Presbyterian General Assembly’s Shift Brings Mixed Reactions

Presbyterians are pushing back against the church group’s  anti-Zionist study guide.

Presbyterians are pushing back against the church group’s anti-Zionist study guide.

Jewish organizations praised the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America for moderating its stance highly critical of Israel.

The 222nd Presbyterian Church’s General Assembly, held in Portland, Ore., last month, passed a resolution in “opposition to any efforts to deny or undermine the rights of the Palestinian people or the Jewish people to self- determination.”

But overall, the American Jewish Committee and other Jewish groups that were present at the assembly opposed the resolution, “Israel-Palestine: For Human Values in the Absence of a Just Peace,” calling it anti-Israel. The resolution passed 429 to 129.

The resolution affirmed that the church “stands with the people of Israel, affirming their right to exist as a sovereign nation” as it does with the Palestinian people.

“Just two years ago a group chartered by the Presbyterian Church issued an anti-Zionist screed called ‘Zionism Unsettled,’” said Ethan Felson, executive director of  Israel Action Network. “This general assembly said they oppose any anti-Zionism. That’s a significant shift in two years.”

Charles Wiley, a church spokesman, said the assembly left the church’s policy on the two-state solution largely  unchanged and added that the church has “a long-standing commitment to affirm the two-state solution as a part of that self-determination for  Israelis and Palestinians.

“There was research and  reflection on what the current possibilities were for two states, but there was no change in our general policy,” Wiley said. That policy “is an affirmation for Israelis and Palestinians to live in peaceful self-determination and for oppressive practices on all sides to stop.”

Jewish groups condemned a four-minute video, “Wala,” shown at the assembly, The  Israel Action Network and the Anti-Defamation League said the video, by Palestinian American poet Susan Abulhawa, was “egregious” for its comparison of Israel’s Palestinian checkpoints with the Nazi cattle cars that carried Jews to concentration camps during World War II.

“We would hope that church leaders might have recognized what a profound  offense this

was, not just to Jews, but to everyone,” the Israel Action Network said in a statement. “Gratefully, a majority of the commissioners did realize how offensive it  was and voted down a boycott resolution to which the video was directed.”

Wiley said the video was shown in support of a resolution to boycott Hewlett-Packard products. The action failed in plenary by a vote of 483 to 72.

“Advocates are free to advocate for their issue however they choose, within their time limits,” he said.

Other resolutions included a call for a “prayerful study” of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. It was amended to include a study of the opposition to BDS.

Another resolution urged the realty company RE/MAX to stop its sales of property within Jewish settlements. Supporters of the resolution reportedly said they received a letter from RE/MAX CEO Dave Liniger before the general assembly, stating that the company “will no longer receive any income from the sale of Jewish settlement properties in the West Bank,” according to JTA.

Attempts at Full Israeli-Palestinian Peace Only Exacerbate the Conflict, Says Analyst

Yossi Alpher, in his new book “No End of Conflict: Rethinking Israel-Palestine,” argues that peacemakers must separate “pre-1967” and “post-’67” issues. (Photo courtesy Americans for Peace Now)

Yossi Alpher, in his new book “No End of Conflict: Rethinking Israel-Palestine,” argues that peacemakers must separate “pre-1967” and “post-’67” issues. (Photo courtesy Americans for Peace Now)

Prospects seem so poor for Israeli-Palestinian peace that even some longtime advocates of a two-state solution have begun arguing for new  approaches to preserve Israel’s Jewish and democratic character.

“We’re on a slippery slope, on both sides, to something very ugly,” veteran Israeli security analyst Yossi Alpher said over coffee at Kramer Books in Washington’s Dupont Circle last month.

Alpher, a former Mossad  officer and former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, said that neither Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has the political strength or personal desire to reach an agreement to establish a Palestinian state alongside  Israel and end the conflict  between the two peoples. Well-meaning attempts, such as Secretary of State John Kerry’s 2014 peace push, can only fail under the circumstances and leave the region worse off.

World leaders are making a mistake by trying to build agreements on the model of the 1993 Oslo Accords, which sought to end every aspect of the conflict at once, Alpher said. “My argument is, 25 years after Oslo, it’s fair to suggest that whoever wants to deal with the issue should stop and say, ‘We tried this at the highest level, and we failed.’ If you try again based on all the same rules, you’re going to make things worse.”

We’re on a slippery slope,  on both sides, to something very ugly.” — Israeli security analyst Yossi Alpher


Alpher, a Washington, D.C., native who has lived in Israel since 1964, is often associated with Israel’s peace movement. He writes a weekly analysis column for Americans for Peace Now and co-edited Bitter Lemons, an online dialogue with Palestinian academic Ghassan Khatib.

