Community Kibbitz: At the Polls

With such a fractious election season, one consensus the American public can agree upon is that at last, it’s over.

The JT stopped by area polling stations on Election Day in order to survey how locals cast their ballot and what issues were important to them. Here’s what they had to say:

North Oaks Retirement Community

Ira Askin referred to this being a “disappointing election” and that, as he put it bluntly, “anyone who votes for Trump doesn’t know what America’s all about. So I didn’t vote for Trump.”

The stalwart Askin revealed he has always voted against the candidate he dislikes in favor of voting for the one he aligns with more closely in every election since he was 18.

“This one,” he said, “was a no-brainer.”

Brett Cohn (Photo by Mathew Klickstein)

Brent Cohn (Photo by Mathew Klickstein)

Brent Cohn, also a Pikesville resident, emerged from the same polling station minutes later with a diametrically opposed opinion.

Though he agreed with Kleiman and Askin that “it was very important to vote today,” his take on the “circus” we’ve been witnessing couldn’t have been more dissimilar: “I voted for Donald Trump because I’m looking for change. Change is needed, and we need to rebuild our military, control our borders, make sure the health care system is solvent and that Social Security is solvent.”

While Cohn made it clear he’s not necessarily scared for himself, he fears for his children and grandchildren who he worries will be left without said changes, particularly in what tends to be a blue state.

“But it is what it is,” he said, resigned.

Pikesville High School

“I don’t like Hillary Clinton, but Trump’s a fascist and I don’t vote for fascists,” said Pikesville’s Fred Karlup. “I’m an Orthodox Jew and I don’t see how an Orthodox Jew can vote for a man like Trump.”

Cross Country Elementary School

Ruth Goetz (Photo by Mathew Klickstein)

Ruth Goetz (Photo by Mathew Klickstein)

Dressed as Clinton — blonde wig and all — Pikesville resident Ruth Goetz stood outside the CCE polling station recounting her own “frightening” experiences as a dedicated Trump supporter who claimed to have been harangued and bullied by “abusive liberals.”

“They feel like they have the right to call me names,” Goetz said. “There’s no civil discourse.”

Northwestern High School

Natalie Shoshan, who resides in Mount Washington, did not disclose who she voted for in any of the races in part because of the divisiveness she said she has noticed throughout the election process.

Shoshan, who immigrated to the United States from the Ukraine 20 years ago, sided with her presidential choice on a number of topics that have become hot-button issues such as the Affordable Care Act, the Second Amendment and national and homeland security.

“As far as health care initiatives, as far as the right to bear arms, as far as anything foreign or domestic, I liked where my candidate stood on all those things,” said Shoshan.

Glyndon Elementary School

Ryan Kivitz, an Owings Mills native and registered independent, said he voted for Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson because he thought Johnson could best unite the country.

“With the [presidential] election becoming more of a back-and-forth show between the [two major-party candidates], I feel people have lost faith in what we are looking for in a commander-in-chief,” Kivitz said.

Fallstaff Elementary/Middle School

In the race to replace retiring Baltimore City Council District 5 councilwoman Rochelle “Rikki” Spector, the council’s self-described dean, Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer, was out at the polls in full force with his family.

His sister-in-law, Amanda Schuster, was stationed in front of Fallstaff Elementary/Middle School, passing out fliers with all the candidates’ names on the Democratic ticket to voters as they made their way into the building.

Schuster wanted to reassure voters of Schleifer’s credentials compared with write-in candidate Derrick Lennon, who Schleifer defeated in a hard-fought primary in April.

“If I didn’t believe him or agree with him, I wouldn’t be standing here supporting him,” Schuster said. “He really takes the time to listen to everyone, and he truly wants to do what is best for the community and cares about meeting everyone’s needs.”

mklickstein@midatlanticmedia.com

jsilberman@midatlanticmedia.com

Election 2016 Coverage:

It’s Trump

Pugh, Cohen Carry Baltimore Vote

At JCC and Krieger Schechter, Students Also Vote

Trump Supporters at Goldberg’s Trouble Customers

Summit Park Celebrates 50 Years

Summit Park Elementary (Photos provided)

Summit Park Elementary (Photos provided)

Summit Park Elementary School students, faculty and alumni will celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary this week.

