Baltimore Gets a Glimpse of Obama

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(Photo by Marc Shapiro)

More than 200 people lined the streets of northwest Baltimore Friday afternoon in the hopes of catching a glimpse of President Barack Obama on his way to a fundraising dinner for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Yosef Wiener and his wife left their Shabbot meal cooking to walk about a half mile from their home to the corner of Green Meadow Parkway and Edenvale Road to show their young children the presidential motorcade. They had heard about the president’s visit through word-of-mouth and thought it might be a good learning opportunity for their kids, who stood on the curb waving American flags as they waited.

Friends Zacharya Volosov, Chaim Lejtman and Shuli Katz took the advantage of the downtime between dismissal at Talmudical Academy and the start of Shabbat to try to see the president in their neighborhood. The visit was the talk of the school all week, they said, and it had become a kind of game to guess where the president’s helicopter would land in the area.

While the majority of the people gathered had come to watch the black limousines make their way through the Cheswolde streets, some had come to send a message to the country’s highest executive.

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(Photo by Marc Shapiro)

“Justice Delayed is Justice Denied,” read one sign held by an attendee with the CASA de Maryland group that had arrived to protest the president’s recent decision to delay any immigration reform.

“Stop Terrorism, Support Israel,” read another sign on the opposite side of the street.

“The Jewish community needs to realize that Democrats are not their friends,” said Ruth Goetz, who brought signs with her for people to borrow protesting the Obama administration’s policies on Israel.

The president landed in Port Covington just before 4 p.m. and headed straight to FortMcHenry, where he, along with Gov. Martin O’Malley, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin; Reps. Dutch Ruppersberger, Elijah Cummings and John Sarbanes and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake viewed the original manuscript of the Star-Spangled Banner.

The dinner was hosted by former American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) president Howard Friedman, along with Josh Fidler, an area developer who hosted another fundraiser attended by Obama in 2012. Tickets to the event cost between $10,000 and $32,400 and featured a 10-minute sppech by Obama concerning some of the most high-profile issues of the day followed by questions from dinner attendees.

“And if you want to know why we’re here today, it’s because having a strong Democratic Senate allows us to continue to pursue a vision of an inclusive, progressive, economic agenda that is going to continue to give more and more people the chance to pursue the American Dream in the way that I have and Howard has, and so many people around this room have,” Obama told guests. The president also took questions after his speech.

In addition to the Senate, the president spoke about international conflicts, including Ukraine and ISIS.

“I made a speech this week discussing what is the most prominent threat that we face in the Middle East when it comes to terrorism, and that is the organization ISIL, that has not only taken over large swaths of Iraq and Syria but displayed the kind of brutality that even by the standards of terrorists is extraordinary,” Obama said. “And I am very confident that with an Iraqi government in place that is committed to the kind of inclusive government that is needed there and sadly has not been there for some time, and the kind of coalition that we’re putting together internationally, and most importantly, the incredible courage and dedication and skills of our men and women in uniform, we’re going to be able to push them back and ultimately destroy them.”

Baltimore Jewish Times reporter Marc Shapiro contributed to this report.

Neighbors, Secret Service Prepare for Obama



Residents of Green Meadow Way in northwest Baltimore may get a glimpse of President Barack Obama Friday afternoon as he heads to a fundraiser at the home of Howard Friedman.

“The secret service, or people who look like secret service, have been here since Sunday,” said Josh Hurewitz. “They’ve been driving back and forth.” He thought they did a test-run of the motorcade in the early morning hours once this week.

Green Meadow Way resident Sandra Glazer said the road was supposed to close around 1 p.m., and only people who lived on the street would be allowed to come and go. They’d have to show identification to get back home if they left, she said.

Hurewitz said all the neighbors have received notices about how the day was going to go. Residents were told to move cars off the street and into driveways or garages.

Although people are a bit upset the president’s appearance is so close to Shabbat, Hurewitz said people plan to watch the motorcade.

“Everyone’s getting excited,” he said. “Everyone wants to get a spot on the block if they can.”

According to an invitation obtained by, the president will attend a reception and dinner at the home of Howard Friedman, along with U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado and Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin of Maryland. The event is a fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, according to the invite.

A group calling itself Citizens of Pikesville plans to protest near the site of the reception. A press release from the group said it is a group of neighbors who support Israel’s right to defend itself.

