Amian Kelemer doesn’t think she’ll ever forget where she was when she learned about the storming of the Capitol. She was on the phone with a community rabbi, she said, when the rabbi told her what was happening.
“I said, ‘I have to get off the phone. I have to watch this,’” recalled Kelemer, CEO of the Macks Center for Jewish Education.
Kelemer joined Americans across the country who watched the images of pro-Trump demonstrators break into the Capitol. Rioters shattered windows, vandalized art and stole the Speaker of the House’s mail. One man in tactical gear roamed the building carrying flex cuffs, a type of plastic handcuff. In the end, five people died.
Jan. 6 was the first time the Capitol had been ransacked since 1814, when British forces invaded Washington, D.C. Members of Congress were in the process of certifying the election results — which some, based on false claims of election fraud, were contesting — when the rioters broke in with the intention of disrupting the process. Vice President Mike Pence was taken to safety with his family, while senators and congresspeople were brought to a safe location and staffers hid.
The riot has been condemned by Democrats and Republicans, in Baltimore and across the nation. In the wake of the violence, and with the potential for more leading up to Joe Biden’s inauguration, many Democrats and some Republicans want Donald Trump, who they say incited the violence, to resign or be removed from office.
Sen. Ben Cardin, a Jewish senator who grew up in Baltimore, joined the calls for Trump to leave office early, either by resigning, through the 25th Amendment or by impeachment.
“Donald Trump has never understood that being president of the United States is about serving the country and not how the country can serve him,” Cardin said in a statement on Jan. 7. “The terrorist acts that took place in the U.S. Capitol yesterday were the culmination of his words and selfish actions. For years, President Trump has stoked hate, fear, racism and division with lie after lie, degrading and destroying our government from within.”
Baltimore County Councilman Israel “Izzy” Patoka called the attack on the Capitol “an act of treason and sedition.”
“The words of a president matter, and what we witnessed on Capitol Hill is something I thought we’d never see in our lifetime,” Patoka said. “Our democracy is under attack. … These scenes of chaos do not reflect America or our values. They are the deplorable acts of extremists. Our democracy will endure and prevail, but this hurts on many levels.”
Gary Applebaum, a Republican in Pasadena who is involved with the Republican Jewish Coalition and has run for Congress, condemned the incident as well.
“The events at the Capitol on Jan. 6 were wrong, immoral and stupid,” he said. “It was good to see that an abundance of conservative politicians and media condemned the mob almost immediately. In America, our right to peacefully protest is guaranteed. There is no right nor reason for violent protest, no matter the cause. It must be condemned. President Trump accomplished a great deal during his term. It is sad that it will end on a negative note due to his unfortunate comments and behavior.”
The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore and the Baltimore Jewish Council released a simple statement: “Unacceptable. Our nation is better than this.”
The incident has served as a wake-up call, Kelemer said. She reflected on parents’ and educators’ responsibility to provide a sense of security to children in challenging times, as well as the importance of educating future generations on how to have disagreements.
“In order to have shalom, in order to have peace, you have to bring out all the discrepancies and all the different opinions, but you have to do that in a very careful way,” Kelemer said. “That’s part of what Jewish tradition teaches us.”
This story includes reporting by Jesse Berman.
Update Jan. 14, 2021, 10:56 a.m.: This article has been updated to correct Israel Izzy Patoka’s title. The Baltimore Jewish Times regrets this error.