Thursday, Nov. 10 featured an anniversary event for students, who reflected on how school life has changed over the past five decades and talked about the future of both the school and community. Each grade decorated sections of the school’s hallways to reflect a specific decade.  Additionally, vocal music teacher Jennifer Skidmore led students in a musical performance covering songs from the 1960s to the modern day.

summitpark3An event for alumni and current and former staff will take place on Sunday, Nov. 13 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Current  students will rehash their choral performance, and a reception will include memories and pictures from the school’s history. Planning for the event started in the spring, and former students are traveling from all over the country to attend the celebration.

The school has changed drastically since it opened in 1966. “It was a very small school when we were there,” said Emily Goren, who attended Summit Park from 1966 through 1970. “There were two classes for each grade, with maybe 16 children in each class. To this day there is a special bond with all of us who went to Summit Park, and we still keep in touch with each other.”

Marc Komins, who began first grade at Summit Park in 1966, said, “Without a doubt, what I treasure most about Summit Park are the lifelong friends that I still have. Even though it has been 50 years since my class’s graduation, there are about 20 classmates that I still speak with on a weekly basis.”

Summit Park is like a big family — many staff and alumni have relatives who also attend the school, and the school’s community of alumni and families are tightly knit.

summitpark2“My favorite memories have been watching the kids grow from kindergarten through fifth grade and then when they return from high school to visit,” said Betsy Goldstein, a fourth-grade teacher who has been at Summit Park since 2003. “Summit Park is a true neighborhood school with involved families.”

Goldstein’s twins also attended the school. “Some of my favorite years were when my own kids attended Summit Park,” she said. “I loved that my school ‘family’ got to know my children. They were so fortunate to have the best teachers, which I already knew because I worked with them every day!”

Komins’ two oldest children also  attended Summit Park, and even his daughter is working at the school this year. “Summit Park has been a big part of my life throughout the years,” he said.

“We have all shared many happy occasions together,” Komins added. “Weddings and the births of our children and even grandchildren. And on the flip side, we have always supported each other through tough times such as family illnesses and even funerals. One thing is for sure, we have always been there for each other, and for that I will be forever grateful.”

For more information or to RSVP for  the Nov. 13 reunion event, contact  spes50thcelebration@gmail.com.

dnozick@midatlanticmedia.com

You Should Know … Joshua Greenfeld

(Provided)

(Provided)

Advocating for policies that advance shared U.S. and Israeli interests in the Baltimore Jewish community is an initiative that Joshua Greenfeld has always found appealing.

As co-chair and vice president of the J Street Baltimore chapter, Greenfeld, a 29-year-old Pikesville native, works with local congressional delegates to educate them on the importance of achieving a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He also sits on the Baltimore Jewish Council’s board, representing J Street at various meetings and events, and J Street’s regional advisory committee.

When Greenfeld is not pushing to advance relations between the U.S. and Israel, he serves as vice president of government affairs for the Maryland Building Industry Association. In that role, his full-time job, Greenfeld helps represent homebuilders in Anne Arundel, Carroll, Cecil, Harford, Howard and Baltimore counties and Baltimore City.

A University of Maryland, College Park and University of Baltimore School of Law graduate, Greenfeld harbors dreams of running for public office  to transform the lives of local residents for the better.

What are your day-to-day  responsibilities?

My day jobs takes me all over the state. I meet with the representatives of various counties — as well as representatives from the business community — to understand the challenges and opportunities of creating growth in the Baltimore area. I spend a lot of time looking at legislation that would impact the business community, particularly the homebuilding community. I also spend a lot of time  in different [Baltimore] city and county council meetings testifying on legislation.

I’m very involved in the community, serving on the J Street [Baltimore] board, and I am also very active in my neighborhood association [Greater Remington Improvement Association]. I’m also the policy  director of and board member of the Baltimore Student Harm Reduction Coalition, which is focused on education, direct service and advocacy in the field of public health-harm  reduction.

What led to your involvement with J Street?

