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.”

jsilberman@midatlanticmedia.com

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 HelpEllicottCity.com, 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.”

dnozick@midatlanticmedia.com

Roy Hoffberger: Philanthropist, Art Patron, Proud Jew

Roy Hoffberger (File photo)

Roy Hoffberger (File photo)

Wednesday, Aug. 3 saw the passing of one of the most influential figures ever to grace Baltimore — lawyer, philanthropist and art collector LeRoy “Roy” Hoffberger. He was 91.

Hoffberger was born in 1925 into a family that made fortunes in manufacturing and distributing ice, coal and fuel oil. He was raised surrounded by real estate  developers and supporters of the city’s arts, educational, medical and Jewish communal organizations. As such, he was groomed to be involved with the community, obvious from the physical proof that exists around Baltimore.

“There aren’t many organizations in Baltimore that don’t have his fingerprint in one way or another,” said Marc Terrill, president of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. “His leadership has been felt and will be felt in The Associated for generations to come. He loved being Jewish, He was proud of our traditions, our heritage and our teachings. He grappled with Judaism mentally and physically, and it was apparent from the way he conducted himself.”

His second wife, Rebecca Hoffberger, shared that “his connection to the Jewish world aside from heritage was very philanthropic,” but he loved being Jewish. She shared that “he didn’t learn to read  Hebrew until after the age of 80, when he decided to study with the same teacher who taught his own son.”

Together with Rebecca, Hoffberger  co-founded the American Visionary Arts Museum.

Hoffberger also provided the endowment for the Maryland Institute College of Art’s Graduate School of Painting, which is named in his honor. According to its website, “[The] LeRoy E. Hoffberger School of Painting is one of the only graduate programs in the country to focus solely on painting, allowing a select group of highly talented painters to find their  individual voices and develop the discourse to position their work in the  contemporary arts world.”

However, his crowning achievement came in the form of the development of 2,000 acres of farmland in Montgomery County 25 miles northwest of Washington, D.C. “Today, Germantown is the third-largest urban area in the state and home to 80,000 people,” Hoffberger proudly told the JT in 2014.

“Roy was one-of-a-kind, and that mold has been broken,” Terrill reflected. “He was a thoughtful gentleman who knew how to lead and be led. He listened, had opinions and worked with people to identify a problem and come up with solutions that could impact the greater good.”

He served as the president of his family’s foundation and was its chairman until his death. The Hoffberger Family Philanthropies consists of two charitable organizations — the Hoffberger Foundation, Inc., a 501c3, and the Hoffberger Family Fund, Inc., a supporting foundation of The Associated. The organization supports youth development, prescription needs of underserved residents, health in low-income seniors and Jewish community needs. The foundation is one of Maryland’s largest philanthropic funds, according to The Baltimore Sun.

Hoffberger always kept a plaque on his desk that read: “Further discussion is  unnecessary. I have said all I want to hear.” The irony reminded him daily of the importance of listening to others and to the wishes of the community as a whole.

“Roy gave until it hurt,” Rebecca shared. “He always believed in something and that he had to be first in the water before he could approach others. He led by  example. He thought about his own mortality a lot and wanted to leave the world a better place. He wanted to share with younger generations.”

Her own daughters never knew their own father, but Rebecca explained, “Real daughters couldn’t have loved their father more.”

In the final three years of his life, Hoffberger wrote a book, “Measure of a Life: Memoirs, Insights and Philosophies of LeRoy E. Hoffberger.” According to  Rebecca, the book gives a naked point of view of why he did what he did. In it, he restates his belief that “what we leave  behind is far more important than how far we get ahead.”

Hoffberger lived up to his lifelong goals. He did not just leave behind a legacy — he left behind a legacy that will continue to aid the community for generations to come.

“My father, Roy, displayed a sense of fairness throughout all aspects of his life — business, faith and community,” his son, Douglas Hoffberger, president of Hoffberger Family Philanthropies, said in a statement. “His love and guidance will certainly be missed, but not forgotten.”

dnozick@midatlanticmedia.com

Katie Ledecky, Olympic Gold Medalist Swimmer, Lost Family Members in the Holocaust

Katie Ledecky of the United States celebrates winning gold and setting a new world record in the Women's 400m Freestyle Final on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Katie Ledecky of the United States celebrates winning gold and setting a new world record in the Women’s 400m Freestyle Final on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

It isn’t up for debate — Katie Ledecky is currently the best female swimmer on the planet. The 19-year-old from Bethesda, Maryland, who won a gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics at age 15, has never lost a final of a major international race. Now she has a good chance of taking home 5 medals from the Rio Olympics, and she might break some world records along the way (she has already broken multiple ones during her short career).

