Victory at Sea

An Israel Defense Forces captain serving on the vessel that intercepted an Iranian ship two weeks ago told a rapt audience at the Jewish Community Center in Rockville how the missiles, grenades and ammunition destined for Gaza were captured.

“This time, the intelligence was very, very accurate. We knew months before,” said the captain, who asked that his name not be used for security reasons. His speech was sponsored by the Washington and Baltimore chapters of the Friends of the IDF.

The Israeli navy found 40 missiles, each 16 feet long, deeply hidden in the Klos-C ship that was traveling under a Panamanian flag in international waters, said the young soldier, who turned 24 about two weeks after the capture.

The missiles, hidden beneath boxes in crates and covered with rice and sand, took more than an hour to find once members of the IDF boarded the ship. The crew and its Turkish captain were cooperative and completely unaware of the weapons they were transporting.

If those missiles, which have a range of about 125 miles, had not been intercepted, they would have been taken by land from Sudan to Egypt and then through tunnels into Gaza to be used against Israel, the captain explained. Also found on board were grenades and 400,000 bullets.

While it was crucial to keep these weapons away from terrorists, the captain told the audience of about 150 that it was also “diplomatically important, because now we can say Iran really is attached” to spreading terrorism throughout the region.

“Iran. Hezbollah. Hamas. They were acting like they were one organization,” the captain said, adding the rockets came from Syria to Iran.

Normally, his navy ship carries “60 to 70 people, tops, but on this operation, we were 92 people. People were sleeping everywhere,” he said. While not being specific, it was clear that the extra riders were IDF members who knew how to defuse bombs and others who would know what to do if the Klos-C ship’s crew had resisted.

It was the job of the navy ship’s crew, of which this captain was second in command, to track the vessel and follow it closely enough to learn if there were terrorists on board.

After several days observing, the captain’s ship as well as another vessel got “very close to them. We tried to scare them.” They next called to the ship from their radio.

“The minute they saw us they said, ‘OK, you can come aboard,’’’ recalled the captain, adding that their crew dropped a ladder for the Israelis.

While the Israelis searched the ship, its crew was kept together in one room. Once the weapons were found, the vessel was taken to Eilat, where the weapons were unloaded and studied, he said.

The return to Israel was dangerous, because the crew was concerned that terrorists might be hiding along the shoreline, ready to attack, he said.

When they made it back safely, the crew members were greeted by “thousands of people waiting for us, cheering, clapping their hands.”

Those in attendance at the JCC did likewise. “He is a true, true war hero,” said Philip Berry of Potomac, regional executive director for the Midatlantic Region of the Friends of the IDF. That chapter helps to support the well being of the men and women in the Israeli navy, donating $1.5 million over a three-year period.

Shelly Lohmannn, director of dev-elopment in the Baltimore office of the Midatlantic FIDF, called it “a gift” to be able to hear the captain’s story in person.

Eugene Meyer of Pikesville said the story made him very proud and propelled him back to the days, many years ago, when he was a member of the Israeli Air Force. He felt the captain was at times too modest, making it sound like all he did was drive a boat. “They weren’t there to take a cruise,” said Meyer.

Lawrence Kravitz of Rockville, whose grandson serves in the Israeli army, called the speech “excellent.”

“He said what he could,” noted Kravitz. “He didn’t say what he shouldn’t.”

After listening to the captain, Peter Huessy said it was even more evident just how isolated Israel is in the world. Thanks to a peace treaty with Egypt, Israel was able to sail through the Suez Canal on this mission, but that could change at any time with the current situation in Egypt, said Huessy, president of GeoStrategic Analysis.

Dressing the Part

Photos by David Stuck

Lions, tigers, ninjas, super heroes and crayons are just some of the characters that will be wandering the streets in celebration of Purim in a couple days.

“I’m very into themes,” said Rachel Lasson, who attended Ner Tamid’s Pre-Purim Carnival last weekend. She picks a theme each year for dressing up her family. Last year’s theme was “The Cat in the Hat.” This year’s theme is “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” and each of her children, Mali, Layla and Eitan, attended the carnival dressed as a different animal.