But Alpher said that he is an independent analyst, not an ideologue. He was back in Washington to speak about his new book, “No End of Conflict: Rethinking Israel-Palestine,” whose policy prescriptions seek to slow down — not transform — the ride to a  binational Israel in constant conflict with its Palestinian  inhabitants.

“I used to be optimistic. Then I became realistic. I am so concerned about the future that I have written this book,” he writes.

The flaw inherent in all peace attempts, including the 2008 effort between Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, where the two parties came closest to agreement,  is between what Alpher calls “pre-1967” and “post-’67” issues.

The post-’67 issues — borders, security arrangements, land swaps — are relatively simple to agree on. But the pre-’67  issues, which arose from  Israel’s creation, are “narrative issues” upon which both the Israeli and the Palestinian  national identities are founded: Jerusalem and the holy places and Palestinian refugees. Agreements repeatedly founder on these issues, Alpher said.

One lesson from Kerry’s failed peacemaking effort, Alpher said, is that the two sets of issues should be separated, and the narrative issues should be set aside. “Talk about the nuts and bolts of a two-state solution, not about the end of the conflict.”

Alpher views Israel’s settlement and West Bank policies over 50 years almost like a Greek tragedy. They “add up to a strategic mistake worthy of being listed in Barbara Tuchman’s 1984 ‘March of Folly’ alongside the Trojan War and the U.S. War in Vietnam,” he writes.

“The existential threat to  Israel is from within,” he said, “as a democratic, Jewish, Zionist state. And this is our doing. And in this sense it’s a strategic mistake. The recognition [in 1967] should have been: Get out.”

In the book, he offers five possible scenarios for the future: The Arab world contributes to Israel’s continued military-strategic strength despite the continuing Palestinian problem; things become so bad that Israelis decide unilaterally to give up the West Bank; the Palestinians revolt against Israel’s presence in land they claim for a future state; or the Palestinians give up their struggle for independence.

Alpher said the more likely scenario is “muddling through.”

Nevertheless, he said, “we’re in a revolutionary era in the region, which is why you can’t truly predict the future.”

What if Gaza runs out of water in two years, he asked, as the United Nations predicts? “What effect does that have? Or if [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan makes an agreement with Israel and  becomes a patron of Gaza. What effect will that have?” Or what if Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi deputy crown prince and rising star, announces he will come to Jerusalem “and offer Israel peace and normalization ‘if you and the Palestinians do A, B, C and D.’ What effect would this have on Israeli public opinion?”

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat did make such a groundbreaking gesture in 1977, Alpher noted. But that was only after the trauma of the Yom Kippur War. That’s a high price to pay for fundamental change.

Pikesville Run, Walk Is a Winner for Cancer Patients

Runners and walkers of all ages line up at last year’s event. (provided)

Runners and walkers of all ages line up at last year’s event. (provided)

More than 1,000 Marylanders will gather at Woodholme Center on July 10 for the Miles That Matter Pikesville 5K run and walk benefiting the Ulman Cancer Fund and the Pikesville Chamber of Commerce.

“Supporting young adults and their loved ones impacted by cancer is the core of our mission, and we’re so excited to continue to bring people  together in the young adult cancer fight through the Pikesville 5K,” said Brock Yetso, president and CEO of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. “We invite the community to join us again for this special event, which also supports the chamber’s efforts to make Pikesville a destination where people want to live, work and shop.”

The event, which was started 16 years ago, is chaired by longtime volunteer Mark Sapperstein, owner of 28 Walker Development who lost his mother and mother-in-law to cancer. It  has benefited cancer-related  organizations for the past four years.


It benefits people  like me who need the services Ulman is providing, which are so important and so special.” — Alex Feinberg, cancer survivor


“The 5K is a way for us to bring the community together for a good cause and at the same time to have fun,” said Jessica Normington, executive director of the Pikesville Chamber of Commerce.

One of this year’s runners  is 29-year-old Owings Mills native Alex Feinberg. He was diagnosed in 2014 with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a form of cancer that starts in cells called lymphocytes, which are a part of the body’s immune system, according to the American Cancer Society.

Feinberg considers himself fairly lucky, saying he had “as great of an experience as you can ask for in such an unfortunate situation.” He was treated at John Hopkins Hospital with six chemotherapy treatments and two months of radiation and praised Ulman for assisting him and his family throughout the process. Today, he is cancer-free, and participating in the 5K means the world to him.

“It benefits people like me who need the services Ulman is providing, which are so  important and so special,” said Feinberg. “They are changing peoples’ lives by providing support to young adults like myself and their caregivers wherever needed.”

Ulman, which was founded 19 years ago in Howard County by Doug Ulman, also organizes a free 12-week training program called Cancer to 5K, which Feinberg participated in. The program reintroduces cancer survivors to physical  activity with professional training and coaches and the encouragement necessary to complete the race, regardless of a participant’s age, cancer status or fitness level.

