Abramowitz’s Statements ‘Blatantly False, Hurtful’

In her Your Say letter of July 17, Janet Abramowitz states that the goal of Stevenson Road synagogue opponents is ”to keep Russian Jews where they belong — out of Stevenson.”  I and anyone associated with speaking up about the proposed synagogue categorically reject Abramowitz’s assertion. It is blatantly false without any foundation and is offensive.

I take personal offense to her assertion. I am the son of Russian immigrants, and I was involved in the effort to help welcome and settle Russian Jews during the 1980s. I have sat on the board of a couple of organizations involved in that effort. As a former Baltimore County councilman I was proud of the County under the leadership of County Executive  Dennis Rasmussen, who fostered and led efforts to settle Russian Jews in Baltimore County.  So that vile accusation of me just won’t stand.

Now to the facts. The opposition to any particular group who would occupy a nonresidential institution at that location on Stevenson Road just south of Keyser Road has nothing to do with the ethnicity or religion of the members of such an institution. It is purely the size and the location of that institution in the neighborhood.  The new construction would be 8,000 square feet; far greater than any home in the neighborhood.  The synagogue is stipulated as having 88 congregants. The size of this building certainly suggests expansion of that number. The synagogue representatives indicated there would be more than a few occasions with events that would attract more than that number. There are 22 parking spaces proposed for the site. In response to the question of what if attendance exceeded the number of parking spaces, the representatives indicated they could park on Stevenson Road, Gardenview Road or Keyser Road. All are single-lane roads in each direction with no curbs or sidewalks — a clear danger to the neighbors but more importantly to the congregants who would have to walk on these streets at night time.  The members of this synagogue should really question the leadership of their own institution for putting them in danger.  If their leadership won’t protect the members, the county has an obligation to do it and reject this inappropriate and dangerous proposal.

This is a proposed nonresidential use in a residential zone. It is totally inappropriate to locate an institution of 8,000 square feet in the middle of a residential neighborhood on narrow roads. It is totally not comparable to the silly example cited by Abramowitz of the “mosque” that was located in an existing building at the corner of a major intersection of Slade Avenue and Park Heights Avenue. There is a traffic light there. There are nonresidential institutions located on two of the other three corners. The fourth corner has a high-density high-rise condominium. Each road is two lanes in each direction at that intersection.

While I and all involved in this effort take offense with Abramowitz’s insulting comments, I can assure all of one thing. The only agenda I and everyone has in this effort is to oppose a nonresidential use in a residential neighborhood that is too big, has too much paving, is out of character with this condensed residential neighborhood and doesn’t have any provision realistically to deal with overflow parking.

I have no idea as to what venal self-interested agenda Abramowitz is pursuing that would require her to make such  hurtful statements.

Abramowitz’s Letter ‘Disregards the Facts’

We wish to respond to the letter written by Janet Abramowitz (Your Say, July 17) regarding our opposition to the proposed synagogue on Stevenson Road. Abramowitz alleges that we are opposing the synagogue to keep Russian Jews out of the Stevenson community.  That is completely untrue and disregards the facts.

As two of the families most directly affected by the proposed development, we are concerned about the development’s impact on safety, the environment and the tranquil nature of our neighborhood. These reasons are fully described on our website friendsofstevensonroad.org.

Our concerns apply equally regardless of the religion or country of origin of the proponents of the development.  Frankly, to suggest otherwise is defamatory. The 2006 development plan for the properties at issue calls for a residential use and not an institutional use that will have major parking, safety, environmental and other impacts on the community.  These reasons are why we are joined by hundreds of Stevenson-area residents (of all religions and ethnicities) who have signed a petition in opposition to the proposed development.

Support Accord; Peace Depends on It

A historic accord has been achieved between Iran and the world’s major powers including the United States.  This accord ensures, through vigorous surveillance, that Iran will not make a nuclear weapon.  The existence of such a weapon would destroy the balance of power in the Middle East and launch us into yet another war.

We hope that Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Reps. Chris Van Hollen, Elijah Cummings, John Delaney, Steny Hoyer, Donna Edwards, John Sarbanes, “Dutch” Ruppersberger and Andy Harris will vote in September to support this historic accord and help make the world a safer place.

Negative votes could threaten the peace and wind up turning the United States into a Divided States — weak and ridiculous on the world stage. We hope our members of Congress will also vigorously lobby for this accord so that political gamesmanship and spite don’t destroy this powerful peace initiative.

The Friends Committee on National Legislation has more on how we all can prepare for the biggest war or peace vote of the year: fcnl.org/iran.

Abramowitz Letter ‘Downright Insulting’

Janet Abramowitz of Baltimore is entirely misled in her declaration that residents of the Stevenson community wish “to keep Russian Jews where they belong — out of Stevenson” (Your Say, July 17). I find this remark uninformed and downright insulting.

My family has resided in Stevenson since 1960. In the years since, we have seen a major rise in traffic congestion without the benefit of sidewalks, traffic lights or wider roads. This location is further diminished by blind spots and curves deeming it unsafe for pedestrians. I’m opposed to any institution, religious or otherwise, being located in a residential neighborhood that is not able to handle the repercussions of its environmental impact on the community.

Raising Wages Is Big First Step

President Barack Obama has spent much of his presidency getting our nation out of a deep economic crisis. Now we have an economy where the GDP is up and the stock market is up, but wages remain flat — and this has happened again and again since the 1970s. Once again, America is emerging from an economic crisis, but those of us who count on paychecks are not. And that’s not an accident. Workers are being held down on purpose.

