Here Is Part 1 of Reader’s Choice for the Best of Jewish Baltimore 2020

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From the best event venue to the best dentist to everything in between, it’s time once again for the Jewish Times’ annual Best of Jewish Baltimore, with winners and runner-ups from dozens of categories presented across two issues.

These winners are chosen by readers, who every year submit their choices for best businesses, services, schools, and more in the community, and then vote for their top picks.


Here are the first batch of winners in food, lifecycle, medical, personal services, and senior resources categories. Stay tuned next week for camps, education, community/recreation, kosher food, home services, and retail.

Please join us in celebrating 2020’s Best of Jewish Baltimore.

Enjoy!

Best Family-Friendly Shabbat Service: Chizuk Amuno Congregation

A children's service at Chizuk Amuno Congregation
A children’s service at Chizuk Amuno Congregation (Melissa Halpern)

Chizuk Amuno Congregation began on Exeter Street in downtown Baltimore in 1871. Now in Pikesville, it is more than just a place of worship. The Conservative synagogue is an active spot of community and religious festivals, a preschool, a day school, and a provider of services and high school enrichment programs.

Services are full of families and children, which is why Rabbi Stuart Seltzer, director of congregational learning, loves the synagogue.

“I love the kids,” he said. “They are just so open to learning and so excited to be engaged Jewishly and so proud to be Jewish. I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to work with these students, with a group of families and partners who support their spiritual growth.”

The congregation is streaming these Shabbat services at ChizukAmuno.org/prayer/livestream while the campus is temporarily closed. There is a Tot Shabbat on Fridays at 9:15 a.m. on their Facebook, a Krieger Schechter Day School Ta’aam Shabbat on Fridays at 3:30 p.m., and Torah for Tots on Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. Family services are Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. In person, their services saw around 50 to 70 attendees, while the Zoom Shabbats have around 25.

Students get to grow with the synagogue, learning Hebrew, history, and values.

“Come into the chapel and you will see a group of third and fourth-grade students leading the Halleluyah prayer, banging on the reading table as they clap their hands and sing a niggun,” wrote Seltzer in a poetic narrative. “Come into the chapel to see and hear our preschool kids take their places around the reading table, their heads barely showing, innocently singing out the words of the Shema, and stirring the spirits of everyone in the room.”

— Carolyn Conte

Best Ice Cream/Frozen Yogurt: The Charmery

David and Laura Alima at the Charmery
David and Laura Alima (David Stuck)

“Ice cream shops are pretty much the heartbeat of a town, of a city, anywhere you go,” said David Alima, owner and master creamer of the ice cream company The Charmery. “If you really want the real vibe of a place, you go to an ice cream shop.”

Alima’s passion for ice cream emerged from his humble home ice cream maker. Now, seven years after going into business, Alima and his wife Laura Alima’s venture consists of an ice cream factory in Union Collective, shops in Hampden, Towson, and Federal Hill, and a fifth location in Columbia expected in the future. Alima attributes his company’s popularity to their “obsessive” attention to quality ingredients, their partnerships with local farmers and restaurants, and their friendly customer service.

Like many businesses, though, COVID-19 has hit them hard, and during the time of year when they most need to turn a profit to stay viable.

“It’s devastating,” Alima said of coronavirus’ effect on his business. “This is the time of year that really helps us survive the winter time.”

Adapting to the changing times, The Charmery set up curbside pickup for orders of pints and ice cream pies, as well as offering ice cream delivery.

Despite facing their own difficulties, The Charmery chose to go the extra mile through their “out of work scooper” fund, donating one dollar of every item sold to those in need during the ongoing downturn.

When asked about his favorite flavors, Alima recommended ice cream sando, saffron and olive oil, banana pudding, and cheese and crackers. According to Alima, while the Charmery is perfectly happy to provide customers with classic staples like chocolate and vanilla, “if they’re willing to expand the boundaries of ice cream and come on a ride with us, then we want to take them there as well.”

— Jesse Berman

Best Pediatrician: Dr. Andrew Cardin

Dr. Andrew Cardin
Dr. Andrew Cardin (David Stuck)

With his love of problem solving and of building long-term relationships with his patients, Dr. Andrew Cardin of Owings Mills Pediatrics has become a trusted mainstay of his community.

A graduate of Brandeis University and University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Cardin finds “a lot of satisfaction in being able to work with the same person, while they’re sick and then while they’re well, so I can see them through the good times and the bad times, and we get to know each other through a lot of different changes in our lives.”

Like most physicians, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact in how he practices medicine, but he and his office have made a number of changes to help keep patients healthy and safe. This includes scheduling all office visits, decreasing the amount of time patients spend in the waiting room, disinfecting rooms between patient visits, and offering virtual visits when possible.

