The Stuff of a Legend Career-spanning Paul Simon exhibit comes to Jewish Museum

There’s Paul Simon’s first acoustic guitar, early lyrics of legendary song “The Boxer” scrawled inside a 1968 issue of Mainliner magazine and a notepad with early lyrics for world-music fusion hit “Graceland.” Those pieces, along with a letter Paul Simon wrote to Art Garfunkel from summer camp and the duo’s first record contract, which their parents had to sign because they were too young, are among a treasured collection coming to the Jewish Museum of Maryland, when Rock and Roll Hall of Fame exhibit “Paul Simon: Words and Music” opens on Oct. 11.

It’s the first tour stop for the exhibit, which opened in Cleveland in October 2014. Alongside more than 80 artifacts that chronicle Simon’s life and career are videos of select performances and the man himself narrating his life, discussing some of the artifacts and his creative process through interviews conducted by the Hall of Fame.

“He is a master, master, master songwriter, and you can see that, not only that, but he’s always grown. He’s never stagnant,” said Karen Herman, vice president of curatorial and collections affairs at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. “His music, it just crosses over so many lines.”

From his folky roots in Greenwich Village in New York to being at the forefront of folk-rock to pioneering the fusion of American and African music, Paul Simon has permanently etched himself in popular music history.

“[He went] from a rock ’n’ roller to a folk-rocker to a genuinely original American songwriter, and that’s also the evolution of his generation,” said Richard Goldstein, author, professor and former executive editor and longtime rock critic at The Village Voice. “He eventually becomes a real pioneer of world music by the time he’s doing ‘Graceland’ … you can see that he is a superb synthesist of different musical styles from around the world. So he has a tremendous trajectory as an artist.”

Goldstein is part of a robust schedule of programs, film showings and lectures that the Jewish Museum will host in conjunction with the exhibit to further explore Simon, folk music and the connection between folk and the Jewish experience.

In addition to Goldstein’s lecture on Nov. 15, entitled “Paul Simon and the Birth of Folk Rock,” there are performances by Baltimore Hebrew Congregation Cantor Robbie Solomon alongside New York Cantor Jeff Klepper, a major figure in American Jewish music, and Baltimore native and Grammy winner Sonia Rutstein of Disappear Fear; a folk movie festival featuring four films; and lectures on Woody Guthrie’s Yiddish connection by his daughter, Nora, the New York folk revival and the Jewish entrepreneurs who recorded, promoted and celebrated the music, among others. There are 15 performances, film and lectures and three opening events.

“We talk about celebrating the life of the Jewish community and not just the religious life of the community, the community as a whole,” said Marvin Pinkert, the Jewish Museum’s executive director. “It seems to me that this is providing just an ideal opportunity to broaden that scope, and we are going to be able to really introduce a much wider community to what’s happening in the Jewish
experience.”

Pinkert also curated the pop-up exhibit “An American Tune: Jewish Connections to Folk and Folk-Rock,” a small display in the museum’s lobby that explores the Jewish roots of Simon and fellow folkies Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Phil Ochs and Baltimore’s Cass Elliott, as well as the Jewish entrepreneurs who worked to bring the music to the masses.

The Birth of the Exhibit and Its Move to Baltimore
All it took was a visit. When Paul Simon, who has been inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice — as a member of Simon and Garfunkel and as a solo artist — visited the museum, he liked what he saw and began talking with museum President and CEO Greg Harris.

“The next thing we knew, he was all in for an exhibit,” Herman said.

Although Simon didn’t save a lot of stuff from his Simon and Garfunkel days, he saved everything when he went solo and now has an archivist. The Hall of Fame’s curators were able to go through his personal collection to find the combination of objects that would best tell Simon’s story. Simon even suggested a few things himself, including his first guitar, which he got as a birthday present when he turned 13.

Herman, who has a background in oral history, thought they should get Simon to narrate his own story. So in addition to talking about his life, videos in the exhibit have Simon playing guitar and discussing some of the objects, including the time he broke a string on the first guitar and hid it under his bed because he didn’t want his father to find out.

“You really get a sense of how he kind of thinks in music and how comfortable he is with a guitar in his hand,” Herman said. The videos are projected on screens above mini-stages with stools on them.

Joanna Church, collections manager at the Jewish Museum, said this exhibit is a different direction than the museum has taken in the past,
especially in terms of artifacts.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had to put up guitars. I don’t think we’ve had Grammys on display,” she said. “There’s ephemera from his childhood. I love the letters that he wrote to Art Garfunkel when they were both at different summer camps. … I think a lot of visitors are also going to really enjoy the lyrics he wrote on random pieces of mail.”

She’s already hearing from a wide spectrum of people who are anticipating the exhibit’s opening.

Music aficionado and Jewish Museum board member Ira Malis, who traveled to Cleveland to see the Paul Simon exhibit at the Hall of Fame, helped get the ball rolling when heard the exhibit, which was built to tour, was going to be traveling.

“Much like when the museum had a very successful exhibit that involved comic books and [Jewish writers and illustrators], I think it exposed a lot of people to that fact, but also exposed a wonderful historical museum to people who were maybe coming in for the cultural items,” he said. “So I think it’s a win-win to get those kind of exhibits with broader appeal.”

Folk-Rock and the Jewish Experience
Paul Simon is Jewish, and many Jews like his music. So what? How do Paul Simon and all the other Jewish folk singers represent being Jewish?

Pinkert’s pop-up exhibit and Goldstein’s lecture, among other presentations, will answer that question in various ways.

“I met him not long after ‘Sounds of Silence’ came out because I was doing my column. … Like a good New York Jew he knew a good cheap Chinese restaurant on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and he took me to it and we had to climb this flight of linoleum-covered stairs,” Goldstein recalled. They talked about the music industry over egg rolls and fried rice. “It felt to me like a typical New York Jewish experience.”

