Guest Author - Donna Ledbetter
The residents of Pikesville are not unlike any other you’d find in your own hometown. You’ll see mothers walking their babies along neighborhood streets in strollers, children playing tag on manicured lawns, young lovers holding hands as they sit together on porch benches. They’re like any other people you might meet, except a great majority of them are Orthodox Jews and hold as strongly to each other as they do God.
A visit to Pikesville is like stepping back into the past, where the men wear yarmulkes and the women dare not go out without covering their hair. Even something as simple as a trip to the market takes you deep into local Jewish culture.
Many of the Jewish residents in Pikesville have ties to Russia. You will find the familiar foods you see every day now labeled with odd lettering, Slavic lettering, and an unfamiliar pronunciation. But if you order some, it will taste the same, or maybe even a just a bit better because you found it in a special Russian grocery store.
Shopping in everyday malls like Reisterstown Road Plaza gives you a feel for how the close-knit Jewish community of the neighborhood has had to struggle to keep up with the times as commerce and development continue to grow around them. At the Plaza, you’ll find trendy shops like The Avenue and Shoe City, but just across the street, there’s the traditional Kosher Jewish deli that closes for the Sabbath, but is crowded with business people in the area during the week.
Pikesville is also home to a large population of African Americans and a few Hispanics, but the areas covering mostly middle Park Heights and Reisterstown Road are mostly home to the Orthodox Jewish community.
Venturing out into areas outside of Pikesville during your stay is also a good bet. Just on the other side of Northern Parkway, you will find Pimlico Racetrack, home of the Baltimore Preakness. Further north up Reisterstown Road into Owings Mills, you will find additional shopping and several great local eateries.
When you come to Pikesville, plan for an afternoon trip. You will want to check with one of the synagogues in the area for times of service or with the community center for special events. Passover is the holiest of Jewish holidays, so there is sure to be a celebration of some sort in the form of a large Seder or other activity the entire family can join in. Hanukkah, too, is very popular in Pikesville, and it is the time of year where some Jewish families decorate their homes with lights just those of other faiths do for Christmas.
And finally, what’s a cultural excursion without food? Be sure to save room for dessert.