Bernie Is Back Bernie Sanders reflects on Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and lessons of 2016 Election

With his victory in New Hampshire, Bernie Sanders is the first Jewish American to win a primary. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images))

U.S. Senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images))

“I am not a liberal, I am a progressive,” pronounced Sen. Bernie Sanders during a student-submitted Q&A conducted by Johns Hopkins University president Ronald Daniels.

What became something of an open, periodically funny and altogether forthright conversation between Sanders and Daniels followed the former presidential hopeful’s hour-long speech about his recently published book, “Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In.”

As a stop on his ongoing cross-country book tour as hosted by Hopkins’ Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium in partnership with the school’s Foreign Affairs Symposium, Sanders’ speaking engagement on Thursday, Nov. 17 in Shriver Hall was introduced as part of “a forum for the free exchange of ideas.”

Sanders, an Independent, has represented his state of Vermont as senator since 2007 and was narrowly denied the honor of becoming the Democrat nominee for president and later the first Jewish person to hold that office in American history.

He used his global stage as a candidate for the Democratic Party’s nominee to articulate the primal rage felt by many working class and poverty-stricken Americans largely neglected by the mainstream media, which Sanders has been highly critical of in the past and continued to excoriate at the Hopkins event.

Sanders is a kind of latter-day incarnation of popular irascible 1977 Academy Award-winning film “Network” character Howard Beale who spouted out those immemorial lines, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” to a rapt national audience.

Speculation for Sanders’ loss in the primary election to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ranges from a putative “media blackout” or outright mockery of his grassroots, anti-establishment campaign to allegations of subterfuge perpetrated by the Democratic National Committee that may have favored Clinton.

Speaking out on such issues — particularly his profoundly negative take on the manipulative power of the media to siphon and filter the news inappropriately — Sanders suggested that, ironically, it may have been Donald Trump’s tapping into the same entrenched economic frustration and sense of being ignored Sanders expressed that allowed the former to reign triumphant in the 2016 presidential election.

A packed house awaits U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders at Johns Hopkins University symposium on Nov. 17. (Photo by Mathew Klickstein)

A packed house awaits U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders at a Johns Hopkins University symposium on Nov. 17. (Photo by Mathew Klickstein)

“There’s a beautiful world out there that the media ignores,” Sanders declared with his characteristic impassioned contrarianism that has made for a beloved pop culture image a la comedian Larry David’s portrayal of the senator on a series of immemorial “Saturday Night Live” sketches.

This was the crux of Sanders’ message to the audience of mostly Hopkins students — the notion of the power of manipulation and control the media has over not only how critical issues are presented to the populace, but, indeed, which “critical” issues are presented in the first place.

It’s an important thread in his book, as well, and a frightening proposition considering Sanders’ educated opinion that the recent presidential election became fodder for the media’s (and, by osmosis, the electorate’s) growing obsession with what he called “gossip” and the personalities of Trump and Clinton rather than the issues that needed to be illuminated and properly deliberated.

“Politics is not about the candidates,” Sanders said. “It is about the needs of the people.”

Sanders went on to say that he discusses this crucial point throughout his book and the idea that “we need to discuss the real issues in an intelligent and respectful way.”

“The message” is, in fact, “the most important part of any campaign,” Sanders said. “What do you believe in? What will you fight for?”

What Sanders believes in is something he said he’s been fighting for his entire adult life: “The real pain of the people.”

As has become well-known over the course of Sanders’ precipitous rise in popularity, the senator is here speaking of those outside of the so-called “1 percent” or other elite circles he has decried for being an integral part of both Clinton’s and Trump’s campaigns.

“A great nation is not judged by how many billionaires it has, but how it treats its most vulnerable people,” Sanders said, wrapping up the central theme of his book.

Representing “the most vulnerable people” has been a continuous touchstone of Sanders’ political tenure. He has recently criticized Trump’s appointment of former Breitbart News chairman Stephen Bannon, who Sanders has referred to as “a racist individual,” as chief strategist for the white house.

“In a democratic society we can disagree all we want over issues, but racism and bigotry cannot be part of any public policy,” Sanders said according to a Nov. 17 report by JTA. “The appointment of Mr. Bannon by Mr. Trump must be rescinded.”

When asked about the obvious question of such implicit divisiveness in the country by Daniels during his Q&A, Sanders — again with his signature, mop-haired and disputatious aplomb — said he questions just how divided the country really is at this time.

Sanders placed much of the blame on the media and the so-called “billionaire class” for perpetuating the notion that the U.S. is as divided as has been claimed.

After having traveled around the country meeting countless constituents and their families as well as young children, when it comes to such topics as economics, gun control, abortion or LGBTQ rights, Sanders truly believes there is less contention about these concerns and, if anything, merely division on how to implement needful guidance in dealing with such concerns he knows are imperative to all Americans.

Indeed, it’s for this reason that Sanders self-qualifies as a progressive as opposed to a liberal (referring, for example, to Hillary Clinton as “a strong liberal”).

For Sanders, a liberal is interested in social reform and soi-disant “social justice.” In his mind, a progressive such as himself is interested in these points … but also does not want to forget the economic concerns of the country, something he believes was largely missed by Clinton’s campaign and, again, may have led to the resounding win for Trump.

Though there may not have been a major glass ceiling shattered in the 2016 presidential election — by either a woman or Jew — Sanders undeniably cracked it and established that it is indeed possible to arise to one of the highest political platforms in the nation without the need of corporate sponsors or direct ties to the political establishment.

And, further proving his chutzpah and personal connection to the people listening in Shriver Hall and across the nation, Sanders can have a little fun with it all as well.

When asked at the end of the Q&A by Daniels what Sanders thinks about David’s caricaturing him on “SNL”, Sanders was quick to respond: “Actually, I am Larry David.”

