A Thanksgiving Blessing

The Mintzes' new addition

The Mintzes’ new addition

Rabbi Etan Mintz, who has shepherded the downtown Baltimore congregation B’Nai Israel for the past four-and-a-half years, welcomed a new addition to his growing family over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Mintz, 38, and his 33-year-old wife Tammy — who earned her doctorate in child psychology from the University of Virginia — have been married for nine years. Their new baby girl is the young couple’s fourth child and will be named at shul during Shabbat on Saturday, Dec. 10, exactly two weeks after her auspicious birthday.

“Our children have all been born on Jewish holidays,” Mintz said. “So it was special to have a child who was born on Shabbat and to be connected in that way.”

Mintz added that Tammy and his daughter’s having been born over Thanksgiving weekend also made for an especially felicitous occasion.

“It was a great way to celebrate Thanksgiving,” Mintz said.

As they needed to remain close to Baltimore’s Sinai Hospital, where his wife would end up giving birth, Mintz said that Tammy, his other children and he were not able to attend their yearly gathering with the rest of his family in New Jersey for Thanksgiving.

But the serendipitous birth made for what Mintz said was “definitely a Thanksgiving weekend to be remembered.”

He added, “It’s a miraculous feeling. I have a lot of admiration for my wife and also acknowledge these everyday miracles.  I have a lot of gratitude for that.”

Mintz continued that the other members of his family are grateful, as well,  particularly his older daughter who is  excited to have a sister after being an only girl with two brothers until now.

“They all want to hold the baby,” Mintz said of his other children. “They all want to make sure they are attentive to her when she cries; they run over to her.

“It’s a very beautiful thing to watch, the way that my children interact with each other.”

Tammy and the baby are both healthy, with Mintz affirming, “Thank God, everybody is good.”

mklickstein@midatlanticmedia.com

The ‘Dean’ Says Goodbye Rikki Spector retires from City Council after nearly 40 years

_dsc8579

Rochelle “Rikki” Spector (David Stuck)

Often called “feisty” by friends and foes alike, longtime Baltimore City Councilwoman Rochelle “Rikki” Spector, 80, spoke of plans for another 40 years the day after being knocked to the ground in an attempted carjacking that left her with a black eye last Friday.

“I go into the biblical mode of 120 years,” Spector said. “The first 40 years was my being born and raised, having my family and developing the loves of my life. The second 40 years was serving in the Baltimore City Council, making government work for the people. Now, I’m embarking on that third 40 years, and I feel ready and inspired.”

Spector, a Democrat who represented the city’s 5th District for 39 years, surprised many colleagues last January with her announcement that she would leave the City Council after nine terms. In good health eight decades into her life, the councilwoman said she wants to shift her focus: “I’m really ready to go on wonderful paths I feel really curious about.”

The Baltimore-born-and-raised councilwoman, known for her outspokenness on issues affecting the city, was appointed to represent Northwest Baltimore in 1977 after her late husband, Allen, was appointed as a District Court judge.

She cited multiple factors for her retirement, including the election of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and the loss of her place on influential council committees.

Her popularity has held strong in the city, and in late 2015, Spector admitted she started gearing up for her re-election — feeding the widespread belief that she would, in fact, run for an unprecedented 10th term. As it stands, Spector has held one office seat in Maryland longer than any elected official in state history.

With her final term complete, many local residents and political officials alike agree that Spector and her contributions to the council will not be forgotten.

“For as much as we didn’t agree on many issues, I told her she may not miss me, but I am certainly going to miss her,” said 14th District Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, one of the council’s senior members. “What Rikki did for her district and Baltimore, you really can’t put into words.”

On the council, Spector fought fiercely for initiatives to advance Baltimore’s economic growth. She also pushed for affordable housing, partnerships between private and public institutions and improving the city’s public school system.

But when council president Bernard “Jack” Young removed Spector from two of her three committee assignments — the Urban Affairs and Aging committee and the Land Use and Transportation committee — two years ago she felt she couldn’t lead as effectively.

Rochelle "Rikki" Spector gives opening remarks to the volunteers before the clean up begins

Rikki Spector addresses volunteers before a clean-up on Good Neighbor Day in November 2012. (Justin Tsucalas)

In fact, for the first time in her political career, Spector had great uncertainty about her place in the current council’s ranks. In a sense, she saw the writing on the wall.

“I’m Jewish, but I had an epiphany,” Spector said. “I said to myself, ‘[Young] has not treated me properly.’ I didn’t want him not to win his re-election, and I didn’t want to work against him because I knew he was going to be the council president again. I couldn’t work four years under those circumstances, plus I didn’t know who the mayor was going to be.”

The rift between the two began in 2014, when she was the only council member to vote against body cameras for all members of Baltimore’s police force and a ban on plastic bags at city stores. The bills were both fiercely advocated for by Young and eventually vetoed by then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, leading to a fallout between Young and Spector.

In an interview with the JT, Young said he “regrets” stripping Spector of her committee assignments, “because she worked hard [and] showed up for all the meetings.”

Moreover, Young, 63, added that he is intent on never having to take another councilmember’s committee assignments as he enters his second full term in his role as council president.

“Our relationship, even though Rikki was upset with me, I always looked up to her and respected her,” Young said. “The thing about me is that I respect my elders. My mom always taught me to respect those people of age. [Spector] had a wealth of experience, so what I did was wrong.”

During the last year, Spector and Young have mended their political relationship and teamed together on some hot-button issues that Young opposed.

