Stevenson Road Chabad Hearings Focus on Code, Petition

Urban planner Christopher Jakubiak (left) discusses issues with a proposed Stevenson Road synagogue at the sixth Baltimore County hearing over the property. (Marc Shapiro)

Urban planner Christopher Jakubiak (left) discusses issues with a proposed Stevenson Road synagogue at the sixth Baltimore County hearing over the property. (Marc Shapiro)

Hearings continued last week regarding a proposed Chabad synagogue for Russian-speaking Jews on Stevenson Road, with the focus on a petition residents signed in opposition and Baltimore County zoning code.

Since late June, Administrative Law Judge John Beverungen has heard arguments from attorneys  representing those who live in the neighborhood surrounding the proposed site of the synagogue in the 8400 block of Stevenson Road as well as arguments from the defense and expert witnesses. The issues in question are whether the plans have  sufficient RTAs — residential transition areas — which are required to blend the building in with its surroundings and if plans are compatible with a nearly 10-year-old development plan for the property.

Rabbi Velvel Belinsky aims to build a permanent home for his Ariel Jewish Center and Synagogue. The building would have a 4,000-square-foot footprint and an 88-seat sanctuary.

At the fifth hearing, held Wednesday, Oct. 14, nearby neighbor Margaret Presley-Stein spoke about petitions opposing the synagogue development. Signatures collected totaled 638 residents from  426 residences, 394 residences of which are located within the boundaries of Greenspring Valley Road and I-695.

A sixth hearing took place two  days later.

A brochure was available to signatories detailing the opposition and the neighbors’ concern over environmental impact, traffic, pedestrian safety and the synagogue’s nonresidential  nature. Presley-Stein — wife of Del. Dana Stein, who cleared his involved in the opposition with the state  legislature ethics adviser — said a few people declined to sign the petition.

Christopher Jakubiak, an urban planner and president at Jakubiak & Associates, Inc., testified that he doesn’t believe Belinsky’s plan has proper RTA compliance and spoke about several other things that he  felt were out of character with the original plan and neighborhood,  including traffic impacts and possible light posts in the parking lot.

Previous hearings have included cross-examinations of the rabbi, emotional testimony from residents and  testimony from experts in a variety of areas, including planning, zoning code, traffic and landscape architecture.

At the second hearing in August, the defense called land-use and  zoning expert Timothy Kotroco, who cited a zoning code that said  Belinsky’s plans didn’t have to be compatible with the property’s original plan due to how the property was classified by a judge in 2006 — essentially dismantling one case against the proposal,  depending on how Beverungen interprets the code.

The next hearing has yet to be scheduled as of press time.

From Commissioner to Peacemaker Kevin Davis’ first few hours without 'interim' title prove to be busy

BALTIMORE MAYOR - 10.02.2013Kevin Davis’ title may have changed Tuesday night, but he said he plans to continue building strong police-community relations.

Davis was sworn in as Baltimore’s new police commissioner after having served in the position on an interim basis since July following the dismissal of Anthony Batts. Davis’ confirmation was met with protestors who occupied city hall, just as they did last week during the hearings, leading to 16 arrests last week. No arrests were made in Tuesday’s protest.

In a press conference prior to a community meeting in Northwest Baltimore, Davis told reporters he had a productive meeting with the protestors and went over their demands with them.

“We talked about a lot of mutual concerns that we agreed upon,” he said. “But like anything else the problems didn’t pop up overnight. They’re not going to be fixed overnight but we’re moving forward and we had a really productive meeting.”

Davis said he hopes to continue the dialogue with them in a constructive manner.

“A lot of them are high school students, and I’ve got four teenagers at home, so I’m impressed by young people who want to make a difference and who want to be involved,” he said.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, also present at the press conference, said she is grateful for the commissioner’s diplomatic efforts. But she said she would have preferred the protestors express their demands at a public forum she was holding across the street.

“I think it’s a little confusing to me and to others what the real purpose is but I can say that the commissioner and I have made it clear that we’re willing to work with them and the commissioner had a long meeting with them and they have certainly been heard,” she said.

