No Denying Deborah Lipstadt’s Voice

Deborah Lipstadt (Courtesy of Emory University)

Deborah Lipstadt (Courtesy of Emory University)

“I stand on my work and reputation and not on the honorifics which are applied to me,” said Deborah Lipstadt, when asked if she should be referred to as “doctor” or “professor” during her interview with the JT.

“Deborah” it is.

Lipstadt is the subject of a provocative and essential new film, released Oct. 21, called “Denial,” which chronicles the nearly decade-long battle the world-renown author and Jewish studies scholar underwent defending herself from claims of libel in the United Kingdom.

Directed by Mick Jackson (“L.A. Story,” “The Bodyguard,” “Temple Grandin”) from a screenplay by David Hare (“The Hours”) based on Lipstadt’s own 2005 memoir “History of Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving,” “Denial” is playing now at the Charles Theater and also stars Timothy Spall, Academy Award nominee Tom Wilkinson and Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz as Lipstadt.

‘Genocide’ is one of the  demarcating factors of the 20th century. It’s pretty clear to me this  is all very  important.

— Deborah Lipstadt

In her 1993 book “Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory,” Lipstadt referred acrimoniously to self-proclaimed WWII expert David Irving as “one of the most dangerous spokespersons for Holocaust denial,” among other pejoratives that Irving alleged caused irreparable harm to his continued career as writer and speaker.

The contentious British author brought a libel suit against Lipstadt, cannily choosing his home of the United Kingdom to do so, as in that court system, the burden of proof lies on the defendant, a reversal of our own “innocent until proven guilty” legal foundation. Lipstadt was essentially forced to either settle or fight Irving in court to defend what would ultimately be not only her own credibility but, in many ways, that of the Holocaust’s import in the global arena.

“I thought it would be a real amazing opportunity to bring Deborah Lipstadt to our community right around when the movie came out,” said Israeli-born Hana Bor about Baltimore Hebrew Institute at Towson University’s invitation to Lipstadt to come speak at the campus on Thursday, Nov. 3.

The event will be free and open to the public, “an opportunity to come and hear history from a first-person account,” said Bor, who is Towson’s Peggy Meyerhoff Pearlstone Professor, program director for Leadership in Jewish Education & Communal Service graduate programs and  responsible for the creation of the five-year B.A./M.A. degree program in family science and leadership.

“The history of all of this is happening right now.”

— Hana Bor of the Baltimore Hebrew Institute

“The movie dramatizes the real event, but the history of  all of this is happening right now,” Bor said.

Bor, who teaches courses on diversity and culture, said she believes the inexplicable existence of Holocaust denial is something too many people are unaware of, especially since the Holocaust itself is so rarely taught as part of required curriculum at both universities and high schools across the nation.

“It’s a good opportunity to raise the issue of anti-Semitism and to teach about people who deliberately distort the facts or choose to ignore  certain facts,” Bor said of the upcoming Lipstadt speaking engagement, particularly in reference to the likes of Irving who was indeed found by the court to be a distorter of facts in his works as noted by Lipstadt in her own.

Beyond the existence of Holocaust denial — as more than a mere fringe lunacy but rather a pernicious infiltration of academic and mainstream media circles — Lipstadt told the JT she plans on speaking at Towson about the biographical film, how Holocaust denial is a furtive form of anti-Semitism and frightening implications about why it should be of more concern today.

Lipstadt noted that “it wasn’t supposed to be like this,” in reference to how so much of her life — at least in the public eye — has become about Holocaust denial in general and her recent court case with Irving specifically.

Why focus on the Holocaust at all then?

Rachel Weisz as writer and historian Deborah Lipstadt in "Denial." (Laurie Sparham/Bleecker Street)

Rachel Weisz as writer and historian Deborah Lipstadt in “Denial.” (Laurie Sparham/Bleecker Street)

“I’m not a child of survivors,” she confessed, adding that though she had no immediate family in the Holocaust, she sees herself as a “20th-century historian [who] writes about the Jewish people. You name for me a more critical event for the Jewish people … and for the world. ‘Genocide’ is one of the demarcating factors of the 20th century. It’s pretty clear to me this is all very important.”

Lipstadt ardently suggested that just as slavery is something white people should learn more about, as rape is something men need to learn more about, the Holocaust is something gentiles need to learn more about.

Hence her admiration of the filmmakers of “Denial” for the work they’ve done in bringing her work to a larger mainstream audience and why she feels public lectures such as the one coming to Towson next week is crucial to a better understanding of both history and important issues facing Jews and non-Jews alike.

As a main fulcrum of the film and her true story, Lipstadt refuses to debate anyone about the existence of the Holocaust.

“I wouldn’t expect someone who is an earth scientist to  debate someone who thinks the Earth is flat; I wouldn’t  expect someone who specializes in medicine to debate someone about vaccines causing autism when there’s no science to that; I wouldn’t expect a historian to debate someone who says slavery was only a kind of ‘indentured servitude.’”

If anything, Lipstadt said, the film coming out has made her feel stronger about her intractable position, “especially after seven years were stolen from my life [during the trial].”

“I think debate is important when there’s two sides,” said Jill Max, who has been the  director of the Baltimore  Hebrew Institute for the last five years and worked with Bor to bring Lipstadt to Towson.

“But there are not two sides to the Holocaust,” Max said. “It’s a historical fact, so I agree with Deborah 100 percent. You can’t debate somebody who is clearly there just to deny. To get down in the mud with a person like that … I  understand why she feels that way. It’s counterproductive, because you can’t win a situation like that. What you can do is bring facts to an audience, write books and defend against libel, and all of that has ultimately worked out for her.”

Deborah Lipstadt will be speaking at Towson University on Thursday, Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. This is a free event. For registration and more information, visit

Charmery Unveils ‘Black Sabbath’ Ice Cream with Manischewitz

David and Laura Alima, owners of The Charmery, pose with their new flavor, Black Sabbath. (Photo by Marc Shapiro)

David and Laura Alima, owners of The Charmery, pose with their new flavor, Black Sabbath. (Photo by Marc Shapiro)

What does heavy metal, kosher wine and ice cream have in common? They’re all incorporated into The Charmery’s Black Sabbath ice cream, which the Hampden shop unveiled on Wednesday.

The dessert tribute to the godfathers of heavy metal features black sesame seeds, blackberry Manischewitz wine and locally made blackberry jam.

“This is one instance where the name came first,” said David Alima, who opened the ice cream shop more than three years ago with his wife, Laura. “I was like, ‘We need to do a Black Sabbath flavor. Oh, black sesame seeds … gotta do Manischewitz, come on!’”

