Here is part 2 of the Best of Jewish Baltimore 2021

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Here is part two of the results from the Baltimore Jewish Times’ annual Best of Jewish Baltimore reader’s choice competition. These businesses, nonprofits, institutions and more are chosen by you, the readers, who nominate and then vote for your favorites.

There are so many categories that we split them up across two issues. Last week, we revealed the winners and runner-ups from the pandemic response, food, lifecycle, medical, personal services and senior resources categories.


This week, we present to you the winners and runner-ups in our camps, education, community/recreation, kosher food, home services and retail categories.

Please join us in celebrating 2021’s Best of Jewish Baltimore. Enjoy!

Beth Tfiloh camper in a canoe
A Beth Tfiloh camper has fun in a canoe. (Julie Wolff)

Best Day Camp: Beth Tfiloh Camps

More than 75 years ago, a small camp was founded for the children of Beth Tfiloh Congregation. Today, Beth Tfiloh Camps serves campers of all levels of observance and from all over the city as well as Baltimore, Howard and Carroll counties.

“For some children, a Jewish summer camp may be their only exposure to Jewish programming,” said Camp Director Sam Bloom in an email. “Understanding this, BT Camps incorporates Jewish programming into each camp. All this is accomplished while continuing to offer as many, or even more, traditional camping activities as any other secular camp.”

This summer, nearly 700 campers will have access to the main campus’ 70 acres of athletic fields, ropes courses, zip lines and more, enjoying activities from arts and crafts and theater to sports and a full petting zoo. Programming also includes Red Cross-certified swimming lessons, leadership training for older campers and nursery and STEAM camps, as well as Kabbalat Shabbat services.

COVID-19 forced BT Camps to close last summer. However, BT Camps was open to the community as a “family camp” that followed social distancing and other public health guidelines.

“At a time when most other facilities were closed, BT Camps safely welcomed 4,000+ visitors to use our pools, lakes and other facilities,” Bloom said.

About 150 teachers, professionals and college students will staff BT Camps when they open this summer. Many staff members, Bloom said, have worked there for several years.

“A theme of Jewish programming and content is woven throughout the camp,” he said. “BT Camps is unique in the Baltimore region for its facilities, programming, transportation and staff.”

— Rudy Malcom

Goldsmith Early Childhood Center
Children at Goldsmith Early Childhood Center (Goldsmith Early Childhood Center)

Best Preschool: Goldsmith Early Childhood Center

The Goldsmith Early Childhood Center of Chizuk Amuno Congregation has sought to encourage students’ academic, social and spiritual development before they start kindergarten for over 60 years.

The center follows a child-centered approach, “whereas 20 years ago, everything was very teacher-directed,” said Michelle Gold, who has directed GECC for 21 years. Through continual professional development, she said, GECC has evolved with the field of early childhood education.

“Everybody’s at different developmental stages, so it’s not a one-size-fits-all program; it’s more individualized,” she said. “We try to meet children wherever they are and take them to the next level.”

Judaic learning is infused into everything the center does, Gold said. GECC also operates under a play-based philosophy. Children socialize and ask questions during play, she said, which promotes identity development.

Participating in a parent-accompanied class as a director, Gold said, helps her welcome new families to the community.

It is perhaps this sense of community that allowed GECC to flourish when it reopened in September after closing in March 2020 due to COVID-19, even though parents were no longer allowed in the building.

“We made accommodations to keep everyone safe but also to make families feel they were still welcome … and like nothing has changed,” she said. “As opposed to separating us, all of these accommodations made us closer.”

Registration numbers for the fall, Gold said, are higher than they were pre-pandemic. About 140 children are registered for the 2021-22 year, almost double the number for last fall.

“My guess is we’ve done something right during a very difficult year,” Gold said.

— Rudy Malcom

Best Fitness Center: JCC of Greater Baltimore

The JCC of Greater Baltimore provides a place for people in the Jewish community to improve their health an d wellness and be part of a tight-knit community.

“Like our competitors, the JCC offers a full range of fitness options, from well-equipped fitness centers to group fitness classes to pools and gymnasiums, an indoor track and racquetball and tennis courts,” said Robin Rose-Samuels, the senior marketing director at the JCC of Greater Baltimore. “But unlike our competitors, we are more than a fitness and rec facility.”

The JCC has fitness centers at both the Weinberg Park Heights JCC and the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC locations.

Both the Owings Mills and Park Heights locations have a main fitness floor, but Park Heights has a separate Fitness aToo room as well. The Fitness Too room “offers alternating Male/Female-only hours to accommodate members who prefer more privacy,” according to the JCC website.

The fitness centers include cardiovascular machines, like ellipticals, treadmills, rowers and bikes, and strength training equipment, like dumbbells, bench and squat racks and battle and infinity ropes. They also have personal trainers to help guide workouts, which can be one-on-one, with a partner or in small group training sessions led by JCC fitness professionals.

There are also group fitness classes that help build the community aspect of the fitness center.

