Jewish-Run Businesses Awarded Medical Cannabis Licenses

Different strains of medical cannabis at a Washington, D.C., dispensary. (Photo by David Stuck)

Different strains of medical cannabis at a Washington, D.C., dispensary. (Photo by David Stuck)

After being inundated with applications from those hoping to grow, process and dispense medical cannabis in Maryland, the Natalie M. LaPrade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission revealed its 15 grower selections and 15 processor selections on Monday.

While a large step forward in a program that has been fraught with delays, these preapprovals means the companies will now undergo rigorous background checks and financial due diligence processes.

The commission anticipates medicine will be available in the summer of 2017, according to a news release.

Among the businesses selected from 145 grower applications and 124 processor applications are several run by members of the Jewish community.

Curio Wellness, which was selected for a grower’s license under Curio Cultivation and a processor’s license under Curio Manufacturing, both in Baltimore County, has Baltimore health care mogul Michael Bronfein in its CEO spot.  Gail Rand and Dr. Debra Kimless, two members of the leadership team of ForwardGro, which was selected for a grower’s license in Anne Arundel County, are members of the tribe. Cary Millstein, CEO of Freestate Wellness, which was selected for a grower’s license in Howard County, has been a board member of the Jewish Federation of Howard County for more than 10 years. Green Leaf Medical CEO Philip Goldberg, whose company was selected as a grower for Frederick County, is a member of Temple Beth Ami in Rockville. He is also the president of the Maryland Cannabis Industry Association.

Doctor’s Orders, which was selected for grower and processor licenses in Dorchester County, listed Del. Dan Morhaim, a physician and the policymaker behind the legislation that led to the creation of the state’s medical cannabis program, as clinical director in its application.

The commission is still reviewing the 811 dispensary applications submitted. State law allows for 94 dispensaries — two for each senatorial district. Many businesses submitted applications for all three types of licenses. Fifteen additional growers may be integrated into the program.

Millstein, who estimated that he’s invested close to a quarter-million dollars in his business, said he was thrilled to be selected as a grower.

“I got an email from a woman here who said she’s a 15-year Howard County resident who’s been suffering from PTSD and has tried everything with little to no relief, and she’s been watching this with great anticipation,” he said. “She was so happy to see Maryland finally select the companies, and we were one of the recipients in Howard County where she lives.

“The reason why we did it was for people like her,” he continued, adding that his father had terrible pain from pancreatic cancer at the end of his life. “These patients are really why I got involved in all of this — to provide some alternatives that are showing promise. It’s time ancient medicine becomes friends with modern medicine.”

He believes his company was selected because he assembled a team that includes agricultural and cannabis experts, caretakers and consultants from California and Colorado who have experience with medical cannabis.

Green Leaf’s Goldberg shared Millstein’s excitement.

“We look forward to serving patients in Maryland as fast as possible, and we’re working on construction, starting [this past Tuesday] actually, at the Frederick location,” he said.

ForwardGro’s Kimless is a board-certified anesthesiologist and dedicated researcher of medical cannabis for pain management, cancer and as an opioid replacement.

“Treating conditions with medical cannabis will improve the quality of life for so many Marylanders by easing and managing pain, preventing seizures and reducing nausea from chemotherapy as well as other treatments,” she said in a news release. “I am grateful Maryland has recognized the importance of this.”

The complete list of companies selected for licenses can be viewed at

Elsewhere in Owings Mills …

The Metro Centre at Owings Mills (Photo by David Stuck)

The Metro Centre at Owings Mills (Photo by David Stuck)

As the Owings Mills Mall is destroyed so the area can be repurposed, the Metro Centre at  Owings Mills and Foundry Row are well on their way to becoming the centers of local commerce.

Foundry Row, the $140 million, 50-acre development on Reisterstown Road, will be  anchored by a 130,000-square-foot Wegmans, which is set to open on Sept. 18. This staple  of the shopping center will be abetted by well-known restaurant chains including Chipotle, Panera, Smashburger and Mission BBQ. Bar Louie will serve as the development’s nightlife spot.

Other businesses set to open at Foundry Row include Mani Luxe salon, Massage Envy, LA Fitness, Hair Cuttery, Floyd’s 99 Barbershop, Ulta Beauty and Old Navy. Additionally, LifeBridge Health, one of the largest health care providers in Maryland, will be anchoring the office building component of the Metro Centre with a local wellness clinic.

“Without a question, we are the gateway to the core downtown area at the Metro Centre,” said Brian Gibbons, chairman and CEO of Foundry Row developer Greenberg Gibbons. “A rising tide will lift all boats — Foundry Row is coming up, the Metro Centre is starting to thrive, and the mall will be the third leg of the stool. We are all eager to hear the plans for the mall.”