For instance, Young said, Spector was instrumental in drumming up enough support from councilmembers to send back to committee a bill that would have raised minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2022.

Through the years, Spector and Young worked tirelessly in support of one another on other legislative matters, including the massive Port Covington project and redevelopment of Harbor East and the former site of Memorial Stadium.

Rabbi Elchonon Lisbon, Rabbi Velvel Belinsky, Rabbi Shmuel Kaplan, Mayor Sheila Dixon, Councilwoman, Rikki Spector and Rabbi Lev Gopin.

Rikki Spector with former Mayor Sheila Dixon and Chabad rabbis (from left) Elchonon Lisbon, Velvel Belinsky, Shmuel Kaplan and Lev Gopin (Kirsten Beckerman)

Her knowledge and experience are two things Young plans to utilize on more key issues that promise to arise in the immediate future. He said whenever Spector wants to meet with him, she won’t need an appointment, as his policy is with other former council-members.

“Rikki could charm honey out of a bee’s mouth,” Young said with a laugh. “If you sit down and listen to Rikki, she will almost convince you that she won.”

Often referred to as the “Dean of the City Council,” she became a role model for generations of women in politics, though she is quick to defer taking any credit for paving the way for others.

Baltimore County 2nd District Councilwoman Vicki Almond, a Reisterstown Democrat whose district shares a border with Spector’s, described Spector as a hard worker with a significant resumé in community service. Beyond that, Almond said Spector had a way of breaking any tension with “her incredible sense of humor.”

Perhaps more importantly, after Almond was first elected to her post in 2010, she said Spector gave her a simple piece of advice that she still carries with her: “Do your job, and don’t worry about anything else.”

“I’ve always tried to do that,” Almond said. “As far as I’m concerned, I don’t even think Rikki realized she was breaking a glass ceiling as much as she saw going into politics as a calling.”

With the new council having taken office on Thursday, the district is under the guidance of someone without the Spector name for the first time in 50 years. Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer is the district’s new representative.

Spector praised her district, which serves as a bridge from Baltimore County along its north and west borders, for its diversity, stable neighborhoods and strong businesses.

spector-rikki

Rikki Spector at a City Council work session in November 2013. (Marc Shapiro)

Art Abramson, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council from 1990 to 2016, said Spector had an uncanny knack for bringing together people from all backgrounds for the greater good of the community.

In 1968, Spector helped organize an open dialogue meeting at the Weinberg Park Heights JCC for African-Americans and Jews after riots in the wake of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination shook the city to its core in April of that year.

Those meetings eventually led to the formation of the Black Jewish Forum of Baltimore, known as BLEWS, which officially began in 1978 as an informal dialogue group to address issues of common concerns in both communities.

Abramson said Spector took the time to learn the concerns of all the ethnic groups she represented, which in turn helped build her credibility among constituents.

“She probably understood the Jewish community better than anyone on the council, but that doesn’t mean she could ignore the needs and interests of her colleagues and other residents in the community,” Abramson said. “Nobody in the African-American, Muslim or Christian communities that I know of ever complained that Rikki didn’t understand them, and that’s very much a compliment to her career.”

Maxine Webb, president of the Glen Homeowners Improvement Association, said she savored her time working with Spector.

Webb, 64, noted she was the first African-American to move into the 3000 Block of Glen Avenue in 1970 and said when Spector took office, she made her feel like a neighbor.

“I’m so happy for her. It is bittersweet for me, because when I heard she was retiring, I said to her, ‘You would go retire just right after I become president [of the Glen Homeowners Improvement Association]. You leave me when I need you most,’” Webb said with a laugh. “She said, ‘Don’t worry. I’ll still be around.’”

_dsc8625

(Photo by David Stuck)

Pre-Council Days

Spector built a Baltimore legacy before her appointment to the council. She grew up in South Baltimore’s Locust Point neighborhood, graduated from Forest Park High School and attended Baltimore Hebrew University. At home, her family spoke Yiddish.

At 9 months old, Spector said, her parents divorced when it was uncommon for Jews to dissolve a union. As she was raised by her grandfather, she attended Hebrew school at Beth Tfiloh Congregation, where she also had her bat mitzvah.

Growing up in a Polish family of shop owners, Spector said, “I could sell ice to Eskimos like they needed it.”

In the 1970s, Spector opened Six on the Square at 48 E. Sudbrook Lane in Pikesville, where she and a business partner sold clothing, jewelry, needlepoint, ladies handbags and stationery supplies. That venture, which ran from 1973 to 1978, taught Spector the importance of locally owned and operated businesses.

Years later, Spector put that business acumen to work, as businesses and state and federal agencies created jobs for residents in her district.

Just three years ago, Spector helped broker a deal that led to the opening of ShopRite in Howard Park, creating nearly 300 jobs. Plans for a grocery store in Howard Park dated back to 1999, when the Super Pride on Liberty Heights Avenue closed, leaving the area without a supermarket.

Marshall Klein, chief operating officer of Klein’s Family Markets, which owns and operates nine ShopRite locations in the Baltimore region, primarily in Harford County, said Spector understood how to effectively combine politics and business.

“She’s tenacious in a caring way,” Klein said. “As I got to know Rikki, I saw that she was not bashful or shy about expressing her opinions to anyone who wanted to listen or, more importantly, who did not want to listen. In my dealings, it’s been rare to find someone who cares for the right reasons like Rikki does, and I think a lot of that has to do with her background.”

