Tag Archives: Baltimore

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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
hnorris@jewishtimes.com

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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 afsp.org.

Simone Ellin is JT senior features reporter
sellin@jewishtimes.com

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

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.

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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
mjaffe@jewishtimes.com