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‘City College Made Me’

2014-10-29 13:20:57 amotkina
The stage was packed for City’s 175th anniversary, which featured a Hall of Fame induction.

The stage was packed for City’s 175th anniversary, which featured a Hall of Fame induction.

Maryland’s oldes­t public high school, Baltimore City College, turned 175 years old last weekend.

As part of the festivities, City held a Hall of Fame induction ceremony to honor six accomplished alumni. Hosted by college adviser Rodney Joyner, the event was held in the school’s William Donald Schaefer Auditorium. Other events included The Women of City Awards brunch and a gala at Martin’s Valley Mansion.

“These six honorees were once in your shoes,” principal Cindy Harcum said at the induction ceremony. “They walked these halls and sat in your classrooms. One day, you might be on this stage as well.”

This year, the Hall of Fame welcomed assistant secretary of Maryland’s Division of Development Finance and Community Development Administration Frank Coakley, WPI Health Delivery Institute strategic adviser Jay Himmelstein, Big Screen Store owner and business entrepreneur Jack Luskin, WJZ-TV Channel 13 television personality Ron Matz, Deputy Chief Human Capital Officer at the U.S. Agency for International Development Maria Price-Detherage and veteran sportscaster Michael “Mike” Trager.

“The inductee ceremony comes on such a momentous occasion,” said City president Michael Hamilton. “On this stage, we honor six distinguished alumni. I honor our alumni, and I honor all of you: City past, City present, City future, City forever.”

The Friday morning event commenced with a continental breakfast with Hall of Fame members, inductees and guests.

“One of my favorite parts of the whole ceremony is the recognition of the Hall of Fame members. You mean so much to us,” Joyner said.

Himmelstein was thrilled. Working with the late Sen. Edward Kennedy on health care policy and reform, he credited City for providing him a jumpstart in life.

“BCC gave me a window of opportunity,” said Himmelstein. “I loved my time here and am filled with enthusiasm to be back. I am given too much credit as a wrestling star though. It was all about my team.”

Now working on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, he discussed his involvement in health care reform at the ceremony.

“Despite the controversy, we have helped 20 million people get health care who otherwise would not have,” he said. “There is always more work to be done.”

As the “cheapest guy in town,” business owner Luskin said his experiences at City were “the best of times and the worst of times.”

“It was the tale of two cities: just not London or Paris,” said Luskin. “I was born prior to the Great Depression, and lived above a kosher butcher. There were streetcars on Pimlico, and resources were rationed. It was the best of times and the worst of times. Baltimore City College was the best of times.”

Like Luskin, Coakley was thrilled by his education at City. Gazing around the room, he noted the expansions made to the school after his graduation.

“It is unbelievable to me that I was so young when I graduated here and left these halls. You all look a lot better to me. Even the ladies weren’t here yet,” said Coakley. “However, from the great professors to the principal, Baltimore City College isalways in my heart. City forever.”

As the event ended with school anthems “The Castle on the Hill” and “City Forever,” the newly inducted members assembled at the Hall of Fame plaque to see the unveiling of their names.

“I have one thing left to say about City College,” said Luskin. “CCMM — City College made me.”

 

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‘A Worldwide Kitchen’

2014-10-29 13:16:27 amotkina

 

 

More than 1,000 people got their bake on at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore in Owings Mills last week.

Starting at 6:30 p.m. last Thursday, Jewish mothers and daughters bonded over bread at the Great Challah Bake, a prelude event to the worldwide Shabbos Project that was coordinated locally by Etz Chaim: The Center for Jewish Living and Learning. They cracked eggs, pounded flour and braided dough, all in preparation for the weekend global Shabbat celebration.

“Baking Challah is such a great way to mentally prep yourself for Shabbat,” said event volunteer Renee Jorisch. “Shabbat is about bringing the feminine divine presence to your home. I bake challah every week, and I love sharing this emotional experience with the community.”

Challah Bake organizer Rivka Malka Perlman, who led a team of more than 200 volunteers, stressed the beauty of the global challenge to keep one entire Shabbat together.

“We are not just in the JCC gyms, we are in a massive, worldwide kitchen,” said Perlman. “I can feel the walls tumbling down and oceans melting away. I got a message this morning from a Challah Bake in Israel. The Shabbos Project is bigger than us.”

Sponsoring organizations included The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, the JCC and Seven Mile Market. The event began on a high note as people filled their plates with catered food and danced around the baking tables. Exposing many participants to the art of challah baking for the first time, both newbies and seasoned pros joined forces to make fresh dough from scratch.