This year’s race will feature music by CK Productions, a moon bounce, face painting and prize drawings for certificates and sports equipment. Monetary prizes and gift certificates will be awarded to the overall first-, second- and third-place finishers in both a men and women’s division. Additional trophies will be awarded to the top finishers in the various age groups.

Following the race, a hot breakfast will be served by several vendors including Classic Catering, Suburban House, Lenny’s Deli, Giant, Starbucks and Target.


Miles That Matter Pikesville 5K run and walk
July 10
Woodholme Center 1829 Reisterstown Road
Registration is $35 through July 9; $40 on race day.
To register or for  more information, visit, call  410-484-2337 or email

Red Goji Brings New Kosher Asian Cuisine

Red Goji Restaurant interior (Photo provided)

Red Goji Restaurant interior (Photo provided)

Baltimore lost a staple restaurant in the kosher community after Umami closed its doors amid confusion and contradictory announcements last year. Now, a new Asian kitchen has stepped up to fill the void.

Red Goji opened quietly, less a year ago. Initially, it was owned by two Japanese men and served Asian food that was not kosher. In an area that is so predominantly Jewish, the loss of kashrut in the shift from Umami to Red Goji significantly affected the restaurant’s business, particularly being next door to Goldberg’s Bagels. The new manager, John Luen, speculates that a lack of business caused the original owners of Red Goji to skip town.

Following their untimely exit, Luen took over the restaurant and has just recently completed his reinvention of Red Goji, which has been certified kosher and serves a broad selection of Asian cuisine.

Although the new restaurant is in Umami’s old location, the two eateries are entirely unrelated. Luen got the idea from a friend who runs a similar operation.

“I have some friends in Brooklyn [N.Y.], and they’re doing a kosher Asian restaurant as well,” he said. “I said, ‘In this area, it could be doing pretty well.’”

“I know in this neighborhood, a lot of people keep kosher,” Luen added. “There are good people and it is good marketing.” Laughing, he added that “being kosher will bring me more holidays. At my age, I can’t work like a young guy seven days a week.” However, Luen did put a considerable amount of effort into assembling the menu and sought out harder-to-find items such as panko radish.

Luen’s aim is to integrate traditional Asian cuisine with kosher cooking. “A lot of things we do, somebody doesn’t have it, but we bring it in — like squash for the sushi, even some tempura. We do seared tuna and some nice things in the kitchen. We have the summer roll. … We use rice paper to wrap chicken and lettuce with rice noodles all together, served cold. A lot of people enjoy it.”

Red Goji received its kosher certification through Star-K.

“There are a lot of steps. All the china and plastic had to go. We had to buy a lot of new equipment — cutting boards, knives and everything. We don’t have dairy here, only meat, fish and vege-tables,” Luen said. “They sent a representative to cauterize everything. Some things they put in an oven, some they put in boiling water, to clean out the kitchen, every single detail like new.”

Locals have reacted to Red Goji becoming kosher with delight. Customer Phil Rosenfeld claimed that “Baltimore cannot have enough kosher restaurants.”

Red Goji officially opened as a kosher-certified restaurant on June 21. It is located at 1500 Reisterstown Road in Pikesville.

Speaker Series Kicks Off with Social Security Commissioner

Carolyn Colvin, the SSA’s acting commissioner, brought to North Oaks the importance of saving. (REUTERS/Larry Downing via newscom)

Carolyn Colvin, the SSA’s acting commissioner, brought to North Oaks the importance of saving. (REUTERS/Larry Downing via newscom)

North Oaks Senior Living Community kicked off its new speaker series, the North Oaks Institute, on June 30 with an appearance by Social Security Administration acting commissioner Carolyn Colvin.

The series is “aimed to educate the community about issues facing the older population. … The North Oaks Institute will periodically feature industry experts who can provide clarity and information on pressing issues,” according to a news release.

Colvin, already once retired herself, returned to public service in 2011, being nominated by the President Barack Obama in 2014 for her current role. Colvin is responsible for one of the largest federal agencies, with SSA comprised of nearly 80,000 employees.

The agency is responsible for paying monthly benefits to more than 60 million recipients and maintains lifetime earnings records of more than 165 million employees. Additionally, Colvin speaks at events such as the North Oaks Institute about financial literacy and misconceptions regarding Social Security.

“Social Security is important to all of us, old and young, workers and business,” she told the audience.

Signed off on by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935, the initial Social Security Act covered more topics than what most think of as “Social Security” today. According to SSA’s website, “The original 1935 law contained the first national unemployment compensation program, aid to the states for various health and welfare programs and the Aid to Dependent Children program.”

Today, people are worried and uninformed about Social Security — they do not know what they are entitled to or when they are entitled to it, and people are worrying that Social Security will run out for future generations, Colvin said.

According to Carolyn Colvin, the most important step that an individual can take to secure his or her future is saving.