But Chinese food aside, Simon and his Jewish contemporaries such as Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen created their own forms of music with common lyrical themes.

“Jewish performers are most strongly associated with original folk music,” Pinkert said. “People like Paul Simon and Leonard Cohen are literally writing new folk music. Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs grew up in non-Jewish communities as outsiders. They could look at other folk traditions and could see it with an eye and an angle and be able to write something new.”

Goldstein said this outsider view inspired songs that sang of an idealized view of America.

“These writers tend to create an ideal, larger-than-life America,” he said. “This is true of a lot of great Jewish American artists who write or sing popular music. Where would American music be without them?”

From Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” to Bob Dylan creating new music from traditional folk forms to Neil Diamond’s “hyper-American songs,” Goldstein said, “Rather than Jews creating a Jewish music in America, they created an American music that is informed by their views as outsiders.” While Simon fit this tradition, Simon’s lyrics often took on a more critical edge.

“There’s kind of an edge of uncertainty that really reflects a more modern vision of America,” Goldstein said. “These are really American themes.”

For Pinkert, the question was why so many Jewish people are connected to folk and folk-rock. His pop-up exhibit aims to answer that.

Jewish involvement in progressive politics at the time was very strong, and folk singers and folk-rockers captured that energy in their music, Pinkert said. There were a lot of connections between the Jewish and African American communities at the time, and these connections were often centered around folk music, with the Civil Rights movement as another forum and inspiration for the genre.

“Being born in an environment with tikkun olam as a major tenet is probably something that has an impact,” Pinkert said. “I think that within the tradition, there are elements about social justice among other things that made [folk music] attractive.”

The exhibit and the programs curated around it offer up a wealth of experts and knowledge in a variety of areas, but Pinkert thinks people just need to come see the exhibit themselves.

“The quality of the Paul Simon exhibit really speaks for itself,” he said. “It’s a chance to check out all the ways Jews and folk music have been connected.”

“Paul Simon: Words and Music” runs from Oct. 11 through Jan. 18 at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, 15 Lloyd St., Baltimore. Visit jewishmuseummd.org for a complete schedule of events.

 

Jewish Folk Entrepreneurs

Jews weren’t just prominent performers of folk music when it experienced a resurgence during the 1950s and 1960s. Members of the Tribe had record companies and magazines, owned venues and wrote articles that helped the scene grow and remain abundant.

Author Stephen Petrus, who curated the Museum of the City of New York exhibit “Folk City: New York and the Folk Music Revival,” will give a lecture of the same name on Sunday, Dec. 13 at the Jewish Museum to discuss some of these important figures in folk and what made New York City the center of folk revival.

Petrus hesitates to call them businessmen because he believes these men, mostly of Eastern European background, were motivated by their left-leaning, progressive values.

“[They thought] almost from an anthropological point of view, ‘this is the people’s music. We’re here to disseminate it, we’re here to preserve it,’” Petrus said.

He’ll talk about people such as Moses “Moe” Asch, who founded Folkways Records in a mission to record the sounds of the world “as an expression of people’s culture,” Petrus said.

“He wanted to come up with this kind of chronicle of world music, what we call world music today,” Petrus said. “He saw this as a cultural and political imperative. He’s not ranking musicians in a hierarchy or cultures in a hierarchy.” The liner notes in Folkways albums included historical context and information about the cultural backgrounds of the musicians as well.

There were people like Jac Holzman, who founded of Elektra Records in his dorm room at St. John’s College in Annapolis and worked to get albums out by new folk singers in the Greenwich Village scene. And Irwin Silber, co-founder of Sing Out! magazine, who Petrus said came from a leftist background with strong commitment to the labor movement. A provocative character who criticized The Weavers for playing African-American music but not having any black members, Silber was interested in folk music as a means to advance political change.

Petrus will discuss Robert Shelton, a New York Times critic who chronicled the music scene.

“That would be the best if you got your set reviewed by Robert Shelton,” he said. Bob Dylan got a major boost from a Shelton review in 1961.

There’s a wealth of people Petrus plans to discuss, with Jewish people also involved in sheet music publication, venues and more facets of the industry.

“There’s really just a tremendous amount,” he said. “[The Jewish community] was particularly critical in pushing forward folk music.”

 

Folk Music Goes to Synagogue

There weren’t always guitars in synagogues, but that’s just one of the ways folk music has made its way into Jewish ritual.

Jewish leaders of today took some of the music of their childhood with them, whether it was growing up in New York City during the folk revival of the 1950s and ’60s, going to to Jewish summer camps where folk music was sung and or listening the music of Shlomo Carlebach.

Baltimore Hebrew Congregation Cantor Robbie Solomon and New York-based Cantor Jeff Klepper, both influential figures in American Jewish music, will speak, perform and demonstrate various folk instruments during a presentation called “Jews and the Folk Revival: When Change was in the Air and the Music Mattered” at the Jewish Museum on Sunday, Oct. 18.

“Folk music went from Greenwich Village to the summer camps to the Jewish summer camps and eventually ended up in the synagogue,” Solomon said. “That’s quite a journey. A lot of us who grew up in that time, that’s the way we developed our music.”

In addition to the ideas expressed in folk music, Solomon and Klepper plan to talk about their own musical journeys and their music, including Klepper’s band, Kol B’Seder, and Solomon’s band, Safam, and their more well-known songs.

They’ll trace the journey of Jewish music, starting with “the singing rabbi” Shlomo Carlebach, who Solomon said was the first well-known Jewish clergy member to play Jewish music on guitar. They’ll discuss the Jewish influence of The Weavers, of which Pete Seeger was a member.

“Pete Seeger came to Jewish summer camps in his early years,” Solomon said. “Then the camps became the breeding ground for the leaders of the synagogues. [Folk music] was their memory of what worked in Judaism.”

