Baltimoreans Protest, Rally for Trump on Monday

Owen Silverman Andrews believes Donald Trump is regarded as anti-Semitic. (Justin Silberman)

Owen Silverman Andrews believes Donald Trump is regarded as anti-Semitic. (Justin Silberman)

No matter where Donald Trump visits as the Nov. 8 presidential election draws near, appearances from the polarizing Republican nominee always seem to stir up fervent  debate for his advocates and opponents.

That trend held true when Trump visited the Baltimore Convention Center on Monday afternoon to address the annual conference of the National Guard Association of the United States. In his address to military officers from around the country, Trump slammed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for describing his supporters as a “basket of deplorables,” telling the audience that the remark “disqualifies her from public service.”

Hours earlier, dozens of Trump advocates at a nearby rally described the 70-year-old business mogul-turned-politician as the candidate who could best unite the country.

Phil Kaplan, a 37-year-old Jewish lawyer and Towson resident, said Trump would make good on his promise to tighten national security and strengthen protection at the borders.

“There is absolutely no constitutional right to come to America,” Kaplan said, “and if we have to shut down immigration in certain ways for our protection, we may have to. I say that as a lawyer, and we need to do what we need to do for our basic, physical safety.”

Trump protestors, on the other hand, say he is unfit to serve as commander-in-chief in large part because of his lack of experience and short-fused temperament.

Sean Yoes, a journalist and West Baltimore native, said Trump supporters — the majority white with a mix of other races and ethnicities — were not representative of the country as a whole. Also, he does not think Trump’s hard-charging, aggressive rhetoric will solve the socioeconomic, racial and violence issues that persist in major cities with large African-American populations such as Baltimore.

“I simply believe that we have enough issues and troubles in our city without having Trump here stirring up hatred,” Yoes said. “Honestly, after what we’ve been through as a city over the last two years, he wants to make our city a backdrop for his hatred.”

It was Trump’s first appearance in Baltimore since earning the GOP nomination in late July. Addressing the National Guard officers as national  security has become one of the focal points of the presidential race, Trump spoke about beefing up the entire military to help squash threats of terrorism.

A Trump supporter (left) and a Trump protestor argue near the Baltimore Convention Center, where Trump spoke Monday. (Justin Silberman)

A Trump supporter (left) and a Trump protestor argue near the Baltimore Convention Center, where Trump spoke Monday. (Justin Silberman)

“We will empower our generals to do the job they were hired to do, and that begins with defeating and destroying ISIS,” Trump said. “Instead of endless wars, we want a real plan for victory. We will abandon the policy of reckless regime change favored by my opponent, and we will instead work with our allies to advance the core national security interests of the United States.”

Nina Therese Kasniunas, a political science professor at Goucher College, said the visit from Trump had a lot more to do with him portraying a certain image than his message.

“As he comes to cities like Baltimore, he’s trying to show he is expanding his reach to minorities, not just visiting cities populated mostly by working white middle-class men,” Kasniunas said. “It was very convenient for him to visit with him opening his new hotel in Washington, D.C., earlier in the day and then visiting Asheville, North Carolina later in the day.”

More than 100 people stood side-by-side outside the Transamerica Building at 100 E. Pratt St. to welcome Trump. Organizers sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” chanted “U.S.A. U.S.A.,” waved American Flags and encouraged drivers to honk their horns in support of Trump.

Elam Stoltzfus, 66, a real estate agent from Lancaster, Pa., sold Trump hats, T-Shirts and buttons at a roadside table. He said he is the third-largest  independent contributor to the Trump campaign, having spent more than $10,000 while following Trump to 13 different states across the country. All the money he generates through the sales go directly to the Trump campaign.

“He can balance a checkbook,” Stoltzfus said. “He does it every 30 days. The folks in Washington, D.C., don’t have a clue, so I just want to support someone who is going to put Americans first before anyone else.”

On the other side of the street, meanwhile, the Peoples Power Assembly organized a raucous demonstration to denounce Trump, whose adversaries shouted, “Black lives matter,” “Dump Trump” and “Hey hey, ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go.”

Owen Silverman Andrews, a 29-year-old member of the Jewish community who teaches English as a second language, said he has a number of reservations with Trump. For one, Andrews feels Trump has a troubling image that is widely regarded as anti-Semitic, citing the example of Trump stereotyping Jewish business people.

“I just want to call on people here in the Jewish community in Baltimore and elsewhere to get involved,” Andrews said. “This is not someone else’s problem — this is our problem. We shouldn’t be the people of ‘never again’ for us, but we should be the people of ‘never again’ for anyone.”

In heavily Democratic Maryland, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1, the state has not voted for a Republican presidential nominee since Ronald Reagan won his second term in 1988. A poll conducted last week by Annapolis-based OpinionWorks concluded that Trump was trailing Clinton by 29 points in the Old Line State.

Even with Trump making a last-ditch effort to appeal to Maryland voters, Kasniunas isn’t convinced it will be enough when the election rolls around.

“I still don’t think Trump will generate much support from voters in Maryland despite the visit,” Kasniunas said. “For him, it’s all about getting as much support from outside his core constituents as possible and rallying independent voters to come out to the polls for him.”

Updated 9/14/16 from an earlier 9/12/16 post.