How is someone under the age of 20 poised to enter the discussion of best-ever female swimmers?

Part of Ledecky’s inspiration, as revealed in a Sports Illustrated profile in June, comes from the story of her Jewish grandmother, Berta, 83. Berta, who is Czech, is the mother of Ledecky’s father.

Berta and her non-Jewish husband Jaromir (who went by Jerry), met in the United States in 1956, about eight years after Jerry had immigrated from Prague with only five dollars in his pocket. Berta — whom writer S.L. Price describes as a “formidable” woman — once spent a year working as a translator for Albert Einstein at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn.

When Katie was 10, Berta took her to a Jewish cemetery in Prague and showed her graves of her family members who died during the Holocaust. Price doesn’t mention the exact number Berta’s family lost during World War II, or provide details of Berta’s experiences during the Holocaust, but the memory clearly stuck with Katie. Although Ledecky is Catholic and famously recites the Hail Mary before her races, Price writes that the “fuel” that drives Ledecky includes the visit to “a Jewish cemetery in Prague.”

So who knows — when Ledecky goes for gold this week she might just have her Jewish grandmother on her mind.

BJC ‘Distressed’ By Black Lives Matter Platform’s Take on Israel

briefBJCThe Baltimore Jewish Council released a statement Monday calling parts of the recently released Movement for Black Lives platform “malicious” and “untruthful” regarding Israel.

“The Baltimore Jewish Council is a strong supporter of the social justice ideals that are promoted by the Black Lives Matter movement,” the statement began.

“We are proud of our long history of promoting civil rights in Baltimore and remain committed to striving for justice for every citizen,” it said. “But we strongly condemn the national coalition’s decision to include in its agenda support for efforts to delegitimize Israel.”

The platform, which can be read here, refers to the “genocide taking place against the Palestinian people” and refers to Israel as an “apartheid state.”

The Baltimore Jewish Council statement in full:

“The Baltimore Jewish Council is a strong supporter of the social justice ideals that are promoted by the Black Lives Matter movement. We are distressed, however, by elements of the national platform released this month by a coalition of groups associated with the movement’s leadership.

We are proud of our long history of promoting civil rights in Baltimore and remain committed to striving for justice for every citizen. But we strongly condemn the national coalition’s decision to include in its agenda support for efforts to delegitimize Israel. Living in a city struggling with violence and community conflicts, we empathize with the coalition’s yearning to create a more equitable and just society.

However, this is not and should not be in conflict with strong support for the State of Israel and its people. Israel has long been a home for the oppressed, whether it is Jews escaping persecution, or Christians, Muslims, and other refugees fleeing from conflicts in the Middle East and around the world. Characterizing Israel as an “apartheid state” and describing the United States as being complicit in a “genocide” against the Palestinian people is an untruthful and malicious narrative. The coalition’s platform falsely conflates the need to address racial inequities in the United States with misconceptions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 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.

We urge the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement to reconsider this portion of their platform. The Baltimore Jewish Council stands ready to join in real conversations about how our communities can continue to work as allies in each other’s struggles, and to address the misinformation created by those who would seek to keep us apart.”

Excerpts from the Movement for Black Lives’ platform:

“…approximately 3 billion dollars in US aid is allocated to Israel, a state that practices systematic discrimination and has maintained a military occupation of Palestine for decades. Together with aid to Egypt — Israel’s most important regional ally — this figure represents nearly 75 percent of all US aid dollars. As these figures demonstrate, resources and funds needed for reparations and for building a just and equitable society domestically are instead used to wage war against a majority of the world’s communities.”

“The US 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. The US requires Israel to use 75 percent of all the military aid it receives to buy US-made arms. Consequently, every year billions of dollars are funneled from US taxpayers to hundreds of arms corporations, who then wage lobbying campaigns pushing for even more foreign military aid. The results of this policy are twofold: it not only diverts much needed funding from domestic education and social programs, but it makes US citizens complicit in the abuses committed by the Israeli government. Israel is an apartheid state with over 50 laws on the books that sanction discrimination against the Palestinian people. Palestinian homes and land are routinely bulldozed to make way for illegal Israeli settlements. Israeli soldiers also regularly arrest and detain Palestinians as young as 4 years old without due process. Everyday, Palestinians are forced to walk through military checkpoints along the US-funded apartheid wall.”