(Within the first hour of the party, the mane was off the lion, and the tiger had swapped her fur for leggings and a tunic.)

With activities such as bounce houses, potato sack races and obstacle courses set up all over the building on March 9, there was no shortage of fun for the young bears, kings and knights, who were escorted by their parents and grandparents. The same could be said for the Jewish Federation of Howard County’s Purim Palooza Carnival at Reservoir High School in Fulton, where hundreds of attendees — bedecked in fairy outfits, action hero get-ups and the ubiquitous animal costumes — made the event the federation’s largest of the year.

Community Purim events this coming weekend — the holiday, which commemorates the Jewish victory over a Persian decree thousands of years ago, begins Saturday night — will likewise feature costumed children of all ages, but Jewish tradition maintains that there’s actually a method to the madness. The fun and revelry, specifically of the costumed kind, emphasizes Purim’s key themes, even though you won’t find a commandment to wear costumes anywhere in the Scroll of Esther’s telling of the Purim story, explained Rabbi Elchonon Lisbon, director of Chabad of Park Heights.

“It’s consistent with the theme of the holiday,” said Lisbon, “which is the miraculous transformation of a day that could have meant utter tragedy and destruction to one of the most holy days on the Jewish calendar.”

Costumes allow people to present themselves as things they’re not in celebration of that transformation. In addition, said Lisbon, a major theme of the holiday is revealing that which had been earlier concealed: Mordechai, one of King Achashverosh’s advisers, told Queen Esther to hide her Jewish identity, but when the king offered Esther whatever she wanted, she revealed her identity to stop Haman’s plot to exterminate her people.

At the end of the story, Haman was hung from the very same gallows he built for Mordechai. So on Purim, every- thing is upside down or transformed, said Lisbon.

But the miracle of Purim is also celebrated by the specific mitzvahs outlined in the Scroll of Esther: giving gifts, known as shelach manot, to acquaintances, charity to the poor, publicly reading the scroll and enjoying a feast.

In the 16th century, the nature of the celebration began morphing into its modern costumed version, according to Rabbi Barry Freundel, a professor of Jewish studies at Towson University. Jews escaped German persecution by fleeing to Italy, namely the Padua region, where they were
introduced to Italian street fairs.

“Jews, for Purim, started doing their street festivals the same way as the Paduans did,” explained Freundel. “They dressed up in costumes.”

When one pious man asked his rabbi about whether or not their actions were violating Jewish law, the rabbi responded that Purim is a holy day and exceptions can be made, but the community could reassess the previous year’s festivities each year before Purim to make sure things didn’t get out of hand.

“Shortly thereafter there were all kinds of letters challenging this ruling, not having this ruling; it didn’t matter. It got into the culture, and forevermore the Paduan street festival makes its way into synagogues around Purim,” said Freundel.

The free choice of costumes, he said, is a direct effect of the street festivals and the sense of freedom to dress as you please.

Photos by Noam Lewis

Fallon Saposnik and her husband will be dressing up as characters from “Charlie and The Chocolate Factory” for their first Purim as a married couple.

“Being festive and happy is such a big part of the holiday,” she said. “Not only should you bring joy to yourself, but you should bring joy to those around you.”

She expects friends to get a kick out of her husband dressed as an Oompa Loompa, and her costume of Violet Beauregarde — the girl who turns into a blueberry — as a blueberry.

Their shelach manot runs with the Wonka theme and features blueberry muffins that Saponsnik made, Wonka’s Laffy Taffy, golden eggs and labels that look like golden tickets.

She’ll be going around Pikesville with a friend delivering the shelach manot, and she and her husband will also send them to family out of state and to her brother in Israel.

For larger families, the costumes can become a central part of the Purim celebration in which families make their own costumes and cover a lot of characters from the theme of their choice.