‘Beyond Chicken Soup’ JMM’s newest exhibit touts Jews’ contribution to medicine, health

With a collection of Jewish medical writings going back to the sixth century, a view into the back of a real ambulance and a series of interactive screens aimed at furthering a conversation about health care, the Jewish Museum of Maryland’s newest exhibit provides a tour of the Jewish physician’s journey in the United States.

“Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America,” which opened earlier last month and runs until Jan. 16, 2017, walks the visitor through a half-dozen settings named for locations typically associated with the health care field.

‘Beyond Chicken Soup'

The first stop is the “university” that focuses heavily on Baltimore’s prominent Friedenwald family.

Dr. Harry Friedenwald, son of Baltimore doctor Aaron Friedenwald, collected a series of ancient manuscripts containing the earliest Jewish medical teachings and donated them to the National Library of Israel in 1948. He also translated them into modern English.

The room, set up to re-create Friedenwald’s study, contains the manuscripts as well as other mementos such an invitation to a lecture he gave in 1943 in Gilman Hall on the campus of Johns Hopkins University.

The exhibit is not to serve as a hall of fame, said Deborah Cardin, the museum’s director for programs and development. “But we do think being in Baltimore, there are a number of individuals who have contributed so much to medical advancement.”

The visitor then enters the “medical school” section that focuses on the struggles that Jewish students faced when applying for and entering medical school in the early part of the 20th century. This included quotas limiting the number of Jews admitted to doctoral programs across the country.

To combat the quota discrimination issue, Rabbi Morris Lazaron of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, and Baltimore Jewish Council president Leon Sachs contacted universities in Wisconsin, Arkansas and Chicago among other places asking for data on Jewish admissions.

“[Lazaron] sent letters to medical school deans asking for very specific information about how many Jewish students had applied, how many Jewish students were admitted and whether or not Jews were able to find internships in Christian hospitals,” Cardin said.

As can be seen in the letters that have been reproduced, most of the deans replied to Lazaron with the corresponding data backing up his assertion, although Cardin said he received a couple of angry responses suggesting Jewish students were “morally inferior” to Christians.

Cardin explained that education was a form of currency for Jewish immigrant families settling in the United States in the early 1900s, which partially accounts for the early influence of Jewish doctors in Baltimore.

“This was also a time when a medical education was part of the American dream, and that’s why you find this close association with Jews and medicine, and it becomes part of our aspiration to become fully accepted as American citizens,” she said.

The struggle among Jews to rise through the ranks in the medical community can also be seen in the “hospital” section that illustrates the push for a Jewish hospital during a time when hospitals of other faiths were unwelcoming toward Jews.

“In the mid-1800s prior to the establishment of Jewish hospitals, when Jewish patients went to Christian hospitals, they often found themselves at the mercy of a staff that was interested in converting them,” Cardin said. “And so there was a real desire to pull together and establish hospitals within the Jewish community and take care of itself.”

This led to the establishment of the Hebrew Hospital and Asylum in 1868, which later expanded to include non-Jewish patients and was renamed Sinai Hospital.

Among the highlights of this part of the exhibit is the back door of a real ambulance that the museum purchased on eBay and incorporated into the scenery.

“They took a slice off the back and sold the rest for scrap,” museum executive director Marvin Pinkert said.

The ambulance is just one of a variety of artifacts saturating the exhibit that illustrate the journey of the medical profession, including a violin that Dr. Morris Abramovitz played during college to earn money for tuition.

Abramovitz, famous for discovering a method of injecting multiple medications at one time into the body, emigrated from Lithuania in 1901 and opened a practice in East Baltimore serving the immigrant and sailor populations. The “doctor’s office” portion of the exhibit includes a replica of his workspace with a desk, chair, examining table and a scale that was donated by the Davidov family.

Howard Davidov, a retired Baltimore radiologist whose father Nathan was a general practitioner for 45 years, said when he heard the museum would be putting an exhibit together on Jews in medicine he felt his father “ought to be in it.”

“To me, medicine was his life,” said Davidov, one of several Jewish doctors in Baltimore who contributed either funds or artifacts to the exhibit. “He treated patients whether they could pay or not pay. If he made a diagnosis, that was the diagnosis, and this was before CT and ultrasound and all that sort of stuff.”

Nathan Davidov graduated from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 1920 and later completed a residency at Johns Hopkins before opening an office on Eastern Avenue near the Patterson Theater. (His diploma can be seen in the exhibit hanging near Abramovitz’s office). Davidov said his father enjoyed medicine from an academic standpoint but was also devoted to his patients.

“He loved taking care of people, he loved helping people, and the intellectual puzzle of the diagnosis was something he really liked,” he said. “If he got a call in the middle of the night, he would drive to Highlandtown and see patients. They don’t make them like that anymore.”

In the “pharmacy” section, visitors can see and smell a number of remedies, such as cinnamon and mace, that were once used to treat patients. Much of this portion of the exhibit was made possible by pharmacists Neil and Dixie Leikach, who have owned Catonsville Pharmacy since 1999. Dixie Leikach contributed an oral history along with several artifacts from the Maryland Pharmacists Association for which she briefly served as interim executive director.

Among Dixie Leikach’s contributions is a photo of her husband at work in Catonsville Pharmacy. Neil’s father, Henry, was also a pharmacist and worked in the Klotzman Drugstore in downtown Baltimore, which, she said, is a point of pride for him.

Dixie Leikach said, “When somebody decides to do the same thing as their parents, it’s a proud moment.”

