Mayor Replaces Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts was replaced by deputy commissioner Kevin Davis

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake speaks at the groundbreaking of Renaissance Gardens, a 60-unit independent apartment building to benefit limited-income seniors.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (Credit: Justin Tsucalas)

Following months of unrest since the death of Freddie Gray after sustaining injuries while in police custody — May was Baltimore’s deadliest month in 40 years — and increasing public scrutiny of the city’s efforts to stem the violence, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake on Wednesday replaced Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts.

Deputy Commissioner Kevin Davis, who previously served as Anne Arundel County’s police chief, was named interim commissioner.

“Recent events have placed an intense focus on our police leadership, distracting many from what needs to be our main focus — the fight against crime. So we need a change,” Rawlings-Blake said at a press conference. “The people of Baltimore deserve better.”

She gave Batts credit for serving the city with “distinction.”

“Through a broad range of initiatives he helped modernize our police force, he helped put more cops on the streets during peak periods of crime, and he brought more transparency and accountability to policing in Baltimore city,” she said.

Members of the Jewish community thought the mayor made the right decision.

“There seems to be a disconnect between the rank and file and members of various communities and the commissioner,” said Nathan Willner, spokesman for Shomrim of Baltimore.

He said Shomrim and other members of the Jewish community met with the commissioner several times.

“He was very receptive on many of the issues that we brought to him. He had made several commitments that he was going to try to implement. Unfortunately, those commitments were not fulfilled,” Willner said, adding that he thinks it could have been due to the nature of the job or other issues in the city taking precedent. “People in the community were hoping to have a closer and more proactive relationship with the commissioner.”

Baltimore Jewish Council Executive Director Arthur Abramson applauded the mayor’s move.

“There is no one better to access what needs to be done than the person who the police commissioner reports to,” he said. “I believe very strongly that something needed to be done to stem the increased number of homicides in the city and I hope that the new interim police commissioner quickly gets a handle on what needs to be done and does it.”

Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young said that while Batts was open to ideas, engaging and experienced and served to the best of his ability, the city must do what it can to quickly restore the community’s trust in police officers.

“As I’ve recently crisscrossed the city, connecting one-on-one with citizens and members of our police force, it became increasingly clear that a growing lack of confidence in the direction of our city’s crime-fighting strategy had the potential to severely damage the long-term health of our city,” he said in a statement.

District 5 City Councilwoman Rochelle “Rikki” Spector said the “defining moment” for her was when she heard about the recent citizen complaint about a police station closing at 7 p.m.

“That is not acceptable,” she said. “I travel the city all by myself all the time and I’m out late. If I ever was in fear of something — there’s nine police districts, I know where they are — I would go to a police district. … It’s the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

She was excited by Davis’ appointment to interim commissioner, saying he was “well recommended.”

Davis most recently served as the chief of police in Anne Arundel County. He came to Baltimore in January after Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh replaced him. He’d spent about two decades in the Prince George’s County Police Department, where he served as deputy chief and assistant chief of police.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Davis said his focus is simple.

“It’s all about the crime fighting and it’s all about the relationship with our community, and the relationship with our community needs to be one of service,” he said.

Batts previously served as the chief of police in Long Beach, Calif. and Oakland, Calif. prior to his time in Baltimore.

His firing came hours after Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #3 released a report critical of the actions of the mayor, him and police commanders during the unrest in April and May.

Kevin Harris, spokesman for the mayor’s office called the report “no more than a trumped up political document full of baseless accusations, finger pointing and personal attacks.” He said the city’s review will be extensive and independent.

Jewish Groups Decry UCC BDS Resolution ‘It contributes nothing to peace’

The United Church of Christ passed a resolution last week calling for the boycott and divestment from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.

The resolution, which passed 508-124 at the 30th General Synod in Cleveland on June 30, was submitted by the Central Atlantic Conference of the UCC, which represents 167 UCC congregations in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and parts of Virginia and West Virginia.

Jewish leaders called the resolution disturbing and tragic yet not surprising.