The JTA contributed to this article.

mklickstein@midatlanticmedia.com

New Howard County Sheriff Appointed

James Fitzgerald (Screenshot: http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/36loc/how/jud/sheriffs/html/msa15142.html)

James Fitzgerald stepped down after a report detailed alleged anti-Semitic, racist and misogynistic remarks and threatening behavior. (Screenshot: http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/36loc/how/jud/sheriffs/html/msa15142.html)

Gov. Larry Hogan on Nov. 10 announced the appointment of William McMahon to replace Howard County Sheriff James Fitzgerald, whose alleged anti-Semitic, racist and misogynistic remarks and threatening behavior were detailed in a September report.

McMahon, 54, a Republican, most recently served as the acting executive director of the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions and director of its Leadership Development Institute after spending 28 years with the Howard County Police Department.

He was the county’s chief of police from 2006 to 2014, gaining recognition as the face of the department during the investigations of the fatal shootings at The Mall in Columbia two years ago before retiring from the force.

“Bill McMahon’s distinguished service and extensive law enforcement experience make him the best choice to serve and protect the citizens of Howard County,” Hogan said in a prepared statement. “Bill has a keen understanding of law enforcement at every level, and I am confident he will be a strong leader for Howard County. I offer him my sincere congratulations.”

The county’s Office of Human Rights released a 48-page report Sept. 1 that detailed Fitzgerald referring to former County Executive Ken Ulman as “little Kenny Jew-boy” as well as derogatory comments about African-Americans and women. Fitzgerald, a Democrat who was serving his third term, was also accused of retaliating against deputies who did not support his re-election in 2010.

In mid-October, Fitzgerald resigned from his post in the face of intensifying pressure from county and federal officials and residents calling for him to step aside.

Prior to Fitzgerald’s resignation, County Executive Allan Kittleman, a Republican, asked the county’s representatives in Annapolis to explore whether the General Assembly could impeach Fitzgerald.

Kittleman threw his support behind Hogan’s selection in a prepared statement, saying, “I applaud the governor for moving quickly with this appointment and making such an appropriate and thoughtful choice. Bill McMahon has demonstrated he has the temperament, dedication and leadership qualities to lead the Sheriff’s Office and will help restore confidence to both that office and the residents of Howard County.”

McMahon, meanwhile, said he was “honored and humbled” by Hogan for the appointment.

“As a 30-year resident of the county, I am deeply committed to upholding our laws and working to ensure the safety of all citizens of our county and our great state,” McMahon said in a prepared statement.

jsilberman@midatlanticmedia.com

County Schools to Remain Closed on Rosh Hashanah

The Baltimore County Public School Board approved its 2017-18 academic year calendar on Nov. 9 to comply with Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order that public schools open after Labor Day.

The approved calendar was the only one of the three options that complied with Hogan’s order while keeping schools closed on Rosh Hashanah.

“We appreciate that the members of the board heard our discussion about logistical and operational issues that would arise should schools remain open on Rosh Hashanah,” said Howard Libit, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council. “We would like to thank them for making the right decision for the large population of Jewish students and teachers in the school system.”

The newly approved calendar’s one notable disadvantage is that it only plans for five inclement weather days as opposed to seven proposed in other versions of the calendar. In the case that the school system is forced to close for more days, additional days are planned to be added to the end of the school year as opposed to making spring or winter break shorter for students and staff.

Daniel Nozick

Ethiopian-Born Miss Israel Tells Students: ‘Take Every Chance You Get’

Titi Aynaw, shown meeting President Barack Obama during his visit to Israel in 2013, has embraced being Jewish “100 percent.” (Photo by Avi Ohayon)

Titi Aynaw, shown meeting President Barack Obama during his visit to Israel in 2013, has embraced being Jewish “100 percent.” (Photo by Avi Ohayon)

Yityish “Titi” Aynaw, an Israel advocate, television personality and the first Ethiopian-Israeli model to be crowned Miss Israel, visited two Maryland universities last week to give students a different point of view of the Jewish state — one from a woman who grew up sometimes hiding her Jewish identity in Ethiopia and who later was able to fully embrace her Judaism in Israel.

“The goal of my tour is to talk about my life story and about Israel from my point of view,” said Aynaw, 25. “The idea is to bring students, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, together to learn about Israel from a point of view that they do not know.”

She spoke at the University of Maryland, College Park on Nov. 9 and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County on Nov. 10 as part of a collaboration with the Jewish National Fund and Media Watch International.

Aynaw was born in a small village in Ethiopia. As a child, her family had no electricity, and she walked around barefoot. Her father died before she was old enough to remember, and her mother passed away before she became a teenager. At the age of 12, she moved to Israel to live with her grandfather in Netanya.

“I grew up always knowing that I was Jewish,” said Aynaw, “but in Ethiopia, being Jewish was only OK part of the time. Sometimes, you had to be sure to hide it, but it was nothing like in Europe during the Holocaust.”

Aynaw, who was crowned Miss Israel in 2013, had to learn everything all over again when she moved to Israel. It took time for her to adapt to the culture. “Coming from the third world to the first world is such a change,” she said. “You know, I had to wear shoes every day in Israel, I had to get used to even these small things. The first time I was in a classroom was when I was 12.”

However, Aynaw learned Hebrew quickly and began to adapt. “To be Jewish in Ethiopia is not something that you yell on the streets; you keep it in your home. Coming to Israel, I became 100 percent Jewish. When we have holidays, the entire country celebrates, not just the Jews. There are synagogues everywhere. I do not need to hide the fact that I am a Jew, I feel confident and protected.”

In her time in the Israel Defense Forces, Aynaw became an officer, commanding 300 men and women.
“You need to keep dreaming and do your best,” Aynaw told students. “My life has not been easy at all. It is not easy growing up without parents, without support, without someone to tell you what to do. Sometimes, it is really lonely, but this is life, and you need to continue to chase your dreams.”