“Her family is big Manischewitz drinkers,” David said of Laura, who specified, “Blackberry only. That’s the classy Manischewitz.”

Over a scoop of the new flavor, David explained how his shop likes to mix the serious with the playful. Customers can find flavors such as kulfi, inspired by the traditional Indian frozen dessert, which has rosewater, pistachio flour, pistachio paste, cardamom and date pieces, alongside Cheese and Crackers ice cream.

“We want things that are seriously beautiful combinations of flavors and delicious, and some other things that are just like, ‘What?’” he said. “This is definitely a ‘what?’ flavor.”

But it works. The fruit and sesame flavors balance out each other’s sweetness and nuttiness, and the jam keeps the blackberry flavor at the forefront. While combining wine and ice cream is a delicate process, Manischewitz is a different kind of animal.

“It’s really hard to get the nuanced subtlety of wine in ice cream when you’re putting in this heavy cream,” David said. “But with Manschewitz, you don’t really have to worry about that. Manischewitz is like a truck; it’ll battle through.”

While the name of the ice cream came before its Jewish twist, for David, it pays tribute to the “iconic band” fronted by Ozzy Osbourne.

“They were so good at riffs. Their riffs just got you there,” David said of the band’s guitar parts. “I feel like they were a metal band, for sure, but they were such an approachable metal band. They were almost writing metal pop songs. They’d probably hate me for saying that, but they were listenable and really catchy. It’s all about the riffs.”

Black Sabbath won’t be the only Jewish- and music-inspired flavor The Charmery unveils this week. An ice cream tribute to Drake, who was born to a Jewish mother and had a bar mitzvah, will be on the shelves this Friday. The flavor, @champagnepapi, named after Drake’s Instagram handle, is a champagne base with poppy seeds throughout.

David, who is the son of an Israeli father and a Baltimore native, and Laura, who grew up in Columbia and is the stepdaughter of former Jewish Federation of Howard County president Jacques Fein, have been known to bring their Judaism into the ice cream shop. The couple actually met at Bel Air’s Habonim Dror Camp Moshava, where they were both counselors.

Past flavors include apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah; sufganiyot, a doughnut base with raspberry swirl, for Chanukah; etrog for Sukkot; charoset for Passover, as well as an ice cream with matzah in it.

“One of my favorite insider tributes — and I think it’s to everyone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas,” David said, “is Chinese Food and a Movie, which is chocolate-covered fortune cookies and butter popcorn base.”

Mercaz Hosts Interfaith Program

Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg (file photo)

Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg (file photo)

Two longtime Baltimoreans, friends and colleagues, Dr. Christopher Leighton and Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg, will be leading a program entitled “Sibling Rivalries: Does God Play Favorites” at Beth Tfiloh’s Mercaz Dahan Center for Jewish Life & Learning.

The program is being done in partnership with the Baltimore Jewish Council and the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies and “will explore questions of how Jews and Christians build their identities in relationship to one another and to God,”  according to the ICJS website. The program will takes place on the first three Wednesday evenings of November.

“We will be exploring the relationship of character  between Christians and Jews,” Leighton, the ICJS’s Protestant Scholar and former executive director, said. “Sometimes  Judaism is described as the parent and Christianity as the child, but recently the image which has come up is that of siblings.”

“Our dialogue is about the sibling rivalry between Jews and Christians in the Bible and contemporarily. There was a time when the relationship was adversarial, but in the past 50 years, that relationship has turned into brotherhood,” Beth Tfiloh Congregation’s Wohlberg asserted.

Dr. Christopher Leighton (file photo)

Dr. Christopher Leighton (file photo)

“Unfortunately, I think the change was due to the Holocaust, which took place in the heart of Christian Europe. The church had to acknowledge that something had gone wrong, and beginning with the Second Vatican Council [1962-1965], they attempted to right the wrong. That can only be done by working together.”

In the course of the program, participants will be studying a number of biblical stories that Judaism and Christianity share, as well some that are not shared. The stories are those about siblings in sacred text, in both the Bible and the New Testament.

“We’re going to look at sibling rivalries and how to overcome a relationship where one brother is seen as supplanting the other as the ‘favored son’ who receives all of God’s blessings while the other is left empty-handed,” said Leighton. “Then we will look at how that definition is redefined today.”

First and foremost, the most notorious sibling rivalry will be studied, the dynamics  between Cain and Abel. The fratricidal relationship between the brothers will be used to look at how Jews and Christians should be related today.

Participants will then look at how the story of Esau and Jacob is paradigmatic of the relationship between these two religions. The conflict that resulted from Jacob’s deception of Isaac in order to receive his older brother’s birthright is analogous to the massive spread of Christianity following the destruction of the Second Temple.

“To Jews, traditionally Esau has been related to Edom, which related to Rome and thereby related to Church,” Leighton explained. “Christians have flipped it and see the Jews as the older brother, and they lay claim to being Jacob on whom the blessings rest.”

“What will be of interest is for people to see how Jews and Christians read the same text differently,” said Wohlberg. “I wonder how many Jews are aware that Christians see themselves as the descendants of Jacob, the younger child, rather than Esau, the elder child. The difference in understanding makes all the difference in the world.”

The third section will look at a more unfamiliar story to Jews, the story of the parable of the prodigal son. “It can be read to reinforce a dysfunctional rivalry, or it can be read in ways that are much more constructive and positive, so we want to explore how that might lead us to analyze the relationship between Christians and Jews in new terms,” said Leighton.

In the series, the two want to confront the sometimes  adversarial relationship between Christians and Jews and to foster a more positive and creative dynamic.

Madeline Suggs, director  of public affairs at the BJC,  explained that they are very  excited for the series because Jewish-Muslim discourse has been much more commonplace recently.

“Dialogue is one of our top duties,” she said. “It is such a joy for us at the BJC to have so many people doing interfaith work in the community. I am really excited for an opportunity for intergenerational dialogue as well. It’s a great opportunity with the timing and location to get people with a lot of different backgrounds and experience to get together in the same place.”

The series takes place at Beth Tfiloh’s Epstein Chapel, 3300 Old Court Road in Baltimore on Nov. 2, 9 and 16 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. For reservations or more information, call Noah Mitchel at 410-542-4850 or the Mercaz office at 410-413-2321.

Uniting Jewish Baltimore Shabbat Project aims to bring entire spectrum of community together

Photo courtesy of The Baltimore Shabbat Project

Photo courtesy of The Baltimore Shabbat Project

In 2013, South African Chief Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein wanted to create an opportunity that would allow all Jews to celebrate one Shabbat together in more than just spirit.