“President Obama has not supported Israel. He halted flights out of the United States for 2 days this summer,” the release said. “President Obama halted Hellfire missiles to Israel. He appealed Israel to a building freeze. We want Obama to release Jonathan Pollard.”

Obama Coming to Northwest Baltimore, Protest Planned



President Barack Obama will be in Baltimore on Friday, Sept. 12. According to an invitation obtained by, the president will attend a reception and dinner at the home of Howard Friedman, along with U.S. Senators Michael Bennet, Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin. The event is a fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, according to the invite.

A group calling itself Citizens of Pikesville plans to protest near the site of the reception. A press release from the group said it is a group of neighbors who support Israel’s right to defend itself.

“President Obama has not supported Israel. He halted flights out of the United States for 2 days this summer,” the release said. “President Obama halted Hellfire missiles to Israel. He appealed Israel to a building freeze. We want Obama to release Jonathan Pollard.”

Digging Deep

Palestinians view what used to be a tunnel leading from the Gaza Strip into Israel in the Rafah area of southern Gaza. Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90

Palestinians view what used to be a tunnel leading from the Gaza Strip into Israel in the Rafah area of southern Gaza.
Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90

OR YEHUDA, Israel — Something that looks like a can of soda could be Israel’s high-tech answer to the network of tunnels that Hamas has created under the Gaza border.

A sensor known as a geophone can detect underground movement based on the sound generated by the movement, the Israeli defense firm manufacturing the device says. The firm, Elpam Electronics, says the geophone is capable of finding the location of a person crawling as far down as 32 feet.

Israel has grappled with the danger of the Gaza tunnels for years, but the threat has gained greater urgency in the wake of Protective Edge, the military operation launched last month. A ground invasion of Gaza that started five weeks ago had the stated aim of neutralizing the tunnels, 32 of which were subsequently destroyed, according to the Israeli military.

Now the mission is continuing in the research labs of Israeli defense firms. Both Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and, according to several Israeli reports, Elbit Systems are at work on systems to detect tunnels. Neither company would comment on their research. But Elpam agreed to provide a look at the technology it’s been working on for decades and is now adapting to address the current threat.

Iky Koenig, Elpam’s CEO, wants Israel to bury hundreds of sensors in a constellation around the Gaza border. By next year the company hopes to have developed a monitoring system that can locate tunnel activity and differentiate it from other subterranean noise.

“Let’s say there’s a suspicion of activity from military intelligence or [the sound of] spoons digging,” Koenig said. “You put these things in the ground and if someone hears spoons, we’ll hear it like a bulldozer.”

In 1988, Elpam created its sensors to assist in search-and-rescue operations. The sensors were designed to detect sound frequencies in the ruins of destroyed buildings. Rescuers could hear people trapped under the debris and the trapped could respond. Dozens of the kits, which can fit inside a lightweight vest, were sold to the Israel Defense Forces.

An updated version of this system aimed at locating people trapped in the rubble of downed buildings could help Israel detect subterranean tunnels from Gaza.  Ben Sales

An updated version of this system aimed at locating people trapped in the rubble of downed buildings could help Israel detect subterranean tunnels from Gaza.
Ben Sales

Elpam also developed and sold two tunnel detection systems to the IDF in 2005 and 2006. One was intended to detect tunnels along the Phila-delphi Corridor on the Egypt-Gaza border, but the company could not say whether the system was ever deployed.

In a statement last week, the IDF said it had considered two tunnel detection systems in 2005 and 2006 that were not effective. The IDF said it is now combining those systems and readying them for field testing.

The military expects deployment of the system to take one year and cost between $424 million and $565 million. The IDF would not confirm whether those systems were developed by Elpam.

The sensor concept is not without its critics.

Yiftah Shapir, a military technology expert at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, said rows of sensors cannot detect tunnels that turn or intersections between multiple tunnels. Shapir also said the sensors do not have the ability to detect tunnel openings, which was among the key goals of the ground invasion.

“You think a tunnel starts in one place and ends in another,” he said. “There are three or four entrances. In the middle there are junctions. It’s never just in one place. [The IDF] went in essentially to look at where the other openings are.”

Atai Shelach, CEO of the defense firm Engineering Solutions Group, said the sensors will also have trouble pinpointing tunnels that are only a few feet wide.

At best, he said, the technology will merely complement the military’s intelligence operations, not replace them.

“If [the sensor] will be effective at one point for a very great depth, it only solves a small part of the problem,” said Shelach, a former commander in the IDF Engineering Corps. “If it only finds one tunnel, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other tunnels. Until there’s a broad solution, there won’t be a choice but to rely on intelligence.”

