Not Associated

Black Lawyers for Justice and Shabazz link with prominent local leaders without permission

Malik Shabazz, leader of Black Lawyers for Justice, expects 10,000 protesters to join him in a rally at Baltimore’s City Hall on Saturday.

Although a flyer lists several prominent African-American community leaders and organizations as sponsors of the rally, BLFJ did not ask permission from many of those listed. The flyer has since been replaced with one that lists no organizations other than BLFJ.

The original flyer for Saturday's rally, which has since been removed from the Black Lawyers for Justice website.

The original flyer for Saturday’s rally, which has since been removed from the Black Lawyers for Justice website.

Del. Jill P. Carter was among those surprised to see her name on promotional materials, as was attorney and former Maryland delegate Aisha Braveboy.

“We are not affiliated with this event and have demanded that our names be removed,” Braveboy wrote on her Twitter account. In another tweet Braveboy wrote that she, Del. Carter and other lawyers “were appauled (sic) to [have] our names on the flyer.”

Doni Glover, publisher of Bmore News and a leader in the Sandtown neighborhood, was also listed as a sponsor without permission, and The Baltimore Sun reported that attorney Gabriel J. Christian and Dayvon Love of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle and Marvin L. “Doc” Cheatham, a former Baltimore NAACP leader, also renounced sponsorship of Shabazz’s event. At least half of the organizations and people listed on the flyer were not consulted and several names were misspelled.

William Thomas, co-founder and director of the Tipper Foundation, was asked to speak at the BLFJ rally. His organization provides financial relief and emotional support to victims and their families after traumatic injuries, something Thomas has experienced first-hand. Thomas, an electrical engineer, spends time promoting science and math education to young African-American students in Baltimore.

After doing some background research on Shabazz and BLFJ, Thomas declined to speak.

“So far what I’ve heard is not in line with my message of trying to be a positive example,” he said. “What I’ve heard is that … Shabazz’s message is a bit more radical for my tastes.” Thomas also reached out to several colleagues to find out more about Shabazz’s rally.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization with roots in the anti-segregation movement that monitors and battles hate groups, lists Malik Shabazz in its “Extremist Files.”

The profile describes Shabazz, born Paris Lewis, as “a racist black nationalist with a long, well-documented history of violently anti-Semitic remarks and accusations about the inherent evil of white people. He is also particularly skilled at orchestrating provocative protests.”

Hillel Hoops

The competition was tough among the 42 men’s and women’s teams that took part in the tournament. (Photo Provided)

The competition was tough among the 42 men’s and women’s teams that took part in the tournament. (Photo Provided)

The gymnasiums in Ritchie Coliseum and the Reckord Armory at the University of Maryland echoed with cheers, as more than 1,000 Jewish students gathered for the fifth annual National Hillel Basketball Tournament.

Students from more than 25 schools across the U.S. journeyed to Maryland’s flagship university in College Park from April 17 to April 19 for three days of camaraderie and competition. In all, 42 men’s and women’s basketball teams competed for a chance to win the tournament’s coveted Kiddush Cup trophy.

Stern College for Women overcame the University of Maryland to win the women’s championship 22-17. In the men’s bracket, Boston University defeated Yeshiva University, 40-37.

If the BU team looked tired at first, it’s because it had just come off the most nail-biting game of the tournament against a strong Maryland team that included Terps reserve Jacob Susskind. The game went into quadruple overtime with BU sinking a buzzer-beating three-point shot.

“Everyone’s mouth was open wide. It was an insane game,” said NHBT chairman Joseph Tuchman, a junior finance and entrepreneurship major from Silver Spring.

The weekend kicked off with Shabbat dinner at the UMUC Marriott, just a short walk from the University of Maryland Hillel. Nearly 600 students and guests filled the hotel’s ballroom for a sit-down dinner.

“[Looking out] over the ballroom at Shabbat dinner, watching people laughing and smiling, knowing that we put that together, it was an incredible feeling,” said NHBT board co-chair Avi Kozlowski, a sophomore accounting and finance double major, also  from Silver Spring.

“When you’re planning, you think, ‘Oh, between this number and that number will show up,’ but when you see people filing in and filling up every table, making Kiddush and coming together as one, that was a special moment,” said NHBT board co-chair Jacob Neumark, a sophomore government and politics major from New York.

