CORRECTION 12/20/19 12 p.m. The Sisterhood is still functioning and active, and meets with the Brotherhood at their annual Seder.
For Baltimore City to address some of its more critical issues, its leaders have to seek the help and cooperation of its neighbors, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young told more than 150 attendees at a Baltimore Hebrew Congregation-sponsored breakfast Nov. 8.
“We cannot do the work,” Young emphasized, “without the help of the county to make Baltimore safer.”
The event, sponsored by BHC’s Brotherhood, is part of a speaker series held every month. Other elected officials in attendance included State Delegate Dana Stein (District 11), Baltimore County, and Councilman Israel “Izzy” Patoka, (District 2) Baltimore County.
Patoka expressed agreement with Young’s call for collaboration.
“I am a member of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, whose campus sits half in the city, and half in the county,” Patoka, said. “You cannot fight crime alone. We have to work together as a larger community, and as neighbors, on these issues. … If Baltimore City is not strong, Baltimore County is not strong.”
Patoka, who served as executive director of the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives under former Governor Martin O’Malley, was elected to represent the District 2 Council in 2018.
Throughout his talk, Young provided an overview of the initiatives he has undertaken to address critical issues in Baltimore. He emphasized his outreach to community organizations to advocate for children and seniors, highlighting the need to provide jobs, to treat people with respect, and to look at alternatives to prison.
Then attendees posed their own questions, ranging from initiatives to enhance the transportation system so that people can have access to jobs to the work that Baltimore Ravens and individual players are doing in the city.
On the issue of transportation, Young said that his administration is working to take “a holistic approach” to improving access to transportation. On providing economic opportunity, Young said that Turn Around Tuesday, an organization that works with the unemployed and with those re-entering society after they are released from jail, is working with major employers in the city, and has sessions on Tuesdays on the east side, and on Wednesdays on the west side to make the program accessible to participants.
Young highlighted the commitment that The Baltimore Ravens have made to the city both, as an organization, and the work that individual players are doing to help Baltimore, citing the $200,000 contribution to Baltimore City Public Schools in 2018 toward upgrading heating and air conditioning units at Lakewood Elementary School.
A question about the importance of the Kirwan Commission (an initiative to develop funding and policy reforms for Maryland’s public education) touched on the fact that implementation is “hugely expensive,” particularly given the city’s “decreasing tax base,” Young said.
“If we fix the school system, and we fix our crime problem, we can have more people move back into the city,” Young said. “Kirwan will be a mandate so we will need to figure out how to fund it.”
There was consensus that the city’s problems are not just the city’s problems alone.
“I liked what (Patoka) said – if the city falls, then the county falls. It’s like cutting your throat if you don’t support the city,” said Alan Katz, recording secretary for the Brotherhood.
“I grew up in the city, and went to City College,” Stein said. “I appreciate the Mayor’s talk about cooperation and finding solutions that are regional in scope. Baltimore City has so many things to offer. We must remember that there is crime, and then there is the perception of crime.”
Howard Libit, a member of the board of BHC, and executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, agreed.
“Today was important because he is the Mayor and you want to hear his thoughts on the City,” Libit said. “He talked about a lot of important issues such as job creation, opportunities for ex-offenders, the challenges across the board, and he’s working hard to tackle each issue.”
“What today proved to me,” said Dr. Philip Benzel, a retired dentist and a member of BHC, “is the monumental task the Mayor has before him.”
The Brotherhood celebrated its 100th anniversary this year. The goal of its programming is to provide meaningful experiences “that add something to people’s lives,” said president Sid Bravmann.
“Our attendance used to be between 300 to 500 attendees. Then it fell to between 40 and 60. Today we had more than 150 participants,” Bravmann said. “We try to ensure diversity in our programming — from music, to art, to science, to authors as well as elected officials.”