“It contributes nothing to peace. … BDS will never be the way that Israelis and Palestinians will come to a peaceful solution.” — Ron Halber, executive director, JCRC of Greater Washington

“I think the United Church of Christ’s decision to divest from Israel is deeply disappointing and demonstrates a lack of knowledge of Middle East reality, and is a terribly flawed statement that assigns total blame to Israel over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington. “It contributes nothing to peace. … BDS will never be the way that Israelis and Palestinians will come to a peaceful solution.”

While proponents of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement known as the BDS movement claim they are showing support for the Palestinian people, as a UCC statement said, Jewish leaders and those on the other side claim that the movement aims to dismantle the State of Israel, and often cite anti-Semitism as part of BDS.

The UCC is not the only church discussing BDS. The day after the UCC vote, the Mennonite Church USA voted to table a BDS resolution until the next assembly convenes in two years. The following day, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church rejected a motion endorsing the BDS movement. But like the UCC, the Presbyterian Church and United Methodists have also passed BDS resolutions.

“We know that academic organizations and professional organizations and religious groups are being targeted by the BDS movement to come out in favor of BDS, so it’s not ultimately surprising to us, but also disheartening,” said Cailey Locklair Tolle, deputy executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, “and we have a lot of work to do. I think that’s what these votes keep telling us.”

Local UCC churches deferred comment to the Central Atlantic Conference minister, the Rev. John Deckenback, who said this resolution is consistent with the UCC’s stance since 1967 that Israel should end the occupation and move toward a two-state solution.

“There’s absolutely nothing in this resolution that delegitimizes Israel,” Deckenback said. “The current policies of the government of Israel is what we’re rejecting.”

Halber said the resolution “is not worth the paper it’s printed on” and “totally one-sided.”

“They can say [what they want]. The reality of the BDS movement is it’s designed to stigmatize and delegitimize Israel out of existence,” he said. “They’ve chosen the side that calls for dismantlement of Israel.”

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton expressed her concern over BDS in a letter to top Democratic party donor Haim Saban. The letter called for a bipartisan effort to fight back against BDS.

“This is not the path to peace,” she wrote. “We need to repudiate forceful efforts to malign and undermine Israel and the Jewish people.”

Local efforts to combat BDS are underway in Maryland, Tolle said. In the 2014 Maryland General Assembly session, language was included in the budget that condemned academic boycotts of Israel. Halber also sees the need for coordinated national efforts to combat BDS, and the Jewish community needs to let it be known that this resolution does damage the relationship between the Jewish community and the UCC.

A variety of other Jewish organizations expressed their disappointment with the UCC vote.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs and Israel Action Network called the resolution “deeply skewed” in a joint statement.

“The UCC General Assembly Synod decision occurs in the face of relative silence to the humanitarian catastrophe currently facing Christians and other minorities in many other Middle East countries as well,” the groups said. “The resolutions evidence a lack of recognition of the steps Israel takes to protect religious minorities in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Israel is the only country in the region with a growing indigenous Christian population.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center called the vote “a travesty and a tragedy.”

“The UCC has voted to support the anti-peace BDS movement that will not improve a single Palestinian life but only succeeds in encouraging those seeking to demonize and weaken the Jewish state and her supporters around the world,” Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper said in a statement.

Even the UCC’s newly elected general minister and president, John Dorhauer, expressed mixed emotions.

“I will be obligated as the officer of this denomination and by mandate of General Synod to speak publicly the action taken here. But I will do so with a deep awareness at the pain that I will cause to people who I care about deeply,” he said according to various reports. “And I will do so, to be quite frank, wondering if the benefits of our divesting from those companies is equal to cost to the relationships that we have with people who are critical to our movement towards justice, not just in Palestine but in many other places.”

Deckenback, who has worked with the Baltimore Jewish Council and has traveled to Israel with the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies, said that he plans to continue to meet with Jewish groups, and several members of the Jewish community expressed their disagreement to him but agreed conversations need to continue.