Foundry Row is coming up, the Metro Centre is starting to thrive, and the mall will be the third leg of the stool.

— Brian Gibbons, CEO of Greenberg Gibbons

Gibbons added that the offices at Foundry Row are 92 percent leased and will be opening over the course of the next six months.

Just down the road from Foundry Row and the mall is the Metro Centre at Owings Mills, which includes a housing and hospitality component in addition to retail. The 1,700 slated residential units have nearly all been filled, and a forthcoming hotel will feature 250 rooms and meeting and conference facilities that could accommodate 1,000 participants.

Already open is the $25 million, six-story, 120,000-square-foot Baltimore County Campus building, which houses the county’s largest library branch and a branch of the Community College of Baltimore County.

The Metro Centre’s plans call for more than 300,000 square feet of retail space at ground level. One shop set to open in that space is the UFood Grill.

Financed in part by local resident Dr. Stephen B. Goldberg, the UFood Grill  operates on the concept that fast food does not have to be inherently unhealthy. The Grill will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, but not a single item on its menu is fried. According to Goldberg, the restaurant will “serve grass-fed organic cheeseburgers with less than 700 calories, smoothies made with real, fresh fruit and entrees such as steak tips and shrimp for dinner. Everything is made in-house; we really want options for throughout the whole day, a healthy alternative at a nice price.”

Goldberg predicts that the Metro Centre will draw a lot of people because it will offer more outdoor space. Additionally, he cited that “it is a very nice alternative to living in the city when you can just jump on the metro to get there.”

When asked whether he thought there was enough room for developments at both Foundry Row and the Metro Centre, in addition to the repurposing of Owings Mills Mall, Goldberg responded, “I think [Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz] has put a lot of effort into  developing all of these areas. I think the population is there to support it and draw people, and the mall closing and being  repurposed to better suit the community is the best thing to happen to that area in a long time.”

Aly Raisman Wins Silver Medal in Olympic Gymnastics All-Around

Silver medalist Alexandra Raisman of the United States poses for photographs after the medal ceremony for the Women's Individual All Around on Day 6 of the 2016 Rio Olympics at Rio Olympic Arena on August 11, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Silver medalist Alexandra Raisman of the United States poses for photographs after the medal ceremony for the Women’s Individual All Around on Day 6 of the 2016 Rio Olympics at Rio Olympic Arena on August 11, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Aly Raisman won the Olympic silver medal in the women’s gymnastics all-around in Rio de Janeiro.

The Jewish competitor from Needham, Massachusetts, finished second behind her American teammate Simone Biles on Thursday.

Raisman, 22, is the U.S. squad’s captain and was a key part of its gold medal in the team competition two days earlier.

The silver is her fifth Olympic medal overall. In 2012, she took the gold in the team and floor exercise competitions and won a bronze in the balance beam.

Raisman and Biles became only the second pair of American women gymnasts to win the top two medals in the all-around competition. Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson won gold and silver, respectively, in 2008.

Will Congress Act on Zika?

(Frankel: Courtesy of Facebook;Zika: ©

(Frankel: Courtesy of Facebook;Zika: ©

With the presidential campaign at a post-convention lull and Congress on recess, the country has reached the eye of 2016’s political storm. But with 16  locally contracted cases of the Zika virus reported in the Miami, Fla., neighborhood of Wynwood as of Aug. 8, some wonder if the legislature will act in time to prevent a possible epidemic.

“It’s annoying, but I don’t feel like we should be in a panic,” said Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.). “But it’s something we should deal with so we don’t get to the point where it’s a panic situation. It’s better to take care of this now before it becomes out of control.”

Frankel, who visited her south Florida district last week, attended a briefing from 18 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention experts. She said they were confident that the disease, which has been linked to birth defects in fetuses, will spread if nothing is done to control it.

Congressional Republicans rejected a $1.9 billion request that President Barack Obama made in February to fund Zika research and the development of a vaccine — something  experts say will likely not be available until 2018. Republicans then debated a $1.1 billion Zika package. Ultimately, Senate Democrats rejected a bill in June after Republicans added language that would have cut funding for Planned Parenthood.

“It is always very difficult to get any funding bill, other than the military, through a Republican-led Congress,” Frankel said. “This shouldn’t be a partisan fight. The question is this: Why can’t they take up a bill that we can agree to in a bipartisan way without restricting women’s access to health care?”

Frankel said if Congress were to reconvene tomorrow for an emergency session to pass a Zika funding bill, she would vote yes. Such legislation has been proposed by a number of politicians from both sides of the aisle, including Florida Gov. Rick Scott,  a Republican, and Maryland Sens. Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski, both Democrats.

