Roy Hoffberger: Philanthropist, Art Patron, Proud Jew

Roy Hoffberger (File photo)

Roy Hoffberger (File photo)

Wednesday, Aug. 3 saw the passing of one of the most influential figures ever to grace Baltimore — lawyer, philanthropist and art collector LeRoy “Roy” Hoffberger. He was 91.

Hoffberger was born in 1925 into a family that made fortunes in manufacturing and distributing ice, coal and fuel oil. He was raised surrounded by real estate  developers and supporters of the city’s arts, educational, medical and Jewish communal organizations. As such, he was groomed to be involved with the community, obvious from the physical proof that exists around Baltimore.

“There aren’t many organizations in Baltimore that don’t have his fingerprint in one way or another,” said Marc Terrill, president of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. “His leadership has been felt and will be felt in The Associated for generations to come. He loved being Jewish, He was proud of our traditions, our heritage and our teachings. He grappled with Judaism mentally and physically, and it was apparent from the way he conducted himself.”

His second wife, Rebecca Hoffberger, shared that “his connection to the Jewish world aside from heritage was very philanthropic,” but he loved being Jewish. She shared that “he didn’t learn to read  Hebrew until after the age of 80, when he decided to study with the same teacher who taught his own son.”

Together with Rebecca, Hoffberger  co-founded the American Visionary Arts Museum.

Hoffberger also provided the endowment for the Maryland Institute College of Art’s Graduate School of Painting, which is named in his honor. According to its website, “[The] LeRoy E. Hoffberger School of Painting is one of the only graduate programs in the country to focus solely on painting, allowing a select group of highly talented painters to find their  individual voices and develop the discourse to position their work in the  contemporary arts world.”

However, his crowning achievement came in the form of the development of 2,000 acres of farmland in Montgomery County 25 miles northwest of Washington, D.C. “Today, Germantown is the third-largest urban area in the state and home to 80,000 people,” Hoffberger proudly told the JT in 2014.

“Roy was one-of-a-kind, and that mold has been broken,” Terrill reflected. “He was a thoughtful gentleman who knew how to lead and be led. He listened, had opinions and worked with people to identify a problem and come up with solutions that could impact the greater good.”

He served as the president of his family’s foundation and was its chairman until his death. The Hoffberger Family Philanthropies consists of two charitable organizations — the Hoffberger Foundation, Inc., a 501c3, and the Hoffberger Family Fund, Inc., a supporting foundation of The Associated. The organization supports youth development, prescription needs of underserved residents, health in low-income seniors and Jewish community needs. The foundation is one of Maryland’s largest philanthropic funds, according to The Baltimore Sun.

Hoffberger always kept a plaque on his desk that read: “Further discussion is  unnecessary. I have said all I want to hear.” The irony reminded him daily of the importance of listening to others and to the wishes of the community as a whole.

“Roy gave until it hurt,” Rebecca shared. “He always believed in something and that he had to be first in the water before he could approach others. He led by  example. He thought about his own mortality a lot and wanted to leave the world a better place. He wanted to share with younger generations.”

Her own daughters never knew their own father, but Rebecca explained, “Real daughters couldn’t have loved their father more.”

In the final three years of his life, Hoffberger wrote a book, “Measure of a Life: Memoirs, Insights and Philosophies of LeRoy E. Hoffberger.” According to  Rebecca, the book gives a naked point of view of why he did what he did. In it, he restates his belief that “what we leave  behind is far more important than how far we get ahead.”

Hoffberger lived up to his lifelong goals. He did not just leave behind a legacy — he left behind a legacy that will continue to aid the community for generations to come.

“My father, Roy, displayed a sense of fairness throughout all aspects of his life — business, faith and community,” his son, Douglas Hoffberger, president of Hoffberger Family Philanthropies, said in a statement. “His love and guidance will certainly be missed, but not forgotten.”

Baltimore-Born Rabbi Makes Chicago List

Rabbi Zev Eleff (File photo)

Rabbi Zev Eleff (File photo)

Rabbi Zev Eleff, 30, was named to Oy!Chicago and The Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago’s Young Leadership Division’s fifth annual “Double Chai in the Chi: 36 under 36,” a list recognizing young professionals in the Chicago area. The Pikesville native and Yeshivat Rambam graduate is the chief academic officer at Chicago’s Hebrew Theological College and a board member of the Chicago Jewish Historical Society, and lectures at several schools and synagogues in the Chicago

“This honor is especially meaningful, given the other exceptional women and men voted to Jewish Chicago’s ‘36 Under 36,’” he said via email. “More than anything else, this is a credit to the wonderful family and teachers that invested so much in me, beginning in my earliest stages in Baltimore and the Yeshivat Rambam community.”

