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Vicki Almond (center, red jacket) announced that she will run again for County Councilwoman, District 2.
Source: David Stuck

Vicki Almond Announces Run For County Councilwoman, District 2

At an upscale event at the DoubleTree Pikesville, Baltimore County Councilwoman Vicki Almond told a crowd of hundreds that she will again run to head up District 2.

Vicki Almond (center, red jacket) announced that she will run again for County Councilwoman, District 2. Source: David Stuck

Vicki Almond (center, red jacket) announced that she will run again for County Councilwoman of District 2.
Photo by David Stuck

After speeches by multiple public officials, including one by Sen. Ben Cardin, Almond said she is running again because she cares about the community.

“I am out and about in the community on a daily and nightly basis,” said Almond. “I am there. Whether the event is at a synagogue, church or mosque, I’m there.”

Almond noted some of the projects she has helped push forward in the county, including approving a bid by developers Greenberg Gibbons to purchase and tear down the former Solo Cup plant on the corner of Reisterstown and Painters Mill Roads and put up a shopping center, which will include a Wegmans. She reminded attendees that last year the Baltimore County Council voted to drastically reduce the number of homes that could be built on the 230-acre site of the old Chestnut Ridge Country Club, off Falls Road — the largest contiguous piece of land for miles around.  She said she knows her district wants air-conditioning in the schools and for the schools to provide a good education to the students. She plugged the re-opening of the historic Pikes Theatre, which is slated to happen on Nov. 1.


“I stand up to the bullies,” Almond said. “I was elected to represent you.”

Cardin said he liked Almond from the minute he met her and that he is proud of her work as county councilwoman.

“She is out there every day,” said Cardin. “You can’t take this for granted. It is just wonderful that she is willing to come back.”

 

Lou Reed dies at 71.

‘A Genius Who Transcended Rock’

 

Lou Reed dies at 71.

Lou Reed dies at 71.

Musician and guitarist Lou Reed, the front-man for the band Velvet Underground, as well as a solo artist, died Sunday, Oct. 27.

Reed, who was born to a Jewish family, was 71.

He had a liver transplant last year after years of alcohol and drug abuse. A cause of death was not made public.

Reed, born Lewis Allan Reed in Brooklyn, N.Y., became influential in rock by blending art and music in New York in the 1960s through Velvet Underground’s collaboration with pop artist Andy Warhol.  The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Reed’s vocals were featured on Velvet Underground hits such as “Sweet Jane,” “Venus in Furs,” “Oh! Sweet Nuthin,’” among others.

Reed quit the band in 1970 and focused on his solo career, which featured the 1972 hit song “Walk on the Wild Side.”

Randallstown resident and owner of Larry’s Record Shop Larry Kessler remembers Reed as a laid-back, underground and mysterious figure. He played bass in The Godz, a punk band that was coming up in Greenwich Village the same time as the Velvet Underground.

“I realize now how culturally big he was,” Kessler said. “So many bands were influenced by him … like The Ramones were influenced by him I’m sure, that kind of freedom he had in his music.”
Reed visited Israel five years ago with his musician wife, Laurie Anderson, during her world tour. He reportedly was coy about his Jewish roots. He was quoted as saying, “My God is rock ’n’ roll” and “The most important part of my religion is to play guitar.”

In 2004, Reed read a poem he wrote called “The Raven,” based on the Edgar Allan Poe classic, at the Downtown Seder. He also took part in last year’s Downtown Seder in New York City. The unique Passover event features artists, political figures, writers, poets, comedians and more.

Jewish stars such as Bette Midler, Richard Lewis and Judd Apatow, in addition to scores of musicians, tweeted about Reed’s death and praised him highly.

“Lou Reed, my friend, a genius who transcended rock,” Lewis tweeted. “My condolences to his family. A poet [first], he performed like a hit-man on a mission. RIP.”

Between Sunday night and Monday morning, streams of songs by Reed and the Velvet Underground increased by more than 3,000 percent on streaming service Spotify, according to reports.