Aly Raisman Earns Spot in Individual All-Around Finals in Rio

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Alexandra Raisman of the United States reacts after competing on the uneven bars during Women's qualification for Artistic Gymnastics on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Arena on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Alexandra Raisman of the United States reacts after competing on the uneven bars during Women’s qualification for Artistic Gymnastics on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Arena on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

(JTA) — Jewish-American woman’s gymnast Aly Raisman earned a spot in the individual all-around competition at the Olympics in Rio.

Raisman took the second spot for the American women ahead of all-around defending gold medalist Gabby Douglas and behind three-time world all-around champion Simone Biles.

The American women’s gymnastics team came in first place in the qualifying for the team finals with a score of  185.238 points, ahead of second place China with a score of 175.279  and third place Russia with 174.620. The finals will take place on Tuesday.

Raisman also will compete in the individual competition in the floor exercise. Raisman won a gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics in the floor competition, performing a routine to “Hava Nagila.”

Raisman, 22, is the U.S. women gymnasts’ team captain, and is nicknamed “Grandma” by her teammates.

Convention Had Little to Say About Jewish Issues, Republicans Take Note

Former President Bill  Clinton, wearing a button that says "Hillary" in  Hebrew, shares some thoughts with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vlsack at the 2016 Democratic  National Convention in Philadelphia. (Ron Sachs/dpa/picture-alliance/Newscom)

Former President Bill Clinton, wearing a button that says “Hillary” in Hebrew, shares some thoughts with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vlsack at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. (Ron Sachs/dpa/picture-alliance/Newscom)

The delegates have left, the thousands of balloons have been popped and the traffic has subsided (sort of).

Now that the Democratic National Convention has ended, some still feel left out. Specifically: Where were the Jewish or Israeli shout-outs?

There were bits and scraps of Jewish phrases thrown into speeches, but even less talk of Israel, especially on the third night in which the theme  surrounded national security.

In fact, probably the most prominent mention of Israel during the convention was the button former President Bill Clinton wore that said “Hillary” in Hebrew.

[The Democratic Party] is not one you can count on to stand strongly with Israel.”— Fred Brown, Republican Jewish Coalition spokesman

 

And in his speech, which told the story of how he met his wife and the goals she’s reached, he subtly mentioned Israel: “Hillary told me about a preschool program developed in Israel called HIPPY, Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youngsters. The idea was to teach low-income parents, even those that couldn’t read, to be their children’s first teachers.

“She said she thought it would work in Arkansas. I said, ‘That’s great, what are we going to do about it?’ She said, ‘Oh, I already did it. I called the woman who started the program in Israel, she’ll be here in about 10 days and help us get started.’ Next thing you know, I’m being dragged around to all these little preschool graduations,” he laughed.

President Barack Obama added that his vision of the country was based on family  values dating to his grandparents.

“They knew these values were exactly what drew immigrants here, and they believed that the children of those  immigrants were just as American as their own, whether they wore a cowboy hat or a yarmulke, a baseball cap or a hijab,” he said.

“I can say with confidence there has never been a man or a woman — not me, not Bill, nobody — more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America,” he continued.

During Hillary Clinton’s  acceptance speech for the nomination on the fourth night, she also grazed over any mention of Israel.

“I’m proud that we put a lid on Iran’s nuclear program without firing a single shot — now we have to enforce it, and keep supporting Israel’s security,” she said.

But outside the convention arena, talk of Israel was even more muted — that might have something to do with protesters burning an Israeli flag and chanting “intifada.”

Republican Jewish Coalition Communications Director Fred Brown said even after the first two days of the convention, it was clear “how far left the Democratic Party’s gone.”

He said that was evident by the overall lack of mention of terrorism and ISIS — and Bernie Sanders supporters leaning the party so far to the left of the rest of the party and of Jewish voters.

“[The Democratic Party] is not one you can count on to stand strongly with Israel,” he said, comparing the two parties. “Look at the strong language the Republican Party has in their platform.

“Democrats are consistently and actively showing how far out of the mainstream they’ve moved, and how Jewish voters and pro-Israel voters can’t count on the Democratic Party anymore.”

Following the DNC, the  Republican Jewish Coalition released an ad campaign “highlighting the radical and offensive attacks that took place at the” DNC.