“There will continue to be dialogue and friendship,” Deckenback said.

mshapiro@midatlanticmedia.com

Sharff to Head Board of Rabbis

Rabbi Benjamin Sharff (Justin Tsucalas)

Rabbi Benjamin Sharff (Justin Tsucalas)

Rabbi Benjamin Sharff of Har Sinai Congregation has been chosen to lead the Baltimore Board of Rabbis for the upcoming year.

Sharff has been the senior rabbi there for the past six years and previously was the associate rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in Tuscon, Ariz. He earned a degree in psychology from the University of Texas and was ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2004.

Sharff said the election took place at the board’s annual meeting last month.

“It’s very exciting, and I’m honored and a little nervous,” he said.

Sharff said after spending a few years in Tuscon he decided to come east to be part of Baltimore’s vibrant Jewish community.

“I was looking for a congregation of my own, and we were looking for a dynamic congregation,” he said.

In addition to his rabbinical duties, Sharff has played guitar for 20 years and is a member of Har Sinai’s official rock band Chai Jinx. His wife, Joy, also performs in the band.

As president, Sharff will act as the face of the organization, working with other clergy and helping to set the tone for the board’s monthly meetings.

“The president will sometimes be asked to speak about issues going on in the Baltimore Jewish community and the international Jewish community,” he said. “One of the core things that I’m going to be focusing on in our presidency is getting our Jewish voice out in the community.”

Sharff has been on the board’s executive committee for the last four years and says he hopes to elevate the rabbinic presence within the community.

“I’ve got a wonderful team,” he said. “This is a historic visionary organization, and I’m thrilled and honored to be a part of this chain of tradition.”

Sheila Dixon Announces Mayoral Candidacy Longtime public servant wants her old job back

Sheila Dixon (Debro18/Wikimedia Commons)

Sheila Dixon (Debro18/Wikimedia Commons)

Former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon announced her candidacy for the city’s top office last week.

She will face incumbent Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in the primary on April 26, 2016, which falls during Passover. She is the first challenger to enter the race.

Dixon, the city’s first African-American female to serve as City Council president and the city’s first female mayor and third black mayor, resigned in 2010 after being convicted of a misdemeanor charge of stealing gift cards that were intended for the needy.

She announced her candidacy on July 1 via her personal Facebook page, which linked to a new website, SheilaDixonforMayor.com.

“I believe I have the leadership skills and experience to bring citizens across the city together to create a safer city that is also cleaner, greener and healthier than we are today,” she wrote. “Together we can reclaim, revive and rebuild Baltimore. … I believe in Baltimore and its future as a united and inclusive city.”

The mayor’s race is sure to be competitive, said John Bullock, an assistant professor of political science at Towson University.

“She was a fairly popular mayor when she was in office,” he said of Dixon. “I think she was known as a community person, and I think people still see her in that light.”

Those who worked with her remember Dixon being active in the Jewish community.

“When we had the Chanukah House,” a house decorated elaborately for the holiday, “she would personally attend,” recalled Ronnie Rosenbluth, owner of Tov Pizza, vice president of Shomrim and a former Maryland Democratic Central Committee member. He also connected with Dixon’s office on issues related to Shomrim as well as the Cheswolde Neighborhood Association, where he is a board member and a former president.

Art Abramson, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, said Dixon attended a trip to Israel with the BJC as a councilwoman and that his organization always had her ear while she served in all of her capacities.

“We didn’t always agree on everything, but we always got a fair hearing when she was a city councilwoman, city council president and mayor,” he said. The BJC has enjoyed similar rapport with Rawlings-Blake.

There was a time Dixon, as the new City Council president, as well as then-Mayor Martin O’Malley helped the BJC block a strip club from being built on same street as Baltimore’s Holocaust Memorial.

“We spent a lot of time on why it would not be a good idea, and both she and then-Mayor O’Malley agreed it would not be a good idea,” Abramson said.

