Carroll Hospital Honored

SC&H Capital, an investment banking and advisory firm focused on middle market and growth companies, has announced that one of its 2015 deals, the Carroll Hospital Center Merger with LifeBridge Health, has been named a Deal of the Year finalist by the Association for Corporate Growth ñ Maryland Chapter.

SC&H Capital served as the exclusive adviser to Carroll Hospital Center in its affiliation agreement with LifeBridge Health. In this agreement, LifeBridge Health made a commitment to implement Carroll Hospital Center’s strategic plan for growth and advancement in areas such as cardiovascular, cancer, hospice/ home care, surgery, women and infants and outpatient services.

ACG’s Deal of the Year award recognizes the transactions that have taken place over the past year that stand to have the most impact on the economy in Maryland. ACG will announce the winners at its 11th Annual Deal of the Year Gala on March 16, at the Baltimore Museum of Industry. Since 2007, SC&H Capital has represented 13 ACG Maryland Deal of the Year award finalists and the past five winners.

MIDC Welcomes Lipert

The Maryland/Israel Development Center has named Adam Lipert its MIDC’s business development manager.

Adam grew up in Washington, D.C. He moved to Israel, served in the Israel Defense Forces and completed a Bachelor of Arts in government at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzilya. Lipert holds a master’s degree in global security from Johns Hopkins University.

Upon completion of his master’s, Lipert moved back to Israel and was drafted into the Israeli army and served two years as a non-commissioned officer in the Economics and Commerce Department for the Coordination and Liaison Administration for the Gaza Strip. In 2015, he returned to the United States and lives in Washington, D.C.

New Shopping Center Coming to Owings Mills

Hill Management Services, Inc. has unveiled plans for Red Run Station, a 10,368-square-foot retail center at 11050 Red Run Boulevard in Owings Mills. Featuring roadside visibility from Red Run Boulevard and offering up to six retail spaces as well as two pad sites, the Baltimore-based real estate development company anticipates initiating construction on the project this spring with an expected delivery date by the end of 2016.

Red Run Station will feature tenant spaces ranging from 1,500 to 2,100 square feet of space, which are suitable for restaurant uses and retail and service businesses. The shopping center is positioned directly in front of the Your Space Storage facility, which was developed and is managed by Peak Management, an affiliate company of Hill Management Services.

Jazz Alliance Names President

The Baltimore Jazz Alliance has named Ian Rashkin as its new president and Michael Raitzyk as its new vice president. Both officers are active musicians and bandleaders in the Baltimore area, Rashkin on bass and Raitzyk on guitar.

Aside from jazz groups, Raitzyk also leads the band Charm City Klezmer. Robert Shahid continues as BJA’s treasurer and Liz Fixsen as its secretary.

BJA’s mission is to promote and support the growth of the Baltimore jazz scene. The nonprofit produces a monthly newsletter, and its website,
baltimorejazz.com, features a calendar of live jazz through the Baltimore metro area.

Northwest Hospital Launches Expansion

NWBriefLast month’s opening of the redeveloped and expanded Liberty Center building at Northwest Hospital is the first sign of redevelopment at the campus.

LifeBridge Health, the parent company of Northwest Hospital, invested more than $5 million in the redevelopment and expansion of the building, expanding from 8,000 to 13,800 square feet. ExpressCare anchors the first floor with a 4,600-square-foot urgent care center. A pediatrician’s office will open on the second floor, and plans for the third floor are forthcoming.

“As the corridor’s largest employer, Northwest Hospital is the institutional anchor of the Liberty Road communities. LifeBridge Health continues to make significant investments that bring jobs and contribute to the economic vitality of Randallstown and the entire county,” Baltimore County
Executive Kevin Kamenetz said in a news release. “We are especially pleased that their commitment goes well beyond economic health. LifeBridge extends its medical mission to community partnerships and engagement that improve the quality of life for thousands of county residents each year.”

Northwest Hospital also plans to revitalize buildings on Old Court Road across the street from the hospital. While the plans are ongoing, the new and redeveloped buildings could include doctors’ offices, outpatient medical services and administrative departments.