It illustrated anti-Israel rhetoric at the convention, ending with images of former President John F. Kennedy to Hillary Clinton, saying, “Sadly, this isn’t the old Democratic Party. It’s today’s Democratic Party.”

The National Jewish Democratic Council did not return messages to comment.

But probably the most prominent — and still talked and tweeted about — speech from the DNC is that of Khizr Khan, the Muslim American father of a fallen soldier.

“Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims,” he said on the fourth night of the DNC. “You are asking Americans to trust you with our future. Let me ask you: Have you even read the U.S. Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy.”

Khan added that Trump has “sacrificed nothing and no one” for this country.

Trump responded to Khan’s speech by questioning why his wife, Ghazala, stood by in silence, suggesting as a Muslim woman she did not have the right to do so.

She later confirmed that speaking of her late son is too devastating and emotional, to which Trump has yet to apologize, and the rest of the Twittersphere reacted.

Although he has rarely  addressed or spoken of his Jewish heritage, former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders tweeted July 29: “I’m Jewish. My father’s family died in concentration camps. I will do everything I can to rid this country of the ugly stain of racism.”

Trump later released a statement: “Captain Humayun Khan was a hero to our country and we should honor all who have made the ultimate sacrifice to keep our country safe. The real problem here are the radical Islamic terrorists who killed him, and the efforts of these radicals to enter our country to do us further harm. … While I feel deeply for the loss of his son, Mr. Khan who has never met me, has no right to stand in front of millions of people and claim I have never read the Constitution, (which is false) and say many other inaccurate things.”

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

rkurland@midatlanticmedia.com

Legislators Nationwide Thanked for Their Roles in Opposing BDS

Pro-Israel state legislators were recognized July 28 at an event hosted by The Israel Project and Jewish Federations of North America. (Andy Gotlieb)

Pro-Israel state legislators were recognized July 28 at an event hosted by The Israel Project and Jewish Federations of North America. (Andy Gotlieb)

Pro-Israel state legislators from around the nation were honored July 28 at the Jewish Community Services Building in Philadelphia for their contributions in the fight against the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

About 15 legislators were on hand to receive recognition during the Democratic National Convention.

“We know how hard you work, said Naomi L. Adler, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, which hosted the event. “We’re your partners, and we want to be in the room with you.”

William Daroff, senior vice president of public policy for Jewish Federations of North America, noted that 11 states have passed anti-BDS legislation and more could join them in the months ahead.

“We are pleased to support local leaders who take these stands,” he said. “Supporting Israel is not just in the interest of your states, but also in the interest of the nation.”

“America stands united with the people of Israel,” said Josh Block, CEO of The Israel Project, a nonpartisan organization, which hosted the event along with Jewish Federation. “Americans have been rejecting these lies and double standards … and we are extremely grateful to you … Israel is an issue that transcends party lines.”

Ron Dermer, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States, presented both words of encouragement and caution about BDS.

 

It’s a fight that’s worth fighting, and it’s a fight where we’re going to win.” — Ron Dermer

 

“I’m not concerned about BDS in terms of Israel’s economy,” he said, indicating that major companies are flocking to Israel to take advantage of its innovation and technology. “BDS won’t force foreign  companies to leave.”

“BDS has to be challenged … because it’s a moral threat,” he continued. “The movement is an anti-Semitic movement. It’s also against peace.”

Dermer said BDS is anti- Semitic because it holds Jews to a different standard than everyone else.

“The only relevant question is, ‘Are we the only country on their list?’” he said.

For about 50 years after World War II, it was politically incorrect to target Jews — at least in polite circles, Dermer said. That began to change in 2001 at the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa.

“Now, it’s open season,” he said.

About 100 years ago, the lack of a Jewish state was the cause of anti-Semitism, he said, noting that today the  existence of Israel is a factor in its resurgence.

“The state of Israel is not the cause for anti-Semitism, nor is it the cure for anti-Semitism,” he said. “All it does is give us a chance to fight it.

“It’s a fight that’s worth fighting, and it’s a fight where we’re going to win.”