Although Paul Simon and his Jewish contemporaries didn’t necessarily make Jewish music, they influenced future Jewish leaders such as Solomon and sang about Jewish values, whether they knew it or not.

“[The lyrics had] a lot of social concerns, the concerns of tikkun olam, repairing the world, it’s a Jewish idea,” Solomon said. “So you have these guys singing about the ills of the world and how we should try to help where we can. It’s powerful stuff.”

mshapiro@midatlanticmedia.com

Praying with Their Feet 200 rabbis complete march from Selma to Washington

WASHINGTON — Rabbis and reverends, black and white, stood together on the bimah of Washington Hebrew Congregation and raised their voices in a triumphant rendition of the civil rights protest song, “We Shall Overcome.”

The clergy were celebrating, along with hundreds of attendees, the completion of America’s Journey for Justice, a 1,000-mile march from Selma, Ala., to Washington, D.C. It began Aug. 1 on the Edmund Pettus Bridge and ended Sept. 15 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Hundreds of rabbis joined the march, spearheaded by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, “praying with their feet,” under the banner of “Our lives, our votes, our jobs, our schools matter.”

Addressing the crowd during the Sept. 16 advocacy rally are (from left) Rabbi Jonah Pesner, head of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; Hilary Shelton, NAACP Washington Bureau leader; and Rep. Terri Sewell, (D-Ala.). (Melissa Apter)

Addressing the crowd during the Sept. 16 advocacy rally are (from left) Rabbi Jonah Pesner, head of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; Hilary Shelton, NAACP Washington Bureau leader; and Rep. Terri Sewell, (D-Ala.). (Melissa Apter)

Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP, called attention to the faith leaders who joined in the 46-day journey and in particular to the 200 rabbis who heeded the “Macedonian call” to march.

Brooks, noting the weight of the Torah, said, “Whether it was carried by someone of the Reform tradition or the Conservative tradition, Baptist or Methodist, Pentecostal or Evangelical, whether it was carried by agnostic or an atheist, by a regular synagogue attender or someone who attends infrequently — some of our church folk understand that — we found that whether it was carried by a man 6 feet, 8 inches tall or by a child 4 feet tall, what we found is that no one was able to carry the Torah the entire distance, what we discovered is that it took the hands of many to carry God’s word 1,002 miles.”

“What we found is that no one was able to carry the Torah the entire distance, what we discovered is that it took the hands of many to carry God’s word 1,002 miles.

The Torah scroll that journeyed from Selma to Washington was on loan from Chicago Sinai Congregation, whose senior rabbi, Seth Limmer first proposed the Torah make the journey and was on hand for the beginning and conclusion of the march. The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis were coalition members from the start of the journey and helped coordinate the 200 rabbis and countless Jewish lay leaders and youth group members who participated.

When they arrived in Washington, Brooks said the weight of God’s word reminded him of a passage from the Bible: “God gave these words to Joshua: Be strong and of good courage.”

At the Lincoln Memorial the afternoon of Sept. 15, Rabbi Jonah Pesner, director of the RAC, held the Torah and offered final words to the marchers on the spot where Martin Luther King Jr. spoke decades ago.

“As a country, it is past time to ensure that all people are treated with dignity and afforded equal opportunities,” Pesner said in a statement. “We have been honored and humbled to be part of this journey. May the year ahead and those beyond be filled with righteousness and justice.”

That evening, Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig, senior rabbi of Washington Hebrew Congregation, welcomed the marchers into his sanctuary for an interfaith prayer service.

Through songs, readings and speeches, the clergy, sitting two rows deep on the bimah, recounted their journey and the work ahead of them. Brooks and Lustig paid homage to Middle Passage, a 68-year-old disabled veteran who died on the journey. Another marcher picked up his American flag and made sure it reached Washington.

Following the service, advocates made their way to the front of the sanctuary for a legislative teach-in with Hilary Shelton, director to the NAACP’s Washington Bureau and senior vice president for advocacy and policy. He spoke of the specific pieces of legislation the advocates — many of whom were still wearing their yellow Journey for Justice shirts or blue shirts with the word “shalom” scrolled across the back — lobbied for on Sept. 16.

The NAACP and its coalition members called on Congress to support the Raise the Wage Act, End Racial Profiling Act and the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015.

Limmer, joined by his young daughter, offered his thoughts at the Sept. 16 morning rally in the Upper Senate Park in Washington. Afterward, advocates breaking off for their lobbying sessions.

Speaking before the hundreds of clergy, union leaders, environmentalists, LGBTQ rights activists and NAACP members, Limmer described the 10 Days of Awe and the Jewish tradition of sharing the burden of repentance and then launched into a rendition of “Al Chet,” the confession of sins that is part of the Yom Kippur service, that he customized for the occasion.

“For the sin of letting the powerful Voting Rights Act of 1965 fall back, for letting voting rights be stripped, for letting disenfranchisement happen,” said Limmer.

“For letting the working class become the lower class, for making work not equal to dignity, al chet shechatanu lefanecha …”

Democratic members of Congress, including Sens. Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Mark Warner (Va.), Jeff Merkeley (Ore.) and Reps. John Conyers (Mich.) and Bobby Scott (Va.) took to the microphone in support of restoring the Voting Rights Act and called on their Republican counterparts to do the same.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, and partner to Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in New York, donned a rainbow-patterned kippah and gave an impassioned speech to the awaiting crowd.

“This fight will not end unless every ally is a part of it,” Weingarten said.

“So we need anyone who is religious to work with their sisters and brothers — it’s a good time, the pope is coming, it’s a Muslim New Year, it’s the Jewish New Year — to talk to their sisters and brothers in the pulpit, to say, ‘If you believe in justice, you must fix the Voting Rights Act.’”

mapter@midatlanticmedia.com

Making Her Mark in Macedonia Baltimorean takes on the Peace Corps experience

Reisterstown native Jen Stutman has embarked on a 27-month journey to Macedonia, where she hopes to effect change in the Balkan country and dig deep into the issues facing its people.

