Bravo, Everyman!

Everyman Theatre should be applauded (“Have You Heard? New play at Everyman Theatre more accessible than ever,” June 20). This addition not only allows my deaf teenage grandchild to partake of theater, but it is also helpful to the elderly who are hearing deficient. Too bad all local theaters do not have this system.

The Coopers

‘Adequate’ Cardin Not Good Enough

While attending the recent Maryland Attorney General Forum sponsored by the Baltimore Jewish Council, I appreciated hearing about the candidates’ experiences and policy positions. However, I was distressed that Delegate Jon Cardin stated that while he has been in office, Maryland has “adequately” funded education. “Adequate” support, specifically required by the Maryland Constitution, means the legal minimum.

In Baltimore City, we greatly appreciate the state’s support through its groundbreaking contributions to our 21st century school plan to renovate 35 schools and build 15 schools in the next 10 years. A continuing partnership between city and state is crucial to ensure every school is a healthy, safe, functioning and welcoming environment for our children to learn and our teachers to teach. Class sizes are growing, and there are not enough resources for supplies or money for teachers’ raises.

Baltimore City taxpayers support an annual Maintenance of Effort at a cost of $207 million in the upcoming 2015 fiscal year budget. Also in FY 2015: $29.8 million for retiree health benefits; $14.8 million for teacher’s pension costs; $2.8 million for termination leave and contributions for school nurses, crossing guards and debt service for school construction bonds. These add up to 73 cents on the already burdensome city property tax.

Baltimore City Public Schools still struggle just to make ends meet. Our schools have no fiscal flexibility to ensure that successful programs such as the Ingenuity Program have year-to-year sustainability.

While significant progress has been made, I believe that Baltimore City Public Schools require additional monetary investment to ensure our students are prepared for the jobs of the future.

We expect our students and teachers to know that “adequate” is not enough; we expect our state officials to know that as well.

Therefore, because Delegate Jon Cardin believes that there has been “adequate” support for public education on his watch as a state delegate, and the above facts prove that this is not the case, I cannot support him for state attorney general.

On the other hand, Brian Frosh, during the debate, stated true facts and has a long list of proven efforts as a legislator. He has, in fact earned my support for Maryland attorney general.

Rikki (Rochelle) Spector
Baltimore City Council

A ‘Kosher’ Trip?

I am bemused and confused. I read in the Jewish Times that The Associated sent counselors of Camps Louise and Airy to Israel prior to this summer’s sessions to ensure that they would experience a bit of life in the Jewish state and then would be better able to expose their campers to some knowledge of, and feeling for, the Jewish state (“Jewish Camp Counselors Take Birthright Trip”).

These two camps have been under the auspices of The Associated since their inception many, many years ago. They do not now, and never have, provided their campers with kosher meals. This automatically locked all Orthodox children out of the camps sponsored and supported with Jewish money, and it certainly prevented thousands of Jewish children from learning about kashruth. Knowledge of kashruth is certainly as significant an aspect of Judaism as the Jewish homeland.

Sonia Looban Greenspon

Pikesville Community Didn’t Deserve Attacks

I am writing to respond to Jon Herbst’s June 13 letter, “Setting Record Straight on District 2.” It saddens me that my opponent attacked so many of the great people and institutions in Pikesville that work hard every day to make our community a better place.

When my opponent criticizes Pikesville Middle School, he is not simply attacking a brick-and-mortar building, but all of the people who work so hard to make this and every other school a great place. He fails to support the hard work done by our teachers and students every day at Pikesville Middle School. He undermines the efforts of the Pikesville Middle School PTA, the PGCC Education Committee and every involved parent.

Most disappointingly, at a time when we should be celebrating the years of dedication to our children by the retiring Pikesville Middle School principal, Mia Talarigo, she is instead hearing her school and her work constantly demeaned in public. We should all thank her for her inspirational leadership and pledge to support her successor, Diane Richmond, currently the Summit Park Elementary School principal.

When my opponent attacks the local business community, he is not attacking buildings, but the people who work hard every day to make our local business community a success. The Pikesville Chamber of Commerce is an outstanding group. Its executive director, Jessica Normington, and her executive assistant, Ayme Lederman, have brought tremendous energy to Pikesville. Chamber President Marcy Gorman, Vice President Mark Pressman, immediate Past President Steve Cohen and the entire board work tirelessly for our business community.