The list included entrepreneurs, activists, fundraisers, youth group advisors, attorneys and pediatric neurologists.

“I get excited when the list comes out every July to see what other young Jewish adults are doing to help make the future of our community better,” Michael Waitz, incoming Young Leadership Division board member and a former award winner, said in a  news release. “From rabbis to entrepreneurs, the thing that’s really remarkable is that the  list includes young Jewish  professionals from different backgrounds that are making an impact.”

You Should Know … Jackie Gordon

Jackie Gordon (Daniel Nozick)

Jackie Gordon (Daniel Nozick)

Baltimore resident Jackie Gordon, 34, knew in high school that she wanted to work with kids and sports. As an adult, the Franklin Middle School teacher realized her dream in the “It’s Game Time” summer camp.

The Silver Spring native holds a Reading Teacher Certification from Goucher College and graduated from Towson with a bachelor’s degree in physical education in 2003. The JT sat down with Gordon to learn about how working at her synagogue led her to start her own camp.

Why physical education?
My mom has always taught at my synagogue, Temple Shalom in Chevy Chase. In high school, I started helping her out with her kindergarten class, and at that point, I knew I liked working with kids. I also played soccer, basketball, lacrosse and hockey in high school, so I knew I wanted to do something with sports. When I went to college, it was a no brainer, I wanted to put together the kids and the sports.

How did creating your own camp come about?
I went to college with my partner, Chad Marshall. We studied the same thing, he works in Baltimore County as well, but we’ve always been at different schools. We always joked back in college how amazing would it be to be at the same school and teaching together. I had always done summer camps, so I said why not start our own. We set up the whole business, we came up with “It’s Game Time,” our name. We had one week that first year, about 40 to 50 kids. Now we’re in our sixth year. We have three weeks. The first week just finished and we had 100 kids. Our second week has 135 signed up and our third week will probably be the biggest. We have a really great program because we go out and we find people who know how to coach and know how to teach P.E. You aren’t going to find another sports camp around that’s going to have as many qualified people and is not sport-specific.

What does the day-to-day of the camp look like?
Every day, the kids rotate through a variety of spaces. We do two major sports each day: basketball, soccer, football, etc. You also do two rotations into some spaces for rec games like cup stacking or four square. We’ll have a big tournament or a bit of instruction. Thursdays and Fridays we have electives. We have three or four coaches who played lacrosse in college and they lead that elective, we have a high school football coach who runs football. Third session, we are going to have guys doing rugby and wrestling. We want to give the kids the chance to try something new. We do something cool every week called Punt, Pass and Kick, which is sponsored by the NFL. Kids earn a combined score, there is a winner for each of the age groups. If they go the distance, they can end up on the field at a Ravens game.

Tell me about Six Point Sports Academy.
It is a Jewish camp associated with the Reform movement. It’s located in Greensboro, N.C. on the campus of the American Hebrew Academy, which happens to be the only Jewish boarding school in the United States. It is the best  facility I have ever played on, coached at or had access to.

I have been there since the first day it opened in 2010 as a lacrosse coach. This year, I also worked with the Jewish life team; Jewish life there really stems from the coaches. The kids will come for a specific sport major and spend four hours a day training. This camp is for the kids who want to get better at a specific sport. We have coaches that have coached numerous colleges. The tennis guy coaches handball in the Olympics and tennis at Adelphi. We’re talking high level athletics, high level coaches. We also have Shabbat, prayers, song sessions, your typical Jewish summer camp. There’s Maccabiah, the fun bonding stuff, it’s where you meet your best friends. The motto is “training jewish athletes for life.” You can read Torah, play lacrosse and hang out with your best friends all at the same time.

Bolton Street Synagogue Affiliates with Reform Movement

The sanctuary at Bolton Street Synagogue, which recently affiliated with the Reform movement. (Adam Barry)

The sanctuary at Bolton Street Synagogue, which recently affiliated with the Reform movement. (Adam Barry)

After 30 years of being unaffiliated with a larger movement, Bolton Street Synagogue officially affiliated with the Reform movement in June.