Colvin explained to the audience that Social Security stays with you “from the day you are born when we give you your Social Security number until your death, and then beyond because we serve your survivors when you die. Few government agencies touch as many lives as we do at the Social Security Administration.”

However, many people rely too heavily on these benefits, she said. Colvin was sure to point out that Social Security is not meant to provide for anywhere close to the entirety of retirement.

“I want to emphasize that Social Security’s insurance protection provides a foundation of retirement security for almost all workers and families in the country, but it was never intended to be the sole source of your retirement,” she said. “The average Social Security benefit is very modest, it’s about $1,350 per month for retirement workers and $1,290 a month for aging widows and widowers. So you can see that that’s not efficient for your retirement needs.”

According to Colvin, the most important step that an individual can take to secure his or her future is saving.  “People should certainly try to save as much as they can … you really cannot afford not to save.”

In discussing increasing retirement ages, Colvin said that “for people who are able to, they should work as long as they can before retirement.” Another factor to consider, she said, is that for each year that an individual postpones accepting their Social Security checks, they receive an 8 percent increase in benefits for each year after they retire. This means that for someone whose full retirement age is 67, by waiting three years and retiring at 70 instead, the individual will receive 24 percent more benefits each month.

In order to be completely prepared for retirement, Colvin says that the best idea is to save as much as possible, for as long as possible. “You know the value of compound interest … Even if you start off small, you need to establish putting aside a certain amount for yourself. Just like you pay your bills, every month I pay my bill; my first bill is me.”

County, LifeBridge Unveil ‘Live Near Your Work’ Incentives

Baltimore County and LifeBridge Health have announced a Live Near Your Work program for LifeBridge employees who buy homes near Northwest Hospital in Randallstown.

The incentives range from $1,000 to $5,000 to help  employees with down payments and closing costs.

“By providing buyer incentives in communities near Northwest Hospital, we are encouraging LifeBridge employees to invest in the neighborhoods near their workplace,” Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said in a news release.

Brian White, president of Northwest Hospital and senior vice president of LifeBridge Health, said the hospital truly embraces the community.

“We believe this new partnership with Baltimore County will strengthen that connection by increasing the number of  employees living in our nearby neighborhoods, with the added benefit for employees of a shortened commute to work,” he said in a news release.

The highest incentives are available to homebuyers in the Stevenswood, Courtleigh, Green Lane, Fieldstone, Lochearn, Gwynn Oak and Colonial  Village communities, which have seen declines in homeownership since the recession, the release said.

To be eligible, homebuyers must work for LifeBridge Health, purchase a home in the designated area, contribute at least $1,000 toward the purchase and use the property as their principal residence.

More information and a map is available at baltimore or by calling LifeBridge Employee Services at 410-601-8000.

Blavatt Elected President of Chizuk Amuno

Jason Blavatt (left) with Rabbi Ron Shulman (provided)

Jason Blavatt (left) with Rabbi Ron Shulman (provided)

Chizuk Amuno Congregation elected Jason Blavatt as its new president at its annual meeting on June 14.

Blavatt wrapped up a term as first vice president of the 1,200-family Conservative congregation.

“Jason Blavatt’s values and temperament reflect his caring toward people and his sensitivity to doing what’s right and proper,” Rabbi Ron Shulman said in a news release. “Few are the members of Baltimore’s Jewish community who hold the  variety of communal volunteer positions that he does. Jason gives of himself selflessly and for the greater good. We are honored that Jason includes Chizuk Amuno as one of his personal priorities.” He succeed Dr. Andrew Miller, who completed a two-year term as president.

Blavatt also serves as chairman of the board at LifeBridge Health and as chairman of the Baltimore County Human  Relations Commission; he’s also on the boards of The  Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore and the Baltimore Jewish Council. He is a managing partner of the law firm Blavatt & Blavatt LLC.

Also elected with Blavatt was vice presidents Sandra Moffet, Kelly Blavatt, Neil Leikach, Stephen Pomerantz and Beth Goldsmith, treasurer Allan Greenberg and secretary Stephani Braverman, as well as new board members Allison Baumwald, Robert Hallock, Lee Sherman, Alissa Abramson-Densky, Andrew Sandler,  Jeffrey Snyder, Joshua Wolf and Lawrence Amsterdam.

Former Cop’s Roots Run Deep City Police Jewish Community Liasion Moving On

Ken Dickstein (Photo by Adam Barry)

Ken Dickstein (Photo by Adam Barry)

For the past seven years, Baltimore’s Jewish communities have been looked after by Kenneth “Heshy” Dickstein, the Yiddish- and Hebrew-fluent son of a local rabbi.

Since August of 2009, the former Officer Dickstein, who retired on June 17, has served as the Baltimore Police Department’s citywide Jewish community liaison, fostering communication between the community and the police department.