At the meeting, several residents expressed their concerns about crime in their neighborhood, including Stan Fishkind, vice president of the Falstaff Improvement Association. Fishkind, formerly an engineer with NASA, wants the department to invest more in artificial intelligence technology in order to reduce property crime.

“These kind of folks are very predictable, they are understood and they are easily found by artificial intelligence systems,” he said. “I know it’s a tool the department has been using in the past but I don’t know how far along they are.”

Rabbi Karp Sentenced to 22 Years in Prison Clevelander pleaded guilty to sex crimes

Booking photograph of Frederick Martin Karp

Booking photograph of Frederick Martin Karp

Rabbi Ephraim (Frederick) Karp was sentenced to 22 years in prison, and five years of supervised probation upon his release, after pleading guilty to sexual abuse of a minor and a third-degree sex offense Oct. 15 in Baltimore County Circuit Court.

Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Robert E. Cahill Jr. sentenced Karp to 35 years, with all but 22  suspended.

Karp, 51, is former director of  spiritual living at the Menorah Park Center for Senior Living in Beachwood, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland.

Baltimore County prosecutor Lisa Dever, chief of the sex offense and child abuse division in the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office, said the state was asking for a 35-year  sentence for Karp, with all but five to be served in prison.

“We believed he deserved to go to prison for 30 years, based on the fact that two of the three victims in this case were under 18 at the time the events occurred,” Dever said. “But I feel based on the information that the judge had heard from both the defense and the state, the sentences are reasonable sentences.”

Dever said the third victim was 18 or over at the time of the events. She said all three victims were females, but she would not disclose their ages.

Dever said the plea included charges from Cleveland based on events that allegedly occurred at Karp’s home in Beachwood. She said all three victims lived in Baltimore County at the time of the events.

“Cleveland agreed we could take the lead on the prosecution and that we would encompass their events in our plea,” she said.

A criminal trial for Karp had been scheduled for Oct. 28.

Karp was indicted Feb. 23 by the State’s Attorney’s Office for Baltimore County on charges of sexual abuse of a minor, continuing course of conduct; perverted practice; and second- and third-degree sex offenses.

The State’s Attorney’s Office  reported in January that from July 4, 2009, to Dec. 10, 2014, Karp visited a family that he was friendly with in Baltimore County. During those  visits, Karp sexually assaulted a minor female, the office stated.

Karp, 51, was arrested on Jan. 15 at John F. Kennedy International  Airport in New York as “a fugitive from justice” on the warrant issued by the District Court of Maryland,  Baltimore County, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department.

Karp was president of Neshama: Association of Jewish Chaplains until being suspended from that position in January. At the time of his arrest, he was headed to Jerusalem for to the NAJC annual conference.

In 2013, the organization’s national board, which included Karp, was at the Pearlstone Center in Reisterstown for a conference. Baltimore County police said there was no evidence that any incidents of abuse occurred at any local Jewish facilities in the Karp case.

His employment status at Menorah Park was terminated this summer.

Before coming to Menorah Park, he was community chaplain for seven years for the Jewish Federation of Monmouth County in New Jersey, where he founded its joint chaplaincy program.

Karp, who grew up on Long  Island, N.Y., was ordained at the Ayshel Avraham Rabbinical Seminary in Spring Valley, N.Y., in 1998. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and a Master of Social Work in international and community development at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, N.J.

Ed Wittenberg writes for the Cleveland Jewish News.

Marc Shapiro contributed to this report.

State of the City Councilman Nick Mosby gives his take on Baltimore’s issues

In what may serve as a preview for a potential mayoral run, Baltimore City Councilman Nick Mosby presented his vision for the city to the Baltimore Jewish Council Monday night at the headquarters of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. Mosby, at times passionate in tone, spoke on a range of issues including crime, education and urban blight.

He began by noting the historically close relationship between the black and Jewish communities dating to the civil rights movement.

City Councilman Nick Mosby’s initiative to move the police training academy drew a response of surprise from Distrcit 5 Councilwoman Rochelle Spector. (Photo by Daniel Schere)

City Councilman Nick Mosby’s initiative to move the police training academy drew a response of surprise from Distrcit 5 Councilwoman Rochelle Spector. (Photo by Daniel Schere)

“When we talk about those great victories and we talk about what was endured and what was sacrificed, we have to sit back and think about what are the results? What are today’s byproducts?” he said.