Senate Sponsor Withdraws End-of-Life Option Act

The state Senate sponsor of a bill that would have allowed terminally ill individuals to obtain a prescription to end their lives has withdrawn the bill, effectively killing the legislation in this year’s Maryland General Assembly.

Sen. Ronald Young, a Frederick County Democrat, withdrew the Senate version of the End-of-Life Option Act, saying it did not have enough support to clear the Senate Judicial Proceeding Committee, according to reports.

The House version of the bill, sponsored by Howard County Democrat Del. Shane Pendergrass, had a hearing in the House Health and Government Operations Committee in February. Pendergrass said she will continue to push for the bill in the House this year, and, if necessary, next year, according to The Baltimore Sun.

Young and Pendergrass, along with legislative co-sponsors and advocates, launched a campaign for the bill at a January press conference. Since last year’s “Death with Dignity Act” failed to make it out of committee, a number of changes were made that legislators and advocates thought would
increase support.

Under the bill, terminally ill individuals with six months to live could obtain lethal medication after three requests, including one in private with a patient’s doctor. The individual must have the ability to self-administer the medication.

You Should Know … Lauren Kashan

Lauren Kashan (Justin Katz)

Lauren Kashan (Justin Katz)

Lauren Kashan, a native of Owings Mills, loved dinosaurs so much as a kid that she dreamed of working with them someday. But given the  dinosaurs’ long-ago demise, she discovered a love for some of their closest relatives and launched a satisfying career working with reptiles and amphibians.

Kashan gets to fulfill this dream with Ecoadventures, where she cares for creatures ranging from piranhas and hedgehogs to crocodiles and reticulated pythons, one of which, named Gigantor, is a staggering  22 feet in length and weighs 300 pounds.

Despite her small stature, Kashan is fearless when handling the animals  because “you get back what you put  in with animals,” she said. “If you are  gentle and kind, then you will get that  reciprocated.”

The JT caught up with Kashan, 27, at Ecoadventures in Millersville to learn about why she loves her work and to meet, in person, the 14-foot albino Burmese python, Honey.

How did you get your job at  Ecoadventures?
“I was introduced to one of the owners by a [former] co-worker of mine. I jokingly asked, ‘Do you need a herpetoculturist  [a person who works with reptiles and amphibians]?’ She said, ‘Well, actually we do.’ I had an interview, and I got the job. This was kind of ideal for me, because I get to work with the public, so I utilize public-speaking skills as well as taking care of animals. Normally at a zoo or aquarium, you do one or the other.”

Why the interest in reptiles and  amphibians?
“I’ve had reptiles since I was a little kid. All little kids like dinosaurs except I wanted to work with them. But that’s not [possible], so this was the next best thing. I loved Steve Irwin growing up. I wanted to be like him.”

It looks like a lot has already happened here today.
“Today, we had a [child’s] birthday party. It went really well. The kids were great, which isn’t always the case, but the party was smooth sailing. It’s the preparation and moving animals around which is the crazy stuff.”

How many animals do you care for?
“I take care of 120 animals here and a couple more at home, so seven plus the dog. I had more than 30 animals at one point. Before I started working at zoos and aquariums, I’d [rescue] anything that people would abandon. I ended up with 30  reptiles in my room at my parents’ house.”

This isn’t your average desk job.  What do you like about it?
“I really love getting to teach people something they don’t know. I never thought of myself as a teacher, but I definitely see myself as a champion for the underdog-type animals. I love getting to take a person from being terrified of snakes at the beginning of the party to holding a boa constrictor at the end. That’s one of the rewarding things for me, helping people get over their fear of these animals, teaching them the misconceptions and showing people how cool they are. A lot of people don’t realize that most of these animals aren’t dangerous if you respect them.”

jkatz@midatlanticmedia.com

Past Presence Baltimore’s ‘Jewish’ architecture remains testament to character, conviction, mobility of its people

First of two parts


 

Former Temple Oheb Shalom (Eutaw Place Temple) has been home to Maryland Prince Hall Masons since 1960. (Melissa Gerr)

Former Temple Oheb Shalom (Eutaw Place Temple) has been home to Maryland Prince Hall Masons since 1960. (Melissa Gerr)

To reflect on some of Jewish Baltimore’s architecture is to walk a path through its past. Whether the desired outcome was to culturally assimilate or stay true to faith, to differentiate from other immigrants or simply to embrace the modern, Jews have fervently proclaimed their identity and maintained a strong physical presence in a cityscape that is constantly evolving.