Growing up, my family was very involved in Israel. My great-uncle, David, moved to Israel about 50 years ago, and he was followed about 10 years later by my aunt, Margery. I grew up with a left-of-center position on Israel, where peace was not just an option, but  imperative. There is no other alternative, and so when J Street came into existence [in 2008], it was like a breath of fresh air.

The traditional organizations advocating on the issues regarding Israel were no longer representing my opinions. I think the opinions of the majority of Jews, who wanted to see an  active role for the United States government in a negotiated two-state solution, were happy when J Street started. I wasn’t active in the first few years of  J Street, but I started to get  involved a couple years later trying to build on the [Baltimore Jewish] community, particularly for younger folks in the city.

How has J Street impacted your life?

When we advocate for things such as the Iran nuclear deal or when conflicts flare up in Israel, it’s really personal to me. I know the lives and the futures of my family are at stake, and I know that there is no other way to keep them safe than to eventually have peace in the region. So as long as we need to, I will do my best to advocate for [J Street] to create the State of Israel that we want and deserve and that is in the best interest of all  Israelis, Palestinians and Jews.

What are your long-term goals?

I have a wonderful job in which I get to interact with  political leaders, business leaders and community members to try and bring much-needed economic growth to Baltimore City and the surrounding areas. I feel very strongly about the work I do, because it’s important work. Going forward, I would like to be very I involved in trying to support growth and prosperity in Baltimore, particularly the city, in whatever role I can.

I am considering running for Baltimore City Council in the future and would consider running in the 14th District if Mary Pat Clarke were to retire in four years. I would love to help my neighbors and my community be safer and create better, walkable transit-friendly neighborhoods to support all our residents. But we’ll see what the future holds.

jsilberman@midatlanticmedia.com

A Rockin’ Jew Brew Inside Baltimore’s new coffee shop/record store

David Koslowski and Shirlé Hale-Koslowski (Photos by David Stuck)

David Koslowski and Shirlé Hale-Koslowski (Photos by David Stuck)

Forty-nine-year-old Baltimorean David Koslowski’s wife Shirlé Hale-Koslowski wasn’t the least bit surprised when, two years ago, the couple discovered that Koslowski is Jewish.

“When we found out,” Hale-Koslowski confided in the JT with a large, cherry-lipped smirk, “I said, ‘It makes sense, because all my other boyfriends were Jewish!’”

Koslowski and his wife have been married for the past 16 years, having met in 1992 during a Pro-Choice benefit concert at which Koslowski’s band, Liquor Bike, shared the bill with Hale-Koslowski’s headlining, pioneering riot grrrl project Womyn of  Destruction.

babiesonfire2As of June 10, they share ownership of Baby’s On Fire, Baltimore’s only combination record store/coffee shop.

The unique café — which brews up flavorful coffee, serves all manner of delectable healthy-choice vittles made on the premises and boasts an eclectic array of vinyl for record hounds — resides in Mount Vernon’s hipster nexus, comfortably nestled across the way from grocery store staple Eddie’s on Eager Street and separated by a large parking lot from alternative dance club/bar Grand Central.

After giving up the struggling musician/artist lifestyle (both Koslowski and his wife are also active visual artists who briefly shared a studio) sometime around their mid-30s, the creative duo decided to move to North Carolina, where Koslowski attended the School of Communication Arts (now called Living Arts College) in Raleigh.

While her husband worked toward graduating with a degree in digital media and gaining a foothold in the realm of graphic and Web design, Hale-Koslowski caught wind of the nascent “personal chef” industry and started her own business, Four Corners Cuisine.

“I saw somebody on TV who was cooking in someone else’s home, making them meals, packing them up, putting them in the fridge and freezer and moving onto the next house,” Hale-Koslowski breathlessly said. “And I was like, ‘Oh! I want to do that!’”

babiesonfire1Hale-Koslowski has been a professional in the culinary arts for the entirety of her adult life, having worked at a dinner theater throughout high school and bounced around from her native Bucks County, Pa., to various shops while  attending the prestigious Berklee School of Music (focusing on vocal performance) in Boston; she’s even had stints at Eddie’s and a deli not too far from where Baby’s On Fire now sits.