The Shabbos Project resonated with Jewish communities around the globe: “The concept is simple: Jews from all walks of life, from across the spectrum — religious, secular and traditional, young and old, from all corners of the world — unite to experience one full Shabbat together, in full accordance with Jewish law,” the organization’s website says.

On the Shabbat during which the project was first launched, nearly 70 percent of the South Africa’s approximate 75,000 Jews celebrated Shabbat, many of whom had not done so before. In the aftermath of the event, communities wrote in from around the world, having seen the success of the project and wanting to bring the initiative to their own locale, giving birth to the international initiative.

Today, the project has grown immensely. Last year’s global initiative reached more than 913 cities and included participation by more than one million Jews worldwide. This year’s project looks to be even larger. In Baltimore, Jewish people from all backgrounds and traditions will come together once more to celebrate Shabbat with the local Shabbat Project’s motto in mind: “ONE Shabbat as ONE people with ONE heart.”

Photo courtesy of The Baltimore Shabbat Project

Photo courtesy of The Baltimore Shabbat Project

Baltimore hopped on the train in 2014 and launched its own Shabbat Project initiative, which expanded to other areas last year such as Howard County, where the Jewish community also wanted to participate.

“The idea of Jewish people around the world keeping one Shabbat together blossomed into something miraculous and beautiful,” said Nisa Felps, project manager of the Baltimore Shabbat Project, as well as a member of the project’s steering committee. “There is an overwhelming sense of unity. It is a beautiful thing seeing these people from all walks of Judaism coming together.”

“This year, we really wanted to make Shabbat shine,” Felps continued. “It’s important that Shabbat is the nucleus of the Shabbat Project. We spent a lot of time thinking about how we can highlight Shabbat. Across Baltimore, there are all sorts of activities that will be happening: Shabbatons, Kiddushes, Onegs, family meals — at shuls and at people’s homes. We also launched the Shabbat Challenge. It is fully via social media, challenging people to engage Shabbat even more. There is a lot of momentum going into this year that we want to capitalize on. It is about unity and coming together for a love of Shabbat and of Judaism.”

Last year, the project touched 25,000 Jews in the Greater Baltimore area. This year, the goal is to engage at least 40,000. Events will be taking place across Baltimore between Sunday, Nov. 6 and Saturday, Nov. 12.

The first, and one of the biggest, events will be the community-sponsored Shabbat Through the Senses, which is taking place at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 6.

Photo courtesy of The Baltimore Shabbat Project

Photo courtesy of The Baltimore Shabbat Project

“Shabbat Through the Senses is an opportunity for all kinds of families to come together and experience Shabbat piece by piece by having kids create things that they can use at home on Shabbat,” said Gabrielle Burger, director of PJ library and chair of the Shabbat Through the Senses event. “There will be a mini-challah bake with premade dough for kids. There will be Havdalah spice making, making Shabbat candles with wax and making candlesticks with sand art. You will have the opportunity to create your own tie-dye challah cover and to grind wheat with people from Pearlstone.”

The event includes PJ Library story time and pre-Shabbat activities with puppets and stories, as well as a sing-along with Beth Israel Congregation Rabbi Rachel Blatt and Beth Tfiloh Congregation Hebrew School director Brian Singer.

“Absolutely everything that we are doing is 100 percent inclusive, regardless of abilities,” said Burger. “Each family gets to make a Shabbat box based off the PJ library story ‘The Shabbat Box’ and take home an entire Shabbat experience when they leave. There will also be a moon bounce, face painting and a magician. It really will be a fabulous experience for everybody.”

Matisyahu headlines the Baltimore Shabbat Project’s Havdalah concert on Nov. 12 at Rams Head Live! (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Matisyahu headlines the Baltimore Shabbat Project’s Havdalah concert on Nov. 12 at Rams Head Live! (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The Shabbat Challenge is an ongoing social media initiative for the project this year. The message is that Shabbat belongs to all Jews. It is about putting elements of Shabbat into the Sabbath, even if those observing aren’t going to do everything — because Jews can benefit from each individual piece that Shabbat has to offer.

“I have really always felt a love for Shabbat,” said Miriam Gross, who is coordinating Shabbat events and aiding the online challenge. “I do feel that it gets a rep of belonging to the Orthodox and more observant communities, but I have always felt that the reward for keeping Shabbat is getting to have Shabbat. It is an amazing time to unplug and thing about what is meaningful in life. What I love about the Shabbat project is that it is nondenominational — you see people who are pumped about Shabbat that you wouldn’t expect to be. I think it is really putting Shabbat back into the hands of every Jew that wants it, making it accessible.”

A large part of the Shabbat Challenge is a series of hashtags on social media that are being used to unite participants. #Shabbat@OurPlace and #Shabbat@ YourPlace, for example, are being used to help people find a community member’s home in which to celebrate Shabbat. #ShabbatUnplugged calls for people to unplug from electronic devices and “plug into real life.”

Top: Jewish folk-rockers Moshav perform at the 2015 Baltimore Shabbat Project. Above: The Great Challah Bake attracted nearly 4,000 people last year, and organizers expect an even bigger turnout this year. (Top: Jewish folk-rockers Moshav perform at the 2015 Baltimore Shabbat Project. Above: The Great Challah Bake attracted nearly 4,000 people last year, and organizers expect an even bigger turnout this year. (Top: Jewish folk-rockers Moshav perform at the 2015 Baltimore Shabbat Project. Above: The Great Challah Bake attracted nearly 4,000 people last year, and organizers expect an even bigger turnout this year. (Photo courtesy of The Baltimore Shabbat Project)

Jewish folk-rockers Moshav perform at the 2015 Baltimore Shabbat Project. (Photo courtesy of The Baltimore Shabbat Project)

The most well-known and anticipated event of the Shabbat Project is the Great Challah Bake, an event for Jewish women to unite and prepare for Shabbat by learning to bake traditional challah loaves together.

This year, the event will take place at the Baltimore Convention Center on Wed-nesday, Nov. 9 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. There also will be a challah bake for seniors on Wednesday, Nov 9 at 6:45 p.m. at Peregrine’s Landing at Tudor Heights and one for women only through the Jewish Federation of Howard County at Beth Shalom Congregation at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 10.

According to Felps, the first year that Baltimore participated in the Shabbat Project, the challah bake was one of the signature events. “The first year, it took off,” she said. “We expected 500 people and 1,200 showed up. Last year’s challah bake had just under 4,000 people, and this year we expect even more.”

Saralee Greenberg, a co-chair of the event’s steering committee, said that she became involved with the Shabbat Project initiative through the challah bake last year. “You’re at a table with 10 women, all of different ages and affiliations,” she said. “You are sisters, and there is a bond that just fills the room and fills the heart. I left with a sense of awe and happiness and understanding. This year, I got a call to be involved as a co-chair and said yes immediately because it is worth every bit of time and energy to make others feel the same way. I have never seen such dedicated volunteers.”