Between the mid-19th to the early 20th centuries, the city’s Jewish epicenter was East Baltimore, home to a growing number of immigrants. German and Central European Jewish immigrants are responsible for the Lloyd Street Synagogue, dedicated in 1845 as the Orthodox Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, the first synagogue built in Maryland and the third-oldest standing synagogue structure in the country.

Its Federal-style design says, “We are now Americans, we’re participating in the white American political history. That was important for every immigrant group,” architect and director of the master of architecture program at Morgan State University, Jeremy Kargon, said.

“It shows how the Jewish community was trying to  express its American identity more than its Jewish identity at the time,” said historian,  author and former researcher for the Jewish Museum of Maryland, Deborah Weiner. “They weren’t hiding their Jewishness but emphasizing their American-ness.”

The synagogue’s façade features a triangle pediment resting on four great pillars that flank the entrance, and there were few Jewish identifiers  on its exterior (no longer visible). But inside it is still rich with Jewish artifacts. Rabbi Abraham Rice from Bavaria,  believed to be the first traditionally ordained rabbi in the United States, was invited to lead the congregation, where there were strict rules in place, noted by Earl Pruce, author of the comprehensive 1993 book, “Synagogues, Temples and Congregations of Maryland, 1830 to 1890.”

“There was a system of fines, such as 25 and 50 cents for talking during services, for chewing, for gathering on the sidewalk in front of the synagogue and for leaving the  synagogue during services without permission of an officer,” the book states.

The fact that the Lloyd Street Synagogue still stands — and is a museum and open for tours — is a testament to those who fought to save it, Weiner said.

When Baltimore Hebrew Lloyd Street members moved north in 1890, the synagogue was sold to a church, but  then in 1905 became Eastern European Orthodox Shomrim Mishmeres, led by Rabbi Abraham Schwartz, who held Talmudic study in its basement and eventually founded the Talmudical Academy in Pikesville, she said.

In the 1950s, long after the Jews had moved out of the area and the building went up for sale, some feared it would be torn down.

“That’s when Baltimore  Hebrew Congregation swooped in, and said, ‘It’s part of our heritage, it’s the first synagogue in Maryland, we can’t let it be torn down,” Weiner said. “Then it got its fourth owner, the Jewish Historical Society [which became JMM], which was started in order to save the synagogue.”

The other significant synagogue on Lloyd Street came about because as German Jews became Americanized, Baltimore Hebrew began leaning toward Reform in the early 1870s — including the abolishment of separate seating for men and women — and there was a breakaway group that started Chizuk Amuno (Hebrew for defenders of faith). That building, erected less than 150 feet south, was dedicated in 1876. More ornate but still Jewishly understated, the brick building façade features a Star of David and the Ten Commandments tablets at the apex of the roof, and the window and door treatments show the Moorish-style influence that became popular for synagogues a few decades later. It’s now home to Modern Orthodox B’nai Israel Synagogue, which acquired the building in 1895 and has a growing membership, including Darren Margolis, whose Lithuanian great-grandfather, Chaim Dovid Margolis, once served as its cantor.

Past Presence

See more photos, click here

 

“I remember when I got married, standing there and thinking I wasn’t too far away from where he was leading services,” Darren said, adding that just last year he celebrated his son’s bris at the synagogue — his son being named for Darren’s father, who had been named for his own grand- father, the cantor Chaim Dovid.

Current Rabbi Etan Mintz added, “In many ways changes have taken place, but it’s about carrying on a legacy. … The story of B’nai Israel is a story of continuity.”

