From traditional to futuristic, Jewish expo touts it all

December 20, 1993|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

For Kimberly Komrad, a cantor at the conservative Temple Emmanuel in Randallstown, the perfect gift yesterday turned out to be a computer program that allows her word processor to type out Hebrew characters from right to left.

Her husband found the program for her at the third annual Baltimore-Washington Jewish Food & Life Expo, held yesterday at the state fairgrounds in Timonium. The program's publisher, the New Jersey-based Kabbalah Software Co., was one of many exhibitors at the event.

"I think it's going to be very, very helpful," said Mrs. Komrad, who is finishing her fifth-year thesis at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.

The Komrads were among thousands of people at the festival, which had attractions from the traditional to the futuristic.

"It gives Jews lots of opportunity to experience different aspects of their Jewish heritage," said Bruce M. Luchansky, a 33-year-old Baltimore attorney who brought his wife, Orlee, and three young children.

The festival was estimated to have attracted 7,000 to 8,000 people to the fairgrounds' Exhibit Center. The event, said to be the largest of its kind in the Mid-Atlantic region, was sponsored by the Etz Chaim Center for Jewish Studies, an Orthodox-run Jewish school for adults.

Smiling from under her Tichel (a yellow scarf usually worn by an Orthodox married woman), Masha Nachman bounced and rocked her infant son Meir in his stroller to the beat of an Israeli tune played by the Kol Chayim Orchestra.

It was her family's third year in Baltimore after moving from New York, and their third time visiting the Jewish Food & Life Expo.

"We love it," said Mrs. Nachman, 34, as her four other sons came back from a petting zoo with their father, Eli Nachman, 36.

"It's a real wholesome family thing to do, especially when it's cold outside," said Mrs. Nachman, a Pikesville resident.

The festival is one of the few places with such variety that Jews could snack on Kosher food, enjoy Jewish music, buy a new yarmulke, and perhaps drift by a booth selling Jewish computer software.

The event also featured a puppet show and electric car rides for children, demonstrations and displays of Jewish religion and culture and a variety of secular business displays.

Many of the vendors, such as winemakers and importers, had a very specific Jewish clientele.

Baltimore-based Succah Manufacturers, for instance, touted "the only certified Kosher prefab Succah."

Standing beneath a bamboo-slat roof held up by galvanized metal tubing, and surrounded by canvas walls, the company's co-owner, Sam Rosenbloom, explained the product to the curious.

On Sukkot, when observant Jews build makeshift shelters with nearly open roofs under which they eat and sleep, the contraption could be taken from storage and easily assembled.

In the expo's poetry contest, Elky Porter, 15, of Baltimore, captured one of four first-place prizes with a haunting "Holocaust Soliloquy."

"Unhesitantly, I flee . . . " says a mother who has just handed her two young children to her sister. "I pray to hear footsteps pounding after me, So as the soldiers are distracted, my family can escape."

But she doesn't hear the footsteps, and instead hears gunshots as she hides in a barn.

"They would have been my aunts," Elky said of the children, ages 2 and 4, who were killed by the gunfire.

Elky, who was named after one of them, based the poem partly upon the story her grandmother told her of her escape from a Jewish ghetto in Eastern Europe.

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