Changing Times

Things are much different today (“United Stand,” Dec. 5). Police now have guns to protect themselves, and major crimes are worse than ever, as most offenders have guns. People who riot are idiots. If a black officer were to shoot and kill an unarmed white man, President Obama would never go on the news. Think about this.

City College’s Nobel Prize Connection

This is in response to the articles regarding the special anniversary of Baltimore City College and its well-known alumni (“Baltimore City College Celebrates 175 Years,” Oct. 10; “City College Made Me,” Oct. 31). I’m sure there are very few high schools in the country that can boast a Nobel Prize winner among their alumni. City can: Martin Rodbell (Class of 1942), who was awarded the Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine in 1994 along with Alfred G. Gilman. Sadly, Martin died on Dec. 7, 1998. I am very proud to be one of his many cousins and to have been his classmate at City.

No Doubt, Maryland Is a Southern State

Morris N. Saks (“Your Say,” Nov. 21 ) clearly is not a native Marylander and lacks a substantive knowledge of American history.

Roy Amadeus (“Your Say,” Nov. 14) is correct: Maryland is very much a Southern state. Saks seems to be unaware of the scurrilous reference to President Abraham Lincoln enshrined in our state song, “Maryland, My Maryland.” Nor is he cognizant of the robust KKK presence in Western Maryland. And if, as he suggests, “the Civil War ended 149 years ago,” how does he account for the exponential surge in death threats made against President Obama vis-à-vis those directed at his white predecessors in the Oval Office?

Not to mention the JT exposé (“Right-Wing Secessionist Wins Council Seat,” Nov. 14) of Michael Peroutka, whose rise to political power in Anne Arundel County gives the lie to Saks’ claim that “to equate us today with the South of the 1800s is an insult.”

Saks is correct in saying that “Maryland actually remained in the Union during the Civil War.” But that was only because there was no way the Union would have allowed a state north of the U.S. capital to break away, leaving Washington cut off from the rest of the Union. Indeed, on Sept. 17, 1861 pro-Confederate members of the General Assembly were arrested by federal troops to prevent any vote on secession.

In addition, were Saks to betake himself down to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, he would find an artillery emplacement at the top of Federal Hill — which is aimed toward downtown Baltimore: a warning to local rebel sympathizers that no trouble from them would be tolerated in any way, shape or form.

A Safe Haven? We’ll Take Baltimore

When the Parti Quebecois took power in 1976, threatening to separate Quebec from Canada, more than 100,000 Anglophones left the province, mostly Jews because of the long history of anti-Semitism in Quebec (“A Safe Haven,” Dec. 5). My husband and I were one of the many who left Montreal in 1978 and never returned. Baltimore is our safe haven. Anti-Semitism is still an issue in Montreal. Maybe there is a comfort in living in a province where the French language is familiar (for the people of France who have immigrated to Quebec). However, anti-Semitism clearly still exists in Quebec.

Chabad, Orthodox? I Don’t Think So

The story of a Chabad-Lubavitch conclave (“Rabbis Unite!” Nov. 28) quoted one organizational official as citing the case of public menorah lightings as illustrative of the “radical change” that Rabbi Schneerson sought to promote.

Truth be told, this is a parade example in which Chabad, while pretending to be Orthodox, is anything but. The mitzvah of lighting the menorah — with a blessing — is on the bayit, the residence, the household (Shabbat 21b).

Unless the Chabadnik has a sleeping bag and plans on sleeping over in the mall, outside in a city park, etc., thereby establishing it as a domicile, this action is halachically bogus.

As a media-savvy publicity stunt, this sort of thing is beaten gold. Religiously speaking, it reeks of self-promotion and is tantamount to a ginormous selfie.

Editor’s Note: In addition to the discussion in the Talmud as to the proper location of lighting a menorah to which the writer refers, various halachic decisors have established the obligation of pirsumei nisa, of publicizing the miracle that Chanukah commemorates; many public menorah lightings base their justification on this principle. That said, it is not uncommon for organizers of public menorah lightings to emphasize that the ceremony should not be relied upon as fulfillment of the personal mitzvah to light a menorah in one’s own home and to provide menorah-lighting kits to those who do not have their own menorahs.