Though these two larger synagogues are important markers of the past, in reality East Baltimore and its surrounding areas, such as Patterson Park and what is now called upper Fells Point, were dotted with dozens of small Orthodox neighborhood shuls, Weiner said, characteristic of how Eastern European Jews congregated in their native countries, and they carried that tradition here. Most are no longer in existence, but Tzemach Tzedek, built for one of the early Lubavitch congregations organized in 1913, still stands at 2120 E. Fairmount Ave.,  although is in significant disrepair. It was dedicated in 1924 and “is a more typical representative of the immigrant shuls, but it didn’t get the special treatment of being preserved like Lloyd Street,” even though there is an effort underway to restore and renovate the building.

Preservation is important to a city and a community because it means “we’re recognizing that we’re part of a continuum, that we’re here  because of what people before us made possible,” said Johns Hopkins, executive director of Baltimore Heritage, an organization that promotes and  advocates for the preservation of historic buildings and neighborhoods. “And in preserving the most important parts, we’re contributing to that line of progress and heritage.”

Preservation has an economic impact on a city, he added.

Millennials are the largest demographic in the workforce, and studies show they decide where to live first and job search after, Hopkins said, and they seek areas that offer  a quality of life that speaks  to them.

“What contributes to that quality of living in Baltimore? Our historic places and our historic neighborhoods are absolutely at the heart of that answer,” he said. “It’s that  history. [A preserved building] is valuable for its own sake, but it has a real economic price tag and component to it as well, that we can use to  distinguish ourselves from other places people might choose to live.”

Hopkins added that preservation of Baltimore’s immigrant history teaches “lessons about assimilation and about community that you might not get from just taking a snapshot in 2016.” He points to the soon-to-be-restored and now listed on the National Register of Historic Places  Hebrew Orphan Asylum building, dedicated in 1875, as an example of philanthropy and service. Now owned by Coppin State University, the castle-like structure stands in West Baltimore on Rayner Street, founded by the Hebrew Benevolent Society of Baltimore on land provided by German Jewish immigrant William S. Rayner.

 

“It shows how the Jewish community was  trying to express its American identity more  than its Jewish identity at the time. They  weren’t hiding their Jewishness but  emphasizing their American-ness.”
— Deborah Weiner, historian and author

“The orphanage wasn’t just a place to put kids whose  parents were dead or couldn’t take care of them, it was really meant to be a full-on training institute so that kids could  go on to the brightest futures  possible,” Hopkins said. “There was education, dance and music. There’s a lot of commonality [among Baltimore’s immigrant groups] and a lot of shared experience that goes back hundreds of years, and the Hebrew Orphan Asylum is a great example of that.”

It’s not only institutional buildings that came to represent the spirit of Baltimore’s Jews,  asserts Hopkins’ colleague,  director of preservation and outreach Eli Pousson, who refers to Lithuanian immigrant Jacob Epstein’s Baltimore Bargain House (now the Nancy S. Grasmick building) —  on West Baltimore near North Liberty street that opened in 1911 — as an example.

Epstein, who began as a street-goods peddler, eventually became the fourth-largest wholesaler in the country and later became a major benefactor of the Baltimore Museum of Art, “would have his agents down at the docks at the  immigration receiving ports, and when Eastern European Jews were arriving, he’d set people up and say here’s the business, here’s how it works, this is how you make a living,” Pousson said, quoting a story heard from Weiner. Epstein’s Baltimore Bargain House represents, in part, “the story of Jews helping Jews in a city [where] there wasn’t necessarily anyone else who was going to help them.”

The Moves North,  More Lavish Tastes

According to Weiner and Kargon, the migration of Jews out of East Baltimore wasn’t en masse. German and Central European Jews moved in the 1890s, and then in the 1920s, Eastern European Jews followed. Three main reasons prompted them, they said. First was a  desire by the German Jews, who had been in Baltimore for decades, to distance themselves from the newly arriving Eastern European Jews because they  no longer felt like immigrants. Financial success for both  immigrant groups allowed the relocation away from “those areas that were considered slums, the decades of well-worn use of houses that were overcrowded,” Weiner said. And finally, as people became more assimilated, they simply chose different ways of life.