Stutman, 23, left on Sept. 19 to volunteer with the Peace Corps as a part of her graduate program at American University, where she is studying for a master’s degree in social enterprise.

“I’ve always been interested in history and how people are affected by it,” said Stutman. “I couldn’t imagine working for an NGO without going to the place first and actually understanding what people need.”

The Peace Corps, an international service organization established by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, sends Americans around the world to tackle the social, economic and governmental issues of the countries it serves. According to a spokesperson, 195 Marylanders are currently serving in the Peace Corps, 76 of whom are from Baltimore; 5,836 Marylanders have served in the organization since its inception.

Jen Stutman left last Saturday for a 27-month assignment in Macedonia as a member of the Peace Corps. (Marc Shapiro)

Jen Stutman left last Saturday for a 27-month assignment in Macedonia as a member of the Peace Corps. (Marc Shapiro)

Stutman’s involvement with the Peace Corps began when she interned at its office in Washington, D.C., during her undergraduate studies. After learning how much thought and care the organization puts into selecting where volunteers would have the most impact, she decided to let the Peace Corps select her destination, Macedonia. After studying Eastern Europe in college, she said she “couldn’t be more excited.”

“When I went to graduate school, I realized how often organizations throw money at a problem without understanding what the people [in the country] need,” said Stutman. “I like that the Peace Corps is all about putting people in the field to understand the real problems in the long run.”

Stutman’s desire to help others and enact change began as an undergrad at George Washington University. She was active in a group called GW Students Against Sexual Assault, which educates students on ways to reduce domestic violence and sexual assault on campus. She is continuing that work in her thesis by discussing ways to reduce violence in certain situations.

Stutman’s family, although sad to see her leave, knows this trip is one she wants, and is ready, to go on.

When I went to graduate school, I realized how often organizations throw money at a problem without understanding what the people [in the country] need. I like that the Peace Corps is all about putting people in the field to understand the real problems in the long run.

“She’s always been that person who really wants to help others,” said Stutman’s sister, Sandy Sanders. “She looked at other organizations, but this is the best fit. It allows her to travel, immerse herself in a community and make a difference.”

Stutman’s stepfather, Gary Shapiro, described Stutman as determined and dedicated.

He said he knew the Peace Corps would be a part of her life as soon as she brought it up to him.

“Her mother and I are already planning our first trip, next August, to see her, but I’m also very excited for her,” Shapiro said.

“She’s at the beginning of a wonderful adventure. Her entire family is very proud of Jennifer, and we are looking forward to her safe return in 27 months.”

Once Stutman lands in Macedonia she’ll spend her first three months near the capitol. After training with other volunteers and learning the language, she’ll travel to her host family. Of the several different areas of work for Peace Corps volunteers, Stutman will be focusing on education and teaching.

She believes that working with the people who may run the country in 20 or so years is a great way to make a tangible change.

As for her family, she intends to keep them close by, at least in spirit.

Said Stutman, “I’m sorry to leave my family here; if I could bundle them up and take them with me I would. But they are excited for me, and I just got a bunch of photos printed so they’ll be all over my walls.”

jkatz@midatlanticmedia.com

‘3-2-8 Hope’ Dancing for cancer awareness, prevention in Baltimore

The Baltimore Full Circle Dance Company practices at Morton Street Dance Center every Tuesday and Thursday. While many of the members live in Baltimore, some members travel from Washington, D.C. twice a week.

The Baltimore Full Circle Dance Company practices at Morton Street Dance Center every Tuesday and Thursday. While many of the members live inBaltimore, some members travel from Washington, D.C. twice a week.

The Baltimore Full Circle Dance Company will celebrate its 15th anniversary by putting on “Fight and Flight,” a benefit concert for the Baltimore City Cancer Program, which is a part of the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center.

Since 2001, BCCP has provided thousands of Baltimore’s residents with mammograms, free clinical exams and screenings in its effort to detect cancer in its early stages. According to the Susan G. Komen foundation, Jewish women of Ashkenazi descent are at higher risk of a mutation in the BRCA 1 and 2 genes, a condition that has been linked to causing cancer.

The dance company, which was established in 2000, is led by breast cancer survivor Donna Jacobs, who graduated from the New York School for the Performing Arts. After establishing the Morton Street Dance Center in 1992, Jacobs recognized the school had many talented instructors, but they were missing one thing.

“We had many talented dancers who were teaching but who wanted and needed their own outlet for
performance,” said Jacobs. “So I pulled several together and said, ‘Do you want to perform?’”

While there has been turnover in the company, which is now 15 members strong, most of them live in Baltimore and have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in dance. In the past several years, the company has focused on pieces that tackle specific issues such as race dynamics, the role of religion and body image.

Jacobs explained that as she brainstormed with the company each year, one issue would always rise to the surface. However, due to how close to home breast cancer is to Jacobs in particular, her dancers were unsure about suggesting it.

“I was a bit hesitant to suggest a concert revolving around the topic of breast cancer to [Jacobs]. I didn’t want to cross the line or invade a cancer survivor’s space in sharing their story if they weren’t ready to,” said Allison Powell, who has been with the company for eight years.

Despite hesitations the company settled on the issue of breast cancer. As a way to prepare for the piece, “3-2-8 Hope,” which is also the phone number to contact the BCCP, some of the dancers visited with several survivors of breast cancer to hear their stories at a local support group.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect going to the support group,” said Angelica Daniele, who began dancing with Full Circle after graduating from Goucher College in 2009. “It was very emotional. The women there take their journeys so personally, and they conveyed that very openly to us. They all stressed how the support of other people is what helps them get through their journey.”