Spector also pounced on opportunities to bring the Motor Vehicle Administration and Social Security Administration to her district when both were looking to relocate.

Here is a photo from the grand opening of Weinberg Manor South. Let me know if you need more information. Councilwoman Rochelle “Rikki” Spector (middle) and Ellen Jarret, CHAI: Comprehensive Housing Assistance, Inc., an agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, cut the ribbon at the grand opening of Weinberg Manor South, CHAI’s 15th senior living facility. They were joined by (front row left to right) Secretary Kenneth Holt, Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, Barry Schloss,The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake,, Brian Halter, Boston Capital (back row, left to right) Mitchell Posner, CHAI, Paul T. Graziano, Baltimore City Housing Commissioner, Marc B. Terrill, The Associated, Stephen Briggs, Wells Fargo and Larry Davis, Edgewood Management.

Rikki Spector is joined by various officials to celebrate the opening of Weinberg Manor South in March 2015, CHAI’s 15th senior living facility. Among those joining Spector were Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (bottom row, second from right), CHAI executive director Mitchell Posner (top row, far left) and The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore president Marc B. Terrill (top row, middle). (David Stuck)

Early in her tenure, it didn’t take Spector long to realize just how much influence she could have on shaping all matters affecting the city.

Shortly after she took office, Spector worked closely with then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer on the redevelopment of the Inner Harbor. Collaborating with Schaefer in bringing the Baltimore Convention Center, Harborplace, the National Aquarium and the Hyatt Regency Baltimore Hotel to Light and Pratt streets remains among the high marks of her career.

“People had to sleep in Baltimore. They just couldn’t work here and go to school here,” Spector said. “I understood what Schaefer was doing, and I supported him. Schaefer said we needed to put everything downtown, because [Baltimore] is a walkable city. This will be the recreation dollar that we need. It gave us the tax base and the businesses that we needed.”

While Spector called Schaefer “a cheerleader for Baltimore,” she dubbed Rawlings- Blake “a role model.” Spector strongly believes Rawlings-Blake received unfair scrutiny for only having six years to implement her policies, not allowing for ample time to see them through.

“It takes 40 years to turn back the bad public policies we have seen in majors cities,” Spector said. “So it doesn’t mean you have to work less or give up. It just means that you have to keep that shoulder to the wheel. A diamond is a piece of coal that is stuck to its job.”

Kurt Schmoke, mayor of Baltimore from 1987 to 1999, said Spector took constituent service to the highest level. “It seemed like Rikki showed up at every event with more than three people there,” said Schmoke, president of the University of Baltimore. “Her care in dealing with calls and letters was just outstanding. To me, that was the hallmark of her career.”

Spector said one of her main policies was to return any phone call she missed the day she received it. She joked that the hit 1974 song “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” by jazz-rock group Steely Dan was her calling card.

During her extensive career on the council, she was known not only for her stature and sassy nature, but also for sitting on prestigious committees, serving as president of the Maryland Association of Counties in 1995. She also serves as vice chairperson of the Transportation Steering committee of the National Association of Counties, is a member of NACO’s Northeast Region Board of Directors and is an at-large member of the Maryland Economic Development Association.

In Spector’s place, Schleifer, 27, a lifelong 5th District resident, plans to carry the torch and build on Spector’s many accomplishments. “It is very important that, after so many years, we can have a smooth transition from where Rikki left off,” Schleifer said.

Outside her political career, Spector has always considered herself a strong family woman. She and her late husband Allen, who died in 1990, had three sons, Bruce, Ira and Stephen. Spector has six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, many of whom still live in the area.

City Council representative Rochelle "Rikki" Spector and Kenneth Gelula narrated the tour for the attendees.

Rikki Spector with former CHAI executive director Kenneth Gelula during a Baltimore Jewish Council candidates tour in 2007 (Andy Cook)

After Allen’s death and then Ira’s death in 1999 from influenza, Spector said “she felt vulnerable.” It was around that time she met Oscar Brilliant, 94, and moved into his high-rise luxury condo at 1000 Harborview Drive in the Inner Harbor.

While she maintains a home on Park Heights in her district, Spector has, at time, drawn criticism for not actively living at her listed addressed. She dismissed any notion of that by pointing to her rigorous schedule, walking about 30 to 35 minutes to and from City Hall every day and working as late as 10:30 or 11 most nights. Most days, she said, when she was not at City Hall, she could be found at some community event in her district, listening to the concerns of her constituents.

Before Spector ultimately decided how she would proceed in her political career, son Bruce said she had a long consultation with the family.

“She is such a family-orientated person, always has been, and we as a family wanted her to stop,” Bruce Spector said. “It was enough. She will always listen to us and take whatever we say into account, but she’ll still use her own judgment.”

Don’t count out Spector yet. Spector will have plenty of tasks to keep herself occupied by the time the calendar flips to 2017.

When the Maryland General Assembly reconvenes on Jan. 11 in Annapolis, Spector will represent Young, lobbying for pending legislation on behalf of the city. Spector said it is the first time the city will send someone to represent the council president for the 90-day legislative session.

She also has made it one of her top priorities to return to Goucher to earn her college degree.

If her plans are any indication, Spector may be even more active in retirement.

“We need to live right, be right and do right and make sure you’re giving everybody their best if you have the ability to do it,” Spector said. “That’s how I’ve always lived my life.”

jsilberman@midatlanticmedia.com

Related: Spector: ‘Give them the car? Are you nuts?’

Spector: ‘Give them the car? Are you nuts?’

