With early voting poised to begin for the primary elections, the top six Democratic candidates seeking to be the next mayor of Baltimore City presented their cases this week to the Vaad HaRabbonim – Rabbinical Council – of Greater Baltimore. The forum, coordinated by Agudath Israel of Maryland, took place at Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion Congregation and included Orthodox synagogue rabbis and a number of synagogue presidents. The six candidates were selected based on their polling numbers, and have all shared the stage together for the various candidate debates that have taken place over the last several months. The forum featured (in order of appearance), City Councilman Carl Stokes, businessman David Warnock, former Mayor Sheila Dixon, State Senator Catherine Pugh, former prosecutor Elizabeth Embry, and City Councilman Nick Mosby.
Despite the end-of-campaign season crunch, each candidate made themselves available to attend this forum. It provided them with a can’t-miss opportunity to impress their goals for Baltimore’s immediate future upon the rabbinic leaders with the hope of reaching the approximate five thousand registered voters that comprise Baltimore City’s Orthodox Jewish community.
Each candidate was welcomed by Rabbi Yaakov Hopfer, the president of the Vaad HaRabbanim, and then introduced by Rabbi Ariel Sadwin of Agudath Israel of Maryland. Each candidate was allotted twenty minutes for a presentation followed by questions from the crowd.
The issues discussed covered a wide range of topics. The over-arching theme was crime related issues – stemming from the Freddie Gray tragedy and ensuing unrest last April. The incident’s impact on law enforcement and the need for additional resources have left parts of the City, including the Orthodox community, with a feeling of greater vulnerability. Another item widely discussed was creating job growth and opportunities. “One way to reduce crime”, opined one candidate, “is to get the unemployed masses off of the streets and into solid stable employment environments.”
While the conversations with each candidate were fairly intense, the group was able to effectively convey the community’s priorities and concerns to the candidates. Rabbi Sadwin commented, “this event taking place so close to the primary is a testament to the level of respect the candidates have for our community and its leaders. We look forward to seeing how things continue to progress throughout the next few months up through the election in November.”