That was in the late ’80s when, by an astounding coincidence, Koslowski himself lived just down the street. He noted it’s very possible he regularly saw his wife-to-be four or five years before they met at that fateful concert in ’92. Neither remembers having seen the other before, but it does seem to be a case of prolonged beshert of a sort.

The two married in 2000, spent their time in North Carolina and began dreaming up a wacky idea 15 years in the making involving what would be their combination coffee shop/record store.

“I really wanted to do the vinyl thing,” said Koslowski, “but at that time [early aughts], it was all about MP3s and CDs, so that dream stayed on hold for a while.”

In 2012, the husband-and-wife team moved back to Baltimore to be closer to Koslowski’s  parents in their dotage. Hale-Koslowski’s own parents had passed by this point, and she had also sold her impressive roster of 30 North Carolina clients to other aspiring chefs in the area, starting fresh in Maryland.

The new goal was to find a commercial kitchen large enough to handle Four Corners Cuisine’s swelling local client list, and meanwhile the record  industry was seeing a dramatic uptick in sales courtesy of the likes of Record Store Day, a wide-sweeping nostalgia for vinyl and a new kind of “commodity fetishism” involving more consumers actually wanting to possess the physical object of music rather than mere MP3s. (For similar reasoning, online retailer Amazon.com has begun opening up brick-and-mortar bookstores.)
babiesonfire3

We love sharing what we find with other people, and this is basically our way of doing that for the community.” — David Koslowski, owner of Baby’s On Fire

 

All of this leading Koslowski and his wife to believe now was the time to go for their dream that would become Baby’s On Fire.

“At first, we thought the record component would just be a little kitschy thing,” Hale-Koslowski said. “But, actually, it sells as much as the coffee. David had no idea he’d have to be ordering so many records all the time!”

Hale-Koslowski meanwhile runs Four Corners Cuisine out of the ample kitchen connected to the back of Baby’s On Fire as a separate entity that does not involve her husband. She, of course, also supplies the various pastries, paninis and other café fare to the shop.

Koslowski was laid off from his “day job” working as a Web and graphic designer for AOL in August and now runs the café/record store full time, which gives his wife more time to focus on her growing business, which now has multiple employees and nearly 40 area clients.

Hale-Koslowski specializes in individualized diets; for  example, one customer purchased her services for a friend who has been going through chemotherapy after recently being diagnosed with breast cancer, requiring a specialized, limited food regimen.

Though Hale-Koslowski is not Jewish — “She’s as Anglo as they come,” Koslowski laughed about his wife’s being “85 percent English; she’s more English than most people in England” — she often works with clients with kosher dietary restrictions and enjoys learning how to make new and relatively exotic Jewish delights.

Having grown up in a predominantly Jewish area with many Jewish classmates and boyfriends, it’s not too challenging for Hale-Koslowski to learn to make, say, raisin kugel, a new favorite of hers.

When one of Hale-Koslowski’s clients asked the obvious question about her possibly being Jewish due to her last name, the personal chef on the run replied that she’s not, but “we think my husband might be.”

Koslowski took a DNA test offered by popular website Ancestry.com to discover that, yes, he is in fact a Polish Jew.

His mother being Irish-French (and who was revealed not to be Jewish after taking the same test as her son), Koslowski went to speak with his father who was at the time in extremis and incapable of being tested.

What Koslowski’s father — who has since passed away — revealed was a startling admission: Their family, which has been in Baltimore since the 1800s, had indeed been Jewish and converted to Lutheranism due to rampant anti-Semitism that had made it difficult to otherwise gain employment.

“A lightbulb went off in my head,” Koslowski said. “I had all of these memories of eating these foods that my grandparents made me when I was a kid, and when I would ask Shirlé to make them, she would say, ‘You know those are all Jewish foods, right?’”

When the information was brought to the attention of Hale-Koslowski’s “bonus parents” — a Jewish couple who had been the parents of a boyfriend she once had before he died tragically in a car accident and had spiritually “adopted” her, going so far as to pay for her college education — Koslowski said they marveled at pictures he showed them of his family.