“My story is not about ‘to be Miss Israel, a black Miss Israel,’ it is about to dream and to take every chance that you get in your life, to take life into your own hands. This is my message,” she concluded.
These days, Aynaw is supporting her own project in Netanya. The Titi Project provides extracurricular activities and enrichment to 66 Ethiopian kids residing in Netanya who come from from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Aynaw wants to expand the project and help give other kids the educational opportunities that she lacked growing up. She hopes that her tour will help fundraise for her cause.

“In my community and my neighborhood, the project keeps these kids away from trouble,” she said. “They have too much free time — these children’s families work a lot so that they have enough money, leaving these kids unattended. The idea is to keep them busy. My kids have new skills now. If they were bad at math or the computer three years ago, today they are the best in their class. It is something that I am really proud of.”

For more information on The Titi Project, visit netanyafoundation.org/the-project.

dnozick@midatlanticmedia.com

Trialogue Series Brings Muslim, Jewish, Christian Communities Together

Rabbi Jessy Gross, director of Charm City Tribe, speaks about her organization, which aims to engage millennials in Jewish life outside of typical Jewish settings. (Photo by David Stuck)

Rabbi Jessy Gross is one of three clergy members hosting events as part of the Interfaith Trialogue. (Photo by David Stuck)

Baltimore residents will have the opportunity to learn more about their Muslim, Jewish and Christian neighbors over the next few months as part of an Interfaith Trialogue Series sponsored by the Baltimore Jewish Council.

The BJC has partnered with the Muslim Community Cultural Center of Baltimore, Church on the Square and JCC senior director of Jewish life Rabbi Jessy Gross for the three-part series, each part of which will take place in a different house of worship led by a clergy member. The series kicks off on Nov. 20 with Imam Tariq Najee-Ullah leading a discussion at the Muslim Community Cultural Center.

“We are really trying to target those members of our communities who are under 40 about their interests and involvement,” said Najee-Ullah. “We do not know everything about one another. One of our biggest motivations with this conversation is to get people to escape the bubbles of their own communities and branch out. That is why we are changing the house of worship for every discussion.”

Sunday’s event will provide attendees the opportunity to tour a mosque as well as listen to the imam give an overview of the tenets of Muslim faith. Additionally, the event includes a food drive for members of the local community.

“This is the time to ask any questions that you have about Muslims and Islam,” Najee-Ullah said. “The election results have made it clear how little we know about each other. We need to actively work to bring people together and eliminate ignorance within all of our communities, and the current political climate is all the more reason to unite.”

Gross will be leading a workshop in March at the Owings Mills JCC as the second part of the series. Her workshop will include a performance of “Stories from the Fringe,” a play about women who have become rabbis. “It will be a great opportunity to give people who come an insight into my own Judaism, which motivates my following of tradition,” she said.

“We have been meeting monthly for the past year and a half,” Gross added in explaining how the trialogue came together. “Back in May we held our first public gathering and invited participants to join the conversation that we were having with each other, which centered around how being a person of faith and religious traditions can help strengthen our ties to each other and instill our values in the next generation.”

Although it is a topic that they wish to keep discussing, the first meeting was difficult to lead — “none of us still think it is a good idea to bring together a group of 30 people who have never met and ask them to speak with and challenge each other on such a subject as religion,” she said.
However, it was obvious that everyone who showed up wanted an experience that they had not had before. Setting up the trialogue was the perfect opportunity to bring interested individuals together in a more controlled and constructive environment.

“We want to make it more common for people to interact in places of different faiths,” Gross said. “That way we can create an opportunity for people who do not know each other to come together and learn what the other is all about.”

“We want this to be a constructive conversation, not a lecture,” she added. “It gives us the opportunity to express what the particularities and interpretations there are in our different religions that make each so rich. We want to promote participation with other faiths.”

Najee-Ullah also expressed a desire to get the community actively involved in service work as well as discussions. “We want to do actual service and eliminate ignorance of one another.”

Najee-Ullah and the other faith leaders are currently in discussions about beginning a nonprofit organization in Baltimore solely for interfaith service work within local communities.

For more information on the Interfaith Trialogue, visit bit.ly/2fDHqdX.

dnozick@midatlanticmedia.com

A Divisive Result With domestic discontent and concern for Israel, Jewish community applauds and decries Trump's election

President-elect Donald Trump delivering his acceptance speech as Vice President-elect Mike Pence looks on at the New York Hilton Midtown in Manhattan, Nov. 9, 2016. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 09: Republican president-elect Donald Trump delivers his acceptance speech as Vice president-elect Mike Pence looks on during his election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of November 9, 2016 in New York City. Donald Trump defeated Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

President-elect Donald Trump delivering his acceptance speech as Vice President-elect Mike Pence looks on at the New York Hilton Midtown in Manhattan, Nov. 9, 2016. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

 

Donald Trump’s stunning victory in last week’s presidential election has stirred strong reactions from both those distressed and those enthused by the Republican candidate’s improbable win. And those reactions have struck on many issues that divide Jewish people the most.

Indvidudals and organizations that adovcate for Jewish social welfare programs, the importance of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship and a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are worried about how Trump will handle those initiatives after he takes office. Many of Trump’s campaign promises have made both Democrats and Republicans feel uneasy.

The concerns are domestic too, arising from increasing anti-Semitic and racist rhetoric that has been linked with the Trump campaign throughout an extremely divisive election season.

“Sadly, the contentious tone from the 2016 election has translated into a moment of ripeness for the haters to deface properties across the country with some of the most unsettling anti-Semitic and racist imagery,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a prepared statement. “We must not let this troubling trend of hate define our society, which means that the onus is on our community leaders, religious clergy, elected officials and others to remain vigilant [and] report incidents when they surface.”

Jewish Republicans, though largely split on the president-elect, see an opportunity for Trump to build a strong pact with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. While the United States and Israel are longtime allies, relations were considered, at times, strained between President Barack Obama and Netanyahu because of their contrasting views on certain world issues.

Among the many promises Trump made in his campaign, he vowed to move the U.S. embassy from the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing the city as Israel’s capital.