While the Jewish community may have warm memories of Dixon’s time in office, Bullock expects opponents to bring up the scandal that forced her to resign. But with voters’ minds on the unrest following the police custody death of Freddie Gray in April and the escalation in violence that followed, these more pressing issues may take center stage.

“That has to be a center point in the campaign,” Bullock said of the recent unrest.

Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer, a member of the state Democratic Central Committee, said his vote will be based on platforms.

“The city desperately needs a plan to move forward and needs some fresh ideas,” he said.

While he acknowledged that Dixon’s former scandal is “the elephant in the room” he cited the concept of doing teshuvah, repentance, and if Dixon has repented, he doesn’t expect the Jewish community to judge her on previous actions.

Schleifer’s biggest concerns are safety and the city’s tax base; he’d like to see it more on par with Maryland counties and see the city’s property tax rate lowered. He’d also like to see more city leaders run for mayor to give voters more options as to how to move the city forward.

Like Schleifer, Rosenbluth is more concerned with having a mayor who will tackle the city’s issues.

“We’ve got much more serious issues and I’m not only referring to crime, but I’m referring to infrastructure, technology,” he said. “I would like to see overall … some changes in the city no matter who the mayor is.”

He’s excited by the young candidates running for City Council, he added.

Rosenbluth, who does outreach for City Council President Jack Young’s office, said outreach to the Jewish community, including getting people  registered and pushing early voting, is important with the primary election falling during Passover.

“The Jewish vote could make a difference in some of these races, all things being equal,” he said. “The Jewish vote will be important this year.”

mshapiro@midatlanticmedia.com

Hogan Pledges Additional $5 Million for Reisterstown Road

A third lane will be added to a stretch of Reisterstown Road in Owings Mills in anticipation of increased traffic from development.

Reisterstown Road, which is also State Route 140, will be widened in the northbound direction from Painters Mill Road to Garrison View Road, which spans about a quarter of a mile, with construction beginning in spring 2017.

Gov. Larry Hogan announced $1.97 billion in highways and bridges for Maryland, $5 million of which will go to widening Reisterstown Road, which is Baltimore County’s second-highest priority.

The project will also include a bicycle-compatible shoulder, Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant sidewalks, storm-drain-system improvements and landscaping, according to the governor’s office.

Later this summer, work will begin on moving utilities to make way for the widened road. The Maryland State Highway Administration will replace a deteriorating culvert at a cost of $1.7 million, and Baltimore County is spending $4.6 million on a related water line project, SHA spokesman Charlie Gischlar said. Other utilities, such as gas and electric will be moved.

While exact construction costs are not available on the road widening since a contractor has yet to be selected, Gischlar estimated the project will cost between $17 million and $18 million. The road construction should take two to two-and-a-half years, weather permitting, Gischlar said.

The SHA is working with developers of Foundry Row, the Wegmans-anchored center that will open on Reisterstown Road, and will be making road improvements in the southbound direction. Gischlar said work in front of Foundry Row should start next summer. There will be a median barrier once all the road work is done.

In providing new transportation funds, Hogan said he was delivering on a campaign promise.

“This investment not only will move long-awaited highway projects into construction, so that Maryland families and businesses will benefit from safer, smoother roads, but also it will address every single structurally deficient bridge in the state,” he said in a news release. “Building, maintaining and fixing Maryland’s roads and bridges is a top priority of our administration.”

The funding also included $100 million for construction of a fourth lane on approximately one mile of the I-695 outer loop from U.S. 40 to MD 144, which will match the number of lanes on the inner loop in that area. Construction is expected to start this summer.

The announcement drew criticism from some transportation advocates as well as Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake for Hogan nixing the long-awaited Red Line project, which would have connected Woodlawn in Baltimore County to the Johns Hopkins Bayview Campus in East Baltimore. The mayor, Baltimore legislators and city leaders have vowed to push Hogan to reverse the decision, although their power in the matter is limited.