While most of “Beyond Chicken Soup” showcases how Jews have advanced within the medical fields through the last two centuries, it also deals with current ethical debates about health care within the public discourse. Visitors are invited to answer questions on interactive displays such as, “Should you be able to choose your doctor based on their religion?” and “Must a doctor speak your language?” The answer choice prompts a pie chart of the cumulative results from all the other visitors.

“One of the inspirations for the exhibit was that there are so many contemporary conversations around health care, so we came up with the solution of embedding content into the exhibit through these touchscreens,” Cardin said.

Aside from the displays, there are also several activities for children such as a dress-up section, where you can put on a white coat, and a matching activity called “It’s all Greek to me,” where visitors are asked to identify a Greek term with the corresponding disease in English.

In the final “fitness center” section, a large wheel called “What’s On Your Plate” is mounted on the wall, and spinning it allows visitors to see what foods people in the United States ate during each decade from the 1900s to the 1990s. The foods progress from creamed cabbage and mashed potatoes eventually to a fresh-looking piece of chicken with vegetables.

“In 1900, doctors advised to steer clear of spicy foods,” Cardin said. “The idea of eating a very bland meal was very popular.”

The amount of detailed information and activities was too much for Davidov to absorb in one visit, and he has since been back several times. He recommends taking your time while there.

“It’s just a very well done exhibit that everybody should go see,” he said.

The exhibit concludes with a slideshow of people of all ages and nationalities in the medical field at work, which Cardin said demonstrates the progress that has been made in health care.

“Is the Jewish doctor still a stereotype that’s really prevalent today? What we come up with is the changing face of medicine,” Cardin said. “And if you look at what the medical field looks like today, it’s a very different place than it was a century ago.”


‘Beyond Chicken Soup:
Jews and Medicine in America’

Through Jan. 16, 2017

Jewish Museum of Maryland
15 Lloyd St., Baltimore

For more information: 410-732-6400 or

A Political Mishegas Iowa Jews experience the spirit of the political season

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed 150 people on Jan. 25 at the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines in Waukee, Iowa. Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are close in the Iowa polls, with the caucus on Feb. 1. (Mike Theiler/UPI)

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed 150 people on Jan. 25 at the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines in Waukee, Iowa. Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are close in the Iowa polls, with the caucus on Feb. 1. (Mike Theiler/UPI)

With the Iowa caucuses less than one week away, the 2016 presidential candidates are making their final rounds throughout the state, and the more than 6,000 Jews who live there are taking notice.

About 150 were on hand at the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines Monday to hear former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton deliver an 18-minute address, much of which focused on the U.S.-Israel relationship and combating terrorism.

“Israel needs a strong America by its side, and America needs a strong and secure Israel by our side — to have an Israel that remains a bastion of stability and a core ally in a region of chaos,” Clinton told attendees, according to the Times of Israel.

Clinton, the favorite in the Democratic primary, is running practically neck and neck with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in Iowa. Sanders, the only Jewish candidate in the race other than Green Party member Jill Stein, is leading Clinton by double digits in New Hampshire, which holds its primaries one week after Iowa, making for a competitive beginning to the race for the Democratic nomination. Yet, those involved in her campaign still feel confident in their belief of her ability to win both states.

“I believe that going into the caucuses we have an advantage in that we’ve done it before; they know what they’re doing, they know how the game is played,” said Scott Sokol, who chairs Baltimore County’s Hillary for President Chapter. “Women tend to be much more significant and powerful in both the Republican and the Democratic nominations. And women are a force supporting Hillary. … So we’re not out of it at all.”

Sokol said that even if Clinton were to lose the first two states, she still has a tremendous advantage in other parts of the country, such as the South, and that the race may be ultimately decided by the so-called super delegates who are free to vote their conscience at the Democratic National Convention this summer, as it was in 2008, when she was narrowly defeated by then-Sen. Barack Obama.

Iowans know everything. I had to know each of the positions each candidate took on issues and why my candidate was the best. And it was so spectacular. I was so overwhelmed to see how they took this whole process. This happens nowhere else but Iowa.
— Scott Sokol, chair, Baltimore County’s Hillary for President Chapter

“She has people from every single state in the country who would die to get her elected,” he said. “She is not out of it if she loses Iowa or New Hampshire.”

Sokol himself is no stranger to the hoopla that is election season in Iowa, having lived there in 1984 while working on the campaign of presidential candidate Walter Mondale as well as that of former Sen. Tom Harkin.

“It was democracy at its best,” he said of the experience. “You have to get people, and they have to be committed. And they have to be willing to come out to the caucuses. The whole idea was to capture as many people as you can. It was very intense. You were on the phone all the time.”

Sokol said he recalled TV cameras almost everywhere he went while working there, and residents he spoke with were particularly sharp when it came to politics.

“Iowans know everything,” he said. “I had to know each of the positions each candidate took on issues and why my candidate was the best. And it was so spectacular. I was so overwhelmed to see how they took this whole process. This happens nowhere else but Iowa.”

Very little has changed from three decades ago, and Des Moines resident Wendy Adato said the four-year election cycle has now become a two-year cycle since candidates usually begin campaigning the year before the election.

“It’s just crazy,” she said. “In the Des Moines Register, there’s a schedule every day of who’s going to be in the state and the times and everything, so if you want to see someone you know where to go.”

