It’s Trump Van Hollen Wins Senate Race

Donald Trump (Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr, creative common license

Donald Trump (Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr, creative common license

After a bitter race for the White House between two of the most unpopular candidates in recent times,  Republican Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States.

The New York businessman was called by the networks as the winner having captured Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes at 2:30 a.m., giving him 276 electoral votes — six more than needed to win the presidency.

Of the many shocking twists and turns to the 2016 presidential election, Trump’s victory may come as the largest of all. Trump took experts by surprise, winning almost all of the key swing states in the race including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and North Carolina. Almost all projections had Clinton winning the majority of these states.

Clinton had consistently led in the polls throughout the race, although sometimes within the polls’ margin of error. Polls heading into Tuesday showed her leading Trump by an average of three points, 45 percent to 42 percent.

Trump had stated repeatedly that the election is “rigged,” and during the third presidential debate said he might refuse to accept the outcome of the election. A campaign ad released Sunday drew criticism from some Jewish groups as trafficking in anti-Semitic stereotypes.

The ad attacked the “political and economic machine of the world,” and showed images of Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellin, billionaire and Clinton supporter George Soros and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, all of whom are Jews.

“There is no place in civil political discourse for the perpetuation of harmful and baseless stereotypes,” Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, the director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, wrote in a statement Monday.

Being an Orthodox Jew affects how I look at party platforms, and for me, conservative values are more in line with my own.

— Shelly Weinreb, Mount Washington resident

“Whether intentional or not, the images and rhetoric in this ad touch on subjects that anti-Semites have used for ages,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the ADL, wrote in a statement about the ad.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) told CNN that he thought the ad was “something  of a German shepherd whistle” to the Jewish community.

“It clearly had sort of Elders of Zion kind of feel to it, international banking crisis — plot or conspiracy, rather — and then a number of Jews,” he said on “State of the Union.”

Clinton had held an 11-point lead over Trump in mid-October. Her lead widened after a leaked video from 2005 showed Trump making sexually predatory comments about women.

But her lead shrank in the wake of FBI Director James Comey’s announcement on Oct. 28 that he would reopen the investigation into her use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state.

Also read, At JCC and Krieger Schechter,  Students Also Vote

As the potential for a Trump victory seemed ever more likely, Jewish Democratic voters in the Washington area began to worry at the notion of the businessman occupying the oval office.

Chris Madden, a 17-year-old volunteer for Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s (D-Md.) Senate campaign said while watching the  results trickle in at a watch party in Silver Spring that he was “feeling on edge” about the outcome. “This is the first election that I’ve been of age to participate in and I’m worried about the direction of the country,” he said.

Hillary Clinton (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Hillary Clinton (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Outcome aside, Jewish voters outside polls expressed a sense of exhaustion and resignation.

On her way out of voting at the polling station at North Oaks Retirement Community, Pikesville native Cindy Kleiman, who supported Clinton, said, “I’m so glad it’s over.”

She noted: “The best part of the election were the ‘Saturday Night Live’ sketches.”

Others, however, expressed much more enthusiasm about the candidates and issues themselves.

Arik Shalom, 41, an African-American Jew who lives in Baltimore, said the most important issue to him this election cycle has been national security. He strongly believes Trump will make good on his promise to secure the borders and keep ISIS terrorists from invading the country.

“[Trump] is really saying what needs to be said and not standing on the side of political correctness,” Shalom said. “He’s saying what people really want to read and what people want to really have changed.”

Over at the Cross Country Elementary School, Mount Washington’s Shelly Weinreb also felt connected to the Orthodox community in her decision to vote for Trump.

[Trump] is really saying what needs to be said and not standing on the side of political correctness.

— Arik Shalom, Baltimore resident

“Being an Orthodox Jew affects how I look at party platforms, and for me, conservative values are more in line with my own,” she said.

Weinreb’s identity largely impacted her concerns for everything from the economy to national security “and of course, Israel,” she said.

“These are tremendous issues,” Weinreb said. “It’s a pivotal election as far as the direction the country is moving in.”

Maryland voted solidly for Clinton. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) was elected the state’s next senator, succeeding Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) who will retire in January after five terms. U.S. Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-District 7), Dutch Ruppersberger (D-District 2) and John Sarbanes (D-District 3) won their reelection bids.

Chris Van Hollen (File photo)

Chris Van Hollen (File photo)

Van Hollen, who represents the state’s 8th congressional district, defeated Republican Kathy Szeliga, 55, the minority whip in the state Senate Tuesday night. When the race was called shortly after the polls closed at 8 p.m., the 40 people who had showed up to his watch party by then cheered and campaign staff hugged to celebrate what was an expected victory.

“I want to thank you for uniting behind the common purpose that every Marylander and every American is treated with dignity and respect and has the opportunity to have a fair shake in the United States of America,” Van Hollen told supporters at the Douglas Conference Center in Silver Spring. “That’s what brings this extended family in this room together.”

Van Hollen, 57, noted that “this election has been different than any other election because it’s not just a difference in policy and public platforms,” referring  to Trump.

“And I know that by the end of the night that we will make sure that across America that hope will triumph over fear in the USA,” he said.

Van Hollen’s election to the Senate means that he will “find himself in the center of leadership,” said Michele Swers, professor of American government at Georgetown University. Swers noted that Van Hollen served on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and helped the party raise money for candidates, a position he served at the request of then-White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

“I think that he was looking to move up in the party leadership,” she said.

Swers also pointed to Van Hollen’s  experience as a ranking member of the Budget Committee while Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was the committee chair. Van Hollen’s ability to reach across the aisle is a strength, she thinks, but likely won’t change the gridlock on Capitol Hill.

“He was in the House and that didn’t get any more bipartisan,” she said.