The two senators recently wrote to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, pointing out that congressional action on earlier health emergencies was relatively quick.

“The combined time it took Congress to fund all of the last three public health emergencies — Ebola, H1N1 and Avian flu — was 137 days,” Cardin and Mikulski wrote. “It is deeply troubling that the Zika epidemic, which disproportionately impacts pregnant women and their babies, would be treated any differently than these other emergencies. In each of these instances, Congress was able to set aside political rhetoric and act quickly to help. Unfortunately, we have seen no such action on Zika for pregnant women and families.”

The Republican’s so-called poison pill amendment to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood angered Democrats as well as liberal nonprofit organizations such as Jewish Women International, which say the issues of women’s health and funding to combat Zika are linked.

“This is really crucial funding, and for the leadership to allow something defunding Planned Parenthood to be attached, we thought was really inappropriate,” said Ilana Flemming, JWI’s manager of advocacy initiatives. “To target a health-care service in order to pass funding for health care doesn’t make sense.”

Flemming said Zika funding has fallen victim to the gridlock that has paralyzed Washington.

“We’re in a difficult political climate right now, and it’s hard for Congress to pass major funding bills, and so I think that’s sort of spreading over into the Zika virus,” she said. “It’s a tough line to walk, but funding for Zika is not a partisan issue, and we just hope the leadership has the power to make this happen.”

JWI’s CEO Lori Weinstein condemned Congress’s inability to pass a Zika funding bill.

“After the recess, Congress must take swift, decisive action to safeguard the health of women, men and children; any attempt to hijack another funding bill for a political agenda will be not only useless, but downright dangerous,” she said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of  Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that while it may not be accurate to call Zika a “crisis” in the United States, there is potential for locally contracted cases to spread throughout Florida and other Gulf Coast states.

“It is mandatory that you  respond to that with very aggressive mosquito control,” he said.

Contracting Zika from mosquitos in the United States poses a greater risk to the public than people entering the country from Brazil and other Zika-infected regions of the world, he said, adding that funding is “essential” for future treatment and prevention.

“I’m not going to explain why” that funding has not been approved,” Fauci added. “Congress is going to have to explain that.”

Teachers Become Students at Holocaust Institute

More than 45 teachers took part in this year’s Summer Teachers Institute, which gives partipants the tools they need to effectively teach about the Holocaust. (Justin Silberman)

More than 45 teachers took part in this year’s Summer Teachers Institute, which gives partipants the tools they need to effectively teach about the Holocaust. (Justin Silberman)

Even after spending the last 33 years educating students on the horrific hardships many Jews faced during the Holocaust, Barry Zavislan yearns to learn more on the topic.

So after Zavislan, 55, was  informed by a colleague at The John Carroll School in Bel Air earlier this year of the 11th  annual Summer Teachers Institute, he knew he had to sign up.

For Zavislan, who has taught exclusively at Catholic schools in Maryland, Delaware, Michigan and Wisconsin, the experience to further his own education about such a complex subject proved worthwhile.

“Anything new, anything fresh, anything that will help me stimulate the modern student is really what I’m looking for out of something like this,” Zavislan, who teaches religion and philosophy, said. “It’s always fascinating when you hear  different speakers and their approaches, where they came from, and it’s great to be able to integrate those facets in my attempt to educate students about the Holocaust.”

Since 2005, the Jewish  Museum of Maryland and the Baltimore Jewish Council have conducted the three-day seminar to educate teachers like  Zavislan on the effects of the Holocaust through U.S. history, government, English, language arts and world religion.

Anything new, anything fresh, anything that will help me stimulate the modern  student is really what I’m looking for out of something like this.” — Barry Zavislan, religion and philosophy teacher  at The John Carroll School


This year’s event, which took place Aug. 1 to 3, was one of the best attended. More than 45 teachers from both private and public schools in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Harford County, Howard County and Prince George’s County attended. It kicked off with a day of speakers and  discussion at Beth El Congregation and included trips to the Jewish Museum of Maryland in Baltimore and the United States Holocaust Memorial  Museum in Washington, D.C.

There are activities, discussions and presentations  designed to provide teachers with the necessary tools to  engage their students in the classroom. They include video presentations of Holocaust survivors chronicling their  experiences in concentration camps, guest speakers and survivor testimony.

The theme of this year’s event was “Holocaust Remembrance through the Arts,” which explored the role art, film and music played in the Holocaust.

The museum trips have  become staples of the program. During these visits, participants said they received a  well-rounded comprehensive narrative of how Jews lived through historical artifacts and personal stories.

Deborah Cardin, deputy  director of programs and  development at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, has witnessed the positive result the program has had since its inception.