Adato moved to Des Moines from Gaithersburg, Md., in 2005 due to a relocation of her husband’s job, making this the third presidential election she’s seeing from an Iowa perspective. In 2008, Obama made an appearance at the firehouse in her neighborhood, which she attended and said was “packed.” It is these small-scale events that she said make Iowa political events more intimate than others.

“You really do get a chance to see them, ask questions, sort of get to know them,” she said of the candidates.

Adato had planned to attend Clinton’s speech at the Federation Monday but was unable to due to another commitment.

Adato’s son, Michael, has also found his way into the political scene, having attended both Obama and Clinton rallies in 2008 while in seventh grade. Now 16, Michael is working as a precinct captain for the Sanders campaign. While he is not old enough to vote, he is responsible for organizing phone banks and canvassing for caucus-goers.

“It frustrates me to no end, which further motivates me because I want to make up for the fact that I can’t vote, and when I meet people who aren’t going to caucus just because they don’t care, I tell them, ‘I would pay you for your vote if I could use your vote for myself,’” he said.

Michael said his top priorities in the election are college affordability and income inequality, two planks of Sanders’ platform.

“I just think it’s not fair that people die because they can’t pay to go to the doctor while Donald Trump is trying to choose which yacht he’s going to take,” he said.

Michael said Sanders has been an inspiration to him and has motivated him to seek a career in politics.

“I don’t want to be a member of a party, I want to be there and fight the systematic corruption of the government,” he said.

Iowa has been won by the eventual Democratic nominee in five of the past seven caucuses in which an incumbent Democratic president was not running for re-election. Heidi Moscovitz, a Bethesda, Md., resident who lived in Des Moines for 13 years, said attending a caucus in 2008 was an eye-opening experience.

“It was really exciting to be there during political times,” she said. “You could meet any candidate you wanted up close and in person, really. I knew I wanted to do it because I hadn’t had that experience. I don’t think a lot of people in Iowa have done it. It’s kind of an odd thing.”

As she was walking toward the Clinton campaign table and her husband was walking to Obama’s, she noticed a particularly dramatic trend.

“As people were talking, you could see them slowly going over to Obama, and the Clinton side of the room was getting smaller and smaller,” she said. “And that’s kind of how the nation went too.”

Moscovitz said she does not typically discuss politics or get involved but mentioned that, as a New York City native, she is excited by the prospect of former mayor Michael Bloomberg potentially entering the race as an Independent.

“He knows how to get things done,” she said. “He’s got a vast amount of money, but he’s willing to use his own money to do things. I know people say he goes a little too far with things like the size of sodas, but I think his heart is in the right place, and he gets the job done.”

Analysis: Race for Maryland Governor

Joe Cluster, the Maryland Republican Party’s executive director, says he is “cautiously optimistic.” (provided)

Joe Cluster, the Maryland Republican Party’s executive director, says he is “cautiously optimistic.” (provided)

Although it is still early, the race for governor of Maryland is already shaping up to be a competitive one.

With nine candidates saying they plan on running, the field ranges from seasoned politicians to experienced businessmen and even to a Baltimore-area teacher, all of whom want to succeed the still-popular Gov. Martin O’Malley.

So far, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Attorney General Doug Gansler, Montgomery County Delegate Heather Mizeur and Baltimore resident Ralph Jaffe have thrown their hats in the ring for the Democratic nomination in the June 24 primary.

On the Republican side, the field consists of Harford County Executive David R. Craig, Anne Arundel Delegate Ron George, Charles County businessman Charles Lollar, former Baltimore City firefighter Brian Vaeth and Anne Arundel County resident Larry Hogan, who served as Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich’s appointment secretary.

Although only one Republican has managed to win a Maryland gubernatorial election during the past 48 years (Ehrlich, who defeated then-Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in 2002), the Maryland Republican Party feels good about 2014.

“We’re cautiously optimistic,” said Joe Cluster, the party’s executive director, adding that he and his associates see a lot of similarities between 2014 and 2002, when underdog Ehrlich defeated Townsend, who had easily won the Democratic nomination on the back of her status within then-Gov. Parris Glendening’s administration.

Predicting that 2014 will be a good year for Republicans across the country, Cluster added that the Democratic candidates face a tough battle among each other in June, something that could leave the candidates with more than a few primary bruises.

However, in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one, all indicators suggest the race will be decided by the Democratic primary.

In terms of name recognition, Democrats have a clear upper hand. October 2013 polls showed that Brown has the most name recognition — 62 percent — among the candidates. Gansler follows with 58 percent. Baltimore’s Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-2), who recently said he is leaning toward not running, leads Republicans Craig, Lollar, George and fellow Democrat Mizeur in name recognition.

Although it is not impossible, “it’s hard to see Maryland as a state where a Republican is going to win a statewide election,” said Laslo Boyd, political columnist and managing partner at Mellenbrook Policy Advisors. “If a Republican candidate comes with the Tea Party baggage of being anti-marriage equality, anti-abortion [and] strongly against the gun regulations, that’s not going to play well in Maryland.”

On the other hand, many Marylanders have grown increasingly wary of the state’s high taxes. According to 2010 Census data, Baltimore ranks above the national average for cost of transportation, utilities, housing and food. In Washington, D.C., the situation is even worse with the overall cost of living 40 percent higher than the national average.