Swers said Van Hollen has big shoes to fill in succeeding 30-year veteran Mikulski, but that he has a good chance of being re-elected in six years. She said that he could accomplish much in the area of campaign finance reform, an issue he is particularly passionate about.

“I think he could have a long legacy in the Senate,” she said.

Mathew Klickstein and Justin Silberman contributed to this report.

Election 2016 Coverage:

Pugh, Cohen Carry Baltimore Vote

Community Kibbitz: At the Polls

At JCC and Krieger Schechter, Students Also Vote

Trump Supporters at Goldberg’s Trouble Customers

At JCC and Krieger Schechter, Students Also Vote



Students at the Owings Mills JCC’s early childhood education center (top) and Krieger Schechter Day School (above) learned about the political process and voted at school. (KSDS: Photo provided; JCC: Photo by Daniel Nozick)

As the election drew closer and educators thought about how much information their younger students must be getting bombarded with, local Jewish schools took the opportunity to educate children from pre-school to elementary about the voting process and the presidential election.

“A couple months ago, I was very concerned about all the negativity that has been surrounding this election — the lack of civility, the bullying,” said Ilene Meister, director of early childhood education (ECE) at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC. “I was wondering how that would impact the children because they will be hearing parents talk and watching television, so I decided that I really wanted to make this a positive experience for the children because this election really is about their future.”

Her goal was to set a good standard for the students, enable them to understand that it is important to vote and that they each have a voice. In class, students learned about what a president does, about the importance of voting and that someday they might have to advocate for a candidate or cause of their choice.

“We created little voting booths for the kids to go to,” said Meister. “We didn’t talk so much about the candidates, it was more about the process.”

It is worth noting that students in the ECE are voting for the actual candidates in the election. Deciding whether or not to do so was highly contentious, but Meister wanted to make the mock election as realistically as possible.

“We discussed who these candidates were and what their positions were in terms of their titles,” she explained. “We looked at Trump was a businessman, at how Clinton was an activist. We just addressed what their job was, we wanted the students to understand that they too, at some point, could be president of the United States.”

Students learned that they had a choice — that not every country allows their citizens to have a choice and because of that, it is a duty and responsibility to vote. Polling in the ECE involved the kids  going into the voting center with a voter registration card, circling a candidate in a private booth and taking a sticker that says “I Voted.”

“We have to remember that we are voting for the future of these children and we have to embrace it,” said Meister. “Many schools are avoiding the election like the plague, but children are assaulted by everything from bumper stickers to TV ads, so we want to let them learn about the subject in a positive way rather than keeping it hush-hush.”

Students in the Krieger Schechter Day School’s lower school also participated in a school-wide election unit that included primary elections in the Sweet and Salty parties, a third-party candidate — celery sticks represented the Green Party — and explored issues such as democracy, voting rights, campaigning, branches of government and the election process. Students voted on a referendum to choose what local charity should receive last year’s student council surplus, and decided to donate the surplus to fighting hunger.

Election 2016 Coverage:

It’s Trump

Pugh, Cohen Carry Baltimore Vote

Community Kibbitz: At the Polls

Trump Supporters at Goldberg’s Trouble Customers

Pugh, Cohen Carry Baltimore Vote

Catherine Pugh takes the stage to declare victory in Baltimore’s mayoral race. (Photo by Mathew Klickstein

Catherine Pugh takes the stage to declare victory in Baltimore’s mayoral race. (Photo by Mathew Klickstein

Catherine Pugh had been preparing for this moment her entire life.

“Y’all look excited!” a beaming Pugh, 66, said to a loud procession of cheers from the audience, packed in the expansive Radisson Hotel Baltimore Downtown-Inner Harbor ballroom Tuesday.

At 10:25 p.m. on election night, Congressman Elijah Cummings — who won his reelection bid — announced it: “We have a new mayor.”

In two of Baltimore City’s most highly anticipated election races, voters threw their support behind Democrats Pugh, who represented Maryland’s 40th District for three terms in the state Senate, for mayor and Zeke Cohen for 1st District councilman.

As of Wednesday’s press time, Pugh won with 119,204 votes (57.1 percent). Republican Alan Walden, a former WBAL news anchor and longtime Jewish Baltimore resident, and Green Party nominee Joshua Harris, an international nonprofit communications specialist, captured 20,960 and 20,936 votes, respectively, or 10 percent each. Write-in candidates, including former Baltimore Mayor Shelia Dixon, earned 22.8 percent of the vote at 47,598.

In the 1st District race, Cohen, 31, won in a landslide, defeating Republican challenger Matthew McDaniel, 28, by garnering 66.5 percent of the vote with 11,491 votes. Another Jewish council candidate, Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer, 27, won the race for the District 5 seat, collecting 92 percent of the vote against write-in candidate Derrick Lennon with 13,763 votes.

Prior to bringing Baltimore’s 50th mayor on stage, Cummings said that Pugh has been readying herself for the role throughout her storied career and that she “is a woman who loves our great city.” He concluded that “she has done it all, but the most important thing is that her heart is in the right place.”

Pugh went on to speak not only about her lifelong work that has led up to her becoming mayor, but also about the need to re-establish what could perhaps be “the greatest city in the country.”

Her speech touched upon the 76,000 unemployed Baltimore residents who need jobs, the 3,000 homeless persons living on the street who need housing and the need for a more diverse and inclusive government as well as community policing that will allow for respect for the people and respect for the police as well.

“We know we have a lot of work to do,” Pugh declared.

In order to accomplish her goals, Pugh told the JT that she will be looking to the likes of “one of our youngest and most dynamic members of my team,” referring to Schleifer.