Sunday night, numerous bands paid tribute to the late singer. Pearl Jam front-man Eddie Vedder said it was a “rough day,” and the band dedicated one of its songs to him, and covered Velvet Underground’s “I’m Waiting For The Man” at its Baltimore show. Tributes were also performed by The Black Crowes, Phish, Gov’t Mule and My Morning Jacket with Neil Young and Elvis Costello.

JTA Wire Service contributed to this article.

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Take Note

Input by the five Northwest neighborhood groups on what they consider most important to their communities will be seriously considered by Baltimore City.

Input by the five Northwest neighborhood groups on what they consider most important to their communities will be seriously considered by Baltimore City.

More than 1,000 Northwest Baltimore residents packed into the Cross Country Middle School auditorium Wednesday, Oct. 16 to voice their opinions on what they consider most important in their neighborhood.

The event was organized by a joint effort from Baltimore City and the five Northwest neighborhood groups. Each resident checked in at a table, where they verified that they live in the area and received a strip of seven stickers. They were then directed to the auditorium, where they could place their stickers beneath any of the 26 recommendations for how to spend the Strategic Neighborhood Action Plan money acquired from slot machines (see recommendations below).

While the sticker balloting will not directly affect where the funds are directed, Kate Edwards, community planner for West and Northwest Baltimore, said the input will be taken into consideration as the city and the major community groups make their final decision this winter.

“It’s incredibly important to get as much input as possible,” said Edwards.

While working with the five Northwestern neighborhood community groups ensures the city gets a lot of the community opinion, hosting an event such as this, where any Northwest resident can come and speak for himself or herself, allows for broader opinions and insight.

“Here, they can identify priorities,” she said.

Twenty minutes into the event, organizers ran out of stickers, and residents were told to start signing their initials under the initiatives they considered to be most important. While some people in attendance found this a nuisance, most saw it as a measure of the meeting’s success.

“We warned them to come with enough stickers,” said Avrahom Sauer, of the Cross Country Improvement Association, comparing the turnout to a World Series sweep for the neighborhood associations charged with getting out word of the meeting to residents.

“When [Northwest Baltimore residents] are truly given the opportunity to speak out, they’ll take advantage,” said Sauer.

Mount Washington Improvement Association Honorary Director Mac Nachlas agreed that the turnout was indicative of how involved Northwestern residents are in their community. The five neighborhood organizations “are representative” of the people in the neighborhoods, he said.

The groups working on the 26 recommendations tried to really encapsulate what their residents cared most about, said Nachlas.

Representatives from different Northwestern neighborhoods had narrowed a much larger list down to the 26 laid out for their neighbors, and that involved a lot of looking at the bigger picture, he said.

Nachlas added that the neighborhood groups did not pick initiatives that would help only their territory but instead came together with the city to identify recommendations that would benefit all different parts of the Northwest.

Chaim Rubenstein struggled to pick which recommendations he thought were most important.

“I wish I could fund all 26,” he said, adding that he spread his stickers among improving safety, parks and housing in the region.

The large turnout reinforced the faith Rubenstein has in his district. “People in the Northwest care a lot about their neighborhood,” he said.

Located on the outskirts of the city, Northwest residents choose to stay in the city rather than to move just a few minutes away to Baltimore County, Rubenstein said. “We’re staying in the city because we care about the city,” he said.

Corinne Borel was happy to have the opportunity to chime in on where some of the SNAP funds should be directed, but she was worried about the funds’ dependence on slots. Some of the recommendations presented seemed more like necessities, she said, adding that she was disappointed to see them treated like “frills.”

“We are very pleased that the community prioritized safety as a key priority,” said a statement from Shomrim, pointing out that Recommendation 24 advocated for the strengthening of support for volunteer safety groups.

The public safety organization sent out an email blast a week before the meeting encouraging residents to attend the meeting and to support Recommendations 23 and 24.

“Clearly this community came out and said that safety is important to them,” added Shomrim Vice President Ronnie Rosenbluth.

Other recommendations that received a lot of resident support were 1, 4, 11, 13, 14 and 15.

Polling was also available online for a more extended length of time. Stickers and online balloting will not be tallied for a couple weeks, when all input has been collected, said Edwards.

