Senator Support

I could not agree more with the Jewish Times’ endorsement of Chris Van Hollen to replace the retiring Barbara Mikulski as our next U.S. Senator. In her many years in the Senate, Mikulski had a very pro-Israel voting record. In contrast, Donna Edwards, who is running against Van Hollen, does not have a favorable voting record toward the State of Israel.  According to The Baltimore Sun, “Edwards’ record on  Israel represents a tangible  divergence from Congressman Van Hollen of Montgomery County, who has supported many pro-Israel resolutions while in Congress.”

Van Hollen has led on many important issues since being elected to the House of Representatives in 2002, and we should support him as our next senator from Maryland.

Shul Memories

As an avid reader of the Jewish Times and as someone who enjoys all references to those Jewish institutions that were so much a part of my youth in Baltimore and were so meaningful, I thoroughly enjoyed the “Past Presence” series (March 11 and March 18).

I was a bit disappointed that I saw no references to the Poppleton Street Shul, which was located near the B&O Railroad Museum. That was my bubbie and zeyde’s shul where we children would participate in the annual Simchas Torah march around the Shul. I  attended day camp at the YMHA on Monument Street, and most of my Hebrew education, athletics, summer camp employment and social life took place at Beth Tfiloh. I can recall walking the four blocks from my elementary school at Garrison and Maine to Hebrew School at Beth Tfiloh and walking with my friends on Saturday mornings to attend services held in the basement, or “Little Shul,” where Mr. Levi and Mr. Steinharter supervised the student leaders of the service — Larry Kaufman and Jay Karpa.

I was devastated when my father, of blessed memory, joined a group of men from Beth Tfiloh in 1947 to start Beth El so that they could sit with their wives during services. Beth El began in a room upstairs from a Read’s Pharmacy on Liberty Heights and Gwynn Oak avenues and held about 40 people. High Holiday services were held in the Gwynn Movie Theatre next door until Beth El established its first sanctuary and Hebrew school at Hilton and Dorithan roads in Ashburton around 1954.

It’s interesting to see that many of the millennial generation are settling in Fells Point and Canton, where their great-grandparents were when they first came. Keep up the great historical references.

Jewish Buildings? Really?

In reference to “Past Presence” (March 11), I find amusing the German Reform temples’ choice of “Americanized”  architecture due to the assimilationist values of these  congregations. It seems that yes, they were Jewish buildings, but you’d have to look hard to prove it.

The only building to display the Star of David so prominently was that of the Eutaw Place Oheb Shalom. Baltimore Hebrew’s facade displayed a tiny star above the doorway with the Ten Commandments as did Chizuk Amuno’s. As these congregations moved to the suburbs, Jewish symbols were practically devoid in place of modernistic geometric designs. Were these new buildings places of worship or spaceships?  The Star of David and tablets are much prominent on buildings of Conservative and Orthodox nature. Why is that?

Deborah Weiner of the Jewish Museum of Maryland mentioned that The Associated’s building was built downtown because it wasn’t known where Jews and blacks were migrating, and they wanted it to  locate in a neutral zone. I find this interesting because The Associated’s building was constructed during the 1930s, when Jews were the majority population in Forest Park and Park Heights. Blacks did not start moving to these areas until the late 1950s at the earliest, so The Associated could have located in either of these areas with no problem.

As a researcher and historian who has read virtually every issue of the Jewish Times from 1919 until now, it  becomes easy to see exactly when these changes took place within the former Jewish neighborhoods. All you have to do is read the ads.

Republican Jews: Beware of Trump

As Donald Trump continues to call for banning all Muslims and walling off Mexicans from entering our country (“Trump’s Reality Candidacy,” March 11), I am reminded of a memorial I saw at the Immigration Museum in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was called the “Wheel of Conscience” by Daniel Libeskind and commemorated the refusal of a safe haven to the ship St. Louis, which was transporting 1,000 European Jews fleeing the Nazis. It had already been turned away by Cuba and the United States. Canada was its last hope, and it too said no.

The memorial is a large clockwork figure on which the main gear “hatred” turns the other gears labeled “racism,” “xenophobia,” and “anti-Semitism.” The Canadians commissioned this memorial to express their regret and shame for the decision they had made, which sent desperate people back to Europe, where 250 of them were killed in concentration camps.

There is no such expression of regret in the United States. Donald Trump and his fellow nominees, in varying degrees, are pandering to a large group of Americans who are akin to  European nativists who spawned Hitler and his regime. I fear  that a similar phenomenon is  happening here in the U.S.

Whether the eventual  Republican nominee is Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, the message is the same: Restrict immigration; stop refuges from entering the US; fear anyone who is not like I am, and call that person un-American.

Passover will soon be here. At Seders everywhere we will be saying some variation of “Remember the Stranger for we were strangers in the land of Egypt.” This appears throughout our Torah; we are meant to take it seriously. It has been our history to wander through the world, seeking acceptance, shelter and support. How can we refuse that to others?

I urge all of those Jewish people who are Republicans to give deep thought before pulling the lever. Is the Republican platform of exclusion,  rejection and fear of the other congruent with your values?  I hope not.