When not practicing, Cardin enjoys spending time with his wife of 31 years and his four grown children, as well as bicycling and reading up on American history.

Cardin noted that a significant part of his success comes from the professionals that he works with, saying that he’s “been very fortunate that I’m in a practice with four other great doctors and a great staff that allow me to do my job well.” He added that he hopes he has been a “calm, reassuring presence for a lot of children and their families.”

— Jesse Berman

Best 55+ Community: North Oaks

North Oaks
North Oaks (Courtesy of North Oaks)

Currently celebrating its 30th anniversary, the North Oaks senior retirement community is a lifecare, senior living community in the Pikesville area, according to Cindy Wolf, North Oaks’ director of sales and marketing.

North Oaks offers a continuum of care including independent living, assisted living, and long-term care, while residents appreciate the strong ties between North Oaks and the Pikesville community, Wolf said. This includes transportation to local synagogues and shopping centers, and partnerships with such organizations as Jewish Community Services, the Edward A. Myerberg Center, and the Baltimore Jewish Film Festival.

“It’s the familiarity of this area that people are really attracted to,” Wolf said, adding that “we want people to think of the Pikesville area as an extension of our community.”

Amenities at North Oaks include housekeeping services, dining, and lifelong learning opportunities, Wolf said. Medical services available on site include podiatry, lab services, mobile dental services, and visiting physicians.

To safeguard residents from COVID-19, North Oaks has shifted its normal communal dining room service to a contactless, door-to-door service; moved many of their activities to the in-house television channel or online; and has begun screening individuals trying to access the building, Wolf said.

Although the building is of modern construction, residents often described the facility as intimate and home-like, Wolf said. She attributed this to the many longstanding employees of North Oaks, some of whom had been on staff for its full 30 years, and how they had established long-term relationships with the residents.

— Jesse Berman

Best Dry Cleaners: Polovoy Custom Cleaners

Jeffrey Holzman
Jeffrey Holzman (David Stuck)

Jeffrey Holzman is the Jewish owner of Polovoy Custom Cleaners. The store was established in 1917, and Holzman purchased and moved it to Pikesville in 1992. “I always wanted my own business,” he said. “I didn’t dream it would be a dry cleaning service, but I managed a retail store and then I learned everything I had to from accounting to sales to payroll and marketing.” So when the opportunity to own his own business came up, he grabbed it. “My dad always said I was good at this kind of business.”

His dad must have been right, because eight years ago Polovoy opened a second location in Owings Mills. “The business itself keeps thriving,” he said.

The business offers myriad services, everything from whitening gowns to washing office drapes to tailoring suits. It also offers pickup and delivery.

Polovoy Custom Cleaners also gives back to the community. They do giveaways, clean children’s gowns for the Jewish Caring Network, and donate to charities, synagogues, and organizations in the community.

When manager Charlene Thompson started 17 years ago, the store had only three registers, and people would line up all the way to the back. “It was the most bizarre thing I’d ever seen,” she said. People come all the way from Silver Spring for these services. Thompson has worked on a wedding gown that was $10,000. Some of their customers are even Baltimore Ravens players.

She enjoys the challenges. “If something comes in looking beat up and nasty, and you can make it fabulous, you feel like you’ve done something pretty good.”

Thompson says it’s the safe, friendly environment that drives success.

“It’s the people, not just those you work with, but the customers,” she said. “Many jobs you change people so often, but this job, we have the same workers year after year, and it’s like family, I’m not kidding you. You don’t see that these days.” JT

— Carolyn Conte

Best of Jewish Baltimore 2020 Pt. 1

Food

Best Bagel
1. Goldberg’s
2. Towson Hot Bagel

Best Bar
1. The Mt. Washington Tavern
2. Jilly’s Bar and Grill

Best Diner
1. Linwoods
2. Yesh Hummus and Grill

Best Grocery
1. Wegmans
2. Trader Joe’s, Pikesville

Best Ice Cream/Frozen Yogurt
1. The Charmery
2. Rita’s, Quarry Lake

Best Jewish Deli
1. The Essen Room
2. Knish Shop

Best Liquor Store
1. Quarry Wine & Spirits
2. KB Grill & Wok

Best Pizza
1. Tov Pizza
2. Ledo’s

Best Salad Bar
1. Wegmans
2. Dan’s Cafe at the J

Best Restaurant
1. Linwoods
2. David Chu’s China Bistro

Lifecycle

Best Alternative Shabbat Service/Programming
1. Chizuk Amuno Congregation
2. Beth El Congregation

