Baltimore’s Message


It being May Day, my wife and I jokingly referred to such names as Ilya, Leon and Karl as we made our way to Sinai Hospital last Friday morning for the impending birth of the newest member of our family.

We, of course, had our suspicions — proven correct in the end — that we were destined for a daughter, and it goes without saying that we had no intention of naming anyone after a Communist leader. But the banter made for some continued levity as one of us labored through the day and the other cultivated the image of a calm father.

As it turns out, the birth of Bracha Leah Chavatzelet did indeed occur on a momentous day for the history books. The speedy indictment by State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby of six Baltimore police officers in the death of Freddie Gray — a tragedy that turned the city upside down for most of last week — occurred around the time that she came into the world.

We returned home with her Sunday, soon after Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake lifted the curfew that she put in place in response to the arson, looting and rioting that terrorized several neighborhoods and businesses the previous Monday night.

It had been a whirlwind week, one which began with destruction, but ended — for ourselves, as well as for the rest of the city — on a high note. As highlighted in the JT’s coverage of the protests, large contingents of the Jewish community were among the thousands daily marching and calling for justice to be done, as well as those patting police officers on the back for keeping the peace amid the chaos.

But for all the news being made, despite the fact that the indictments may prove a turning point in a national conversation about police brutality and tactics that began last year in Ferguson, Mo., no revolution has taken place on the streets of Baltimore. And justice may or may not have been done. The six officers were not proven guilty; they were not sentenced. Their trials, should they occur, are at some distant point in the future.

Far from being a cataclysm that upends the natural order, the Gray case may actually have revealed the best of Baltimore and an inner hope that pervades us all. While that painful Monday of April 27 provided plenty of heart-wrenching images, order was quickly reasserted. Gov. Larry Hogan called in the National Guard; crews of neighbors swept the streets the following morning, and for the following days, crowd upon crowd gathered peacefully for meaningful dialogue and concrete action, particularly in dealing with how the police interacts with the public and the systemic poverty that has created battle zones out of neighborhoods.

That there was no revolution is not a bad thing. By their very nature, revolutions tend not to be patient and forgiving. And this week’s cover story shines a light on a sector of the Baltimore community that knows a thing or two about how dangerous revolutions can be. That these Iranian Jews chose here to make their home is a testament to America’s open arms, but it’s also a message of how Baltimore can be a home for so many different types of people.

I can’t think of a better community for my daughter to be born into.

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