The Great Challah Bake attracted nearly 4,000 people last year, and organizers expect an even bigger turnout this year. (Photo courtesy of The Baltimore Shabbat Project)

The Great Challah Bake attracted nearly 4,000 people last year, and organizers expect an even bigger turnout this year. (Photo courtesy of The Baltimore Shabbat Project)

Hanni Werner, the Jewish Federation of Howard County’s marketing and communications associate, explained how last year the organization decided to have its first Shabbat Project challah bake. “We didn’t know how it would go, we were just starting out,” she said. “But the response was overwhelmingly positive, and everyone had a great time. We had such an incredible turnout that we reserved a larger space to accommodate nearly twice as many people this year. Last year, we had about 120 people, and this year, we’ll probably have about 220.”

“We especially felt it was significant at helping Jewish women unite,” Werner continued. “We’re a month out from the event this year, and we have already sold out. It’s one of those events that has really good, palpable energy. It is not just about making the challah, it’s about getting people together and connected. It has such a wide appeal that each year we seem to reach even more people, particularly multigenerational families who bring daughters, moms and grandmas.”

Jen Kaplan has been involved with the Shabbat Project since its inception in Baltimore. This year, she is once again co-chairing the Great Challah Bake. “We have made a lot changes this year,” she said. “We received a lot of positive and constructive feedback from last year. For example, there will only be Jewish music this year — some traditional, some pop, some Israeli style. There will also be a much higher level of spirituality this year, and an emcee, Yaffa Palti, will manage and direct the crowd as needed.”

The Great Challah Bake (Photo by David Stuck)

The Great Challah Bake (Photo by David Stuck)

Kaplan plans to talk about the power behind women uniting to make challah together and the good that it can bring about. She wants to inspire a sense of Jewish unity and spirituality in the audience.

“For example, we are going to create a moment of silence when it is time to say the one-line brachah prayer,” she said. “When you actually rip a piece of challah off, everyone can have a moment for silent reflection and send their prayers directly up to those who need healing and livelihood. I am very connected to unity, and I really believe in the flavor of the project in Baltimore. Even the larger Shabbat project is really about everybody keeping a Shabbat together.”

In the same vein of unity, Baltimore Hebrew Congregation and Suburban Orthodox Congregation will be joining together on Nov. 11 to have “a wonderful evening of song, d’var Torah, camaraderie and a delicious dinner,” on Nov. 11, according to the project’s website.

“The Shabbos Project offers us the opportunity to connect to our entire community,” said Rabbi Shmuel Silber of Suburban Orthodox Congregation. “While we may have our differences, some quite significant, there is so much that unites and bonds us to one another. We feel truly privileged to share a Shabbos dinner with our brothers and sisters from Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. We truly hope the seeds of achdus and unity will continue to flourish in the months and years ahead.”

The diverse array of events taking place in the community this year will culminate at the final event of the Shabbat Project, a community-sponsored Havdalah concert featuring Matisyahu. The concert is taking place at Rams Head Live! on Saturday, Nov. 12.

“I have always felt that the reward for
keeping Shabbat is getting to have Shabbat.”

— Miriam Gross, a Shabbat events coordinator

Lisa Bodziner, director of educational engagement at the Center for Jewish Education, was on the Havdalah committee last year and has continued in that role for this year’s event. “I really believe that the Shabbat Project is a great chance to involve a younger generation and less-involved crowd in the Jewish community,” she said. “The goal with bringing in Matisyahu is to create an experience that would be more relevant and intriguing to that audience.”

“I am very passionate about Shabbat and people having their own unique experiences,” Bodziner added. “I think Havdalah is sometimes a ritual that gets lost. We really wanted to make a beautiful evening celebrating Shabbat with a Havdalah that will turn into a concert. The goal is to sell out Rams Head Live!, which has a capacity of 1,600. We are happy to have anyone of any background and of any age group to join us. We want young folks to come out and embrace the experience of Havdalah and have a meaningful night.”

The evening will be packed with activities. From 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. there will be a DJ. For $100, attendees can join a meet-and-greet with Matisyahu. There will be an art project in which people will be able to add to a neon lights display about what “light” means to them as an essential part of Shabbat and Havdalah. Repair the World will be running a project at the event, decorating holiday cards for needy families in the Baltimore area. There will also be pizza, cocktails and glow-in-the-dark glasses for the first 500 people registered.

The concert starts with Havdalah at 9; Matisyahu will perform until 11. Afterward, the DJ will play music until 1 a.m. Tickets are $15 in advance and $25 at the door.

“We all have the same passion to bring Shabbat to Baltimore,” said Greenberg. “My goal is to cast the love and beauty of Shabbat on to the rest of Baltimore. I want people to come away with experiences they enjoyed. Having them do the one thing that they haven’t done before will make it successful for me.”

Editor’s Note: The Jewish Times is the Baltimore Shabbat Project’s official media sponsor.
For more information, visit

Synagogues Team Up for Election Series

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton shaking hands after their first presidential debate, which was held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Sept. 26, 2016. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton shaking hands after their first presidential debate, which was held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Sept. 26, 2016. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

With Election Day closing in, Beth Am Synagogue, Beth Israel Congregation, Beth El Congregation and Chizuk Amuno Congregation have collaborated to put on a lecture series that explores the polarizing campaigns of presidential candidates Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton through a Jewish lens.

Rabbi Daniel Cotzin Burg, who leads the Beth Am Synagogue of more than 500 families, said the necessity to start such a program was two-fold. The idea was to develop a project that had particular relevance to the election and to work with a respected Jewish institution in Yeshivat Hadar, a liberal yeshiva in New York, to execute that.

“This election season has been so divisive,” Burg said, “and to be able to bring a sense of broader responsibility within the Jewish community is a great counterpoint to some of the rhetoric we have seen.”

Sponsored in part by the Baltimore Jewish Council, the four-part series, “Debate and Decision: Thinking About the Election with Jewish Values,” kicked off on Oct. 20 at Beth El with Rabbi Shai Held, a teacher at Mechon Hadar yeshiva, leading a discussion at Beth El. Rabbai Aviva Richman, a faculty member at Yeshivat Hadar, presented a talk at Beth Am on Oct. 27, discussing whether it’s possible, wrong or imperative for political enemies to creative community harmony. There are two remaining sessions.

This has to do with the well-being of our community and how our votes fit into that narrative.

— Howard Libit, BJC executive director

Howard Libit, executive director of the BJC, said the sessions have less to do with Trump’s or Clinton’s candidacy but more with personal reflection and shared values among Jewish people.