“I’ve never made challah before, but I am so excited to learn,” said occupational therapist Jessica Gertz. “I am thrilled to be just one person in this global event.”

After showing a Shabbos Project video on huge projection screens, Perlman invited a special guest onto the stage. Frida Granat, 88, came to celebrate with her granddaughter after hearing about the event from Perlman in Seven Mile Market that morning. The Eastern European-born bubbie never dreamed that she would see hundreds of women participate in challah baking without fear.

“I survived Auschwitz,” said Granat. “When we were at the camps, I was told to go in one line, and my parents went in the other. I never saw them again. However, seeing this event all these years later makes me realize how far we’ve come.

Leaving the stage to thunderous applause, Granat joined fellow bakers and rolled up her sleeves. With more than 750 bowls set up, mothers, daughters and friends shared stations as they crafted the perfect loaf.

“I am at a table with my whole neighborhood,” said Melissa Scnidman. “I didn’t grow up observant, so I know both the secular and religious sides of Judaism very well. I am thrilled to share my challah techniques with my neighbors.”

Stay-at-home mom Beth Goldstein looked forward to being hosted by a Baltimore family for the entire Shabbat. Goldstein kept her first Shabbat in Israel. Since then, she’s tried to sprinkle more Judaism into her life by keeping more customs and volunteering with Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.

“I went to Israel for the first time with my daughter last January,” said Goldstein. “I really grew in my Judaism after that trip.” Hoping the Shabbos Project will become an annual event, Goldstein could not wait for the weekend to begin.

“Look at this room. It gives me chills,” said Goldstein. “I think the Shabbos Project is such a unique idea.”  Similarly, Sandra Swerd could not wait to test out her baking skills. Communicating through sign language with her translator, Swerd did not let her lack of hearing get in the way of enjoying the event.

“This is my first time ever making challah, and I was curious to try it,” she said. “I’ve never done it before, and I was curious. I heard that thousands of people came out for the project in South Africa last year. It is incredible.”

From speeches to giveaways, participants and organizers deemed the Great Challah Bake a success.“This is more than I could ever dream of,” said Perlman. “Spreading Shabbat awareness has filled this room with merriment and enthusiasm. We are all united by the idea of Shabbat, and this event was the icing on the cake.”

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Down to the Wire

2014-10-29 13:09:35 ebrown
For Larry Hogan, it’s all about the economy (Provided)

For Larry Hogan, it’s all about the economy (Provided)

In less than one week, Marylanders will pick a new top executive for the first time in almost a decade. Both Democratic candidate Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Republican candidate Larry Hogan have spent the past month making their final push to for the Nov. 4 election.

Although Maryland is historically a blue state, predictions say this race will be a close one — within 10 points.

“It’s not the most exciting campaign,” said John Bullock, an assistant professor of political science at Towson University. “There’s a lot of lukewarm approval of Brown among some Democrats. It’s not this awe-inspiring movement some hoped it would be.” He added that Hogan, a real estate executive positioning himself as a moderate, hasn’t excited the more conservative Republican base either.

Much of the campaigning has highlighted the candidates’ approaches to revamping the economy, with discussions about taxes, public-private partnerships, the regulatory environment and small businesses; education, with a focus on the achievement gap and pre-kindergarten; and crime, with Brown drawing attention to Hogan’s gun-friendly past, among other issues.Even the campaigning itself has become a bit of a campaign issue, with notably negative attack ads coming from the Brown campaign and its affiliated groups focusing on Hogan’s past in regard to gun control and women’s reproductive rights.

“I think it has probably turned off some voters,” Bullock said of the negative campaigning. “One of the things interesting about negative ads is that it can drive the other person’s numbers down, but it can also drive your numbers down too.”

For Anthony Brown, the state’s infrastructure is a top priority. (Provided)

For Anthony Brown, the state’s infrastructure is a top priority. (Provided)

He suspects some who may have supported Brown moved to Hogan’s side because of those ads but added that Brown probably saw success in tying Hogan to national platforms that are not popular in Maryland. Hogan’s recent endorsement by the National Rifle Association, Bullock said, may have upped support from some voters, but hurt his numbers elsewhere. Although Hogan said he doesn’t plan to roll back gun control measures, Brown has used the NRA endorsement, as well as Hogan’s previous opposition to gun control reform, as ammunition.