“There is a sense of community we build among the  educators,” Cardin said. “They really can use each other as  resources, and many teachers come back year after year. Even though there may be some repeat information, there’s just so much they can pick up that they didn’t see the first time, including our educational resources and programs.”

To build that comradery, icebreakers were created to get teachers to open up to one  another about their careers and lives. One of them consisted of teachers passing an empty paper plate around in a small group of four to eight people where they spent about two minutes discussing what they envisioned.

Delana Penn, a librarian  specialist at the Natural Academy Foundation of Baltimore, said the exercise made her more comfortable to open up and share her views as the conference progressed.

“I think we hear a lot about [the Holocaust] — and I’m a believer — that you just can’t  really comprehend the substance of everything that happened until you see it up close,” Penn said. “I think we try to compare to it to different things, but until you see it for yourself and discuss those things with others, it’s, like, ‘Wow.’ It’s the ‘wow’ factor.”

Jeanette Parmigiani, director of Holocaust programs at the BJC, said she is pleased with how far the workshop has come in such a short period of time. She is working to add more teachers to the program from other counties around the state, as well as other Jewish organizations.

“With people just reading and learning and absorbing this stuff, it really has a big  impact on them,” she said. “It’s hard to take in all the information in just one session, so we tend to see a lot of teachers  return to continue gaining as much knowledge as they can.”

The information Zavislan came away with is something he has already implemented into his lesson plans for the upcoming school year. His hope is that he can relate the material to his students by drawing parallels to social  issues that persist around the globe today.

“The more we can prepare our students to understand history and not repeat it is very important,” Zavislan said. “It’s also hard to get across the idea to suburban kids that there is suffering in this world. There are people who have a hard go of it, and there are people out there who would be willing to kill you for who you are and what you believe. And to make students aware of that is probably the primary goal of this information.”

Proposed Minimum Wage Increase Advances

A large number of Baltimore City residents attended the city council meeting on Monday, during which a preliminary vote for a $15 minimum wage was held. (Justin Silberman)

A large number of Baltimore City residents attended the city council meeting on Monday, during which a preliminary vote for a $15 minimum wage was held. (Justin Silberman)

In a vote that drew thunderous applause from low-wage workers inside and outside City Hall, the Baltimore City Council on Monday advanced a bill that would increase the city’s minimum wage to $15 per hour.

The council voted 7-4 to give preliminary approval to gradually raise the rate from the state’s current minimum of $8.75 through 2022. Three council members abstained from the decision and one, 1st District Councilman James Kraft, was absent from the proceedings.

A final vote on the measure is expected to take place Monday, Aug 15. For the bill to reach Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s desk and be signed into legislation, at least eight of the 15 council members have to back it.

“We think this is good for workers and the general Baltimore economy,” said Molly Amster, Baltimore director for Jews United for Justice. “Increasing the minimum wage, we know it will help workers in an immediate way. We think it will help them afford housing, live a higher quality life and help get a lot of citizens out of poverty.”

A proposed amendment would exempt businesses with fewer than 25 employees or less than $500,000 in gross annual income. It would also not include the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore and the city’s YouthWorks program.

Joseph Named Senior Rabbi at Har Sinai

Rabbi Linda Joseph (Provided photo)

Rabbi Linda Joseph (Provided photo)

In its 175th year, the  nation’s oldest continuous  Reform congregation will be under the leadership of a woman who has deep roots in the movement.

Har Sinai Congregation’s new senior rabbi, Linda Joseph, has lived and breathed Reform Judaism since her youth group days.

Born in Melbourne, Australia, Joseph grew up in a community similar to Baltimore — a sizable Orthodox community with a strong progressive Reform movement. Growing up, Joseph was exposed to both communities, but as she and her siblings got older, her parents decided to associate with the Reform movement for the sake of their children’s Jewish identity. They chose the Reform synagogue because there were more peers for their children to befriend and interact with.

As the oldest continuous  Reform congregation in the country, it only makes sense for Har Sinai to find a rabbi who  is deeply connected to the  Reform movement, and no one is as well qualified as Joseph. Her strong Jewish upbringing set the stage for her heavy involvement within the Jewish community, both locally and internationally.

“She is a brilliant thinker, a caring communicator and passionate about meeting people where they are in their practice of Judaism and helping them to deepen their Judaic engagement,” Har Sinai president Joseph DeMattos said in a news release.

One of her most significant contributions to both the Reform movement and the global Jewish community came from what started as her youth group. She and her peers decided, “A youth group is just kids getting together, we wanted some type of ideology behind what we did.” The resulting ideological document became the foundation  of Netzer and the basis of an  international youth movement.  Netzer became the progenitor of influential contemporary movements including Netzer Olami, Maganim Netzer and the North American Federation of Temple Youth.

