Synagogues Rally for Alzheimer’s Awareness

At recent Shabbat services, Baltimore-area congregations joined more than 125 churches in observance of the Purple Sabbath.

It wasn’t for the Ravens, though, and instead raised Alzheimer’s awareness, purple being the signature color of the Alzheimer’s Association. Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, Temple Oheb Shalom, Beth El Congregation and Temple Emanuel of Baltimore encouraged members to attend services wearing purple and provided resources to learn about the disease and get involved with organizations working to find a cure.

Rabbi Rhoda Silverman of Temple Emanuel gave a Saturday morning sermon relating the story of Adam and Eve to the value of human brains and their functions. “Imagine if those processes slowly disappeared: the ability to remember even simple details, the ability to reason through a problem or dilemma, the ability to navigate in familiar surroundings — even in one’s own home, the ability to remember the histories of beloved family and friends, the ability to take care of basic personal needs,” she told congregants. “Having tasted knowledge, I can assure you, it wouldn’t be a return to Eden. And it isn’t for those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

“The facts are stark. Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive — currently incurable — brain disease that, according to the NIH, is the most common cause of dementia in older adults,” she continued. “It not only impacts the individual suffering from the disease, but it brings with it extraordinary consequences and conditions for caregivers who most often are also immediate family members who are simultaneously dealing with the slow and progressive loss of their loved one.”

Silverman offered more information in the synagogue’s lobby and directed people to the Alzheimer’s Association’s website,

Cass Naugle, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Maryland Chapter, said such events allow the association to connect with caregivers.

“When a caregiver learns about the Alzheimer’s Association, they learn that they are not alone,” Naugle said in statement. “The programs and services that we offer provide support through all stages of the disease, and for those who aren’t affected, teach them about risk factors that could contribute to Alzheimer’s and other dementias.”

BMA Gets Ready to Reopen Merrick Entrance

112114_museum-briefThe Baltimore Museum of Art is set to reopen its grand Merrick Historic Entrance after more than 30 years and also premiere its renovated Dorothy McIlvain Scott American Wing on Sunday, Nov. 23.

The reinstalled wing will display approximately 850 works of American art, some of which have not been exhibited in many years, said David Park Curry, the museum’s senior curator of decorative arts and American painting and sculpture. He is inviting visitors to “lots of choices on how to see and experience” the 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century galleries, a textile gallery, decorative arts showcases and the Maryland gallery — unique in its salon-style display of paintings and their strong connection to Maryland artists and collectors.

“There was an openness to new” by Maryland collectors in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, said Curry. They made their fortunes in mercantile and the railroads so they were considered “new-money” families. But they “were visionary and cutting edge in their tastes, and …they liked lots of stuff.”

The entrance and wing are part of a $28 million renovation. The final phase will be the reinstallation of the African and Asian art collections in April 2015. “Reopening the historic entrance will be an extraordinary moment during the BMA’s centennial celebration,” said the museum’s director, Doreen Bolger. “We are looking forward to throwing open the doors and welcoming visitors to a beautiful new presentation of our renowned American collection.”

An Israeli Ambassador

Former Israeli basketball star Tal Brody, who spoke with students at both Krieger Schechter Day School (above, right) and Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, took time out for photos with BT students (from left) Yitzy Teichman, Michael Millstein and Yair Pincever (above) and with KSDS students (from left) Noah Abrams,  Gabe Lichtenstein, Acey Vogelstein and Sage Friedman. (Melissa Gerr)

Former Israeli basketball star Tal Brody, who spoke with students at both Krieger Schechter Day School and Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, took time out for photos with BT students (from left) Yitzy Teichman, Michael Millstein and Yair Pincever. (Melissa Gerr)

Tal Brody, star of the 1977 Israeli European championship team, visited students at Krieger Schechter Day School and Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School last week during a sweep through the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., region.

Nicknamed “Mr. Basketball,” Brody gave up a career in the NBA and made aliyah, eventually leading the Maccabi Tel Aviv team to victory over the Soviet Union in the 1977 European Cup championships in a game described as David versus Goliath. It was after that game that Brody uttered the famous lines in heavily American accented Hebrew, “We are on the map! And we are staying on the map — not only in sports, but in everything.”

“For me, I went to play basketball in Israel, but I stayed because of what basketball meant to the country,” Brody told students. “What I’ve experienced you cannot weigh in gold, cannot weigh in dollars.”

For the seventh- and eighth-grade students at KSDS and the high school students at BT, Brody screened a short video detailing his personal basketball history from his high school days in New Jersey to his college days at the University of Illinois to his decision to leave the NBA — despite being the 12th overall draft pick in 1965 — and play in Israel. Afterward, students were encouraged to ask questions.

Among the sports-centric questions, one inquisitive middle school student at KSDS asked the imposing 6-foot-11⁄2-inch Brody, “Do you still play for the team?” Brody gamely laughed and said no, “but that’s a nice compliment. I have six grandchildren in Israel,” including a granddaughter who plays in a basketball school in Kfar Saba.