Andy Gotlieb is managing  editor at the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, an affiliated publication of the Baltimore Jewish Times.

agotlieb@midatlanticmedia.com

Baltimore-Born Rabbi Makes Chicago List

Rabbi Zev Eleff (File photo)

Rabbi Zev Eleff (File photo)

Rabbi Zev Eleff, 30, was named to Oy!Chicago and The Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago’s Young Leadership Division’s fifth annual “Double Chai in the Chi: 36 under 36,” a list recognizing young professionals in the Chicago area. The Pikesville native and Yeshivat Rambam graduate is the chief academic officer at Chicago’s Hebrew Theological College and a board member of the Chicago Jewish Historical Society, and lectures at several schools and synagogues in the Chicago

“This honor is especially meaningful, given the other exceptional women and men voted to Jewish Chicago’s ‘36 Under 36,’” he said via email. “More than anything else, this is a credit to the wonderful family and teachers that invested so much in me, beginning in my earliest stages in Baltimore and the Yeshivat Rambam community.”

The list included entrepreneurs, activists, fundraisers, youth group advisors, attorneys and pediatric neurologists.

“I get excited when the list comes out every July to see what other young Jewish adults are doing to help make the future of our community better,” Michael Waitz, incoming Young Leadership Division board member and a former award winner, said in a  news release. “From rabbis to entrepreneurs, the thing that’s really remarkable is that the  list includes young Jewish  professionals from different backgrounds that are making an impact.”

You Should Know … Jackie Gordon

Jackie Gordon (Daniel Nozick)

Jackie Gordon (Daniel Nozick)

Baltimore resident Jackie Gordon, 34, knew in high school that she wanted to work with kids and sports. As an adult, the Franklin Middle School teacher realized her dream in the “It’s Game Time” summer camp.

The Silver Spring native holds a Reading Teacher Certification from Goucher College and graduated from Towson with a bachelor’s degree in physical education in 2003. The JT sat down with Gordon to learn about how working at her synagogue led her to start her own camp.

Why physical education?
My mom has always taught at my synagogue, Temple Shalom in Chevy Chase. In high school, I started helping her out with her kindergarten class, and at that point, I knew I liked working with kids. I also played soccer, basketball, lacrosse and hockey in high school, so I knew I wanted to do something with sports. When I went to college, it was a no brainer, I wanted to put together the kids and the sports.

How did creating your own camp come about?
I went to college with my partner, Chad Marshall. We studied the same thing, he works in Baltimore County as well, but we’ve always been at different schools. We always joked back in college how amazing would it be to be at the same school and teaching together. I had always done summer camps, so I said why not start our own. We set up the whole business, we came up with “It’s Game Time,” our name. We had one week that first year, about 40 to 50 kids. Now we’re in our sixth year. We have three weeks. The first week just finished and we had 100 kids. Our second week has 135 signed up and our third week will probably be the biggest. We have a really great program because we go out and we find people who know how to coach and know how to teach P.E. You aren’t going to find another sports camp around that’s going to have as many qualified people and is not sport-specific.

What does the day-to-day of the camp look like?
Every day, the kids rotate through a variety of spaces. We do two major sports each day: basketball, soccer, football, etc. You also do two rotations into some spaces for rec games like cup stacking or four square. We’ll have a big tournament or a bit of instruction. Thursdays and Fridays we have electives. We have three or four coaches who played lacrosse in college and they lead that elective, we have a high school football coach who runs football. Third session, we are going to have guys doing rugby and wrestling. We want to give the kids the chance to try something new. We do something cool every week called Punt, Pass and Kick, which is sponsored by the NFL. Kids earn a combined score, there is a winner for each of the age groups. If they go the distance, they can end up on the field at a Ravens game.

Tell me about Six Point Sports Academy.
It is a Jewish camp associated with the Reform movement. It’s located in Greensboro, N.C. on the campus of the American Hebrew Academy, which happens to be the only Jewish boarding school in the United States. It is the best  facility I have ever played on, coached at or had access to.

I have been there since the first day it opened in 2010 as a lacrosse coach. This year, I also worked with the Jewish life team; Jewish life there really stems from the coaches. The kids will come for a specific sport major and spend four hours a day training. This camp is for the kids who want to get better at a specific sport. We have coaches that have coached numerous colleges. The tennis guy coaches handball in the Olympics and tennis at Adelphi. We’re talking high level athletics, high level coaches. We also have Shabbat, prayers, song sessions, your typical Jewish summer camp. There’s Maccabiah, the fun bonding stuff, it’s where you meet your best friends. The motto is “training jewish athletes for life.” You can read Torah, play lacrosse and hang out with your best friends all at the same time.

dnozick@midatlanticmedia.com