed by Naharin.

Gaga “improves instinctive movement and connects  conscious and unconscious movement, and it allows for an experience of freedom and pleasure in a simple way, in a pleasant space, in comfortable clothes, accompanied by music, each person with himself  and others,” according to the company’s website.

“On stage,  you aren’t you. You’re an artist, and that means you have to be able to become  anything.”  — Jennifer Wienner


However, it wasn’t Jennifer’s intention to apply.

“I did something a little sneaky,” said Jennifer’s mother, Harriette Wienner. “I sent in her resume to Batsheva.  [I thought] if she gets in, that’s wonderful. If she doesn’t, then she doesn’t have to know.”

Jennifer’s success comes  despite being “late to the game,” starting dance when she was 11 years old — most professionals start as young as 3 or 4 years old, according to Jennifer — and undergoing  replacement surgery on her left ankle after a cyst was discovered eating away at a bone. When instructors find out, they are surprised.

One of those instructors  is Lorraine Spiegler, artistic  director of the City Dance Conservatory in Rockville, Md., where Jennifer trains  regularly as she completes high school online. Spiegler occasionally refers to her as “lucky audition number seven.”

“It is a huge honor for us to add this world-famous school and company to our list of places our students have been accepted to.” — Lorraine Spiegler, artistic  director, City Dance Conservatory


“The fact this [cyst] was caught in time and … she was not only dancing but dancing at a pre-professional level … that was a pretty big deal for me,” said Spiegler.

Jennifer was accepted to Batsheva’s program only a few days after her mother sent in the application.

“I have a passion … for dance,” said Jennifer, who is self-admittedly a shy person. “It’s a performance art. It’s a part of the whole thing, you have to want to be seen. On stage, you aren’t you. You’re an artist, and that means you have to be able to become anything.”

In terms of the future,  Jennifer is taking it day by day. She is still looking at all of her options before committing to dance or college full time.

Jennifer was also accepted into Vir2oz and the Israel Ballet in addition to Batsheva — all three of which happen in succession this summer. Jennifer’s success impresses Spiegler, who has 25 years of dancing experience.

“Jennifer being accepted to Batsheva, she is the first one [for the City Dance Conservatory]. It is a huge honor for us to add this world-famous school and company to our list [of places our students have been accepted to],” said Spiegler. “It was all moving to me that a child who had gone through something like [ankle replacement surgery] had come out on the other side  extremely successful.”

Little Rock Nine Member Shares Story with Baltimore Students

Dr. Terrence Roberts, a member of the Little Rock Nine, challenged Krieger Schechter and Roland Park Elementary/Middle School students to wrestle with ideas and concepts beyond their years during his speech. (Justin Katz)

Dr. Terrence Roberts, a member of the Little Rock Nine, challenged Krieger Schechter and Roland Park Elementary/Middle School students to wrestle with ideas and concepts beyond their years during his speech. (Justin Katz)

Dr. Terrence Roberts, a member of the Little Rock Nine, was charismatic and energetic when he spoke to about 200 fifth- through eighth-grade students from Krieger Schechter Day School and Roland Park  Elementary/Middle School in the sanctuary of Chizuk Amuno Congregation on April 6.

The Little Rock Nine was a group of nine African-American students enrolled in Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., in 1957 that took part in an effort to carry out school integration. Initially, Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus prevented them from entering the racially segregated school, and violence erupted. But the students finally attended, only after  the intervention of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Roberts was in the 10th grade.

Speaking to the students, Roberts, 74, was blunt about the realities of his life as a teenager in 1950s America.

“Equality was a bit strange,” said Roberts, referring to the separate-but-equal doctrine that had existed up until 1954 when it was overturned by Brown v. Board of Education. He explained the unbalanced form of equality that existed between the services and education white students received compared to their black counterparts.

Michelle Frisby, a former KSDS teacher who moved out of state last year, introduced Roberts, who was invited to the school through the Margot Stern Strom Innovation Grant from Facing History and  Ourselves.

The organization is focused on heightening students’ understanding of racism, religious intolerance and prejudice;  increasing students’ ability to relate to history in their own lives; and promoting greater  understanding of their roles and responsibilities in a democracy.

Roberts discussed some well-known aspects of the Little Rock Nine’s story — such as being escorted to school by the Army’s 101st Airborne Division — as well as other personal  accounts of his teen years, such as when at age 13 he tried to sit down at a restaurant and be served.

“Now that was a trigger for a response. The response was, everything in the [restaurant] came to an abrupt halt,” said Roberts. “Everybody stopped what they were doing to look at me. I was the object of everyone’s attention. Nobody spoke  a word.”

The message he came away with, he said, was palpable that day: “Boy, you better get some sense in your head.”

Roberts said that for at least a few hours, they were the Little Rock 10. He recalled district officials coming to his high school and looking for volunteers to help desegregate the schools, and initially 150  students volunteered.

After parents heard what was happening, most of them forced their students to drop out, which, overnight, brought the number down from 150 to 10. The 10th member of the group would drop out later after her father received threats from his employer about losing his job if his daughter participated. She didn’t, but that man lost his job anyway.