Founded by a group of Jewish families in 1986, the synagogue started in the basement of a church on Bolton Street. As it expanded, the synagogue never lost sight of the ideals of its founders.

“They banded together with some unique ideas for the time,” said Bolton Street president Russ Margolis. Margolis said the synagogue was designed to be open to “people with Jewish identities who may otherwise be considered out of the mainstream,” particularly LGBT families and interfaith families.

Additionally, Margolis said the founders wanted the congregation to remain connected to the city of Baltimore, and remain as an intimate place of worship for its members.

Through two moves, from church basement to its own building on Bolton Street, the synagogue remained connected to these values. It eventually moved to its current location on Cold Spring Lane.

In recent years, Margolis said he and other board members had noticed a change in the larger Jewish movements that aligned them closer to Bolton Street’s vision; and officially affiliating with a movement could provide the congregation with a greater reach and a larger pool of resources, he said.

Margolis and the board were assisted in the year-long effort to become familiar with the various movements and choose one by an affiliation committee tasked to represent the congregation. One committee member was Ken Karpay, a founding member of the synagogue.

“It became obvious over the last several years that the market had changed and the traditions upon which we founded the synagogue and the assumptions upon which we operated had changed and in order to remain vibrant we needed to look at alternatives,” said Karpay.

During their consideration, Karpay and his committee, along with Margolis and the synagogue’s board, worked with congregation members, characterizing the reception as generally positive. Members, they said, found that the  Reform movement aligned with their own ideals.

“I was not really looking forward to doing it, but having gone through it, I was really surprised how interesting it was, and how much our congregation really got engaged in it,” explained Karpay. “It really prompted us to ask a lot of  really important questions.”

The synagogue found that its interests were aligned with the Reform movement.

“To take our strengths, and grow them, for instance to be connected with the social action enterprises that form such an important part of the Reform movement matches very well with our own interest in social action and social justice,”  Margolis said.

The Bolton Street congregation takes special pride in its participation in social action events and initiatives across the city. Margolis highlighted the synagogue’s work with Our Daily Bread and participation and support for Baltimore’s Pride Parade in particular.

“Separate from the decision of affiliation, the process itself also brought the congregation together in thinking about what we are and what the future should be, and that was in a way almost as important as the  decision itself,” Margolis said.

Bolton Street Synagogue’s current rabbi, Rabbi John Franken, comes from the  Reform movement, and while he said he stepped back from the process, he was excited for the news.

“What animates our synagogue are the same values which animate Reform Judaism, chiefly a sincere belief that each of us is called by our tradition to redeem the world,” Franken said via email.

“Over time we realized that there was a convergence of belief that Judaism at its best challenges, ennobles and inspires us to bring Torah into the world. I think many congregants also recognized … that we could exert more influence in the Jewish world for pluralism and equality by being part of Reform Judaism rather than going it alone.”

Local Rabbi Returns from Study in Jerusalem

Rabbi Daniel Cotzin Burg of Beth Am Synagogue recently returned from the Shalom Hartman Institute’s campus in Jerusalem, where he completed the first portion of  the organization’s Rabbinic Leadership Institute.

The three-year fellowship program takes 30 rabbis who want expand on their previous Jewish learning, making trips back to Jerusalem each summer and winter, and engaging in guided study at home  between trips. The teachings are aimed at helping these rabbis confront the issues affecting the lives of contemporary Jews in North America.

“Hartman is a really internationally renowned organization that does high level in-depth learning, they’ve managed to bring into the fold some of the best and brightest faculty both in Israel and in North America,” Burg said. “It was such a wonderful experience, both in terms of connecting with  incredible colleagues from around the country, and also in terms of a really valuable deep dive into our sources in a way that makes them relevant and helps us to navigate and explore big questions that are relevant to American Jews.”

Two Christian scholars, the Rev. Dr. Jason Poling, senior pastor at New Hope Community Church in Pikesville, and the Rev. Grey Maggiano, rector at the Memorial Episcopal Church in Baltimore, also  attended.

150 Years of Sinai Hospital has distinguished itself with specialized, top-quality care

Amy Perry, current president of Sinai Hospital (David Stuck)

This month marks a milestone in the Jewish community — the 150th anniversary of Sinai Hospital, the first Jewish health care establishment in the city of Baltimore.