Ellen Friedman, KSDS middle school Judaic teacher, said, “We really want [the students] to have a sense of belonging to Israel. We want them to identify with Israel and Israelis. Speakers like Tal are great because sports is something everyone loves. His story of finding belonging in Israel is important to hear.”

During his afternoon visit to BT, Brody had an opportunity to watch students play basketball in the gym before addressing the 9th-, 10th- and 12th-graders in the auditorium. Following his presentation, Brody received a standing ovation from the students and two team shirts from Coach Eli Creeger.

Brody had two eager fans in seniors Frank Gorelik and Peleg Ovadia, who play center and guard, respectively, for the BT basketball team. Beyond Brody’s athleticism, both young men were impressed by the former star’s continuing commitment to Israel and Judaism.

“It goes far beyond basketball, that the sport [can be used to combat] anti-Semitism and encourage people to learn more about Judaism,” said Gorelik.

Said Brody: “It’s important for kids to see that life goes on in Israel. It’s not what you see on the news. There is a place for them in Israel.”

‘Her World Was Family’

In this 1923 photo, Goldie Miller and her brother, Abe Kirson, stand proudly in the doorway of Kirson’s Pharmacy.

In this 1923 photo, Goldie Miller and her brother, Abe Kirson, stand proudly in the doorway of Kirson’s Pharmacy.

Goldie Miller, a devoted wife and mother, and a rare super-centenarian, passed away of heart failure at 111 on Oct. 16 in her daughter’s Pikesville home.

Miller was born in Baltimore on April 25, 1903, the second of seven children — three boys and four girls — of Sam Kirson, a property manager, and Anna Kirson, a homemaker. The family resided near Mondawmin.

The world was starkly different then, as Miller’s granddaughter Beth Sellman described in her eulogy. Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House, the Wright Brothers took their first flight, and gas-lit lamps lined the streets of American cities.

Despite the vast history she was witness to, Miller was not one to dwell on the past, though when prompted, she would share memories of a bygone era, recalled her daughter, Natalie Wilder, 85.

“She would say there was no such thing as a car,” said Wilder. “They used to go on Sunday to get their carriage — they didn’t have a horse, but they had a carriage — so they would get a horse and that was how Sundays were spent, with your horse and buggy.”

Miller graduated from a Baltimore high school, although which one is unknown due to a fire that destroyed her school records.

She worked in Hutzler’s department store on the wrapping desk after graduation before meeting Dr. Benjamin Miller on a blind date. The two married in 1924 and settled on Wilkens Avenue in two next-door houses, one for living and the other serving as her husband’s medical office. Miller worked as a nurse-secretary in her husband’s practice.

“She loved working with my father in his office. She loved being a part of his life,” said Wilder. “She was very attentive to his patients.”

Dr. Miller, described as a “wonderful doctor” by Wilder, passed away in 1958.

Following her husband’s death, Miller volunteered for a time in the gift shop of Sinai Hospital, where her daughter worked as a nurse. By 1979 she was working in another Miller’s medical office, this time for her son, Dr. Gerald A. Miller, a now-retired ophthalmologist. She served as her son’s secretary until 1990.

“Her world was family,” said Wilder. “Family came first before everything. My father, myself and my brother, her mother — they were the most important things in the world to her.”

After family, a strong work ethic was most important to Miller, and she had a good head for business.

“She was very business savvy. She was not a spender. She always said, ‘Don’t spend what you don’t have.’ She could probably balance the budget in our country,” said Sellman.

Though a dominant individual when it came to her family and work, she was passive when it came to her age. She merely accepted it rather than viewing it as something to be made a fuss over, according to her daughter, though her age was notable, as there is thought to be only 60 people in the United States older than 110.

“We never really talked about, ‘Oh, you’re 111. Keep it up.’ We never made age a priority,” said Wilder. “It’s funny, my granddaughter — that would be her great-granddaughter — she’d tease her bubbie and say, ‘Did you know Moses?’”

In honor of her 111th birthday, Griswold Home Care, an agency that assisted with Miller’s care, arranged for Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz to declare April 25, 2014 “Goldie Miller Day.” Gov. Martin J. O’Malley sent a citation, too.

What was the secret to Goldie’s extraordinary longevity? Medical professionals might point to the fact that she never smoke and she never drank. Wilder believes it was the love and attention with which her mother was surrounded. Miller lived in her daughter’s home for 47 years and was visited daily by her son.

Wilder described her mother as “alert and oriented to the very end.” She read The Wall Street Journal daily, watched Lawrence Welk and the news and enjoyed a daily helping of mashed potatoes.

“She wanted to live,” said Wilder. “She would talk about what the kids were doing and the grandchildren. We would share everything with her. I think really that’s why she lived — the fact that she was right here with us and was important in our lives and she knew that. I think that was the reason for her longevity.”

Miller is survived by her children, Dr. Gerald A. and Lillian Miller, and daughter Natalie Wilder. She leaves behind 10 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. Miller was predeceased by her son-in-law, Ervin Wilder of Pikesville, and two grandsons, Mark and Stewart Wilder.