“Retaliation was the theme of the day,” said Roberts.

During the question-and-answer period, curiosity about his experience was strong as countless hands shot up every time Roberts’ finished an answer.

One student asked about the difference of opinion that existed in Little Rock about segregation versus integration.

“You did not have everybody thinking the same way, and in fact, you had a continuum,” Roberts responded. “One extreme [was] saying we should maintain the rules and laws of segregation, and the other extreme was saying we [should] not,” and everything in between those extremes  existed.

But “not every single white person in Little Rock wanted to hurt me,” he said, and “not every single black person in Little Rock was my friend.”

Another student asked about the veracity of a discussion the nine students allegedly had with one of their escorts that day. Roberts confirmed that at one point, the escorts had considered allowing the mob to take — and most likely hang — one of them as a distraction while they removed the others to safety.

One student in the audience quoted an interview he heard with Melba Pattillo-Beals,  another member of the Little Rock Nine who recalled one of the escorts saying, “How are you going to choose, are you going to let them draw straws?”

Roberts said he was very grateful it never came to that.

During small group discussions, Roberts challenged the students to question — now that they’ve heard his story — what they will do with the new information and why is it  important for people to hear these personal stories? But, he added, it’s also a good skill to be comfortable with the fact that the best questions often lead to more questions rather than answers.

 “Not every single white person in Little Rock wanted to hurt me and not every single black person in Little Rock was my friend.” — Dr. Terrence Roberts, member of the Little Rock Nine

Frisby believes the students did an outstanding job in wrestling with the concepts that she has often discussed with college-aged students.

Organizers of the presentation said they were confident that Roberts’ message reached the students in a meaningful way and also praised how he fully engaged the students with personal stories and the subsequent lessons he drew from a turbulent time in  history.

“There are moments as an educator that you look at your students and think, ‘This experience has touched them,’” said Karen Booth, assistant head of Krieger Schechter’s middle school. “It is a moment that is filled with hope.”

Good Deeds Done Well!

Good Deeds Done Well!

More than 1.5 million people worldwide took part in the 10th annual Good Deeds Day on April 10. Locally, the Jewish Volunteer Connection, the hands-on volunteer branch of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, organized many projects, some are pictured here. They included a Druid Hill Park clean-up, singing and dancing with residents of the Levindale Geriatric Center and cleaning and painting a group home in Pikesville. Yasher koach!

— Photos by David Stuck

RS&F Acquires SHR

Rosen, Sapperstein & Friedlander, LLC, a business consulting and accounting firm, acquired SHR Associates, Inc., a prominent regional health care consulting firm based in Annapolis.

SHR’s president and CEO, Nancy Smit, has joined RS&F as a partner of the firm. In this role, Smit, a seasoned medical practice management executive with over 30 years of experience supporting physicians, hospitals, community health centers and other health care organizations, will oversee RS&F Healthcare Advisors (RSFHA).

“Our acquisition of SHR Associates, Inc. complements RS&F’s overall health care service offering so we can now assist health care clients through revenue enhancement, practice expansion advisory, operations assessments, risk reduction and more,” said Jeffrey Rosen, a director with RS&F. ”This investment enhances our ability to position clients for growth and success, offering the most comprehensive business advisory, consulting, accounting, auditing and tax services along the East Coast.”

RSFHA offers a comprehensive suite of services to address the strategic, operational and accounting needs of health care organizations.

Sheppard Pratt Names CEO

Sheppard Pratt Health System has announced that Dr. Harsh K. Trivedi will join the health system as its sixth president and CEO in 125 years. Trivedi is currently CEO of Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital. He will officially begin his new role on July 1.

Trivedi succeeds Dr. Steven S. Sharfstein, who will step down after more than three decades with the health system, including nearly 25 years as president and CEO. Sharfstein will remain a part of the Sheppard Pratt family as president emeritus and clinical psychiatrist.

“Dr. Trivedi is respected in the field both for his work in behavioral health as a psychiatrist associated with Harvard, Brown and Vanderbilt universities and as an administrator,” said Sharfstein. “He is absolutely the right person for the job, and we’re excited to see him bring new energy and vision to the health system.”

Of the hire, Sheppard Pratt Health System’s chairman of the board of trustees, J. Frederick Motz, said, “It was important to us to find someone who is a passionate clinician and relentless, forward-thinking advocate and also possesses the business acumen to lead the health system; this is Harsh in a nutshell.”

Trivedi is a double board-certified psychiatrist and seasoned physician executive with formal business training. He is editor of “Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America,” chair of the American Psychiatric Association Council on Healthcare Systems and Financing and serves on the American Hospital Association Governing Council for Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Services. He is a thought leader regarding health care reform, in the integration of psychiatric services and in the provision of high-quality patient-centered care.

“Sheppard Pratt Health System is a pre-eminent provider of mental health services nationally,” Trivedi said. “I am deeply honored to lead this venerable mission-oriented institution to serve our patients and our community.”