Thursday, February 17, 2011

Baltimore frum community shoots itself in the foot

A guest post by Doc Hantarish

The Baltimore frum community lives in a pleasant part of the city known as Upper Park Heights. When I moved to Baltimore in the late 1970s, it looked like that neighborhood, which had been Jewish for over 30 years, was going to succumb to white flight and be another crime-ridden inner-city ghetto. But the local Orthodox rabbis intervened, and, under the leadership of the local gadol, the "Ayatolla" Heinemann of the Agudath Israel, formed a citizen's on patrol group, the Northwest Citizen's Patrol, that worked with the police and was instrumental in keeping our neighborhood relatively crime-free for the past 30 years. This, despite the fact that we are right next door to Pimilico, a neighborhood known for hardcore drug violence. (Personal disclosure: I have been a member of the Northwest Citizen's Patrol for over 20 years.)
In recent years, some macho hothead hockers in our community have formed another crime prevention group known as the "Shomrim." These guys apparently think we NWCP types are wimps becuase when we see the thugs (and in 20 years of patrolling, I've never actually seen a thug), we radio the cops and let those professionals actually deal with the situation. I guess the Shomrim want to get out there and show those schvartzes that the Jews aren't a bunch of wusses who hide behind the skirts of the police.

Anyway, last December, there was an altercation between a young African-American male and two members of the Shomrim that resulted in some unspecified injuries to the African-American man. This incident was investigated by the newly-elected Jewish State's Attorney (that's what we call DA's in Baltimore), and he has decided based on the evidence and the law, that the shomrim should be charged with second degree assault, false imprisonment and use of a deadly weapon with intent to injure, which apparently are misdemeanors.

Naturally, activists in the black community are having a field day over this, mostly becuase the charges are only misdemeanors. They think that the Jewish State's Attorney is covering for a Jewish criminal. Aside from the usual racial epithets, the coverage after the incidents included interviews with blacks who commented on how rude the Orthodox Jews in the neighborhood were to blacks. (I wanted to tell them that the Orthodox Jews are also rude to non-Orthodox Jews who walk around in the neighborhood, so it's not like all the frum have an animus towards blacks.) The activists are also a little pissed at the new Jewish DA over an unrelated incident in which an off-duty (black) cop was shot by other cops outside a nightclub downtown. Some of these activists may have been pissed that the 15-year black incumbent state's attorney had been defeated by the Jew, but having served on a jury and seen the incompetence of the state's attorney's office, I don't think they have any reason to complain.

Well, now that the situation is nice and tense, and the case is going on trial tomorrow, some bozos in the Orthodox Jewish community here want to ignite a spark by having a rally in support of the defendants tomorrow. Some of the material they're disseminating can be seen here:

http://baltimorejewishlife.com/news/news-detail.php?SECTION_ID=1&ARTICLE_ID=4123

Here are some other accounts in the local media:

http://www.jewishtimes.com/index.php/jewishtimes/opinion/jt/editors_note/test_case/
http://fwix.com/baltimore/share/3ecae5df3c/critics_protest_baltimore_prosecutor_bernstein

Frankly, I think it's possible that these Shomrim guys could have been acting in self defense. On the other hand, it's also very possible that they were being macho idiots, and went too far. But given the tensions being caused, having a rally over the incident seems to me to be the height of folly. At least wait until after the trial, and see what evidence is produced. It's not like the Jews in Baltimore are some kind of marginalized, dispossessed, persecuted minority with no power. We are on very good terms with community leaders of all races. The new Jewish State's attorney was heavily supported by black voters, while his black opponent got a good share of Jewish voters. Just becuase a Jew is in the defendant's dock doesn't automatically mean that he's an innocent victim of antisemitism. Why risk starting a race riot. Stay home, and let the justice system do its job.

Let's see what the DovBear readership thinks. Besides, it's always good to let people know that there are Jews living outside of southern New York State and north Jersey.

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