Some organizations look forward to bipartisan cooperation on Israel.

“Despite their deep differences on a range of issues, both the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates notably shared a common commitment to the U.S.-Israel alliance,” the American Israel Public Affairs Committee wrote in a prepared statement. “Strong bipartisan support for the Jewish state is also reflected overwhelmingly in the incoming Congress. We look forward to working with the new Congress on key legislative initiatives to strengthen the relationship between our two democracies.”

For many, such as Jewish Pikesville resident Ruth Goetz, policy on Israel was one of the main focal points of the race.

Goetz, who sits on the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee, said with great certainty that Trump would do more for the Holy Land than any other president since Israel’s birth in 1948. She believes Trump will make good on his promise to eradicate ISIS, a shared common enemy of the United States and Israel, and potentially help Israel create an opportunity to abandon its commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

“What I’ve seen from Trump, I think he is the most pro-Israel I have ever seen from a presidential adminstration,” Goetz said. “I’m looking forward to — and it’s nice to see — the capital of Israel [Jerusalem] is going to be acknowledged.”

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Police estimate that 600 people took to the streets of Baltimore on Nov. 10 to demonstrate their outrage over the election of Donald Trump. (Photo by Mathew Klickstein)

Trump’s election ignited protests in Baltimore and several other major cities around the country. On Nov. 10, two days after Trump’s closely contested win, police said that an estimated 600 dismayed Baltimore residents took to the streets to show their displeasure of a Trump presidency.

Abby Becker, a Jewish protester, proudly marched from the Washington Monument to McKeldin Square, where demonstrators chanted “Not my president” and “2-4-6-8, no to Trump and no to hate.”

Becker, 28, a nonprofit employee and musician who resides in Baltimore, said she was “devastated but not surprised” when she learned Trump had been elected and added that she refuses to accept the result.

When asked if she would acknowledge Trump as president after he is inaugrated on Jan. 21, Becker paused, saying: “That’s a tough one. [Trump] does not speak for me. He does not represent what I think or believe about my country, and it’s my job to make that very clear to the rest of the world that’s looking to us.”

She added: “Trump is a manifestation of so much of the darkness that’s part of our country: supercapitalism, racism, egocentrism, white supremacy, corporate citizenship, the incarceration state, militarism and so much more. He’s fearful of people who are different from him.”

There were also walkouts in the past week at some universities around the state, including Towson University and the University of Maryland, College Park, during which students, staff and faculty expressed their disamy about Trump.

“Sadly, the contentious tone from the 2016 election has translated into a moment of ripeness for the haters to deface properties across the country with some of the most unsettling anti-Semitic and racist imagery.”

— Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation  League

Many, such as Becker, had hoped at the very least that Trump would surround himself  with a team of seasoned advisers and decision-makers.

His recent appointment of his campaign’s controversial CEO, Steve Bannon, as chief strategist and senior counsel has led to more crticism for Trump. Civil rights leaders, Democrats and some Republicans have said that Bannon, former executive chairman of Breitbart News, a website that has featured alt-right views, will bring an anti-Semitic, nationalist and racist point of view to the position.

In addition to Breitbart content, critics have cited that Bannon himself has been accused of making anti-Semitic remarks.

“At the end of the day, there was going to be extreme
opposition to either [Trump or Clinton] being elected. I just hope that America can overcome the extreme divivde and make this country a better place for all people.”

— David Kashan, 25, a third-year Jewish medical student from Owings Mills

Aaron Levin, chair of J Street Baltimore, said Trump’s attitude and language directed toward all minority groups should put everyone on alert.

“Obviously, I think there are a lot of disturbing things we have seen from Trump so far,” Levin said. “People from all different minority backgrounds, I think, have every reason to be fearful.”

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A swastika was drawn next to an exit ramp of I-83 South. (Photo Provided)

While Baltimore hasn’t been rife with anti-Semitic incidents, a swastika with the words “white power” popped up on an Interstate 83 exit ramp, prompting residents to report the graffiti to the Anti-Defamation League.

Mount Washington resident Tara Marbach noticed the swastika on Nov. 12 on a metal panel on the exit ramp for East Northern Parkway off of I-83 South.

“For me, it’s frustrating,” Marbach said. “I’m not Jewish, I’m a white girl. It doesn’t scare me for me, but it breaks my heart because I know that it hurts so many people. It’s just frustrating that this is happening right now in our country.”

An image Marbach took circulated on a listserv for Mount Washington residents, which prompted sculptor and builder Marc Braun, a former Mount Washington resident who maintains clients in the area, to cover up the graffiti with spray paint.

While covering up the graffiti, which he said was written in magic marker, Braun learned from a black homeless man that a white homeless man had drawn the swastika because he was mad that the guy had taken his panhandling spot.

Braun, who grew up in Prince George’s County and became a bar mitzvah at Baltimore synagogue Shaarei Tfiloh, said spray-painting over the swastika was a “gut reaction.”

“I don’t say hide it, I say take a picture of it, report it, document it, but don’t let it hang around to terrorize everyone else, because it’s terrorism in my mind,” he said. “I went to Hebrew school. I got it drilled into me that concentration camps were real. … The reality of the Holocaust is still there; it’s not going away. The white supremacists and the Holocaust deniers, that’s all happening, and it’s getting stronger.”

He also called Bannon’s appointment “scary.” “Now we have the white nationalists and the KKK people getting a seat at the table,” he said. “That’s scary.”

In response to such incidents, the Baltimore Jewish Council is monitoring the recent spike in hate crimes around the state and country. Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh took it a step further on Monday, according to The Baltimore Sun, encouraging victims of racial and religious hate speech to report the incidents.

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Howard Libit, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council (Photo by Marc Shapiro)

“Toward the end of [Trump’s] campaign, there was unfortunately a lot of rhetoric, particulary in campaign commercials, that certainly suggested anti-Semitic tones,” Howard Libit, executive director of the BJC, told the JT. “I think all of us in the community are hopeful that that does not continue into the president-elect’s adminstration and that [Trump] seeks to continue to build on the tolerance and diversity our nation is founded on.”

