Art with a Heart Names Friedman President

Alyson Friedman has been elected president of the board of directors for Art with a Heart, a 15-year-old Baltimore-based nonprofit that is dedicated to enhancing the lives of people in need through the use of visual art. Friedman has been a member of the board since 2011.

Art with the Heart achieves its mission through the execution of art classes in schools, community centers, group homes, permanent housing facilities, shelters, hospitals and senior centers. More than 10,000 separate classes are held on an annual basis, providing more than 182,000 visual art experiences. The organization has also served more than 550 young adults in its summer job program, and its community service and public art initiatives provide accessible and meaningful volunteer opportunities.

Friedman also serves on the board of directors for The Associated; is an inaugural member of the Jewish Women’s Giving Foundation including its past-president; is immediate past-president of CHANA Baltimore; and serves on the board of directors of Associated Women, the Center for Community Engagement and Leadership and the National Women’s Philanthropy Board of the Jewish Federations of North America. She also volunteers with groups and institutions including Israel Bonds, Garrison Forest School and Jewish Women International.

Associated Honored by Israel Bonds

On Jan. 31, The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore became the first federation to be presented with Israel Bonds’ Israel68 Commemorative Medallion Award.

The award was presented to The Associated in recognition of its work in the greater Baltimore Jewish community as well as Israel, where it has a sister- city relationship with Ashkelon and a long-standing relationship with Israel Bonds. Since 2008, the organization has partnered with Israel Bonds Maryland by being a 100 percent match partner for all Israel Bonds purchased during the High Holidays.

Israel68 Award recipients embody the highest standards of leadership as demonstrated by their exceptional dedication to Israel and perpetuation of Jewish values and ideals.

Associated president Marc B. Terrill and chair Mark Neumann accepted the award, given at the Israel Bonds Prime Minister’s Club Dinner in Boca Raton, Fla. The Associated is among 13 honorees receiving this award.

Harbour School Honored

bbriefHarbourSchoolThe Harbour School has been recognized as a Lead2Feed Certified School. Only 10 schools and youth organizations have received this honor. Harbour was recognized for inspiring community service and its demonstration of student leadership. Through the efforts of Harbour students and staff, students have performed thousands of hours of community service working toward alleviating hunger in the community. Their efforts have earned $50,000 for Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland.

Siri Llamas, a special educator at The Harbour School at Baltimore, was recognized by the Lead2Feed Student Leadership Program as Teacher of the Week in early February. Her leadership has assisted her special needs students to provide educational materials and resources that provide practical ways to combat hunger in local communities in 17 states and nine foreign countries.

Lead2Feed was started three years ago, and since its inception, more than 1 million students from 3,500 schools across the country have participated. The Harbour School is the first and only school to win twice.

The Harbour School is a nonpublic school serving students ages 6 to 21 that have been diagnosed as having learning disabilities, high functioning autism, Asperger’s syndrome and other health impairments.

Baltimore Native Wins with Perfect Pitch

Justin Hayet and Haley Silverstein pitch their conference idea at the First Annual Campus Pitch Competition at WeWork. (photo provided)

Justin Hayet and Haley Silverstein pitch their conference idea at the First Annual Campus Pitch Competition at WeWork. (photo provided)

Baltimore native and pro-Israel activist Justin Hayet, 21, and his partner, Haley Silverstein, won $2,500 at the First Annual Campus Pitch Competition at WeWork, held by the World Jewish Congress and Israeli Consulate in New York.

The competition challenged students to pitch an initiative concerning Israel, anti-Semitism or interfaith relations to a panel of judges including global CEOs, entrepreneurs and social innovators. The grand prize was $5,000 in funding and a trip to the WJC Conference in Europe.

Hayet and Silverstein, Hillel members at Binghamton University, pitched a conference called “For This We Stand” that includes an academic and interactive speaker series that addresses Israel and human rights.

Hayet emphasized this conference is meant for students on both sides of the issue, to challenge the speakers and question them.