“This has to do with the well-being of our community and how our votes fit into that narrative,” Libit said. “It gives us an opportunity to think more broadly and deeply about the election beyond what we see on TV or read in the newspaper.”

The final two discussions, at Beth Israel on Nov. 3 and Chizuk Amuno on Nov. 16, will sandwich Election Day on Nov. 8, giving ample time for the participating rabbis to digest the results.

Burg, Beth Israel Rabbi Jay Goldstein, Beth El Senior Rabbi Steve Schwartz, Chizuk Amuno Rabbi Ron Shulman and Dr. Neil Rubin of the Baltimore Hebrew Institute at Towson University will dissect the results in a panel discussion, capping what figures to be an eventful election cycle.

“About a little more than a week after the election, we’ll be able to digest what we have learned from the election,” Libit said. “It’s not a postmortem on getting out to vote or which candidate did a better job, but I think a lot will center on the tone and the nature of how the election went.”

Outside of rabbinical assembly meetings and board of rabbi meetings, the four conservative synagogues don’t often team up for programs, Burg said. During his six years as rabbi at Beth Am, Burg said this is the first time he can recall the four Conservative synagogues coming together in such a capacity.

Moving forward, Burg hopes it’s a relationship that can continue to grow and blossom when fundamental political and social issues present themselves to the public.

“It’s exciting to be able to do something like this just because we haven’t really done much of anything like this before,” Burg said. “I think this is something that we can explore doing more of in the future.”

For more information about these free events, visit

50 Years of Columbia’s Women in Art

The Smith Theatre at Howard Community College is hosting “Dancing for Divas” on Saturday, Oct. 22 at 8 p.m., “a benefit celebrating 50 years of Columbia’s art and the women who made it happen.”

Produced by Carolyn Kelemen as a last hurrah before her retirement at the end of the year, the one-night-only show will feature noteworthy names from the history of art in  Columbia: Eva Anderson, a local dancer, director and choreographer; Doris Ligon, founder of the Maryland Museum of African Art; and Toby Orenstein, the director at Toby’s Dinner Theatre, among others.

“I was so successful with all the AIDS benefits I did, I really missed bringing together people for a cause,” said Kelemen. “I have been producing benefits since 1972, the first of which was for sickle cell anemia. I  really want to celebrate women who have made an impact.”

“I think seeing the people who have been a part of  Columbia’s history and have been advocates for the arts is wonderful,” said Orenstein. “And bringing together the community that supports the arts always makes for a great evening.”

Tickets are $25 with discounts for students and performers at the door. For more information, visit

The Challenges for Greek Jews Coming to Baltimore Post-Holocaust

Baltimore’s Greek Jewish community is a tight-knit one. Bottom row, from left: Louis Yohanas, Marla Yohanas, Soulamith Yohanas, Josephine Velelli Becker, Tilda Koulias Trattner, Esther Koulias Rauseo, Connie Velelli, Rachel Velelli Glaser, Jeannette Carasso Katzen and Lonnie Katzen. Top row, from left: Isaac Yohahas, Marcia Salis, Joe Salis, Steve Rauseo, Victor Velelli and Rick Glaser. (Provided)

Baltimore’s Greek Jewish community is a tight-knit one. Bottom row, from left: Louis Yohanas, Marla Yohanas, Soulamith Yohanas, Josephine Velelli Becker, Tilda Koulias Trattner, Esther Koulias Rauseo, Connie Velelli, Rachel Velelli Glaser, Jeannette Carasso Katzen and Lonnie Katzen. Top row, from left: Isaac Yohahas, Marcia Salis, Joe Salis, Steve Rauseo, Victor Velelli and Rick Glaser. (Provided)

In the immediate post-World War II years, the United States saw a massive influx of refugees from war-torn European nations. While typically the Jewish community looks to the European theater when addressing WWII, fewer are aware of the chaotic conditions in Greece at the time.

When the Greco-Italian War started in 1940, beginning the Balkan campaign of the war, Greek-Americans mobilized in support of Greece and garnered respect from the American public. However, the fall of Greece boded ill for many families, and Greek Jewry was in particularly dire straits. This week, the JT sat down with members of the Greek Jewish community in Baltimore to learn more about the conditions of Jews who immigrated to the United States during that time with the aid of the HIAS (formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), which partnered with The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

Columbus Day in 1956 fell on Oct. 12, and the day saw two of Baltimore’s enduring Greek Jewish families arrive on new shores: the Velelli family and the Yohanas family. Throughout the 1950s, Greek Jews had been immigrating to the United States, and Baltimore hosted a small community; approximately 15 families composed the community at its height.

“My father especially wanted to make a change post-Holocaust because the situation of Greek Jewry was quite dire,” shared Rachel Glaser, a local of Velelli descent. “It was impoverished and so much of Jewish culture and people had been destroyed. Over 85 percent of Greek Jews were killed. It was very hard to pick up the pieces. Those who had survived had lost everything. That, combined with the fall of Greece, put everyone in bad circumstances, particularly financially.”

The Velelli family was one of the last Greek Jewish families to move to Baltimore. Glaser’s grandparents were still living, and her father did not want to uproot them. “My parents and grandparents went on continuing to try and live. I think coming back and having more children is the most amazing thing that my parents have ever done.”

Her father, Emmanuel Velelli, reopened his textile business, but no one really made it back to where they were before the war. After his parents passed away, he began to seriously undertake the work necessary to move to America. The U.S. had a quota system for immigrants that made it very difficult to get into the country — it was essentially necessary to already know people living in America in order to come. At some point, however, the quota system was relaxed for Greece, so it made coming to America a far more realistic possibility. Glaser’s parents took advantage of the opportunity when HIAS came to Greece.

There was this moment of, ‘how can you be Jewish if you don’t speak Yiddish?’ That was the first time we really felt different. We didn’t really fit into the Baltimore Jewish community, nor did we fit into the Greek part of town.    — Rachel Glaser

Post-Holocaust, HIAS was working throughout Europe on two fronts. First and foremost, the organization’s goal was to help resettle Jewish survivors and revitalize their communities. Additionally, HIAS wanted to reunite families that had been scattered by the war, helping those who had family elsewhere to resettle near their family members.

When a family immigrated to the U.S., it was assigned to a city that could support its members. Cities had specific numbers of refugees that they could accept, and it was necessary to know someone in the city who could help support the newly immigrated family.

Glaser’s father was given the choice of moving to Los Angeles, Minneapolis or Baltimore because that’s where they had family members. The family in Los Angeles was having trouble finding work, and those members in Minneapolis told the family that it was far colder than they were used to. Her uncle told her father not to come to Israel because of poverty and the difficulty of finding jobs as well, so the family decided to move to Baltimore when a cousin living in the city spoke up.