“Oh, yes!” they told him when they saw the photos. “You’re Jewish. We can always tell our own people. Welcome home.”

For the time being, home for Koslowski and his wife is Baltimore and, specifically, Baby’s On Fire. Now that business is booming, they plan on having a series of special community events at the store every Sunday starting later this month, including live music, DJs, a possible “rock documentary night” (after purchasing and setting up a projector) and regular meetings of the local Kissa Society, a group whose sensibility is based on the Japanese tradition of playing jazz records and discussing the genre in public spaces.

“We love sharing what we find with other people, and this is basically our way of doing that for the community,” Koslowski said. “I don’t know what it is, but we both really get pleasure discovering new things — new food, new craft beer, new wines, new music — and letting other people in  on it.”

mklickstein@midatlanticmedia.com

It’s Trump Van Hollen Wins Senate Race

Donald Trump (Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr, creative common license http://bit.ly/1dsePQq)

Donald Trump (Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr, creative common license http://bit.ly/1dsePQq)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Shelly Weinreb, Mount Washington resident

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hillary Clinton (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Hillary Clinton (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Arik Shalom, Baltimore resident

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

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

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

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

Chris Van Hollen (File photo)

Chris Van Hollen (File photo)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mathew Klickstein and Justin Silberman contributed to this report.

Election 2016 Coverage:

Pugh, Cohen Carry Baltimore Vote

Community Kibbitz: At the Polls

At JCC and Krieger Schechter, Students Also Vote

Trump Supporters at Goldberg’s Trouble Customers

At JCC and Krieger Schechter, Students Also Vote

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jcc-election-ksds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dnozick@midatlanticmedia.com

Election 2016 Coverage:

It’s Trump

Pugh, Cohen Carry Baltimore Vote

Community Kibbitz: At the Polls

Trump Supporters at Goldberg’s Trouble Customers

Pugh, Cohen Carry Baltimore Vote

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts from the Polls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

jsilberman@midatlanticmedia.com, mklickstein@midatlanticmedia.com

Election 2016 Coverage:

It’s Trump

Community Kibbitz: At the Polls

At JCC and Krieger Schechter, Students Also Vote

Trump Supporters at Goldberg’s Trouble Customers

The 2017-18 School Calendar Debate

Howard Libit

Howard Libit

Baltimore County Public School officials are currently involved with deciding the calendar for the 2017-2018 school year. Three calendars have been proposed. A noteworthy aspect of the potential schedule change is that one of the three proposed calendars suggests that school will be in session on Rosh Hashanah, which falls on Spet. 21 and 22 in 2017. (Yom Kippur is irrelevant, as it falls on a weekend in 2017.)

“School systems can only close on religious holidays for operational reasons,” explained Howard Libit, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council. “They cannot close just for  religion. For county schools, they do not ask students about religion, so we have to use data available about absences on the holiday to justify schools closing on that day.”

Libit said that there are roughly 12,000 Jewish children under 18 in the area. Although he cannot say what percentage are in private schools or are under 5 years old, he believes that it is reasonable to conclude that a large percentage of those students will be absent on Rosh Hashanah.

Another statistic he cited is that last year, nearly 240 teachers in the county missed work  on the second day of Rosh Hashanah. A significant portion of Baltimore County teachers are Jewish, and Libit believes that these teachers must be more religious than the others. Therefore, he concluded that a much more  significant portion of school employees would be absent on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, as it is more common to practice on that day.

With the logistical challenge and operational issues that would arise from having to find substitutes for so many teachers, Libit is confident that a strong case can be made for closing schools on Rosh Hashanah next year for operational reasons.

“I think the facts are on our side, and the community is with us and supportive,” he said. “A number of board members who I spoke to were supportive, and I hope they are swayed by our arguments and the numbers.”

An Unorthodox Jewish View

Shulem Deen (Courtesy of Beth Tfiloh)

Shulem Deen (Courtesy of Beth Tfiloh)

At 42, Brooklyn-born Shulem Deen could fill a book with his tumultuous tale of having grown up within the insular world of the Skverer Chasidic sect before, as he terms it, being cast out and cut off from everything he knew.