Graveside services were held Oct. 19 at Beth Tfiloh Cemetery. Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg officiated.

Commission Passes Marijuana Regulations

An estimate by Dr. Paul Davies is that growers will be producing marijuana for Maryland in the summer of 2016. (Photo by David Stuck)

An estimate by Dr. Paul Davies is that growers will be producing marijuana for Maryland in the summer of 2016. (Photo by David Stuck)

The state of Maryland is one step closer to implementing a medical cannabis program, but some estimate that patients won’t be able to legally acquire the medicine until mid-2016 at the earliest.

The Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission unanimously adopted its proposed regulations at a meeting on Thursday, Nov. 13. The regulations, which run the gamut to cover qualifying ailments and diseases, licensing and fees for growers and dispensaries, application processes for patients, caregivers, physicians and other medical personnel, record keeping, marijuana extracts as well as security of growing facilities and dispensaries, will go through a bureaucratic review process before entering a 30-day public comment period.

“I think our regulations are detailed and treat marijuana very much as a medical product more so than any other states,” said Dr. Paul Davies, the commission’s chairman. “I think we have enough safeguards built in that it won’t be a program that will be potentially abused like in some other states.”

Davies’ “optimistic” estimate is that the commission will start taking applications for growers and dispensaries in mid-2015, and growers will be producing marijuana in the summer of 2016.

In the meantime, while the regulations are reviewed, the commission will work on its operational plan, hire a new executive director and other staff members and get the program’s IT infrastructure in place, which includes online applications and online training for doctors. Part of the program may include virtual identification cards for patients, Davies said.

The regulations recommend doctors apply for certification if they treat patients with chronic or debilitating diseases that result in the patient being in hospice or receiving palliative care or conditions that cause cachexia, anorexia, wasting syndrome, severe pain, severe nausea, seizures or severe or persistent muscle spasms. The list also includes glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder as well as other conditions characterized as “severe” for which other medical treatments have been ineffective and if symptoms can be reasonably expected to be relieved by medical cannabis. Other conditions can be suggested to the commission, which will hold at least one yearly public hearing to evaluate those suggestions, according to the regulations.

“Overall, they’re incredibly comprehensive, and they’ll serve the program and the patients well,” Rachelle Yeung, legislative analyst at the Marijuana Policy Project, said of the regulations.

Patients will be able to acquire 30-day supplies of cannabis, which can be up to 120 grams. The regulations do not specify a limit on how many plants growers can grow or the amount of cannabis a dispensary can hold at one time.

There will be a separate licensing process for producing tinctures, which are cannabis-infused solutions usually made of alcohol, glycerin or vegetable oils. They can be added to foods and drinks, applied to skin or ingested orally under the tongue. Davies hopes “edibles” (cannabis-infused foods) will be added later, but the commission will have to work with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and some of its food sections to establish those regulations, he said.

The commission has defended itself to much criticism over the proposed grower and dispensary licensing fees, which are among the highest in the country. Under the proposal, the biennial licensing fee for a grower is $250,000, which can be paid in $125,000 annual installments, and the biennial fee for a dispensary license is $80,000, which can be paid in $40,000 installments.

But without funding from the state — the commission is an independent body — the commission will operate solely on the fees generated by the program. It can also accept certain kinds of donations, according to the regulations.

“The law requires that the commission operations be funded out of the fees, and we developed a budget that we thought made sense to carry out the program that we envisioned, and therefore, we made estimates about how many licensees there would be and so forth and made a calculation of what fees we thought would be necessary,” said commission member Eric Sterling, who is president of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation. He added that he thinks the fees “would be a relatively small component of the necessary costs of operation” for growers and dispensaries.

Darrell Carrington, speaking on behalf of the newly founded Maryland Cannabis Industry Association, thought the fees were fair and wouldn’t deter those who are serious about becoming a part of the program, which some critics have argued.

“I think it’s appropriate for what our needs are here in the state of Maryland,” he said. “I can’t imagine for one second that someone who’s serious about this can’t raise the licensing fees for a two-year license.”

Others, such as Yeung, are concerned the costs could be passed on to patients. Ryan Vandrey, an associate professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University, hopes costs will be contained so that patients won’t go to the black market if prices are cheaper.

State Delegate Dan Morhaim, a longtime medical cannabis advocate who sponsored and introduced the original medical cannabis bill in Maryland, still sees barriers in the regulations.

“It still looks like to me there are barriers to physicians recommending cannabis to their patients,” he said. “There continue to be a significant number of unanswered questions and problems.”

His concerns are related to training for physicians, the lack of available psychiatrists for PTSD patients, security requirements on growers and where seeds will come from, among others. Yeung and Morhaim are both concerned about the need for dispensaries to have either a physician, nurse practitioner or pharmacist as medical director.

“There has been harassment actions of such health professionals by the federal government in other states with medical cannabis programs,” read Morhaim’s letter to the commission, in which he asked that it consider changing this to a recommendation instead of a requirement.