Let’s Not Lose This Important Event

The Baltimore community is in danger of losing a unique and underappreciated event, and few people seem to be aware. The Pearlstone Beit Midrash — the brain-child of Aaron Shamberg, which was developed by Jakir Manela, executive director of the Pearlstone Center, into an event attended by close to 200 people annually — will not be held this year due to funding shortfalls.

The Beit Midrash has been held every year for the past half-decade. It is a weekend event during which participants have the opportunity to attend their choice of around 20 workshops and several keynote addresses focused on the Torah and agriculture.

It attracts a broad range of participants from Chasidic to Reconstructionist Jews; from ardent feminists to black-hatters. I do not believe there is a similar convention focusing on Zeraim, the Talmudic discussions about agriculture, held anywhere in this country. If the Beit Midrash were to be [permanently] canceled, the
research and scholarship that underlie the presentations will be lost and those who have grown from dialogue and collaborative learning will no longer have a vital resource.

More importantly, the Beit Midrash is a unique phenomenon of Jewish unity. Where else do you find Jews of such diverse backgrounds gathering to spend an entire weekend together, united by a mutual desire to understand the messages of the Torah? We eat together, sing together, study together and dance together. Our tradition teaches us that the scourge of disunity has been the catalyst for the destruction of our Temple and its continued absence for two millennia. More than the Torah learning, each day I and many other participants have come away inspired by the display of unity. Friendships are built across the religious divides that plant the seeds for understanding and cooperation that are currently lacking.

As a community we have a mandate to ensure that the Beit Midrash is not canceled and that we continue to gather to share Torah and strengthen brotherhood.

Use Restraint, Not Gun

My father was a park policeman in Boston 82 years ago. He did not have a gun, just a billy club. He told minor crime offenders to leave the park; maybe, and only on rare occasions with major crimes, would he be forced to use his club. If there was a major crime, he called the regular police. Why can’t the police in New York and Ferguson, Mo., do the same?

Wrong Name To This Miracle

There was never an Israeli military operation named “Operation  Entebbe” (“Shalom USA Signs Off,” Dec. 5). The operation to rescue the Air France passengers and crew was called  “Operation Thunderbolt.” It was then renamed “Operation Jonathan” after Jonathan Netanyahu, who was killed during the mission. In this season of celebrating miracles the JT owes it to its readers to at least get the name of this miracle correct.

We at the BZD Mourn with Israel

The horrific slaughter of four rabbis, who were reciting morning prayers in a Jerusalem synagogue, is still one more reminder of the hatred and outrageous actions perpetrated by Palestinian terrorists in the name of Islam (“Horror in Har Nof,” Nov. 21). Equally disturbing are the wild, joyous celebrations that occurred among Palestinians, both in Gaza and the West Bank, who praised this horrendous, vile act.

This has evoked a sharp reaction from the leadership of the Baltimore Zionist District, which has urged the White House to pressure Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian Authority, not only to condemn the growing violence perpetrated by Jerusalem- and West Bank-based terrorists, but also to take concrete measures to de-escalate the climate of incitement created by his speeches and policies against Jews and the Jewish state.

While Abbas issues politically correct statements to foreign media in which he half-heartedly condemns these terrorist acts, this so-called moderate leader issues “greetings of honor and esteem” to mass murderers in praise of their “heroism” and glorifies them as “martyrs.” Such conduct is counter-productive to creating a peaceful resolution of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians but, unfortunately, reflects the policies of the Palestinian Authority’s leadership.

We mourn with all civilized society this senseless slaughter.

Thank you, JT

Every week I look forward to reading your thorough coverage of the Jewish world. I read the heartbreaking article about the funerals of the murdered rabbis (“Horror in Har Nof,” Nov. 21). Many news organizations, even The New York Times, reported thousands came to pay the rabbis their final respects. Even the sad  photo and its caption, “Hundreds of Israelis mourn at the funeral for three of the victims,” did not do justice. Baltimore benefits each week from your award-winning journalism.