Pugh said that, as she mentioned during her acceptance speech, it will be part of her job to empower her council members such as Schleifer, who continues to be a substantive leader in the Jewish community and region at large.

When asked how her win may further impact Jewish Baltimore, Pugh reiterated that her talk of diversity and inclusivity in her acceptance speech includes said community, “because this is a very large city, and I’m not just the mayor of one religion or race or culture, but all of them together.”

Zeke Cohen won the City Council’s 1st District seat. (Photo by Justin Silberman)

Zeke Cohen won the City Council’s 1st District seat. (Photo by Justin Silberman)

“One of the reasons I supported her,” Schleifer told the JT, “is that we share a lot of the same values and how we see the direction of the city moving, what’s needed to get us there.”

“We’re both community leaders and business owners,” Schleifer continued, noting that such “similar backgrounds” lead them to be equally vested in the growth of the city and that “Pugh will be a mayor of all communities in Baltimore.”

Baltimore City worker and Pugh supporter Tiffany Foster said Pugh’s connections to the state will help to embolden Baltimore’s representation on such a level, making Pugh “a bright light in a time of darkness” in reference to what Foster saw as an imminent presidential win by Donald Trump, who she did not support.

City Council president Bernard C. “Jack” Young was in concert with both Schleifer and Pugh in telling the JT that the new mayor “is for all communities and neighborhoods in Baltimore.”

Young stated that in order for Pugh to succeed, once again, all Baltimoreans — “including our Jewish friends,” he was sure to note — “will need to roll up our sleeves and get to it.”

Elsewhere in the city, Cohen, a Canton resident, and his supporters celebrated at Points South Latin Kitchen in Fells Point. He laid out his priorities for the city, which include creating more jobs for Baltimore’s youth, pushing for universal pre-kindergarten and advocating for affordable housing and a higher minimum wage.

“I think we’re going to bring a lot to the city in terms of fresh, new and innovative ideas,” Cohen told the JT. “I know there is a lot of untapped potential development and resources in the city, and I look forward to working with my fellow council members on bringing that change.”

At Cohen’s victory party, his supporters, many of whom were dressed in gold-and-purple T-Shirts with his name across the front, expressed their excitement about Cohen’s vision for the city.

Kent de Jong, 55, a 1st District native and Cohen supporter who resides in Greektown, said he hopes to see Cohen help improve Baltimore’s bus system and fill the mass transit void caused by the cancellation of the Red Line light rail project.

“I think Zeke has a natural born leadership instinct and leadership characteristic that really can help make this city a better place for everyone,” said de Jong, a retired engineer who teaches at the University of Maryland, College Park. “He had a very inclusive, welcoming campaign [and that] is one of the things that drew me in.”

Joshua Thomson, 28, who has served in a full-time role as Cohen’s field director since June and also resides in the 1st District, said Cohen has fully focused his attention on the community’s needs.

“I am excited about the future, both for Zeke as a city councilman and what that also means for the 1st District,” Thomson said. “We have had a blast going out and speaking with the residents, hearing their concerns, so it’s something we have enjoyed with the two-way dialogue.”

Cohen also had plenty of star power in his corner on Tuesday night, with 2nd District City Councilman Brandon Scott and state Delegates Antonio Hayes and Sandy Rosenberg joining in the celebration.

Rosenberg, who sponsored Cohen through Teach For America, said he has offered Cohen advice at every turn throughout the election process as he prepares to take office.

“I said to him — as I say to remind myself and others — the best politics is to do the job well,” Rosenberg said. “That’s the next step for him.”

Thoughts from the Polls

While Baltimore City residents voted mostly along party lines, and that of the Democratic Party, not all voters backed the entire ticket.

Dottie Villa, a Baltimore resident and registered Democrat, said she backed Clinton for president and Walden for mayor on her ballot.

Villa said she voted for Walden, 80, because she is fed up with the stronghold Democrats have had in the city. No Republican has been elected to a city office position since Mayor Theodore McKeldin in 1963.

Villa said she could just not muster up the support to get behind Pugh or Dixon.

“I’m just sick of how this city is being run,” Villa said. “We’ve got to get rid of all the people in there and put somebody knew in [the mayor’s office].”

At most polls, a sense of distaste for the overall election could be felt, especially at Pikesville High School, where a growing contingent of voters were irate about what they saw as the facility’s gross lack of voting machines.

With lines lasting as long as 90 minutes or more, voters were leaving in droves, with some complaining the paucity led to a particularly challenging experience for the elderly, people with disabilities and those with children.

“The turnout has been massive,” said Reisterstown’s Andy Alperstein standing outside the polling station. “Voters have been complaining. And there’s no parking spots!”

Mike Heisler and his mother Roslyn Heisler were upset that there wasn’t enough focus on local politics in the election.

“For me, these issues are very important,” Roslyn said. “People are focused on the presidential election for obvious reasons, but we need to know more about what’s going on with the judges in the area too, because those are the kinds of things that touch people in the area on a more direct level.”,

Election 2016 Coverage:

It’s Trump

Community Kibbitz: At the Polls

At JCC and Krieger Schechter, Students Also Vote

Trump Supporters at Goldberg’s Trouble Customers

You Should Know … Sam Gallant

Sam Gallant (Photo by Mathew Klickstein)

Sam Gallant (Photo by Mathew Klickstein)

What a … gallant fellow.

It’s an easy joke but emulative of the brand of lowbrow/highbrow badinage one experiences in speaking with Sam Gallant, 38, who can be heard concocting his own unique attempts at wordplay on 89.7 WTMD five hours a day (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.), five days a week (Monday through Friday).