Dickstein has become a familiar face to the areas around the city’s synagogues on Shabbat, the High Holidays and almost every other day of the year. Of his distinctive appearance, his friend and former commander, Keith Tiedemann, said, “I’m going to miss those sunglasses, the slicked back hair and the leather jacket.”

A native son, Dickstein grew up on Rogers Avenue and attended the Talmudical Academy. His father, Yehudah, was a ritual director at the Rogers Avenue Synagogue until 1965, when he took up the same position at Chizuk Amuno Congregation.

Before coming to America, Dickstein’s father survived the Holocaust as a young rabbinical student in Europe.

Ken Dickstein with his partner, Officer Sam Bennett (Provided)

Ken Dickstein with his partner, Officer Sam Bennett (Provided)

Son of a Survivor

Yehudah was one of the youngest students at the Mir Yeshivah in Poland, but as World War II escalated, the students were on the run. The group fled to Lithuania until that country was threatened by Soviet invasion. It was in Lithuania that a Japanese diplomat named Chiune Sugihara risked his career and offered travel visas to 6,000 Jews to flee the country.

With these documents in hand, the group took the Trans-Siberian railroad through Russia, and after a stay in Japan, they ended up in Shanghai, where they persevered under harsh conditions. It was not until Dickstein’s father arrived in America that he learned that the rest of his immediate family had died in Europe.

Yehudah Dickstein retired from Chizuk Amuno in 1999 and currently lives in Atlanta. While his father and mother raised their children on Rogers Avenue, a brutal crime shocked the neighborhood and instilled in a young Dickstein the desire to help his community by becoming a police officer.

In 1969, an 11-year-old neighbor named Esther Lebowitz was brutally murdered in a crime that shocked the community and still resonates nearly 50 years later. Lebowitz was also a friend of Dickstein’s sister; the two would sometimes walk home together from Bais Yaakov’s middle school, from which Lebowitz was returning on the day she was abducted.

Between the abduction and the discovery of the girl’s body, police detectives reached out to the community for help. High schoolers from the Talmudical Academy helped search the neighborhood and nearby Cylburn Park for clues.

While the 9-year-old Dickstein was too young to help in the investigation, he remembers how the event shocked the community. “It went through the whole community, and I always admired the police detectives who came knocking on the door and scoured the area,” he said.

Becoming a Police Officer

Dickstein went on to graduate from Towson University, and after a brief career as an investigator with the city solicitor’s office, he joined the police force in 1983. He served across the city before taking the Jewish liaison position, and while he says policing has changed, his mindset has not. He described his style of policing as affording respect to those you serve, and they will respect you back.

Between his stints in patrol, special operations and tactical divisions across the city, Dickstein said he worked with many officers who genuinely wanted to help serve the community. “I’ve worked with tremendous officers, probably the best in the state of Maryland. These officers are brave, noble, and they actually want to do a good job,” he said.

Ken Dickstein poses with his K-9 partner, Niko, who he adopted after the dog was retired from the police. (Provided)

Ken Dickstein poses with his K-9 partner, Niko, who he adopted after the dog was retired from the police. (Provided)

It was during his time in Baltimore’s K-9 unit when he met his favorite partner, an American German Shepherd named Niko. “When you’re in that building alone and searching for a burglary suspect, and it’s only you in a three- to four-story building, you rely on that dog to watch your back,” he said, adding that Niko had saved him many times.

Like many K-9 officers, Dickstein would end up adopting Niko after his tenure in the unit, as the dog had become part of the family. “You’re not only with that dog for eight hours a day, but he rides with you to work, he comes home with you, [and] when you have young children, they grow up and are raised together.”

One of those young children was his son, Ryan, who would follow in his father’s footsteps and become a Baltimore police officer. Now a detective in the city’s analytical intelligence unit, Ryan Dickstein remembers wanting to follow in his father’s footsteps even as a young child.

The two are the only father-son team in the Baltimore Police Department. Ryan Dickstein points to his father’s emphasis on integrity, trustworthiness and strong relationships as helping him do a better job as a police officer to serve the city.

“You have to know how to build relationships with the community; the community you serve is going to be the one that decides your reputation,” Ryan Dickstein said. “In the end, you need the help of the community to help you with a lot of things.”

Coming Back Home

In August 2009, crime in the Northwest started to escalate including many burglaries and a few muggings. Top police officials wanted someone to be a conduit for communication between the community and the police.

Dickstein with Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis (Provided)

Dickstein with Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis (Provided)

Dickstein’s friend Tiedemann, then-commander of the Northwest District, remembers approaching chief of patrol John Skinner and saying, “Hey listen, there’s a large Jewish community, I’ve known Kenny for a long time; his father was a rabbi, he’d be a perfect fit for this job, and he was born in [the Park Heights] neighborhood.”

As citywide liaison, Dickstein would be responsible for communication with Baltimore’s Jewish community and organizations, from the Northwest area to downtown. It was the Northwest, however, that gave Dickstein a pause as he considered the position.