What first opened as a  10-room hospital in the mid-1800s is now a 62-acre tertiary medical center that boasts 500 beds and 5,000 employees. It includes specialty centers for limb-lengthening, brain and spine injuries and pediatric oncology, among others.

The hospital opened its doors in the aftermath of the Civil War, which saw Jews in America emboldened. Hospitals refused to hire and treat Jews, so the Jewish community saw fit to establish its own hospital. On June 25, 1866, the foundations were laid for the Baltimore Asylum for Israelites on the  corner as Ann and Monument streets.

Two years later, the new building was completed and opened as the Hebrew Hospital and Asylum. In 1926, it was renamed Sinai Hospital.

In 1945, Sinai, Mt. Pleasant Hospital and the Levindale Hebrew Home and Infirmary decided to join together at a single location. This goal was realized in 1959, when construction was completed and the  organizations began operating out of the current location of the Sinai complex.

In 1998, Levindale, now known as the Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital and Northwest Hospital, officially joined with Sinai,  becoming what would eventually be known as LifeBridge Health.

U.S. News and World Report recently ranked Sinai Hospital 36th in the nation for neurology and neurosurgery. Sinai was also recognized as “high performing” in cancer treatment, gastroenterology and GI surgery, geriatrics, nephrology, heart failure treatment, colon cancer surgery and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) treatment.

Amy Perry, the current president of Sinai Hospital, (pictured on the cover) explained, “Everything we do here is driven by our mission. Our mission is to maintain and improve the health of the community.”  The community to which she refers is not simply the Jewish  community, but rather the  entirety of greater Baltimore.

“We believe as Judaism does that healthcare is a right,” said Rabbi Mitchell Ackerson, the director of pastoral care at Sinai. “It is not a privilege, it is a right. Then you have to act that way. I think that our sponsorship of local programming, how much outreach we do within the community are all indicative to those feelings of being a Jewish institution.”

One way Sinai caters to its patients is with home-cooked meals. Sinai employs its own mashgiach, Moshe Gholian, who supervises the 18 separate kitchens spread throughout the hospital. Under his care, the hospital’s cafeterias prepare kosher food fresh every day, the only hospital outside of New York to do so, said Ackerson.

“If you’re one of our traumatic brain injury patients, and you’re here for a month or more, tell me how many people want to eat 100 to 200 frozen TV dinners,” Ackerson said of kosher-keeping patients, who at other hospitals eat meals similar to pre-packaged airline food. “That, I think, is a statement of our commitment to the community.”

Sinai and other inherently Jewish hospitals were designed to perpetuate the concept that members of the Jewish community were unlike the rest of southerners in that they did not practice prejudice. Sinai was the first racially integrated hospital in the state of Maryland, and has stood against inequality at every turn.

When the mayor of Baltimore tried to re-segregate  hospitals in 1910, the head of pediatrics at the time rebuffed him. Even as late as 1992,  another hospital was sued for segregating its maternity ward, but such issues have never laid foot in Sinai.

“I tell our new employees at orientation that the Jim Crow laws came off the books in Mississippi before they came off the books in Baltimore,” shared Ackerson. “Born out of the frustrations of southern living and the Civil War, Baltimore was and still is one of the most southern and one of the most segregated cities in the United States.”

Today, Sinai has a broad community outreach program that is perpetually expanding to areas where the services that the hospital provides are needed.

While Sinai boasts a strong system of Jewish values and a greater sensitivity to Jewish needs than most hospitals, it also caters to the needs of populations such as immigrants and low-income families.

Staff members have the  opportunity to make trips to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty to better understand the immigrant experience; other groups go to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. More than a dozen groups of interfaith staff members have made trips to Israel.

As a partner of The Associated: Jewish Community  Federation of Baltimore, Sinai benefits from the advocacy of the Baltimore Jewish Council in order to secure funding and continue to expand and improve.

“Their hospital is located in the heart of Baltimore’s Jewish community and we have a long-standing relationship of working together to help our community be healthier and be safer,” said Sarah Mersky,  director of government relations at the BJC.