Panther Power Twice monthly, for 75 years, club members meet, argue, bond

The Panthers may disagree on which restaurant has the best deal, recall conflicting details from parties long ago or argue over plans for an upcoming event, but all 50 members of the “boys only” club can agree on one thing: Every other Tuesday they may yell and scream at each other during a dinner business meeting, but they will always walk out arm in arm, the best of friends.

At a recent Panther Club meeting, a roomful of men in their 70s and 80s gathered at the Olive Branch in Pikesville, a favorite spot among members, but the energy electrifying the room felt more like a gaggle of teenagers, eager to shoot the breeze with their buddies. Before getting down to business, they laughed and shouted to each other as they drifted from table to table, gossiping with friends that, for many of them, they likely lunched with earlier that day or played golf with the day before.

“We stay together because — the same old story,” said Nathan Silver, 87, a Panther Club founding member. “We went to club meetings and we argued, but the minute the meeting was over we walked out of the room and had our arms around each other, and we just went home like nothing ever happened. So we were just a bunch of good, honest-to-goodness guys who got along with each other. And we stayed together because of that.”

Continued Silver, it’s also “because we have fun, we enjoy each other and, sorry to say, but we never let the wives interfere with anything that we did.”

Last month, the Panther Club celebrated its 75th anniversary with a two-day gala including a dinner dance at the Martins Valley Mansion and a brunch with musical entertainment and officer installation at Martins Westminster, both venues a long way from their humble beginnings in 1940 at the Jewish Educational Association (JEA) at 1216 E. Baltimore St., the precursor to the Jewish Community Center. JEA organizers formed clubs and offered activities as a destination for young Jewish teens to socialize and better themselves. Nate Berlin and Jerry Scher organized the club and supervised the meetings.

“Most of the fellas walked from Patterson Park every Tuesday night — rain, snow, shine, down to the JEA, about 12 or 13 blocks away,” said David Jacobs, 85, a member for 73 years, who was nearly a founding member but the newly instated must-be-bar-mitzvahed rule meant he had to wait.

“We’d fight, holler, scream at one another about which girl we took out, where was the next basketball game and getting set up for Sunday to play softball,” recalled Jacobs. “If we did homework — because we all went to City College — we would trade answers.”

Other nights “we did wrestling, we had basketball in the basement — it was a postage-size court,” said Silver. “We played volleyball, and in Patterson Park we did track meets” on Sundays and also played softball at Clifton, Patterson and Druid Hill parks.“They’d train you how to speak” too, and “some guys became lawyers and doctors and some of us did manual work. But we all had fun.”

From its inception and maintained to this day, the Panther Club is about having a good time.

One particularly good time recalled by several members was a party orchestrated by Jacobs that began with roller-skating at Collins Park in the former Park Circle area and ended with a cookout at Camp Wonderland on Liberty Road with a “straw ride” for transport between the locations. But because of the “great deal” Jacobs got on the truck, he said, what arrived was a closed-bed wagon so the whole lot of boys and girls rode together in the complete dark (due to the door being closed for safety reasons), and the memory still brings huge smiles to many Panther faces.

“Hands were flying all over the place to tell you the truth,” said Jacobs laughing, and after that, “they said they’d never let me throw another affair.”

The Panthers were known for hosting epic New Year’s Eve galas that were open to the public and they would rent out synagogue social halls and
hotels for the events. The men go all-out for anniversary affairs too that in the past included destinations such as upstate New York and even a Bermuda cruise. Said Silver, “We lived it up, we did it right.”

But after their first anniversary gala, said Jacobs, the Panthers could never go back to the Lord Baltimore Hotel because the club members and their dates — many never having seen such fancy surroundings — took home souvenirs in the form of forks, spoons and even plates decorated with the hotel’s fancy logo.

“And as we got older, we had dances on the roofs, and the girls would come from Park Heights and Forest Park, which was alien to us because the only way we could get up there was by street car; we didn’t have money for cabs,” said Jacobs. Often “we would all meet up at the Imperial bowling alley” not to bowl, just to hang out together, and many a Panther met his future wife at the numerous girls’ parties the boys crashed.