Dickstein admits he had avoided Northwest Baltimore and the neighborhood where he had grown up for most of his career. He felt the pressure that might come with his intimate knowledge of the area and his relationship with the community.

However, Skinner and then-commissioner Fred Bealefeld, among other city officials, agreed with Tiedemann and moved Dickstein into the liaison position in August 2009. “He didn’t count on how much he was taking on,” Tiedemann said, but his friend did not let him down.

Betsy Gardner, neighborhood liaison to the 5th and 6th City Council Districts and the City Council’s citywide Jewish liaison, remembers thinking that Dickstein would be the perfect fit. “It just made sense with his background, being from the community, his father being a revered cantor and rabbi,” she said.

Over the past six years, Gardner and Dickstein worked together to organize Chanukah candle lightings and security for all of the city’s synagogues during the High Holidays and other important times. The two also worked closely whenever an anti-Semitic act or attack was perpetrated.

From left: Officer Sam Bennett, citywide Jewish community liaison for the City Council president’s office Betsy Gardner, Baltimore City Police Department Public Information Officer Jeremy Silbert, Baltimore City Sherriff’s Office Major Sabrina Tapp-Harper, Baltimore City Police Captain Bernie Douglas and Northwest Citizens Patrol President Neil Schachter with Ken Dickstein at the 33rd anniversary of the NWCP, where the organization presented him with an award recognizing his service to the city and community.

From left: Officer Sam Bennett, citywide Jewish community liaison for the City Council president’s office Betsy Gardner, Baltimore City Police Department Public Information Officer Jeremy Silbert, Baltimore City Sherriff’s Office Major Sabrina Tapp-Harper, Baltimore City Police Captain Bernie Douglas and Northwest Citizens Patrol President Neil Schachter with Ken Dickstein at the 33rd anniversary of the NWCP, where the organization presented him with an award recognizing his service to the city and community. (Provided)

As Dickstein moved into his role, his superiors in the Northwest began to feel the effects. Tiedemann recalled how calls from the community that would in the past go to the chief of patrol were redirected to Dickstein as he became the go-between for the community and law enforcement.

While disagreements between Dickstein and community members and groups were not unheard of, Tiedemann recalls that his friend never lost the respect of the community because he always spoke honestly. “The one thing about Kenny, he would tell them the way it was. Sometimes it wasn’t what they wanted to hear, but he was always honest with them,” he said.

Over the years, Dickstein provided the balance necessary to keep the area safe by communicating the needs between the community and the police and public officials.

“He’s so appropriate to serve my district and that community,” said Councilwoman Rochelle “Rikki” Spector, outgoing representative of District 5. “He spoke to the Jewish community in ways they understood, and he spoke to the police department in ways they understood.”

Ken Dickstein on a Baltimore Police Department trading card (Provided)

Ken Dickstein on a Baltimore Police Department trading card (Provided)

Baltimore’s Northwest neighborhoods have two volunteer community patrol groups, the Northwest Citizens Patrol and Shomrim of Baltimore. While the groups are strictly in place to observe the community and call police at signs of trouble, Dickstein called the groups the “eyes and ears” for him and his partner, Officer Sam Bennett.

While Dickstein credits both groups with helping assist him greatly in serving the community, the group leaders were even more appreciative of his presence.

“It spoke volumes for the department to understand that there was a need to have this position, to have a citywide Jewish liaison,” said Nathan Willner, general counsel to Shomrim. Willner not only recognized Dickstein as the organization’s conduit to the police, but says his understanding of the community helped him address their needs.

“He had a keen sense of understanding the movements of the community and the needs of the community and was very insightful,” Willner said, noting that Dickstein understood the “ebb and flow” of the community around Shabbat and the High Holidays.

Neil Schachter, president of the Northwest Citizens Patrol, credits Dickstein’s police instincts, accumulated over his 30-year career, for helping his group not only respond to troubling situations, but also recognize problems before they might occur.

Ken Dickstein is joined by fellow officers, including former Northwest Division Majors Sabrina Tapp-Harper (second from right) and John Delgado (right).

Ken Dickstein is joined by fellow officers, including former Northwest Division Majors Sabrina Tapp-Harper (second from right) and John Delgado (right).

“He was someone who was out there patrolling all the time and someone who knew what to look for,” he said. “More than the community knew, he was helping out.”

Dickstein worked closely with his partner, Bennett, a liaison to the community watch groups. In the rare case of a violent crime or urgent situation, it was Dickstein and Bennett who put in the extra hours and “pulled out all the stops,” as Bennett said.

“He has really been devoted to that community,” he said. “The community won’t realize how much they miss him until he is gone.”