Saturday, following services, attendees listened intently to a panel discussion featuring CBS Sports analyst Jon Rothstein; Jason Belzer, founder and president of Global Athlete Management Enteprises; Saul Rafel-Frankel, University of Delaware director of men’s basketball operations; and Brooklyn Nets lawyer Mike Rosen. New this year was a game-show competition called College Ball that tested teams on Jewish and basketball trivia. Columbia University’s men’s basketball team took home the $1,000 prize.

The tournament participants and fans joined together Saturday night for the opening ceremony and Havdalah service on the court and the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner and the Israeli national anthem. Following the evening’s round of games, 10 players decided to have an impromptu dunking competition to the delight of the crowd.

Funding for the tournament doubled this year thanks to 20-plus sponsors, which allowed the NHBT board to pay for rooms at a nearby hotel for out-of-town players. In the past, players had stayed in student dorm rooms or apartments. But with this year’s record attendance, being able to have hotel rooms available was a must. Sponsors of the tournament included the Leader Family Fund, the Levenson Family, the Marcus Foundation, Under Armour, Gatorade and the Silver Spring kosher pizza restaurant, Ben Yehuda.

Unlike other tournaments that have professional staffing, the NHBT, hosted every year at Maryland, is 100 percent student led, though the support of the Maryland Hillel staff and community is essential, explained Tuchman. The 19-member board put in thousands of hours to organize and execute the tournament and stayed until the wee hours of the morning prior to the teams’ arrivals to ensure the weekend went off without a hitch. The payoff was well worth it in Kozlowski’s estimation.

“So many people came up to me afterward thanking me and the board. They were really genuine and sincere,” he said, “Bringing over 1,000 Jews in one place at one time to meet each other, to network with each other … it’s an incredible experience.”

mapter@midatlanticmedia.com

Protests Remain Peaceful on Wednesday

IMG_0451

Protesters march from City Hall to Penn Station on Wednesday, April 29.

A crowd of hundreds marched from Baltimore’s Penn Station to City Hall and back Wednesday evening, waving signs and shouting chants of “No justice, no peace. No racist police.”

National Guard troops, Maryland State Police and Baltimore City Police stood behind barricades in front of City Hall and helped direct march and vehicular traffic. While guardsmen had guns and batons ready, other officers had zip ties hanging off of their uniforms. There were no reported clashes between law enforcement and protesters; the march was peaceful.

For two weeks, individuals from Baltimore and beyond have been protesting over the death Freddie Gray, 25, who was arrested on April 12 and died on April 19 after suffering injuries while in police custody. It is not known when and how he sustained the injuries.

National Guardsmen were stationed behind barricades in front of City Hall.

National Guardsmen were stationed behind barricades in front of City Hall.

Baltimore Police were expected to announce that their investigation was completed and turned over to prosecutors on Thursday, but no more public information was to be released, according to reports.

Home Run for Cardin

Amendments targeting European anti-Israel trade activities were adopted unanimously in the House and Senate finance committees last week.

Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) authored amendments discouraging European trading partners from engaging in boycotts of Israel or Israeli-controlled territories. Cardin’s amendment was accepted in a 26-0 roll call vote at the April 22 Senate Finance Committee markup of the Trade Promotion Authority Bill and was followed by unanimous approval of a similar measure in the House Ways and Means Committee the following day.

Sen. Ben Cardin: “Trading partners who want to do business with us should not marginalize Israel.” (Pete Marovich/ZUMAPRESS.com)

Sen. Ben Cardin: “Trading partners who want to do business with us
should not marginalize Israel.” (Pete Marovich/ZUMAPRESS.com)

The amendments further discourage actions by “potential trading partners that directly or indirectly prejudice or otherwise discourage commercial activity solely between the United States and Israel” and provide language to “seek the elimination of state-sponsored unsanctioned foreign boycotts against Israel or compliance with the Arab League Boycott of Israel by prospective trading partners.” Cardin affirmed that his amendment uses much of the same language of the U.S.-Israel Trade Enhancement Act of 2015 he put forth with Portman in March.

The negotiating objectives pertaining to trade with Israel apply only to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement with European countries and not the Trans Pacific Trade Agreement currently being considered with Asian trading partners in mind.

Roskam’s amendment sought to blunt criticism of the U.S.-Israel Trade and Commercial Enhancement Act from groups such as J Street and Americans for Peace Now. In a statement, both organizations characterized congressional protection of goods from the Israeli-occupied West Bank as counter to American policies critical of Israel’s military and civilian presence there.