Trump, who received 35 percent of the vote in Maryland, also has changed the outlook of some staunch supporters, such as 37-year-old Towson lawyer Phil Kaplan, who is Jewish. He long felt dismissed by the political system but truly feels Trump has given a voice back to the people.

Kaplan, a Republican, called on all Americans, regardless of political affliations or ties, to back Trump and give the president-elect a chance to prove himself as the nation’s commander-in-chief.

“Not everyone may see things eye to eye,” Kaplan said. “The election clearly got ugly, but at this point, rather than dismissing all the people who voted Trump into office, we should all try to work together. We’re all in the same boat, because most of us are all ordinary human beings who are just trying to make it through.”

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Phil Kaplan, a Trump supporter (Photo Provided)

As much as Kaplan said he disliked Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton, he praised her for the way in which she handled herself after delivering her concession speech.

“I think she was very classy by the manner she handled everything,” Kaplan said. “If she wants to see everyone come together, I think her followers and supporters should get on board with that, considering the message is coming from the head of the Democratic Party.”

There are some who could not find significant policies that promised real change of any kind for the better but who were open to throw their support behind either Trump or Clinton.

David Kashan, 25, a third-year Jewish medical student from Owings Mills, said that while he found neither Clinton nor Trump particularly appealing before the election, he is content with Trump.

Kashan believes a lot of the anger he has witnessed directed at Trump supporters through social media and in person is misdirceted. He said labeling Republicans as racists, sexists, misogynsists, among other name-calling, only adds to the discord that is occuring around the nation.

“Trump has major flaws, but who is to say that he can’t do some good in office? It is a shame to see people on social media rooting for his demise,” Kashan said. “At the end of the day, there was going to be extreme opposition to either [Trump or Clinton] being elected. I just hope that America can overcome the extreme divivde and make this country a better place for all people.”

Marc Shapiro contributed to this report.

jsilberman@midatlanticmedia.com

Shabbat Project One for All, All for One!

The Great Challah Bake (Photo by David Stuck)

The Great Challah Bake (Photo by David Stuck)

For the third year in a row, the Baltimore Shabbat Project brought together thousands of Jews from all over the region for Shabbat services, challah bakes, Havdalah and interdenominational celebrations.

An estimated one million people in 1,150 cities in 94 countries took part in the Shabbat Project, an international effort started by South African Chief Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein.

“There is a real thirst worldwide for true Jewish unity and for a genuine connection to Judaism,” Goldstein said in a news release. “And people really resonate with the way Shabbat carves out a sacred space of tranquility and togetherness amidst the frenzy of modern life.”

Shabbat Through the Senses

Shabbat Through the Senses included a variety of hands-on activities for participants of all ages

Shabbat Through the Senses included a variety of hands-on activities for participants of all ages

Since moving to Baltimore a year ago, Arik Shalom and his family have been looking for ways to get actively involved in the Jewish community.

A native of Little Rock, Ark., Shalom, 41, and his wife, Samara, 32, moved to the area in part to provide their three children — Yocheved, 3, Naptali, 2, and Menachem, 6 months — with a rich cultural upbringing.

On Nov. 6, the Shaloms had a chance to do just that at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC with a hands-on afternoon filled with numerous activities as part of the Shabbat Through the Senses program.

“Once you get involved in a community, you get involved by working, meeting people, and these types of events are how you do it,” said Shalom, who was attending his first program of the Baltimore Shabbat Project, which kicked off with this event and culminated in a community Havdalah concert on Saturday, Nov. 12.

Shalom and his family were one of more than 200 from various backgrounds who took part in making challah dough, creating colorful Shabbat candlesticks, hearing Shabbat songs and joining in sing-alongs.

David Bloom, 37, and his sons, Micah, 5, and Noah, 3, especially enjoyed putting together their own Shabbat box, which included valuable resources such as a prayer book.

While Bloom said his family observe Shabbat occasionally, his hope is that the Shabbat Project provides his sons with inspiration to take part in the weekly observance on a more regular basis.

“I think it really makes all the kids feel like a part of Shabbat,” Bloom said. “Also, as the weather and time changes, I think it will be a little bit easier to do Shabbat.”

Jill Smulson, 35, a Howard County resident, said she attended in part to build a strong Jewish foundation for her 7-month-old son, Elliott. A big part of her attendance had to do with exposing Elliott son to the same Jewish values she gained growing up in the Reisterstown and Owings Mills communities.

When her son is old enough to understand the significance of the moment, Smulson has no doubt they will look back on the day together with fond memories of their shared experience.

“I’m always looking to get [my son] accustomed to Jewish life. We want to instill good values and raise him Jewish, so we have to start him early,” Smulson said with a smile.

— Justin Silberman

View photos from Shabbat Through the Senses:

Shabbat for the Senses 2016

 

The Great Baltimore and Howard County Challah Bakes

The Great Challah Bake drew 4,000 Jewish women to the Baltimore Convention Center (Photo by David Stuck)

The Great Challah Bake drew 4,000 Jewish women to the Baltimore Convention Center (Photo by David Stuck)

For attendees of the Great Challah Bake and the Howard County Challah Bake in the days following the election, the events greatly contrasted the contentious nationwide political debate and brought the Jewish community closer together.

The third annual Great Challah Bake took place at the Baltimore Convention Center on the evening of Wednesday, Nov. 9. The event was packed with more than 4,000 Jewish women who had come to experience a sense of unity and learn how to bake challah.

“This is really a cross section of everyone,” said Phyllis Lederman, one of the event’s co-chairs. “There are members of the Orthodox community, conservative and reform Jews, even members of the community who are not normally involved with Judaism. It is really what we were striving for.”

Many women expressed how joyous it was to come together with peers for such an entertaining and engaging program. “It is just such a real, feel-good event,” said attendee Marcey Eisen.