See The 26 Recommendations

Heather Norris is a JT staff reporter — hnorris@jewishtimes.com

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Conversation Of The Century

At 100 years old, the Conservative movement feels it still has the juice to be “the vital center” of the Jewish religious world. And during its three-day Centennial conference this week, the movement’s rabbis and members, along with a large cast of idea people and performers, constructed an ideal Conservative Jewish community at the Marriott Waterfront Hotel overlooking Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

Billed as the Conversation of the Century, the conference drew 1,200 people from places like North America, Israel and Britain to Charm City; roughly 85 Conservative leaders from the Baltimore area attended.

That conversation, which attendees described as plugged with creativity and dynamism, took place less than two weeks after the release of the Pew study of American Jews, which initially caused shock with its statistics on dropping affiliation and high intermarriage rates. Scarcely a speech, workshop or discussion at the Conversation of the Century finished without the word “Pew” mentioned as a reference point.

“Together, we’ll take a close, honest look at the sobering findings of the new Pew study,” promised Rabbi Steven Wernick, CEO of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, as he opened the conference on Sunday.

The Pew study, which Rabbi Steven Schwartz of Beth El Congregation said should serve as a “wakeup call,” found that only 18 percent of American Jews identify as Conservative, down from 43 percent in 1990. And Conservative Jews are older on average than Reform or Orthodox Jews and more likely to leave their movement than Jews from either of the other two major denominations.

A few minutes after Rabbi Wernick spoke, Chancellor Arnold Eisen, of the Jewish Theological Seminary, described how his students have been “energized” rather than discouraged by the Pew report.

“They’re challenged to reach out to their cohort,” he said.

“I heard someone say, ‘poo on Pew,’” said Leslie Lloyd, president of Shaare Torah in Gaithersburg, during Sunday’s lunch break. “Look at these energized people,” she said of the crowd passing by her. “Here’s where the quality is. Here’s where the engagement is.”

Eric Ellman of Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Potomac agreed about the high quality and motivation of his fellow participants. Like Lloyd, he attended the Shabbaton before the conference. With its five types of worship services, nonstop study and discussion sessions, and the enthusiastic participation of 100 members of the USY youth group, the Shabbaton and its “energy, passion and ruach [spirit]” were like a tonic for the deflating statistics, Ellman said.

But, he noted, “This is an echo chamber. The Pew report is doom and gloom. It’s just here that the future seems bright.”

THE PROPHECY OF STEVE JOBS

Increasingly, the conversation over Conservative Judaism is about a product in search of consumers.  A listener couldn’t help imagining a wholesale
exodus from the synagogue and into the market square, where rabbis from the various Jewish movements stand at stalls and hawk their wares to passers-by.

“We have the institutions and the people to provide these goods,” Eisen said in his speech, and Rabbi Wernick predicted that a “turnaround” will take place for Conservative Judaism “by building a big tent, a free market of ideas, inspiration and action.”

In his opening address, Rabbi Wernick said the movement would reverse the “narrative of decline” suggested by the Pew study by “affirming three pillars of Conservative Jewish life: kehillah, tradition and renewal.”

United Synagogue was founded in 1913 by scholar Solomon Schechter to pursue a new idea at the time: a Judaism that preserved tradition and embraced modernity. Schechter’s vision was a big tent that included Modern Orthodoxy.

From the tension at the core of Schechter’s idea, the Conservative movement was born as a liberal alternative to Orthodoxy and a traditional alternative to Reform Judaism — “the vital epicenter of contemporary Jewish life,” as Rabbi Wernick called it.

Now, with the movement losing to the left, right and indifferent, it is looking for ways to compete in the new Jewish marketplace.

The movement has been moving away from the emphasis on the synagogue — a physical structure — and embracing the idea of kehillah — a community of people. “Holiness is heightened in kehillah,” Rabbi Wernick said, “in a spiritual, caring community.”

Tradition, the second pillar, is alive, he said. “Our tradition lives” because it is “renewed by us every day,” renewal being the third pillar.

Eisen said to thrive, Conservative Jews will need to stretch. In words that echoed the immigration debate and implied non-Jews, he called on the movement to “stretch our boundaries wider” by welcoming others “regardless of where they come from. They bring us gifts that we would not have without them.”