Rikki Spector was pulling her cellphone out of her pocket around 10:15 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 2 when two teenage boys dressed in school uniforms and wearing book bags raced toward her Buick. They then proceeded to pull the door open, Spector said, and threw her out of the car onto the concrete floor.

“They said, ‘White b—h, give us your car,’” Spector said. “I said, ‘You sons of b—–s, get out of here.’”

As she continued to yell for help, eliciting the response of two concerned garage employees, Spector said one of the teens fled, “running like hell.”

“I was screaming, ‘Gevalt gevalt, Help, help!’” Spector said. “Hashem was with me that day. One of my grandkids said to me, ‘Bubbie, why didn’t you give them the car?’ I said, ‘Give them the car? Are you nuts? I’m not giving them the car.’”

Fortunately for Spector, she said the fleeing teens were unable to drive the car out of the garage because she had the device that controlled the security gate.

Baltimore police arrested both teens involved in the incident — a 15-year-old male was arrested after the incident and a 13-year-old male was arrested early Sunday morning. They are both charged with attempted robbery and first- and second-degree assault, police said.

The 13-year-old, who fled the scene Friday, has a record that also includes carjacking, robbery, property destruction, drugs and assault and two counts of stolen auto, according to police.

While Spector suffered a black eye during the incident, she said she was thrilled the suspects were caught and taken off the street and thankful she didn’t sustain any other injuries.

City Council president Bernard “Jack” Young rushed over to be with Spector last Friday after she was taken to a hospital for her injuries, according to Lester Davis, Young’s spokesman.

“[Spector] is a strong fighter. The council president was heartbroken when he heard the news,” Davis said. “It is sad and unfortunate that she was a victim of such a cowardly act. She is not going to let two punks keep her down.”

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake echoed those sentiments in a prepared statement, saying, she was “extremely disheartened” when she heard what happened.

“I am relieved to hear that she is recovering well and still her usual feisty self, but the violence on our streets is unacceptable,” Rawlings-Blake said. “Councilwoman Spector is a dear friend and colleague, and as with all incidents of violence, it is devastating when innocent people become the target of criminal behavior.”

jsilberman@midatlanticmedia.com

Chabad Lubavitch Makes It 50 with South Dakota

Rabbi Mendel Alperowitz, who is headed to South Dakota, addresses of the International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries. (Eliyahu Parypa/Chabad.org)

Rabbi Mendel Alperowitz, who is headed to South Dakota, addresses of the International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries. (Eliyahu Parypa/Chabad.org)

In a vast banquet hall at the Brooklyn Marine Terminal Pier 8 in New York, more than 5,000 Chabad Lubavitch emissaries, lay leaders and supporters gathered on Nov. 27 for the culminating event of the five-day International Conference of Chabad Lubavitch Emissaries.

The conference came as the Chabad community marks 75 years since the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, arrived in the U.S. with his wife in 1941, beginning a journey of transformation for the American Jewish community.

The keynote speaker at the gala banquet was Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, who spoke with emotion of his years-long connection to Chabad and the important role played by shluchim across the world.

Hoenlein reminded the audience that the Rebbe believed that “what we have in common is much greater than our differences” and that “he had a sense of responsibility to every Jew, including those who seemed most remote from him.”

From Hoenlein’s perch in Manhattan, South Dakota is as remote as it gets, but that is, in fact, the latest permanent outpost for Chabad Lubavitch, which will soon open a Chabad center there, in Sioux Falls.

Rabbi Mendel Alperowitz, who lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two daughters, will be the permanent rabbi there, which he announced from the podium at the banquet.

Alperowitz has visited South Dakota three times, and the state has had a Chabad presence for more than 50 years through its Roving Rabbis program. But when Alperowitz and his family move to Sioux Falls, they will make South Dakota the 50th state to have a permanent Chabad residence (there are also permanent residences in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands).

“I visited [South Dakota] for the first time last year for Purim and did an event for 45 people,” he said. The reception he got was extremely positive. “People were almost begging us to consider moving to South Dakota.”

Because South Dakota’s small Jewish community is rather spread out, said Alperowitz, “I will not be a typical pulpit rabbi.”

Instead, in addition to his duties in Sioux Falls, he’ll travel across the state and meet Jewish people in their homes or wherever is necessary.

“We’ll have Jewish education programs for adults and children, festival activities, women’s programs.”

Alperowitz said the official estimate for Jewish people in South Dakota is 400, but “from visiting with people, we believe there’s close to 1,000.”

Matilda Oppenheimer, a member of Mt. Zion Congregation in Sioux Falls, isn’t sure of the exact number either.

“Mt. Zion has about 100 people spread across about 40 to 45 member households,” said Oppenheimer, who wears a number of hats for the congregation, including temple treasurer and treasurer of the sisterhood. “Not every Jew in Sioux Falls is affiliated with Mt. Zion,” she added, noting that her synagogue is affiliated Reform, and there is a small contingent of Orthodox Jews who are also in the area.

Oppenheimer doesn’t think Alperowitz’s move will make a huge difference in the life of her congregation, given its Reform orientation, but she’s excited to welcome the rabbi to the larger community.

“For years now there have been Chabad rabbis who come through and visit and sometimes they celebrate holidays, like do a menorah lighting at Chanukah,” Oppenheimer said. “Mendel has been the exception in that he has come here several times. Mendel is a darling, wonderful person. He’s just warm and enthusiastic and kind, and we’re thrilled that Mendel is coming.”

Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., Oppenheimer has lived in South Dakota for close to 30 years, and she and her husband raised two children there, both of whom have strong Jewish identities.

Alperowitz’s daughters are just 18 months and 2 months old. They’ll grow up, he said, as true South Dakotans. The two biggest logistical challenges will be the availability of kosher food and Jewish education for his children, but Alperowitz points out that many Chabad shluchim face similar issues and just get creative with freezers and send their children to Chabad’s Jewish online school.

Oppenheimer has felt keeping kosher was the biggest challenge on her end; she said it’s why she became a vegetarian. At the same time, she said South Dakota isn’t quite as remote as people seem to think.

“We’re not isolated. We’re not without rabbinic contact,” she said, noting that rabbinic students from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion come to work at South Dakota congregations each year, and many people have rabbis in their extended family who come to visit. “We have the same access to the internet as everyone else. We’re not living out on the prairie.”

Oppenheimer cited Jewish congregations in Rapid City and Aberdeen but did concede “there’s not a depth of support here, Jewishly speaking.” For that reason, she wonders how long the Alperowitzes will be able to tough it out.

“It’ll be interesting to see if they’ll be here for one year, two years — there won’t be a lot of peers for their children,” she said. “I wish them well. It’s great that they’re going to give it a shot.”

“The Rebbe taught us to view a challenge as an opportunity,” Alperowitz said. “South Dakota is a really a beautiful place. The people are warm and welcoming. It’s a great place to raise a family.”

Liz Spikol is a reporter at the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, an affiliated publication of the Baltimore Jewish Times.

Anti-Semitism Abroad Not Yet at 1930s Level But ‘Bleak’ Nonetheless

Ira Forman says “civil society has not stepped up.”

Ira Forman says “civil society has not stepped up.”

Jewish journalists met with members of the Obama administration on Wednesday, Nov. 16 at the State Department for a briefing on worldwide anti-Semitism as well as U.S. efforts to secure reparations to Holocaust survivors. The meeting was arranged by the American Jewish Press Association, which held its annual conference in Washington, D.C., last month.

During his three-and-a-half year tenure, Ira Forman, U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, has been to 36 countries and has spoken to leaders all over the world, including “a whole slew of rabbis” and a conference of bishops about the rise of anti-Semitism, he told the journalists.

“The most important thing I think we could do, I call ‘getting it right,’” he said. “It is equally bad to overstate [the situation] as it is to understate it.”

The pervasiveness of anti-Semitism outside the United States does not yet rise to the level of that in the 1930s, although “we can find analogies,” said Forman, a Cleveland native who was a founder and executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council from 1996 to 2010.

In both Greece and in Hungary there exist “deeply ideological Nazi parties that are deeply committed, with representation, and also there is street volition,” he said. “But we don’t see trains to concentration camps. We can’t predict what’s coming up, but we don’t see it.”

And yet, he observed, Jews nonetheless have been dying at the hands of anti-Semites in street attacks.

“But Jews are not being shot en masse,” Forman said. “So, what is it? It’s bad enough.”

If current trends in Europe continue, he predicted, the smaller and newer Jewish communities could disappear due to attrition.

Forman said that during his tenure, he has been “struck by the complexity of the problem.”

So many factors are at play when it comes to dealing with anti-Semitism abroad, including the size of the individual community, the size of the community’s Muslim population, the leadership of the community, and threats to abolish the practice of circumcision or bans on kosher slaughter. European Jews can face anti-Semitism stemming from a range of ideological perpetrators, including “classic xenophobic extremists,” Muslims and left-wing populists. In addition, there is also anti-Semitism associated with the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, Forman said.

While the majority of Muslims in France “have no interest in harming Jews,” he noted, there is a “small percentage of young people” who are committing violence and murder.

While meeting with leaders of the Jewish community in Paris in 2014, Forman learned that most French Jews had talked about leaving France. And yet, he said, only about 15 percent would actually do so.

The French government has been “great” in stepping up to protect its Jewish citizens, he said, “but that’s not enough.”

“Civil society has not stepped up, and we don’t know if it will,” Forman said. “It’s looking bleak.”

The U.S. is working on fighting anti-Semitism abroad, with its first priority being the encouragement of European governments to accept a working definition of anti-Semitism that includes efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel. The U.S. is further “urging countries to appoint people who can gather data and suggest resources” to address the issue, Forman said.

One of the most challenging aspects of fighting anti-Semitism Forman has faced is hate speech and incitement on social media.

“We don’t believe in censorship in the United States,” he said. “You can say whatever you want and not be charged criminally. We know how to deal with bad speech: You overwhelm it with good speech. But we don’t know how to do that on social media.”

Forman emphasized the imperative of European civil society stepping up to the plate to shut anti-Semitism down. While overt anti-Semitism is typically condemned in the United States by clergy members and other citizens, “that doesn’t happen in other countries. You need civil society to make this unacceptable.”

Forman, who expects to be replaced by the incoming Trump administration, is a realist when it comes to hatred against Jews.

“We can’t turn the faucet off,” Forman said. “But we can turn it down.”

Toby Tabachnick is a senior staff writer for The Jewish Chronicle in Pittsburgh, an associated publication of the Baltimore Jewish Times.

Spector Talks Carjacking, Assault

City Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector calls citizen watch groups the “eyes and ears” of the community. (File photo)

City Councilwoman Rochelle “Rikki” Spector  (File photo)

Baltimore police have arrested a second teenager involved in the attempted carjacking of Baltimore City Councilwoman Rochelle “Rikki” Spector last Friday, police said.