Isaac Yohanas, who moved to the United States with his family at the same time, shared a similar experience. “My mom did not want to come to the U.S.,” he said, “but my father did. We would get letters in the mail saying to come to the U.S., that it would be a good experience, essentially that the streets were paved with gold. We moved to Baltimore at the request of one of the people already here who were sending us letters.”

Upon arrival in Baltimore, the families were met by representatives of The Associated who showed them to the furnished apartments that had been set aside for each family. “We had a lot of help from the Associated Jewish Charities,” said Yohanas, referring to the Federation’s previous name.

“I didn’t speak English when we first got here,” recalled Glaser. “My older sister, who was already 20, had taken English lessons in Greece in preparation, as had my father, so they knew a little bit. I was the youngest, so I knew no words of English. We went to the neighborhood public school; it was very intimidating and scary. The system wasn’t what it is now. There wasn’t English taught as a second language. Eventually, I just had to figure it out. Both my brother and I were put back a grade to help us catch up.”

For many of these families, acclimating to the Jewish community in Baltimore proved to be a challenge. Baltimore Jews had never encountered Greek Jews who were not Ashkenazi like most of Baltimore’s Jewry at the time.

Glaser recalled, “An Associated member tried speaking Yiddish to us, and my father had to explain that we didn’t speak Yiddish. There was this moment of, ‘How can you be Jewish if you don’t speak Yiddish?’ That was the first time we really felt different. We didn’t really fit into the Baltimore Jewish community, nor did we fit into the Greek part of town, where the community revolved around the church. It seemed like we didn’t fit anywhere until we were able to get more consonant.”

For Yohanas and his family, the neighborhood of immigrants they lived in was where they fit.

“We were accepted because we were living in an area that housed a lot of immigrants as well,” Yohanas said. “They were so helpful, and everyone was staying together; we all socialized a lot. When we came home, our parents wouldn’t be there, so we went around to different people’s houses — everyone took care of each other. It’s like the Hassidic community, where everybody took care of everybody else and their children. We didn’t have to worry about anything happening to us. We knew we could go over to so-and-so’s house because we were all immigrants together and family friends. The neighborhood was our sanctuary.”

Yohanas added that the families who still live in the area have walked to the same shul together for 60 years now.

“For a long time, we were quite in-between,” said Glaser. “A lot of Greek Jews felt that way. My family was always a shul-going family, but there was none that matched our customs, so we joined an Orthodox shul because it was the closest to what we knew. And slowly, we were able to become a part of Jewish life. But we are truly grateful for the work of The Associated through HIAS to bring our family over. We didn’t do it on our own.”

Local Survivor, Doctor Spread Awareness of Breast Cancer Genes

(file photo)

(file photo)

When a routine mammogram revealed she had early- stage breast cancer three years ago, Nisa Felps wondered about treatment.

The Baltimore resident opted to have a bilateral mastectomy to remove both her breasts to rid herself of the cancer after consulting with a breast surgeon.

“After I came through it, I felt this overwhelming sense of gratitude,” Felps said. “It took almost about a year, and I wanted to give back.”

Phelps, now 43 and a mother of four children, ranging in age from 5 to 13, said she received overwhelming support from her family, friends, co-workers and the community, which was pivotal in her fight.

Through a grassroots effort, Felps has teamed up with Dr. Dee-Dee Shiller for nearly the last two years to provide that same type of assistance to those all around the Greater Baltimore Jewish Community.

For Shiller, who practices at LifeBridge Health and Baltimore Suburban Health in Pikesville, promoting breast cancer awareness, education and treatment is one of her main focuses.

“What Nisa and I are doing … we just want people to know what their family risk is,” Shiller said. “We want people to take this head on, and we are changing the face of this issue in our community.”

According to Shiller, a 43-year-old board certified gynecologist and osteopath, roughly one in 40 Ashkenazi Jews whose ancestors emigrated from Central and Eastern Europe are carriers of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutated gene. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the two genes doctors can test for certain mutations that indicates a high risk for breast cancer.

Half of the offspring of men and women who carry the BRCA gene are susceptible to this hereditary form of the disease, making the need to alert Jews a pressing topic for Felps and Shiller.

In the United States, however, the non-Jewish BRCA rate is about one in 400 people.

“We’re literally navigating through the Baltimore community trying to reach one woman at a time,” Felps said.

Shiller and Felps visit individual homes, community centers and places of worship throughout any given time of the year to spread their message. This year alone, they have put on 16 events and plan to ramp up their efforts for the remainder of October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, as well as in the years to come.

At the meetings, which typically draw anywhere from 10 to 100 women, Shiller lends her expertise as a doctor and Felps shares her perspective as a survivor. Men, who can also carry the BRCA1 and BRCA2, have also taken an interest by coming out to several events to hear Shiller and Felps.

“We’re approaching this from a place love,” Felps said. “We care about our community, and we’re not trying to spread fear or scare people. We can change the destiny of Jewish people by being proactive.”

Early detection through testing women’s embryos for the gene can actually help a family eliminate the risk of passing on the dominant BRCA gene to a child, Shiller said.

“My suggestion is we should know about this head on, so that we can change a generation and limit the risk of this disease among Jewish people,” Shiller said.

There is a misconception, Felps said, that such measures can be costly and lead to daunting bills for those who seek to take a proactive approach to monitor for breast cancer.

Under the Affordable Care Act, however, the genetic test is among the preventive services that insurance companies are required to cover without cost sharing. Previously, costs for the screening ran as high as $3,000, making it difficult for women with an average risk of cancer who lack such means to afford paying for part of the test.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that only women with a strong family history of cancer be evaluated for genetic testing for BRCA mutations.

Still, Shiller said it is important for women who feel they are at risk regardless of family history not to take any chances.

“I just find that helping the Jewish community is just part of who I am,” Shiller said. “I can’t leave that, and we need to work toward bettering our community against breast cancer.”

A Bipartisan Battle Contested District 1 race could mean first Republican city councilman in more than 70 years

Baltimore City Hall (Mbell1975 via Wikimedia Commons)

39Baltimore City Hall (Mbell1975 via Wikimedia Commons)


On an overcast October morning on East Bank Street in Southeast Baltimore, Zeke Cohen and U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, clad in suits, were preparing to canvas as Election Day draws closer.

Cohen, 31, a Canton resident, has enlisted the muscle of prominent Democratic politicians with strong Baltimore ties such as Cardin in his pursuit to fill departing 1st District Councilman James Kraft’s highly contested seat.