During his retirement, Dickstein still plans to help with security at The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, the JCC and other Jewish organizations. However, he maintains his role will be less hands-on than before. “I’ll be in the background but not in the foreground. It’s a young man’s world,” he said.

cover_noteOne of his achievements from his time serving the community is the relationships he was able to foster between the community and police officers. He set up softball and flag football between the police and the community watch groups and has even seen fellow officers become regulars at the Park Heights JCC.

“My number one goal was to make sure the community was safe whether I was there or not,” he said, crediting the success of that goal to the efforts of everyone with whom he worked. “I owe it to the community watch groups, my partner and the district commanders I have worked with.”

Adam Barry is an intern at the Baltimore Jewish Times.

Baltimore Remembers Wiesel as Eloquent, Thoughtful, Righteous Mensch

Elie Wiesel (Eugene Garcia/ZUMA Press/Newscom)

Elie Wiesel (Eugene Garcia/ZUMA Press/Newscom)

Elie Wiesel, the iconic Holocaust survivor, activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, died of natural causes on Saturday, July 2 at the age of 87. While he was a figure of international prominence, there is hardly a Jewish community around the world that didn’t feel his impact, and Baltimore is no different.

“It was like looking in the face, shaking hands with righteousness itself,” said former Baltimore Jewish Council executive director Art Abramson, who met Wiesel first in Los Angeles and again in Washington, D.C. “The man knows every emotion I think a human being can experience.”

“He’s just a once-in-a-lifetime figure,” said Neil Rubin, former senior editor at the Baltimore Jewish Times and an area Jewish history educator who interviewed Wiesel in 1992. “The written word gave him an opportunity to speak, and when he spoke he was riveting. He was really haunting in his look, in what he had to say. And yes, he did laugh, and yes, he did smile, which was very important as well.”

A philosopher, professor and author of such seminal works of Holocaust literature as “Night” and “Dawn,” Wiesel perhaps more than any other figure came to embody the legacy of the Holocaust and the worldwide community of survivors.

“I have tried to keep memory alive,” Wiesel said at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in 1986. “I have tried to fight those who would forget. Because if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices.”

Often he would say the “opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.”

He was a real kind of intellectual and also a man who thought profoundly and deeply about your time and place in space and what you’re supposed to do, and you sensed that when you were with him.
— Neil Rubin, former JT Senior Editor

Wiesel spent the majority of his public life speaking of the atrocities he had witnessed and asking the public to consider other acts of cruelty around the world, though he drew the line at direct comparisons with the Holocaust.

Wiesel won a myriad of awards for his work, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal and the National Jewish Book Award. “Night” is now standard reading in high schools across America. In 2006, it was chosen as a book club selection by Oprah Winfrey and, nearly half a century after it was first published, spent more than a year atop the best-seller list. He would also take Winfrey to Auschwitz that same year.

Morris Rosen (left), a Baltimore Holocaust survivor, says it’s an honor that Elie Wiesel called him “dearest friend Morris.”

Morris Rosen (left), a Baltimore Holocaust survivor, says it’s an honor that Elie Wiesel called him “dearest friend Morris.” (Photo provided)

Born in the town of Sighet, Transylvania, then and now a part of Romania, in 1928, Wiesel was deported to Auschwitz in 1944 with his family when he was 15. His mother and one of his sisters would disappear forever when the family was forced aboard the cattle cars, murdered immediately. His father, who traveled with him to the camps, died of dysentery and starvation in Buchenwald. Two sisters would survive the war.

Wiesel was liberated from Buchenwald in 1945. He went on to study at the Sorbonne and moved to New York at the end of the 1950s, where he lived in relative obscurity. He worked hard to find a publisher for “Night,” which initially sold poorly.

In the late 1960s Wiesel finally began to emerge as one of the pre-eminent voices in Holocaust literature. By the end of his career he had written some 50 books.

His 1966 book reporting the plight of Soviet Jews, “The Jews of Silence,” made possible the movement that sought their freedom.

Along with his wife, Marion, Wiesel is survived by a son, Shlomo.

For some, Wiesel could have been a regular dinner guest had they not known who he was.

Beth Tfiloh Congregation Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg said Wiesel was the first person he invited to speak at his congregation when he started there in 1978, and Wiesel did so that December. Before his speech, Wohlberg had him over for dinner.

Morris Rosen (left) and  Elie Wiesel (Photo provided)

Morris Rosen (left) and Elie Wiesel (Photo provided)

“You would never know how great a human being he was because when you sat with him it was as if a family member or close friend was sitting with you and schmoozing. And you just felt enveloped with his warmth and his love,” Wohlberg said. “I believe it was around that time that he had become a father, and I had two small, young children. And the greatest challenge he felt was bringing a child into this world after the Holocaust.”

He signed a book to Wohlberg’s sons: “May they bring joy to their parents and our people,” Wohlberg recalled. “He was very focused on not just the last generation, but on the next generation.”