“We view the [bill] as not simply unhelpful to the effort to combat” the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, “but contrary to longstanding U.S. policy opposing settlement of the territory occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War. In particular, the bill perpetuates and validates one of the BDS movement’s most harmful fallacies: that Israel and the territory it occupies in the West Bank should be treated as one and the same.”

Pushing back on such criticism, a Roskam staffer with knowledge of the legislation said that the language adopted in the amendment pertaining to “Israeli territories” was not a political statement on a two-state solution or final borders, but a reflection of the reality that Israel does have authority over settlements.

“[Our trading partners] should not be imposing political solutions [on Israel],” said the staffer. “We are negotiating the largest free-trade agreement, and we want to ensure that [our trading partners] are not participating in politically motivated boycotts against our trading partners.”

Cardin echoed the staffer’s assertion.

“The thrust of this amendment is to deal with governmental actions, not individuals,” he said. “Individuals can do whatever they want to do. Trading partners who want to do business with us should not marginalize Israel.”

He pointed to past trade deals with Oman and Bahrain as a model. In those cases, an upgrade in trade status was predicated on requiring the Gulf countries to reject boycotts of the Jewish state.

“This is not an unusual move,” said Cardin.

Further language from Roskam’s original requires the president to submit to Congress a report on “politically motivated acts of boycott, divestment from and sanctions against Israel” no later than 180 days after the act’s enactment.

AIPAC, for which fighting Israel boycotts is a legislative priority, heralded the progress of Cardin’s amendment, saying in a statement that it “applauds the important steps that Congress has taken this week to defend Israel against pernicious economic efforts by foreign governments that unfairly single out and boycott our ally.”

The Zionist Organization of America offered similar praise.

It remains to be seen if the amendments, which must still be voted on in both chambers, will cause complications with European trading partners. The European Union officially opposes boycotts of Israel, but there has been a renewed push for distinctly labeling goods made in settlements. In April, 16 foreign ministers wrote a letter to EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, asking her to advance the process of labeling Israeli goods produced in Jewish settlements as “Made in the West Bank.”

“You get push back on everything,” said Cardin. “If they want to be our trade partners, they shouldn’t participate in these anti-trade policies.”

mapter@midatlanticmedia.com

My Israel Puzzle Project

In celebration of Israel’s Independence Day, more than 100 students from area congregational schools filled the auditorium of the Park Heights JCC on Sunday to participate in the My Israel Puzzle Art Installation and Collaborative Project hosted by the Macks Center for Jewish Education, an agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

The students were asked to reflect on what Israel means to them and express those feelings artistically by decorating giant foam puzzle pieces. The pieces will be installed in the Jewish Museum of Maryland on Yom Yerushalayim, May 17, and remain open to viewing through May 27 alongside puzzle pieces created in Baltimore’s sister cities of Odessa, Ukraine and Ashkelon, Israel.

 


Photos by Esther Apt

Free-Range

Alexander and Danielle Meitiv, the Silver Spring parents under investigation for allowing their children, ages 6 and 10, to walk around town without adult supervision, believe they are raising their children to become responsible adults, but their free-range parenting style, which has resulted in two recent run-ins with police, is controversial.

“Free-range is for chickens and cattle, not for children,” said Grier Weeks, executive director of the National Association to Protect Children.

“Free-range parenting is not parenting at all,” he said. “We are awfully tired of hearing about naïve adults who put their child in harm’s way to learn at the child’s expense.”

Danielle Meitiv with her children in a family photo. (Provided)

Danielle Meitiv with her children in a family photo. (Provided)

But a hands-off approach to raising children has its supporters. A petition to the Maryland General Assembly on the website change.org urges legislators to “focus on real instances of child neglect” and let parents “responsibly raise” their own children. It had 923 signatures as of last week.

Several people who know the Meitivs described them as caring parents who don’t buy into the stranger-danger theory that encourages children to shy away from anyone they don’t know. Nor are they helicopters parents who hover closely, scrutinizing every move their children make.

“No question about it. They take care of their kids very well,” said Manuel Lopes, who lives across the street and has known the family more than five years.

“In a nutshell, [their parenting is] coming from a very good and thoughtful place,” said someone close to the family who did not want his name used, as he was not authorized to speak for them.

According to him, Danielle Meitiv feels so strongly about free-range parenting that she wants to make a statement. There is a “justice component” to their free-range parenting, he said.