Sotloff Remembered for Unique Middle East Coverage

Matthew VanDyke (Provided)

Matthew VanDyke (Provided)

Baltimore native and documentary filmmaker Matthew VanDyke knew Steven Sotloff wasn’t like other journalists. His love for the Middle East region and the time he took to learn Arabic and get to know the culture gave his coverage a deeper perspective, VanDyke said.

He pointed to Sotloff’s work on the Benghazi attack in 2012.

“He was one of the first people to actually go over there and take the time to track down witnesses and talk to them, whereas most of the reporting was superficial early on. But he really liked the legwork. He spoke the language. He understood cultural things,” VanDyke said. “He wasable to get to a different layer of the Middle East.”

VanDyke first met Sotloff in 2012 during his Middle East travels, in which he was fighting with rebels to overthrow Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi. The two remained in touch until Sotloff’s August 2013 capture and eventual transfer to Islamic State operatives, who released a video of his beheading on Sept. 2.

VanDyke last saw Sotloff in Washington, D.C., last summer when the two had dinner along with VanDyke’s girlfriend and several Syrian activists prior to Sotloff heading to Syria.

“It’s a mixture of sadness, a little bit of shock, anger,” VanDyke said of Sotloff’s beheading. “It’s just appalling trying to imagine myself in his situation, what stuff he had to go through … if he was present during James Foley [being beheaded].”

Sotloff reported from Syria, Egypt and Libya and was published in Time, the “World Affairs Journal” and Foreign Policy.

A funeral was held for Sotloff on Friday, Sept. 5, at Temple Beth Am in Miami, where he attended as a child and where his mother, Shirley, teaches preschool, according to reports. Although there was no body, the funeral was held quickly in accordance with Jewish customs, and his family planned to sit shiva, reports said. Hundreds, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, attended.

Sotloff was also an Israeli citizen, a fact Israeli officials kept quiet for his safety, according to reports.

Following Sotloff’s death, which came two weeks after U.S. journalist James Foley was beheaded by the Islamic State, President Barack Obama vowed to crush the group. The president was expected to discuss his plan on Wednesday.


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry participated in a Sept. 2 discussion on rising anti-Semitism around the world. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry participated in a Sept. 2 discussion on rising anti-Semitism around the world.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Concerned about growing anti-Semitic rhetoric, vandalism and violence plaguing Europe and the rest of the world in recent months, leaders from Jewish organizations in the United States and Europe met with State Department officials and Secretary of State John Kerry on Sept. 2 for an off-the-record roundtable
discussion on how to combat this growing international threat.

The discussion was hosted by Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski and Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Ira Forman, with Kerry stopping by briefly for a photo-op and a few statements on various topics of interest to the group, according to a report in the Jerusalem Post.

The secretary “reiterated the U.S. government’s deep concern about the prevalence and pervasiveness of anti-Semitic threats and attacks against Jewish individuals, houses of worship and businesses during the past few months,” according to a State Department statement.

Writing in a blog post the following day, Forman cited specific examples that moved the department to convene the meeting: specifically, the looting of Jewish-owned stores and protestors lobbing a Molotov cocktail at a synagogue in Paris; and a group of teenagers in Sydney,

Australia boarding a school bus for a Jewish primary school and shouting anti-Semitic epithets.

“These and other incidents are of deep concern to the United States government,” wrote Forman, adding that Kerry “emphasized that monitoring and combating anti-Semitism is a global State Department priority, and reaffirmed our commitment to speaking out against this scourge whenever and wherever it exists.

“For Secretary Kerry, whose own grandparents came to the United States escaping anti-Semitism in what is today the Czech Republic — and whose own ancestors who stayed behind lost their lives in the Holocaust — this cause is very personal,” he added.

Each organization that was invited — mostly those involved in monitoring anti-Semitism — were represented by one individual each. The list included B’nai B’rith, the Rabbinical Assembly, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Jewish Federations of North America, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the American Jewish Committee, the Reform Action Center and the Anti-Defamation League, among others.

Prior to his appointment as a special envoy, Forman was the executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council from 1996 until 2010, and served as the Jewish outreach director for President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

His current post — which is uniquely tasked to represent U.S. policy on anti-Semitism globally — was created as part of the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004.