When called upon to do so, Gallant — as a representative of WTMD — also makes for a dime store chicken soup competition judge in a pinch, he’s ever-present at other community events around the city as emcee or miscellaneous personnel, and he can produce quick on-air promos with tunes ranging from Frank Zappa to Thelonious Monk faster than you can say “Jazz from Hell.”

He’s even been known to call pig races in the past. “That’s been a highlight,” said Gallant, thoughtfully.

Though Gallant persists that he is a “boring guy,” his rocket-powered, circuitous life path around the country from Seattle, where he was born to ping-ponging back and forth  between Baltimore and Alaska (with a pit stop in California along the way for good measure), belies any sense of the banal in an otherwise humble story.

You’ve spent time in various places around the country for long stints at a time. How has this led you to where you are today?

I’ve been settled in Baltimore for the past 15 years now. Even when I was living in Alaska or other places, I would tend to come back here, because this is where a lot of my family lived and lives. I really enjoyed branching out and coming back here. Baltimore is not a bad place to have as your home base so that you can explore the world and always come back to a family and community that is supportive and “entrenched” as well. I  received my bachelor’s degree from Alaska Pacific University, where I studied journalism and radio broadcasting, in 2000. It was a very liberal school, and I basically spent my senior year working at a radio station. I have a face for radio, as the old saying goes, and a voice for print. So, I’m sort of out of luck, but in this modern era, I had to choose one or the other, I guess. I cut my teeth as a reporter covering, like, oil spills and lots and lots of plane crashes and bear maulings. If you didn’t die of a plane crash in Alaska, you died of a bear mauling. I also worked at a small pirate radio station, where I had a thrash metal show. And then I didn’t do music radio again until I came to WTMD four years ago. At first, I was an arts and culture reporter. Three years ago, I became the midday host. I do other things too [such as scheduling the music for himself and other hosts and guarding pizza at in-studio events], but that’s my title.

Do you play any musical  instruments?

I’m actually just now teaching myself to play the guitar finally, because my son really likes it. I’m definitely just sort of teaching myself a dumbed-down version of some hum-and-strum songs. I’ve been doing it since he was a month old, and he’s now almost 6 months old. I also have a 180-month-old daughter. She’s a gem. I can play the drums, though I don’t play professionally or even casually anymore. But I can sit down behind a kit with anybody and play.

Now that you have a new son, are you revisiting your Jewish heritage?

I was raised Jewish, Bar mitzvahed. My son had a bris, and we are planning on raising him in the Jewish faith. Unaffiliated right now, but looking. I enjoy all the cultural aspects of Judaism, of course. That’s easy to love: the food and the festivities and the holidays and the lights and everything else like that. The more dogmatic religious aspects of things are important, and they’re a part of it and they’re going to be more important while raising Lazer Elias — named after  my grandfather Louis whose  Hebrew name was Lazer; “Elias” is “Elijiah” in the Greek, and my wife is Greek — in the faith, and I’ll be relearning a lot  of prayers, and I’m actually  excited for the opportunity to sort of reindocrinate myself to Judaism moreso than I have been for the last 25 years of my life. I’m such a boring guy. I do nothing cool except play music on the radio and spend time with my son.

Being the Right Kind of Agnostic Parshat Noach

101014_riskin_sholmo_rabbiWhen it comes to questions of belief, the agnostic is the loneliest of all. On one side of the fence stands the atheist, confident in his rejection of God and often dedicated to the debunking of religion.  the other side stands the  believer, who glories in his faith that the universe is the handiwork of God. The agnostic stands in the middle, not knowing whether or not God exists, usually despairing of the possibility of acquiring certitude about anything transcending observable material phenomena.

Our biblical portion makes reference to two very different agnostics, Haran and Noah. The contrast between them contains an important lesson for agnostics, believers and atheists, alike.

The Bible states that Noah didn’t enter the ark until the water literally pushed him in. Rashi’s phrase that “he believed and he didn’t believe” is really another way of describing an agnostic who remains in the state of his uncertainty; he  believes and doesn’t believe. Noah is therefore described by Rashi as the first agnostic.

The second biblical agnostic appears in the guise of Haran. Terah, the father of the clan and a famous idol manufacturer, brings charges in the court of King Nimrod against his own son. He accuses Abram of being an iconoclast who  destroyed his father’s idols while preaching heretical monotheism. As punishment, Abram is to be cast into the fiery furnace. Haran is present at the trial and takes the position of having no position. Only after Abram emerges  unscathed is Haran ready to rally behind his brother. He confidently enters the fiery furnace, but no miracles await him. Haran burns to death.

Is it not strange that the fate of the two agnostics should be so different? We read how Noah was a man of little faith, and yet not only does he survive the Flood, he turns into one of the central figures of human history. Haran, father of Lot, brother to Abraham, hovers on the edge of obscurity and is even punished with death for his lack of faith.

Rabbi Moshe Besdin explained that while Noah and Haran shared uncertainty about God, there was a vast difference  between them. Noah, despite his doubts, nevertheless built the ark, pounding away for 120 years, even suffering abuse from a world ridiculing his  eccentric persistence.

We learn from Noah’s life and Haran’s death that perfect faith is not necessary in order to conduct one’s life. Belief is never as important as action. In the World to Come, there is room for all kinds of agnostics. It depends primarily on how they acted on earth.

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin is the chief rabbi of Efrat.

Baltimore City College Honors Distinguished Alumni

Baltimore City College (Golem88991 via Wikimedia Commons)

Baltimore City College (Golem88991 via Wikimedia Commons)

Baltimore City College, one of the oldest public high schools in the nation, held a ceremony on Oct. 28 to honor the 2016 inductees to the school’s Hall of Fame. The prestigious listing was established in 1957 “to recognize, honor and promote the outstanding contributions of alumni and faculty … for their commitment to City and its ideals and their efforts to improve and evolve our society.”