“I came because it will be a spiritual evening,” said Sarah-Eta Shnier. “We all need a sense of unity now that the election has ended.”

Shira Bernstein, another attendee, added, “It is the calm after the storm.”

While the Great Challah Bake in Baltimore drew locals in droves, the second annual Challah Bake in Howard County grew by quite an impressive margin, more than doubling in size since the inaugural event last year.

“We are already talking about pushing the event farther into the sanctuary next year,” said Rabbi Susan Grossman of Beth Shalom Congregation, where the event was held. “Last year, we were forced to turn away people. This year, Beth Shalom agreed to host to provide more space, and even so, we have hit capacity tonight and are still accommodating more.”

“I think the purpose of the event is twofold,” she added. “People want connection to traditions and to each other. People desire connection, relief and healing, and a program like this does all of that. All of the different movements are represented in this room. There is a sense of unity in a time of divisiveness. For us to have that right now is incredibly healing.”

Last year, the event focused more around featured speakers who taught attendees about the challah and tradition. “We found that the women really wanted to get more into the actual baking piece of it as well as the socializing,” said Hedy Tanenholtz, who co-chaired the Challah Bake in Howard County this year and last. “With the election turmoil so close to this, it is nice to come together and leave everything behind.”

Beth Millstein, president of the Jewish Federation of Howard County, thought the event’s vision of unifying the community did indeed come true.

“It is really nice to see Jewish women coming together so happily,” she said. “The election is on everyone’s minds, and having events that continue to reinforce and empower women is really important, especially in this day and age.”

— Daniel Nozick

View photos from the Great Challah Bake:
Challah Bake 2016

Community Havdalah Concert with Matisyahu

Matisyahu headlines the Baltimore Shabbat Project’s Havdalah concert on Nov. 12 at Rams Head Live! (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Matisyahu headlined the Baltimore Shabbat Project’s Havdalah concert on Nov. 12 at Rams Head Live! (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Matthew “Matisyahu” Miller is no stranger to what many in his circle and he refer to as a circuitous and singular “journey.”

But the revelation is something to truly behold, considering the last few years in the life of this 37-year-old New Yorker (by way of West Chester, Pa.), whose protean reggae/hip-hop/world music hits, infused with his Jewish heritage, include 2005’s “King Without a Crown” and 2009’s “One Day.”

Take Saturday’s late-night interview with the JT, immediately following his two-hour-plus concert at Rams Head Live! as part of the local Shabbat Project’s Havdalah concert.

Who else but the oft-contrarian Matisyahu — exhausted and bleary-eyed from his concert, all 6 feet, 4 inches of his Ichabod Crane body inches away from this reporter and sprawled out on the green room couch, signature trench coat and all — would suggest the interview be conducted while his band members and he watched the highly anticipated Dave Chappelle-hosted, post-election episode of “Saturday Night Live”?

“I’ve been coming to Baltimore for 10 years,” Matisyahu said while he affected a certain sleepiness, while noshing on some chocolate and asking for his coconut water.

“I’m in a particular place right now,” Matisyahu said about his rather roller-coaster, heuristic investigation of his Jewish identity and international, interdisciplinary search for his artistic and personal vision.

As far as the various controversies that have reared their heads throughout this digressive course toward such unfettered creative expression, Matisyahu said he “doesn’t really think about it too much; I’m keeping focus on the new record right now. We’re in the studio now making new songs.”

“For now,” he summed it all up, “the music is really the form I like to express myself.”

Lisa Bodziner, Havdalah concert co-chair, said, “We wanted to use this opportunity to bring in more people who don’t have Shabbat on their minds necessarily,” adding that her group sees such events — which also included a two-hour long DJ showcase, a participatory art installation next to the stage, a holiday card craft table and meet-and-greet with the singer himself — as a platform to more directly connect with community members who may not otherwise be as engaged.

Fervently believing that Matisyahu “represents plurality and diversity [which is what] the Shabbat Project’s all about,” Bodziner admitted that though the choice to bring in the at times controversial and provocative musician had resulted in some concern, “when we actually surveyed the 20s and 30s in the audience we were targeting, they said he was the only Jewish musician they would be interested in paying for.”

Considering Matisyahu’s stepping away from the more formal aspects of his religious convictions, there have been those in the Jewish community worldwide who have taken a similar step back from the artist himself.

“He’s not just a guy who grew peyos and can rap,” Bodziner rejoined. “He really is a talented artist.” She said people have questioned him for being on his own journey,“but this concert [wasn’t] just for the [Orthodox] Jewish community, and his character is still solid.”

“I believe that everybody is on a journey, and they should be able to express themselves as long as they’re respectful toward the Jewish community and Israel,” she said. “We do feel his music inspires people.”

One such person is 8-year-old Pikesville denizen Shelby Kirk, who with her parents and older brother, took part in the Matisyahu meet-and-greet before the show.

Kirk revealed it’s “the message” of his music that she so heartily finds endearing.

“He wants everyone to be free,” Kirk said about what she believes this message to ultimately be, adding that her friends are big fans of Matisyahu and that message as well.

“It was a powerful request to ask him to be a part of our Shabbat Project and to embrace who he is and where he’s coming from right now,” Bodziner said. “His voice and his honest approach to Judaism — his struggling with it — can be an inspiration to people who might be exploring similar things.”

— Mathew Klickstein

Trump Supporters at Goldberg’s Trouble Customers

A white pickup truck parked outside Goldberg’s stirred up emotions for customers. (Photos provided)

A white pickup truck parked outside Goldberg’s stirred up emotions for customers. (Photos provided)

Last week, ahead of the presidential election, Noah Bers was at Goldberg’s New York Bagels in Pikesville minding his own business and enjoying a meal when he started to feel a little uneasy about his surroundings.

Outside the establishment, a group of six people who were scattered around a white pickup truck decorated with several Donald Trump signs and signs of other Republican candidates gathered to express their support for the controversial GOP nominee.