If the Republicans focus their efforts on fiscal issues and concede some of the social issues popular along the party line, Boyd said their chances of victory could be much higher.

“It’s going to take a candidate who can appeal to those issues that are frustrating to people — perhaps taxes, perhaps the cost of government — without falling prey to the divisive social issues that play well in other states,” said Boyd.

In the meantime, much of the attention has been focusing on Democrats Gansler and Brown.

For Gansler, who has served on the board of directors of the Jewish Community Center for Greater Washington and has been involved with the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes, the biggest hurdle could be overcoming the mishandling of some of the stories that surfaced earlier this year involving a teen beach party and disgruntled state police aides. While the stories have died down, they easily could be rekindled by opponents.

For Brown, who has collected endorsements from U.S. Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.-5) and two former Maryland attorneys general, one of his proudest and most touted accomplishments could prove to be a pitfall. His website boasts that he “led the nation in implementing the Affordable Care Act,” but with many people still frustrated with the new policy, it remains to be seen whether this will work for or against his campaign.

“There has been some political discussion that if the health-care exchanges are not working well, that could hurt him,” said Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, executive director of Common Cause Maryland, an advocacy organization that lobbies for government accountability.

The Brown-[Ken] Ulman ticket looks like the frontrunner right now, said Bevan-Dangel, but that can easily change. While candidates who serve in the Maryland General Assembly are not permitted to fund raise while they are in session, both Brown and running mate Ulman, county executive of Howard County, are free to keep adding to their treasure chest.

“Historically in Maryland, we’ve seen a pretty straight-line correlation between fundraising and success of the campaign,” said Bevan-Dangel. “It’s simply a mechanism of how much you can afford to get your name out.”

See related articles, “By The Numbers.

Heather Norris is a JT staff reporter

Warning Signs

Dr. Jonathan Lasson saved a student from suicide. Now, he is speaking out and raising awareness. (David Stuck)

Dr. Jonathan Lasson saved a student from suicide. Now, he is speaking out and raising awareness. (David Stuck)

It’s a day he may never forget. And while it is painful to remember as well as to talk about, Dr. Jonathan Lasson, 42, a certified school psychologist for the Maryland State Department of Education, believes it’s a day that warrants memory, and a memory that must be shared.

Oct. 4, 2012 began like any other day. Lasson was working in his office when he was called to a classroom to assess an elementary student who was expressing suicidal ideation.

“When I went upstairs, the student was being held back by a paraprofessional staff member. They wanted me to do an emergency petition for him to be taken to the hospital,” he said.

While Lasson was on the phone with a school police officer, the paraprofessional, believing the student to be sufficiently calm, loosened his restraint.

“He bolted toward the window. I was the closest to it, and when he was halfway out of the open window, I grabbed him and pulled him back in. He fell back onto my left hand,” Lasson recalled. Lasson suffered a torn thumb tendon and required surgery to correct the damage. Lasson’s left index finger was operated on unnecessarily. The unnecessary surgery has caused lasting injury.

The suicidal student was transported to the University of Maryland, where he was hospitalized. Lasson discovered that the suicide attempt had not been the student’s first.

He was out of school for three months handling his injuries. Shortly after he returned to work in January 2013, Lasson learned that a former student from a different school had succeeded in taking his own life.

“I had worked with him for about two years, and we had a nice rapport,” said Lasson. “So I attended the viewing. They had an open casket, and as soon as I walked in, I saw his face. I don’t think I would have gone if I had [known] there [was going to be] an open casket. It re-traumatized me. Just think, a youngster feeling so distraught that he wants to take his own life.”

While many mental health professionals focus on the biological origins of mental illness, Lasson said he believes that environmental stressors play a major role in making children emotionally disturbed.

“These kids are from impoverished neighborhoods, and a lot of them suffer from abuse and neglect. Once I led a support group for students after one of their classmates was murdered. When I asked the kids in the group about their experiences with violence, each of them told me they didn’t expect to live past the age of 24 or 25.”

Reluctantly, Lasson has come forward to share what he has learned in his 14 years as an inner city school psychologist.

“I’ve become more aware of the red flags, which a lot of people miss,” he said.

What are those signs?

>>When a child has been depressed for a long period of time and all of a sudden he or she is doing well, don’t be complacent. When they come to thank you for all your help, saying they no longer need treatment, this can mean they have come to peace with the decision to end their lives.

>>Students who have made previous suicide attempts may be at greater risk of succeeding. On the other hand, Lasson noted, this could also be a cry for help.

>>Sometimes kids express themselves through art or other creative pursuits. Look for warning signs in the ways they express themselves through art, play and writing.

>>Children who give away belongings that are meaningful to them. This could signal their belief that they won’t need those items once they are dead.

“It’s important for people to realize what mental health professionals are up against,” he said. “We get a lot of bad press, but how many suicides do mental health professionals prevent?”

For additional information about suicide prevention, visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at

Simone Ellin is JT senior features reporter

Latkes With A Side Of The Lord

Messianic Jews, also known as Hebrew Christians, hand out latkes and sufganiyot at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Messianic Jews, also known as Hebrew Christians, hand out latkes and sufganiyot at the University of Maryland, College Park.

University of Maryland, College Park students received unexpected Chanukah presents this year in the form of free latkes and sufganyot outside of the student union. But these treats came with a side order of Jesus.