At Ner Tamid last weekend, for instance, Gladys Ricklis, a preschool teacher who attended with her grandchildren, decided to join in the fun and make herself a spider-web costume out of black felt and yarn by using a glue gun. Granddaughter Addie Shar came as a dog, complete with a black nose and whiskers.

Getting Addie into a costume isn’t a problem, said Ricklis. “She likes to dress up at home too.”

Rachel Turniansky, her husband and their five children are dressing as “Toy Story” characters. She’ll be Little Bo Peep; her husband will be
Emperor Zurg; her four sons will be Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Hamm the piggy bank and Mr. Potato Head; and her daughter will be Jessie.

“It’s such a fun holiday, and we really like to get into the spirit of things,” said Turniansky. “I think they like being creative and being able to let loose in this manner.”

All of the family’s costumes are homemade or purchased at thrift stores. Turniansky does a lot of crafts at home, and using scraps and other materials, she sews the costumes together. She gets hats, dresses and other accessories at thrift stores. This year, she used duct tape in the Emperor Zurg costume and fake leather for Woody’s boots.

At least one area woman acquired so many different costumes over the years that she now operates her own Purim gemach, a costume rental service.

“The first year my husband and I were married, he looked me in the eye and said, ‘You’re not dressing up. We’re dressing up,’ ” said Tzilah Raczkowski. “I think he regrets it.”

For the second year, she’s running the Keren Reva Costume Gemach out of her house. She estimates that her collection has about 500 costumes, more than 300 of which have been rented for this year.

“I saw there was a need in the community,” she said. After about a decade of loaning costumes to friends and friends of friends, she started running the Purim gemach out of her house and established hours open to the public. She spread the word through email, social media, synagogue bulletins, Facebook and word-of-mouth, she said.

The collection first got started with her family’s own costumes. Since they always did themes and never repeated costumes, the collection began to build up over the years. Raczkowski, a bargain shopper, finds costumes on eBay, looks for sales and even buys costumes through wholesalers.

Costumes cost $3 to rent, and while other cause-specific gemachs typically give proceeds to charity, she uses the money to acquire more costumes for the organization.

The most popular costumes, said Raczkowski, are firemen and policemen for boys and princess costumes for the girls. “Sesame Street” costumes, as well as Thing 1 and Thing 2 shirts — from Dr. Seuss’ “The Cat in the Hat” — are popular this year, too.

While he’s not sure when costumes came into the picture, Lisbon welcomes the festivities.

“I think, for kids, it’s a fun thing. I think it’s a good way to get them to understand and appreciate the holiday,” he said. “As we adults get older, we internalize the message too.”

Promoting Aliyah

Photos by David Stuck

Nefesh B’Nefesh, the non-profit organization that promotes aliyah from North America and the United Kingdom, brought its Israeli immigration message to Baltimore this month, joining with the Jewish Agency for Israel, the Jewish National Fund and the Israeli Ministry of Immigrant Absorption to host an aliyah fair at the Doubletree Pikesville on Reisterstown Road.

The March 5 event featured breakout sessions on navigating Israel’s bureaucracy, presentations from real estate developers and agents and the chance to speak with JAFI representatives on how to immigrate to the Jewish state.

According to Nefesh B’Nefesh, the organization has assisted moer than 38,000 olim since its inception in 2002. More than 50,000 North American and British Jews have attended its pre-aliyah informational seminars, said the organization.

The Baltimore meeting came as part of a weeklong series of events in other cities, including Toronto, Montreal, Chicago and Los Angeles.

— Photos by David Stuck

Saltzman Joins Equal Justice Board

031414_business-briefsOren D. Saltzman, managing member of Adelberg, Rudow, Dorf & Hendler, LLC (ARD&H), has been appointed to the board of trustees of the Equal Justice Council.

Named the 2012 Maryland Attorney Advocate of the Year by the Baltimore district of the Small Business Administration, Saltzman concentrates his practice in the areas of business, commercial and corporate law, taxation, mergers and acquisitions, banking, estate planning and administration, bankruptcy and guardianship.