“We are a true community center where members can drop their child off at preschool or camp and then come take a class, hang out with friends they have been working out with for years and then maybe grab a bite [at] our cafe,” Rose-Samuels said.

Overall, the JCC of Greater Baltimore strives to make their fitness center a comfortable environment for everyone. In fact, the JCC has banners in their gymnasiums and Aquatic Park that remind their members to value teamwork, community, respect, integrity and diversity, Rose-Samuels said.

“We feel it’s important for everyone to feel welcome and supported, regardless of their background or abilities,” Rose-Samuels said. “These are the Jewish values of b’tzelem Elohim and haschnasat orchim.”

— Courtney Cohn

Best Kosher Grocery: Market Maven

When COVID-19 first hit, it brought a wave of panic, recalled Eli Siegel, the general manager of Market Maven Baltimore. Customers wanted to stock up on as much as they could, creating a demand that was challenging to meet.

“I’d say in the first couple weeks, each week we went through about three weeks’ worth of sales,” Siegel said. “Much, much more than anybody could ever dream of.”

Staff worked around the clock at the kosher grocery store to prepare products and stock the shelves, Siegel said, noting that even to this day there remains a shortage. He is hoping in the coming months things will calm down, and that staff can return to normal operations.

Market Maven, owned by Yossi Rubashkin and Ari Chitrik, is open to the whole community, Siegel stressed, from the completely non-kosher consumer to the most religious of clientele. It currently has 75 employees, a number largely unchanged from before the pandemic.

Siegel, a resident of Pikesville and member of Pikesville Jewish Congregation, has been with Market Maven since its opening several years ago. He started as its meat manager and was later promoted to his current position.

Siegel’s favorite part of running Market Maven is getting to know the store’s customers, he said. While not a native of Baltimore, Siegel had only positives to say about the local community.

“The Baltimore community is extremely warm, very friendly, very outgoing,” Siegel said, “and I love it. I really, really do.”

— Jesse Berman

Shlomo Kushner
Shlomo Kushner (Courtesy of Shlomo Kushner)

Best Electrician: Shlomo Kushner

When Shlomo Kushner, owner of Kushner Electric Inc., arrived at the customer’s home, he was told the problem had to do with a misbehaving light circuit in the dining room. Upon further investigation, he found several beams in the attic that had been blackened by a small fire that at that moment was burning in the house. The fire was caused by a breaker that was tripping. They were able to catch it before it grew and put it out with some rags before calling the fire department.

“It was close to, basically, burning down the house,” Kushner said. “If we didn’t catch it in time, it could have easily [caught] on fire.”

For Kushner, a licensed electrician, it’s all part of the job.

Kushner’s interest in electrical work was piqued during a job with a maintenance crew in 2001, he said. He was doing summer work at the school facilities of Temple Oheb Shalom (now Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom Congregation). While helping to change light bulbs, he discovered his knack for electrical work. Afterward, he found work with electrical companies like Tag Electric and Silverblatt Electric, where he learned the trade.

Kushner received his license as an electrician in Virginia in 2015, the same year he founded Kushner Electric. In 2017, he received an electrician’s license for Maryland. He currently lives in Pikesville and attended Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion before the pandemic.

The types of jobs that come across Kushner’s desk range from replacing outlets or light fixtures, to installing car-charging stations, to rewiring entire houses, he said. At times he has to troubleshoot to determine why a certain area of a house has lost power or upgrade a structure’s main panel to handle more amps. He normally has at least one other employee working with him.

The work of an electrician always carries inherent risk, Kushner said, and safety is the first priority.

As a businessman, Kushner considers himself always at the ready, taking calls from clients as early as 2 a.m.

“It’s a never-ending game, no matter what business you have,” Kushner said. “It’s constant during the day, evening. It never really ends.”

Despite this, Kushner enjoys solving the challenges the job presents him with and plans to stay an electrician for the remainder of his professional life.

— Jesse Berman

Best Jeweler: Kaylah Diamonds & Jewelry

Kaylah Minkin founded Kaylah Diamonds & Jewelry from her home in 1985 while raising four children as a single mother. Her son Brian Minkin remembers his mother saying that her children were her life, but also that her business was her baby.

“She loved what she did, worked hard and was able to guide me to take it over,” Brian Minkin said.

Unlike his mother, Brian Minkin’s relationship with jewelry was not love at first sight. However, after his mother died in 2002, he and his wife Chavie Minkin took over the business to ensure Kaylah Minkin’s dreams continued for years to come.

While Brian and Chavie Minkin collaborate on everything together, Chavie Minkin predominantly acts as the bookkeeper and head of human resources. As the “serial entrepreneur,” Brian Minkin loves working with other people to ensure that they are happy with their purchases.

After opening a showroom in Pikesville in 2017, the couple looked to expand in order to better serve Jewish communities. Now, in addition to their showroom in Pikesville, Kaylah Diamonds & Jewelry has a retail showroom in Lakewood, N.J., and an office on 47th Street in New York City.