Mosby also recalled observations from a trip to Israel in which he visited a kibbutz near Gaza and met a woman whose family had lived there for several generations.

“She pulled this box out and inside was shrapnel,” he said. “And she started to talk to us about the process that takes place when they know a rocket is being launched, how they should act and how they should respond.”

Mosby questioned himself on why she still lived there, but he then realized it was her home and she did not want to leave despite the circumstances. He compared her situation to that of a mother in West Baltimore.

“She wonders [whether she should] send her children out to school or out to play; she’s concerned because over the past couple of months there have been shootings right at the front of her door,” he said.

Mosby said Baltimore is “at a crossroads” right now but said its problems are no different from those in North Philadelphia or Chicago’s South Side.

Mosby emphasized that Baltimore is much more than the images of the Freddie Gray riots in April, which were broadcast nationally and internationally.

That [Red Line] was a Baltimore City thing, but really it was a regional thing. That had amazing benefits for Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County and other surrounding counties. So we need to stop doing this pigeonhole approach of just saying this is Baltimore when no, this the Baltimore metropolitan region.

“Right now, urban decay is as American as apple pie,” he said. “We only want to look at it when it’s in the context of incidents that we see on CNN and MSNBC.”

Mosby’s remarks lasted about 15 minutes and were followed by a question-and-answer session. When asked if he had seen any encouraging partnerships with the city since the riots, Mosby said he had, but that the state had missed an opportunity by not going forward with the Red Line transit project.

“That was a Baltimore City thing, but really it was a regional thing too,” he said. “That [would have had] amazing benefits for Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County and other surrounding counties. So we need to stop doing this pigeonhole approach of just saying this is Baltimore when this is a Baltimore-metropolitan region.”

Mosby was also asked about the benefits of charter schools and responded by praising the city’s public schools but noting that when people start families they often move to the suburbs to take advantage of what they feel is a better set of public schools. He said charter schools help “put a stake in the ground” by providing incentive for families to stay in a certain neighborhood.

“A charter school can carve out a niche for a particular community with particular interests,” he said.

One of Mosby’s current initiatives is to move the police training academy from its current location in the former Pimlico Middle School at the corner of Park Heights Avenue and Northern Parkway to Coppin State University. He said a state-of-the-art facility there would allow officers to undergo training while completing an academic degree.

District 5 Councilwoman Rochelle “Rikki” Spector said in an interview with the JT that Mosby did not give her an introduction to his idea.

“I was rather annoyed — it was about something that is such an important anchor in my community and so important financially — that he didn’t speak to me,” she said.

Spector said the Pimlico facility handles police, fire and canine unit training and the facility at Coppin State would not be able to accommodate all of these.

“I think it makes no sense, it doesn’t have legs,” she said.

Spector acknowledged that Coppin State could benefit from additional enrollment, but that it is the state’s priority, not the city’s.

“Coppin needs occupancy,” she said. “They need to have some tenants, and it’s a state institution that has not met its capacity.”

Mosby has not yet made a decision on whether he will enter the mayor’s race but told the JT that he will make a decision in two weeks.

“Whether I travel to East Baltimore or West Baltimore, all throughout the city folks ask me that question all the time,” he said.

Once concerned resident who still has not found her ideal mayoral candidate is Tamu Davenport, who has lived in Penn North for 25 years just behind the CVS that was burned during the April riots. Davenport was in attendance and said she has watched her neighborhood become a “drug haven” in the last six months. She hopes the next administration will make her area a larger priority.

“To me, it’s not about money coming into the city, it’s about what are they doing with the money,” she said. “There was money that was going into the city 25 years ago when I moved into my community. There were promises made. What did they do with the money? It’s about appropriation and misappropriation. And what is the leadership doing? Absolutely nothing.”

The Digital Bridge New technology is changing synagogues

Technology has reached most parts of everyday life, and although some are slower on the uptake than others, synagogues are no different.

Baltimore Hebrew Congregation overhauled its website last month in an effort to communicate more effectively and concisely with its members.