Max Hilaire, chair of Morgan State University’s political science department, thinks the race could be swung by turnout. Heavily Democratic Montgomery County saw an extremely low turnout in June’s primary election, he said, and in a state where the central counties — Montgomery, Baltimore and Prince George’s — largely determine elections, that could be dangerous for the Democrats.

“Brown has not proven to be a very charismatic candidate,” said Hilaire. He pointed to the recent push Brown has made to reach black voters, a base some may have predicted months ago would have been securely in Brown’s camp. Should Brown be elected, he’d become the state’s first black governor and only the third African-American to be elected to the top executive office of a U.S. state.

Neither Brown nor Hogan, continued Hilaire, has proven to be a candidate many Marylanders are excited to support.

Economy

Hogan has bet his campaign on Maryland’s economy. Citing numerous tax increases under the O’Malley administration, he has repeatedly promised that he will cut government spending and reduce the tax burden on both Maryland residents and businesses.

A vocal critic of Maryland’s recovery from the 2008 recession, Hogan said his plan to reduce the rate of unemployment in the state — Maryland ranks 29th in unemployment in the U.S. — is to focus his attention on making the state more attractive to businesses.

“Job creation is the No. 1 issue,” Hogan said in an interview. “In our economy, 80 percent of the jobs come from small businesses, and we’ve killed 8,688 of them, which is why we’ve lost 200,000 jobs and people are suffering.”

By reducing the financial strain on businesses in the state, he continued, a Hogan administration would bring more businesses to Maryland and, consequently, more jobs. While some of the programs that tax revenues fund are vital to state residents, he said, he plans to find places where funds could be better used and taxes can be reduced on corporations and individuals.

“We believe that targeted tax relief will help put more money into the economy and help bring more revenue in,” said Hogan. “Immediately, we’re going to call for independent, outside audits of every single state agency and department. If we can find where tax dollars are being wasted, we can actually put some more money into the programs where people need it the most.”

Brown hopes to spur the economy through infrastructure investments, general business and industry-specific tax incentives, improving the regulatory environment and public-private partnerships.

Brown announced a $1.5 billion savings plan that includes collective purchasing agreements among state, county and local governments, public-private partnerships, more efficiency in Medicaid and other savings measures.

“My focus would be on things like infrastructure that would include roads and rail, like the purple line and red line, but it would also include infrastructure like schools and data networks,” Brown said in an interview.

Democrat Anthony Brown addressed a campaign rally in Prince George’s County on Oct. 19. (The Brown Campaign/Jay L Baker)

Democrat Anthony Brown addressed a campaign rally in Prince George’s County on Oct. 19. (The Brown Campaign/Jay L Baker)

He added that the business climate could be strengthened through improving the regulatory and licensing environment, which some industries feel is cumbersome.

“We’ve got to work with the private sector to make sure that while we are protecting the environment, and while we are protecting consumers and while we are protecting the workforce, we’re doing it in a way that businesses — in a very cost-effective … efficient way — can comply with whatever regulations need to be in place,” he said.

Regardless of who is elected Maryland’s next governor, there is a finite amount of change the governor’s office can effect on state taxes, said Morgan State’s Hilaire.

“We’ve heard tax promises in the past,” Hilaire said of both candidate’s promises to not raise taxes. The director of public works and the comptroller both have a say in taxes and fees state residents face, he explained, so there is little chance either Brown or Hogan has the silver bullet to fix the problems caused by the recession.

Bullock said Hogan has been right to attack Brown on his promise not to raise taxes — a promise Hogan has also made — when taxes have gone up under Gov. Martin O’Malley’s watch.

“I always cringe whenever I hear a candidate say they’re not going to raise taxes because you just don’t know what the economy is going to be,”Bullock said. “It would be a great promise to make, but probably the best thing a candidate can say is that they’re going to trim inefficiencies and not saying where, because that puts them in a box.”

Education

Legislators in the General Assembly’s 2014 session passed a law expanding access to free pre-kindergarten to more underprivileged children in the state. The move was billed as a step toward closing the vast achievement gap between affluent students and school districts and underprivileged students in low-income areas; an ensuing debate surrounded the goal of eventually affording all Maryland children a free pre-K education.

Republican Larry Hogan visited  Goldberg’s Bagels during a campaign swing through Pikesville on Oct. 26. (Marc Shapiro)

Republican Larry Hogan visited
Goldberg’s Bagels during a campaign swing through Pikesville on Oct. 26.
(Marc Shapiro)

“Pre-K is significant and considered one of the best practices by educators from kindergarten teachers to college presidents,” Brown, who testified on behalf of the most recent legislation, said during the interview. “We know that with a solid early childhood education, kids start kindergarten much more ready to learn.”