“They see poor people, people of color” who have their children taken from them by the state because they may have left them alone to go to a job interview that could raise the family out of poverty. These families don’t necessarily have the same societal standing or financial means to fight any charges against them.

“They are fighting on behalf of so many others,” he said. “They are fighting for a cause.”

Also, he said, both parents are scientists and live in a data-driven world. The Meitivs talk about how the risks of anything happening is less than in years past. People talk of what a dangerous world it is — pointing anecdotally to the latest reported crime — but “in fact, the data suggests otherwise,” he said.

Attorney George Heym, a former child abuse prosecutor in Pennsylvania, agreed. “I can tell you from my experience dealing with child abuse cases on a daily basis for a number of years, abduction is far and away the least frequent crime that you see against children. And of those abductions, stranger abductions are the most minor percentage of that,” he said. “The vast majority of child abductions involved custody disputes.”

Fear of abduction may have been on the mind of the caller who was walking his dog when he phoned Montgomery County police at 5 p.m., Sunday, April 12, and said he saw two children in the area of Fenton and Easley streets. He told police the children seemed OK and even petted his dog but that he decided to follow them.

Throughout the emergency call, he alerted police where the children were walking and what they were passing, according to the audio of the call that was released to the public.

An officer answering the call found the children by the Fenton Street parking garage, according to a news release from county police. “The officer observed a homeless subject, who he was familiar with, eyeing the children,” it said.

The officer contacted Child Protective Services “per established protocol. Under Maryland law, police officers who become aware of circumstances involving possible child abuse or neglect are mandated to contact representatives of Child Protective Services,” according to the statement.

The children were taken to CPS offices in Rockville, and an investigation was begun by CPS and detectives from the county police’s Special Victims Investigations Division. That investigation is ongoing. The children were picked up by police Dec. 20 in a similar incident.

According to the Meitivs’ attorney, Matthew Dowd, a partner with the law firm of Wiley Rein , Rafi, 10, and Dvora, 6, were playing outdoors and were only “three short blocks from their home” when they were stopped by police.

“The police demanded that the children get into one of the police cars, under the misleading ëassurance’ that the police would take them home,” according to a written statement from Dowd. Instead, according to Dowd, the children were detained in a police car for almost three hours and kept from their parents for more than six hours.”

“The police never called Danielle or Alexander,” the statement continued. “Nor did they allow Rafi and Dvora to call their parents.”

The family is considering filing a lawsuit, claiming that their rights as parents were violated.

Following advice from their attorney, the Meitivs declined to be interviewed.

Under Maryland law, children must be at least 8 years old before they can be left alone in a house or car. However, there is no law specifying how old children must be to walk alone outdoors. Neither Virginia nor the District of Columbia has set a specific age when a child can be left alone legally.

The parents “are thoughtful, outgoing, personable. They seem to have their stuff together,” said a neighbor.

He called the matter “totally overblown,” and called free-range parenting a real issue. “I think what’s blown out of proportion is that stranger-danger thing,” he said.

Theirs is a safe neighborhood, said another neighbor. The children “seem real prepared.” A life where kids can go to the park and have fun on their own, “that’s the kind of world I want to live in,” said Sandy, who didn’t want her last name used.

The homes surrounding the Meitivs’ are well-tended. Brightly colored tulips bloomed in front of many front yards. The Meitivs have a garden with bright green lettuce leaves already emerging. Yet, their home, which sports a mezuzah on the door, is in clear sight of Fenton Street. A laundromat, 7-Eleven and Greyhound bus station are within a very short walk.

Within a 15-minute-walk is the home of the new Silver Spring library and downtown Silver Spring. It’s the kind of neighborhood that Silver Spring civic associations boast about — suburbia with an urban touch.

Lenore Skenazy, founder of the book, blog and movement known as Free-Range Kids, says allowing  children to play outside alone isn’t negligent or abusive; it’s even common in other countries.

“I think that we’ve become so convinced that any time a child is not directly supervised, they are in incredible danger,” she said.

Free-range children are not automatically neglected. Rather, Skenazy said, they learn “that their parents believe in them.” Free play and free time “is really good for developing a lot of characteristics that we like to see in our children like problem-solving, confidence, focus. All those things happen when they have to figure out things for themselves.”

Skenazy said Jewish parents are required to do three things for their children. “One is have them study Torah. Two is teach them a trade. And three is teach them how to swim.” Learning a trade and how to swim “recognizes that our job as parents is to create self-sufficient adults. The Torah doesn’t say our job is to give our children water wings,” she said.