After undergoing two surgeries and many radiation treatments, Jacobs understands exactly what the journey is like.

“When you hear you have cancer, things come at you very quickly and you’re trying to get over the shock. I felt fortunate about the specific cancer I had because I work within this industry,” said Jacobs, who is a vice president of government and regulatory affairs in the University of Maryland Medical System. “I could get a keen understanding quickly, but I kept in mind how complex it was for people who are not in the health industry.”

For Jacobs, her own experiences battling cancer have been a motivation to make the benefit concert for BCCP a success. Jacobs’ hard work both as a lawyer and a director has earned her the respect of her dancers.

“Donna Jacobs is something else,” said Hope Byers, who started at Full Circle in 2006. “I call her a miracle woman because she does so much. I’m in awe of what she has accomplished. She is sort of a mentor to me; I look up to her and am proud to be a part of her company.”

Apart from dancing, many members in the company are also wives and mothers.

“We went through a big boom of weddings, and now we’re in the baby boom. We call them our ‘half-full circle,’” said Powell, laughing. “We’re slowly growing our mini-company to replace us.”

Fight and Flight:
A Benefit Concert for the Baltimore City Cancer Program

Saturday, Oct. 3, 7 p.m. Chesapeake Arts Center
194 Hammonds Lane in Brooklyn Park, Md.

Tickets: $20
Post-performance
reception: $10
VIP Angels Tickets: $50

To purchase tickets and  for more information, visit fullcircledance.webs.com

jkatz@midatlanticmedia.com

From Johannesburg to Baltimore Meeting the challenge of the American dream

Keith Miller is the CEO of Strategic Factory and works side-by-side with his father, Lester Miller, who moved from Johannesburg to Baltimore in 2004.

Keith Miller is the CEO of Strategic Factory and works side-by-side with his father, Lester Miller, who moved from Johannesburg to Baltimore in 2004.

When Keith Miller, who hails from Johannesburg, South Africa, embarked on a three-month trip around the world more than 15 years ago, he wasn’t sure where he would end up.

­What he did know is if he wanted to start a family, it wouldn’t be in his home country.

“There was a lot of crime and corruption in South Africa. I’d been shot at it, held up in a bank robbery, involved in a carjacking,” said Miller. “[While traveling] I stayed with anyone that I knew to see what the rest of the world was about, where could I go?”

Miller, who worked in the car accessory industry in Johannesburg, was initially offered a job by one of his former bosses who had moved to Sydney, Australia. He was excited by the offer because Australia’s culture was similar to his native land, but his parents urged him to finish his trip before he made any decisions.

Miller ended his trip in Baltimore, and although he wasn’t necessarily attracted by the city itself, he met his future wife, who is also from South Africa, while staying with friends of his family. A little over a year later he made the move from Johannesburg
to Baltimore. Miller didn’t want to continue working in the automotive industry because of how different the market is in the United States. With help from his aunt, he bought a
Minuteman Press operation, part of the international printing franchise.

“I thought, ‘How hard can it be?’” said Miller, now 42. “Everyone needs to have things printed.

“If I’m going to try something, I’m happy to try this.”

Miller went into printing with no contacts or background in the industry, but that was far from the only challenge a new country posed to him.

“America was a challenge,” said Miller. “I liked the idea of America and living the American dream, but it’s a different culture completely.”

“You just don’t know anything,” added Miller’s father, Lester, who moved to Baltimore in 2004 and has been helping Keith grow his business. “You don’t know the banking system, you drive on the wrong side of the road, and you have no history with any of the sports. Football, ice hockey, basketball, those sports aren’t played in South Africa.”

Lester Miller was happy when he heard his son wanted to leave Johannesburg. “[He] recognized a long time ago that a future in South Africa was very limited. I think everyone wanted to get their kids out to ensure there was a future for them.”

Since purchasing that franchise, which at the time only had one other employee, Miller has managed to grow his business into Strategic Factory, a one-stop shop for marketing, graphic design, printing, signage, promotional products and customized apparel. Last month, Strategic Factory hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new 40,000-square-foot facility, built by Merritt Properties.

“When I was hired, I was employee No. 47,” said Rebecca Yarrison, who works in human resources at Strategic Factory. She said that since 2012, the company has had tremendous growth in terms of its building space, personnel and customers.

“The most exciting part about working here is just because you’re in HR doesn’t mean you don’t get to be creative. I’ve been pulled into customer meetings to help them understand a particular benefit so they can develop something for their client.”

Now married with three daughters, Miller rarely travels back to South Africa since all of his family now lives stateside. He attributed his drive to succeed to the culture he was brought up in.

“I’ve grown up around people who’ve looked at the glass being half full as opposed to half empty; my
father very much so,” said Miller. “There’s always something to achieve, and you’ve got to put your mind to it. You can’t expect handouts or just sit back and expect something to happen.”

Miller added that one of his favorite expressions — “If you’re going to dream, you may as well dream big” — is commonly used by real estate mogul Donald Trump.

“Pretty funny, that’s been a saying of mine that I’ve hung onto from the beginning,” said Miller. “Now he’s running for president.”

jkatz@midatlanticmedia.com

New Space, New Opportunities Temple Emanuel moves to Beth Israel, will construct new sanctuary

Temple Emanuel Rabbi/Cantor Rhoda Silverman rehearses for the High  Holidays at the Gordon Center.

Temple Emanuel Rabbi/Cantor Rhoda Silverman rehearses for the High
Holidays at the Gordon Center.

As the Jewish community evolves, so must the synagogues. For Temple Emanuel, evolving means building a new home at Beth Israel Congregation in Owings Mills.

Since July, Temple Emanuel has been renting space at the Conservative synagogue after selling and moving from its Reisterstown home of 20 years. The Reform congregation will soon build its own sanctuary.

