Meet Timoth, a multifaceted individual with a fascinating journey. From Ohio to an artistic career, and a deep connection to Judaism, Timoth’s story is a celebration of life, culture, and community. Read more about his tales of family, artistic milestones, and his role as a Community Connector with the Jewish Connection Network, promoting local theater.
Tell us about yourself growing up and how you met your husband:
I was born in Dayton, Ohio. When I was 9 or 10, my family moved to a suburb with a Jewish community. We lived literally next door to a synagogue, and I met Jewish kids for the first time. Prior to that, I think I thought everyone was Black, I didn’t know any white people. This was the first time I’d lived with Jewish people. This is where I spent my formative years.
My brother and I were very into show business and theater. At 15, I had a ballet created for me by the Miami Valley Dance Guild. Atlanta Ballet then offered me a full ride to their school at 15 so I moved to Atlanta and became a ballet dancer. Later I went on to do Broadway-type stuff and didn’t think much about religion.
When I moved to Baltimore, I met my husband on my second day living there! After the first year or so, I worked a few jobs and then I got a job with TEDCO, the state’s agency that was charged with entrepreneurial development and tech transfer into and out of universities and federal labs.
Tell us more about your exposure to Judaism and what inspired you to convert:
My brother married a Jewish woman, and she became one of my best friends. After my brother passed away, his wife, Tammy, and I raised their daughter, Kamilya. We were a not-terribly-observant Jewish household, but they were Jews, so we did observe some Jewish customs. That was my first foray into living a less secular, more Jewish life.
One of my coworkers, Dr. Linda Saffer, was married to a retired rabbi, Rabbi Jerry. He answered my questions about Judaism, and I told him ‘I think I might really want to convert,’ so he gave me my first siddur. He passed away a few years later and I stopped studying. Fast forward 20 years and COVID happened, and I also developed RA, rheumatoid arthritis, and was very ill. I thought, I don’t want to die without being a fully converted Jew.
I met with Rabbi Andy Gordon at Bolton Street Synagogue and took the 17-week course. Rabbi Andy has been my mentor ever since, and I had my full conversion in fall of 2021.
People ask me why I want to be a Jew. I think God put me here to be a Jew. It just took me 60 years to get there. I had no doubt I would arrive there as a card-carrying Member of the Tribe. One of the things I love is that we don’t make distinctions between who is a convert and who is born a Jew.
I love the fact that the tent is open for anyone who wants to come in.
Tell me an interesting story about your family.
I have a weird, wonderful family. We are sprawling. My birth mom’s family is my family, and my stepmom’s family is my family. Family is family – period.
My husband is from Cleveland and has three brothers. Only one of them had children that we knew of. Then, about three years ago my husband had a DNA match on Ancestry.com from a person who was born in Korea and found out that he is my husband’s nephew! We got to meet him and now he and his wife are part of the family.
It’s not often that you have an Asian nephew and his family, with a white uncle who is married to a Black Gay Jew!
You were born and raised in Ohio, previously lived in New York City, Montreal, San Francisco and Reykjavik, Iceland – how did you come to live in Baltimore?
I needed a new start. I chose to come here because I had never lived there, and it was close to my sister, who is in the D.C. area. As things worked out, it was a very successful move. I met my husband on my second night here. We’ve been together ever since and just celebrated our 25th anniversary on October 2 in Paris.
What inspired you to become a Community Connector?
It was suggested by Marc Wernick (Jewish Connection Network Board Member). He is a wonderful mentor and has introduced me to so many things. He helped me get nominated to the ACCELERATE program at Na’aleh: The Hub for Leadership Learning. He connected me to the Connector Program. When I heard about the program, I thought, ‘Well, I do that every day!’ I rarely go out without my kippah, and if I see Jewish people, I say hi and strike up a conversation.
I like doing this type of work and I think it’s important because one of the things about Judaism that is so critical, and crucial to my involvement and satisfaction with the religion, is the sense of community.
Share a highlight from your artistic journey.
My first professional equity tour audition in Atlanta was for My Fair Lady, and hundreds of people who showed up. By 9 p.m., it got down to 16 or so of us. Luckily, I was in the group that got to stay! So that was really memorable.
I was lucky enough to work with some really extraordinary people. I was on a television series in Montreal, a variety show like the Carol Burnett Show. We had a different guest star every week. I got to work with everyone from Maury Amsterdam to Eartha Kitt. J.J. Walker, Dick Shawn … I got to tour with Lee Merriweather, and I spent a long time on the road with Florence Henderson – Mrs. Brady – in the Annie Get Your Gun national tour. Now I have just as much fun though when I’m singing karaoke at Leon’s on Tuesday night.
Can you tell me more about your involvement in the Baltimore Playwrights Festival?
I got involved as a reader. When you submit to the festival, you are evaluated by a handful of readers. Right now, we have 168 readers. A play comes in and our librarian sends it out to at least seven people. As a reader, you get a questionnaire and write a little blurb about why you chose the answers you chose – do the characters make sense, is the plot logical, is it producible, is it something you’d like to see on the stage? I eventually got asked to be on the board as Member at Large.
After a few years — five years ago, I was elected to the Chair. I love doing it because being able to advance the written word in play form is exceptionally important. I love being involved in that process and giving voice to the words and people’s thoughts, being able to give them a platform to bring that to life – not just on the page but to see it and feel it. I love to get people’s vision in front of the world.
What would you recommend to someone in Baltimore as a must-visit for arts and culture?
We’ve got the Hippodrome and the touring Broadway shows, and that’s great and wonderful. We’ve got Center Stage and Everyman, which are our local professional theaters and they’re wonderful too, but I would tell people not to pass on the locally sourced theater. What I intend to do with my Connector platform is to try to hook people up with theater. Support local theater!
Outside of arts and culture, what do you like to do for fun?
Sitting on my couch with my husband and my dog and watching TV. That is our evening!