The growing business also works with charitable organization Simchas Esther that provides funds for young brides and grooms in the community, Brian Minkin said.

“When they send us one of the young grooms, and he can’t afford much, we are able to provide a very beautiful ring for wholesale pricing,” he said. “That is probably the most satisfying sale.”

— Shira Kramer

Here’s the full list:

Camps

Day Camp

  1. Beth Tfiloh Camps

400 Delight Meadows Road Reisterstown, MD 21136

btcamps.org

2. Camp Yedidim, Baltimore

Overnight Camp

  1. Camps Airy & Louise
  2. Capital Camps, Waynesboro, Pa

Special Needs Camp

  1. JCC
  2. Camp Simcha and Camp Simcha Special, New York

Education

After Care Program

  1. Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC
  2. Beth Tfiloh Congregation

3300 Old Court Road Baltimore, MD 21208

bethtfiloh.com/congregation

Preschool

  1. Goldsmith Early Childhood Center of Chizuk Amuno Congregation

8100 Stevenson Road Baltimore, MD 21208

chizukamuno.org/gecc

2. Beth El Congregation of Baltimore

Private School/ Day School

  1. Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School

3300 Old Court Road Baltimore, MD 21208

bethtfiloh.com/school

2. Ohr Chadash Academy

Public School

  1. Pikesville High
  2. Franklin Elementary School

Hebrew School

  1. Bais Yaakov of Baltimore
  2. Beth Tfiloh Congregation

3300 Old Court Road Baltimore, MD 21208

bethtfiloh.com/congregation

Special Needs School

  1. JEWELS School
  2. Sheppard Pratt’s Forbush School, Glyndon

Hillel

  1. Maryland Hillel
  2. Towson University Hillel

MD/DC Metro Area College/University

  1. Towson University
  2. University of Maryland, College Park

Community/ Recreation

Art Gallery/Museum

  1. Jewish Museum of Maryland, Baltimore
  2. American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM)

Children’s/Teen Programming

  1. JCC of Greater Baltimore
  2. BBYO

Community Event

  1. Yom Ha’atzmaut
  2. Block Party

Family-Friendly Activity

  1. Maryland Zoo
  2. Block Party

Fitness Center

  1. JCC of Greater Baltimore
  2. Merritt Clubs

Nonprofit Organization

  1. The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore
  2. Ahavas Yisrael Charity Fund

Parks/Hiking Trails

  1. Lake Roland
  2. Quarry Lake

Performing Arts Venue/Organization

  1. Baltimore Center Stage
  2. The Hippodrome Theatre

Playground

  1. Meadowood Regional Park
  2. Chizuk Amuno Congregation Leon and Phyllis Wagner Brill Yad B’Yad Playground

Chizuk Amuno Congregation & Schools, 8100 Stevenson Road Baltimore, MD 21208

Senior Programming

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

Special Needs Programming

  1. Chai Lifeline
  2. JCC of Greater Baltimore

Young Adult Programming

  1. Tie: Etz Chaim/IMPACT
  2. NCSY

Kosher Food

Coffee

  1. Starbucks at Quarry Lake
  2. Kosher Dunkin Donuts

Kosher Grocery

  1. Market Maven
  2. Seven Mile Market

Kosher Bakery

  1. Market Maven
  2. Pariser’s, Baltimore

Home Services

Electrician

  1. Shlomo Kushner
  2. Michael Stuck

Flooring

  1. The Red Carpet Flooring
  2. Jason Brown Wood Floors

HVAC

  1. Quartner’s Heating and Air Conditioning
  2. Needel

Interior Design

  1. Nina Elman Interiors, Baltimore
  2. Audrey@AR Interiors (Audrey Rothschild)

Landscaping

  1. ER Tree Service
  2. JD Outdoors, Pikesville

Pest Control

  1. Brody Brothers Pest Control
  2. Rosenbloom Pest Control

Plumbing

  1. Bruce Solomon Plumbing
  2. BGE Home

Roofing/Siding/Decks

  1. Crown Remodeling
  2. Park Heights Roofing; Baltimore

Windows

  1. Kelemer Brothers
  2. Thompson Creek Window Company

Retail

Boutique

  1. Hats to Hose
  2. The Mimi Boutique

Car Dealership

  1. Bill Kidd’s Timonium Toyota
  2. Heritage Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM, Parkville

Eyewear

  1. Katzen Eye Group
  2. Optical Center, Pikesville

Formalwear

  1. Love It! at Stella’s Bridal & Fashions

Mattress Store

  1. Sleeptime Bedding & Mattress
  2. Price Busters Discount Furniture

Jeweler

  1. Kaylah Diamonds & Jewelry
  2. Smyth Jewelers, Timonium

Menswear

  1. The Hat Box
  2. Joseph A. Bank, Towson

Musical Instrument Store

  1. Guitar Center
  2. Menchey Music Service

Shoe Store

  1. Towson Bootery, Towson
  2. Joseph Danitti The Store

Shopping Center

  1. Towson Town Center
  2. The Shops at Kenilworth

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