“We need a space that is inclusive and large enough for our own needs,” said Rabbi/Cantor Rhoda Silverman. “[We’re going] to turn a multipurpose room into a place where we have sacred space and community.”

For the time being, Temple Emanuel is using one of Beth Israel’s chapels for its services and the Gordon Center at the JCC in Owings Mills for High Holiday services. A sanctuary has been designed by Mark Levin of Levin/Brown Architects, who designed Beth Israel’s building as well as synagogues and churches around the country, and Beth Israel is reviewing the plans. Once approved, Temple Emanuel will request building permits from Baltimore County. Temple President David Beller anticipates about three months of construction, which will entail knocking out walls, putting in a new ceiling as well as knocking out some exterior brick to let natural light into the room.

The new sanctuary will be set up much like Temple Emanuel’s old building, with a walk-in ark and a
social hall in the back for onegs and other events; it will have a maximum capacity of 350.

“Part of what the plans include is using some of the artwork, the sacred objects and memorials from our old sanctuary so that there will be some continuity from the old to the new,” Beller said.

Temple Emanuel’s religious school students, of which there are about 20, will attend Beth Israel’s Community Learning Lab with its 160 students. The temple’s post-bar and bat mitzvah-age students attend BEIT-RJ (the Baltimore Education Initiative for Teens of Reform Judaism) classes and work with Silverman, and some will also be helping in the Community Learning Lab on Sundays and Tuesdays.

The two congregations sharing a building, perhaps the first arrangement of its kind in Baltimore, has opened up a variety of opportunities for collaboration. A joint Shabbat service was held in July, with another being held this evening. The congregations have also been sharing Kiddush after Shabbat services.

“Our communities can come together following our own individual denominational services and be able to share our Shabbat spirit together,” said Beth Israel Rabbi Jay Goldstein.

In terms of how to handle bringing a Reform congregation and Conservative congregation together for services, Goldstein said they accommodated both sets of customs. For July’s joint Shabbat service, “Siddur Sim Shalom, Beth Israel’s prayer book was used, and certain Temple Emanuel Shabbat customs were incorporated into the service.

For this evening’s service, “Gates of Prayer,” Temple Emanuel’s prayer book will be used with certain Beth Israel customs incorporated into the service.

The two congregations will also join together in October for the Baltimore Shabbat Project.

Temple Emanuel, which has about 170 member units (a unit can be an individual or a family of any size), sees more collaboration potential down the road.

“There is an eagerness in the temple community to explore the opportunities that our new surroundings present, to explore opportunities for collaboration,” Beller said. He and Beth Israel’s president, Randi Buergenthal, have discussed doing joint adult education programs.

“I think anytime there can be an initiative that builds a stronger Jewish community, it’s a positive thing,” Buergenthal said. “I think it’s a great thing for the Reisterstown-Owings Mills community that we can now become the center of Jewish life in this area.”

Temple Emanuel spent two decades in its Reisterstown building, at 909 Berrymans Lane, which opened in 1995. By the early 2000s, the synagogue was approaching 400 memberships and expanded its footprint with a two-story education wing.

Over time, Temple Emanuel’s numbers slowly shrunk as they have at so many other congregations in Baltimore and across the country. With a diminishing revenue base and building larger than its need called for, the congregation decided to sell. In June, the building was bought by Messiah Community Church.

Goldstein said Beth Israel was happy to welcome Temple Emanuel into its home.

“I think it’s probably a model of the future for smaller and mid-size congregations to be able to share on that level,” Goldstein said.

“The idea that various denominations can come together under one roof and use the resources that we have in a wise way and to be able to collaborate on-site is something I see as part of the future of Judaism here in America.”

mshapiro@midatlanticmedia.com

Democrats Block Amendment Linking Iran Deal to Israel, American Prisoners

Ben Cardin (File Photo)

Sen. Ben Cardin (File Photo)

An amendment that would have linked lifting of sanctions on Iran with the release of American prisoners and public acknowledgement by the Islamic regime of Israel’s right to exist was blocked on Thursday.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) introduced the amendment as part of a final push to stop the Iran nuclear deal. Senators voted 53-45 on the amendment, falling short of the 60 votes needed to move forward.

Jewish lawmakers Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), along with Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who opposed the nuclear agreement, joined Democrats in voting no. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who also opposed the Iran deal, was the only Democrat to vote for McConnell’s amendment.

Cardin, as reported by The Hill, said before the vote, that even if Iran recognizes Israel’s right to exist, “I must tell you that I would have no trust in their statement or confidence in their statement.”

Menendez said he voted no because he did not “want to give any idea that we would support this agreement” just because four Americans would be released and Iran would recognize Israel.

McConnell countered that his amendment was the least the Senate could do if they could not pass a resolution of disapproval.

The Obama administration has long argued that the nuclear agreement has a narrow scope and outstanding issues, including human rights abuses and threats made to the United States and Israel, were not part of the negotiations between world powers and Iran that concluded in July.

Per the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, Thursday is the final day Congress can pass a resolution of disapproval on the Iran deal, though some Republicans – notably Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), the lone Jewish Republican in Congress – argue that the clock will not start until the side agreements between the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran are made available for review.

mapter@midatlanticmedia.com

Stumbling Blocks to Repentance Difficulties abound when making a return

Most of us have heard the pillow parable. A Jewish man goes around town, talking smack about the rabbi. Later, the man feels guilty and approaches the sage, asking if there was anything he could do to make it up to him.

The rabbi tells him to cut open a pillow and let the feathers fly across town, which the man does. “Now go gather them up,” the rabbi says.

“That’s impossible,” the man says. “The feathers are everywhere.”

“And so are the words you spoke about me,” the rabbi says.

The moral is clear. For gossip, known in Jewish tradition as lashon hara, or evil speech, the gossiper can’t expect forgiveness from the victim, no matter how bad he or she feels. The words, so freely spread, take on a life of their own.