Best Catering
1. Catering by Yaffa
2. Zeffert & Gold Catering and Event Planning

Best Chabad
Chabad of Owings Mills
Chabad at the University of Maryland

Best Event Venues
1. Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore
2. Woodholme Country Club

Best Family-Friendly Shabbat Service
1. Chizuk Amuno Congregation
2. Suburban Orthodox Congregation Toras Chaim

Best Judaica Shop
1. Shabsi’s Judaica
2. Chizuk Amuno Sisterhood Judaica Shop

Best Party Entertainment (i.e. DJ, Band, Photobooth)
1. DJ Mike on the Mic/Michael Pachino
2. Washington Talent Agency

Best Party Planner
1. Innovative Party Planners
2. Sheri G Events LLC

Best Photographer/Videographer
1. Samantha Snitzer
2. David Hercenberg

Best Special Needs Shabbat Service
1. Beth Tfiloh Congregation

Best Pre-Birth Programs
1. Sinai Hospital
2. GBMC Healthcare

Medical

Best Cosmetic Surgery
1. Dr. Ronald H. Schuster
2. Tie- Aesthetic Center at Woodholme and
Center for Cosmetic Surgery & Medispa

Best Dentist
1. Dr. Samuel Wealcatch
2. Dr. Scott Lever, Owings Mills

Best ER/Hospital
1. GBMC HealthCare
2. Sinai Hospital

Best Gastroenterologist
1. Dr. Ethan Dubin
2. Dr. Edward Wolfe

Best Lasik Center
1. LasikPlus
2. Advanced Eye Care

Best Mental Health Practitioner
1. Dr. Hinda Dubin
2. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center, Towson

Best OB/GYN
1. Dr. Joel Pleeter
2. Dr. Margery Kates

Best Orthodontist
1. Dr. Laura Friedman, Baltimore
2. Tie – Dr. Jeffrey Miller, Owings Mills, and Dr. Stanley Markovits

Best Orthopedic Practice
1. OrthoMaryland
2. Dr. Lew Schoen, Mercy

Best Pediatrician
1. Dr. Andrew Cardin
2. Valley Pediatrics

Best Pharmacy
1. Walmart
2. Giant

Best Urgent Care
1. Patient First
2. Righttime Medical Care

Best Vein Clinic
1. The Vein Center at GBMC

Best Vet
1. Main Street Veterinary Hospital
2. Hunt Valley Animal Hospital, Hunt Valley

Best Vision Care
1. Dr. Michael J. Elman
2. Wilmer Eye Center

Personal Services

Best Bank
1. Bank of America
2. Tie – Wells Fargo and M&T Bank

Best Barber
1. Great Clips
2. Jake and Son Barber Shop

Best Car Wash
1. Plaza Hand Car Wash, Reisterstown Road
2. Auto Spa Car Wash, Cockeysville

Best Dry Cleaners
1. Polovoy Custom Cleaners
2. ZIPS Dry Cleaners

Best Financial Planner
1. Scheinker Wealth Advisors, Baltimore
2. Michelle Harf-Grim, The Pomfret & Grim Wealth Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors, Lutherville

Best Insurance Agency
1. Allstate
2. USAA

Best Law Firm
1. Law Office of David E. Fink
2. Law Office of Jill A. Snyder

Best Makeup Artist
1. Adina B
2. Karen Weiner

Best Mani/Pedi
1. About Faces Day Spa & Salon, Pikesville
2. Nail Center

Best Massage
1. About Faces Day Spa & Salon, Pikesville
2. Adina B

Best Pet Groomer
1. PetSmart, Timonium
2. Reisterstown Pet Resort & Spa

Best Real Estate Agency
1. Long & Foster Real Estate
2. Sharon Zuckerbrod

Best Salon
1. Adina B
2. Tie – About Faces Day Spa & Salon, Pikesville, and Zibazz Hair Studio & Spa

Best Sheitel Macher
1. Cookie Wigs
2. Chomie Gross

Best Spa
1. About Faces Day Spa & Salon
2. Adina B

Best Waxing
1. Adina B
2. About Faces Day Spa & Salon

Senior Resources

Best 55+ Community
1. North Oaks
2. Weinberg Villages

Best Alzheimer’s/Dementia Care
1. Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital
2. Arden Courts

Best Assisted Living
1. North Oaks
2. Weinberg Park

Best Homecare Services
1. The Lisa Vogel Agency
2. Homecare Maryland

Best Hospice Care
1. Gilchrist
2. Seasons Hospice and Palliative Care of Maryland, Baltimore

Best Independent Living
1. North Oaks
2. Weinberg Villages

Best Senior Center
1. Edward A. Myerberg Center
2. JCC of Greater Baltimore

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