Other clubs were formed at the JEA too, such as the Greyhound Club, the Titans, the Trojans and the Olympic and Pioneer clubs — they were meet-up groups designed for each age and for both boys and girls. But the Panthers are by far the most enduring, they said, and the name came to the group in an unexpected way.

“When we started meeting, some of us walked to Simon Harris sporting goods on Gay Street,” saidSilver, and when “we got there, the guy [working] said he had a return” on jackets that had panther images on them. “And, he said, ‘You can have them for $3.’ So we thought it was a great deal and bought them. That’s how it started.”

After the JEA building closed, Jacobs said they continued to meet at the YMHA, and as the group grew up and men entered into and returned from the service — World War II and the Korean War — members married and started families, but the guys remained a tight-knit group. They couldn’t afford a rental space to meet so Jacobs volunteered his parent’s home on Mortimer Avenue, where they “would come every Tuesday night for a meeting, hollering and screaming,” for about 10 years. When Jacobs married, the group met at his home.

But “when they left [each meeting], they put their cigar and cigarette butts into my wife’s flower pots so we got thrown out,” said Jacobs. “That’s when we started going to different restaurants,” to meet. That was about 30 years ago.

Also read, Behind Every Great Man …

Make no bones about it, explained Alvin Singer, 84, and at 16 years one of the newer members, the Panther Club “is strictly social.” In the earlier years, the Panthers hosted some charity events and an annual party at the Happy Hills children’s convalescent home, but as the members grew older each became involved in his own philanthropic work.

“We meet 26 times [on Tuesdays], and six times a year we get together with our women” and have events and galas that might feature music and performances. Singer, who chaired the 75th anniversary gala committee, said it requires a little more than $1,000 a year to be a member and attend all of the social events, which are all slightly subsidized.

“It tells you what we are, we’re a group of social-minded people who want to enjoy our lives at our age,” said Singer. “It keeps you young. It keeps your mind going, you don’t sit around the house watching television all day; it’s a great feeling. Yes, it’s a club of older guys, but these are older young guys if you know what I mean. And age is just a number.”

Securing membership isn’t only a financial matter. New members — age 65 is the youngest they’ll consider — only qualify following a very specific protocol.

When a Panther wants to introduce a potential new member to the group, explained Singer, he must bring up the person’s name at three consecutive meetings stating his desire. At each meeting if even just one man has an objection to bringing the person in as a new member, they are not considered.

If the potential new member passes that hurdle, then a small committee interviews him at home, and he then attends four consecutive meetings, “where he gets to meet people, and during that time we’ll have an affair and we’ll get to meet his wife and see how he acts at socials,” said Singer. “Then after that, he gets voted on. So it’s not an easy process getting in, and yet we still fill our roster, and it’s been very successful.”

Robert Cohan, 76, joined the Panther Club only a year ago. The new-member process was involved but worth it, he said, because “I had 50 new friends right off the bat, I was treated like one of the old guys who had been there forever, and I’ve been welcomed ever since. It’s been very overwhelming the welcome I’ve gotten. It’s a wonderful feeling.”

Though it was more than 30 years ago when Bernie Sher, 82, became a Panther, he remembers it felt like “instant family” and added that attending the meetings, affairs and seeing his friends regularly “gives you a purpose. There’s always something to look forward to, always something happening.”

“Having that bond, that friendship — that there’s a core group of men like that is phenomenal,” said recreational therapist Jamilah Bashir at LifeBridge Health and Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital.

“That friend is important to socialize with, but they are also keeping an eye on you,” she continued. “And if [someone is] having a bad day, they’re still going get up to go see their friends, and those friends are going to be advocates,” such as if someone isn’t taking their medications or seems depressed, friends are going to notice and can let family members know, she said.

The danger is when people feel they can’t do the same activities anymore, and instead of adjusting their activity, they stop all together and start declining, said Bashir. “And when that happens they start to deteriorate.”