Chaya Deitsch: “We do forgive each other.” (Provided)

Chaya Deitsch: “We do forgive each other.” (Provided)

The 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are prime time for teshuvah, often translated as “repentance” but is closer in meaning to “turning” or “returning.” Jewish tradition has separate requirements for repenting for misdeeds against God (praying at the Yom Kippur service, for one) and for wrongs committed against other people.

Just as in the case of gossiping, there are wrongs for which you just can’t gather the feathers again.

“You do something in public and things spread,” says Rabbi Avis Miller, president of the Open Dor Foundation in Chevy Chase. “With social media it amplifies the results.”

Teshuvah is not a single act. It is more often described as a process that takes the penitent through the stages of realization and regret, stopping the harmful action, articulating the wrong and asking for forgiveness and resolving never to commit the act again.

Rambam, the medieval scholar, explained how someone knows if he or she has truly done teshuvah, Miller says. “It’s when you’re put in the same position and you do the right thing. That’s the test.”

Asking and receiving forgiveness is often key to clearing one’s conscience. “The emotional well-being of the person who has done wrong — that’s what Yom Kippur is all about,” she says.

But sometimes that’s not possible. A parent who has lapsed into senility or who has died, for example. Or when the person you wronged has disappeared.

“When I was growing up, there was a girl I was not nice to,” says writer Chaya Deitsch. “It still eats at me at what it must have felt like to her. Her family moved away, and I wonder if it was because of me.”

In cases when it’s impossible to do teshuvah, Miller offers this adage, “If you can’t fix what’s broken, fix something else. If you can’t reconcile with that person, if they had a particular value, say, helping the homeless, you do that.”

According to tradition, if one sincerely repents, the victim must forgive him. Forgiveness may not be immediate, but if the penitent asks for forgiveness three times and is refused each time, he or she is considered forgiven. The unforgiving person is now guilty of bearing a grudge.

Certainly the stage where the richest stories of wrongs and forgiveness are played out is the family.

Deitsch’s new memoir, “Here and There: Leaving Hasidism, Keeping My Family,” to be published next month by Schocken, is the latest in the mini-genre of books by authors who grew up in Haredi homes but left religion behind.

In cases when it’s impossible to do teshuvah, Rabbi Avis Miller offers this adage, “If you can’t fix what’s broken, fix something else.”

It joins a small bookshelf containing Leah Vincent’s “Cut Me Loose: Sin and Salvation After My Ultra-Orthodox Girlhood,” Shulem Deen’s “All Who Go Do Not Return,” Deborah Feldman’s “Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots” and “Foreskin’s Lament: A Memoir” by Shalom Auslander.

Like the other memoirists, Deitsch became attracted to secular culture. Unlike them, no scandal surrounded her actions, and she was not written off by her family.

The difference, she says, is “they came from communities where it was just not tolerated.”

Because the family did not break up, it was able to improvise ways to ask forgiveness. “We do forgive each other,” she says.

Despite their confusion and disappointment, Deitsch’s parents decided that family — not social standing in their Chasidic community or strict adherence to ritual observance — came first, she says. “At the heart of it, you stick to family, no matter what.”

When it comes to the question of forgiveness in these memoirs of turning away and rupture, Deitsch wonders, “Who needs to forgive who? It’s a two-way street. Whose cautionary tales are these for?”

Ultimately, teshuvah  is a two-way street.

dholzel@midatlanticmedia.com

‘Duty Bound to Help’ European Jews, mindful of risks, urge aid to refugees

Refugees flee along railroad tracks near the southern Hungarian village of Roszke.

Refugees flee along railroad tracks near the southern Hungarian village of Roszke.

When he looks into the tired eyes of the Syrian refugees now flooding Europe’s borders, Guy Sorman is reminded of his father, Nathan, who fled Germany for France just months before Adolf Hitler came to power.

“He wanted to go to the United States. Visa declined. He tried Spain, same result. He ended up in France, neither welcome nor deported,” Sorman wrote last week in an op-ed in Le Monde in which he argued that Europe should learn from its abandonment of the Jews during the Holocaust and accommodate the stream of migrants pouring through its borders from the war-torn Middle East.

Sorman’s view is not uncommon among European Jews, many of them living in societies still grappling with a sense of collective guilt for their indifference to the Nazi genocide — or complicity in it. At a Holocaust memorial event in Paris Sept. 6, French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia urged Europe’s leaders to match the actions of non-Jews who saved Jews from the Nazis by welcoming Syrian refugees.

Yet, as many European Jews rush to the refugees’ aid in word and deed, some worry that letting them stay may further contribute to the anti-Semitic violence driving Jews to leave Europe, much of it perpetrated by immigrants from the Middle East. Eager to exploit such fears, ISIS claimed in July that it had sent 1,000 fighters to infiltrate Europe as refugees.

“Some of these new immigrants — the Syrians and Iraqis especially — have been taught to hate Jews,” Henri Gutman, president of the left-leaning Belgian Jewish cultural group CCLJ, wrote in an op-ed published Aug. 31 on the organization’s website. “We risk further increases in anti-Semitism.”

While urging “generosity” toward the refugees, Gutman said Europeans must observe “imperatives of defense” against Islamism. The Central Jewish Organization of the Netherlands, where two elderly Holocaust survivors were hospitalized recently following an assault by robbers who appeared to be Middle Eastern immigrants, spoke to a similar tension in a statement from its chairman, Ron van der Wieken.

While “aware that some Middle Eastern refugees harbor very negative feelings toward Jews … Jews cannot withdraw support from those in need and fleeing serious violence,” van der Wieken wrote. He urged Holland to devise a “charitable” refugee policy.

Such tension even exists for some of the hundreds of Jews helping the refugees in Hungary, Austria, Italy and beyond.