Although he would not comment on what was said during the meeting, Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said that the most important aspect of the meeting, other than what was discussed, had to do with it being the first time that the State Department had elevated the battle against anti-Semitism to such a high level within the department’s leadership, an achievement he credits to Forman and his office.

“The State Department’s record during the second world war is abysmal. Books have been written about that. Nobody wanted to interfere, nobody wanted to get involved in the terrible tragedy of the Holocaust, so it’s refreshing that the State Department has done this,” said Hier. “This sends a loud message to the entire world that there is now an active office [dealing exclusively with anti-Semitism]. It’s not an office where [it] will get lost in a larger agenda, it’s specifically to monitor the new phenomenon of worldwide anti-Semitism.”

Hier’s colleague, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, agreed with Hier’s assessment about the importance of this week’s meeting for the global anti-Semitism battle, although he did not take part in the roundtable.

“I can just tell you that for me, when I go to Europe, the fact that [Forman] convened this means we can now tell the Europeans, ‘Hey, you’re talking about the United States of Europe? Terrific! What are you going to do now about this problem?’” said Cooper. “So the answer is to create an Ira Forman or a committee like it and put some money behind it. I think [the meeting] has the potential to be extraordinarily significant.”

Cooper also heaped praise on Forman, saying that Forman has been actively lobbying all levels of the State Department to make anti-Semitism a priority.

“It’s a signal within the bureaucracy of the State Department that this is an issue that doesn’t end at the desk of Ira Forman,” said Cooper.

Although, the Gaza conflict was not the cause of rising anti-Semitism, according to Hier, it helped bring it to public attention.

“This is now a malignancy. The Ebola outbreak is not nearly as ferocious as the anti-Semitic outbreak,” said Hier. “I don’t mean in terms of death, but the outbreak that we’re seeing now in anti-Semitism is unprecedented in the world, so it’s good that we have an office that is looking after that.”

Some of the other high-level State Department officials participating
in the meeting included Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Paul Jones. contributed to this story.

Following Through

Barbara Bloom keeps newspaper clippings about her late husband’s work nearby at all times. (Heather Norris)

Barbara Bloom keeps newspaper clippings about her late husband’s work nearby at all times. (Heather Norris)

During Leonard Bloom’s life, he helped hundreds, maybe thousands of inventors successfully launch their creations. Now, in his death, his wife has taken on his mission.

“I’m just trying to complete what he started,” said Barbara Bloom, Leonard’s wife of more than 44 years. “It helps a lot.”

Growing up, Leonard was fascinated with adventurers and inventors. After receiving his degree in engineering from Johns Hopkins University and working for a time at Westinghouse as a patent engineer, he received his law degree from the University of Maryland and entered the field of patent law.

For years, Leonard worked at Black & Decker, handling corporate patents before beginning his own private firm with a few other lawyers in Towson.

Although Leonard was working at a time when thorough explanations and drawings were enough to file for a patent, he was fascinated by the history of invention. When he heard about an auction selling several prototypes submitted with patent applications in the 19th century, he bought them without hesitation, said his wife.

Leonard beat out all other bidders to secure seven original tool prototypes, including a rotary engine from 1879, a rug cleaner from 1860 and a bolt cutter from 1871. He displayed the relics in his office for years before moving them to his home office when he formally retired, but Barbara said he had always had plans to donate them to the Patent and Trademark Office. On Sept. 7, Barbara followed through with his wish when officials at the National Inventors Hall of Fame officially accepted the donation during a ceremony celebrating the gift.

The antiques have been valued at thousands of dollars, but Barbara said she wanted to make sure such unique pieces of history were accessible to future generations of inventors and patent professionals to inspire them in their own work.

“This is part of history,” said Barbara.

For Leonard’s own part, his work on negotiating the patent on the Black & Decker workbench was one project in which he took special pride, as was an improved defibrillator. In the early 1990s, the Jewish Times ran an article about Leonard that featured another one of his projects: a feminine hygiene product that helped a Baltimore housewife pay off her debt, buy a home and send her children to college.

“He didn’t just work with big corporations,” said Barbara. “He also took ideas from regular people.”

Even in retirement, he consulted with some clients on securing patents and trademarks. He found it hard to just simply quit a field that had been his life for so long, said Barbara. And now, in the months since his passing, she has found that carrying on some of his work herself has become its own form of therapy.

“I’m trying to carry through everything that he was working on,” said Barbara, who also keeps up on some of the inventors Leonard had worked with and is given regular updates on the progress of some of the inventions her husband had had an interest in. “I want to follow through so that that time wasn’t wasted.