“We don’t want to people to only support Israel because they see the difference between [Israel] and the countries around it,” said Hayet. “We think Israel’s case for human rights is strong, so we wanted to dig deeper. Students are academics, and they want a platform to debate. We wanted to bring it all together. We want students to be educated and speak about their ideas.”

Voting Rights Granted to Ex-Offenders

Gov. Larry Hogan (Evan Sayles via ZUMA Wire/Newscom)

Gov. Larry Hogan (Evan Sayles via ZUMA Wire/Newscom)

The Maryland General Assembly on Feb. 9 overrode Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto on a bill that grants voting rights to ex-offenders once they are released from prison.

The bill restores voting rights to approximately 40,000 Marylanders, about 20,000 of whom will be eligible to vote in Baltimore City’s upcoming mayoral and council elections, according to The Baltimore Sun. The law takes effect March 10.

Previously, Maryland law withheld the right to vote from individuals beyond incarceration until probation and parole supervision was completed.

The House of Delegates voted to override Hogan’s veto in January, but the Senate delayed the vote twice. All six of Hogan’s vetoes were overridden by the legislature. Two bills decriminalized possession of marijuana paraphernalia and limited the power of police and prosecutors to seize anindividual’s assets, two bills changed the way hotel taxes are collected, and another bill dedicated $2 million for the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis.

Del. Sandy Rosenberg (D-District 41) said restoring voting rights to ex-offenders follows in the tradition of expanding the franchise.

“And when we’re talking about the importance of enabling people who were in prison to get back into the workplace, I think a corollary of that is enabling them to participate in the political process,” he said.

Continuum of Care Pilot Program Puts Congregants First

The Pearlstone Center hosted the launch of the Maryland Faith Community Health Network. From left: Carolyn Quattrocki, executive director, Maryland Health Benefit Exchange; the Rev. John Deckenback, chairman, Ecumenical Leaders Group; Dr. Jonathan Ringo, vice president of transformational care, LifeBridge Health; Vincent DeMarco, president, Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative and head of the Consumer Outreach Task Force of the Health Services Cost Review Commission; the Rev. Cleveland Mason, president, United Baptist Missionary Convention; Carmela Coyle, president and CEO, Maryland Hospital Association; District 11 Del. Shelly Hettleman; and Rabbi Jay Goldstein, Beth Israel Congregation. (Photo by Melissa Gerr)

The Pearlstone Center hosted the launch of the Maryland Faith Community Health Network. From left: Carolyn Quattrocki, executive director, Maryland Health Benefit Exchange; the Rev. John Deckenback, chairman, Ecumenical Leaders Group; Dr. Jonathan Ringo, vice president of transformational care, LifeBridge Health; Vincent DeMarco, president, Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative and head of the Consumer Outreach Task Force of the Health Services Cost Review Commission; the Rev. Cleveland Mason, president, United Baptist Missionary Convention; Carmela Coyle, president and CEO, Maryland Hospital Association; District 11 Del. Shelly Hettleman; and Rabbi Jay Goldstein, Beth Israel Congregation. (Photo by Melissa Gerr)

The Maryland Faith Community Health Network is a two-year pilot program among LifeBridge Health, the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative and dozens of faith-based organizations that will work to improve the health of people in Maryland by creating a continuum of care for congregants during and after a hospital stay, as well as promote preventative health care resources.

Through the network and only with the congregant’s prior consent, faith leaders will be notified when someone is hospitalized, and trained volunteer ‘liaisons’ from the same congregation will work closely with hospital ‘navigators’ to coordinate support services available to patients, which could range from clergy visits and prayer to transportation, meals or even medical referrals.

Rabbi Jay Goldstein and Beth Israel Congregation in Owings Mills — one of two Jewish organizations participating in the pilot, the other is Temple Oheb Shalom, along with 30 congregations from Baltimore City and Baltimore and Carroll counties — has offered organized assistance for congregants for about 11 years through  Shleimut, a program that enlists the support of clergy, a social worker and a nurse.