Bashir cited research in the “American Journal of Recreation Therapy” that pointed to cognitive and social engagement as critical for people to remain independent, active and maximize their quality of life into their senior years.

“It’s the best therapy they can get at this point in their lives,” Bashir said. “They are probably the best therapy for each other.”

Small offshoot groups have formed from within the Panther Club, groups that are in sync with the idea of “friends as therapy.”

There is a group of widowers that meets for lunch on alternate Tuesdays, and the ROMEOs (Retired Old Men Eating Out) get together regularly as well. One Panther will fix another up if someone is single, and there has even been recoupling of widows and widowers over the years as well. Like any group it naturally has some cliques too, said several members, but nothing that prevents everyone from getting along and remaining very close.

“The guys are close but the wives are even closer,” added immediate past president Jim Barrish, 78, a member for 14 years and originally from Philadelphia. “My wife receives between 10 and 12 calls a day” from other members’ wives. “They love the affairs and they love the Tuesday nights without us.”

Though the social aspect is what drives the Panthers, the support members receive right up until the end is extraordinary.

If a member becomes ill, there is an announcement and a phone chain in place so people can visit, call or send a card. If a member needs a ride to the doctor, it’s arranged. Members’ widows receive $1,000, a separate donation made by the members. And the staff at Sol Levinson’s knows that if a Panther member has passed, at the funeral service the group is called upon as an honor guard, and members line the aisle en masse, typically 30 to 40 of them, each kissing the casket as it passes as a goodbye gesture.

Said Barrish, “It could be a new member or a man in there for 72 years, we would be there. So it’s not just a Tuesday night, it’s your whole way of life. It’s wonderful.”

Eddie Baumell, 86, a Panther for 72 years, was a scrappy teen working at the New Model Cab Co. and Baumell Brothers garage, both owned by his uncle and located around the corner from JEA; that’s how he met Jacobs, Silver and several others.

“They really sort of settled me down,” said Baumell. “I don’t want to say saved my life, but [Panther involvement] made me more of a person. It made me feel a part of something and that I wasn’t out there by myself. I could be with a bunch of guys who were great.”

Now, Baumell said, the friendships have grown to feel like extended family. Members know each other’s kids and grandkids, and if someone needs a favor, it’s done.

Baumell said the Panthers have stayed together because “I think we all love life. We get mad at each other, but I think the bottom line is that we respect and enjoy each other.”

mgerr@midatlanticmedia.com

The Associated Looks Back

071015_brief_associatedApproximately 200 members of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore gathered at Beth Tfiloh Congregation June 24 for their annual end-of-year meeting at which they reviewed the past year’s events.

Gov. Larry Hogan was slated as the keynote speaker but was unable to attend due to his recently announced health issues with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Maryland Secretary of Aging Rona Kramer spoke on his behalf and said she felt Hogan was fully capable of performing his duties despite his illness.

“He is a fighter. The man works 15 hours a day, seven days a week, and I assure you that he will continue to lead the state,” she said.

Kramer discussed the latest legislative session and said in the midst of massive budget cuts, the state’s partnership with The Associated would continue to receive the same amount of funding it had in the past. She praised the crowd for their help during the Freddie Gray riots when a number of apartment complexes in Baltimore had no access to grocery stores after a CVS was burned and looted.

“They had no transportation and no means of being able to get those services,” Kramer said. “So my department put together a bus route and we planned for the buses, but we called you all and asked for assistance with it and immediately you all said sure.”

Renee Cohen, a spokeswoman for Sen. Ben Cardin, also praised The Associated for its response to the riots.

“We all need you. We can’t give up on the city, and ultimately it is going to be the same safe, vibrant place that it has always been,” Cohen said.

Laurie Edberg, a spokeswoman for Sen. Barbara Mikulski, read a statement from the senator thank-ing The Associated for its global outreach efforts.

“From our unabashed and unwavering support for Israel, to our initiatives in support of tolerance for all people, I look forward to continuing our work together,” she said.