His plan includes rolling out a voluntary half-day of pre-K by 2018, which he said can be done with existing resources as well as revenue from expanded gaming in the state, something he expects to increase when MGM National Harbor opens in 2016.

Bullock had reservations about gambling revenue since the new Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore was bringing in less than expected, but either way, universal pre-K will be costly and most likely have to be implemented in phases, he said.

“It can be a challenge when you hang your hat on potential revenue,” he said. “I believe it will pay off in the long run, but how to implement it, that’s a part of the question.”

For his part, Hogan has said that he supports the idea of universal pre-K but doesn’t believe that it is a realistic promise to make. The achievement gap problem, he said, is deep-rooted in the state.

“It’s not just a money problem,” said Hogan. “We doubled spending [on schools] during the [former Gov. Robert] Ehrlich administration, we’ve doubled spending during the O’Malley administration.”

To even the playing field, Hogan said, Marylanders need to embrace things like charter schools. Many people don’t like the concept of quasi-public institutions, he said, but they help.

Another major talking point in the Hogan campaign has been the Common Core educational standards adopted by states across the country, including Maryland. Hogan has repeatedly promised that he would “hit the pause button” on the implementation of the countrywide academic standards that have been a subject of contention since their introduction years ago.

“We can’t be experimenting that rapidly with our children’s education,” he said, calling the launch of Common Core in Maryland — which began last fall — an “unmitigated disaster.”

Though he said he was unsure about what his immediate plan would be after ending Common Core, he pointed out that SAT scores in the state last year were the lowest in years, marking the first time the state fell below the national average in scoring.

The most effective role the governor’s office can take in closing the achievement gap in Maryland’s schools, said Hilaire, is addressing the issues many  struggling children face at home. By focusing on reducing poverty and making resources available to low-income children, the next governor can increase the odds of children making the most of their education, but much of the details are up to the local school districts, said Hilaire, even with the Common Core standards adopted in Maryland.

“Education is a local, jurisdictional matter,” he said. “It’s based strictly of property taxes and it’s up to the county executive and the mayor to appoint someone who is an effective leader to change the focus.”.

Also, read “Cardin, Franchot Endorse Jalisi.

Crime

Linking much of the state’s crime problem to a larger drug problem in Maryland, Hogan declared that he would, upon election, immediately declare a statewide state of emergency in order to address the heroin situation.

Another portion of Hogan’s plan to address crime in Maryland is to reorganize Maryland’s gun laws. When pushed on his stance on gun control earlier this month, he said that he believed Maryland’s laws passed in 2013 didn’t address the problem from the right angle. While the Firearms Safety Act of 2013 mandates fingerprinting, licensing and a background check before anyone can walk out of a Maryland store with a gun, Hogan wants instant point of sale background checks and for the state to connect with a national database that tracks those with a history of mental health problems.

The 2013 bill sounded good, said Hogan, but it didn’t go far enough in addressing criminal history and mental health history.

Brown said there are two areas the governor can focus on to address crime. One of those pieces is implementing law enforcement strategies that have local municipalities partnering with state police in information sharing, but also having uniformed state troopers helping local police forces.

He would also like to take steps to further reduce recidivism in Maryland, which was reduced from 50 percent to 40 percent in the last four years, but still lags behind the 20 percent rate other states have achieved.

Brown plans to introduce new initiatives to reduce recidivism “that includes things like greater skills training for our inmate population, greater drug and alcohol addiction counseling and treatment, both in the institution and in the community, and some transitional services like housing, like employment,” he said.

mshapiro@jewishtimes.com
hnorris@jewishtimes.com

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The Power of One

2014-10-29 12:40:19 amotkina

The Aleph Learning Institute is bringing in some heavy hitters for its Nov. 10 gala event. According to the organization’s founder and director, Rochelle Kaplan of Chabad-Lubavitch of Maryland, constitutional lawyer Nathan Lewin will deliver the keynote address at “Powering for Success: The Power of One,” while sports agent and author Ronald Shapiro will serve as master of ceremonies.

“From good food to good speakers, this event will be a success,” said Kaplan. “Lewin has presented oral arguments in front of the Supreme Court over 25 times, including three huge cases regarding Jewish religious rights. We are thrilled to have him.”