Bers, a 33-year-old Baltimore resident, was caught off guard after a couple of the Trump enthusiasts, dressed in cardboard masks, made their way inside to voice their opinions in front of patrons.

“It was all really disconcerting,” Bers said, “because they were really aggressive with people. I watched a woman of color leave with her son, and I heard one of the Trump supporters say, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if nobody was on welfare,’ which is a very antagonizing thing to say to a  person of color.”

Stanley Drebin, owner of Goldberg’s, said he was unaware of anyone entering the store with Trump masks attempting to intimidate customers. If he had noticed anything like that, Drebin added, he would have told them to remove the headwear as soon as possible to avoid any potential confrontations.

“They were in the parking lot,” Drebin said. “They can do whatever they want there. When I saw them, they were outside the store.”

goldbergs2In 2016, the difficulty with mixing business and politics with figures as polarizing as Trump is that business owners run the risk of alienating customers.

So it should come as almost no surprise that within a day of the incident, on Oct. 31, longtime customers of Goldberg’s launched a boycott — at least they declared as much on Facebook.

“I used to make bagels that were really great. I’m also broke. I also don’t support Trump,” Nate Yielding wrote on Facebook in response to Bers’ post calling on other others to boycott Goldberg’s. “Maybe this is a good time to start again. What is a reasonable price to charge?”

At the time the masked people supposedly entered the shop, Drebin said he was “in the store, walking around the front, in [his] office in the back and many other places.”

Ruth Goetz, a Pikesville native and one of the six Trump supporters, said her  unplanned appearance at the shop was met with some resistance and even hostility. She was simply there to plead her case for Trump, urging Jewish voters to back the business mogul-turned-politician based on his strong pro-Israel stance, among other factors.

Goetz, who also sits on the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee, believes the majority of Jews voted for Trump in the general election despite some of the anti-Semitic rhetoric that has been associated with his campaign.

“We have seen a lot of positive feedback with the Republican ticket, especially Trump,” said Goetz, who campaigned in Pikesville on Nov. 6 with Mark Plaster, the Republican candidate for District 3’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. “I just wanted to let people know we were proud supporters of [Trump] and that we are completely behind him.”

For his part, Drebin, a Trump backer, said he has welcomed supporters of both Democratic and Republican candidates to his store in the past and will continue to do so.

In the future, however, Drebin hopes not to see as much hostility as he  witnessed this election season.

“There were lots of people who were screaming at [the Trump supporters], cursing them out,” Drebin said. “It wasn’t very nice to me, because they were doing nothing but showing their support.”

Still, some customers such as Bers are not convinced enough was done to maintain a peaceful environment.

Because of that, Bers is unsure if he will ever return to Goldberg’s even though he admits he is a strong proponent of supporting local businesses regardless of a store owner’s political ties.

“It’s tough,” Bers said, “but I don’t think I’m going to be going back [to Goldberg’s] myself. At the end of the day, my primary concern is people need to be able to go out and not feel threatened, especially in the Jewish community.”

jsilberman@midatlanticmedia.com

Election 2016 Coverage:

It’s Trump

Pugh, Cohen Carry Baltimore Vote

Community Kibbitz: At the Polls

At JCC and Krieger Schechter, Students Also Vote

Bnai Zion Brings Initiatives to Baltimore Daniel Nozick

From left: Brian Gibbons, Neil Meltzer and Guy Flynn were honored by Bnai Zion on Nov. 3. (Provided)

From left: Brian Gibbons, Neil Meltzer and Guy Flynn were honored by Bnai Zion on Nov. 3. (Provided)

The Bnai Zion Foundation, a national philanthropic organization that supports humanitarian projects in Israel and America, hosted its first event in Baltimore on Nov. 3 to honor three top local executives for their dedication to Israel and extensive philanthropic work.

Guy Flynn, a partner at DLA Piper; Brian J. Gibbons, chairman of the board and CEO of commercial developer Greenberg Gibbons; and Neil Meltzer, president and CEO of LifeBridge Health were honored for working closely with the Bnai Zion Foundation for several months to help raise funds for the organization’s recent project to benefit the Ahava Village for Children and Youth in Kiryat Bialik, Israel.

The organization, now in its second century, has completed hundreds of initiatives in Israel and in Jewish communities worldwide.

According to a Foundation news release, “Bnai Zion strongly supports the significant, enduring tie between America and Israel and is continuing its projects toward the advancement of the physical, mental and social well-being of the citizens of Israel.”

The Ahava Village for Children and Youth is an award-winning residential center for at-risk and abused children. Ahava, which means love in Hebrew, actually started as an orphanage in Germany. However, in 1938, a woman named Beate Berger realized what was happening in Germany and decided to bring all of the children from the orphanage to Israel, where she founded today’s Ahava Village.

“Ahava is a magical place that performs amazing transformations,” said Cheryl Bier, CEO of Bnai Zion. “Young children who the court has  removed from their homes due to abuse are left bereft of a healthy self-esteem and the ability to trust others. Ahava has programs to neutralize these experiences that shattered their sense of self.”

Examples of such programs are animal therapy, where interacting with and feeding animals teaches kids the joy of giving. Kids raise greenhouse vegetables to learn about building rather than tearing down. Various outlets through the arts allow these children to express themselves in healthy, creative manners.

Birth parents are brought in with supervised visits so they can interact with their children in a safe place, since many of these children are afraid of their parents. Complementary to these interactions, however, these children live family-style with “parents and siblings.”

Each foster care unit has 13 children plus the foster family. There are “chore boards” hung on the wall that say where each child is supposed to be and what they are meant to be doing. It is not only for the “parents” who are dealing with them, but also for social workers and teachers and whoever else interacts with the children day to day.

“We don’t want different people every day, we want consistency so that these kids can form relationships with these individuals,” said Bier. “They and their sibling eat and sleep together, have chores and participate in family discussions just like a real family would. The whole package transforms these dented kids into balanced, happy young adults who are once again whole and can function at their full potential.”