For example, Sinai has been the recipient of funds for its Brain Injury Unit, and recently the BJC helped secure $2 million to build a new specialty and primary care facility that will serve the underinsured and uninsured. The council will be requesting $2 million for the next two fiscal years, for a total of $6 million toward the project. The BJC also continues to work with the hospital to secure funding for the Diabetes Medical Home Extender Program and the domestic violence prevention program.

“We care about our community,” Perry said. “The reasons people are sick are not always because of congenital deficiencies or things that are uncontrollable, they’re often just bad preventive health care and low quality of life. As we’ve tried to make our community healthier, we’ve worked hard to find the triggers, and a lot of them have to do with violence prevention, education, housing, jobs.  Not having a stable life is sometimes the greatest precursor to illness.”

As such, Sinai has made investments in violence prevention, nutrition awareness, housing and mentorship programs, to name a few. The hospital focuses on efforts that are not traditionally considered health care, but are often integral to preventing issues in the future.

Safe Streets, which treats  violence as a disease, is one such program. The theory is that just as one would interrupt a virus with medicine, one can interrupt violence with a social medicine. The program is in the process of extending its reach from the hospital itself to the corner of Park Heights and Belvedere avenues. The program’s “violence interrupters” are people in the streets, simply talking to people and trying to help find an alternative to violence, which can be difficult to avoid in a neighborhood with 25 percent unemployment. They try to show people the way to employment as a violence prevention effort.

In a similar vein is the hospital’s vocational services program. The program employs people in the neighborhood so they can gain experience in a real-world job. On top of setting  locals up with entry-level jobs such as printing or cleaning, the program teaches how  to write a resumé and basic computer skills.

Sinai also runs a faith-based outreach program. With about 60 faith based organizations within Sinai’s immediate vicinity, nearly one every block, the hospital hired a pastoral outreach coordinator to go into congregations to provide education for their members, as well as help connect them to patients. The goal is to create a supportive community for members to go home to.

“We’re not just providing traditional healthcare,” said Perry, “although we do those things extraordinarily well. We have made advancements and investments to make sure that we use state-of-the-art techniques.”

In 1968, doctors at Sinai  implanted the first artificial kidney to be used on the East Coast. Other distinctions  include Sinai’s staff inventing the first cardiac defibrillator (pacemaker) invented within its walls, in 1980. Research continues to be on the cutting edge, with an innovation center housing a bio-incubator recently opening its doors.

Its docket includes research on HIV treatment, specifically investigating a new testing process to determine if it can signal a more latent form of the virus in a patient. Researchers at the center have also produced a new process to test tissue samples for cancer. (As an  organization, Sinai partners with an Israeli company testing the effects of pharmaceuticals on cancer cells.)

Staff members appreciate Sinai’s cutting-edge approach to community building and research.

Debbie Baer has been working in the labor and delivery wing of Sinai for 45 years. She began her job at the hospital after receiving her baccalaureate from Skidmore College and completing a two-year stint in Israel. Her own children and grandchildren were born at Sinai.

“Now when I am delivering patients, it is not unusual for me to be delivering for somebody who I actually delivered for their mother,” Baer shared. “It is just the best experience, it really is the full circle of life.”

According to Baer, one of Sinai’s greatest accomplishments came from helping to lead the fight against Maryland legislature when it attempted to limit the time that a woman could stay at a hospital after delivery.

“We were able to convince them that the time in the hospital is invaluable for them to learn how to take care of their baby,” she said. “We are trying to keep personalized care  really very much there, certainly in our unit, and I think we succeed.”

Frayda Menu is a member of the local community who has been at Sinai for both the birth of her children, and a major heart surgery for her  father. “The staff was attentive and encouraging,” she said. “The nurses were so warm and supportive.”

Chaya Monderer came to Sinai when her 18-month-old daughter stopped walking. The unknown cause of the problem resulted in an extended stay. Having been kept waiting, Dr. James Nace came to check on them early in the morning.

“Dr. Nace came in before his rounds,” Monderer recalled. “He personally did the test, walked the results down to the lab to make sure they were done quickly and brought the results back himself. The level of care was incredible.”

Dr. Jerome Reichmister has been associated with Sinai since 1964. In 1984, he became the assistant chief of orthopedic surgery, and in 1990  became chairman. He leads  a course for residents and  interns that teaches them how to communicate better with patients.

