Looking Back On 5773

August 29, 2013
BY Staff Report
This past year in Jewish Baltimore

February 2013 — ‘Your Story, Your Words’
On Feb. 3, thousands of Baltimore sports fans tuned in to watch the Ravens win Super Bowl XLVII. But in the days leading up to the game, Jewish Baltimore was tuned in to ESPN’s Super Bowl coverage for a different reason.

After penning an inspirational letter to the Ravens that went viral, Pikesville resident Matthew Jeffers, a Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School graduate, was featured in an ESPN segment that told his story and included candid reactions from Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and running back Ray Rice about how the letter affected them.

Born with a rare form of dwarfism, Jeffers, 22, has undergone more than 20 surgeries to get where he is today. He emphatically wrote to a then-struggling Ravens team that the only disability in life is a bad attitude. Harbaugh shared the letter with the team, and the Ravens heeded Jeffers’ message and turned their season around.

“[The letter] was really moving and just so spot-on and to the point for anybody, whether you’re playing football or just in life,” Harbaugh said.

March 2013 — Preparing For The Future
Baltimore County School Superintendent S. Dallas Dance anno-unced two new initiatives at his inaugural State of the Schools luncheon, introducing foreign languages in elementary schools and providing digital devices for middle and high school students.
“The great challenge is that educating today’s children to succeed in tomorrow’s world can’t be done with yesterday’s educational system,” he said. “We have to stop thinking about how we were educated and begin thinking more strategically about how to best educate our students for their future.”

The luncheon was held at the Valley Mansion in Cockeysville and attended by more than 1,000 students, teachers, administrators, elected officials and business leaders.

Dance said he believes every school needs to have an effective digital learning environment and every student should learn and develop proficiency in a second language.

“We want to graduate students who will be globally competitive,” he said. “Research clearly tells us that an essential factor in being globally competitive is being fluent in a second or — for some of our students — a third language.”

While Dance didn’t offer a plan to pay for these initiatives, he said working with elected officials and developing business relationships with them will help make it happen.

April 2013 — Historic Bill Passes
The Maryland General Assembly in April passed and Gov. MartinO’Malley signed into law on May 16 one of the most comprehensive gun-control bills in the nation.

The law includes a ban on 45 assault-style weapons, limits magazine capacity to 10 rounds, requires
fingerprinting and licensing to own a handgun, requires training before purchasing a handgun for the first time and offers restrictions on firearms possession for those with prior criminal offenses and certain mental health issues.

Maryland joined Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Hawaii as states that require fingerprinting before purchasing a gun.

O’Malley said the law balanced protecting the safety of law enforcement and children while respecting the traditions of hunters and law-abiding citizens who purchased guns for self-protection.

Dr. Arthur C. Abramson, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, said passage of gun control was a key initiative for the BJC during the session.

“This is one of the proudest moments in the legislative history of Maryland, and the Baltimore Jewish Council in helping secure its passage,” he said.

Sen. Brian Frosh (D-16), chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, pushed for the Senate to vote on the amended bill instead of working out the differences in a committee, where the legislation could have been killed before the end of the session.
“Our bill will save lives in Maryland and maybe even in our sister jurisdictions,” he said.

May 2013 — The Final Bell
In mid-May, due to declining enrollment, the Day School at Baltimore Hebrew announced it would close its doors after the 2012-2013 school year. It was also announced that the Independent Jewish Academy of Baltimore, which would have been located at Oheb Shalom and Baltimore Hebrew, would not open in its stead.

“Anytime an institution that engages our youth has to close, for whatever the circumstances, it is a sad day,” said Marc B. Terrill, president of TheAssociated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

The school, which opened in 1991, gave its students a general education with an emphasis on Jewish studies. But enrollment numbers declined in recent years.

According to Day School board member Jerry Schnydman, about 50 students were enrolled in the school’s final academic year, and only 36 had put down a deposit for the 2013-2014 school year. In the early 2000s, there were about 30 students per grade.

Some parents told the JT there didn’t seem to be much of an interest in a Reform education, with a lot of parents choosing public school or a different Jewish day school.

According to the 2010 Greater Baltimore Jewish Community Study, only 6 percent of Reform families with children under 18 had students enrolled in a Jewish day school, and only 2 percent of Reform families with children under 4 were considering sending their children to a Jewish day school.

“It is obvious there is not a need for this school,” said Becky Mossing, who became a parent ambassador to try to help the school increase enrollment.

June 2013 — Missionaries Descend On Baltimore … Again
For the second consecutive spring, missionaries dispatched and trained by Israel Restoration Ministries (IRM) blanketed the Baltimore-metro area with DVDs and booklets aimed at persuading Jews to accept Jesus as their lord and savior.

IRM was founded by California businessman Tom Cantor, a former Jew.

Ruth Guggenheim, executive director of Jews for Judaism, the Baltimore-based counter-missionary organization, told the JT that her office fielded multiple reports from concerned citizens — mostly in the Pikesville area — detailing interactions with young, modestly dressed women who were combing Baltimore’s Jewish neighborhoods and distributing their paraphernalia.

July 2013 – R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Donn Weinberg and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi in July foundedRespectAbility USA, a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promises to change the state of affairs for people with disabilities.

“Americans with disabilities live in or near poverty, are dependent on others and feel excluded from the mainstream of their communities,” said Weinberg. “Americans with disabilities, like others, want to realize the American dream; they want to be — and be seen by others as — motivated, capable, proud, self-supporting and contributing citizens.”

RespectAbilityUSA, according to the organization’s business plan, “works to educate, sensitize and engage Americans to focus on what people with disabilities can do, rather than on what they cannot do. … Thereby, the organization will seek — gradually, steadily and in a practical way — to help increase the number and percentage of disabled Americans who engage in gainful employment, start and sustain their own businesses, lift themselves into the middle class and participate in their communities.”

August 2013 — Latest Police Moves Keep Stability In The Community
Baltimore City Police promoted a former captain who oversees the Northwestern District and brought in a new captain as well.

Marc Partee, formerly a captain, was promoted to major, and Capt. Byron Conaway joined the force.

“You’re basically just ramping it up,” Partee said. “You have two operational guys — myself and the captain — who are basically pushing the mission forward and pushing with a younger, energetic, out-of-the-box kind of thinking.”

He and Major John Delgado came up with a strategic plan that identified eight areas of concern in the Northwestern District, one of them being the area north of Northern Parkway. Partee said these eight areas are now evaluated weekly, and each have their own officers assigned to them.

“It’s all about proactive policing,” Partee said.

See our National Year In Review here.

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