Local News

Requesting to Grow

‍‍2015-03-27 09:00:33 - כח כסלו תשעה ebrown

The Pikesville Volunteer Fire Company is seeking state funding for renovations to their current building. (File photo)

The Pikesville Volunteer Fire Company is seeking state funding for renovations to their current building. (File photo)

Amid a push for the closure of some Baltimore County volunteer fire departments, the Pikeville Volunteer Fire Company is trying to grow.

The department has requested $500,000 in state funding — more than requested by any other volunteer fire company in the state in fiscal year 2016 — to help it improve its current facilities, located at 40 E. Sudbrook Lane.

“We have plenty of space for our apparatus,” said fire company president Philip Goldsmith. The problem is the firehouse is out-of-date.

When the current structure was completed in the 1960s, it took members less than five minutes to report to the firehouse in an emergency, said Goldsmith. Today, with a much larger Pikesville population and far more traffic than members dealt with in the 1960s, the time it takes for crew members to report to the firehouse is so long that leaders want to expand the number of firefighters who stay at the firehouse at a time.

At least four volunteers are required to get the first response vehicle on the road. The goal, said Goldsmith, is to make the firehouse a livable building.

“We really have to have our people in the building,” Goldsmith said. And with just three toilets and one shower, all unisex, and a meeting space housed in the kitchen, the building in its current state simply does not work.

With a recent large grant from a local community member and the potential state funds, the department hopes to not only allow for more firefighters to stay at the firehouse more often, but to also begin a program wherein college students can live at the house for free in exchange for their working for the fire company. The PVFC receives an average of about eight calls every day, and the help would be extremely beneficial, said Goldsmith.

“We simply do not have the facilities for that” right now, he said. “We don’t even have room right now for a washer and dryer for them.”

The project is estimated to cost between $1.5 and $2 million dollars, but Goldsmith said he is confident the department can raise the rest of the funds from within the community.

We really have to have our people in the building.

“We feel that our mission to the community is important,” he said, adding that the renovations the company is seeking to make are vital to their work.

But in a year marked by cuts and tightened spending, he is prepared for the worst. Volunteer fire companies in Lutherville, White Marsh, Charles County, Harford County and Montgomery County have also requested additional funding.

“It’s certainly going to be a very competitive environment,” said Del. Dana Stein (D-District 11), who is the lead sponsor of the bond bill in the House of Delegates.

But the effort, Stein insisted, is necessary.

“They provide a huge amount of service to the community,” he said. “This [money] will help with the increased demand that they’re seeing.”

If state funds don’t come through, the fire company will simply have to come up with a Plan B.

Said Goldsmith: “We really have no choice but to go forward.”



The Pikesville Volunteer Fire Company is seeking state funding for renovations to their current building. (File photo)
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50 Years of Vatican II

‍‍2015-03-26 12:16:54 - כח כסלו תשעה lbridwell

Rabbi Andrew Busch addresses the room at the 55th annual Interfaith Institute. (Heather Norris)

Rabbi Andrew Busch addresses the room at the 55th annual Interfaith Institute.
(Heather Norris)

Dialogue was the topic Monday at the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation Sisterhood’s 55th annual Interfaith Institute.

The event, which featured a panel discussion from Rabbi Andrew Busch; Rosann Catalano, a Catholic and senior staff scholar at the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies; Sanaullah Kirmani, Islamic scholar and advisor to Muslim students at Towson University; and Rev. Chris Chantelau, pastor of Divinity Lutheran Church in Towson, analyzed the 50th anniversary of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, one of the most important events in the modern history of the Roman Catholic Church.

In addition to allowing for services to be conducted in languages other than Latin, the pivotal gathering of thousands of bishops from around the world from 1962 to 1965 redrew the church’s relationship with other religious groups, including the Jews. Notably, in “Nostra Aetate,” a document that emerged from the gathering, revoked the allegation of deicide against the Jewish people.

“In one brief, dense paragraph, the Roman Catholic Church overturned 2,000 years of teaching,” Catalano, the event’s keynote speaker, told the packed crowd in BHC’s Straus Social Hall. But today, she warned, much of that progress is at risk of being lost.

With much of the world’s Jewish population confined to just a few places in the world, and with the Catholic Church growing steadily in many parts of the globe where there are no Jews to put a human face to the religion, Catalano told attendees, the perception of Jews among the world’s Catholics could easily shift back to include anti-Jewish aspects.

Chantelau agreed, saying that many people in his own congregation have very few acquaintances outside the Christian faith.

“Baltimore is the kind of community where it’s incredibly important” to engage in dialogue between different faiths, echoed BHC’s Busch, adding that the Jewish people have a responsibility to reach out and engage with people of other faiths as well. “We learn [the lessons of our ancestors] by continually going back to the discussion.”

Attendees ran the gamut of religions and included a dozen students bused in from Mercy High School.

Kirmani applauded the Vatican II council’s acknowledgement of Islam as an Abrahamic religion, but observed that the religion has long faced a challenge in its ability to define itself. It took a long time for real Muslim voices to be heard over the numerous scholars and experts in the field of religion fighting to define Islam, he said. And today, with radical extremists dominating headlines all over the world, mainstream Muslims again find themselves fighting to be heard.

“Learn from the other who the other is.”

For Chantelau, the difficulty in dialogue comes in relation to his own religion’s hierarchical structure. Unlike the organized, tiered configuration of the Catholic Church, the lay people — who vote on the church’s position on all major issues — hold a major portion of the power in the Lutheran Church, he said. As such, the official positions of the church often reflect more the popular opinions of the day rather than the religion’s own theological teachings or scripture, he explained, pointing to his own Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s position on Israel, in which the church essentially sides with the Palestinians.