“I truly believe in Zeke and his vision for Baltimore City,” Cardin said. “He has a real concern for the issues going on in the [1st District] neighborhoods, and I am really confident Zeke can deal with these issues and work with the appropriate channels to get whatever he needs done.”

Zeke Cohen addresses Baltimore residents at a community event held by his nonprofit, The Intersection. (Photo provided)

Zeke Cohen addresses Baltimore residents at a community event held by his nonprofit, The Intersection. (Photo provided)

Since defeating five Democrats in a hard-fought primary last April, Cohen has been pounding the pavement and knocking on doors to drum up excitement about his campaign and get supporters to the polls on Nov. 8.

“We’re operating as if we’re 10 points behind,” Cohen said, “because I think our citizens want a City Council person who is going to work hard for them every  single day. I think having a competitive race is good for democracy, and I think it gives some contrast and makes it exciting to be in a district where there is some ideological diversity.”

The Baltimore City Council has remained Democratic for as long as many can remember, but for the first time in years, the party’s hold on city government is not a lock.

In the race to replace retiring Councilman Kraft, who held the 1st District seat for 12 years, Republican Matthew McDaniel presents a viable challenge.

McDaniel, a 28-year-old lawyer and Canton resident, is running a forceful campaign in hopes of becoming the first Republican to serve on the City Council since Daniel Ellison, a Jew of Russian  descent, was elected to the 4th District seat in 1939.

“Talking to people in the area, especially older folks, they always say: ‘Every four years, it could be a different face, but every year four years, somebody gets in front of us and says it will be different, and then four years later, they’re saying the same thing.’” McDaniel said. “That message, I think it has really disillusioned a lot of people with local politics. Not to sound negative or anything, but it’s very easy to play the blame game instead of giving people solutions to look forward to.”

Cohen and Ben Cardin (Photo by Justin Silberman)

Cohen and Ben Cardin (Photo by Justin Silberman)

The 1st District, which stretches from Harbor East to the city-county line in Dundalk and includes Southeast Baltimore, has shown a willingness to vote conservative in recent years. Just two years ago, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan carried that district against favored  Democrat Anthony Brown, 53 percent  to 47 percent, despite garnering only 22 percent of the vote citywide.

In a city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 10-to-1, the primary usually determines who sits on the council. But that trend is being put to the test with McDaniel, who has gained strong support from Hogan.

Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College, said Cohen should not be taking anything for granted but added the “fundamentals” (campaign contributions and party affiliation) remain heavily on his side.

According to the most recent campaign finance reports filed on Aug. 30 through the Maryland State Board of Elections, Cohen has more robust funding.

Cohen has spent more than $122,000 during the last two years and has more than $77,000 in campaign contributions at his disposal. McDaniel, on the other hand, has just $12,000-plus in funds, per his most recent filing on Sept. 11, and used just over $1,000 to capture victory in the primaries.

“I don’t know if McDaniel can generate the same type of buzz Hogan did when he was running for governor,” Kromer said. “[Hogan] ran a very expensive campaign and dumped a lot of money into that  part of the city, and I just don’t know if McDaniel has stood out in the same way in that respect.”

For his part, Cohen has become a popular figure in his own party’s circle, drawing the support of 2nd District City Councilman Brandon Scott and state Del. Antonio Hayes (D) in addition to Cardin.

I think having a competitive race is  good for democracy, and I think it  gives some contrast and makes it  exciting to be in a district where there  is some ideological diversity. — Zeke Cohen

Chuck Conner, executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party, said Cohen has also taken the time to get to know voters and their concerns, making him the ideal choice to succeed Kraft.

“When you look at Zeke and his background, what he is committed to and what his vision for the future is and compare that to his Republican challenger [McDaniel], I don’t think there is a comparison,” Connor said. “I’ve seen a lot of people who are receptive to Zeke and a  lot of people who are supporting his  campaign and have been supporting him for a long time.”

Matthew McDaniel has his sights set on the city’s $60 million deficit and promises a more conservative economic approach. (Photo provided)

Matthew McDaniel (Photo provided)

A Northampton, Mass., native, Cohen studied political science at Goucher College, received a master’s degree in public policy from Johns Hopkins University and taught middle school social studies through Teach For America. Cohen currently is executive director of The Intersection, a nonprofit he founded as a graduate student five years ago that has helped more than 30 high school students earn college scholarships. He also sits on the Baltimore Advisory Council for Jews United for Justice.

His Republican challenger, McDaniel, comes from a background practicing both public and private law.

A Frederick County native, McDaniel graduated from Catsonville High School and earned his undergraduate degree in history and political science from Loyola University Maryland and his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Baltimore School of Law.

He is an associate at the Ferguson, Schetelich & Ballew law firm, where he specializes in helping small businesses get off the ground. Prior to joining the Baltimore-based firm in 2014, McDaniel worked for the special victims unit of the state’s attorney’s office and as a judicial law clerk for the Maryland Judiciary.

Joe Cluster, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, said if “the citizens of Baltimore are ever going to end the monopoly government” in the city, McDaniel gives them the best chance to do just that given his qualifications.

“Matt understands that if this becomes a race between Democrats and Republicans, he loses,” Cluster said. “So we’re not going to put our face out there for him publicly as much we’ve done for other candidates, but we’ve been very supportive of him. Matt is his own individual candidate, and people will judge him on his views, his beliefs and decide whether they want him or Cohen to represent them in District 1.”

Matthew McDaniel (Photo provided)

Matthew McDaniel has his sights set on the city’s $60 million deficit and promises a more conservative economic approach. (Photo provided)

McDaniel, whom Gov. Hogan endorsed in September, believes that having a  Republican on the council would be  instrumental to the city to generate support from state lawmakers in Annapolis.

“I think the people in Baltimore City, especially in District 1, respect the governor,” McDaniel said. “I also think people have seen that [Hogan] is willing to work across party lines to get things done and to bring the changes people have been asking to see for a while.”

As for the issues, both Cohen and  McDaniel agree that reforming the police, fixing the education system, holding city agencies accountable and tax reform are among the most important topics facing residents. The way the two men plot to go about bringing those changes, however, differ in a variety of ways.

If elected, Cohen says he plans to put his educational experience to good use  by pressing the city to make universal  pre-kindergarten one of its top priorities. Because space in pre-kindergarten is limited in Baltimore City Public Schools, a priority system consisting of economic and social factors is used to enroll children in two different groups.

Cohen understands the importance of early school success for children and how that can lay the foundation to ensure a rich academic future.

“Having been an educator, one of the big things for me is to make sure our schools are great, which starts early,” Cohen said. “Ages zero to 5 are critical years for children, and I want them to have a safe, high-quality educational space to be in.”