I have a deep affection for this community. They have always been warm and welcoming to me, and it is a community with  enormous potential.   — Rabbi Linda Joseph

Since her ordination, Joseph has been working in Reform synagogues, including Etz Chayim Progressive Synagogue in Melbourne; the Victorian Union for Progressive Judaism, also in Australia; Temple Beth El of Boca Raton, Fla.; and at Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation in Ashburn, Va. Most recently, Joseph served as the interim senior rabbi at Tree of Life Congregation in Columbia, S.C. She has also worked in the Southeast Regional office of the Union for Reform Judaism as the senior assistant regional  director and then as regional director following the Union’s restructure.

While attending college in Sydney, Joseph worked for the Australian Union of Jewish Students and majored in  Hebrew and Semitics. She was active in the local Jewish community, working with both the State Zionist Council and Hillel, and she planned community events. She was tracked down by a professor from Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion who knew of her from  encountering her name tied so frequently to events in the Jewish community. Being a rabbi wasn’t on her radar, but when he sat down and talked to her about what rabbis did and what she was doing, they were largely the same.

She recounted, “I was teaching intro to Judaism, working in Jewish organizations, teaching classes, doing programming, doing counseling through Hillel. The bits and pieces were things I had been doing for a long while, so I applied to HUC.” Joseph was ordained in Cincinnati in 1994 and received her second master’s degree in Jewish pedagogy from HUC in 1995. Ever since, she has been intimately tied to congregational life.

Joseph first became involved with Har Sinai when her close friend, Jo-Ellen Unger, was hired six years ago as the synagogue’s director of congregational learning. Ever since, Joseph has frequented events at the synagogue, so when she began to look for a permanent congregation, she decided to apply to Har Sinai.

“I have a deep affection for this community,” she said. “They have always been warm and welcoming to me, and it is a community with enormous potential, a creative staff and fine leadership, so I jumped at the opportunity to come here.”

As Har Sinai’s new rabbi, Joseph wants to bring creative, vibrant programs and services to the synagogue while continuing to honor its time-old  traditions. She shared that she loves the idea of introducing meditation to services and wants to bring a heightened sense of community to the synagogue by building on the relationship between herself as the rabbi and the congregation as a whole.

Joseph’s focus now is on  getting to know the community. She works with a small, close team “of really wonderful people” — a rabbi, a cantor, an educator, a youth group director and an executive director. Her day-to-day roles will include overseeing prayer and program, maintaining a pastoral relationship, being involved with the synagogue’s executive leadership and, of course, teaching.

True to rabbinical form, Joseph explained that Reform Judaism is all about “informed Jewish choice, a deep study of text and tradition and an  understanding of Jewish law.” According to her, informed  decisions should be made “based on traditional Torah, combined with modern-day knowledge, taking contemporary problems into account.” It is with this mindset that Joseph will go about her new duties.

“We are extremely excited to have Rabbi Joseph join and lead our team. She is a committed  and dynamic leader,” said  DeMattos.

Over the next month, before her first sermon, Joseph wants to get a sense of “what has been going on at Har Sinai, what  sacred, historical joys there are that cannot be changed and where we should be bringing about new changes.”

Joseph’s first services will actually be at Temple Oheb Shalom, as the two congregations have shared summer services to  expose the community to different clergy and create a greater sense of cooperation. Her first services at Har Sinai will be in September.

“This is a congregation with amazing history, amazing people,” said Joseph. “We have  incredible potential to convert our strengths now into strength and creativity in the future.”

Jews Conflicted by Black Lives Matter Platform

Sabrina Sojourner (Provided)

Sabrina Sojourner (Provided)

Sabrina Sojourner said she was “dismayed and heartbroken” when the Black Lives Matter movement released a platform in which it referred to Israel as an “apartheid state” in its support for the Palestinians.

According to the platform: “The U.S. justifies and advances the global war on terror via its alliance with Israel and is complicit in the genocide taking place against the Palestinian people.”

“I feel like it’s using an old framework that contradicts much of the other things that are in the platform,” said the Rockville resident and African-American Jew. “I appreciate the solidarity with other oppressed peoples around the world. Using the word ‘genocide’ is more problematic on many levels than I have time to explain.”

Sojourner is not alone in her conflicted response to the Black Lives Matter platform, which was released Aug. 1. The organized American Jewish community, which has long been a supporter of both Israel and civil rights, was forced into a corner by a civil rights program that accused Israel of racism.

The language echoes the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which calls upon people and organizations to stop doing business with Israel until it ends its occupation of the West Bank.

In addition to criticizing Israel’s settlement policies, the platform also expresses disgust with the U.S. practice of giving 75 percent of its annual military aid to Israel and Egypt. This comes as the United States and Israel are putting the finishing touches on a 10-year memorandum of understanding that could raise the annual amount of U.S. aid from $3.1 billion to as much as $5 billion.