“That’s what keeps me going,” she added, “completing what he started.”

Breaking Barriers



With the recent Ferguson, Mo., shooting fresh in everyone’s minds, children from Baltimore’s Jewish and African-American communities have detailed their own struggles with race relations — back in 2010, a highly-publicized altercation took place between an African-American teenager and two Jewish men in northern Park Heights — as part of a traveling photo exhibition in City Hall.

City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young unveiled the exhibit on Sept. 3, inviting more than a dozen girls between the ages of 10 and 14 for an event honoring their Girl’s Photography Project.

“This project is a way to foster a better Baltimore community and introduce girls to their not-so-different neighbors,” said Young. “After the 2010 incident, we wanted to create a positive spin on a negative situation.”

Hosted by Damion Cooper, director of the city’s Office of Neighborhood Relations, the Wednesday event celebrated the girl’s efforts with keynote speakers, a kosher reception and a certificate presentation by Young. Speakers included Community Conversations co-chairs Phyllis Ajayi and Nathan Willner, Comprehensive Housing Assistance, Inc. (CHAI) executive director Mitchell Posner, Wide Angle Youth Media executive director Susan Malone, and program participants Aiyanah Muhammed and Daniella Friedman.

“I am thrilled that City Hall hosted us for the event,” said Ajayi. “The Girl’s Photography Project physically shows diversity in the eyes of our kids. Both sides saw that what they ultimately wanted out of life was the same. The only difference is the color of their skin.”

As an agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, the CHAI program helps fund, staff and manage the Community Conversations series. By bringing youths together through art projects, Posner believes that positive integration is the best way to build a better Baltimore.

“There is no secret formula to building a stronger Baltimore community,” said Posner. “However, we are giving our kids the education they need by introducing them to each other at an early age. Starting with our youth, we are building the people of tomorrow.”

Through Wide Angle Youth Media, the girls began the program in late January and took a five-week long photography course. While many of the girls were skeptical at first, they ended up forming lasting bonds with their Park Heights neighbors.

Encouraged by her grandfather to enroll, African-American participant Muhammad nervously joined in the program. After the 2010 dispute, she feared she would not find common ground with her Jewish counterparts. Within the first session, her reservations melted away.

“Because of prior experiences in my neighborhood, I didn’t expect the Jewish girls to be as nice as they are,” said Muhammad. “I made a lot of Jewish friends, and I have a new view of my Jewish neighbors. Our friendships have continued even past the program.”

Due to the success of the Girls’ Photography Project, similar programs are currently being designed. The Community Conversations series is hoping to create a comparable project between African-American and Orthodox Jewish boys in the future. As more programming continues, Young believes that Baltimore will become a more unified community.

“America is a melting pot, and we are all one people. This project gave the girls a chance to see that,” said Young. “By building positive relations and forming bonds now, events like the Ferguson shooting hopefully won’t happen here. We are setting up Baltimore for success.”

Cohen Honored with Rosenberg Memorial

(Photo provided)

(Photo provided)

The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore named Heather Cohen this year’s recipient of the Julius Rosenberg Memorial Award. The award is presented annually to a young person who shows sustained, outstanding campaign leadership through solicitation of others, personal contribution and commitment to the highest ideals of Jewish community building.

Cohen was honored at The Associated’s annual 2015 campaign kick-off event. A native of Chicago, Cohen and her family moved to Baltimore about 15 years ago. She first became involved in The Associated as a member of Dor Tikvah, a two-year leadership development program for women, ages 30 to 45. The program sparked her interest to do more for the community, and she became involved with Jewish Community Services, the Jewish Volunteer Connection, Mitzvah Makers and The Associated’s annual campaign. For the past two years, she served as co-chair of Dor Tikvah.

In addition to the recognition, Cohen will receive a trip to Israel.

Cole Schotz Attorneys Named Best Lawyers

The law firm Cole Schotz has announced that members Gary H.
Leibowitz and Irving E. Walker have been recognized in the 2015 “The Best Lawyers in America.” Both attorneys made the list for their work in bankruptcy, and Walker was
also recognized for bet-the-company litigation.

Leibowitz is a member in the firm’s bankruptcy and corporate restructuring and litigation departments, and Walker is managing partner of the firm’s Baltimore office. In total, 36 attorneys from the firm were recognized.