Vandrey, who helped the Maryland General Assembly craft its medical cannabis law, mentioned that laboratories that hold federal Schedule I licenses have also been threatened by the Drug Enforcement Agency in regards to performing medical cannabis testing, which has some subpar labs performing tests in some states.

He was hoping for more data collection out of the program and thinks the required annual summary reports from physicians will be difficult to analyze.

“An ideal scenario would be a standardized, web-based reporting system that is used for all annual reporting and is structured in such a manner to allow easy access to interpretable data on each certified patient (e.g. age, gender, medical condition, duration of medical cannabis use, frequency of use, clinical response to cannabis treatment, adverse events),” he said via email.

Vandrey’s biggest question, though, is what kind of oversight there will be to ensure the regulations, a draft of which numbered 102 pages, will be followed.

“Oversight of all this is going to require a diverse group of trained individuals to ensure proper conduct of these rules,” he said. “As far as I know, that group and the infrastructure and funding for providing this oversight does not exist currently.”

While Davies has heard volumes of public testimony and concerns, his goal remains to get a program up and running.

“We will have the opportunity to dynamically change the regulations, but we need to get the program operational before we can really see where there are any problems,” he said.

Gansler Looks Ahead

Outgoing Attorney General Doug Gansler received at least 60 job offers from various law firms after he lost the Democratic gubernatorial primary. (Provided)

Outgoing Attorney General Doug Gansler received at least 60 job offers from various law firms after he lost the Democratic gubernatorial primary. (Provided)

On June 25, calls started pouring in to Doug Gansler’s office with job offers. Maryland’s attorney general didn’t need to use a head hunter to get about 60 propositions, which came from firms of all sizes, from small practices to multinational firms with thousands of lawyers.

After losing the Democratic gubernatorial primary to Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown by more than 100,000 votes on June 24, going back into private practice is an obvious move for the outgoing attorney general.

“It’s funny, people say, ‘What are you gonna do next? You’re gonna go be a lawyer?’” Gansler said. “And I’m thinking, ‘Yeah, I’ve been a lawyer since I took the bar in 1989.’”

On Tuesday, Gansler announced he’ll be joining BuckleySandler LLP when his term is up on Jan. 12, 2015 and Attorney General-elect Brian Frosh takes over. Gansler will be a partner in the firm’s Washington, D.C., office, where he will work in its government enforcement and litigation practices and also help clients comply with and manage regulations on issues such as consumer protection, cybersecurity and privacy.

“I’ll do what lawyers do,” he remarked.

At a recent law symposium, Gansler said life in his office is just business as usual as he enters the final months in his eight-year tenure as Maryland’s chief lawyer.

“I’ve been a prosecutor for 22 years, and in two months, I won’t have that,” Gansler told a crowd of law students at the symposium, hosted by the University of Baltimore School of Law last week.

The attorney general was there to debate the use of DNA in criminal law. Facing two opponents of the widespread use of DNA databases, Gansler looked right at home arguing on the side of the government.

In the past couple of weeks, Gansler said proudly, his office released a plan to reduce sexual violence on public and private college campuses in the state of Maryland and has taken the position to rescind the death sentences of Maryland’s four remaining death row inmates and keep them in prison for life, something that, though he adamantly defends his proposal, drew criticism from victims’ families.

Confronted with a complicated problem, and no protocol tied to the 2013 law abolishing the death penalty in Maryland, Gansler said he had to make a judgment call and “do the right thing.” The governor’s office has the power to convert the death sentences to life without parole, but outgoing Gov. Martin O’Malley has taken no such action to date.

Gansler is also working on transitioning his office to Frosh. With 56 divisions of the office, there is a lot for Frosh to learn, but Gansler said he’s confident in his successor and that Frosh’s character, ethics and judgment will make him a great attorney general.

“He’ll be literally enforcing many of the laws that he’s helped draft,” said Gansler. “I don’t get the sense at all that he’s coming in with some sort of political agenda or political motivation.

“He’s a mentschy guy,” added Gansler. “He’ll do well.”

Gansler’s two-term tenure included the establishment of the Office of the Attorney General’s first Gang Unit, appointments of the first director of Civil Rights and the first Special Assistant for the Environment, major mortgage settlements, digital privacy initiatives and the outgoing attorney general’s landmark opinion on same-sex marriage, which made him the first statewide elected official to publicly support marriage equality.

Prior to becoming Maryland’s attorney general, he served as Montgomery County’s State’s Attorney, an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and as a civil litigation attorney in private practice.

In an interview, Gansler — whom some political observers have already named as a potential gubernatorial candidate in 2018 — highlighted his work on mortgage foreclosure settlements that resulted in more than $1.7 billion in consumer relief and assistance, restricting the sale of mixed caffeinated alcohol beverages such as Four Loko, and his role as president of the National Association of Attorneys General from 2012 to 2013.

“I think we really elevated the national discussion around the issue of privacy in the digital age,” he said of his tenure at the organization.

As Gansler enters the private sector rather than the governor’s mansion, he said he’s not spending any time worrying about what he could have done differently in the primary, which he said was stacked against him from the start.