City Council president Bernard “Jack” Young, who has pledged more than $3,000 to Cohen’s campaign, has worked tirelessly with the Democratic nominee to set aside funding for many youth issues, which will appear on the ballot for voters.

It’s very easy  to play the blame game  instead of  giving people  solutions  to look  forward to.  — Matthew McDaniel

Young’s spokesman, Lester Davis, said the City Council president is fully behind Cohen and expects to work with him on carrying out that idea, if passed, when the new Council takes office in December.

“I think Zeke sees children as the key to growing and making Baltimore City thrive,” Davis said. “That has been the bedrock of the City Council president’s tenure since he has been on the council, so I think [Young] and Cohen have a lot in common.”

McDaniel also is a strong proponent of investing in the city’s youth. He is a firm believer that students graduating from city high schools should either be prepared to pursue a post-secondary degree or gain  the skills needed to hold down a job in an ever-growing competitive marketplace.

To accomplish this, he feels the city — which, according to the Census Bureau Report, spends the third-highest per pupil in the country’s 100 largest school districts at approximately $15,000 per year — needs to spend more efficiently.  McDaniel wants to see some funds put into public-private partnerships with nonprofits that supplement learning in and outside the classroom to better prepare students for the challenges of transitioning to adulthood.

“I think we really have to get our house in order,” McDaniel said. “I’ve said this to a few people before: It’s no one person’s or party’s fault, but it just so happens that in Baltimore, it’s been one party.”

In recent years, City Council members have sought to get the city’s charter amended to force audits of municipal departments every two years. City Councilman Eric Costello, who represents the 11th District, sponsored a bill in June that would require more frequent audits, which received support from eight of the current 15 Council members and was backed by City Comptroller Joan M. Pratt.

Zeke Cohen (Photo by Justin Silberman); Matthew McDaniel (Photo provided)

Zeke Cohen (Photo by Justin Silberman); Matthew McDaniel (Photo provided)

Cohen said he would work to carry out this piece of legislation and use his skills running his own nonprofit to assist in making that transition smooth.

“The challenge has been the political will to actually enforce them,” Cohen said of the audits. “I’ve run a nonprofit [The Intersection] for a number of years, and every year, I was audited. If I misspent a single dollar, my organization would lose its license. Yet, we’re in the enormous  city budget, and we can’t seem to get the audits done, which is unacceptable.”

With the city trying to navigate a $60 million deficit, McDaniel said one of the big reasons he decided to run in the first place was to help Baltimore balance its budget. He believes bringing a more conservative economic mindsight to the table can accomplish that.

McDaniel is pushing to incrementally lower property and personal taxes with the idea of spawning economic growth.

“I have yet to hear a Democrat say, ‘Oh no, I’m against all those things,’” McDaniel said. “I say that as a bit of joke, but it really is true. When you’re looking 10, 15, 20 years down the line, the city is going to be running into some significant financial problems to grow the population and bring people and businesses back in.”

Finding new and innovative ways to  reduce crime and working in conjunction with the Baltimore Police Department is something that both candidates would like to bring to the forefront. From Oct. 1 through Oct. 8, there were a reported 121 robberies, larcenies and assaults in Southeast Baltimore alone, according to figures from the Baltimore City Government data website.

McDaniel feels the city needs more police officers, increased community walks with officers to build a sense of community and more citywide surveillance cameras. Cohen stressed that rebuilding trust between the police and those they serve is pivotal, and he would like to offer regular public meetings.

Dr. Remington Nevin, a 42-year-old post-doctoral fellow in the Johns Hopkins University Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, has donated several hundred dollars to McDaniel’s campaign and said he likes that McDaniel would bring a different perspective to the fold.

“I feel [McDaniel] has much better ideas for the city than [Cohen] does,” Nevin said. “He’s a Republican, but I think he approaches a lot of Baltimore’s issues as an independent.”

Louis Monk, a 45-year-old Patterson Park resident who owns Patterson Park Laundry and Dry Cleaners, said he appreciates Cohen’s willingness to work with people from all walks of life.

“Zeke is always out and about listening to what everyone has to say, and he is someone who takes a genuine interest in what we have to say,” Monk said. “He has been a very personable person, and that really does go a long way with a lot of people.”

Howard County Names Interim Sheriff


James Fitzgerald resigned as sheriff, effective Oct. 15. (Photo provided)

Don Knott, a lieutenant in the Howard County Sherriff’s Office, was named interim sheriff on Monday following the resignation of Sheriff James Fitzgerald, whose alleged anti-Semitic, racist and misogynistic remarks were detailed in a September report, county spokesman Andy Barth said.

Knott has more than 43 years of experience in state law enforcement.

Fitzgerald, a Democrat serving his third term, signed an agreement on Oct. 11 stating his last day in office would be Saturday, Oct. 15. Howard County officials confirmed Fitzgerald vacated his office as planned.

Howard County Council chairman Calvin Ball, a Democrat, said in a prepared statement last week that he worked diligently to negotiate a pact that ended with Fitzgerald agreeing to step down from his post.

“Responding to concerns about Sheriff Fitzgerald and allegations of discrimination, I have diligently worked with all parties to reach a resolution so that our community can begin healing,” Ball said in the statement. “This wasn’t just one call or conversation or press release. This was a difficult process. I believed from the instant the issue came to light that resignation was the only option, and I needed the sheriff to see that as well.”

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman, a Republican, hopes to have a permanent solution in place no later than November, Barth said. In accordance with the state’s constitution, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) will appoint a replacement to complete the remainder of Fitzgerald’s term, which concludes in 2018.

“[Howard] County Executive Kittleman is pleased that the sheriff followed the wishes of many, many people inside and outside of the county that he resign,” Barth said via email.

U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, a  Democrat who was among many politicians statewide calling for Fitzgerald to resign, said in a prepared statement that he is looking forward to Howard County moving on from Fitzgerald.

“Sheriff Fitzgerald has done the right thing for Howard County by agreeing to resign his post. Howard County’s officers deserve a safe and respectful workplace, and residents deserve to feel confidence in all levels of their law enforcement,” Cardin said in the statement. “Sheriff Fitzgerald’s disparaging behavior had justifiably eroded that essential trust. I’m grateful that there will now be a fresh start and a new opportunity for leadership in the Howard County Sheriff’s office to demonstrate the integrity and respect that we expect from our law enforcement.”

The county’s Office of Human Rights released a 48-page report Sept. 1 that detailed Fitzgerald referring to former Howard County Executive Ken Ulman as “little Kenny Jew-boy” as well as derogatory comments about African-Americans and women. Fitzgerald was also accused of retaliating against deputies who did not support his re-election in 2010.