Raffi Bilek, director of the Baltimore Therapy Center, said parenting should be a combination of doing and stepping aside: “There’s a happy medium. Parents should not be watching their kids every step. Parents should not be buying helmets for when [their children] learn to walk. Parents should not be letting their kids wander around whenever, wherever.”

Good parents “assess what is a reasonable level of responsibility,” he said. Most kids can walk around their neighborhood, but are they prepared should something arise, he questioned.

“Kids are individuals. Parents are individuals. And you need to figure out what’s right for your family as well as their safety,” Bilek said.

spollak@midatlanticmedia.com
jmarks@midatlanticmedia.com

Not Homegrown

Out-of-town organizer for rally in Baltimore has extremist background

Lawyer Malik Shabazz, founder and president of Black Lawyers for Justice in Washington, D.C., is organizing his second event in Baltimore, a national rally to be held at City Hall this Saturday, May 2, for which he is expecting a “massive” turnout. The first was a demonstration April 25, that began peacefully as it wound through West Baltimore into downtown but then broke out in violence as crowds dispersed.

“Shabazz specializes in arriving at these very fraught events and exploiting them,” said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that monitors and battles hate groups and other extremists and has its roots in the anti-segregation movement.

“We’re looking at an incredibly tense situation [in Baltimore] that could go either way and Malik Shabazz could only make things worse. He’s not there to find a resolution or calm things down, just the opposite.” Potok added, Shabazz has regularly and publicly demonstrated that he “is a truly amazing over the top anti-Semite, anti-white and anti-gay conspirator.”

The local group People’s Power Assembly had already planned a 1 p.m. march for Saturday prior to Shabazz’s announcement of his rally, said Sharon Black, a volunteer and spokesperson for the organization. She said PPA will ask Sandtown residents (where the march will happen) directly which route they prefer the march to follow, she said. Black added that PPA is “not in touch” with Shabazz and she has “no idea if Shabazz” has contacted members of the local community for their input in the rally plans.

Black emphasized the focus of the PPA march is to attain amnesty for more than 300 young people that have been jailed since demonstrations started more than a week ago and to indict and convict the six police officers involved in the alleged questionable arrest and subsequent death of Freddie Gray.

Doni Glover, Sandtown resident, editor of Bmore News and owner of DM Global marketing, was surprised to find out he was a local sponsor to Shabazz’s upcoming rally, as it is listed on the BLFJ flyer that appears on the organization’s website.

“I met [Shabazz] and was very disappointed,” said Glover, “They wanted me to lead the press conference [yesterday] but after he disrespected me I left.”

Glover said he is wary of Shabazz because “nobody knows where he’s from” and asserts that being in front of television cameras is his priority. “You don’t come into someone’s community and attempt to manhandle fully capable human beings. … We’re trying to save our city. We are more than capable.”

On the SPLC website, Shabazz has a profile that includes several of his inflammatory public statements in the section titled Extremist Files, which are ongoing reports SPLC maintains to track activities of individuals that demonstrate hateful language or actions.

The profile includes the call and response Shabazz led before an event at Howard University in 1994, a few years before he became  leader of the New Black Panther Party.

Shabazz: “Who is it that caught and killed Nat Turner?”
Audience: “Jews!”
Shabazz: “Who is it that controls the Federal Reserve?”
Audience: “Jews!”
Shabazz: “What? You’re not scared, are you?”
Audience: “Jews! Jews!”
Shabazz: “Who is it that controls the media and Hollywood?”
Audience: “Jews! Jews!”
Shabazz: “Who is it that has our entertainers … and our athletes in a vice grip?”
Audience: “Jews!”

Said Potok, “I cannot imagine any positive aspect to Shabazz visiting Baltimore.” Though he is not criminally responsible, he said, Shabazz “has an extremely lengthy track record of instigating hatred and violence.”

mgerr@midatlanticmedia.com

‘The Whole World Is Seeing This’

After a week that saw peaceful protests turn to riots and looting, members of the Baltimore Jewish community are concerned about the future of their city as well as what the world is seeing.

“We really were seeing a majority of very nonviolent protests. Our city has a very long history of being involved in nonviolent protests. This was really personal for a lot of people who feel like Baltimore has come a long way,” said Cailey Locklair Tolle, deputy executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council. “When we see something like [rioting and looting], it completely detracts from where we started from.”