But often it takes time to find out when a congregant has been hospitalized, so Goldstein is “thrilled and excited to participate as one of the pilot congregations,” he said, because hospital navigators can “access information without the labyrinth of paperwork,” which can be an obstacle as can be HIPPA laws, which limit access to patient information. This is where prior consent comes in. Through using the network, patients retain complete control over what information can be shared with liaisons and clergy.

Neil Meltzer, president and CEO of LifeBridge Health, said in a written statement he is happy that three LifeBridge locations — Sinai, Northwest and Carroll hospitals — will anchor the pilot, and he looks forward “to explore how this innovative approach to enhanced coordination with faith communities can benefit the people of Maryland.”

Dr. Jonathan Ringo, vice president for clinical transformation at LifeBridge, said the creation of the network is important because “the way health care has changed, it’s not just about what happens in the hospital, but also about the continuum of care.” He cited many organizations within the community such as JCS, Ahavas Yisrael and Bikur Cholim that assist patients, but with the new network, “the point is to connect all the dots.”

Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative and head of the Consumer Outreach Task Force of the Health Services Cost Review Commission, said in November 2014 that he led a group to visit a similar system in Memphis, Tenn., on the suggestion of several faith leaders in Maryland. That system has been successfully in place but based out of only one hospital for about 10 years. His hope is “to make [the Maryland network] statewide and maybe even nationwide,” if the pilot is successful.

District 11 Del. Shelly Hettleman was on hand for the announcement at the Pearlstone Center, where about 100 liaisons and clergy have begun training to work within the network.

Hettleman called the network a “win-win-win” for hospitals, patients and congregations because though many synagogues have support systems in place for congregants who may become hospitalized, setting up a structure will make “the relationship more formal between the hospital and the spiritual adviser,” which is important because “there’s a positive correlation between spiritual health and physical health.”

The Maryland Faith Community Health Network combines “the power of caring, the power of curing and the power of community,” said Carmela Coyle, president and CEO of the Maryland Hospital Association, also in attendance at Pearlstone.

The pilot received funding from the Abell Foundation, Community Catalyst, the Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Foundation, the France-Merrick Foundation and the Leonard and Helen R. Stulman Foundation.

mgerr@midatlanticmedia.com

Morhaim Introduces Four Drug Policy Reform Bills

Del. Dan Morhaim (Justin Tsucalas)

Del. Dan Morhaim (Justin Tsucalas)

Del. Dan Morhaim (D-District 11) hopes to reduce addiction and overdose rates, the spread of diseases and incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders through four harm reduction drug policy bills he introduced on Feb. 5.

The Baltimore County delegate, an emergency and internal medicine physician, said the bills treat drug use as a public health issue.

“This legislation reflects the scientific, evidence-based research proving how to best help drug users, their families and the community at large,” he said in a press release.

The bills call for addiction treatment at-need and on- demand in emergency rooms and hospitals, safe consumption programs, poly-morphone-assisted treatment and decriminalization of small amounts of drugs for personal use.

Passage of the proposals would make Maryland the first state to adopt methods that several other countries employ.

Morhaim’s addiction treatment bill would require acute care hospitals to have an addiction treatment counselor available or on-call 24/7 for patients and to provide arrangements to transfer patients to detoxification or rehabilitation services. The bill also calls for the Maryland Health Service Cost Review Commission, the state’s hospital regulatory agency, to develop strategies that support hospital expenses.

The safe consumption programs bill would allow the establishment of programs in which individuals can consume controlled substances in safe spaces, where they are provided sterile equipment and can be connected to treatment, medical care and social services. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, similar programs now operate in Europe, Australia and Canada, which have reduced the spread of infectious diseases and eliminated overdose deaths since medical staff is immediately available. The bill would allow local health departments to establish programs and also allow community-based organizations to start programs if approved by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

A third bill tasks the DHMH with creating a committee that would review proposals and support the establishment of a four-year poly-morphone- assisted treatment pilot program in Maryland. This type of treatment involves giving chronic heroin users who have been unresponsive to treatment pharmaceutical-grade heroin, hydromorphone or other opioids under medical supervision in a specialized clinic.