The funds raised by the three Baltimore honorees are slated to help fund the construction of a new on-site therapy center at the Village. According to Bier, “The new center will create an integrated therapeutic environment to help children work through the damaging effects of severe abuse and neglect. It will dramatically enhance the services that the children desperately require and allow all therapists and treatments to be easily  accessible under one roof.”

Bier explained that although children in Ahava undertake therapy currently, it is often in bomb shelters. She believes that a central, unified hub will help to make a positive impact in these children’s lives, even with small changes such as being in brightly colored rooms full of bright, natural light.

“Through my work at LifeBridge Health, I have been able to work in a field I am passionate about — providing top-notch health care for those in need,” says Neil Meltzer. “The Bnai Zion Foundation and the Ahava Village are two wonderful resources that help Israeli children gain access to life-changing services to improve their mental and physical health. The goals of LifeBridge and Ahava are closely connected, and I am proud to support their mission.”

Ahava is just one of the five initiatives that Bnai Zion is  involved with. There is also the Bnai Zion Medical Center, a 500-bed hospital and medical center that treats all individuals, regardless of race or religion. The Center’s windows overlook Syria and Lebanon. As a result, a rocket shell damaged the hospital during the wars in Lebanon in 2006. The current project aims to raise funds  toward completing an underground bunker for the hospital to ensure the safety of its residents in a time of crisis.

Another ongoing endeavor is building a center for a community of 40,000 senior citizens called Maale Adumim. The community, which houses more than 1,000 Holocaust survivors, has already had a cultural center, music conservatory and library installed by Bnai Zion. The next step is to build a senior center to help serve as a central gathering point for the community’s residents.

Other initiatives include the Quitman Center, which aids and houses developmentally disabled adults and individuals to help them better integrate into society, and the David Yellin College, a school funded by Bnai Zion that trains future educators on how to properly mentor people from a variety of castes ranging from early childhood to advanced age.

The Foundation is now reaching out to Baltimore and other communities to network, perform outreach and get people to learn more about the Bnai Zion Foundation and Israel.

“The only way to help Israel is to help people learn,” said Bier. “We are all about education — you educate first, and then, God willing, money will come in.”

dnozick@midatlanticmedia.com

Family Turns to JNF to Memorialize Loved One

Jonathan Gitelman with his wife, Amy, and children, Lucas and Hannah (Provided)

Jonathan Gitelman with his wife, Amy, and children, Lucas and Hannah (Provided)

One Baltimore man looking to memorialize his son, the  father of his grandchildren, found his answer in the Jewish National Fund.

Baltimorean Jonathan Gitelman passed away last winter at the age of 46. He fought a long and courageous battle against leukemia, undergoing three bone marrow transplants in 63 months. So many transplants is unprecedented, and the marrow was donated twice by his mother and once by his son, Lucas.

In memory of Jonathan, his father, Joseph, started a fund-raising campaign through JNF to help raise money to plant trees in Israel and get his son’s name inscribed on the organization’s Wall of Eternal Life at American Independence Park in the Judean Hills.

According to Eric Narrow, JNF campaign manager for Baltimore and Delaware, “the Wall of Eternal Life was started in 2007 to provide people around the world with an  opportunity to memorialize loved ones in Israel. Typically, when you contribute to a nonprofit, gifts aren’t honored. If you raise $1,800 or more,  however, JNF plants a 360-tree memorial garden in honor of a loved one in Israel.”

According to its website, “JNF has evolved into a global environmental leader by planting more than 250 million trees, building over 240 reservoirs and dams, developing over 250,000 acres of land, creating more than 2,000 parks, providing the infrastructure for over 1,000 communities and connecting thousands of children and young adults to Israel and their heritage.”

It is a common misconception that each tree planted by JNF has a plaque identifying the individual that the tree memorializes. Narrow explained that rather than having so many individual plaques, the Wall serves as a central location where all loved ones who have had trees planted in their memories are honored.

To contribute to the Wall of Eternal Life, JNF helps the family that wants to memorialize a member of their family set up a Web page to fundraise and help them to choose where the donated money will go.

“It is wonderful because people who visit will see other people from their area who have been memorialized there, and it will continue to inspire people to contribute and help Israel,” said Narrow.

“With JNF, we like to help people connect with projects in Israel to allow them to feel that they have made an impact. When Joseph told me his son had been a baseball fanatic, I directed him toward Project Baseball,” he continued.

Project Baseball is a fund promoting youth baseball in Israel, and the program brings Israeli and Arab kids together. The initiative was started in 2007 by a group of American expats in Israel. JNF saw the project as an opportunity to use sports to promote peace, to allow the children of Americans in Israel to connect with their parents and roots and to bring Israeli and Arab youths more fun and friendly competition.

“Project Baseball has been going around introducing baseball to Israeli children; the problem was that they didn’t really have fields,” said Gitelman. “Through this initiative, JNF is helping to buy fields and equipment, and also hosting clinics. They have a bunch of teams and a few stadiums. Jonathan got heavily involved in coaching my grandson’s youth leagues. He just loved baseball from the time that he was a little kid. My wife and I thought that this was really ideal — if you’re going memorialize someone, you try to promote something they had a passion for.”

The memorial fund for Jonathan Gitelman was only started two weeks ago, but it has already raised more than 80 percent of the $5,000 goal.

“There are a lot of people who knew Jonathan who are donating,” said Gitelman. “We intend to go to Israel to visit the wall and the place where he will be memorialized.  If we raise a lot of money, they will potentially name a whole ball field in his name, or a dugout.”

“The memorial page will  remain up online for two years. Then, depending on how much money is raised, hopefully there will be more memorials that we can visibly see,” he continued. “When you do these things, you don’t really know the response you’ll get, but so far the response has been resounding.”

dnozick@midatlanticmedia.com