Beginning at 6 p.m. at the Valley Mansion in Hunt Valley, the event is drawing on experts from such fields as law, science, technology, education, business and medicine to, in the words of Kaplan, “nourish the human spirit through Jewish education.” It will benefit the three-year-old Aleph Learning Institute, which Kaplan launched to assist Jewish men and women on their personal religious journeys. The organization runs Aleph Wednesdays’ full-day learning programs at the regional Lubavitch headquarters in Pikesville.

Kaplan believes that Judaism should enrich both the body and the mind.

“We are interested in bringing different people together from various backgrounds,” said Kaplan. “‘Powering for Success’ is a model community for learning. We want to engage the body, mind and soul and develop the right formula to help adult Jewish education thrive.”

In addition to Lewin and Shapiro, the evening’s speakers include Julia Chang Bloch, founding president of the US-China Education Trust; Leonard J. Attman, a commercial real estate developer and chairman of the board at FutureCare Health; psychiatrist Rebecca Begtrup; and Suzanne Keilson, an associate dean at Loyola University. Israeli hi-tech firm Robo Team will also give a demonstration of its latest designs.

“I was looking for people with a large variety of life experiences,” said Kaplan. “I think our speakers are upstanding individuals who are true experts in their various fields. I didn’t want this presentation to be tunnel vision. I picked a mix of men and women from different backgrounds because I wanted there to be a little something for everyone. We even have robots from Israel. Everyone will have a good time.”

Shapiro is excited about the program.

“When someone is as committed to a cause focused on nurturing the human spirit through learning as is Rochelle Kaplan, it is easy to step up and support her in an effort like ‘Powering for Success,’” he said. “Having the opportunity to emcee a group like the esteemed speakers she has assembled is an honor.”

For more information, go to alephlearninginstitute.org.

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Freundel Had Planned More Student Tours

2014-10-29 12:19:39 amotkina
Police seized a backpack from Rabbi Barry Freundel’s Towson University office that contained several hidden camera devices and SD memory cards, among other contents. The university is investigating if Freundel violated Title IX.

Police seized a backpack from Rabbi Barry Freundel’s Towson University office that contained several hidden camera devices and SD memory cards, among other contents. The university is investigating if Freundel violated Title IX.

A Towson University senior who is taking a class Rabbi Barry Freundel taught prior to his arrest said she and “a couple of other girls” were invited to tour his synagogue this semester.

“I had never planned on doing the mikvah, but going to the synagogue sounded like a cool experience,” Karen Berry, who is a student in the Judeo-Christian Perspectives in Medical Ethics class, said Thursday, Oct. 23, outside the classroom.

Freundel was arrested on Oct. 14 for allegedly setting up hidden cameras inside a clock radio and a fan in the National Capital Mikvah, a Jewish ritual bath next door to his Washington, D.C., synagogue, Kesher Israel Congregation, in Georgetown. He is charged with six counts of voyeurism, to which he has pleaded not guilty. He is suspended without pay from his synagogue and suspended from all faculty responsibilities at Towson.

At least six women were recorded completely or partially undressed, according to charging documents filed with the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Documents filed with the Baltimore County Court indicate investigators suspect that laws may have been broken at Towson as well.

During an Oct. 21 search of Freundel’s office at the College of Liberal Arts building at Towson, police seized a black backpack containing a tissue box with a hidden camera, a clock radio with a hidden camera, computer chargers with hidden cameras, an empty box for a car key micro camera, a photo of nude women, a handwritten list of names, a receipt for a hidden camera, a box of floppy disks, multiple SD memory cards, batteries, charging cables, remote controls, instruction manuals, external hard drives, flash drives, a Dell laptop and a computer bag with a mouse and flash drive.

Citing the sensitive nature of an ongoing investigation, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia would not comment on when those materials would be analyzed or if charges would be filed in Baltimore County.

University officials said they have no evidence Freundel videoed students.

“We have to await the finding of the D.C. Metro Police as to what, if anything, they found, and so we have no evidence right now that he’s recorded our students,” said Gay Pinder, a university spokeswoman.

For his part, Freundel’s attorney, Jeffrey Harris, criticized police conduct, saying investigators “trashed” Freundel’s Towson office. He said he did not think additional charges would be filed in Baltimore County.

The day following the search, the university began its own investigation into whether or not Freundel violated Title IX guidelines that pertain to sexual misconduct, university spokesman Ray Feldmann said.