“This group of users is directly responsible for a significant portion of street crime and uncompensated health care costs that are eventually born by taxpayers,” a press release from the Drug Policy Alliance said. “Bringing them into treatment immediately reduces their anti-social behavior and provides an opportunity for further care.”

Programs in several European countries as well as a clinical trial in Canada have shown positive results, the release said.

The University of Maryland Department of Psychiatry has expressed support for the safe consumption and poly-morphone-assisted treatment plans and said the department would consider establishing pilot programs if the legislation passes, the release said.

A fourth bill would decriminalize small amounts of drugs for personal use.

“After witnessing for years how our policies have failed individuals, families and society, I’ve had enough,” Morhaim wrote in a column in The Washington Post. “This is a crisis of epic proportions that requires a radical shift. My proposals aim to reduce the terrible consequences of the war on drugs and initiate scientifically proven models based on compassion and public health.”

mshapiro@midatlanticmedia.com

Lamplighter Dinner Shines Light on Columbia Chabad’s 30 Years

Rabbi Hillel and Chanie Baron will celebrate the Columbia Chabad Lubavitch Center’s 30th anniversary with its annual Lamplighter Dinner on Feb. 28. (Photo by Justin Katz)

Rabbi Hillel and Chanie Baron will celebrate the Columbia Chabad Lubavitch Center’s 30th anniversary with its annual Lamplighter Dinner on Feb. 28. (Photo by Justin Katz)

Rabbi Hillel Baron remembers the first Howard County Jewish Federation meeting he attended; it took place in a member’s family room, and in it was seated everyone in the Jewish community.

While the Howard County Jewish community has grown and changed exponentially, one constant has remained: Rabbi Hillel and Chanie Baron.

The Barons, who run the Lubavitch Center for Jewish Education in Howard County, are celebrating Columbia Chabad’s 30th anniversary this month with their annual Lamplighter Award Dinner on Feb. 28.

“[A lamplighter is] someone who does good for the benefit of others, encourages others to do good and builds the community Jewishly,” said Baron. “[People have] been telling us that [we] should be the honorees one day.”

The couple has a lot to be thankful for with three decades of work under their belts, said Baron. When they started the Lubavitch Center in Howard County, not everyone felt Columbia was a worthwhile place to expand a Jewish community since nearby Baltimore’s was so large and established.

“It is important from the perspective of a rabbi because if everyone gravitates to where it’s bigger and easier to connect to Judaism, you leave people behind,” Baron said.

Thanks to Baron, Howard County has its own 770 Eastern Parkway — home of Chabad-Lubavitch world headquarters in Brooklyn, N.Y. — but in Columbia, it’s 770 Howes Lane. Baron added, “Nothing is a coincidence in our religion. There is always a story behind everything.”

The story is this: Because of growth in the area, the county kept changing the Columbia Lubavitch Center’s address during its first few years. Baron complained to the county and argued it was confusing his members and impacting his budget to continually reprint stationery.

“[The county] said, ‘All right rabbi, what number do you want?’” said Baron. Even though Columbia uses four-digit numbers Baron was pleased with the opportunity to choose the address — 770 — and jumped at the chance.

Baron’s contributions to the entire Jewish community are legendary.
— Richard Schreibstein, president of the Jewish Federation of Howard County

Dedicated to growing and supporting the Jewish community in myriad ways over three decades, the community has taken note of his efforts.

“[Baron’s] contributions to the entire Jewish community are legendary,” said Richard Schreibstein, president of the Jewish Federation of Howard County. “And his wife is there with him. You can’t talk about Hillel if you don’t talk about Chanie.”

Schreibstein, who emphasized that he was raised Conservative and attends a Reform congregation, has worked with Baron for six years. Baron cured him of his fear of “black hats,” he said. “[Baron and Chabad] understand those of us who are not like them. He appreciates what we can do for his organization, and he takes us as we are.”

