Key members of Baltimore’s Black and Jewish communities met Dec. 8 to iron out some of the tensions left over from a Nov. 19 encounter in Park Heights that left a 15 year-old African American badly beaten and a member of a Jewish community patrol group under arrest for assault.
After the meeting, the Rev. Alvin J. Gwynn Sr., president of the International Ministerial Alliance and Arthur C. Abramson, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, said that a committee of Blacks and Jews was created to examine the Nov. 19 incident and look at broader issues about Jewish-Black community relations.
“It was leadership from both communities together,” Abramson told the AFRO in a recent interview. “The precipitating focus of the meeting was the incident in Park Heights, but the larger issue was a discussion of African-American and Jewish relationships.”
The alleged Nov. 19 attack reignited past tension between the two groups in the Park Heights community. Abramson explained that during the meeting, a committee including both Black and Jewish members was established to examine details of the incident and assess relations in the community.
“Their jobs will be to examine the state of things and report back at a later date once they’re done—hopefully very soon,” Abramson said.
According to The Baltimore Sun, no decision had been made whether to disband the Jewish patrol group, known as Shomrim. But leaders from both sides said that, after assessing the community, another meeting will be held to decide if they should call for the group’s suspension or aim to amend its training procedures.
Police arrested Shomrim volunteer Eli Werdesheim in conjunction with the incident. He has been charged with first-degree assault, reckless endangerment and false imprisonment, according to Baltimore NBC affiliate WBAL. No additional arrests have been made.
Despite reports of reoccurring negative race relations between Blacks and Jews in the Park Heights community, Abramson believes the groups generally get along well and shouldn’t let one isolated incident strain their relationship.
“Unlike the general view in the Greater Baltimore community, I think the relations are relatively good,” Abramson said. We talk to each other on a regular basis there have been numerous programs going on between the two communities. We work together on a whole range of different issues in which we can explain to each other our diverse backgrounds and what’s involved in trying to build a good, solid Baltimore community. That has to continue and we should not allow any one incident severely damage relationships.”