“I don’t think that Abraham Lincoln or John F. Kennedy could have won the primary I was in,” Gansler said in a serious tone, “given the landscape and given the establishment and the entire Democratic machine just wanting to coordinate the lieutenant governor as the next governor.”

And he isn’t surprised, he said, that Republican Larry Hogan ultimately won the general election. He said he tried telling people that Brown on the ballot would mean losing the governor’s race as well as other offices all over the state. Like Hogan, Gansler drew attention to the “tax burden and the economic malaise the state is in.

“You can’t be the 49th state in economic growth, in personal income growth, having jobs fleeing the state on a daily basis with an increasingly depleted tax base, yet continue to raise taxes 40 straight times, if not more, and think that’s the panacea for the economic problems of the state,” he said. “And people obviously got that, and so I wasn’t surprised at all that the Republicans won.”

He also thinks Brown’s negative campaigning — which he said attempted to define Hogan and failed to truly define what Brown stood for — also played a role in the outcome.

Although his attention is shifting to his new job, it’s difficult for Gansler to imagine a future without public service.

“I love politics,” he said. “I really believe that government can and should help people. I’ve been involved in politics since I was 13 years old, and it’d be difficult to imagine not staying engaged or involved.”

John Bullock, an assistant professor of political science at Towson University, said that Maryland voters have probably not heard the last of Gansler. It’s more difficult to remain in the public spotlight while out of office, he pointed out, but he still has name recognition, and his positions did resonate with segments of the electorate.

“I don’t think he’s done. I anticipate there’s more things he’d like to get done in elected office,” said Bullock. “I’ll be as interested as anyone else to see what happens.”,

Right-Wing Secessionist Wins Council Seat

He was denounced by Governor-elect Larry Hogan; he was asked by several members of the GOP to break ties with a secessionist organization that has been labeled as a neo-Confederate hate group; he sang “Dixie” at a Southern secessionist conference; and he believes the word of God and the Bible should guide civil law.

And with his election to the Anne Arundel County Council, Michael Anthony Peroutka’s rise to elective government has sparked trepidation and alarm from religious leaders in the county’s Fifth District. Although his power to incorporate his beliefs into civil law is limited at the County Council level, some worry about him demoralizing or derailing the council and preaching intolerant views; others believe his election shows a lack of engagement in local politics.

“Certainly as the rabbi of a Reform congregation and therefore one who doesn’t take the Bible word-for-word, to have a person who focuses his attention on the Bible and God’s word as ultimate authority, that is not what I consider to be something which a person in my congregation can accept, regardless of their political affiliation,” said Rabbi Ari Goldstein of Temple Beth Shalom in Arnold. “Not to mention that we certainly have strong, strong aims toward social action and strong aims toward equality; and in the way I have experienced [Peroutka] to this point, I am concerned he does not share those same values.”

Peroutka was elected with 53 percent of the vote in the Nov. 4 election, defeating Democrat Patrick Armstrong for the seat, which represents Severna Park and Arnold.

Susan O’Brien, who managed Armstrong’s losing campaign, still considered the election somewhat of a victory.

“It should have been a slam dunk for the Republicans,” she said, noting that a Democrat hasn’t been elected to the council seat in the historically Republican district in decades. She added that “barely a penny” should have been spent to win this election during the Republican wave that was seen nationwide. According to an Oct. 19 campaign finance report, Peroutka had spent $190,000 of his own money on his campaign.

O’Brien said District 5 is “one of the highest educated, wealthiest, whitest districts in the state of Maryland” and a lot of people move there for the schools — four of the state’s top 10 elementary schools are in the district.

“We did our best to make sure people knew the risk and what was at stake with this election,” she said. “When you have such a connection to the public school system that you move … when we try to explain to people that this is a gentleman who’s called public schools a ‘cesspool’ and wants to bring creationism into schools … then they still vote blindly down the ballot for all ‘R.’”

The Peroutka campaign did not respond to requests seeking comment.

Peroutka, a 62-year-old attorney, ran for president in 2004 as a candidate for the Constitution Party, and has called Maryland’s General Assembly “ungodly” because of its legalizing same-sex marriage. According to reports, in October 2013, he referred to the Republican Party as “worthless, Godless, unprincipled conservatism” and told Tea Party activists to withdraw from it, although he joined the GOP this year.

Peroutka is involved with the Tuscaloosa, Ala.-based League of the South, an organization that seeks “to protect the Anglo-Celtic core population and culture of the historic South” by establishing “a free and independent Southern republic,” according to its website. The Southern Poverty Law Center, whose website notes a pro-slavery quote from a League of the South board member, considers it a neo-Confederate hate group.

The newly elected councilman also runs the Pasadena-based Institute on the Constitution. According to its website, Peroutka believes: “There is a God, the God of the Bible. Our rights come from Him. The purpose of civil government is to secure our God-given rights.” On the day of the election, he posted a column titled “No Jesus, No Rights!”

His candidacy inspired the Stop PAC, which spent $25,000 on brochures, according to a campaign finance report.