Schreibstein added that some congregations he attended would question him if he had missed several services. But at Chabad he’s greeted with “‘I’m so glad to see you.’ It’s a completely different attitude.”

Rabbi Craig Axler said Baron was one of first people to visit him at Temple Isaiah when he arrived in Columbia, which he credits to “the energetic spirit of the Lubavitch [rabbis].”

“Together with their daughter, Chaya Sufrin, and son-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Chaim, they have demonstrated tremendous dedication to the Jewish community of Howard County,” said Axler. “[They] are a model for openness to working across the lines of denominations in our Jewish community.”

Navigating across those lines remains a large part of Baron’s work.

“Our mission is to engage Jewish people wherever they are in their Jewish involvement or observance,” said Baron. “We have families and members from all of the congregations and the unaffiliated. Everyone takes what they need and what they like about what we offer.”

Lamplighter Award Dinner

Ten Oaks Ballroom
5000 Signal Bell Lane, Clarksville

February 28, 5 p.m.

For more information, contact Chaya Sufrin at 443-280-0340 or chayasufrin@gmail.com

jkatz@midatlanticmedia.com

Local Photographer Finds New Life Through the Lens

Norm Dubin is quick to point out that many of his favorite photos “were taken in my own backyard.” ( Justin Katz)

Norm Dubin is quick to point out that many of his favorite photos “were taken in my own backyard.” ( Justin Katz)

Norm Dubin may be retired from his career as a reproductive biologist, but he has started a new life with what initially was just a hobby.

“Like most kids, I had a camera ever since I was young and liked to take pictures of weird things,” said Dubin. “A friend of mine said, ‘Why don’t you show these photographs at an exhibit?’ I exhibited some at a couple of galleries and people seem to enjoy it, so I continued doing it.”

Dubin, 74, takes photographs of whatever strikes him; sometimes it is an oddity in a foreign country that he’s traveled to with his wife, Valerie, and other times it’s right outside his front door in Baltimore. His latest work is on display through February at the Hoffberger Gallery at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.

The gallery exhibits artists from the Baltimore/Washington area who use a variety of media such as watercolor, fabric design, photography and sculpture.

“[Dubin] has a unique way of using digital software to combine different [photographs] to create one image,” said Marcia Bornfriend, co-director of the Hoffberger Gallery with Lauren Loran. “One picture might be made up of two or three different photographs.”

Bornfriend is the daughter of Claire Bornfriend, an artist and congregant of BHC who established the Hoffberger Gallery in 1968. As an abstract painter and art teacher in Baltimore schools for more than 30 years, Marcia Bornfriend is no stranger to the art world. She said Dubin’s first exhibit in 2011 was a success, so inviting him back wasn’t a difficult decision.

It’s not important that one travels a lot to get good photographs. You can do it anywhere, you just have to develop an eye.
— Norm Dubin, photographer and graphic artist

Dubin has photographs from the Grand Canyon to Istanbul, but he emphasized, “I think it should be appreciated that a lot of my favorite photos were taken in my own backyard.”

Several other photographs are from Har Sinai Congregation, Park Heights Avenue and other Pikesville landmarks.

To achieve a unique look, Norm Dubin uses digital software to combine different photographs into a single image. (Photo provided)

To achieve a unique look, Norm Dubin uses digital software to combine different photographs into a single image. (Photo provided)

“It’s not important that one travels a lot to get good photographs,” said Dubin. “You can do it anywhere, you just have to develop an eye.”

The inspiration for Dubin’s work comes from television commercials, advertisements and paintings. Some people ask if his work has any social or political meaning.

“I never intentionally do anything like that because I use [photography] to escape the real world,” said Dubin. “Maybe when people look at it they can get into some meditative state.”

When it comes to gear, a simple Nikon camera or a point-and-shoot will suffice. What matters more than the gear, he said, is the composition of the image.

“I think Norm is an excellent photographer,” said Diane Marigotta, a member of the Towson Art Collective, an organization that is both a venue and educational center for artists.