“Our community has  embraced Sinai as a real flagship for care. My driving reason for being here is that I live in this community and I want this community to be the best it can be for myself, my family and for the community I live in. That has always driven me to seek excellence here at Sinai,” said Reichmister, who was born at Sinai back when it was located on Monument Street. “We want to continue to deliver the best possible care that we can, continue to train physicians for the future and to be a resource for the community.”

Chandler Crews, a Sinai  patient with achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism, has been traveling to Sinai from Little Rock, Ark., since she was 16 for limb lengthening treatment at the hospital’s Rubin Institute of Advanced Orthopedics. She’s also a regular at the Hackerman-Patz House, a hospitality facility for long-term patients and their families.

“Whenever we come here, it feels like coming home,” said Crews. “It is right across street from the hospital, a huge asset because it is so close. Everyone staying there is going through the same type of thing. Kids meet other kids and they’re learning to fit in and meeting people in the same position as themselves.”

“It’s a great feeling to be able to go to work every day and feel like you’re making a difference,” said Perry. “I hurry to work, and I’m in no rush to leave work, because I love trying to make healthcare better for people.” 

Adam Barry is an intern at the  Baltimore Jewish Times.

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150 Years of Sinai

Trestman Feeling Confident in His Second Ravens Season

Marc Trestman instructs the Ravens offense at training camp. (Courtesy of Baltimore Ravens)

Marc Trestman instructs the Ravens offense at training camp. (Courtesy of Baltimore Ravens)

Untimely injuries, unfulfilled team expectations and a livid fan base was not enough to deter Marc Trestman during his first season as the Ravens offensive coordinator in 2015.

Less than a week after Baltimore opened training camp at the Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills on July 27, Trestman, a longtime NFL coach and coordinator who was the first Jewish head coach in the league since the late 1990s when he was with the Chicago Bears in 2013, is pleased with  how quickly his unit has  progressed.

While Trestman continues to work out the kinks, the hope surrounding the team is that once the offense hits its stride, it won’t look back.

“There is an ebb and flow to training camp,” Trestman said at a July 30 news conference. “The first day, the defense might have an advantage. Then, all of a sudden, the next day the offense rolls in and they get the upper hand. That’s what you really see over time is just this ebb and flow.

“Some days the winner of practice is the defense. Some days, hopefully, we get a chance to win a practice, so to speak, as we look at it. Overall, I don’t look at it as it being harder offensively than defensively to get ready. It’s just the process of getting ready.”

Trestman, 60, arrived in Baltimore nearly two years ago after serving two seasons as the head coach of the Chicago Bears, who fired him after going 13-19 with no playoff appearances. His first season as Baltimore’s play caller yielded mostly positive results despite a 5-11 finish, the team’s first losing record since 2007.

The Ravens compiled the second-most yards in team history and set a franchise record in passing yards even though quarterback Joe Flacco, the team’s all-time passing leader, tore his ACL  and MCL after 10 games. Overall, Baltimore finished 14th in the NFL in total offense, giving Trestman and his unit a solid benchmark from which to improve.

“I’m excited about it,” Flacco said of Trestman’s offense. “We’ve been meeting throughout the offseason. I’m excited to get back up there and really start grinding away a little bit. I think they’ve done a lot of good things to the offense. We’re going to take advantage of a lot of our good players and make things happen, play fast, score points and do a lot of good things. So, I’m excited about it.”

Flacco, 31, will be aided by the expected returns of starting running back Justin Forsett, wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., center Jeremy Zuttah and tight end Crockett Gillmore, all of whom missed signficant time last season.

When last season ended, in fact, the Ravens were down to their third-string quarterback and running back, and they had also lost their starting left tackle, center, tight end and five receivers. All told, Baltimore placed a team-record 20 players on injured reserve while limping to its third straight third-place finish in the AFC North.

But the Ravens appear poised to right the ship and return to the playoffs for the seventh time in the last nine years, which Trestman believes will breed intense compeition.

“There is a sense of urgency, because there really is no way of knowing right now who is going to be on the final roster of offensive players,” Trestman said.

This offseson, the Ravens made a concerted effort to bolster that depth for Trestman, selecting offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley No. 6 overall in April’s draft and signing  veteran tight end Benjamin Watson and wide receiver Mike Wallace.

In addition to Trestman gaining another year of experience, the Ravens also have the luxury of not having to learn another offensive system. This marks the first time since 2013 they will have the same offensive cooridnator in consecutive years.