A robo-call presumably from the Peroutka campaign told residents to thank Armstrong “for his bravery in coming out of the closet” and supporting the Fairness to All Marylanders Act, which prohibits discrimination based on gender identity. Armstrong, 31, is openly gay.

“Transgenders can now openly and freely go into any bathroom of their choice based on their confused gender identity,” the call said. The number it told residents to call was Armstrong’s mother’s phone number.

Armstrong is an active member of the Anne Arundel Young Democrats and County Democratic Central Committee. He decided to run after David Whitney, a pastor who works with and shares the views of Peroutka, announced his candidacy for the council seat as a Democrat. Armstrong left his job at Party City, where he traveled to struggling stores to help turn them around, to run in the race. O’Brien expects him to return to that job.

The battle between Armstrong and Peroutka caught the attention to the Baltimore Jewish Council.

“The Baltimore Jewish Council is strongly supportive of the separation of church and state, and comments made by newly elected Councilman Peroutka are alarming,” deputy executive director Cailey Locklair Tolle said via email. “We sincerely hope the Anne Arundel County Council will do its best to quash legislation that would threaten this important balance.”

The election race also had faith leaders who don’t normally endorse or denounce political candidates breaking character. Goldstein said this election may have been the first time he spoke to his congregation about politics in and out of the sanctuary other than conversations about President Barack Obama and his Middle East policy. (Peroutka has said the United States should not be intervening in Israeli affairs.)

At least one Christian leader in the district also got political.

“I did let [congregants] know that one of the candidates in District 5 is a member of the League of the South and held some otherwise extreme views,” said the Rev. Stephen Tillett, pastor at the predominantly African-American Asbury Broadneck United Methodist Church. “He is essentially expecting our civil government to function as an arm of the church.”

While Tillett, who is president of the Annapolis Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, chocks up the election to uninformed voters voting on the party line, he can’t help but remember Anne Arundel County’s checkered past, which includes at least two Ku Klux Klan marches in Annapolis in the 1920s and ’30s.

“The comported racial history, as Secretary [Condoleezza] Rice termed it, ‘America’s birth defect’ with respect to racism in the U.S., there was unfortunately a strong strain of it in Anne Arundel County,” he said.

He also mentioned the Anne Arundel County Fraternal Order of Police’s donation to the defense fund for Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo. The $1,070 donation was the largest at the time. With that in mind, Tillett said this piece of recent history, along with Peroutka’s election, indicates “an environment that has racist undertones at the very least.”

“We’re working to overcome that, and there are certainly people in the community of all views who understand that there’s no place for that, but it’s a process and we’ve got a long way to go,” he said.

Goldstein similarly noted some “under-the-curtain” anti-Semitic views in Anne Arundel County, but he thinks Peroutka’s victory can be attributed to uninformed voters and party-line voting.

This troubles O’Brien, who hopes the election is a wake-up call to voters.

“If you can’t get the highest-educated, wealthiest community to wake up, what will we do?” she said. “Maybe it’ll make people realize that maybe you need to do a Google search for five minutes before you vote for someone.”

One member of Beth Shalom who considers himself Republican and conservative, said Peroutka’s power to employ his views as a councilman will be very limited.

“Some of the things he believes in are really irrelevant on the local level,” said Dave Fox, who added that he did not vote for Peroutka.

“At this point he just needs to care for the people of his district,” said Tillett.

New Life for Old Jewish Landmark

For local historian Deb Weiner, the 19th-century Hebrew Orphan Asylum building "shows how the (Jewish) community was becoming more affluent."

For local historian Deb Weiner, the 19th-century Hebrew Orphan Asylum building “shows how the (Jewish) community was becoming more affluent.”

Baltimore historic preservationists and those hoping to improve the lives of some of the city’s poorest residents were pleased by the recent news that the Hebrew Orphan Asylum building in West Baltimore would soon be refurbished and put to good use.

The building, believed to be the oldest existing Jewish orphanage in the country, was built in 1815 as a country home, later used as headquarters for the Baltimore City and County almshouse and became home to the children of poor Jewish immigrants after it was purchased and donated by William Rayner, an affluent German Jewish businessman in 1873.

“I think it’s an incredibly important building,” said local historian Deb Weiner of the Romanesque-style building designed by architects Edward Lupus and Henry A. Roby. “After B’nai Israel and the Lloyd Street Synagogue, it’s probably the most important building to the Baltimore Jewish community.

“It represents the era, in the 19th century, when Jews started to build charities,” Weiner continued. “It shows how the community was becoming more affluent and could afford it.”

With Rayner leading the charge, the orphanage was established under the auspices of the Hebrew Benevolent Society, one of the city’s earliest charitable organizations. In 1874, it burned down; it was replaced two years later with funds quickly raised by the Jewish community. Though it was started for German Jewish orphans, it also served Eastern European Jews who arrived in later years, said Weiner.

As was typical for the time, most of the children housed in the Hebrew Orphan Asylum weren’t truly orphans, she explained. “Most were kids whose parents were too poor to care for them. Sometimes a family would have eight kids and they would put the two youngest in the orphanage temporarily.