The movement’s anti-Israel stance has prompted condemnations from Jewish organizations including the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League.


“Using the word ‘genocide’ is more problematic on many levels than I have time to explain.”
— Sabrina Sojourner


The human rights group T’ruah, which opposes the occupation and BDS, issued a statement that supported the goals of Black Lives Matter while explaining why Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians should not be compared to genocide. And it argued that the Palestinians are not completely innocent in the conflict.

“The Black Lives Matter platform also does not address the use of violence by some Palestinians, including the rocket attacks against civilians that Human Rights Watch has classified as a war crime,” it stated. “One can vigorously oppose occupation without resorting to terms such as ‘genocide,’ and without ignoring the human rights violations of terrorist groups such as Hamas.”

Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, called the comparison apartheid comparison “outrageous and hateful.” But he rejected the option of his organization issuing a press release condemning the platform. Instead, he plans to reach out to members of the African-American community to discuss the issue.

“I think that several of the Black Life Matters goals are good, and the Jewish community shares some of their aspirations,” he said, adding that his agency has not contacted the local Black Lives Matter movement locally.

“Right now, hopefully the best result would be that they’ve realized they alienated the regular allies of the Jewish community, and hopefully they’ll remove it.”

The Baltimore Jewish Council did issue a statement. On Monday, it said that African-Americans’ struggle for civil rights should not be compared with the Palestinians’ struggle for a state.

“The coalition’s platform falsely conflates the need to address racial inequities in the United States with misconceptions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” it stated. “By calling for economic and cultural warfare against the nation of Israel and an end to U.S. military aid to Israel, the coalition undermines efforts to promote peace in the region.”

Howard Libit, the council’s executive director, said while he opposes the platform’s position on Israel, he supports its general call for civil rights.

“Living in Baltimore, we appreciate and understand the many issues of living and working in a community that has violence that needs to be addressed,” he said, referring to the African-American community.

Jews United for Justice did not issue a statement on the platform but said it is “gathering our leaders to chart our path forward.”

For Sojourner, the issues surrounding both Israel and the struggle for racial justice in the United States are complicated. But she would explain to her 10-year-old grandson that well-meaning groups can sometimes unintentionally cause conflicts.

“I believe in fairness and equity for all people,” she said. We have not perfected what that looks like yet; there are some people who may be very well intentioned; however, they pick on groups that are in the minority position and start pitting people against one another.”


Community at Odds Proposed zoning changes at Hidden Waters, Woodholme could mean higher-density housing

Community at Odds

A groundswell of community opposition to proposed zoning changes in Baltimore County has led to spirited standoffs between a country club that is a longtime community  staple and surrounding residents, as well as a developer and nearby residents.

As representatives from Woodholme Country Club and Bozzuto Homes — the developer that aims to build on the Hidden Waters property on Old Court Road — request zoning changes to allow for homes to be built in higher density than current zoning allows, many residents continue to voice their frustrations through letters, road signs and comments at council meetings.

Baltimore County District 2 Councilwoman Vicki Almond, a Reisterstown Democrat, said council members will weigh input on the two zoning issues carefully before voting during a special session in Towson on Aug. 30.

“Almost every issue has an emotional component to it,” Almond said, “and we just have to separate that emotional part and look at what’s best for the community. We have to look at this regionally to make sure what I’m doing or not doing is going to be good for these two planned zoning change proposals.”

The requests were submitted under Baltimore County’s Comprehensive Zoning Map Process. CZMP occurs every four years, allowing property owners, businesses and community organizations to petition the seven-member County Council to request zoning changes on a specific property.

Under the proposed zoning change, Woodholme is requesting that 40 of its 225 acres be designated DR 3.5, permitting three-and-a-half houses per acre. Currently, 223 acres of Woodholme’s property are zoned DR 1, meaning only one house can sit on one acre of land. The proposed development would consist of two townhouse communities totalling approximately 170 townhouses, according to David Nevins, CEO of Nevins & Associates, who is acting as a spokesman for Woodholme.

Woodholme aims to sell the property to a developer were the requested zoning change to pass, Nevins said.

This is not the first time Woodholme has attempted to change its zoning.

In 2004, the club requested to rezone 75 acres on a mostly wooded stretch along the south side of Woodholme Avenue, the two-lane road that connects the club and Reisterstown Road just inside the Beltway. That plan, which called for 5.5 houses per acre and 416 total units, was ultimately  rejected by the council after community members voiced their displeasure with the development plans.