This year’s six honorees are all distinguished individuals from a variety of fields. William A. Brown, an honoree, summarized the feelings of all inductees when he said, “I was surprised when I received notice of my selection, and I was humbled when I reviewed the accomplishments of my fellow honorees.”

The event had a fun, lighthearted atmosphere. Each inductee was introduced by a current City College student, and soaring depictions of the honorees’ accomplishments were interspersed with musical numbers from the school’s choir and orchestra.

A highlight of the event was when honoree Gary L. Bartz — a Grammy Award winner and composer of more than 40 solo albums — took out his saxophone and dueled solos with members of the orchestra, highlighting the talent of individual students.

Brown was honored for numerous endeavors, such as four special diplomatic missions in which he represented the United States: spending 18 months in Russia to negotiate a facility in which to collect and store weapons of mass destruction; serving as emissary to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); improving infrastructure in Budapest, Hungary; and attempting to  negotiate the investment of oil revenue in Nigeria to improve quality of life in that country. Additionally, he was a leader in the development of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington.

From left: Gary Bartz, William Brown, Dr. Sidney Krome, Dr. Robert Myerburg, Dr. Lloyd Musselman and John Heyn (Photo provided)

From left: Gary Bartz, William Brown, Dr. Sidney Krome, Dr. Robert Myerburg, Dr. Lloyd Musselman and John Heyn (Photo provided)

John J. Heyn, founder and president of the American  Society of Home Inspectors, was honored, as was Dr. Lloyd K. Musselman, an educator who was honored by the Sears-Roebuck Foundation for teaching excellence in 1990 and named a distinguished teacher at Oklahoma City University in 2002.

Dr. Ronald L. Krome was honored posthumously for his numerous accomplishments in the organizations that he served as a leader in the field of emergency medicine. His brother and fellow Hall of Famer, Dr. Sidney Krome, accepted the award on his behalf.

Dr. Robert J. Myerburg was honored for the invaluable  research he has done in the medical field. His accolades, according to the school, include publishing “more than 500 publications on stem cell research, cardiac research, cardiac disease, electrophysiology and cardiac education.”

Throughout all of the acceptance speeches, a common theme emerged: how far the city and the school have come. The school began admitting students of all ethnicities following the landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.

“Today, I have mixed emotions,” said Bartz. “I graduated in 1958, the second class after desegregation, and it was awful back then — how segregated the city was. And as I look out and see these beautiful faces and different colors, it makes me happy, and I am proud today to be an alumni of Baltimore City College. This scene just shows how far we’ve come, and I’m so proud of you all.”

Myerburg mirrored those sentiments, explaining, “I  really like to think that programs like the ones at City set the stage for an evolution of society that guided a broader range of students to go out and do things in the world, and in our nation, by taking a lot of the progress that we made to places that it hadn’t been.”

Honorees also advised current students on how to prepare for the future and live a successful life. “Be sure you follow your passion, no matter what it is, so you can look forward to going to work each day like I did,” said Heyn.

Students were encouraged to listen to all of the wisdom, knowledge and advice offered by teachers and to remain focused on the goals that they wish to accomplish. “If you stay focused, you will be able to overcome any obstacles,” said Brown.

“When I graduated in 1958, I left as a lifelong learner. The educational fellows here at City had prepared me to excel academically and socially,” said Brown. “I know that Baltimore City College is dedicated to providing every student with the academic platform necessary to make meaningful contributions to mankind.”

Getting Out the Vote

Editorial Director

Editorial Director

It’s a safe bet that come Tuesday night, Maryland and its 10 electoral votes will be found to have gone to Hillary Clinton, the Democrat, in the 2016 presidential election. Despite electing a Republican governor two years ago, our state is still reliably blue.

So much so that Republicans in Cecil and Harford counties to Baltimore’s northeast have in the last several weeks been crossing the border into neighboring Pennsylvania to do battle on behalf of party standard-bearer Donald Trump in the must-win swing state. Statewide, Trump partisans have even been directing their money to efforts outside of Maryland, in essence effecting a strategic retreat from the Free State  in favor of a right flanking  maneuver in the Keystone State.

As you’ll read in this week’s JT, Democrats here, long loyal foot-soldiers farther up the  I-95 corridor, have been answering the charge with convoys of Hillary Clinton canvassers from Maryland appearing — including a dozen Baltimore-based Jews United for Justice volunteers — in Lancaster County to the north and across the ring of voter-rich suburbs surrounding the Democratic stronghold of Pennsylvania.

“No one wants to sit in our safely ‘blue’ Maryland when Trump victories in our neighbor states could plunge us into a ‘Trumpian’ dystopia,” said Claire Landers, a member of JUFJ. “Their fear, I think, is literally driving them to do something that might make a difference in a scarily close race.”

It’s not just the foot soldiers who have been making the trek. Last week and into the weekend, high-profile Clinton surrogates from the Jewish community popped up in Pennsylvania, with Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin  appearing in Philadelphia and Alan Gross, the Washington-based contractor who spent five years in a Cuban prison, appearing in Pittsburgh.

Such migrations of politically motivated diehards in the moments leading up to Election Day are a good thing. Democracy requires an engaged and energetic public, and if these armies of Republicans and Democrats are required to get Pennsylvanians to the polls, so be it. Where it should stop is Election Day itself.

According to USA Today, just more than half of Americans are concerned the election may be rigged, which reasonable people know is not possible. The sheer size of the conspiracy that would be required to  improperly swing this election is impossibly large. But voter intimidation, on the other hand, is a real thing. It’s prohibited by federal law, and yet, in every election we hear cases of voters being prevented from entering polling places by  either “concerned citizens”  demanding identification or militant gang members making voters fearful for their safety.

