When Mayor Catherine Pugh spoke to the more than 350 community members at The Associated: Jewish Community Federation’s annual meeting on June 21, she spoke about the potential of the Park Heights community, parts of which have fallen into neglect.
As you’ll read in Justin Silberman’s story this week, the mayor talked about investing in Baltimore’s neighborhoods through public-private partnerships and philanthropic aid.
“If we don’t get a handle on this particular problem, then it only exacerbates itself in neighborhoods and communities,” she told the crowd at Beth Tfiloh Congregation.
As a Baltimore City resident who grew up in the county, I hope these words turn into actions over the course of Pugh’s term.
With escalating violence, the continuing opioid epidemic, people experiencing homelessness and vacant houses among the problems our city is facing, our elected officials have their work cut out for them. Yet, large parts of the city are booming and being redeveloped.
Living in Remington, I see a little bit of everything — the craft bars and artisanal restaurants that have popped up in recent years, the low-income senior housing across the street, the man who yells “Ice cold!” at rush hour every afternoon while peddling water bottles, people asking for change at the intersection when I exit I-83 and the Johns Hopkins students who crowd the streets of neighboring Charles Village. While I’ve gotten used to all this as part of my everyday life, it’s quite disharmonious seeing the enormous wealth gaps that exist in the radius of just a few blocks.
The Jewish community is, in some ways, largely removed from the problems of the city and, in a lot of ways, largely not. The Upper Park Heights area in recent years has fallen victim to break-ins, muggings and carjackings, sometimes in broad daylight. Farther north into suburbs, there may be the illusion of being removed from the problems that plague the city, but everyone knows that poverty, addiction and crime transcend racial, religious and socioeconomic lines. In places such as Owings Mills, where homelessness has been fairly invisible but very present, it has recently become more visible, as I am now seeing people begging for food and money at intersections in the beloved suburb where I grew up.
Uplifting the city and its neighborhoods can in turn uplift the entire Baltimore area — and its residents along with it. Pugh believes the Jewish community can play a pivotal role and noted it already has. With tikkun olam as a philosophical cornerstone, philanthropy is just one of the many ways the Jewish community can work for a better Baltimore.
“We do have a lot of work to do together in Baltimore,” Pugh said. “You all know this city faces many challenges.”
Let’s prove we’re up to the task.