“Our goal is to connect and engage every member of our congregation and to those who are not yet connected to Baltimore Hebrew,” said Andy Wayne, director of communications and engagement at BHC. “While our previous website was informative, it wasn’t user friendly or dynamic.”

Wayne added that the previous website held more than 300 pages and the new one has been reduced to 36. But the advent of newer technology may mean more significant changes in synagogues aside from a better website or new Facebook page.



Wayne also serves as president for the Program and Engagement Professionals of R­eform Judaism, a national organization serving individuals working in communications positions, like Wayne’s, in Reform synagogues. He said that watching how technology is changing within the context of a synagogue is a question they are constantly re-examining.

“[Technology is] changing the type of staff that synagogues need to hire. We need to hire people who are savvy to HTML and social media,” said Glenn Easton, executive director of Chizuk Amuno Congregation. “That’s a position that synagogues are just realizing they need, and generally it requires hiring younger people.”

Easton said he is not as pessimistic about millennial disinterest in organized religion, but he does see digital platforms such as social media as a way to engage younger members in particular.

“I think it’s a way to communicate and engage young people especially with all the responsibilities and burdens people have,” said Easton. “It’s not your bubbie’s synagogue, where you get all the information you need on Shabbat morning.”

Alyssa Geller works at Beth El Congregation and is responsible for managing the synagogue’s social media and website.

“I’m in [the] millennial generation where all we do is use social media to look things up,” said Geller. “I think it is an asset to have someone on the staff who knows how to use social media to get information out to people in a timely fashion.”

Geller added there are still members who depend on physical fliers and publications. However, the younger family demographic, who utilize the synagogue’s school, are also the ones on social media that makes distributing information about days off, events and school notices quick and efficient.

Wayne agrees with Easton about digital platforms becoming more prevalent in synagogues but not about the age of the people synagogues need to hire to manage those platforms. He said that he has many colleagues who are older than the millennial generation but are more than proficient in managing platforms such as Facebook. Additionally, using the platform is only half the job.

“So much about it is not just knowing the technology but choosing the right message. You might have someone straight of out college to work part time for a synagogue to run the
social media,” said Wayne. “And they might know all the different mediums, but they might not know how to convey the synagogue’s message.”

Wayne added that although a millennial voice may connect more effectively with a millennial audience through social media, managing a social media platform comes down to much more than just age. It requires an individual to be proficient with the platform, savvy with marketing and “empathetic to the mission of the modern synagogue.”

Regardless of where technology goes or who synagogues hire, Easton said a digital medium can only go so far.

“There is a barrier between [people while using] cellphones and computers” said Easton. “We’re trying to build community and family. We can only do that by looking at each other face-to-face.”

BJC Debates Iran Policy Members question process in forming statement

A July statement by the Baltimore Jewish Council’s executive committee blasting the Iran nuclear deal was hotly debated at the council’s first meeting of the new administrative year on Oct. 8.

Some BJC members questioned the process by which the statement was written and then released, saying it went against protocol, while executive committee members defended the statement and the procedure of its drafting.

The statement, released on July 27, stated that “the BJC believes that the agreement does not foreclose Iran’s ability to obtain a nuclear weapon and, indeed, could lead to highly unstable conditions in the Middle East and around the world.”

BJC executive director Art Abramson says the executive committee had to act fast. (Kirsten Beckermann)

BJC executive director Art Abramson says the executive committee had to act fast. (Kirsten Beckermann)

“We encourage the President to heed the voices of those that are concerned over this agreement and to negotiate a better deal,” it said. The statement was attributed to the BJC executive committee, executive director Art Abramson and former deputy executive director Cailey Locklair Tolle.

Jo-Ann Orlinsky, chair of the BJC’s government relations committee, said the usual procedure is for an issue to come to her committee, which would then examine it with assistance from staff, discuss the pros and cons and take a vote. The committee would then possibly write a policy statement, which would go to the executive committee, which would in turn approve and edit the statement. The statement then would go to the board for a vote.

“The [Iran] issue has been around long enough. We could have had a government relations committee meeting; we could have called a board meeting. There were other methods,” Orlinsky chared. “The timing was such that it didn’t have to be done [immediately].”

She said she was contacted by several committee and BJC members after the statement came out.