He excused himself during the meal to call his son and say goodnight, Wohlberg recalled.

Rubin also got to experience Wiesel in his less larger-than-life form when he flew to New York to interview Wiesel at his apartment for the Atlanta Jewish News in 1992.

“I met him in the lobby. He was coming home with his wife; they had been food shopping, so I helped him with his groceries, took them upstairs,” Rubin said. “It was a ‘hey, this is a real person’ kind of experience.”

Rubin recalled thousands of books on shelves in various languages “all of which he probably read in the original [language],” Rubin quipped, and a sliding wood ladder to climb in order to reach higher shelves.

All through their discussion — which included Yom HaShoah, which Wiesel thought should be combined with Tisha B’Av — Rubin said Wiesel was very profound.

“He was a real kind of intellectual and also a man who thought profoundly and deeply about your time and place in space and what you’re supposed to do, and you sensed that when you were with him,” Rubin said. “He wrote books about Chasidic masters and their legends, and he was very much into mysticism, which asked the eternal question of why the hell we’re here were anyway … To say he was thoughtful is a bit like saying the sun is warm.”

Rubin said he admired Wiesel’s not being afraid to criticize Israel, which he said Wiesel did in private sometimes, and that he spoke out about other atrocities around the world such as in Sudan and Biafra.

“[That] was his way of saying we don’t own suffering, which a lot of Jews think we do, and they’re wrong,” Rubin said.

To Baltimore resident and Holocaust survivor Morris Rosen, Wiesel was a friend.

“He all the time called me ‘dearest friend Morris,’” Rosen, who first met Wiesel in the 1980s, said. “It was an honor.”

Rosen, 93, said it was how Wiesel spoke and what a mensch he was that made him such an icon.

“[He cared about] not only what happened in the Holocaust, but he took up wherever [injustice] was done; he was there,” Rosen said.

Abramson said it was how Wiesel told his story that made him stand out.

“There was something about the way he told it and that look in his eyes. Although he probably told the same stories a million times, for him, every time he told it, it was to teach a lesson. I think that’s what it was all about,” he said. “He kept going because I think he felt an obligation to teach lessons. His books taught lessons and taught lessons to avoid it from ever happening again.”

For Howard Libit, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, it is Wiesel’s footsteps in which many of the organization’s efforts follow.

“Everything we do in relation to Holocaust education is essentially an effort to further his message — the teacher institute that we help put on that will be later this summer to Yom HaShoah, the community remembrance, to the tremendous efforts we make to enable survivors to continue to speak to schools across the region,” he said, “In every case, it’s about never being silent, making sure we never forget. That is such an important message, and what we’re doing is dedicated to furthering that.”

State Congressmen Rally for Gun Control

(File photos)

Gun control: ©\BradCalkins; politicians: file photos

Maryland’s Democratic Congressmen gathered in Baltimore on Wednesday, June 29 to underscore the need for gun control two weeks after a mass shooting in an Orlando, Fla., nightclub killed 49 people and less than a week after Congressional Democrats staged a sit-in in attempt to force a gun control vote.

Congressmen Chris Van Hollen, Elijah Cummings, Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes joined local leaders at the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland on the National Day of Action for Gun Violence Prevention in the hopes of continuing to pressure Republican leadership following the sit-in.

“Ladies and gentleman, at some point we have to say enough is enough,” Cummings said. “The thing that really bothered me is when Speaker [of the House Paul] Ryan called what we had done a publicity stunt.”

Cummings directed a message at Ryan to resounding applause — “85 percent of Americans have said, and made it very clear, that those who are suspected terrorists should not have guns … duh. Ninety-two percent said we should have expanded gun checks.”

“It’ s about generations yet unborn,” the congressman continued. “When I ride from D.C. to Baltimore, do you know what I look for? Fresh balloons. And anytime I see the fresh balloons, I knew that someone had recently died at that corner.”

Dr. Leana Wen, commissioner of health in Baltimore, spoke at the event as well: “I’ve seen that bullet traumatize siblings and haunt parents; I’ve seen it destroy their lives. That happens in our communities every day. We are speaking up for what science shows us to be true, that gun violence is a disease.”

Dr. Wen continued, “Why has Congress banned federal funding for research on anything related to guns? Can you imagine if every year, 30,000 people died from Ebola [as they do from guns]? We would be studying it, we would be treating it, we would be doing everything we could to prevent it.”

In addition to the public officials, community members who had been directly affected by gun violence spoke at the event.

Cheryl Brooks, whose son had committed suicide with a gun, shared her story.

“People tell me all the time that he could have chosen another method … but statistics say otherwise,” she said. “People who try other methods and survive get help and usually go on to live productive lives. It’ s hard to say what would have happened had he not been able to get that gun in 15 minutes in Walmart. But I think that had they made him wait, maybe … he would have changed his mind.”