“Many times, these were the children of single-parent homes,” she added. “Very few stayed for their whole childhoods.”

Although the orphanage was strict and regimented, records from the days when it was in operation suggest that it was a relatively pleasant place to grow up.

In the early 1900s, said Weiner, Eastern European immigrants started their own orphanage on the East Side, where it was more accessible to Jewish neighborhoods in East Baltimore.

The two orphanages merged in 1921, shortly after the Jewish Children’s Bureau was established as an umbrella organization for existing child welfare agencies. The community again raised funds to build a brand new orphanage on Belvedere Avenue.

The new orphanage, known as Levindale, was built amid protestations from social workers who warned that child-care trends were shifting away from orphanages toward the foster care model. Levindale Orphanage closed in 1923, and its mission changed to what it has been ever since — a home for the elderly.

Meanwhile, the original Hebrew Orphan Asylum building was sold to the West Baltimore General Hospital. It was used for that purpose until 1945, when it was acquired by the Lutheran Hospital of Maryland. The Lutheran Hospital moved in 1989, and the building sat vacant and in disrepair until it was purchased by Coppin State University, a member of the University System of Maryland, in 2003. Though the university took steps to stabilize the building’s structure, it lacked the money to rehabilitate it. The building seemed doomed for destruction.

“We got involved when there was a proposal to demolish the building,” said Johns Hopkins, executive director of Baltimore Heritage, Inc. and a board member of the Coppin Heights Community Development Corporation. “Then Coppin State got a new president who thought the building was an asset.”

Hopkins and his colleagues worked with Coppin State to get the building on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010.

“It was a slam-dunk,” said Hopkins, “since the building was so significant both architecturally and historically.”

With support from Coppin State, in 2012, the Coppin Heights Community Development Corporation, Baltimore Heritage, Inc. and architectural firm Kann Partners were granted a $2.5 million tax credit from the Maryland Sustainable Communities Tax Credit program. A state study later concluded that the neighborhood around the building was one of the five least healthy in the state, leading Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown to announce that the neighborhood would encompass one of five new Health Enterprise zones.

The Coppin Heights Community Development Corporation will now restore the building and create a full-service medical facility called the Center for Health Care and Healthy Living.

Hopkins couldn’t be happier that the project is rapidly moving forward.

“The drawings are done, and we were just cleared to put the project on the agenda of the Board of Public Works,” he said. “Between the superlative history of the building and the revitalization [it represents] for the neighborhood, there has been nothing but support for this project at every level.”

Proposed Development on JCC Property Sparks Concern

The Worthingron Park Homeowners Association met with officials from The Associated about a proposed 56-house development on the campus of the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC.

The Worthingron Park Homeowners Association met with officials from The Associated about a proposed 56-house development on the campus of the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC.

A proposed 56-home development to be built on vacant land in the confines of the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC campus has generated concerns among neighbors and community organizations that would rather the see land preserved than developed.

While Worthington Park residents, some of whom will be 300 feet from the development, are concerned about home values and traffic, other community advocates are concerned about the density of the neighborhood.

“The way they’re going about putting it through is having a very negative impact on [the] neighborhood,” said Cheryl Aaron, zoning committee chair of the Greater Greenspring Association. “Nobody would be upset if for some reason it didn’t go through.”

The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore will propose a development plan for 56 detached homes that will each sit on a quarter of an acre. The homes will have two-car garages, basements, large first floors as well as second floors and could have up to 3,800 square feet of internal space, according to Larry Rosenberg, who has been presenting plans at public meetings in a volunteer capacity as a member and past chairman of The Associated’s real estate committee. It’ll be a minimum of 18 months before Baltimore County approves a plan, Rosenberg said.

He, along with The Associated’s COO and CFO, Mark Smolarz, discussed the plans at a recent Worthington Park Homeowners Association meeting.

Among the concerns of Worthington Park residents were home values, traffic and the possibility of a previously deferred water tower resurfacing.

“I thought there was a very positive dialogue between us and The Associated,” said Jared Mandell, secretary of the homeowners association. “I think any homeowner is concerned about keeping up the value of their home just as a general premise.”

The nearest the development would be to Worthington Park is about 300 feet, Rosenberg said. There is already a buffer area with trees, but the plans call for planting more evergreen trees to provide additional barrier space. There will also be a bike path from the new community to the JCC, and it might extend into Worthington Park.

As for the water tower, residents were referring to an 850-foot structure that was proposed for the corner of Bond Avenue and Timber Grove Road in Reisterstown. After protest from residents, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz indefinitely deferred construction of the tower and reallocated the $6 million budgeted for it to the other projects. There is no indication that The Associated’s proposed development would make the water tower an issue again.

Home values could potentially increase with the new homes being priced around $500,000, Rosenberg told residents. “If anything, these new houses will help raise the value of your houses.”

As for the traffic, Rosenberg said part of the plan may include a roundabout at Garrison Forest Road and Associated Way, but alternatives are being considered as well.

The Associated will seek a builder to buy the property through an open-bid process once the development plan is approved by the county.