Marigotta, who attended the Maryland Institute College of Art and has been an art teacher for more than 20 years, exhibits paintings but at one time created work similar to Dubin’s, using computer programs such as Photoshop.

“Some of the most stunning images are the ones where he has a colorful pattern like the dishes in the marketplace in Morocco,” said Marigotta. “The intensity of the color and pattern take my breath away. It could be chaotic, but he makes it look intriguing.”

Dubin, who considers himself more of a graphic artist than photographer, added that the hardest part of any photograph is knowing how to start and knowing when it’s done.

Dubin said laughing, “I just can’t leave well enough alone, as some people have told me.”

jkatz@midatlanticmedia.com

Looking for a Quickie Jewish Wedding? Call Rabbi Mel

Rabbi Mel Hecht marries Craig Silver and Karen Butt of Connecticut at Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas. (Ron Kampeas)

Rabbi Mel Hecht marries Craig Silver and Karen Butt of Connecticut at Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas. (Ron Kampeas)

LAS VEGAS — Rabbi Mel Hecht clutches his black coffee and paces in front of the Dunkin’ Donuts just down the road from the Red Rock Casino.

It’s 2:27 p.m., and the couple said they’d be there by 2:20. The photographer has an appointment at Bellagio at 5 p.m., and he wanted to get started by 2:30.

“Here she comes,” says the photographer, Britt Pierson.

Karen Butt, resplendent in a teal bridal gown and carrying a bouquet of cloth flowers,  is waving from the stretch limo idling in the parking lot unable to fit into a space. She trots across and apologizes for being late, but it’s all good  because Hecht has turned on his rabbinical calm, flashing a huge toothy grin framed by his trim, white beard.

Her bridegroom, Craig Silver, follows in her wake, patting his inside pocket, making sure he has the rings.

Hecht sets about calming the nervous couple.

“I thought this was a circumcision,” he says with a smile.

Silver laughs, relieved — a little relieved, anyway. He’s getting married, after all. He launches into a story about how his mother insisted on a doctor for his own circumcision, which wasn’t a thing 59 years ago like it is today, but thinks better of finishing and trails off.

Hecht explains how to get from the parking lot to the actual Red Rock — not the casino, but the geological formation just east of this city.

“Meet us at the first turnoff,” he says.

The rabbi slips into his white SUV and checks the back seat with a pat for his gear: the battered, black leather briefcase stuffed with a kiddush cup, a golden tallit, an array of marriage certification stamps and an ancient Rabbinical Assembly prayer book. And a wine glass wrapped in a napkin.

Hecht has this routine down. He’s about to turn 77, and he’s been doing this since he arrived in Las Vegas in 1980 from Fort Pierce, Fla., where he was a congregational rabbi.

Call Graceland Wedding Chapel, scroll through the five Elvis†options†(from $199 for basics to $799 for dueling Elvises), ask about the “Yes, we do offer Jewish ceremonies” on the website’s FAQ page, and the lady on the phone will tell you, “Call Rabbi Mel.” There used to be another guy, she says, but he’s gone. Now it’s just Rabbi Mel.

“Las Vegas is perhaps the only place that is not so much interested in someone’s past as it is in how that person performs in the present.”

— Rabbi Mel Hecht

Hecht confirms there was another guy, but he also can’t remember the name. That’s Las Vegas: People come and go and are forgotten.

Or it once was Las Vegas. Hecht is a holdover from the last of the city’s Wild West days, the 1980s, when there wasn’t much of an established Jewish community here, just two or three synagogues and folks moving in and out.

He came to serve an established synagogue, but it didn’t work out, and he became the go-to guy for idiosyncratic Jewish weddings and funerals — rites that would make sense nowhere else but ring true in a town built by the Jewish mob, where roads just end and buildings rust half-completed, where Jewish would-be entertainers come to fail and Jewish one-time entertainers come to fade.