“There are parts of the Title IX law that pertain to sexual misconduct and behavior that creates what’s called an ‘impermissible hostile environment,’” explained Feldmann. A violation would mean Freundel’s actions interfered with a student’s ability to continue his or her education at Towson. “We’re certainly not accusing Dr. Freundel of having done these things, but we’re looking at whether or not he did.”

Several female students contacted the Towson University Police Department and said they visited Kesher Israel on Freundel’s request, some of whom used the mikvah, according to court documents. Feldmann said university officials felt they had enough reason to begin the Title IX investigation based on information from students, which the university has been collecting since the arrest.

He said the university probably won’t make a decision on Freundel’s long-term status at Towson until both the Title IX investigation and the criminal investigation have concluded.

Berry said Freundel, who started teaching at Towson in 2009 as a tenured professor, seemed knowledgeable.“He was very prominent in the Jewish community so I figured he would be a good professor,” she said.

At least a half-dozen other students used the National Capital Mikvah during class trips, according to an unnamed woman who helped Freundel with the mikvah from late 2013 through May, The Washington Post reported. She wasn’t sure if students were recorded but is afraid they might have been, she told the newspaper.

Another woman told The Post that she noticed a clock in the bath area as far back as 2012. According to reports, there was also a fan in the mikvah, and a manual for a fan with a hidden camera was found at Freundel’s home.

Nicole Coniglio, a senior mass communication major at Towson, told student newspaper The Towerlight that she toured the synagogue for a religious studies class she was taking with Freundel. While on the tour, she and other students were asked to shower in the mikveh, and while she declined, two of her Jewish classmates accepted.

Towerlight editor-in-chief Jonathan Munshaw, who is in the same class as Berry, said students came to class the day their professor was arrested and waited about 20 minutes before leaving.

“The arrest occurred in D.C., so even as a reporter, I was, frankly, behind the story,” Munshaw said. He wrote a piece later that afternoon but since removed himself from reporting on further developments. He said the next class was “emotionally draining.”

That class resumed on Tuesday, Oct. 21, with Rabbi Avram Reisner of Chevrei Tzedek, an egalitarian synagogue on Fallstaff Road in Baltimore, teaching.

“At the end, he just said, ‘This is obviously a very unfortunate situation. I’m very disappointed,’ and just opened the floor to everyone who wanted to share their thoughts,” Munshaw said of the new professor.

Reisner said that first day of teaching Freundel’s classes was somewhat difficult, but his job was to get things back on track academically.

“When I walked in, there was a little bit of discomfort among the students,” he acknowledged on Thursday, Oct. 23, after teaching the class for a second time. “Today, I’m teaching a normal class.”

Feldmann said that in addition to gathering information, the university is offering resources to those with questions or who are having difficulty processing what happened.

“A lot of students are very upset, feel like he was a good professor,” Feldmann said, “somebody they admired and looked up to.” While there have been no complaints against Freundel in the past — the university even looked at past student evaluations — and learning opportunities outside of class are encouraged, Feldmann said taking students to the mikvah was “where it would have crossed the line.”

“We encourage our faculty to create off-campus learning activities for our students,” he said. “The mikvah portion of a class trip is something we would not have condoned or sanctioned had we known about it.”

The arrest has gotten Charm City Tribe Rabbi Jessy Gross thinking about the larger issues raised by Freundel’s alleged actions. “My interest is not necessarily to spend too much time debating the abhorrence of the situation, but hoping in instances like this and other recent instances of abuse of power and situations between men and women, that we would use these as callings to have conversations of the deeper issues that come up as a result of when something like this happens,” she said.

As an undergraduate student at the University of Maryland, College Park, Gross took a class on Jewish laws and ethics taught by Freundel in the spring of 2001. She said the class left such a huge impression on her as a student and rabbi-to-be that she would often cite the class and the professor by name.

“Some of the things he taught and some of the ways he taught about how to think about the Jewish people are at the foundation of how I approach thinking about the Jewish people,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to honor him as a teacher for giving me that. It’s complicated, to say the least, and that’ll be true forever.”

To keep that wisdom intact, Gross is separating the teachings and values she learned from the accusations of wrongdoing. But she hopes the community will have conversations about women’s status, power concentration and other issues that have arisen from the situation. “I believe he should have his day in court before we confirm this all happened,” said Gross. “But again, regardless of the outcome, the situation raises questions I hope we want to engage rather than hope will go away and sweep under the rug.”

 

mshapiro@jewishtimes.com

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