Where Was BJC?

The Maryland Senate voted on March 17 to remove references to the Confederacy from Maryland’s official state song.  No thanks to the Baltimore Jewish Council (“It’s Not ‘My Maryland,’ Your Say, March 4).

Series Didn’t Mention Chizuk Amuno Congregation

While I enjoyed reading the two-part series on Baltimore’s Jewish architecture (March 11 and March 18), a glaring omission was Chizuk Amuno Congregation and the ultra-modern design of its building on Stevenson Road.

Completed in the late 1950s, the original building was  designed by noted New York architect Daniel Schwartzman, who served on the board of  architectural advisers for the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. The cost of construction at that time (1957) was an astonishing $2 million.

Meyer and Ayers Designed Bnos Yisrael

In “Baltimore’s Jewish Architecture Testament to Character, Conviction, Mobility of Its  People” (March 18), the photo of Bnos Yisroel, formerly Har Sinai Congregation, credits Erich Mendelsohn as its architect.

Mendelsohn died in 1953, and the building was dedicated in 1959. This building was in actuality a copy of Mendelsohn’s Park Synagogue in Cleveland, which was  dedicated in 1950 and finally completed in 1953 — the year of Mendelshon’s death.

The architect of Har Sinai Congregation was Meyer and Ayers of Baltimore. I believe that Julius Meyer, one of the firm’s principals, was a member of the congregation at that time.

No More Donations

The JT’s Feb. 26 story “Morally Bankrupt Climate Spells Campus Trouble” is very troubling.  Universities have become bastions of left-wing radical ideologies, and Israel bashing and Jew bashing are becoming the norm.

It is very upsetting when I talk with alumni and listen to them pooh-pooh these heinous developments and intellectualize them away as many Jews customarily do. We are people of the book, so we talk and talk but do not take action.

If you want to oppose these kinds of developments, you can fight with your checkbook.  If you customarily donate to your alma mater or a university that has gone rogue, think about not donating. Think about calling the university and telling them why they will never see another penny from you. Tell them that you are talking with other alumni about what is going at their alma maters. You better believe that money talks.

How Can You?

How can any Jew vote for Donald Trump? (In the JT’s March 11 poll result, 46 percent of respondents said they would vote for Trump). If you are not moved by his bigotry and racism against blacks, Hispanics and Muslims, then remember the words of Pastor Martin Niemöller:  “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Trump is a man whose followers, when they discovered that columnist Dana Milbank was Jewish, sent a barrage of ugly emails that included anti-Semitic slurs about his Jewish girlfriend and referred to him as a “kike communist.” This is a man who on March 6 raised his right hand and asked his supporters to do the same, creating a visual stunningly similar to a Nazi rally. This is a man who lumped the “Federation of Jewish Philanthropies” in with white supremacy groups in an attempt to excuse his failure to denounce David Duke and the KKK’s support of his candidacy. This is the man you say you will support if he is the Republican nominee?  How can you?  How can you possibly?

JT Poll: Horrifying

When I saw the results of the JT’s Poll of the Week question — “If Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump secure their parties’ nominations for president, who would you vote for?” (March 11) — my reaction was one of dismay and horror. While 54 percent of those polled said that they would vote for Clinton, 46 percent indicated that they would vote for America’s 21st-century Haman.­­­­

I don’t have to tell you that Trump’s demagoguery, the hatred and violence that he inspires among his supporters, his gleefully nasty Tweets, his refusal to disavow the KKK and his proposed ban on Muslims entering the U.S. all run counter to Torah, mitzvot and basic Jewish values (not to mention basic human decency). The fact that we the people of the United States would even consider electing this man to be the face of our nation, when two countries — Mexico and the U.K. — already want to ban him, is appalling. But even leaving all of this aside, there is another consideration:  When a demagogue comes into power, he ultimately takes the entire country down with him.  Everybody loses, including those whom he purports to care about.

I lived in Germany for three years from 1994 through 1997. During that time, I had the opportunity to interact with my German neighbors, to watch movies that dramatized Hitler’s last years and to witness my neighbors’ shame, 50 years after the end of the Third Reich. I arrived in Germany knowing all too well the unspeakable atrocities that were committed against Jews, gypsies, gay people, handicapped people, political dissidents and other “undesirables.” What I didn’t realize until living in Germany was just how severely Hitler’s own constituents — ordinary people like you might see at a Trump rally — suffered in the end under the Fuehrer’s barbaric policies, which were supposed to make his country “great.”  Instead of greatness, the German people were treated to massive deaths by bombing, widespread starvation, destruction of cities, rape and the virtual decimation of the male population in pointless battles on the Russian front and elsewhere.

People who loved the Fuehrer, deeply identified with him and saw him as their champion ended up hating him and paying a horrendous price for allowing him to come to power. I had no idea, before my years in Germany, how deeply Hitler betrayed his constituency, the so-called members of the “master race.” I had never thought about it.  If you are a Trump supporter, it’s time to wake up and think: Why would any person, especially any Jewish person, voluntarily vote for Haman?