Working from both ARD&H’s Howard County and Baltimore offices, the 29-year industry veteran frequently presents seminars on business formation choices.

FutureCare Awarded for Low Readmission

FutureCare Health and Management, Maryland’s premier skilled nursing and rehabilitation provider, has announced that four of its facilities have received the Providigm Embracing Quality Award for having a low rate of readmission to hospitals.

FutureCare Irvington, FutureCare North Point, FutureCare Old Court and FutureCare Pineview received the awards during AHCA/NCAL’s annual Quality Symposium in New Orleans in February.

Providigm is a quality management system used by long-term care facilities to track and improve the quality of care and life of their residents. In order to be eligible for the honor, facilities must have achieved quality assurance and performance improvement accreditation from Providigm. The skilled nursing centers to receive this award are regarded as top-performing long-term care facilities in the United States and Canada.

Who Should Pay?

Testimony both for and against was heard in Annapolis Monday on a bill that would prohibit a firm from winning a contract to build the Purple Line unless its parent company pays reparations to those it transported to Nazi death camps during World War II.

Members of the Ways and Means Committee of the House of Delegates met for two hours listening to vivid accounts from people whose parents had been forced onto trains owned by the French rail company Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Francais (SNCF) and taken to their death in cattle cars.

Also testifying was a representative from the state Department of Transportation who expressed concern that the proposed bill could jeopardize federal funds needed for construction of the Purple Line.

But officials from SNCF testified that they were forced by the Germans to run the trains, and it is the responsibility of the French government to pay reparations, not their company.

A Senate committee was to meet Wednesday on the matter, but it postponed its hearing by one day because of the funeral of Pikesville resident Leo Bretholz, a Holocaust survivor who escaped from an SNCF train. Bretholz, who had planned to testify at the hearings, died March 8 at the age of 93.

Keolis America, a U.S. affiliate of SNCF, is part of Maryland Purple Line Partners, which hopes to be awarded the 35-year, $6 billion contract to operate the proposed 16-mile transit line between New Carrollton and Bethesda. There are four teams bidding for the job.

Martin Goldman, a member of the Jewish Community Relations Council’s Holocaust Commission, testified in support of requiring reparations to survivors and their families, noting, “It took 68 years for SNCF just to apologize for its role in the deportation of 76,000 innocent victims. But SNCF has never paid any reparations to the victims it wronged and has never fully disclosed the role it played in these horrific events.

“SNCF was responsible for providing the employees, trains and logistics necessary, and received compensation for the deportations,” he added. “The train cars were packed as tightly as possible, with no food or water, and no sanitary facilities.”

SNCF officials have been on a public relations mission of late to clear the company’s name.

Alain Leray, president of the company, told the Washington Jewish Week that the company was placed under the command of the Nazi army, and its employees were threatened with execution if they resisted.

Leray said there was “a campaign of misrepresentations [and] inaccuracies” being spread about SNCF’s role during World War II.

While some historians state SNCF was paid per person per kilometer to transport Jews, Leray said, “We didn’t get paid.”

Del. Kirill Reznik (D-District 39), the bill’s sponsor, disagreed. “They have a different perspective on the facts,” he said. “We have the documents we have. It’s been verified by numerous historians.”

“All we are asking is they pay reparations,” he said, noting that SNCF has paid money to survivors in France. “They just don’t want to pay Americans.”

Peace Possible?

Photos by David Stuck

Lior Witow and his fellow students didn’t waste any time as they got right to the heart of the matter in their discussion with Mamoun and Efaf Asady.

“Will peace come?” the eighth-grader asked the Israeli Arab couple, who were visiting Baltimore last week for a lunchtime session at Krieger Schechter Day School.

“Sure, there can be peace, but there must be two sides [involved in decision making], not one,” replied Mamoun Asady. “The Israeli Arab minority likes peace more than any other minority. If tension or war happens, we suffer. But if there is ease, we’re happy, twice as happy because it influences our lives.”