He said the movement must “stretch beyond the status quo of the synagogue” to become a Judaism that is part of the everyday world.

“There’s no surprise that more Jews say they’re without religion” Eisen said. “They think religion means rejection of the secular world — where all of them live.”

And Conservative Jews must “stretch our capacity of sacrifice, in “money, time, self-confidence and in public pride of who we are,” he said.

In her keynote address, writer and educator Erica Brown nailed Conservative Judaism firmly in the market place, when she summoned the ghost of Steve Jobs. She criticized the Jewish community for spending “a lot of time catching up and not a lot of time forecasting.”

In contrast, she quoted Jobs as saying: “Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they know it.”

“Our task is much the same,” Brown said.

Brown, who is scholar-in-residence at the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, did not say how the Conservative movement might accomplish for itself what Jobs did for Apple but suggested the movement needs some “destructive innovation. The slogan has been tikkun olam” — repair of the world, she said. “I say, go out and do a little damage.”

RELATIONSHIPS IN THE BIG TENT

At some point it became an immutable Jewish tradition that on the anniversary of the death of a loved one, the synagogue will send a reminder notice with an envelope asking for a donation. One rabbi in Canada decided to try something different: He called his congregants on the yahrzeit instead of sending them mail. And he didn’t ask for money.

Attendance at his synagogue went up.

Educator and author Ron Wolfson told this story during his keynote address Monday to illustrate the importance of personal relationships.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski has endorsed Anthony Brown for governor of the State of Maryland.

Sen. Mikulski, Rep. Sarbanes Back Brown For Governor

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown received a pair of major endorsements in his bid for the governor’s office earlier this week when Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski made her support public on Sunday, Sept. 23 at a campaign rally in Silver Spring and Congressman John Sarbanes followed suit Monday with his own announcement.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski has endorsed Anthony Brown for governor of the State of Maryland.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski has endorsed Anthony Brown for governor of the State of Maryland.

Mikulski and Sarbanes are the most recent in a line of Brown endorsers that includes Governor Martin O’Malley, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, Representative Elijah Cummings, Representative Donna Edwards, five Maryland state senators, nine state delegates, more than 100 elected officials from across Maryland and numerous organizations.

“I support Anthony Brown because I’ve worked with him for 15 years, watching up close as he solved the most pressing problems facing Maryland families and women. I see in Anthony the fantastic values I most admire – he’s honorable, he’s patriotic and he’s willing to tackle the tough issues,” Mikulski said in a statement at Silver Spring’s Civic Building at Veterans’ Plaza.

Citing Brown’s work with veterans, health care and job creation, Mikulski told rally attendees that Brown has her full support. “Anthony Brown can count on my support because Maryland can count on Anthony Brown,” she said.

In addition to being the longest-serving female in the history of the U.S. Congress, Mikulski, who grew up in East Baltimore, has a history of working closely with the Jewish community in Maryland. In 2006, she was awarded the Friend of the Synagogue Award by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America for her efforts in working to protect non-profit community institutions and her support of the Jewish community. In 2012, she, along with two other senators, introduced legislation that would support programs to assist aging Holocaust survivors.

Sarbanes - Sept. 24, 2013

Congressman John Sarbanes joined Sen. Barbara Mikulski Monday in supporting Anthony Brown for governor.

Sarbanes, who represents Maryland’s third district — an area that zigzags from Baltimore to Annapolis — pointed to Brown’s military service as an example of his values.

“The Lieutenant Governor’s service to our country in the U.S. Armed Forces — most recently in Iraq — has set a powerful example of sacrifice and commitment,” said Sarbanes in a statement, adding that Brown is a proven leader who will “help keep Maryland’s recovery on track.”

With the governor’s office’s recent announcement that the state’s job base has returned to pre-recession numbers, jobs will no doubt be a major point in Brown’s campaign.

Brown, who announced his candidacy in May, and running mate Ken Ulman, will face Attorney General Doug Gansler and state delegate Heather Mizeur, neither of whom have announced their running mates yet, in addition to Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger, should he decide to run, in a June 24, 2014 democratic primary.