Tolle’s comments came Tuesday morning, a day after afternoon clashes with police in West Baltimore turned to looting, car fires and damage to businesses and properties that stretched from Mondawmin to Fells Point.

“It’s just heartbreaking,” said Baltimore City Councilwoman Rochelle “Rikki” Spector. “I am devastated.”

Photos by Melissa Gerr and Ilana Goldmeier.

Baltimore Hebrew Congregation Rabbi Andrew Busch said it worries him what the world outside of Baltimore may be seeing, but it does not surprise him.

“Baltimore becomes the same as any other place dealing with a tragic crisis in that it’s hard to convey the complexity of the message,” he said. “I think what most of us are looking at locally is knowing there is the worst and the best. The people who have [peacefully] protested far outweigh, numerically, the people who then turned to riot.”

The city has been on edge since the death Freddie Gray, 25, who was arrested on April 12 and died on April 19 after suffering injuries while in police custody. It is not known when and how he sustained the injuries.

It was late Monday night when Tolle thought about how far and wide images of Baltimore were being broadcasted.

“My first thought when I had turned on WJZ was, ‘Is this also airing on CNN?’ I switched over to CNN and came to the realization that this isn’t just our local news, the whole world is seeing this,” she said.

The previous week saw smaller demonstrations that culminated on Saturday, April 25, when thousands of people chanted and waved signs as they marched from West Baltimore toward City Hall. When the protest got near downtown and near Camden Yards, the dispersing crowd turned violent as police cars were vandalized, business windows were broken, cars stuck in traffic were damaged and fights broke out between protesters and baseball fans at a bar outside the stadium.

Calm turned to chaos Monday afternoon, the day of Gray’s funeral, after a call for a “purge” spread through social media and what appeared to be school-aged individuals quarreled with police in the Mondawmin area, according to news and police reports. They threw rocks, bricks and bottles at officers; a car was set of fire, and later, residents ransacked Mondawmin Mall. But before the looting began there, businesses in the area of North and Pennsylvania avenues were attacked, including a CVS pharmacy, which was set on fire. Businesses on the west side of downtown were looted, their windows smashed. A large fire at Federal and North Gay streets destroyed a building that was under construction by a local church that was to become senior housing.

Spector maintained that recent events shed light on problems in the city that must be dealt with.

“I think that what has been swept under the rug, or not really tended to, is right in our face right now,” she said. “We can’t be blinded, we can’t give it a pass, we’re going to have to roll up our sleeves and get to these people who have nothing to lose but something to gain. We’re going to figure out how to fix this.”

At least 15 police officers were injured by Monday night, according to reports. Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency, and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake instituted a weeklong curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting Tuesday. (Baltimore City already has a curfew of 9 p.m. for those 14 and under.) City schools were closed Tuesday as were many businesses and offices, some of which closed early after opening in the morning. The Orioles postponed Monday’s and Tuesday’s games, and while many fans were peeved, Orioles COO John Angelos, son of owner Peter Angelos, offered thoughts via Twitter that were widely praised and circulated.

“The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, an ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importance of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards,” he said in several tweets. “We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.”

We can’t be blinded, we can’t give it a pass, we’re going to have to roll up our sleeves and get to these people who have nothing to lose but something to gain. We’re going to figure out how to fix this.

On Tuesday, with threats of more “purges” on social media to be held in areas such as Northern Parkway and the Owings Mills Mall, which did not occur, many organizations took action. A large number of Jewish day schools and the Park Heights JCC closed early. Baltimore County Public Schools canceled after-school and evening activities. CareFirst’s office in Owings Mills, located in the tower office buildings adjacent to the mall, closed early as well.

Rabbi Nochum Katsenelenbogen of Chabad of Owings Mills was still going to hold a minyan at 2 p.m. at one of the office buildings by the mall, although he said some people will not be there and security will be beefed up. He also evacuated the Torahs from the Chabad facility as a precaution.

While Monday was chaotic and there were “hotspots” until the following morning, before dawn on Tuesday dozens were out in the streets helping clean up the city. Cleanup on North and Pennsylvania avenues, which experienced looting and fire Monday, started before dawn when a diverse group of people from the neighborhood and beyond showed up.

A front-loader earlier in the day moved large pieces of trash, and the city brought in a large dumpster around 9 a.m. that residents used to dispose of bags of trash, broken doors and twisted metal shelving from stores. People were sweeping and hauling trash, while others gave out free drinks and snacks.