The table, erected last week, was being run by Chosen People Ministries, a group of messianic Jews and gentiles that aim to spread the word of Jesus to the Jewish people.

“My Judaism, I don’t think is very different from most, except for the Jesus [part],” said Ryan Karp, the group’s director of campus ministries.

Karp was an unwelcome presence for many Jewish students, as well as Maryland Hillel, who were alerted the group was coming to campus by Jews for Judaism.

“My belief is that these anti-Jewish missionaries are preying on vulnerable Jews, Jews who are disconnected,” said Rabbi Ari Israel, director of Maryland Hillel.

Hillel got the word out to students by contacting leaders of student groups and is working with its network of interfaith clergy and university administrators to unite in opposition to the group.

Ruth Guggenheim, director of Jews for Judaism, said groups like Chosen People Ministries look for impressionable young people to whom they can promote their ideas, even though they know they’re being deceptive. She said Chosen People is gearing up for a much larger campaign.

“We call them spiritual predators,” Guggenheim said.

Israel said students were disturbed and upset by the group’s presence.

“They claim that they’re Jewish, but they don’t know what Judaism is, or their type of Judaism is not the type of Judaism we practice,” said junior Debi Goldschlag. “It’s kind of false advertising.”

Goldschlag, who grew up in Silver Spring and attended the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville, thought she’d never see Messianic Jews on her college campus.

Talya Janus, a freshman, was also surprised to see the group, and worried that fellow students who are less secure in their spirituality may gravitate in its direction.

She and a friend ate the latkes and walked away, then bumped into Rabbi Israel, who was taking a photo of the setup.

Janus said, “Right after we ate the food, he said, ‘The problem isn’t that you just ate a non-kosher latke from a missionary. You’re not the ones I’m worried about, it’s those on the cusp of Judaism.’”

Karp defends his methods and his beliefs, and said he is promoting Jewish ideas, simply presenting information and asking questions.

Growing up in Washington, D.C., the son of a Jewish father and Christian mother, Karp celebrated major holidays on both sides in cultural, not religious, ways. His father started studying the Bible when Karp was 10 years old, soon adopting the belief that Jesus is his messiah. Karp followed suit when he was 11.

After falling into depression during college, Karp decided to start over by taking a trip, and traveled to Israel on a Taglit trip with students from Maryland and Virginia colleges. What happened on that trip is what inspired him to do what he does now.

Karp spoke briefly about Jesus, who he calls Yeshua, on Shabbat. Later in the trip, someone wound up screaming and cursing at him after asking why he thought Jesus was the messiah. After meeting with the trip leaders that night, he was sent home, brokenhearted for his people, he said.

“The most famous Jew who ever lived was somehow a very clear issue that somehow separated me from my people,” Karp said. “I also knew what he did in my life. … I wanted people to know about him. They could have the freedom I have, they could have the joy I have.”

He started working for Chosen People Ministries in New York, where he met his wife Jessica. They recently relocated to the D.C.-area to work on college campuses. He plans to be on the College Park campus multiple times a week, and hopes to work on other area college campuses as well.

“We’re presenting evidence that people can think about if they want,” Karp said. “I would never want to force anything. Everybody can make their own choices.”

There are 6,500 Jewish students at Maryland, according to Hillel’s website.

Israel pointed out an email he received that was from one campus chaplain to another that summed up the issue well. The chaplain writing said that their Jewish brethren were experiencing misrepresentation of their faith, and if efforts like this grow, it could lead to discrimination and intolerance.

In addition to working with other Jewish campus groups and interfaith clergy, Israel said it’s important to engage Jewish students proactively.

“My bottom line is we’ve got to keep our eye on the prize,” he said. “We, as the Jewish people, need to continue to give individuals reasons and relevancy — that Judaism speaks to us in the 21st century.”

The Associated Raises More Than $1.2 Million On #GivingTuesday

Baltimore residents stepped up this #GivingTuesday and showed their support of the Jewish community. At the conclusion of this national day of giving, The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore raised $1.264 million dollars, surpassing last year’s #GivingTuesday total of $1 million, the most raised by any nonprofit in the nation.

The money raised will go toward The Associated’s Annual Campaign, which strengthens Jewish life in Baltimore, Israel and around the world.

“We are so pleased with how the entire Baltimore community has responded to Giving Tuesday,” said Marc B. Terrill, president of The Associated. “The past two years have been a testament to the kindness and generosity that Baltimoreans continue to exhibit. We are excited by the conversations we had with our donors and constituents about the importance of both giving back and making a positive difference in the community where we live.”

The money was raised through an old-fashioned “phone-a-thon,” where hundreds of volunteers committed part of their day to call on donors.

As part of the #GivingTuesday initiative, The Associated joined ‘Bmore Gives More’, a city-wide effort to make Baltimore the most generous city in the nation. Spearheaded by GiveCorps, which provides fundraising software and expertise to nonprofits, the stakeholders, which also included Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake, raised more than $5 million. The effort was recognized by Henry Timms, founder of #GivingTuesday.

Now in its second year, #GivingTuesday was established by New York’s 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation as a way to create a national day of giving on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving. The goal is to make this effort part of the national consciousness, following the retail “holidays” of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Friedman ‘Starts Up’ With MIDC

MIDC’s hiring of Ilan Friedman comes at a time of new growth  for the organization. (Provided)

MIDC’s hiring of Ilan Friedman comes at a time of new growth for the organization. (Provided)

The Maryland/Israel Development Center has made a new hire. But you won’t see him too often at the MIDC office in the Department of Business and Economic Development in Baltimore City. That’s because his office is in Netanya, Israel.