The Asadys, who live in the Galilean village of Deir al-Asad, came to the United States as part of an educational program that introduces them to Jewish day school students and promotes better communication, understanding and, ultimately, peace between Arabs and Israelis.

The Krieger Schechter students came prepared with questions about life in Deir al-Asad, and Asady responded to each question with thoughtful consideration. Middle school director Shelley Hendler said she was gratified by the students’ contributions.

“It’s unbelievable. I didn’t touch any of these questions,” she said. “This was totally organic.”

Asady told the students that he is a strong supporter of Israel but stressed he is against the occupation of territories he considers as belonging to a future Palestinian state.

“I consider myself an Israeli Arab,” he said. “It doesn’t bother me to call Israel a Jewish state. What I want is a democracy and to be treated like a human being. I want Arabs to be treated with respect and have equal access to good services, schools and living conditions.”

Though he is in favor of a two-state solution, Asady said he does not plan to move out of his village to go to a Palestinian state.

“I was born there and have had roots there for 500 years,” said Asady. “I have no other place. I have my country, land and ancestors. I breathe the air and drink the water. I feel part of the land.”

He wanted students to understand the importance of communication in setting the groundwork for peace.

“Language is the key to the heart,” he said. “Even just saying good morning to someone [in his or her native language] means so much.”

In addition to the luncheon and question-and-answer session, the week’s activities included art, dance, cooking and storytelling with the Asadys. This was the second year the Asadys came to Baltimore, and this time they also met with students at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, Charles E. Smith Day School in Rockville, Community Day School in Pittsburgh and Kellman Brown Academy in Voorhees, N.J.

The program came about from a chance meeting between Dr. Desmond Kaplan, a Baltimore psychiatrist and parent of two KSDS alumni, and Mamoun Asady, a retired Hebrew and Arabic teacher. While visiting Israel three years ago, Kaplan, a native of South Africa who lived in Israel for 15 years prior to moving to Baltimore, decided he wanted to learn Arabic.

“I felt that people weren’t speaking each other’s languages, and that was a problem,” he said.

Kaplan was referred to Asady, who agreed to teach him to speak as much Arabic as possible over the course of the educator’s two-week visit in Israel. In the brief time the men spent together, they formed a strong friendship, and when Kaplan agreed to fly standby to Baltimore in exchange for a free ticket back to Israel, he decided to give the ticket to Asady so he and his wife could come to the U.S.

When the Asadys arrived in Baltimore the first time, Kaplan showed them the sights and brought them to KSDS to speak with the children.

“When the kids met Mamoun, it was electric,” recalled Kaplan. “It was like meeting the enemy and seeing he wasn’t bad.”

The visit last year proved so valuable that when KSDS eighth-graders took their annual trip to Israel, a special stop was made in Deir al-Asad to visit the couple. Kaplan was determined to bring the Asadys back to Baltimore again this year.

Though Kaplan and his fiancee, Jill Seidman, were happy to host the couple in Baltimore, there were other expenses to consider. With help from Paul Schneider, the former headmaster of KSDS, Kaplan was led to Janet Berg and Everett Siegel, founders of the Sparks of Change Foundation, which honors their son, Daniel, a KSDS alum who passed away from brain cancer in 2010 when he was just 21.

“We met with them, and on the spot we had the money,” said Kaplan.

When she heard about the project, Berg knew it made sense for the foundation.

“Everything just came together,” she said. “When Daniel was 4 years old and we would ask him what he wanted to do when he grew up, he would say, ‘I want to be a changer, someone who makes a difference.’ ”

Making the situation even more fortuitous was that Jenna Weinberg, a close friend of Daniel from Beth Tfiloh who was on a year-long Dorot Fellowship in Israel, wanted to be involved.

When she was introduced to the Asadys, Weinberg also formed a tight bond with the couple. In fact, Asady refers to Weinberg as “my third daughter.”