Molly Amster, Baltimore director of Jews United for Justice who attended Saturday’s protests, said her organization was heartbroken after Monday’s violence. She was out helping cleanup efforts on Tuesday.

“The message that is being sent by everyone, regardless of what types of actions they’re taking, the message is our system is broken,” Amster said, adding that she condemns Monday’s violence. “The issue of police brutality and the lack of accountability that we see when it occurs is what people are asking to be addressed and be fixed.”

The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore started accepting donations to benefit the neighborhoods affected by Monday’s violence and is working with churches, community centers and civic organizations to property distribute that aid. Through Jewish Volunteer Connection, The Associated also sent volunteers to help clean up.

“For generations, The Associated has been there in the good times and bad,” its president, Marc Terrill, said in a prepared statement. “We know that soon, with everyone playing a role, we will rebuild Baltimore into the community of strength and charm for which it is known.”

On Tuesday morning, City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young held a news conference where unidentified gang members pleaded for the violence to stop. Videos and photos of members of the Bloods, the Crips and the Nation of Islam coming together to condemn violence circulated social media the day before.

In news conferences on Monday night, Young, Rawlings-Blake, Hogan and Spector referred to Monday’s rioters as “thugs.”

“This is not what Freddie Gray’s family wanted,” Young said, noting that the riots remind him of the 1968 riots after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. “These are thugs who are seizing upon an opportunity to show their anger, their distrust and their frustration at the police department, and this is not the way to do it.”

Councilman Brandon M. Scott was blunt: “I am simply pissed off,” he said.

Rawlings-Blake added, “It is idiotic to think that by destroying your city, you’re going to make life better for anybody.”

Beth Am Synagogue Rabbi Daniel Cotzin Burg, who was out at the protests on Saturday with Jews United for Justice, did not think the same people who peacefully protested Saturday were responsible for Monday’s destruction.

“This seems to be a social media instigated that quickly turned violent,” he said. “It’s different people, not community leaders, not the social justice community. It’s a reflection of the overall racial tensions in Baltimore, but the comparisons need to stop there.”

Burg was firm that there are problems that need to be addressed, but Monday’s events were not the right way.

“There’s no excuse for people stealing [and] throwing rocks and bricks at police,” he said. “It’s never helpful, never called for.”

In Northwest Baltimore County on Monday night, Shomrim was at work on a plan in case the violence migrated north to the Orthodox community, where things were quiet, spokesman Nathan Willner said.

“The biggest concern is that most of the police resources are deployed to the harbor and where the riots are taking place, which means our community would have less resources,” Willner said around 9:45 Monday night. “We are at a high alert. We are making sure that our responders are available.”

Less than five miles from several of Monday’s incidents, the Harbor East area was relatively quiet. A handful of restaurants hosted dining patrons, but almost everything was closed, including the 24-hour CVS.

Deirdre, a Baltimore County native and a manager at Gordon Biersch Brewing Company on Lancaster Street in Harbor East, was moving large tables and chairs inside from the patio with help from her staff.

“We’re just trying to get closed up so everyone can get home safely; we don’t know where all of the commotion is happening or where it’s coming [from],” she said. “We’re [bringing in] and locking up our patio furniture, anything that can be lifted and thrown is now locked up. We never do this. We usually lock things up with cords and master locks. So right now we’re getting everything safe.”

At the same time, neighbors helped each other clean up broken glass, board up windows and stand guard just half a mile away on Broadway in Fells Point, where a 7-Eleven, another convenience store and a MetroPCS mobile phone store was broken into and looted.

Because of the protests on Saturday, Rabbi Ariel Fishman, his wife and their son walked back from Lloyd Street Synagogue Saturday mid-afternoon
to Judaic Heritage, near University of Maryland, Baltimore, where he is director.

“We decided to walk down Lombard thinking we’d be off the main Pratt Street protest traffic, but we still saw tons of people pouring out,” he said, noting that some wore anonymous Guy Fawkes masks. “It didn’t feel unsafe, but there were a lot of people moving out of that area.”

“Some of the people had a pain and sadness on their faces,” said Fishman. “I always think of what MLK said, ‘Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.’ And that resonates with Jewish ethics, to love all people, love all creation. It’s a concept that has a firm hold in Jewish tradition.”

Tolle expressed concerns over what impact this week’s events may have on the city from things such as business insurance, taxpayer costs and the city’s economic future. But there needs to be dialogue, she said.