“A whole second round of synagogue building began … so by the 1890s there were  several synagogues in the area right below Druid Hill Park,” Weiner said.

Architecturally, ostentation was spurned with the first synagogues in East Baltimore, but “that changes in the 1880s and 1890s,” Kargon said. “[Architectural design] becomes more exuberantly orientalist, and the Moorish style becomes  assigned to synagogues in a certain way” and eclecticism becomes more pronounced.

Kargon holds up Baltimore Hebrew in 1891 (Madison  Avenue Temple, design begun by Charles Carson), Temple Oheb Shalom in 1893 (Eutaw Place Temple), Har Sinai in 1894 (Bolton Street Temple) and Chizuk Amuno in 1895 (McCulloh Street) — all located below North Avenue — as examples of that approach, designed by prestigious architect Joseph Evans Sperry.

“They all represent a single vision of what urban Jewish life meant,” Kargon asserted. “Very middle class. [The archtectural style reflected] they were not interested in religion so much as they were with striving.” They were “all German Jewish, all had money, all willing to relocate to slightly suburban areas in advance” of other populations.

In the early 20th century, areas of the city were restricted to Jews, so they populated those that were open to them.

Associated Jewish Charities (now The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of  Baltimore) was dedicated to assisting Baltimore’s Jews, but during this time of transition, their constituents were straddling many areas of the city: East and Southwest Baltimore and Liberty Heights and Forest Park, as well as Reservoir Hill and Bolton Hill. The African-American population, many living in overcrowded neighborhoods, was becoming economically successful and began moving north as well, Weiner said, and at times the two groups competed for housing.

 

[A preserved  building] is valuable for its own sake,  but it has a real  economic price tag  and component  to it as well.
— Johns Hopkins, Baltimore heritage executive director

“The Associated thought, ‘What if we build [somewhere] and it ends up being in a black neighborhood within three years?’” Weiner said. “They were in a quandary. So they decided, ‘If we put it on the edge of downtown, then it will be in the middle.’ They had raised all this money, and they needed to build it. [Monument and Eutaw streets] was an odd place to put it, and it was controversial. But there was so much population movement happening at the time, they didn’t know which area would end up being black and which would be Jewish.”

The Young Men’s Hebrew Association building (now an apartment building) was built alongside the Associated Charities, (now the Patuxent Institution), a movement started because “in the 1920s there was a lot of concern about the children of Jewish immigrants being lost to assimilation.” Baltimore historian Gilbert Sandler remembers summers he spent there as a child.

Sandler grew up in lower Park Heights, selling newspapers in Park Circle in the evenings. He attended Shaarei Zion (dedicated in 1926 at 3459 Park Ave.) with his family, where he became a bar mitzvah. He and his brother rode the streetcar from home to the Y.

“I took classes as part of summer camp — I loved the model airplane class, but my favorite was swimming,” he said, adding that he and his brother sometimes had coddies and a coke at the cafeteria.

While the YMHA center was built in reaction to the Jewish community’s mobility, the Jewish Community Center in upper Park Heights, built in 1960, was ahead of the curve, said Wiener.

“When [Associated Charities] built the Y they were  trying to follow the Jewish community, but in 1960, they were directing where the Jewish community would grow.”

Next week: The jump across Northern Parkway; seduced by the suburbs; and the burgeoning Orthodox community.

 

mgerr@midatlanticmedia.com

 

Pew Finding on Expulsion of Israeli Arabs Prompts Sharp Reactions

Pew Research released a study of Israeli’s attitudes, which show that a majority of Israelis agreed that “Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel.” (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

Pew Research released a study of Israeli’s attitudes, which show that a majority of Israelis agreed that “Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel.” (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

TEL AVIV — In a survey that spanned politics, religion and interfaith relations, one statistic stood out: Nearly half of  Israel’s Jews support expelling the country’s Arabs.

The Pew Research Center’s study of Israelis’ attitudes,  released Tuesday, had asked respondents whether they agreed that “Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel.” Forty-eight percent of Israeli Jews agreed, while 46 percent did not. Among self-described right-wing Jews,  72 percent agreed, along with 71 percent of religious Zionists.