What once was Hecht’s side vocation — ministering to the transient — has become his full-time job. Other rabbis build community; Hecht tends to those fleeing communities. Some are pornographers, gamblers or gangsters who disappear until they die, when they want Hecht to make sure their long-estranged families know that in the end, they did not forget they were Jewish.

Others are like Butt and Silver, pretending for one fantastical weekend that all they have is each other, leaving behind  families complicated by divorce and generational tensions.

“Las Vegas is perhaps the only place that is not so much interested in someone’s past as it is in how that person performs in the present,” says Hecht, who charges $400 for your basic nuptials.

At the Graceland Wedding Chapel, Hecht has never played “Elvis the rabbi.” But yes, there were Jewish brides who wanted an Elvis impersonator to sing before the  ceremony, or after the ceremony, or in the middle of the ceremony. There was the bride who wanted Elvis walking her down the aisle.

Don’t brides want their  fathers to give them away? I ask.

“They don’t come with the  father,” Hecht says. “With a select group, but not their parents.”

Family in Las Vegas is  not the one you’re born into, it’s the one you create. There was the Jewish showgirl who married an actor in the show. Like other wedding parties, she and her bridesmaids coordinated outfits. Unlike others, these were mesh dresses with very little underneath.

For the couple who wanted a Western wedding, Hecht  appeared in dungarees, a three-quarter black coat, a wide-brimmed hat and a shotgun (unloaded). The Jewish costumers at Bally’s who threw a Renaissance wedding for themselves dressed Hecht in the flat hat and cassock-like garment a contemporary rabbi might have worn.

Two days before Butt and Silver wed, Hecht meets me at a Starbucks near his home. (In Las Vegas, distances are marked by outlets, casinos and strip malls. “It’s the one just past the Best Buy,” he explains.)

Outfitted in a black pinstripe suit and white shirt, he’s about to do a funeral: a man born to a Jewish mother and an Italian father who spent his life driving a cab and tending bar. He had started a family, abandoned it, then raised  another — never marrying Jews, never raising his children Jewish. But one thing everyone in his family knew — from estranged to recent — was that he wanted to go out as a Jew.

Hecht will recite the El Malei Rachamim in English, to be true to the dead man’s wishes, but also so the families will feel connected.

“The funeral home knew who to call because of my reputation,” he says. “I’m a rabbi for all people, not just Jews.”

Karen Butt got to Hecht by Googling “rabbis and Las Vegas”; Hecht had incredible reviews. (Not that he would know; he hates computers and his wife handles emails.)

Butt, 49, a clinical social worker in Old Lyme, Conn., and Silver, 59, who develops real estate, had met on JDate two years earlier, and they talked with Hecht over the phone. She knew he was the one. He sounded “familiar,” she says, holding hands with Silver in the back of the limo.

“We wanted to focus on our marriage,” Butt says, explaining why the wedding is in Las Vegas. “It gets more complicated with families.” Silver chimes in: “We wanted it to be just about the two of us.”

There are parents and kids from previous relationships. How many times have they been married?

“Never mind, just say we’ve been married before,” Butt says.

The limo arrives at the first turnoff in the Red Rock Loop. Families are gathered by the roadside to gaze at the canyon.

“Aren’t there too many people for a wedding?” Silver asks, having expected something a little more serene.

Butt, already out of the car, pulls Silver out.

“We’re walking out of here Mr. and Mrs. Silver, that’s all I know,” she says.

The passers-by become part of the ritual, bikers whooping cheers to Hecht’s grinning  approval. This is Las Vegas, and family is who you make it in the moment.

Hecht throws the golden tallit over the couple. As they huddle, their faces etched in bliss, he blesses them in the first person plural, a “we” that encompasses himself, the couple’s absent children (whom he names), Pierson the photographer, me, the bikers roaring by, the grinning family watching from the overlook, the Jewish dead and living.

“We wish you the kind of home that is made of more than stone and wood,” the rabbi says, “that it will be an  island that will protect you from the frenzy the world has become.”

Out comes the wine glass wrapped in a napkin. Silver smashes it not once but twice.

Hecht pronounces them man and wife.