A 13-year-old boy was taken into custody at a family member’s home around 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning and has been charged as a juvenile with attempted robbery and first- and second-degree assault. The other suspect, a 15-year-old boy who was arrested Friday, faces the same charges.

At around 10:15 a.m. on Friday, Spector was pulling her cellphone out of her pocket when two teenage boys dressed in school uniforms and wearing book bags raced toward her Buick. They then proceeded to pull the door open, Spector said, and threw her out of the car onto the concrete floor.

“They said, ‘White b—h, give us your car,’” Spector said. “I said, ‘You sons of b—–s, get out of here.’”

As she continued to yell for help, eliciting the response of two concerned garage employees, Spector said the 13-year-old fled, “running like hell.”

“I was screaming, ‘Gevalt gevalt, Help, help!’” Spector said. “Hashem was with me that day. One of my grandkids said to me, ‘Bubbie, why didn’t you give them the car?’ I said, ‘Give them the car? Are you nuts? I’m not giving them the car.’”

Fortunately for Spector, she said the teens were unable to exit the garage in the vehicle because she had the device that controlled the security gate.

The 13-year-old has a record that also includes carjacking, robbery, property destruction, drug and assault charges and two counts of stolen auto, according to police.

While Spector suffered a black eye during the incident, she said she was thrilled the suspects were caught, taken off the street and thankful she didn’t sustain any other injuries.

City Council President Bernard “Jack” Young rushed over to be with Spector last Friday after she was taken to a hospital for her injuries, Lester Davis, Young’s spokesperson, said. Davis said Spector is “a strong fighter and [is] glad to see her back on her feet.”

“The council president was heartbroken when he heard the news,” Davis said. “It is sad and unfortunate that [Spector] was a victim of such a cowardly act. She is not going to let two punks keep her down.”

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, meanwhile, echoed those sentiments in a prepared statement, saying, she was “extremely disheartened” when she heard what happened.

“I am relieved to hear that she is recovering well and still her usual feisty self, but the violence on our streets is unacceptable,” Rawlings-Blake said. “Councilwoman Spector is a dear friend and colleague, and as with all incidents of violence, it is devastating when innocent people become the target of criminal behavior.”

Spector, who represents the 5th District in Northwest Baltimore, is the city’s longest-serving councilmember and earned the self-proclaimed title “Dean to the City Council.” She was appointed to her post in 1977.

Her last official day in office is Thursday, Dec. 8. She did not seek re-election.

Rabbis Sign Pledge to Hold Trump Accountable for Human Rights

Rabbi Sonya Starr (Photo provided)

Rabbi Sonya Starr (Photo provided)

Several Baltimore area rabbis and cantors are among more than 650 Jewish faith leaders who signed a pledge to hold the Donald Trump administration accountable for protecting the human rights and civil liberties of all people.

T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights is circulating the pledge, which was posted on the organization’s website two weeks ago. It had garnered 693 signatures as of Dec. 5. Included among those were Rabbis Sonya Starr of Columbia Jewish Congregation, Faith Cantor of Beth El Congregation, Jerry Seidler of Adat Chaim and Har Sinai Congregation Rabbi Emeritus Floyd Herman along with Cantor Robbie Solomon of Baltimore Hebrew and Rabbi/Cantor Rhoda Harrison, formerly of Temple Emanuel.

“As rabbis and cantors, we fervently pledge to raise our voices, and those of our communities, to hold the new administration accountable for protecting the human rights and civil liberties of all people as precious creations in the divine image,” the pledge reads.

For Baltimore-area rabbis, the pledge spoke to many of their concerns with the rhetoric and proposed policies of the incoming administration.

“It was very important to me that with President-elect Trump that he has an idea of what is important to all his constituencies across the country,” said Starr. “As Jews, we have always been at the forefront of civil rights, both when we were oppressed and when we weren’t.”

Both Starr and Cantor cited Jewish history as a major motivator for signing. Jews know all too well the cost of local leaders staying silent, Cantor said.

“Jewish history has taught us that fascism arrives slowly, through the steady erosion of liberties,” the pledge goes on to say. “And we have learned that those who attack other minorities will eventually come to attack us. To our great dismay, we learned this truth again when, during this election campaign, anti-Semitism rose to the fore along with racism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, misogyny and homophobia.”

After the election, like many others, Cantor said she wanted an outlet, a way to do more. This pledge felt like a beginning for that.

Rabbi Faith Cantor

Rabbi Faith Cantor (Provided)

“I don’t do politics a lot as a rabbi, but it felt really important to put my name on [the pledge] as a rabbi,” Cantor said. “I think faith leaders are really going to need to be on their game for the next four years.”

The group criticized other Jewish organizations that offered early congratulations to Trump and others who “have accommodated him by looking beyond” his rhetoric.

“For some Jewish leaders, there will be a temptation to accommodate the new administration in the hopes of protecting our own community’s ‘interests,’” the pledge says. “As Joseph learned long ago, and as the Jewish community has learned time and time again, proximity to power does not guarantee protection in the long run. Nor can we ignore the fact that our Jewish community includes people of color, immigrants, women, LGBTQ people, people dependent on the social safety net and others at risk for reasons beyond Jewish identity. Jews will not be safe until every one of us is safe in a just and democratic society.”

Both Starr and Cantor feel that Trump’s views are in conflict with their faith.