Almost every issue has  an emotional component to it,  and we have to separate that  emotional part and look at  what’s best for the community. — Baltimore County District 2 Councilwoman Vicki Almond

When asked if Woodholme’s membership is down, Nevins said: “The club doesn’t disclose its membership criteria like that. I don’t know the membership numbers, but I don’t think anyone would disclose it, even if I knew it.”

Nevins, a Woodholme member, added that the importance of what the club has contributed to the community since its founding in 1927 should not be lost during a time of transition.

“I can’t emphasize enough how important Woodholme Country Club is to the Baltimore Jewish Community,” Nevins said. “[Woodholme] is a predominately Jewish club whose members give many, many millions of dollars a year to [The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore] and to other charities and so forth.”

But concerns about increased traffic flow and safety rest heavily on the minds of many residents in an area they feel isn’t equipped to handle large-scale construction. Residents in the Pikesville Farms community, nearby Ner Israel Rabbinical College and the North Oaks retirement community stand to be affected.

Richard Kriess, president of the Villages of Woodholme, a community for residents 55 years and older, is fearful young school children will be put at risk when Woodholme Elementary starts back up in August.

“The thing is that you would be adding more young children near the [Woodholme Country Club] golf course who are going to go play, no matter what fences are there,” Kriess said. “They are also going to play at Woodholme Elementary School, where they may go across the street without parental supervision and could get hurt or get hit by vehicles. Also, if they are in school and their parents are late picking them up, they may wander over to the construction area, which is dangerous for obvious reasons.”

He is not the only one who has expressed such feelings regarding the wide-scale impact the community faces as a whole.

Ner Israel president Rabbi Sheftel Neuberger, whose school’s enrollment exceeds more than 500 students each year,  believes Mount Wilson Lane has already exceeded more traffic than it can handle on a consistent basis.

He noted that a traffic study conducted by the state within the last year did not take into account all the areas where traffic comes into the narrow two-lane Mount Wilson Lane.

“It’s very simple: Mount Wilson Lane can’t afford to handle the traffic,” Neuberger said. “The traffic study they did was phony — they didn’t take into account any of the traffic that comes in from Reisterstown Road.”

Within a two-mile radius, there is Sol Levinson & Bros., the Woodholme Square shopping center, Woodholme Elementary School and Ner Israel, causing many morning and afternoon rush-hour traffic jams during the school year.

Officials at North Oaks said Woodholme has been responsive to the community’s concerns.

“We are working with officials from Woodholme Country Club to address our concerns about their proposed zoning changes, such as traffic and safety,” North Oaks officials said in an email statement. “We are pleased that Woodholme has been responsive to our concerns and those of our neighboring communities and has shown a commitment to work with all of us to ensure that our concerns are addressed. We are optimistic that, once we have more details and our concerns are addressed, we will be able to support their project.”

About 3.5 miles east of Woodholme at Hidden Waters, the Bozzuto Group, a real estate and development firm based in Greenbelt, Md., is requesting DR 3.5 in order to build 85 units on 25 unprotected acres, according to a document from the Old Court-Greenspring Improvement Association. Like Woodholme, the Bozzuto Group has faced much resistance in its endeavor, as residents have joined together to maintain the 148-acre property on Old Court Road.

Bozzuto officials did not respond to  requests for comment.

Some members of the community are pushing for the property to be downzoned to RC 8, which is intended to encourage agricultural use. The classification allows single-family dwellings, farms and limited-acre wholesale flower farms, among other amenities.

Michal Carton, vice president of the Old Court-Greenspring Improvement Association, has spearheaded the fight to downzone Hidden Waters. She has helped post signs along Old Court Road that read “Save Hidden Waters,” created a Facebook group for followers to chat online and met with residents all to boost community awareness.

“We are very, very intimately concerned about the property,” Carton said. “If you’ve driven along Old Court Road to Lightfoot Drive, you can see the number of residents who have joined in with us with signs in support to [downzone] the property as RC8.”

Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg of nearby Beth Tfiloh Congregation did not take a position for or against development at Hidden Waters.

“There is no way to know how the Hidden Waters proposal is going to affect Beth Tfiloh,” Wohlberg said. “This is more for the residents and community members of the neighborhoods in the area, so we don’t have an official position, but we hope it works out well for everyone  involved.”

Much of the controversy surrounding the plans for Hidden Waters stems from Willard Hackerman, a Baltimore developer and philanthropist who owned 136 acres of the land at the time of his death in 2014. Carton said Hackerman put 111 acres into the Maryland Environmental Trust, an affiliate of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, protecting that portion of the property from any kind of commercial development. The  requested zoning would apply to the 25 unprotected acres, Carton said.

“This property has literally not been  developed since the 1600s; it’s been used as farmland,” Carton said. “In the late 1600s — at least from documents — it was developed between the white settlers of the south and the Indians to the north on the north side of Old Court road.”