Given that type of structure, the Ravens have full confidence in the lofty goals they have set with Trestman calling the shots.

“We’re going to be in much better shape in terms of building the system … than we were the first year,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “Now the system is more [Trestman’s] than it was last year.”

No Surprises, But Some Disappointed in Dismissal of Remaining Freddie Gray Charges

Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby addresses dropping the remaining charges against officers at news conference on July 27. (Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Newscom)

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby addresses dropping the remaining charges against officers at news conference on July 27. (Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Newscom)

The news that Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby dropped the remaining cases against three officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray was expected by many. Some were relieved it was over and the city could move forward, while others were dissatisfied no police officers were convicted of criminal charges in a death that resulted from injuries Gray sustained while in police custody.

“We were not surprised nor were most other people in Baltimore because of the direction things were headed,” said Molly Amster, Baltimore director for Jews United for Justice. “I think it’s certainly disappointing.  Freddie Gray didn’t kill himself  and I think this is more a  reflection of the problems with our existing laws and the criminal justice system.”

The six officers who were charged remain on administrative leave and may return to patrolling if ongoing internal reviews determine they did not break department policy.

In a news conference announcing the dropping of the  remaining cases, Mosby criticized the judge, the investigators and police for how the cases were handled. Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis praised Mosby’s decision, but defended the investigation. Former commissioner Anthony Batts, who was fired in July 2015 following the city’s unrest and soaring homicide rate, defended the officers and called Mosby “incompetent and vindictive.”

Baltimore City Councilwoman Rochelle “Rikki” Spector (D-District 5) said Mosby was “critical of everything but her office.”

Spector said she was relieved.

Whatever progress is made doesn’t even compare to what still needs to be done.”  — Howard Libit, Baltimore Jewish Council executive director


“Hopefully this will put the whole situation to rest,” she said. “I’ll wait to see what the fallout is.”

She said that while she’s confident there will be better police practices as a result of the issues that came up during the trials, she’s worried police officers won’t be respected and that recruitment will become more difficult.

Warren Alperstein, a criminal defense, workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyer who was a prosecutor in Baltimore City, said officers he represents are “deeply troubled” by the events.

“They are now afraid and reluctant to approach individuals who they suspect are  involved in criminal activity for fear that if the officers have physical contact with them,  albeit for good faith reasons, there is a real possibility, as they have witnessed, that they will be prosecuted,” he said. “And unfortunately this has resulted in a chilling affect on the officers performing their duties.”

“The citizens of Baltimore City are the ones that actually lose,” he said.

Alperstein said that he never thought any of the officers should have been charged in the first place.

Protestors took to the streets following Freddie Gray’s death in April 2015 and during the trials that followed. (March Shapiro)

Protestors took to the streets following Freddie Gray’s death in April 2015 and during the trials that followed. (March Shapiro)

“Accidents can happen, but that does not automatically mean that the individuals who encounter the victim are  culpable of a crime,” he said, “and the evidence in this case and like any other case in the United Stats has to support a  conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Wayne Cohen, a law professor at George Washington University for 25 years, agreed the cases were “thin at the outset.”

“I think [Mosby has] had a lot of pressure and will continue to have a lot of pressure regarding the cases, specifically whether they should have been brought in the first place,” he said, “and Freddie Gray’s death, while a terrible tragedy … may not have risen to the point of criminal charges.”

He said there have already been policy and procedural changes enacted and there will hopefully be more coming. “Even though there have not been convictions, we’ll still have a system that will function better.”

On a better functioning system, Amster said, “The most important thing beyond individual responsibility is our collective responsibility to implement the changes that we won in Annapolis in 2016.”

She is referring to a new law that allows civilian participation on police trial boards. The issue, as she sees it, is that even if the mayor and city council were to enact this change, the Fraternal Order of Police could block the composition of the trial board.

“We hope that the police and the mayor will negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement that will allow for that change,” she said.

Howard Libit, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, said that there are broader issues at play other than the trials, such as the attention that has been brought to Baltimore’s underserved and underinvested communities.

“As a Jewish community, we’ve always had a lot of relationships with different communities, different faiths, across the city and region and we’ve always tried to work in partnership with them,” he said. “A lot of our agencies have tried to redouble our efforts and ask the question, ‘what more can we do to help?’”