“He just doesn’t represent Jewish values,” Cantor said, “and I live my life according to Jewish values.”

hmonicken@midatlanticmedia.com

Rochelle ‘Rikki’ Spector Assaulted, Robbed in Carjacking Attempt

City Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector calls citizen watch groups the “eyes and ears” of the community. (File photo)

City Councilwoman Rochelle “Rikki” Spector (File photo)

Baltimore City Councilwoman Rochelle “Rikki” Spector was assaulted and robbed by two teenagers in a south Baltimore parking garage on Friday morning, Detective Jeremy Silbert of the Baltimore Police Department told the JT.

At around 10:15 a.m., officers were called to the unit block of Pierside Drive, off Key Highway, where police said Spector, 80,  had been thrown to the ground before the suspects drove away in her car.

The teens were unable to exit the garage in the vehicle because the garage had a security controlled gate, Silbert said. Two garage employees who saw the incident stopped one of the suspects until police arrived on the scene, while the other fled.

Spector was taken to a local hospital where she was treated for her injuries and has since been released, Silbert said.

In a prepared statement through the mayor’s office, Spector said she is “doing well” and praised Baltimore police and emergency responders “as well as the good Samaritans working in the garage who heard my pleas for help and detained one of the suspects until an officer arrived.”

The first suspect who was taken into custody is a 15-year-old male, Silbert said. The second suspect, Silbert said, is described as a black male, approximately 15 years old, and was last seen running toward Key Highway.

Spector, who represents the 5th District in Northwest Baltimore, is the city’s longest-serving councilmember and is the self-described “Dean of the City Council.” She was appointed to her post in 1977 and is currently serving her ninth and final elected term.

She will retire next week after deciding not to seek re-election.

City Council President Bernard “Jack” Young rushed over to be with Spector, Lester Davis, Young’s spokesperson, told the JT. Davis said Spector is “a strong fighter and [is] glad to see her back on her feet.”

“The council president was heartbroken when he heard the news,” Davis said. “It is sad and unfortunate that [Spector] was a victim of such a cowardly act. She is not going to let two punks keep her down.”

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, meanwhile, echoed those sentiments in a prepared statement, saying, she was “extremely disheartened” when she heard what happened.

“I am relieved to hear that she is recovering well and still her usual feisty self, but the violence on our streets is unacceptable,” Rawlings-Blake said. “Councilwoman Spector is a dear friend and colleague, and as with all incidents of violence, it is devastating when innocent people become the target of criminal behavior.”

Anyone with information on the incident is being asked to call Metro Crime Stoppers at 1-866-7Lockup.

jsilberman@midatlanticmedia.com

Avraham Infeld Named as First Visiting Israel Scholar

 

scholar1

Sue Glick Liebman (Provided)

Sue Glick Liebman hardly needs introduction for those involved in the Baltimore Jewish community. Currently a director-at-large of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore and former president of the JCC of Greater Baltimore, Glick Liebman has dedicated much of her life to advancing Jewish life and education both here and abroad.

Now, the community she loves is honoring her service in the most apropos way: The Associated has launched a new annual program that will bring in an Israel expert to teach about one or more aspects of Israeli life and society. This inaugural year’s Sue Glick Liebman Visiting Israel Scholar is Avraham Infeld, a well-known Jewish educator who founded Melitz, an Israeli education nonprofit that fosters Jewish identity, served as the president of Hillel and was the first international director of Birthright.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am that The Associated came to me. I couldn’t even believe it,” Glick Liebman, 79, said. “I’ve done a lot of things and won awards, but nothing like this.”

Nina Rosenzwog, one of the co-chairs of the commission tasked with deciding who the first scholar-in-residence would be, said Infeld was a no-brainer. And the scholar himself is actually not new to Charm City. In 1967, he came for three years to serve as the first United States community shaliach in the only city willing to take on this nascent program — Baltimore. This already- established connection, his worldwide reputation and the fact he was free made his choice “a win-win,” Rosenzwog said.

“The goal was to really make Israel more available to people,” she added.

For Infeld’s part, he “couldn’t say no” when asked to be return to Baltimore almost five decades after the start of his time as shaliach to be a part of this new program honoring a good friend (he and Glick Liebman have known each other for many years). Infeld will talk at 21 events in his 10 days in the city, 12 of which are open to the public. The events are hosted by a number of Jewish groups, congregations and organizations and aimed at a variety of audiences.

Camera: DCS330C Serial #: K330C-00994 Width: 1504 Height: 2008 Date: 6/19/03 Time: 19:58:54 DCS3xx Image FW Ver: 3.2.3 TIFF Image Look: Product Sharpening Requested: Yes Counter: [18610] ISO Speed: 125 Aperture: f9.5 Shutter: 1/250 Max Aperture: f4 Min Aperture: f25.4 Exposure Mode: Manual (M) Compensation: +0.0 Flash Compensation: +0.0 Meter Mode: Matrix Flash: None Drive Mode: Single Focus Mode: AF-S/Wide Self-timer: No Focal Length (mm): 45.9 Lens Type: Gen 3 D-Type AF Nikkor or IX White balance: Preset (Flash) Time: 19:58:54.374

Avraham Infeld (Provided)

Infeld will be speaking on many different topics, ranging from “Leadership for Inclusivity in a Changing Jewish World” and “The Centrality of Israel to Jewish Education” to “Challenges of Jewish Identity Today” and “Welcoming Criticism and Battling Delegitimization.”