The event also included an announce- ment from Annual Campaign Chair J.M. Schapiro and Annual Women’s Campaign chair Shelly Malis that they raised $30.5 million this year and $47.6 million in total resources.

“It is what the money does that is the true measure of success for us,” Malis said.

The meeting concluded with a yearly summary from President Marc Terrill who said, “Over the past year we have experienced a broad array of challenges,” citing the Baltimore riots, violence in Israel and the recent Charleston church shootings, among other significant events.

Terrill said ultimately, the sense of community that The Associated fosters makes “good times great and bad times bearable.” He said despite all of the tragic events, the community has held strong.

“We have also experienced moments of incredible joy,” he said. “However, that narrative of joyful events is not always in full view of the public. Nevertheless, it is there.”

Susan G. Komen Maryland Honored

Susan G. Komen Maryland’s Regional Breast Health Consortia Program
received the 2015 Exemplary Collaboration Award from the statewide Maryland Cancer Collaborative. Present to receive the award on behalf of the entire Komen Maryland team were Kelly Kesler, community health director, Lori Yates, community health manager, and Komen board member Phyllis Gray.

The program brings together concerned breast care professionals, advocates and community leaders in regions throughout the affiliate service area to network and discuss information and services focused on breast cancer prevention, education, outreach, screening, treatment and survivorship. There are four regional consortia, with the first established in 2008 on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The Eastern Shore Consortium has over 92 members representing over 38 organizations. A Southern Maryland Consortium was launched in fiscal year 2014 with over 61 members representing over 17 organizations, the Western Maryland Consortium and Baltimore Consortium were launched in FY15, and both have grown to over 18 members representing over 11 organizations each in their inaugural meetings.

Children’s Hospital Unveils NICU

The University of Maryland Children’s Hospital (UMCH), in conjunction with the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics, unveiled its new 37,000-square-foot Drs. Rouben and Violet Jiji Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The new unit, triple the size of the previous NICU, will meet the rapidly rising need for specialty care and innovative research to benefit the smallest and most fragile patients in a family-centered care environment.

In the new NICU, the Division of Neonatology in the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s
Department of Pediatrics, will provide a full range of state-of-the-art therapies for treating extremely premature and premature babies, including nutritional management, surgical interventions for birth defects including congenital heart disease, abdominal wall defects, cleft lip/palate repair and brain
malformations, whole body cooling for neonatal encephalopathy, care of infants with congenital diaphragmatic hernia and care of infants with twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome.

The new unit has 52 private rooms, each with a sleeping couch, to allow families the privacy and space they need to bond with their baby and perform important developmental practices such as skin-to-skin contact. To better accommodate the sensory sensitivities of premature and critically ill infants, each room is equipped with controllable light and sound to help regulate circadian rhythms and mimic the environment within the womb. A large family lounge with a fully equipped kitchen, dining area and sitting room has been added so families and siblings of NICU babies can gather, play and relax in a comfortable, home-like setting.

Each room in the new NICU is equipped with a noise tracker to reduce ambient noise as well as a system that will allow families and staff to control the sounds each baby hears. These sounds can include music, a recording of parents’ voices or a track that mimics the sounds within the womb. The development of babies who receive the new sound environment will be compared to babies who did not receive it. Researchers in the NICU also plan to study the air quality of incubators, the impact of skin-to-skin contact and connectivity of brain cells when introduced to two stimuli simultaneously.

McElrath Joins Myerberg Center

The Edward A. Myerberg Center has appointed Mark McElrath as its director of development, said the center’s executive director David Golaner.

McElrath coordinates all fundraising activities for the Myerberg Center, including the center’s annual campaign and spring fundraising event.

“Mark will continue to strengthen our relationships with our donors and supporters throughout the community,” said Golaner. “Our participants will benefit from his eagerness and experience, as he plays a vital role in the Myerberg’s success meeting the needs of older adults in our community.”

Most recently, McElrath served as the regional director for Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic in Baltimore. He earned a master’s degree from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania and an undergraduate degree from Westminster College in Pennsylvania.