The Chamber has grown from approximately 200 members to more than 350 members in the last three years, a sure sign of the strength of our Pikesville small businesses. It has launched the Taste of Pikesville, which showcases our great restaurants. David Elkes leads an outstanding Brown Bag lunch series, which allows small businesses to network, exchange leads and support each other’s businesses.

The wonderful Pikesville Farmers’ Market is a tribute to Nick Attias, of blessed memory, who was such an outstanding community volunteer. From the Pikes Theatre to the revitalized old Suburban House site to the new Walgreens and the major renovations at Commerce Center and Pomona Square, it is clear that Pikesville is alive and growing.

Finally, when my opponent criticizes the Foundry Row project as being “fast tracked” he shows a lack of basic understanding. All 296 Comprehensive Zoning Map Process decisions in all seven Council districts, of which Foundry Row was one, went through the same year-long process, including a series of public hearings. All 296 were voted on by the County Council on the same day, August 20, 2012. We should be celebrating the fact that a national leader like Wegmans and visionary local people like Erwin Greenberg, Brian Gibbons, Len Weinberg and Brad Glaser believe so much in our community that they would turn an abandoned factory site into a future anchor of our community. Everywhere I go, people can’t wait for “their” Wegmans to open.

I could go on and on about the positive things happening in our community. There are so many great people, businesses, schools, houses of worship and organizations in Pikesville and throughout the 2nd Council District for which all of us should be thankful. I will continue to work with all of these positive forces in our community.

 Councilwoman Vicki Almond
2nd District, Baltimore County

Pope’s Silence Was Deafening

Your May 29 editorial, “Pope in the Holy Land,” noted that the recent visit by Pope Francis to the Middle East was “a very delicate trip.” Certainly, it was no simple task for the pope to interact with audiences who have such different and competing perspectives. Still, with all due respect to the pontiff, it was disappointing that he did not find time to say a word or two about the mistreatment of Christian Arabs by the Palestinian Authority regime.

His visit to PA-controlled Bethlehem, for example, presented an ideal opportunity to say something about the Muslim actions that have reduced the city’s Christians to a small minority. Likewise, the international community needs to hear the strong voice of Pope Francis speak out about the abuse of Coptic Christians in Egypt, the persecution of Sudanese Christians by that country’s Arab Muslim regime and the mistreatment of Christians elsewhere in the Muslim world.

It’s sad that the pope was silent on this subject during his recent trip to the Middle East. One can only hope that he will soon find the right time to speak out, loudly and clearly, as only he can.

Moshe Phillips
Benyamin Korn
Members of the Board,
Religious Zionists of America
New York City

Setting Record Straight on District 2

I write in response to your article “The Battle for District 2” (June 6), which implies that the county executive and certain developers are supporting my campaign because Councilwoman Vicki Almond didn’t do what they wanted. The real story here is that
Almond accepted over $50,000 in campaign contributions from one developer whose project she fast-tracked. It should not come as a surprise that many elected officials, neighboring developers and small business owners were outraged by this.

What your article fails to appreciate is that all the recent turmoil, lawsuits and competing developer battles in our district could have been avoided had our councilwoman simply done her job. Kevin Kamenetz, in his 16 years representing the Second District, never would have let this situation get out of hand the way it has. Kamenetz used his skills as an attorney to resolve complicated zoning issues. In contrast, Almond takes sides. Zoning decisions are not black and white — for example, the choice was never whether or not to approve Foundry Row, but how to make it work in conjunction with surrounding businesses, residents and infrastructure.

The role of a councilperson is to be a judge and a mediator, not to advocate for or against projects before the zoning process even starts. Kamenetz and Bobby Zirkin have endorsed my candidacy because they see in me the ability to bring people together and resolve complex disputes.

Regarding developer contributions, every viable County Council campaign receives support from developers, and my campaign and that of my opponent are no exceptions. The difference is, I never made any promises to any developer or fast-tracked any project.  I have run a positive campaign and have tried to remain focused on the issues.