The portion of the 150-acre property that the new development will be built on was rezoned in 1992 to allow a variety of buildings, including 90,000 square feet of office space, which The Associated decided not to pursue.

Smolarz referenced statistics that indicated the number of households in Owings Mills has remained the same over the years, but the number of people in those households has declined, as children have grown up and moved away. Rosenberg said downsizing, moving to a place with less steps and less maintenance may be attractive to those who want to stay in the same neighborhood.

While some organizations have retained legal counsel, Worthington Park decided not to join them for the time being. The association asked Rosenberg and Smolarz to consider making the new community restricted to those 55 and older.

Rosenberg said planners were considering targeting the development to that age bracket but will discuss with The Associated’s board about officially restricting the development.

“We went away with absolutely that message,” Rosenberg said. “We are listening to the community. It certainly is possible.”

Rosenberg emphasized that The Associated has more than $100 million invested in the land between the JCC and Weinberg Village.

“We certainly want to do everything to enhance the overall community because for one thing, we own a lot of property there and will continue to,” he said. “We want to make sure that what’s built there continues to enhance the assets that we have there. We have a large stake in it.”

Aaron said the age-targeted or age-restricted aspect of the community doesn’t matter.

“It’s still 56 big houses on 25 acres on less than a quarter-acre lot each,” she said. “There seems to be a mantra going that there is a need for that type of housing for that age group, but at 55 I don’t know that I’d want to be taking on a home of that size either physically or financially.”

The Greater Greenspring Association retained counsel in partnership with the Valleys Planning Council. VPC executive director Teresa Moore said they are concerned about traffic as well as the intensity of the development.

She sites an agreement made by The Associated in the 1990s when the property was up-zoned that allowed further expansion of the JCC and made way for Weinberg Village.

“A lot of people think that’s enough,” she said. “This just feels like stretching the bounds of that agreement.”

She said the council will likely oppose the development proposal when it is submitted to the county.

Rosenberg said The Associated is operating within the confines of zoning and planning requirements.

“We’ve done everything to make sure we do this by the letter of the law,” he explained. “To that extent, I think we’re trying to be a good neighbor.”

Story and photo by Marc Shapiro


‘Meeting People Where They Are’

Millennials greet each other at the 2014 GA, where there was much discussion about how to keep young Jews engaged in the community. Photo by David Stuck

Millennials greet each other at the 2014 GA, where there was much discussion about how to keep young Jews engaged in the community.
Photo by David Stuck

Ever since last year’s Pew Report on American Jewish life offered a sobering assessment on young Jews’ affinity for Jewish communal institutions and causes, the question of how best to attract and retain the young has taken on a new sense of urgency among communal leaders.

That focus toward youth engagement and retention was on full display during several panel discussions and conversations earlier this week at the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly in National Harbor.

Breakout sessions included one titled “Why Are They There and Not Here? Keeping Young People Engaged” and a sub-plenary on Monday night was dedicated to “Generation #Hashtag: Jewish Life on Campus.” A presentation Tuesday was called “Beyond Happy Hour: Solutions to the Young Adult Challenge.”

Throughout the conference, those wearing Taglit-Birthright Israel buttons abounded, Masa Israel alumni sported ribbons and representatives of college Hillels, members of J Street U and Jewish sorority sisters and fraternity brothers roamed the halls.

In a packed room during a Monday afternoon breakout, Andrew Borans, executive director of the historically Jewish Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity, Rabbi Zvi Drizin, founder and director of the Intown Chabad in Dallas, and Jonathan Kessler, leadership
development director for AIPAC, presented “Doing Jewish in College and Beyond: How the Pros Engage Young Jews.” That discussion was moderated by Michelle Hirsch of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland.

Borans began the session by asking participants to stand up and move 12 inches to the right, then 12 inches again. That is how college students vote, with their feet, he said.

“You’re competing against cell phones and something more fun,” said Borans. “[The students] are not being rude, that’s their generation.”

AEPi’s success comes from teaching leadership and from requiring students to pay for programming and services, because when students have skin in the game, they are more invested in the outcome and the event. The idea of paying to participate, counterintuitive in a time when so much programming is free, was echoed by the other panelists.

Drizin spoke to the lack of communities available to young adults when they leave university, and that even the most active Jewish students can slip through the cracks. “Guys like me, and our wives, and women are going around and creating little communities,” he said, referencing the work of Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries serving young adults in locales across the country.

Drizin further emphasized that what millennials “crave above everything is authenticity” and to be taken seriously and not simply be viewed as a future donor.

Kessler rejected the notion that young Jews do not care.

“Apathy does not exist. Jewish young people are interested in everything,” he said. To up participation, the personal connection is key. “The four most important words you can say is, ‘I need your help.’”

Brett Cohen, IMPACT campaign chair for The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore who attended several of the millennial-focused panels, said, “I think that when we talk about young adult engagement and retention, it needs to be about meeting people where they are.”

Added Cohen: “We need to educate young adults about how the Federation already touches their lives. Second, we need to show how their dollars and their time — which are so valuable — have an impact.”