Might voter intimidation also exist when busloads of people who are not poll watchers show up unannounced under the pretense of “monitoring” democracy in action.

This is the last week of campaigning. Come Tuesday, maybe we should let the election take its course … by casting a ballot and going home.

‘Old Jews Telling Jokes’ at BHC Mathew Klickstein

(Photo provided)

(Photo provided)

Granted a blazing stamp of approval from no less than Mel Brooks, the 2012 off-Broadway smash hit “Old Jews Telling Jokes” is coming to Baltimore for a day in which audience members will have not one but two opportunities to enjoy the nostalgia and humor so many others around the country and, in fact, world have experienced with the show.

“Old Jews,” a 90-minute comedic romp through Jewish heritage that is appropriate only for those 18 and over (due to suggestive/raunchy humor and adult language), will be presented at the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation-Dalsheimer Auditorium at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 13.

“Having grown up and around the Catskills kind of Jewish humor, this show had an immediate emotion appeal for me,” said producer Jay Kholos of the comedic revue that includes a kind of reinterpretation of classic Jewish jokes along with a few songs.

“That’s probably what attracted me initially and from a business standpoint,” said Kholos, whose company, Orchard Street Productions, is based out of Nashville, Tenn., and is focusing mainly on marketing and promotion for this particular run involving a cast of New York and Philadelphia actors.

Kholos, whose own stock company of actors has been touring with “Old Jews” for the past two years, said he’s not alone in his emotional connection to the material.

“What people tell me is they get a very nostalgic feeling for what Jewish theater used to be like and what they grew up with,” he said.

“For younger audiences, it brings them back into the stuff their grandparents told them. Jewish humor is a part of Jewish life, and that’s a big part of what the show is about.”

Director Matt Silva, who notes he’s not Jewish but was raised Roman Catholic in a predominantly Jewish community, said he “laughed my butt off for 90 minutes straight” when he first saw the performance off-Broadway in New York.

“It was absolutely hysterical,” he said about the show he’s been directing around the country with his team for the past two years.

“The challenge,” Silva said, “is: How do you take the play, which is a bunch of words in a script, and turn it into a show that can be enjoyed in a  theater through a full experience?”

There’s more than merely having a fun time when it comes to experiencing “Old Jews” in the way Silva aspires toward.

“I think there’s something to be said about riotous laughter,” he said. “It relaxes our body and releases endorphins you didn’t even know you needed to release. It’s needed; it’s deeply human. The show is a terrific reminder that laughter is human and necessary.”

“Especially with our political climate right now, the show is very good at pointing to the fact that laughter will get us through,” Silva added.

The show also has a direct connection to one of the godheads of the Jewish comedic world, with Kholos’ daughter (a playwright herself) being married to Brooks’ son, Max.

“It’s an honor to make Mel Brooks laugh,” Kholos said about Brooks’ take on the project.

As summated by the producers: “If you’ve ever had a mother, visited a doctor or walked into a bar with a priest, a rabbi and a frog, ‘Old Jews Telling Jokes’ will sit in the dark, give you a second opinion and ask you where you got that.”

“Old Jews Telling Jokes” will run at Baltimore Hebrew  Congregation-Dalsheimer Auditorium, 7401 Park Heights Avenue, on Sunday, Nov. 13 at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. For more  information and ticket sales, visit or call  1-844-448-7469. For group  discounts (12-plus), call 1-615-400-7793.

Battleground Showdown Marylanders hit the road to help get out the vote



On a recent Sunday morning in October, Sam Novey and about a dozen Jews United for Justice volunteers from Baltimore headed to Lancaster County, Pa., to conduct some voter outreach.

Novey, 28, is a Baltimore native and Harvard University graduate who has spearheaded several national voter registration projects designed to assist college students with the process.

But on this day, Novey, a consultant at the Foundation for Civic Leadership, was dedicating his time to inform prospective voters in Democratic-leaning neighborhoods of the importance of this presidential election between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.

“This is something I have done a lot in the past with various groups,” Novey said, “but it is the first time I was with JUFJ. So doing something like this with a Jewish group allowed me to express my values not only as an American, but also as a Jew.”

Hillary Clinton (Steve Sands/WireImage/Getty Images)

Hillary Clinton (Steve Sands/WireImage/Getty Images)

If Clinton is going to win the presidency, she’ll need advocates such as Novey to plead her case as the Nov. 8 election draws near.

While Maryland Democratic leaders say they haven’t sent as many volunteers and  resources to neighboring battleground states as in past presidential elections, local residents have taken it upon themselves to mobilize Democrats, sympathetic independents and Republicans disenchanted with Trump.

They have boarded buses, formed carpool groups, driven into southeastern and south-central Pennsylvania neighborhoods and knocked on doors to drum up excitement for Democrats up and down the ballot.

“No one wants to sit in our safely ‘blue’ Maryland when Trump victories in our neighbor states could plunge us into a ‘Trumpian’ dystopia,” said Claire Landers, a member of JUFJ who has been involved with the organization of some of the trips. “Their fear, I think, is literally driving them to do something that might make a difference in a scarily close race.”

Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore via flickr)

Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore via flickr)

Both elected and nonelected Democratic leaders in Maryland have employed various initiatives aimed at harnessing  enthusiasm for Clinton, constructing a system that just doesn’t give Democrats wins, but runaway wins.

Chuck Conner, executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party, said the official campaign committee for Clinton, Hillary for America, has done a lot to unite Maryland Democrats behind her while  re-energizing her base of supporters.