“As Eastern European Jews, we carry the knowledge of how it feels like to flee our homes,” said Zoltan Radnoti, the newly elected chairman of the rabbinical board of the Mazsihisz umbrella group of Hungarian Jewish communities. “Still, I help the refugees with fear that I am helping send danger to other Jews in Europe. I know some of the refugees may have fired on our [Israeli] soldiers. Others would have done so in a heartbeat. I know. But I am duty bound to help.”

In Hungary, the main point of entry for a wave of refugees that authorities have only partially been able to check since its onset last month, approximately 150 Jews are involved in a relief operation mounted by local Jewish communities. Two weeks ago, Mazsihisz set up three collection depots in Budapest Jewish institutions from which it delivered approximately half a ton of food, clothes and other necessities to migrants. The community also collected $5,000 to buy diapers, medicine and water.

In Italy, the Jewish community of Milan threw open the doors of its Holocaust museum last month to accommodate homeless migrants from the Middle East and Africa.

And in Brussels, Menachen Margolin, a Chabad rabbi and director of the European Jewish Association lobby group, led a delegation of rabbis to deliver food and nonperishables to the refugees.

Such actions are part of a wider popular reaction in Europe to the migrant problem. It’s an issue that has worried immigration authorities for more than 20 years, but the wars in Syria and Iraq along with instability elsewhere in the region brought the crisis to a head last month, as tens of thousands began pouring into the European Union from Serbia.

In some cases, border guards were unable to stop the masses from crossing. In Hungary, authorities helped the masses move westward to wealthier EU countries, a policy consistent with right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s claim that the migrants are “a German problem” because that’s where the refugees “would like to go.” The move flouts EU rules that make refugees the responsibility of the first member state they reach.

On Sept. 8, Germany vowed to absorb 500,000 refugees per year — far beyond the figure pledged by other members.

Some 340,000 people have immigrated from the Middle East into Europe in 2015 alone, according to EU figures.

Some of the volunteers were jarred into action by the image of Aylan Kurdi, a Syrian boy whose body washed up on a Turkish beach on Sept. 2. Aylan’s father was the only member of his family who survived when its boat capsized en route from Turkey to Greece. The gruesome sight followed the discovery the previous week of 71 bodies in a truck abandoned on an Austrian highway.

But for Julia Kaldori, a Hungarian-born Jew who divides her time between Vienna and Budapest, the trigger was less shocking.

“I started seeing people convening at train stations in Budapest,” said Kaldori, the editor of Wina, the monthly publication of the Jewish Community of Vienna. “I began talking to some of them, and I couldn’t help becoming involved.”

Kaldori says she is aware that statistically, Middle Eastern immigrants are responsible for most of the violence driving French Jews to leave in record numbers — nearly 7,000 in 2014 alone. But “when you look into their eyes, the refugee issue stops being a demographic issue,” she said.

Kaldori hopes that having been helped by Jews, refugees with anti-Jewish views may reconsider. But Radnoti, the rabbi from Budapest, says he is less hopeful. Instead, he cites the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, the sinner cities that Abraham had pleaded with God to spare.

“If there are but five righteous souls in that group,” Radnoti said, “then we must do what we can to save them.”

Towson Graduate Student Found Dead Moloshok remembered for her ability to combine child development and the arts

Darcie Lena Moloshok (LinkedIn)

Darcie Lena Moloshok (LinkedIn)

A Towson University graduate student in the Department of Family Studies and Community Development was found dead in her off-campus apartment on Sept. 4.

Darcie Lena Moloshok, 28, was found unresponsive by police who went to check on her after a call from her mother, according to reports in The Baltimore Sun and other news outlets. A cause of death has yet to be determined.

In a statement, the Baltimore County Police Department said that officers responded to a report of cardiac arrest.

“Towson University officers had responded to the location to check on a student after the student’s mother called the university concerned about her welfare,” a news release stated. “When they were let into the apartment by maintenance staff, they found the student lying on her bed.”

An official autopsy will be conducted by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Moloshok grew up in Ambler, Pa., and graduated from Drexel University in 2010 with a B.S. degree in psychology.

She also did graduate work at the University of Wisconsin. In addition to her academic work, she was heavily involved in the arts, both in production and administration. Her acting resume included performances in “John Lennon and Me” and “Zink” at the Sellersville (Pa.) Theater as well as work in television and film that included an interview with author Sherman Alexie for the documentary, “Learning to Drown.”

The creative ideas of hers and the ways she took her interests and combined them stood out.

She was an award-winning photo-grapher whose work was displayed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and MossRehab Hospital in a joint program in 2014, and she won a statewide contest for artists with disabilities.

(Moloshok was born with a congenital eye condition that affected her vision, according to her biography for the PMA-MossRehab show.)

Towson spokeswoman Gay Pinder said the loss has been felt across campus.

“The entire Towson University community is saddened by the death of Ms. Moloshok,” she said. “We have been in communication with her family and have offered them our full support.”

Moloshok worked closely with Karen Eskow, her graduate program director and chair of the Department of Family Studies and Community Development.

Eskow said Moloshok “continually worked hard” and was always “engaged in class.”

“She always participated in conversations, she was very thoughtful,” added Eskow, who cited Moloshok’s interest in the visual arts, such as photography, as one of the defining traits that often showed up in her work. She said Moloshok frequently tried to find ways of incorporating art into her thinking about the stages of child development.

“The creative ideas of hers and the ways she took her interests and combined them stood out,” Eskow said.

Moloshok began volunteering at the Herman and Walter Samuelson Children’s Hospital at Sinai in February as part of the Child Life Practicum, where she chaired the Special Olympics Olympic Village Committee.

Laura Cohen, a specialist with Sinai’s Child Life Program, said everyone in the program was “very fond of her. We thought the world of her.”

Greg Salisbury contributed to this story.

dschere@midatlanticmedia.com