The figure was inconsistent with the findings of previous studies and provoked strong reactions in a country that sees its Arab minority as proof of its commitment to democratic values and respect for diversity. It has also shined a spotlight on what has been seen previously as a fringe proposal. No party in the Israeli Knesset  advocates mass population transfer, and it has never been seriously discussed as a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The idea that the State of Israel could be a democracy only for its Jewish citizens is unconscionable and we must find a way to address this,”  ­Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said at a meeting with officials of the Washington-based Pew Center. “I believe also that our democratic values are born out of our Jewish faith, a love for the stranger and equality before the law.”

Rivlin called on the public to engage in “soul-searching and moral reflection.”

But Alan Cooperman, the Pew study’s lead author, said support for expulsion comports with other data points in the survey. Cooperman pointed to survey findings that nearly four out of five Israeli Jews say Israel should give preferential treatment to Jews, 60 percent of Israeli Jews believe God gave the land to them, and that majorities of religious Zionists and Haredi Orthodox also feel that Jewish law should be the law of the state.

“You see it really makes sense,” he said. “Support is strongest among [religious Zionists], very high among settlers.”

Analysts say Jewish animosity toward Israeli Arabs has been exacerbated by the recent wave of Palestinian terror  attacks and a government  response that some consider  inflammatory. Rawnak Natour, co-director of Sikkuy, a  nonprofit that works toward Arab-Jewish coexistence, pointed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech decrying “two nations within Israel”  following a January terror  attack in Tel Aviv.

“I think there’s a feeling of fear here that’s strengthened by the political echelon,”  Natour said. “There’s a lack of familiarity of the other side.”

Art Abramson, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, is “alarmed” at the research results and said that “there’s a serious question about the separation of church and state,” and it leaves him concerned for Israel’s security.

“As someone who has worked with the American Jewish community for over 30 years,” Abramson said, “we are very much a tie-in to Israel and related to Israel and associated to Israel on the basis of the kind of Israel that we grew up wanting to see. [That is an Israel that] respects Judaism and being Jewish on both a  religious and cultural basis. And we want to see an Israel that is tolerant of minorities and is democratic. To the extent this study says Israel is moving in a different direction, [and] the American Jewish community should be concerned.”

Abramson continued, “Israel’s best friend in the world is the United States. If Israel was to move to an apartheid state, discriminatory in nature, then my greatest concern is Israel’s security. … These Pew trends have me concerned that there is a growing debate in a right-wing direction, and that is  of ultimate concern to the  security of Israel.”

The Pew finding on expulsion is significantly higher than other recent polls that have sought to measure Israeli attitudes toward coexistence. The 2015 Israel Democracy Index, a survey published  annually by the Israel Democracy Institute, found 37.5 percent support for the government merely encouraging Arab  emigration.

A 2015 poll by Haifa University professor Sammy Smooha found that six in 10 Israeli Jews felt “it would be good for Arabs and Jews to  always live together in Israel.” That survey also found 32 percent of respondents in favor of encouraging Arabs to leave Israel in exchange for compensation.

Israeli pollsters have laid blame on the question itself, calling it vague and misleading. Is the question about  Israeli Arabs, West Bank Palestinians or both? When would this expulsion occur and under what conditions? Would the Arab refugees be compensated?

“It was asked in a very  unclear way,” said Tamar Hermann, academic director of IDI’s Guttman Center for Surveys. “If we didn’t get a majority on a more cautious and less aggressive version [of the question], what happened here? I would say take it with a grain of salt.”

The statistic is a sign not only of extremism, but also of polarization in Israeli society, said Steven M. Cohen, a sociology professor at New York’s Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion who consulted on the Pew study.  Regardless of the exact level of support, he called the figure a “warning sign” for Israeli and Jewish leaders.

“There’s a lot of support for this notion that God gave this land to me — not to them, to me,” Cohen said at a panel discussion of the survey Tuesday in Tel Aviv. “Is there a context in which it seems the authorities are trying to diminish the place of minorities in this country? Is that happening? If that’s happening, then this question becomes very critical.”

