Poverty. Jobs. Crime. Health care.
These are not merely national concerns, nor are they strictly Maryland problems. They are Baltimore’s challenges. That much is clear in a city and region that has long struggled to make up for the loss of manufacturing decades ago, all while the core of residents who didn’t leave ages in place.
Two freshmen on the new City Council, the chamber’s only Jewish members, say they have the solutions to these challenges, promising a safer, more economically diverse and upwardly mobile city. As you’ll read in this week’s JT, Zeke Cohen of the 1st District and Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer of the 5th District are bringing a youthful energy to City Hall, spreading a vision of technological improvements and better services for the seniors who call Baltimore home.
“I am very passionate about the aging population, because it makes up a very large portion of the constituent base,” says the 27-year-old Schleifer, whose district includes the heavily Jewish areas of Northwest Baltimore. “I’ve always wanted to help people age in place and have made sure we’ve had enough senior housing for our aging population.”
The 31-year-old Cohen, meanwhile, has had a firsthand look at how technology, jobs and education can attract millennials to areas like Canton, where he lives.
“There is value to be had in hiring locally, and we know the benefit of hiring a workforce that is local, approximate and already knows the area,” says Cohen. “What that requires is that our school system and government step up and deliver a better quality education and that our business sector steps up and makes that investment in our youth.”
To be sure, Baltimore is far from the only Rust Belt city to face these concerns, which is why the ascendancy of new, young leaders like Schleifer and Cohen — who just happen to be Jewish — is so inspiring. If the last few decades have taught us anything, it’s that the Jewish community needn’t be an ethnic minority that keeps to itself. It can rather bring the Jewish ideals of justice and care for the downtrodden to society at large, providing leadership in our businesses, our neighborhood institutions and our government.
But the vision of youth can easily be tripped up by the reality that change often comes slowly. Many a politician has entered public service with high ideals only to emerge on the other end battle worn and tired. Still, there’s no reason to accept inaction and every reason to believe that the two newest members of the City Council will sustain the energy that got them to elected office in the first place. On that score at least, Baltimore’s future looks bright in 2017.