Ilan Friedman will now serve as the connector between Maryland and Israeli companies and the MIDC. His role replaces a years-long relationship between MIDC and Trendlines, which, according to executive director Barry Bogage, had become less effective because of Trendlines’ focus on seed-stage startups that were not ready to enter or collaborate with the American market. Friedman will focus on more mature high-tech companies with the capability to expand into the U.S. arena.

Friedman comes to the MIDC after more than a decade of working with a similar organization out of Atlanta and then with assisting Israeli companies through his firm, Ncompas International Market Development, in their marketing and sales initiatives to better prepare them for international growth. Born in New York but raised in Israel since the age of 2, Friedman has spent time in both countries and has a deep understanding of the two economies. Now that he signed an agreement with MIDC, which became official at the first of the month, he will focus solely on Maryland-Israel economic relations.

“The whole idea is to promote MIDC and Maryland, and I can’t be working with competing groups or states,” Friedman said.

Friedman’s hire comes at a time of new growth for MIDC. According to Bogage, Gov. Martin O’Malley increased the state allocation to MIDC for 2014 by 100 percent, doubling funds available for staff, marketing and projects that can bring jobs to both economies. In addition to hiring Friedman, Bogage added Jennifer Rubin Raskas in Montgomery County to better expand opportunities in that area of the state.

In the last two years, MIDC has scored some big wins, including convincing defense giant ELTA to open its American office in Howard County. Likewise, several Israeli companies are applying to enter (or have already entered) into area incubators, the first step in a Maryland presence. Those companies include Hybrid Security, Roboteam and Zuznow, among a handful of others.

“We already have a lot of new activity, and we expect to keep growing exceptionally,” said Bogage. “After years of doing this by myself, it is fantastic to have great staff.”

Friedman said he believes that Maryland and Israel have the potential for even more and improved synergy. While he is not setting a metric in terms of number of companies he would like to see collaborate, he said he is focused on getting Israeli companies investors, customers and partners in the state. He does not think that Maryland companies could necessarily benefit from having storefronts in Israel, but rather from learning about Israeli technologies and creating partnerships that would enable local companies to use the innovation in Israel to enhance their products and services.

The two primary areas of potential synergy are in the cyber security and the life-science arenas. He said both Maryland and Israel are leaders in these fields, and he expects they could better assist one another.

Concurrently, MIDC has a robust membership of close to 300 companies and/or individuals. Friedman will work with the rest of the MIDC team to figure out how the organization can better tap into its professional network to assist Israeli companies and to look at what more MIDC can offer the professionals in terms of access to Israeli innovations — first and for profit.

One other message that Friedman hopes to convey: “Israel is not in the same position as it was in the past. It is not a needy market. It used to need [economic] support, and it received that support. … Israel today has an extremely powerful economy and is a very influential country.”

He said that while there is much Americans can still do for Israel and things that Maryland can offer the Jewish state, he also hopes that he can use his role to improve the local market. He noted that Israel being the startup nation with the highest concentration of innovation in the world did not happen by accident but was the result of a process put in place by the Israeli government and the private sector.

“We can and should learn from the U.S.,” said Friedman. “But there is a lot the U.S. can learn from Israel.”

 See related article, “Showcase Of Innovation”>>

Maayan Jaffe is JT editor-in-chief


Protests At The Port

Delegate Samuel I. “Sandy” Rosenberg is leading an effort to edit the Maryland Port Administration’s  guidelines for protests and rallies. (Kirsten Beckerman)

Delegate Samuel I. “Sandy” Rosenberg is leading an effort to edit the Maryland Port Administration’s guidelines for protests and rallies. (Kirsten Beckerman)

As early as this winter, organizing demonstrations at Baltimore’s World Trade Center could get a lot easier.

Delegate Sandy Rosenberg (D-41) is leading an effort to edit the Maryland Port Administration’s guidelines for protests and rallies at the iconic Inner Harbor building that he said could be up for review by the end of the calendar year. The move is a result of complaints from the community about the difficulties demonstration organizers face under the administration’s current code.

“Government decisions are to be content-neutral,” said Rosenberg. “That’s why you have regulations.”

A few years ago, Jay Bernstein, host of Shalom USA and an active member of the Baltimore Zionist District, sought to organize a BZD protest at the World Trade Center against shipping companies that the group had learned were trading with Iran.

“After a lot of back and forth, we were not given permission to demonstrate in the plaza in front of the World Trade Center,” said Bernstein. Eventually, the group settled on a nearby location belonging to the National Aquarium.

About a year ago, Bernstein said he again faced challenges obtaining permission from the Maryland Port Administration to arrange a demonstration on World Trade Center property. This time, the protest was against John Mearsheimer, author of the book “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” who was scheduled to speak in the building. Again, Bernstein said, the process for obtaining permission was long and arduous and required assistance from Rosenberg and the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Bernstein and two others who wanted to hand out leaflets near the building.

The biggest modification, should the changes be adopted, is that there will now be set official requirements for organizing peaceful protests at the WorldTrade Center. In the past, there were no formal guidelines to help demonstration coordinators through the process. Instead, they relied on writing letters to officials at the Port and waiting for a reply telling them what the administration had decided.