Accusations about developer contributions are a distraction from the very pressing concerns that need to be addressed in our district, such as improving Pikesville Middle School and revitalizing the Reisterstown Road corridor.  My opponent’s statement that, in her mind, “Pikesville is alive and growing” underscores just how out of touch she is with our community. On the other hand, I grew up in Pikesville and have witnessed firsthand the decline in our schools and local businesses. I am running for County Council because these issues require immediate attention. We cannot afford four more years of inaction.

Jon Herbst
Democratic Candidate
Baltimore County District 2

Growing a Community of Philanthropists

Empowerment! That’s what Jewish philanthropy is all about.

Many years ago, when I was asked to become the campaign chairperson for the Jewish Federation of Howard County, the first thing I did was talk it over with my husband, Harry. We decided it was our time, and he became my tireless partner in this critical work. The most important message we brought to the community was that if we did our job, we would grow a community of philanthropists. The Federation would be a catalyst for ensuring a strong and vibrant Jewish future in Howard County.

Elliot Shefrin’s June 6 article, “My Federation Journey,” is a clear example of the power of one person. He joined the Knesset Club, a $100-a-month giving group, that Harry Adler founded, and he felt the impact of his personal investment immediately. The Knesset Club has made a significant difference for our community — and it is our hope that if you are reading this and you live in Howard County that you will make today the day that you decide to join us. If you do, you too will be empowered, and your support will work to keep the future safe and secure for your children and their children.

Deborah Adler
Past Executive Director of JFHC
AIPAC Area Director for
Greater Washington
Clarksville, Md.

‘Muslim Bashing’ Is Absolute Insanity

The May 30 editorial deploring “Ugly Muslim Bashing” was splendid. But it did not take matters far enough. It is not simply offensive “to condemn all Muslims because of the hateful views of some” of them.

One of every five individuals on Planet Earth is a Muslim. To go out of one’s way to pick a fight with 20 percent of the world’s population is nothing short of absolute insanity. Accordingly,  those who do — Pamela Geller, Charles Jacobs (Americans for — anything but — Peace and  Tolerance) and The Washington Post’s  Jennifer Rubin, among others — should undergo a psychiatric examination before their vitriol provokes the next Anders Breivik or Baruch Goldstein to trigger a holy war.

Sam Betancourt
York, Pa.

NCJW, HadassahCooperation is Applauded

In the May 9 issue of the JT, Shari Eshet, director of NCJW’s Israel Office, reported the graduation of 13 Haredi women from a program that trains them as early childhood counselors (“Today’s Philanthropy Is More and More about Partnerships”). This project “originated at the NCJW’s Research Institute for Innovation in Education at Hebrew University and is supported by the Hadassah Foundation.”

What a breath of fresh air this is compared to the relationship between NCJW and Hadassah as far back as 1925. The groups’ executives met “to discuss NCJW’s participation in work in Palestine in conjunction with Hadassah.” As the sources inform us, “the NCJW president made it clear ‘that … Hadassah’s work has no place in the program of NCJW.’”

Indeed, cooperation between organizations is vital. We live in an environment in which funds are tight, fewer people are willing to give of their time, yet the opportunities for creativity in helping our people worldwide are greater than ever.

May we always look for these chances and do our best to see that they come to pass.

Rabbi Peter H. Grumbacher
Assistant to the President
Wilmington, Del., Chapter of Hadassah 

Full-Page Ad Hits the Mark

I want to comment and thank the members of the Conservative synagogues for the excellent full-page ad that they placed in the JT on May 23. The ad listed Conservative synagogues that opposed the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations’ vote that would have allowed J Street into their organization. Their opposition and reasons were well taken.

It appears the J Street movement is misled and spoon-fed by modern-day radical Muslim, Nazi, anti-Israel, Arab propaganda. J Street should learn historic facts and truths first, and then its members would be more proud when they see the courage the Israelis have in withstanding injustice and hatred from those who really do not want to co-exist in peace — be they from Iran or Pakistan or from Hamas and Abbas.

I feel sorry for the good Arab people who live in Israel and who have nice homes, businesses, educational opportunities and just want a chance for their children to grow up in a safe and democratic environment.  Unfortunately, it’s their leaders who try to exploit many of them and have made it hard for them to speak out in order to defend their rights in a peaceful forum.

Barbara Bloom
Owings Mills