“We like to be in dialogue,” he said. “But there’s some confusion, really, in those positions.”

During a break for lunch, attendees discussed the topic of interfaith relations in groups of fewer than 10.

“It’s difficult to have a dialogue when you’re so isolated in your own congregations,” observed Pat Collins, a Presbyterian attendee.

Panelists faced questions that ranged from how to balance the discussion of similarities with the acknowledgement of differences to how politics influence religious relations.

“Learn from the other who the other is,” suggested Catalano. “Our cities are in chaos because we don’t know how to live with differences. Our world is in chaos because we don’t know how to live with differences.”


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Parakeet Wins Purim Pet Contest

‍‍2015-03-26 12:12:39 - כח כסלו תשעה lbridwell

Ike the Parakeet

Ike the Parakeet

Out of 18 submissions, Ike the Parakeet won the Jewish Times Purim Pet Contest.

The parakeet, owned by Janet Ziffer of Columbia, was pictured on top of a mini-football with the Green Bay Packers logo, in a mini Green Bay Packers sweatshirt and sporting a cheese head hat.

“I wouldn’t have thought in Maryland a bird in a Packers outfit would win,” Ziffer said. “I’m just floored.”

Ike won with 11 votes. Shlomo the Kosher Hotdog came in second with 8 votes and Peepers, a dog dressed in a hamentashen costume, came in third with 5 votes.

Ziffer, who is from Wisconsin and is a Packers stakeholder, got the idea to dress the bird up when her niece, a cantor at Washington Hebrew Congregation, started talking about Purim costumes for her three daughters.

“I had the little shirt thing from a little stuffed bear. The only thing I had to make was the cheese hat,” Ziffer said. “He actually had to wear the jersey because it had a little hood and it kept the cheese head in place.”

The cheese head was made of Styrofoam and yellow index cards. She said Ike was cooperative.

“There probably aren’t a lot of people who dress up their birds,” Ziffer said. “He really is a special bird.”

Ike can say more than 100 phrases, and his voice can be heard on Ziffer’s answering machine.

“My favorite thing for him to say is ‘I love you mommy,’ but he can also say ‘World Champion Green Bay Packers,’” she said.

Visit facebook.com/jewishtimes to view all the pet contest entries.


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Jewish Delegate Hopeful Passed Over

‍‍2015-03-26 12:09:07 - כח כסלו תשעה lbridwell

A Jewish emergency room physician from Arnold who had applied for consideration for the Maryland House of Delegates was not selected.

Ron Elfenbein applied for the post last month to fill a vacant state delegate seat in Anne Arundel County’s 33rd District, which was left open when former Republican Del. Cathy Vitale was invested as an Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge in January. The doctor would have been the only Jewish Republican legislator in the General Assembly. Gov. Larry Hogan chose lawyer and former chairman of the Republican Central Committee Michael Malone to fill the seat instead.

“I’m disappointed,” said Elfenbein, who would also have been the only Republican physician in the legislature. “It just doesn’t speak well for your party when you have not a single Jewish member on your caucus.”

Elfenbein was one of 16 people who applied for consideration for the seat. The Republican Central Committee of Anne Arundel County narrowed the list down to three names earlier this month with a vote. As the recipient of the second-highest number of votes, Elfenbein’s name, along with the winner of the vote, Malone, and the second runner-up, former delegate Jamie Falcon, were submitted to the governor for the final selection, according to Elfenbein.

“After conducting a thorough vetting process, I am confident I have chosen three delegates [to fill open seats in Anne Arundel, Washington and Carroll counties] who will be strong advocates for their respective constituencies,” said Hogan. “I offer sincere congratulations and look forward to working alongside them to advance our administration’s priorities of reducing taxes, improving our business climate, and making it easier for families to live and work in Maryland.”


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Life Insurance Bill Withdrawn

‍‍2015-03-26 12:07:22 - כח כסלו תשעה lbridwell

Legislation that would have forbidden life insurance providers from increasing rates or limiting coverage based solely on an individual’s future lawful travel plans has been withdrawn.

“After discussing several options with members of the Health and Government Operations Committee, I have reluctantly decided that we cannot pass an acceptable bill at this session,” said Del. Samuel “Sandy” Rosenberg (D-District 41), who sponsored the bill.

A resolution that would satisfy the interests of both those pushing for the legislation and life insurance providers seemed possible after the Feb. 26 committee hearing in which representatives from the insurance industry testified that they would be willing to support the bill, provided the inclusion of some amendments.

Upon reviewing the amendments, however, Rosenberg said he could not reconcile both parties’ demands.

The bill “is based upon model language provided by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners,” said Rosenberg. “I have informed the chairman of [the committee] that I will research how this language has been implemented in other states and whether those jurisdictions have considered the changes proposed to [the bill] by the life insurance industry.”

Current Maryland law forbids life insurance providers from using past travel as grounds for raising an insured’s rates or limiting their coverage. Rosenberg said he became aware that future travel was still a legal reason to disrupt coverage when a local insurance agent brought to his attention the case of a Jewish Marylander who was told by his insurance provider that he would not be covered for portions of a trip he had planned to visit his son in Israel.

Rosenberg said that though the bill is no longer on the table for 2015, he plans to continue conversations with committee leaders and insurance industry representatives in the hope of passing the legislation in the 2016 session.


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