With the adaptation of new, looser regulations about where and when people can protest in Baltimore, Bernstein said the atmosphere in Baltimore is gradually warming toward public demonstrations. However, in years past, he said, “the atmosphere was very unwelcoming.”

Often, organizers wouldn’t know who to contact in the first place to begin the process of obtaining permission.

In October, the city agreed to allow groups to demonstrate or pass out leaflets at any of the city’s parks and 10 other designated locations without obtaining a permit so long as the group did not exceed 30 people. That regulation was years in the making and resulted in a city payment of $98,000 to the ACLU to settle a federal lawsuit over the rights of protesters in the city. Rosenberg doesn’t expect this regulation to be nearly as difficult to sell.

“I would anticipate that this wouldn’t be very controversial,” said Rosenberg. “The ideas have to make their way in the marketplace of ideas.”

New Orleans Jazz Lives On

Ben Jaffe (right) and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band play at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall on Nov. 29, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

Ben Jaffe (right) and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band play at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall on Nov. 29, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

Ben Jaffe practically learned how to crawl and walk at Preservation Hall.

The legendary New Orleans venue, located in the city’s French Quarter, was transformed into an integrated jazz club in 1961 by Jaffe’s parents, Allan and Sandra Jaffe. The couple was instrumental in putting the first form of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band on the road using musicians who frequented the venue.

“Some of my earliest memories were being on the road with the Preservation Hall Band,” Ben Jaffe, 42, said. He was raised blocks away from the venue and has very early childhood memories of being in Alaska, Hawaii and Japan with the band.

“You grow up and literally everybody you know and everything you do revolves around music,” he said.

Jaffe, now the band’s creative director and double-bass and sousaphone player, brings the Preservation Hall Band and its historic New Orleans jazz sounds to the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall for three shows, Nov. 29, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

“The music we’re playing today is directly connected by blood and DNA to the original pioneers of jazz,” he said.

Baltimore attendees can expect a mix of New Orleans jazz staples but may also hear some songs they don’t recognize as standards. That’s because in July, the band, which has been in existence for 50 years, released its first album of completely original material.

“That’s It!” was co-produced by Jaffe and Jim James of My Morning Jacket. Jaffe said when he first met James in 2009, when the singer and guitarist contributed vocals to another Preservation Hall Jazz Band record, the two of them immediately had an unspoken connection.

“Jim, over time, became the fifth Beatle or whatever you call it,” Jaffe said. “He became a part of the band, and he took us out on the road with My Morning Jacket.”

One night backstage, the two were talking about James working on an album with the band, and he asked Jaffe if the band had any original compositions. When Jaffe shrugged his shoulders, James just said, “Hmm,” and walked away. The band would later accept that challenge.

“To him, as a writer of music, it’s so obvious, but as a member of a community that is based on repertoire songs that have been handed down to us, it’s not so obvious that we would even consider that,” Jaffe said. “I just felt like in that one moment, in that 10 seconds it took him to say that, it changed our lives.”

Jaffe described the writing process as daunting and intimidating but rewarding and exhilarating, and said with the help of James’ inspiration and production, the record captured the band’s essence. He saw the original music as part of the band’s responsibility.

Hurricane Katrina, which forced Preservation Hall to close for a few months for repairs in 2005, got Jaffe thinking about his band’s catalog and its responsibilities as a cultural institution.

“That’s part of our mission, not only to protect our traditions, but to honor them and to create new traditions,” he said.

Jaffe, who came on as creative director immediately after graduating from Oberlin College in 1993, takes that job and responsibility seriously and personally. As creative director, a separate position from band leader, it is Jaffe’s job to push the band’s creative boundaries and turn its musical wishes into realities.

To ensure the music would continue to resonate throughout the generations, he brought the band to new audiences, playing music festivals such as Bonnaroo and Coachella and collaborating with artists such as Tom Waits, Dr. John and the Del McCoury Band.

He also created the Preservation Hall Outreach Program, something his father, who passed away in 1987, wanted to do but never got around to. The program allows the band to directly pass its traditions on through a junior jazz band, bringing younger audiences to the hall, going into schools while on tour and giving lessons and master classes.

But jazz isn’t the only tradition Jaffe hopes to pass on to the next generation. He and his brother were both raised in synagogue, had bar mitzvahs and grew up celebrating the Jewish holidays.

“They have Jewish jazz services in New Orleans around Jazz Fest,” Jaffe said. “There are a lot of Jewish musicians in New Orleans, and [jazz] definitely finds its way into the community.”

He notes that Jews, in New Orleans and beyond, have always been involved with music as writers, performers, producers and venue operators among other capacities.

The Jewish sense of community extends beyond religious brethren, Jaffe said.

“We spent a lot of our time at churches playing for different functions,” he said. “I think in New Orleans, it was just a natural extension of [my parents’] Jewishness [by them] becoming involved in the African-American community.”

While Jaffe is not a strict religious Jew, he said he’s been thinking about religion a lot more now that he and wife Sarah have a 1 1/2-year-old daughter. The time he spent at synagogue, the Jewish Community Center and at Jewish summer camp during his childhood helped him become the person he is today.

“Those are experiences I want to be able to give my daughter,” he said. “I want to give her a sense of identity and purpose, and I think Judaism gave me that.”

Marc Shapiro is a JT staff reporter —