The Howard County Jewish community added another chapter to its rich Jewish history Sunday night, Feb. 19. The Howard County Jewish History Project, titled “Made from Scratch,” made an appearance at the Howard County Community College for an event that also included music and storytelling from local community members.
The exhibit first debuted June 16, 2022, at the Oakland Mills Interfaith Center in Columbia. This is where more than 60 years of Jewish history in Howard County were brought into public view. The “Made from Scratch” project began more than 4 years ago with an anonymous donation to the Jewish Federation of Howard County and a request to look into the history of the county’s Jewish community.
The project was completed after years of combing archives, interviewing Howard County residents and other research.
After a reception among the exhibit’s panels on Sunday night, the crowd of roughly 100 moved into the Monteabaro Recital Hall to hear live music and personal stories told by members of the community.
One of the speakers, Bill Salganik, was half of the husband-wife duo that stepped up to lead the history project at the very beginning. Salganik has a long history of involvement in the community and is currently chair of the Howard County Coalition to End Homelessness.
“History necessarily merges into the present. We understand who we are through knowing our story,” Salganik said during his speech.
“To understand who we are as a community, to feel like a community, it’s important to understand how we got to where we are,” Salganik said in a later interview.
Other speakers included Jason Kaplan and Gary Perolman, who both have long histories in Howard County.
Kaplan told a story of inclusion and of a diverse upbringing with interfaith friends and blended holidays.
“The house is what made your Jewish experience,” Kaplan recalled, reflecting on a time in Howard County’s history before many Jewish institutions had grown.
Perolman spoke about his history of leadership and representing the community, both before and after his arrival in Howard County in 1996.
Perolman was the president of the Jewish Federation of Howard County from 2007 to 2009 and has served the Jewish community in numerous other ways, such as being on the board of trustees for Temple Isaiah and its president during the pandemic.
One thing made clear by the event was that the Howard County Jewish community has a history and a future worth celebrating.
Celebratory was the mood at Sunday’s event, as musicians took the stage and the crowd came alive, often clapping along, stomping or shaking tambourines in time with the infectious music.
Music was performed by Eyal Bor and Bruce Casteel of the Eyal Bor Trio, and by Anna Kusner and Peter Omelchenko of Musalliance.
Eyal Bor and his wife, Hana Bor, first made Howard County their home in 1986, and have since been heavily involved in local Jewish education. Eyal Bor, the director of the Beth El Schools and the Rabbi Mark G. Loeb Center For Life Long Learning at Beth El Congregation, is a long-time musician and educator. He has taught classes at Towson University and led educational institutions and programs from Howard County to Baltimore. Hana Bor is a professor and graduate program director at Towson University, where she applies her expertise in Jewish education and communal service, as well as in Holocaust and Israel education. Their perspectives and voices are two among many Howard County advocates for Jewish education.
“The Jewish community of Howard County is a very strong community,” Hana Bor said, noting the growth in the community she witnessed since first becoming a part of it.
Eyal Bor is optimistic for the future but acknowledged that the community should remain vigilant and teach students how to advocate for themselves in the face of growing antisemitism. The Bors agree that Jewish education and the study of Jewish history, through exhibits like “Made from Scratch,” are crucial in combating antisemitism.
“We need to find ways to engage future generations into becoming proud Jews,” Eyal Bor said. “We need to advocate for ourselves and education is the answer.”
Hana Bor agreed.
“It is really crucial today to prepare students to be leaders in Jewish education. Many children and adults today are Jewish illiterate,” Hana Bor said. “It’s crucial for them to study Jewish history. We live in a time where unfortunately there is a rise in antisemitism and hate crimes. Students need to understand the past to better prepare themselves for the future.”
The exhibit has already made appearances at an interfaith center and the central library, according to Salganik, who said the exhibit will be making upcoming appearances at the Jewish Museum of Maryland and the Howard County visitor’s center.