“It’s not the most fun thing in the world to wake up on a Saturday morning, get on a bus and drive for hours,” Conner said, “but we have seen a real interest in our volunteers in Maryland to do that. So I think it is paying dividends, especially with what we are seeing out of places like Pennsylvania in terms of polling numbers.”

State Republican leaders, largely split on Trump, say they have campaigned in Maryland for local candidates but given money to states where the party’s standard-bearer has a better chance of upending Clinton.

Joe Cluster, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, said he has seen a concerted push from Trump- inspired Republican activists to campaign for the controversial businessman.

Residents from Cecil and Harford counties, Cluster said, have made the relatively short trek to the Lancaster County Republican Party’s headquarters to make calls on Trump’s behalf. Cluster also noted he has been coordinating with campaign officials in other swing states such as Florida and Ohio to help Trump out in any way possible.

“We have been very active in our get-out-the-vote efforts with Pennsylvania and a number of other states,” Cluster said. “The Trump campaign, through volunteers here in Maryland, are making a strong push in Maryland to promote support.”

Crucial states in the 2016 presidential race: Pennsylvania, Colorado, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Nevada. Wisconsin visited by Maryland Clinton supporter. (©

Crucial states in the 2016 presidential race: Pennsylvania, Colorado, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Nevada. Wisconsin visited by Maryland Clinton supporter. (©

Pennsylvania is deemed one of a handful of crucial states in the 2016 presidential race, along with Colorado, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Nevada.

For years, Marylanders have been Democratic foot soldiers in Pennsylvania, which lacks the union muscle that drives registration and early voting efforts in and around the state.

But this year, the Keystone State, with its 20 electoral votes, might be more crucial than ever despite having voted for the Democrat nominee in every election since 1992.

I understand people are angry,  frustrated and want to see change. Trump has capitalized on that appeal, but he is not the answer to some of the gridlock we are seeing right now.

— Delegate  Shelly Hettleman (D), 11th District Baltimore County

With a substantial number of blue- collar workers and mining families, Pennsylvania is seen as a hotspot for Trump’s promise to boost coal and natural gas and bring back American jobs from overseas.

As a result, Democratic Delegates Shelly Hettleman, who represents the 11th District in Baltimore County, and Maggie McIntosh, who represents the 43rd District in Baltimore City and is chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee in Annapolis, will lead a group of about 20 people to Pittsburgh on a five-day trip through Nov. 9.

Because Pennsylvania is one of 13 states without early voting, McIntosh and  Hettleman both say they plan to pound the pavement hard on Election Day. They  will conduct last-minute door-to-door canvassing, offer rides to seniors in  retirement communities who are unable to drive to the polls and conduct calls from a phone bank.

Their hope, McIntosh said, is not only to ensure a Clinton victory in Pennsylvania but also to position the Democrats to take back the Senate. Democrats must win four seats and the presidency to reclaim the Senate, making the hotly contested race in Pennsylvania between Republican incumbent Pat Toomey and Democratic challenger Katie McGinty key for McIntosh.

The Trump campaign, through volunteers  here in Maryland, are making a strong  push in Maryland to promote support.

— Joe Cluster, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party

“It’s going to be rough,” said McIntosh, who volunteered in Philadelphia for President Barack Obama and 2000 Democratic nominee Al Gore. “We’re not going to find the enthusiasm for Clinton in [Pittsburgh] that you might find in Philadelphia or elsewhere. But we think it’s important to find every vote we can for Clinton in the Pittsburgh area, as well as the Senate.”

Hettleman, one of Clinton’s 60 Maryland delegates at the Democratic National Convention, said this is the first time she has campaigned for a candidate since being elected to office two years ago.

Like many Democrats, Hettleman is deeply skeptical of the brash temperament Trump has displayed at times during his candidacy and questioned his fitness for office with no previous political experience. Although she noted Clinton is not without her flaws, Hettleman contends Trump is not the best change agent for the country.

“I understand people are angry, frustrated and want to see change,” said Hettleman, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D). “Trump has capitalized on that appeal, but he is not the answer to some of the gridlock we are seeing right now.”

Pennsylvania is not the only state in which Clinton enthusiasts from Maryland have taken an active role.

Roberta Greenstein, a 64-year-old  Baltimore resident and community volunteer, was visiting her daughter and grandchildren in Milwaukee last month when she stumbled upon the city’s Democratic campaign offices.

The next day, she went back and asked to volunteer to make phone calls. She was immediately given a script that asked Democratic voters if they were going to vote and, if so, which candidate they would select.

“I think this election is one of the most important I can remember in quite a while,” said Greenstein, who sits on the board of the Jewish Museum of Maryland and also co-chairs the downtown Charm City Hadassah group. “I certainly do not want to see Trump elected, so I am doing what I can to see Clinton elected. I think no one thought Trump would get as far as he did because of the way he has carried himself.”

Several prominent Republicans, including Gov. Larry Hogan, have distanced themselves from Trump. But that’s not going to stop Republican activists from showing their support for Trump at the polls come Election Day.

“We are prepared in Maryland to make sure there is no intimidation or anything that would stop  someone from exercising his or  her democratic right to vote.”

— Chuck Conner, executive director of the  Maryland Democratic Party

Nick Panuzio, chairman for the Trump campaign in Maryland and also chairman of the Talbot County Republican Central Committee, said Trump has brought in many Maryland Republicans who have never participated in the election process.

“We have seen a lot of people from all around the state who may normally not be as vocal in the election come out in great support of Trump,” said Panuzio, former Republican mayor of Bridgeport, Conn. “This movement is real, and I feel he has gained a lot steam from all different ethnic groups within the state and country.”