Abramson, however, argued that time was of the essence, and the executive committee felt confident in its statement. With other Jewish communities around the country making their statements and asking the BJC about its position, Abramson said “pressure came” to take a position. Abramson also said it would have been difficult to have a board meeting in the summer.

My feeling was that the people on the executive committee who made this statement and were in favor of the position didn’t give the other side a chance … to state their position and cast a vote.

“Yes, they could have called a board meeting, [but] the feeling was since they believed very strongly there was a consensus to oppose [the deal] based upon the concerns that were raised in the winter and spring, this is how it would come out anyway,” he explained. “With the desire and need for speed, the statement was made.”

Abramson said various ideas were discussed, but ultimately the executive committee worked with lay leadership and AIPAC to craft its policy. The executive committee voted in a phone conversation to move forward with the statement. While there are eight positions on the committee, two are vacant; one member, immediate past president Rabbi Ron Shulman, abstained from voting, but the other five members voted in favor of the position.

At the meeting on Oct. 8, second vice president Yehuda Neuberger mentioned that the views of Israeli politicians, many of whom are opposed to the deal, weighed heavily in the decision-making.

BJC president Lainy LeBow-Sachs said the organization was being pressured by AIPAC to get the statement out as quickly as possible. She also noted that the board was seemingly in agreement about the Iran deal when it was discussed before the summer but understands the concerns of Orlinsky and others.

“I think the concerns are very valid, but had there been more time and it wasn’t a rush kind of thing, we could have had a board meeting,” LeBow-Sachs said.

The BJC will reassess the process by which the statement was made at the next board meeting, she said.

Orlinsky said she is skeptical about the entire council being opposed to the Iran deal, noting that other Jewish organizations declined to take a position.

“The community, I think, is on both sides of that issue, and my feeling was that the people on the executive committee who made this statement and were in favor of the position didn’t give the other side a chance, whatever the other side was, to state their position and cast a vote,” she said. “We could have called a special meeting of the board.”

Of Orlinsky’s concern, Abramson said: “She may be wrong; she may be right. But nevertheless, the decision was made.”

‘One Step Closer’ HoCo Autism Society hosts annual 5K

The Howard County Autism Society hosts its 9th annual “One Step Closer” walk and 5K race on Nov. 1 at Centennial Park in Ellicott City.

“Autism is a complex condition affecting many aspects of an individual’s life: the ability to communicate [and] one’s education, emotional well-being and social relationships,” said Theresa Ballinger, treasurer of HCAS whose son was diagnosed with autism at age 4. “It’s a spectrum that manifests in different ways. One person with autism may have sensitivity to light and prefer to be in the dark [while others] may have a sensitivity to touch.”

Runners for the 2014 5K, hosted by the Howard County Autism Society, line up for the start of the race. (Provided)

Runners for the 2014 5K, hosted by the Howard County Autism Society, line up for the start of the race. (Provided)

A 2014 study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that one in 68 children are diagnosed showing symptoms on the autism spectrum. Additionally, the HCAS has found that autism affects nearly 700 children in Howard County.

The HCAS, which was started by families in the community 15 years ago, offers support groups, educational resources and other forms of aid to help individuals and their families manage the disorder. The 5K is one of two fundraisers the organization hosts each year, but it also offers a wide range of activities for families that are designed for individuals on the spectrum.

Eric Adler, whose son is on the spectrum, and his family are among those who are active with HCAS and are helping with the 5K.

“Nothing is easy. It’s all about trying to figure out a space where you can get assistance,” said Adler, referring to coping with the disorder. “There are government agencies and there are people who can help with services, but there’s no easy road map.”

Nothing is easy. It’s all about trying to figure out a space where you can get assistance. There are government agencies and there are people who can help with services, but there’s no easy road map.

Students completing school on the spectrum often earn high school certificates instead of diplomas, and those are not accepted by colleges or the military for admission or the majority of companies for employment applications, according to Autism Speaks, a global autism science and advocacy organization. Adler added that even if a student does earn a high school diploma, it doesn’t mean he or she is equipped to succeed in college or maintain employment.