The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore’s co-chair of Israel and Overseas Initiatives, Yehuda Neuberger, said in a written statement, “Given Baltimore’s significant efforts to foster communal unity and cohesion, it is concerning to see increasing polarization in Israel. In the last couple of years, The Associated’s Israel and Overseas committee has funded programs that we hope will create a more harmonious and integrated society, and we hope to increase our efforts in that regard. While we are not in a position to change Israeli society, we can work to increase dialogue and understanding and to model communal  behavior that counters the current societal dynamic in  Israel.”

Gardner Aims to Take Her Experience to the Next Level

Betsy Gardner (provided)

Betsy Gardner (provided)

The mayor’s race won’t be the only hotly contested election this season. While a large pool of candidates hope to shape Baltimore’s future as the city’s top elected official, others are vying for City Council seats in crowded races.

Betsy Gardner, who currently serves as the neighborhood liaison for the 5th and 6th City Council districts and as the citywide Jewish community liaison for the City Council president’s office, is running for the 5th District Council seat being vacated by longtime Councilwoman Rochelle “Rikki” Spector. She has worked as a community liaison for the past 14 years, including under the last three mayoral administrations.

She faces Democratic primary challengers Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer, an Orthodox Jewish small business owner and community activist; Derrick Lennon, a transportation coordinator and former president of the Glen  Improvement Association; Chris- topher Ervin, a criminal justice reform advocate; Sharif Small, a small business owner; Kinji Scott, a community organizer; and Elizabeth Ryan Martinez, an attorney. There are no  Republican challengers.

“I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot but have a lot more to accomplish,” Gardner said.

Spector, who endorses Gardner, tapped her to run when she was considering not seeking re-election. Gardner said she wouldn’t have run against Spector out of respect, and Spector said she would have run had Gardner not stepped up.

“I just couldn’t take the risk of my legacy not being maintained … Betsy is really so well prepared. She’s the right person for the job,” said Spector, who has partnered with Gardner on various projects over the last 14 years. Spector said she would help Gardner transition into the office.

Gardner, 49, a member of Shaarei Tfiloh Synagogue and Temple Oheb Shalom, moved to Baltimore from her native Charleston, W.Va., 25 years ago. She has worked for H&S Bakery, Alex. Brown & Sons and The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

In her time at the City Council president’s office, Gardner has worked on a number of issues that affect the Jewish community. She has worked on Homeland  Security grants for synagogues and worked in conjunction with the Baltimore Jewish Council to get security cameras installed on Park Heights Avenue. Each year around the High Holidays, Gardner has worked with police districts across the city to make sure synagogues have police coverage.

When Hatzalah of Baltimore, a volunteer medical services organization, formed, Gardner worked with the fire department and mayor’s office to make sure they were linked in to the city’s fire department and 911 system. She helped Chabad with their menorah car parade and public menorah lighting in the Inner Harbor. When the city’s chametz burning outgrew the parking lot at the Engine Company 45 parking lot on Glen Avenue, she helped relocate the burning to the parking lot at the Pimlico Clubhouse parking lot, where organizers starting taking food donations to feed needy families in the area.

She said public safety is one of her biggest concerns, and she expects to see more community policing under Baltimore City police commissioner Kevin Davis.

“You will start to see more officers in the community, and people need to get to know the officers and the officers need to get to know the community,” she said. Gardner and a police officer worked with Rabbi Chesky Tenenbaum, director of the Jewish Uniformed Association of Maryland, to conduct sensitivity training classes for officers and firefighters; the training is in its third year.

Garnder names education as a priority. In addition to wanting to provide affordable early childhood education and daycare, she would like to see the city provide tutoring services and career-related learning opportunities for students as well as expand job training opportunities for students who don’t plan to go to college.

She has been endorsed by the AFL-CIO, the Asian American Merchants Association and Baltimore Construction Laborers Local 710.

While she faces six opponents, including another member of the Jewish community, Gardner is simply focused on her campaign.

“The community knows what I’m capable of doing,” she said. “I think my work speaks for itself.”

mshapiro@midatlanticmedia.com