Jews for Trump, a national group comprised of Jewish Trump supporters, lists 73 Maryland voters on its website who have vowed to cast their vote for the GOP nominee.

Phil Kaplan, a 37-year-old Jewish lawyer and Towson resident who backs Trump, is not among those in that group but nonetheless plans to vote for Trump. His plan on Election Day, he said, is to take part in Operation Red, an online movement that is encouraging Republican supporters to wear red to the polls.

“I’ll say this: Trump supporters are very worried about possible rigging of the election, cheating, etc.,” Kaplan said. “I can’t confirm any of that, of course, but there has been a lot talk about that. So our overall feeling is that there has been such immorality in the tactics used against Trump that anything is possible, so we just want to show our solidarity by wearing red.”

In recent weeks, Trump has implored voters to poll watch, suggesting the election is “rigged,” and voter fraud could make the difference in the election. Maryland state law permits poll watchers,  but it also restricts them from talking to voters or challenging them on any grounds other than identity.

Panuzio will lead a group of 300 party-trained poll monitors to Baltimore City and 150 to Prince George’s County on the day of election to watch for suspicion activity such as voter impersonation and double voting.

The goal, Panuzio said, is to protect the privacy of each voter while allowing the presence of poll watchers to ensure that the process is legal and fair.

“We don’t want the polling places in Baltimore to stay open past the time they are supposed to stay open. People have plenty of time, ample time, to vote, and we are going to be sure that they vote  ontime,” said Panuzio, referring to the 8 p.m. cutoff time for voters. “We just really want to make sure things are in order.”

Given the strength of the laws to combat voter intimidation, Garrett Epps, a constitutional law professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law, expects voting to go smoothly.

“Everybody has the right, within the legal limits, to observe the conduct of an election,” Epps said. “If [poll observers] became concerned that irregularities are going on, they have every right to bring it to the attention of their party’s attorneys who can go into court and try to make sure things are done correctly. What they can’t do, I don’t think, is to storm into the polling place and start trouble.”

Since the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Department of Justice has dispatched observers and monitors to safeguard the voting process. The law prohibits discrimination in the election process on the basis of race, color or membership in a minority language group.

Observers work inside polling places. Monitors, by contrast, are not permitted to go inside polling places unless state officials grant them authorization.

For the 2012 election, the Department of Justice deployed 780 federal monitors to 51 jurisdictions in 23 states to watch for unlawful activity and write up possible civil rights violations. Maryland, however, was not one of the states monitored.

Conner said voter protection hotline monitors and attorneys at the polling stations will be on standby to maintain order in case any disputes arise.

“We are prepared in Maryland to make sure there is no intimidation or anything that would stop someone from exercising his or her democratic right to vote,” Conner said. “As long as people are not getting into line after 8 p.m. and are there on time, they are free to vote without obstruction or  interference.”

Science Center Looks to Secure Its Future

Courtesy of Maryland Science Center

Courtesy of Maryland Science Center

The Maryland Science Center, which turned 40 this year, is celebrating the milestone anniversary by raising millions of dollars to take its brand of science education firmly into the future.

The Inner Harbor institution announced its “Revitalization For Today — Securing Our Future Capital Campaign” on Oct. 28. The $7.5 million campaign has raised almost $4.6 million since January.

“It is a very important campaign for the Science Center,” said Van Reiner, president and CEO. “We are looking to increase the size of our endowment and upgrade some exhibits that are in need of modifications.”

Reiner explained that nearly one million children have been through the exhibits since they first were installed, which has resulted in wear and tear. For example, he cited the area of the dinosaur exhibit, where children can put on goggles and dust off fossils. The exhibit has been so popular that the coloring of the fossils have been worn away to the point that they are nearly  unrecognizable. Some of the funds raised by this campaign will go toward repairing such exhibits, as well as renovating others to make them more  engaging and exciting.

Courtesy of Maryland Science Center

Courtesy of Maryland Science Center

Another initiative will expand the water play area in which kids have a chance to splash around as well as learn about engineering and physics.

“We are looking to seriously expand it, because right now, a child coming in at 1 p.m. will not be able to get close to the exhibit because it is so popular. We want to make it more  accessible,” said Reiner.

Educational exhibits such as these have created a lasting impact. Susan Ehrlich, director of global business development at W.R. Grace and a member of the Science Center’s board of trustees, points to herself as an example.

“The first time I went to the Science Center was with my dad when I was 11 years old,” she said. “It had just opened, and there was a long line of people; it was packed. But I was intrigued and amazed by all of these things, and it interested me in science.”

“There were a lot of people there answering questions,  including female scientists,” she added. “It planted the seed in my head that I could be a scientist as well, back when that wasn’t a common career for women. I studied chemical engineering at Johns Hopkins, and knowing my history with the Center, I was asked by the CEO of W.R. Grace to be its representative on the board.”

While revamped exhibits are always fun and exciting, however, a majority of the funds that the campaign raises will go toward support for the Center’s education initiatives, both in-house and in the community. One of the biggest draws of the Science Center is that it underwrites free admission for Maryland students who come with school trips or outreach programs.

“We ensure that public, private, parochial and homeschooled students can enter free with reservations,” explained Reiner. “This campaign will help to provide this free admission for students. With the cost of normal admission and a bus to get here, a number of students would be unable to take advantage otherwise.”

All that remains now is for the center to keep pounding the pavement, continuing to reach out to friends, organizations and the community for help with fundraising.

“One of W.R. Grace’s missions is to help science in Maryland, and the Science Center is  directly related to that core mission,” Ehrlich said. “We look for companies to help contribute money, and we have been a corporate sponsor to help drive the interest in science in our community.  We were one of the first companies to donate to the Capital Campaign, and we want to  encourage others to contribute.”