Since the 1980s, the growing political power of the wealthiest among us has rewritten our labor laws, our trade laws, our tax laws, our monetary policies, our fiscal policies, our financial regulations — all to push wages down and to increase corporate profits, to put speculation over private investment and tax cuts over public investment.

The problem of income inequality and stagnant wages is so clear, so abundant, that only direct, sweeping action to change the rules will put our nation on a fresh path of progress. We are hungry for a path to a prosperous 21st century. And America’s workers know that the first step on that path is raising wages.

Great Memories of Carlin’s Park

In “Panther Power” (July 10), roller skating at Collins Park in the Park Circle area was mentioned. Did the writer mean Carlin’s Park? I have a photograph from the 1920s showing my father standing in front of Carlin’s as a young boy, and I went to school across the street from Carlin’s in the 1950s. It had swimming, ice skating, roller skating and an amusement park.

Mr. Berenholtz: Take Down That Flag!

My parents live across the street from the house where Carl Berenholtz is flying the Confederate flag (Confederate Battle Flag Comes Under Fire,” July 3). I was shocked to find out that this flag was flying in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in Pikesville. My response when I see the flag, as a Jew, as a queer woman, as a white person dedicated to anti-racist education and action in Baltimore, is anger, and I am compelled to speak out.

People will argue that Berenholtz has the right to freedom of speech, but would we say the same thing and not be up in arms if he was flying a Nazi flag? Would we give him space to voice the redeeming points of the history of the swastika, which is a sacred symbol in Hinduism and many other religions and cultures?

We know that Confederate heritage was linked to slavery and hatred. We know that today it is flown by the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups, who hate Jews almost as much as they hate African-Americans. In fact, the flag that’s been contested and finally taken down in South Carolina was hung originally when Southerners in Congress defeated a bill that would have made lynching a federal crime. It’s been flown and is being flown now as a defiant act against civil rights and as a way to terrorize black people. It should be in a museum.

Putting the flag out now, in Pikesville, just weeks after nine people were killed by a man flying that same flag in an act of terrorism at a black church in South Carolina is just disgusting. While the JT article rightly points out that more than 10,000 Jews fought for the Confederacy, we should no more celebrate their legacy than that of the Judenrat, because both were complicit in serving a violent, racist society in a wrongheaded attempt to insulate themselves from it. If South Carolina State Sen. Paul Thurmond, son of the infamous segregationist U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, can see the shanda in honoring the flag of slavery, so too should we.

To Mr. Berenholtz: Take it down. And to the rest of us: Do not remain silent in the face of a hateful symbol in our community.

Seeking Scapegoats, Not Solutions

When it comes to the fraught Israel-United States relationship, the Zionist Organization of America  (Marc Caroff’s Your Say letter, July 10), as has become its wont, prefers scapegoats to solutions, complete with rhetoric of fear and exclusion.

Not to mention the lies.

Two egregious cases in point: The comment that President Barack Obama’s “hostility and insensitivity to Israel’s concerns, and his disdain for its prime minister, is without precedent in the history of U.S.-Israel relations” is patently untrue. Just ask anyone knowledgeable about President George H.W. Bush’s scabrous relationship with Menachem Begin.

Further, Caroff echoes Oren’s castigation of the president for “forsaking the core principles of ‘no daylight’ and ‘no surprises’”

Wrong! With regard to “daylight,” as Philip Gordon has pointed out: “To take just a few examples, Dwight Eisenhower slammed Israel for the 1956 Suez operation and forced it into a humiliating retreat; Gerald Ford froze arms deliveries and announced a reassessment of the relationship as a way of pressing Israel to withdraw from the Sinai; Jimmy Carter clashed repeatedly with Prime Minister Begin before, during and after the 1978 Camp David summit. Ronald Reagan denounced Israel’s strike on the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq and enraged Jerusalem byselling surveillance planes to Saudi Arabia; George H.W. Bush blocked loan guarantees to Israel over settlements; Bill Clinton clashed publicly with Israel over the size of proposed West Bank withdrawals; George W. Bush called for a settlement freeze in the 2002 road map for peace and afterward repeatedly criticized Israel for construction in the West Bank. In other words, Oren has a point — except in the case of virtually every Republican and Democratic U.S. administration since Israel’s founding.”

When hate wins, it doesn’t take prisoners.

Episcopalians Firmly Reject BDS movement

I was present when the House of Bishops took up the BDS resolution during the Episcopal Church’s General Convention in Salt Lake City the other week (“Jewish Groups Decry UCC BDS Resolution,” July 10).  My fellow JT readers will be glad to know that nearly all of those who spoke on the resolution were opposed to it and that it was defeated resoundingly in a voice vote. Thankfully, there are some mainline Protestant denominations that, like most evangelicals, firmly reject the anti-Semitic BDS movement.

‘Friends of Stevenson’ Shut Door on Russian Jews

Delegate Dana Stein and resident Ken Abel, claiming to be the “friends of Stevenson” and “protectors of the neighborhood,” do not want Chabad in Stevenson (“Hearing On Stevenson Chabad Begins,” July 3). This implies Chabad is an enemy of Stevenson. Would they have the chutzpah to make the same claim and oppose a church on the same site?

Contrast that with the reception of the organized Jewish community to the opening of a mosque in Dumbarton. These obstructionists can give all of the “good” reasons they want. Their real goal is to keep the Russian Jews where they belong — out of Stevenson.