“The bottom line of what I’d like to do is help people realize Israel is not just another state, but a phenomenon and a very complicated phenomenon,” Infeld said, “It is impossible to talk about Israel superficially. What is important is to understand the complexity of Israel.”

Ideally, he said, he can talk about Israel and Jewish identity in a more broad sense, and future scholars can address specific areas such as culture, politics or the military in more nuanced and in-depth ways.

Many Jews, especially young progressive ones, have complicated feelings about Israel, particularly when it comes to its conflict with the Palestinians, something Infeld is well aware of. He hopes he can help put Israel in a larger context.

For Infeld, there is not a Jewish religion, but a Jewish people. No matter the level of religiosity, he said, Jewish people can all relate to each other.

“Jews are commanded to save the world, not to be saved,” he said. “I want people to walk away with a greater awareness of being part of the Jewish people.”

That rings true for both Glick Liebman and Rosenzwog, who would like to see those who attend — many of whom will have never been to Israel — gain a lens through which to view Israel as more than what they may read in the news.

“[Israel] is our home, the beginning of our Jewish lives and our history,” Glick Liebman said. “Now that we have it back, we should take care of it.”

For more information on the Sue Glick Liebman Visiting Israel Scholar program, visit associated.org/israelscholar.

hmonicken@midatlanticmedia.com

Addressing the Epidemic of Human Trafficking

human-trafficking-provided

Health care providers learned about human trafficking and how to be more aware of the issue at a Nov. 21 lecture.

As an orthopedic surgeon with nearly 40 years of experience, Dr. Robert Keehn is still eager to learn how he can enhance the type of services he offers.

Keehn, who runs his own private practice with offices in Owings Mills, Lutherville and Pikesville, said he is always looking for innovative ways to treat patients suffering from various physical injuries.

Last week, Keehn and a roomful of other health care providers at the Park Heights JCC received a crash course on the growing epidemic of human trafficking through the “Human Trafficking in Maryland: An Invisible Epidemic” lecture on Nov. 21.

“What’s interesting is that as an orthopedist, I really didn’t know much about human trafficking,” said Keehn, a past president of OrthoMaryland and current chair of Maimonides Society. “I think there is some prevalence in this area, and it’s important to know what we as health care providers can do to fight what’s going on.”

At the event sponsored by the Maimonides Society and the Baltimore Jewish Council, Capt. Wes Fischer of the Baltimore County Police Department and Dr. Joyce Williams of the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force provided participants with useful tips, resources and a means to raise awareness on the devastating effects of human trafficking.

A greater light has been shed on human trafficking in Maryland since 2007, when the General Assembly created the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force to help identify victims and prosecute offenders.

Advocates such as Baltimore Jewish Council metropolitan issues chair Nathan Willner feels attorneys could get more prosecutions if they relay what factors the community should look for to detect more cases.

“The victims, the customers, the perpetrators, they all look like regular people,” said Willner, who is also president of the Maryland-DC Creditors Bar Association. “[Human trafficking] is not something that someone will initially notice. No community is immune from these types of behaviors, and the only way we can deal with it is by talking about it and not sweeping things under the rug.”

Because human trafficking is difficult to track, Williams, an assistant professor of graduate and professional nursing studies at Stevenson University, said it is unknown how widespread the activity might be.

In 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, members of the Maryland Human Traffic Task Force assisted 396 victims of trafficking, according to figures on the group’s website.

While Fischer and Williams both agreed the data is useful, they said that it’s far from a complete picture.

The average age of girls when they first become sex trafficking victims in Maryland is 15, Williams said. The abuse by men who befriend these young girls starts with gifts, money and promises to develop a mutual trust.

According to Fischer, Baltimore in particular is a hub for much of this activity because of its proximity to the heavily traveled I-95 corridor, the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and the disparity of wealth and poverty.

Fischer said the instant gratification and thrill-seeking culture that casinos, sports, gambling and red-light districts promote in the area all lend themselves as hotbeds for human trafficking.

“We’ve seen a lot that people are seeking that rush of not knowing what is going to happen when they show up to meet a girl,” Fischer said. “Regardless of the consequences, sometimes that may not be enough for any of the parties involved to stop from engaging in such behavior.”

At the discussion, Williams provided tips to for certain behaviors to look for. Possible signs of human trafficking stem from poverty, homelessness, a history of violence and child neglect, among others.

Another signal is a relative or spouse who seems to have authority for when someone comes and goes. Williams said those who are in control will use manipulation — gifts and money, for instance — to keep them in line.

“Once a victim is trafficked, it can be hard for them to quit,” Williams said. “They will be threatened by violence to themselves and family members, which is obviously very intimidating.”

To combat such activity, local police have ramped up their efforts to control and deter human trafficking through a bevy of different tactics.

In the 20 years Fischer has been on the force, he said sting operations, undercover assignments and investigations at massage parlors that may engage in prostitution services have been successful to a certain extent.

Still, Fischer strongly believes that education is the way to go in raising awareness.

“Our belief is that if we can provide services and ramp up those efforts, it can go a long way to stopping or preventing someone from getting into this lifestyle before it’s too late,” he said. “We’re also committed to doing whatever it is that we can in law enforcement to provide whatever ways we can.”

Ultimately, the hope for Fischer and Williams is that more people speak out and take a stand so that other children are saved from traveling down a similar gloomy path.

“It’s important to be a voice for these people when they have nowhere else to turn,” Williams said.

jsilberman@midatlanticmedia.com