“These are conversations we need to have about how to better our community,” she said, “how we can come together and make sure this doesn’t happen again and address the issues that started all this.”

mshapiro@midatlanticmedia.com, mgerr@midatlanticmedia.com

Telling Tales

The Stoop Storytelling series returns to Bolton Street Synagogue after a sellout event last year, and this year’s lineup for “It’s Still Complicated: Stories about the Joys and Oys of Contemporary Jewish Life” includes three area writers more likely to be read on the page than seen on stage.

In just seven minutes, each storyteller will regale the audience this weekend with their Jewish-themed true-life tale from a wild bachelor party with a Jewish rock-and-roll legend to being married to a Nobel Prize winner.

Evan Serpick, the editor of Baltimore City Paper who grew up in Pikesville and admittedly “hated going to Hebrew School,” will recount the afternoon when he and fellow partners in crime, Andy, Josh and David, devised an involved scheme — including fake blood, because that’s what fifth-graders do — in an attempt to avoid one more grueling day of studying the aleph bet.

As a former adjunct professor at Towson, Serpick said he’s comfortable talking in front of people but performing a story is different.

“One thing I like about writing is you really have time to think about your words carefully,” said Serpick, who is also a frequent contributor to Rolling Stone. “But when speaking in front of a crowd, you’re stuck with what comes mind.” So he’s rehearsed somewhat but expects the details of the fateful day to play out for the audience as vividly as they have in his memory.

Stoop creators Laura Wexler and Jessica Myles Henkin host their main series at Center Stage, now in its 10th year, and also regularly partner with organizations to create storytelling events tailored to a specific audience.

“I seriously think the Stoop is one of my favorite things about Baltimore,” said Jennifer Mendelsohn, a columnist for Baltimore Style magazine who will share her story about an emotional family reunion, more than 100 years in the making. So when Wexler and Henkin agreed to host at Bolton Street, “the love for my synagogue and for the Stoop came together.”

Telling stories is an inherent part of being Jewish, said Bolton Street Synagogue’s Rabbi John Franken, adding, “The story in Jewish culture is the instrument par excellence for teaching a lesson, and [the stories are] frequently entertaining, engaging and memorable.”

Memorable accurately describes Rona Kobell’s 18 months spent as a reporter in the small town of St. Joseph, Mo., where she said “being Jewish was more of a novelty” than in her hometown of Squirrel Hill, a place Kobell referred to as the Pikesville of Pittsburgh. Kobell will relate her experience covering stories such as a cross burning and an interview at the Hoof and Horn steakhouse, where she was questioned about leaving a pork chop uneaten on her plate.

“When you’re a reporter you want to foster a connection with people. You want to have some commonality,” said Kobell, now an environmental staff writer for Chesapeake Bay Journal and host of WYPR’s “Midday on the Bay.” “So there was this awkwardness where you don’t want to be rude, but at the same time, you don’t want to eat the pork chop.”

Get the rest of Kobell’s story as well as other personal anecdotes from Jewish Museum of Maryland director Marvin Pinkert; comedienne Meshelle; Bolton Street Synagogue president Marc Hartstein; and Johns Hopkins University executive Nancy Riess.

Proceeds from the May 2 event will benefit Bolton Street Synagogue’s educational and social action programs.

Falk Leaves Hopkins Hillel for AIPAC

After more than four years with Johns Hopkins University’s Hopkins Hillel, assistant director Jonathan Falk left his post April 19 to become associate area director in Baltimore for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

“It’s a great opportunity for him; he was ready for the next step,” said Hopkins Hillel director Rabbi Debbie Pine. “He was an amazing presence with deep, close ties to students and staff, and we’re sad to see him go, but we’re happy for his next opportunity.”

Pine said although Falk was offered the AIPAC position several weeks ago, he negotiated to stay with Hillel until after the busy time of Passover. A search for a new assistant director is hoped to produce results within the next couple of weeks, she said.

A native Baltimorean, Falk returned to his hometown when he started at Hopkins Hillel, first as program director. He is an alumnus of Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa., where he majored in business and religion with a concentration in management and Jewish thought.

Rabbi Darren and Avital Levin, who for the past two years have served as the Orthodox Union’s Heshe and Harriet Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus representatives at the Hillel, will also be leaving, said Pine. Half of the Hillel’s staff will be new in the fall, so “it’s a big transition for us.”

mgerr@midatlanticmedia.com