He’s already seen more partnerships  between synagogues and churches, and other organizations in the community such as LifeBridge Health looking to  expand community outreach. But there is more work to do, he said.

“The broader systemic changes that are needed that have been spotlighted out of this,” he said, “whatever progress is made doesn’t even compare to what still needs to be done.”

Flute and Harp Duo Bring New Musical Works to Baltimore


The Cochlea Duo performs at An Die Musik Sunday. (Photo provided)

A U.S.-native, Switzerland-based flute and harp duo, the Cochlea Duo, brings its classical music with a contemporary twist to An Die Musik this Sunday.

The duo will be performing a concert of pieces that few have heard, including two pieces that were composed specifically for the duo.

The two musicians met at an international school in Basel, Switzerland, where they both taught after-school music lessons. Although each is classically trained, they decided to perform together based on a mutual interest in contemporary music. Lindsay Buffington, the harpist of the duo, explained, “Classical training is pretty much the only option if you want to make music a career.”

Born and raised in Howard County, Buffington received her bachelor’s degree in music performance from University of Maryland, College Park. After studying abroad in Switzerland, she decided to return to the town of Basel for two master’s degrees, one in music performance and the other in pedagogy.

Music was a huge influence on her life growing up. “We would play Jewish and Yiddish songs on the piano with my grandma, and if I didn’t understand the words, she’d translate,” Buffington said. “That whole tradition from the 20s and 30s was a part of my musical upbringing that was just as important as my classical training.”

Chelsea Czuchra, the flutist, grew up in a small, rural North Carolina town. After receiving private flute lessons and attending a summer program, she ended up at a performing arts high school. This proved to be the stepping stone to receiving her music degree from Purchase State College in New York. Czuchra ended up in Switzerland because she was interested in how different contemporary music is in Europe. With her husband being from Switzerland, it was the ideal locale.

“Flute and harp is a common combination,” Czuchra said. “We had each played in duos separately in our careers before — there is so much music for flute and harp. We have similar interests in what kinds of music we want to play and what programs we want to put together.”

The concert series that the duo will be performing in Baltimore and the rest of the United States is unique because it is music that nearly no one will have heard before. Everything on the program with the exception of one piece was composed in the last decade. “The concerts that we are playing also feature two pieces, which were written for us, that we commissioned,” Buffington explained.

“One is by a composer from Basel [Michele Rusconi], a composer that Lindsay has worked with before on a solo piece,” Czuchra elaborated. “The second piece is by an interesting young composer [Jesse Jones], who was just appointed to the faculty at Oberlin. There’s a very interesting, evocative way of which he combines his musical interests.”

“People might know Steve Reich or Philip Glass because they’re really popular, but there is a whole other realm of composers,” Buffington said. “One of the pieces that we’re playing is by a composer from New Zealand. I think every time we play this piece, people who even think they hate the music come out and say, ‘That’s the most gorgeous piece.’ It’s really interesting to surprise people with music that is written now, but is beautiful and transcends any school of composition.”

Czuchra explains that Juda-ism is prevalent in the world of music and composing. “You can’t really play American music without crossing tons of Jewish composers. One of the composers that we’re playing, Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon — he’s Mexican, but his family emigrated from Austria to Mexico because they had to leave before the rise of the National Socialist Party.”

Right now, the duo is extra-ordinarily busy, with a multitude of concerts this summer. Leading up to tour, the two have been meeting several times a week to practice and talking a lot on the phone. They don’t have a manager, preferring to take care of the details themselves. “It is certainly challenging, but the more you put into something, the more you get out of it,” Buffington said. “It’s a different level of commitment — you’re there for the whole process from start to finish. The concert is the absolute last stop on a long road of preparation.”

Cochlea Duo performs at An Die Musik, 409 N. Charles St., Baltimore, on Sunday, July 31, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $7 for students and $10 for adults. Visit

Wells Fargo at Greenspring Shopping Center Robbed

The Wells Fargo in the Greenspring Shopping Center was robbed on the afternoon of Friday, July 22, according to Baltimore County police.

Police were dispatched to the bank, located at 2847 Smith Ave., at 3:25 p.m. for a reported robbery. According to police, a suspect implied he had a weapon to a teller and fled the bank with an undisclosed amount of money.

No arrests have been made in this incident, police said.