The University System of Maryland owns the other 12.5 acres of the land, where chancellor Robert Caret resides in a state-of-the-art three-story mansion. Built by Baltimore lawyer and banker Jacob France in 1936, the 12,606-square-foot mansion has housed the chancellor since the France family donated that part of Hidden Waters to the university system in 1988.

Although talks remain ongoing, there is growing skepticism that the two zoning issues will be resolved.

Almond, for one, said she is not optimistic about brokering an agreement for either the Woodholme Country Club or Hidden Waters disputes. She does expect the council will ultimately come to a unanimous decision on both issues regardless of how they decide to vote on each matter.

“I’m going to take the next couple of weeks to really look at my [Comprehensive Zoning Map Process] issues and make sure I understand each one, where each side is coming from, and make my decisions from the facts,” Almond said. “This is an issue where … I do not see the likelihood of an agreement being reached.”

Ellicott City Eyes Future with Optimism

Raging flood waters caused extensive damage to many Main Street businesses in Ellicott City. (Courtesy photo)

Raging flood waters caused extensive damage to many Main Street businesses in Ellicott City. (Courtesy photo)

“We’ll be back.” Those were the first words out of Ellicott City local Len Berkowitz’s mouth when asked about the damage to Great Panes, his Main Street art glass business. “We’ve been here for 37 years and I don’t intend to end on an odd number,” he shared while sitting on the curb since benches were washed away in July 30’s storm and flooding.

Berkowitz seems to be good natured and optimistic in spite of the devastating flooding, which damaged and swept away most of the historic downtown district in which he has lived for so long.

Following the flooding, Gov. Larry Hogan, who surveyed the damage the following day,  declared a state of emergency in Howard County and mobilized a number of state organizations to provide relief to affected businesses and homeowners. Sen. Ben Cardin, who also visited the area, pledged to work with Hogan, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Congressman Elijah Cummings and Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman to review the need for  assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and vowed that the Congressional delegation would move fast on aid.

In the initial days after the flood, officials and residents focused on search-and-rescue efforts and worked to ensure the safety of the public. Now, attention is shifting to clean-up and restoration efforts.

“The damage is extensive,” stated Howard County Councilman Jon Weinstein, “frankly unbelievable. It is hard to imagine the devastation that the rain caused. About 109 residences and 90 businesses have been affected. Some of the buildings are at risk of collapsing; sidewalks and streets are collapsed, and there are about 38 cars still in the river. Some buildings’ foundations have been washed away.”

Luckily for Berkowitz, Great Panes was not hit as badly as some other businesses. The building is stable, although its downstairs will have to be gutted and redone. Half of the building overhangs the Tiber River, which must rise to  approximately 15 feet to reach the building. According to Berkowitz, the Tiber rose seven to nine additional feet, a total of 22 to 24 feet above the normal water line, to flood his business, leaving water 7 feet deep inside of the store.

Water blew out a majority of the windows and pushed everything inside up against one wall, but the surge appears to have gone straight through the building as opposed to creating a current and wreaking havoc within. In addition to a GoFundMe on Great Panes’ Facebook page, Berkowitz plans to auction some of the stained-glass windows that he recovered in the aftermath of the flood in order to help fund the restoration process.

According to Weinstein, “the county has removed 238 cars from the whole district and is working on restoring electricity, gas lines and water.” The city is in such disarray that anyone outside of residents and business owners are not being allowed to enter. The area is so rugged with debris that driving is impossible — rather, a fleet of ATVs have been deployed to transport people into and out of the historic  district.

Next will come the real challenge — maintaining the tightknit community and helping it rebuild. Some residents are considering the option of relocating to avoid further flooding  in spite of historic connections to both the buildings and the town. However, Weinstein is optimistic that the city can “rebuild better, relatively, to mitigate future occurrences like this.”

“I am overwhelmed with the amount of support pouring in,” he added. “GoFundMe pages have all exceeded their goals. The Ellicott City Partnership has been raising funds through, a nonprofit that has already started buying clothes and  necessities for residents who are unable to access their homes.”

Thousands of people have volunteered for the clean-up effort. Among the numerous organizations pitching in, the Jewish Federation of Howard County collected donations to support the United Way of Central Maryland’s effort. United Way in turn raised more than $110,000 to provide humanitarian relief.

According to the Ellicott City Partnership’s website, “the outpouring of volunteers has been unbelievable. In 48 hours, we had over 4,000  offers of services and people offering to volunteer. … We don’t think we will be able to mobilize volunteers any time soon on Main Street due to  unstable walkways and roadways, not to mention buildings.  We will however, be broadcasting volunteer opportunities in the next two weeks after the town has been stabilized and volunteer work can begin.”