Barry Levinson blew it.
That's the view of Bernard Fishman, the director of the Jewish Historical Society of Maryland, writing recently in the society's publication, Generations.
Fishman says the Baltimore-born Levinson goofed by excluding nearly all signs of Jewishness from his 1990 film "Avalon," the tale of the experiences of an immigrant Jewish family much like Levinson's.
The filmmaker has said he sought to depict not so much a Jewish immigrant experience as a generic immigrant experience thus the downplaying of the family's Jewishness. Fishman argues that this "story about everybody is a story about nobody" precisely because it has muted its characters' ethnic and religious heritage.
"The family members have come from an ethnic nowhere, and issues like religion, life, death, community and identity are never mentioned or discussed," Fishman writes in a well-crafted essay titled "What's Wrong With Avalon?"
"Avalon" recently was released on video.
Centennial service: Baltimore's Roman Catholic archdiocese officially will mark the centennial of the papal encyclical Rerum Novarum with a special mass at 11:15 a.m. Saturday at the Basilica of the Assumption, Cathedral and Mulberry streets. Archbishop William Keeler will lead the service.
Issued by Pope Leo XIII in 1891, Rerum Novarum spurred the development of Catholic teaching and thought on social justice issues.
Progressing nicely: Paul Metz, Dominic Montagna and other volunteer workers at First Unitarian Church downtown are progressing nicely in their repairs to the historic structure at Charles and Franklin streets.
Since 1988, the workers -- all church members -- have given their time and money for the seemingly endless series of repairs on the building, the oldest Unitarian church in the United States. Opened in 1818, it was designed by French emigre architect Maximilien Godefroy and is considered a masterpiece of the Romantic Classic school.
Metz, 68, and Montagna, 71, have supplied most of the labor, working Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the church. They just finished patching the four pillars and one of the two square columns at the front of the building. Before winter comes, they hope to complete work on the other column and on parts of the exterior walls where paint is peeling.
But, Metz concedes, "Some of the outside work might have to wait for another summer."
Eventually, the workers plan to tackle the major task of stripping and repainting the original five sets of tall wooden doors on the Franklin Street side. Metz says he took a chip off the surface of one door and, as though counting the rings inside a tree trunk, noted that there have been nine layers of paint put on the doors during the past 173 years.
Lutheran posts: Two Marylanders have been elected to committees of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Cynthia P. Johnson of Baltimore will serve for six years on the ELCA Church Council. Kirk Downey of Williamsport in Washington County was picked, also for six years, to be on the church's Division for Higher Education and Schools.