Deen has done just that with his memoir, “All Who Go Do Not Return,” published in March 2015.

Deen has been using the launch of his book as a platform to continue speaking out about the issues he addresses in print and was invited to discuss his life at Beth Tfiloh on Wednesday, Oct. 26 to a packed audience intrigued by his unique but not altogether singular take on the Jewish  Orthodox community.

According to a 2016 survey by Nishma Research, many formerly Orthodox Jews feel they were similarly alienated from their community when — like Deen — they began expressing doubt about some of their culture’s core values, including those involving the status of women.

“I’m not necessarily the hero of my story,” Deen confessed to the JT. “I wrote about things that I’m not necessarily proud of; I wrote about acts that were not necessarily legal. I was a husband, a teacher, a father, and I wrote about how I was not exactly an exemplar of those things.”

Explaining that he had always wanted to be a writer, Deen admitted that he  realized at a point after his break with his sect that “a nobody without an M.F.A.” such as himself would only end up with a novel “languishing in obscurity” if he were to somehow get one published.

After telling his personal story to a friend of a friend who happened to be a literary agent — who confirmed that a novel from a first-time “nobody” writer wouldn’t do well on the market — Deen was told he should give his own memoir a shot.

“I really came to the memoir with the sense that this would be the wisest thing I could do if I wanted to be a writer,”  Deen said.

shulemdeencoverPutting himself on the line  was in some ways relatively easy for Deen, who revealed he has been in therapy on and off for the past 13 years, elaborating that much of this medical assistance was based on whether or not he could afford it at the time.

Subsequent to his departure from his community, Deen struggled financially as a computer programmer barely making ends meet. There was a difficult divorce, there was a custody battle, there was an everyday coping with his own sense of “haves versus have-nots” that connected him with others going through such tumult.

This connection gave Deen something of a purpose and larger sense of self-worth.

“I wanted to engage with material that would make people laugh, cry, feel something,” he said. “This is what I feel is the purpose of art: to create something that will give another human a kick in the tuchus, to move them. And I think the only way I can do it is by writing.”

Deen also feels strongly about the necessity of a kind of “warts and all” telling of such dire tales as his, opening up in a surprisingly and refreshingly forthright manner during his interview.

At one point, he admitted that his lack of circumspection may have been based on his “just having gotten back from the gym.”

As provocative as some see his book controversial in its similarly raw depiction of the Chasidic community, Deen was certain to add that he wrote his book without “intended malice” toward his former sect.

His book was written in a “more temperate tone,” he said, noting that before he left it, he found the community detailed to be one he embraced greatly and which uplifted him … prior to his eventual discovery  that there was another world outside of the which had reared him.

Today a secular Jew still feeling a sense of connection to the culture overall, Deen concluded that the reason he could be so honest about his experience without relegating his material to a simple binary of “good versus evil” is that “I am forthright because I’m not a bull———-.”

Such “brutal” rawness led to a thin pallor of controversy hovering over Deen’s presentation  at Beth Tfiloh.

“There were definitely some rumblings,” said Pikesville resident Michon Zysman, who attended the event and has been a member of Beth Tfiloh for the past four years.

shulemdeen2Zysman, herself originally affiliated with the frum community when she was younger, said there were audible gasps from some members of the audience, which she said was denominationally mixed.

When Deen spoke about his frustrations about how, of his five children, the three girls could speak and write English fluently, whereas the two sons who had been studying in yeshiva 12 to 14 hours a day could not, Zysman said a few in the audience were visibly shaken.

“He’s obviously very articulate,” Zysman said, adding that from her own personal experiences, she understands why he would be “pushing back”  in some ways on his former community.

“It was only an hour,” she said. “And it wasn’t as though people were saying, ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe he said that!’ But he certainly wasn’t holding anything back.”

Though Zysman said that Deen’s caustic bluntness makes him someone she’s not exactly sure she’d like as a person, his story — “which is not unique; I think it happens a lot” — was one that made her go home and read his entire book over the subsequent weekend.