“The focus of my fellowship was learning about Israeli Arabs,” said Weinberg. “The Siegels connected me with Paul Schneider and KSDS so that we could expand and strengthen the project.”

This semester, twice a week, Weinberg, 25, takes a three-hour trip from her residence in Jaffa to Deir al-Asad, where she runs an English club for 20 Arab Israeli eighth-graders. The plan is to connect those students with the KSDS students when they visit the village later this spring.

“When I look back at my Jewish upbringing and education and the values of social justice with which I was raised, I never learned anything about the Israeli Arabs and the inequalities they face,” said Weinberg. “I’ve been on many trips to Israel, but I never before saw Israel through the lens of the Israeli Arabs.”

At the end of last week’s Baltimore luncheon, a KSDS teacher asked her students, “What will you tell your parents about the visit from the Asadys?”

“I would say this was a great experience,” answered Jessica Cahn. “Regardless of what happens with politics, people-to-people [communication] is good; it’s healthy.”

Jessica’s twin sister, Sarah, agreed.

“I feel like we got a lot of both sides,” she said. “I’m interested in hearing both sides.”

Leo Bretholz, 93

031414_bretholtzLeo Bretholz, a Pikesville resident who as a child escaped from a train that was transporting him to a Nazi death camp, died March 8, two days after his 93rd birthday and one day before he was to testify in favor of reparations for those who were forced to ride those trains during World War II.

Bretholz died peacefully in his sleep, according to his daughter, Edie Norton. “His death seemed to have been much kinder than his life,” she said.

Bretholz was to testify Monday before the Maryland House of Delegate’s Ways and Means Committee during its consideration of legislation that would prevent companies from winning tax-funded rail projects until they were held accountable for any Holocaust liability and paid reparations to those who were forced onto cattle cars like the ones Bretholz rode. Bretholz had become the face and voice of the Coalition for Holocaust Rail Justice.

He was a young boy on a deportation train in 1942 when he and another boy began working to weaken the bars that covered the train’s windows. Many on the train begged them to stop for fear that they would all be punished, but one rider urged them on, telling them to get free and then tell the world what was happening. Bretholz related this story numerous times, whether it was during testimony to legislators, before young students or in his book, “Leap Into Darkness: Seven Years on the Run in Wartime Europe.”

“To know Leo was to love him and respect him, and our work to ensure justice for him and the thousands of other SNCF victims will continue in his memory,” the Ad Hoc Coalition for Holocaust Rail Justice announced in a statement, referring to the French company whose subsidiary is in the running to develop Maryland’s Purple Line transportation project.

Bretholz’s daughter recalled her life with her father, noting, “It’s hard to say everything he meant to us, but he probably taught us that anger and bitterness isn’t useful.”

Her father spoke often about his experiences during the Holocaust, which he hoped would make sure it never happened again, Norton said. He spoke to groups of all ages and on Capitol Hill.

“I remember the first time he spoke with an elementary school group; that was rare, and we wondered if he would know how to do that,” recalled his daughter. “But he was fine. He was the kind of person who consoled other people if they were upset by what he told them.”

Around 1962, Bretholz finally learned that his mother and sisters had died in a concentration camp. After that, “he really started speaking a lot,” said his daughter. “And when he wrote his book in 1998, that was really cathartic.”

Norton recalled that “he and my mom brought us up in a home free of bigotry. I think we were more sensitive to people than we would have been had he not gone through what he did. There was never a question about how you treat people. He always treated people nicely.”

Her father was more than a survivor, said Norton. “He was funny, kind and sweet.”

Erika Schon, chairwoman of the Holocaust Remembrance Commission at the Baltimore Jewish Council, recalled Bretholz as “a man of remarkable courage and principle. As he retold his painful story of survival to thousands of listeners throughout his life, he never faltered in his pursuit of justice. Despite the horrors he experienced, Leo chose to live a life filled with tremendous love, joy and purpose and was a blessing to all who knew him.”