Adler explained that helping individuals with autism gain independence after a K-through-12 education is a major challenge because many services provided to them during that time are no longer available. He thinks the school systems have improved when it comes to helping with student transition, but there is still work to be done.

“I know families with kids who graduated 10 years ago, and there was nothing there [in terms of   transitioning support],” said Adler. “[Schools] are recognizing the problem, but you can only stay in the school system until you’re 21.”

When students age out of the school system and if they can’t find employment, they become reliant on adult services administered through the Developmental Disability Administration. If a student graduates high school but isn’t 21, they face even more challenges, as the DDA requires applicants to be 21 years old.

HCAS also provides resources to help families work with the school system and allows people to benefit from the collective past of others.

“I have a child with autism as do most of our board members,” said Lisa Maiorana, HCAS board secretary. “[HCAS] provides social settings where [your child doesn’t] feel out of place and you don’t have to worry about [his or her] behavior. It helps build their social network as well as broaden your own social network.”

Among this year’s 5K participants will be Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman.

“I’m looking forward eagerly to this year’s Autism [Society] 5K walk and run because I believe there are great possibilities and exciting opportunities to make progress in meeting the challenges of autism,” said Kittleman in a written statement. “If we work together, we’ll reach our goal: better understanding and better lives for the many families touched by this disorder.”

For more information or to register, visit

Hateful Messages Found on Towson Chalkboard

Photo provided

Photos provided

Students found anti-Semitic messages written on chalkboards at Towson University on the night of Oct. 10, according to a spokesperson for the school.

The messages included: “Fascism, Just do it,” “Hitler was right” and “With Jews you lose.”

After photos of the chalkboard were posted to Facebook, both Towson University and Baltimore County police were alerted to the incident.

“The person who did it may think it is funny, but it’s anything but,” said Art Abramson, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, the organization that alerted Baltimore County police.

Abramson said he expects Towson University police to proceed with its investigation as it would for a hate crime.

101615_brief_towson2“[These messages are] attacking Jews; not Israel, which might have a different connotation,” said Abramson.

The area of the university where the messages were found is called Freedom Square, which is designated for students to speak among themselves on a variety of topics.

“The chalkboards are there so anyone can write whatever is on their mind, and [most of the time] it’s positive,” said university spokesperson Ray Feldman. “[But] it’s not a place for messages of hate, and that’s why it won’t be tolerated here at Towson.”


Fight Against Heroin, Opioids Gets a Boost

The Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention announced a new round of grants on Oct. 7, totaling more than $600,000 and issued to organizations and institutions across Maryland to help fight the heroin and opioid epidemic.

Among the grantees is the Howard County Department of Corrections, which received $49,706.

“We must work together across all levels of government to address the epidemic of drugs in our communities,” said Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman in a written statement. “This funding will go toward efforts to stop the cycle of crime through re-entry programs and help keep our neighborhoods safer.”

In Baltimore City, the Family Recovery Program, Inc., which provides peer recovery advocates to work with clients in substance abuse programs, received $100,000.

Other grantees include the Allegany County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Hampstead (Carroll County) Police Department, the Charles County Circuit Court, the Center for Children, Inc. in Charles County, the Montgomery County Police Department, the St. Mary’s County government and the Somerset County Local Management Board.

“The programs we are funding illustrate the scale of Maryland’s commitment to ending the heroin and opioid epidemic,” said Christopher Shank, executive director of the GOCCP, in a written statement. “No community is immune from it. That’s why we are providing these grants to regions in every part of Maryland.”

Umami in Pikesville Announces Closing — Again

(© Patterson)

(© Patterson)

Umami Bistro of Pikesville, according to a sign in its lobby, was to close on Thursday, Oct. 15.

The sign displayed in the kosher Asian restaurant’s lobby read, “Oct. 15 last day close forever.”

In April, the restaurant claimed it would close but never followed through due to issues with its leasing agreement.

Carl Verstandig, CEO and president of America’s Realty, which owns  and operates the Club Center where Umami is located, said via email the restaurant is to undergo remodeling.

Commenters on the restaurant’s Facebook page say it may reopen as a non-kosher restaurant, but as of press time, management from Umami had not responded to requests for comment.

Some on social media said that while the restaurant’s food was good, they had issues with poor service.

— Justin Katz