“This struck a note, and I really do believe it’s  because a lot of Jews have issues and questions and doubts, and they found it interesting to see how someone else approaches this issue,” said Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg, who has been with Beth Tfiloh for the past 38 years.

“Quite honestly, I did not hear those gasps,” he said.

“Perhaps that’s because I was too busy agreeing with him. I take pride in the fact that Beth Tfiloh is open to  diverse opinions and that there is always something to learn even from those with whom we may disagree.”

“I’m really happy I went,” Zysman said. “I think it’s great Beth Tfiloh did it. I can’t picture another congregation in this area doing something  like that.”

mklickstein@midatlanticmedia.com

Barak Engages Baltimore in Global Dialogue

Ehud Barak (File photo)

Ehud Barak (File photo)

Ehud Barak, former prime minister of Israel, graced Baltimore with his insights on the state of the global arena on Oct. 25 at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall as a part of Stevenson University’s Baltimore Speaker Series.

Touted as a man “who over a half-century career became Israel’s most decorated soldier and held the nation’s trifecta of top positions,” according to The New York Times, Barak has been dedicated to the peace process since the start of his 36-year career in the Israel Defense Forces.

Barak served as prime minister from 1999 to 2001 and defense minister from 2007 to 2013. He served as a negotiator of the 1994 peace treaty with Jordan and is credited with ending the violent occupancy of southern Lebanon by Israel in 2000. He has been commended for his proposals for a peace deal with the Palestinians at Camp David that same year, although unfortunately, the negotiations were unsuccessful.

Barak also was a key player in the June 1976 Entebbe  Operation for the rescue of passengers on the hijacked Air France plane that was forced to land in Uganda. His dedication to the peace process and influence on the world’s geopolitical landscape led Foreign Policy magazine to name him 13th among its 100 Global Thinkers last year.

Barak’s speech, interspersed with anecdotes from his military and political career, addressed a variety of intertwined factors in the world today. Topics of focus included the rivalry between the United States and nations such as Russia and China, as well as numerous issues in the Middle East.

“None of the geopolitical centers of gravity can take on any major challenge on its own,” he stated. He cited the war on terror, explaining that the United States has been  attempting to eradicate terror groups, yet each it has combatted still remains.

He asserted that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is still in Damascus, and he noted the success of ISIS in recruiting and training terrorists through YouTube videos and encryption, as well as its effectiveness in “inspiring lone wolves.” But militarily, he said, ISIS is “a ridiculous force,” which could be defeated if it were confronted by a serious force on the ground.

“In the Middle East, within a short five years, the Arab Spring turned into an Islamist Winter,” Barak said. “Nation-states collapsed and centuries-old conflicts re-emerged. On the global arena, the world order is deeply shaken.”

Barak said that even the United States, “the only real  remaining superpower, not only in freedom and liberty, but militarily and strategically,” would not be able to overcome the difficult challenge of terror unless the international  community unites.

As he’s done throughout a regional tour that included a stop in Pittsburgh last weekend, Barak predicted the ultimate disintegration of Syria as a  nation, as well as the disintegration of other countries in the Middle East, with smaller, tribal units arising from the rubble. Turning to Israel, “an outpost of the Western way of life,” Barak compared the Jewish state to “a villa in the jungle.”

Barak’s biggest word of warning to the audience was that “the United States is seen around the world as weak and weakening.”

“Objectively,” he continued, “it has nothing to do with the reality, but perceptions are working against you these days, and as a result, you are rivals with China and Russia.”

He explained that this conflict would not result in a physical clash any time in the future, as “China is so far  behind the U.S. militarily that they don’t even think in physical terms.” However, he explained that both China and Russia “will inevitably turn their sights to the last region in the world where the U.S. made its folly.”

“Never underestimate the meaning for the Far East of the way you leave the Middle East behind you,” Barak said as a final word of warning.

Barak predicted that in the future, America will have a symbiotic relationship with the Far East and hopes that under this umbrella, world leaders will have the opportunity to sit face to face behind closed doors, and “the world will understand that America can be relied on as the force that will back you at the moment of truth.” JT

Toby Tabachnick, contributed to this article with reporting from Pittsburgh.

dnozick@midatlanticmedia.com