Jeanette Parmigiani, director of Holocaust Programs at the BJC, called Bretholz “a gentle, loving man with a twinkle in his eye. He endured separation from and loss of his family as a teenager and struggled to hide and escape from the Nazis for seven years. Like so many other Holocaust survivors, Leo worked tirelessly during his ‘retirement’ years, speaking to and inspiring thousands of students with his experiences during the Holocaust, teaching all about hope and endurance and love.”

She noted that Bretholz continued speaking out about the horrors of the Holocaust until 10 days before his death.

Deborah Cardin, assistant director of the Jewish Museum of Maryland, observed Bretholz speaking about his experiences many times.

“His ability to connect with individuals of diverse backgrounds was extraordinary and contributed immeasurably to the impact of our Holocaust educational programs,” she said.

Rita Plaut, a Jewish educator at Krieger Schechter Day School, called Bretholz “a man of fortitude. Leo lived his life both as a survivor who understood the importance of telling his story over and over, but who also was a family and community man, who loved life and especially adored being together with his wife, Flo. Leo knew how to form immediate friendships with anyone he met, and his joie de vivre and his youthful vigor won him instant popularity.”

Bretholz never forgot his early years in Vienna and “felt deeply for his mother, whose foresight and determination resulted in his leaving his family, and thus saving his own life,” said Plaut.

Leo Bretholz is survived by three children and four grandchildren.,

House of Delegates Approves $10.10

(Photo David Stuck)

(Photo David Stuck)

Maryland’s House of Delegates voted on March 7 to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2017. The bill passed, 89 to 46.

The move to increase the minimum hourly salary from $7.25 to $10.10 has been a key theme in Gov. Martin O’Malley’s final year in office and has been steadily gaining popularity in the state. An October 2013 poll by Goucher College showed 74 percent of Marylanders supported raising the wage to $10 per hour, while only 24 percent opposed it.

The issue gained more momentum in January when President Barack Obama announced in his State of the Union address that he would sign an executive order increasing the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10, a figure consistent with the 1960s’ minimum wage adjusted for inflation.

“Raising the minimum wage makes good business sense: When workers have more money, businesses have more customers, growing our economy in a way that works,” O’Malley said in a statement March 7. “Twenty-one other states and the District of Columbia have a minimum wage higher than Maryland. As one of the top states for upward economic mobility, it’s time to give Maryland workers a raise.”

The Baltimore Jewish Council announced its support for raising the wage for the state’s lowest-paid workers in October, when it released a policy statement advocating for a wage that would enable workers to “earn over the federal poverty line.”

“We’re pleased with [passage of the] the legislation we support,” said Arthur Abramson, the BJC’s executive director. “We applaud the legislature, and we applaud the governor.”

Next, the bill moves to the Senate, where it awaits consideration by the Finance Committee.

Baltimore Man Escapes Possible Carjacking

A Baltimore man in the northern Park Heights area evaded three men who may have been trying to steal his car on the night of Wednesday, March 5.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Thav said he was in his car, parked in the driveway at his home in the 3700 block of Glen Avenue, when three men — two on the driver’s side and one of the passenger’s side — surrounded his vehicle.

When the men told him to open the car and he refused, one of the men on the driver’s side began banging on the car with a metal object that Thav believes was a gun.

“I haven’t heard a bang like that to put the fear of the lord in me,” he said.

Thav drove away and called 911, and the men did not follow him. Police met him at his house to take a report shortly after.

Baltimore City Police Department spokesman Sgt. Jarron Jackson said police filed a report for an armed person so that officers responding to the scene would know that the suspects were possibly armed. Officers who canvassed the area did not find any suspects, he said. Thav was unable to confidently confirm if one of the men brandished a gun.

“You should definitely see more patrols in the area,” said Jackson. “We’ve let all the officers in the area know.”

Thav said a similar occurrence happened to his wife about a year ago when she was driving on Menlo Avenue around the corner from their home. Men banged on her car door to get in and followed her when she drove off, but they fled when she called police, said Thav.