Baltimore homicides, Ultima Thule, Steelers donation and more

Baltimore City Crime Scene

Baltimore City crime scene (Photo by Joel Nadler)

Homicide count

Baltimore first two homicides of 2019 had already been counted on New Year’s Day. There were seven shootings total overnight from New Year’s Eve into New Year’s Day. In 2018, there were 309 murders, down from 342 in 2017, according to WJZ-TV.

Read more: Baltimore Ends 2018 With 309 Murders, Families Remember Victims



T.J. Smith joining Olszewski administration

T.J. Smith’s retirement from government press relations didn’t last long, according to Baltimore Fishbowl. On Jan. 2, roughly three months after he announced his resignation from the Baltimore Police Department with an open letter to the city, Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski Jr.’s office announced Smith as its new press secretary. Smith left his job as chief of media relations for BPD in October, one day after his boss, Acting Commissioner Gary Tuggle, said he had withdrawn himself from the running for the job of permanent police commissioner. He’s not the only former city law enforcement official to join Olszewski’s administration. Drew Vetter, formerly director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, left his post with Mayor Catherine Pugh’s administration in December to become Olszewski’s deputy administrative officer.

Read more: T.J. Smith, former chief spokesman for Baltimore police, joining Olszewski administration

NASA uses term employed by Nazis

Earlier this week, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew by what it says is the most distant object ever explored by a spacecraft. But calling the trans-Neptunian object by its official designation of 2014 MU69 was cumbersome for NASA scientists, who considered some 34,000 names as part of a public competition in 2017. Ultima Thule, a name that was nominated by 40 people, won the public poll. It comes from classical and medieval literature and means any distant place located beyond the “borders of the known world.” But NASA apparently did not realize that Ultima Thule (pronounced TOO-leh) was a term used by the forerunners of the Nazi Party and is still used by some extreme right groups as part of their own mythology. In Germany, extreme right occultists believed in a historical Thule, also called Hyperborea, as the ancient homeland of the Aryan race. The Thule Society, founded in 1918 around this and other occultist beliefs, later became the Nazi Party. At least two bands — in Estonia and in Sweden — are named Ultima Thule, and four albums by European bands have the name, too. It is the name of a poetry collection by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and a short story by Vladimir Nabokov. There is a town in Arkansas called Ultima Thule and a creek in Australia. After New Horizons has had a chance to get closer to the object, to determine more about its characteristics, NASA scientists will decide on a permanent name. It must be approved by the International Astronomical Union, which oversees all names in space. Ultima Thule reportedly does not fit the union’s criteria.

Read more: NASA named the most distant object explored by a spacecraft with a term used by Nazis

Women's March On Washington

Protesters walk during the Women’s March on Washington, Jan. 21, 2017. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

New Orleans cancels its Women’s March

At least two more Women’s Marches have been canceled, including in New Orleans, where its chapter cited “several issues.” “Many of the sister marches have asked the leaders of Women’s March, Inc., to resign but as of today, they have yet to do so,” the New Orleans chapter said in its announcement Dec. 29. Top leaders of the main organization have been accused of engaging in or condoning anti-Semitism, of not cutting ties with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, and of failing to heed the concerns of its thousands of Jewish backers. “The controversy is dampening efforts of sister marches to fundraise, enlist involvement, find sponsors and attendee numbers have drastically declined this year. New Orleans is no exception,” the chapter said. New Orleans has held a Women’s March for the past two years. Marches are scheduled for across the country on Jan. 19.

Read more: New Orleans cancels Women’s March, cites anti-Semitism controversy involving national leadership



HIAS was among the organizers of a rally in front of the White House to call for refugee protections on World Refugee Day, June 20, 2017. (HIAS)

Elizabeth Warren pledges salary to HIAS during shutdown

Days after launching a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren pledged her salary to HIAS, the Jewish immigration advocacy group, as long as the government is shut down. “Over 7,000 people in Massachusetts have been sent home or are working without pay during the #TrumpShutdown,” Warren said on New Year’s Day, on Twitter. “Until @realDonaldTrump re-opens the government, I’m donating my salary to @HIASrefugees, a nonprofit that helps refugees and makes our country stronger in the process.” Trump has sworn not to sign a funding bill until Congress agrees to fund a wall with Mexico, which is unlikely with Democrats controlling the U.S. House of Representatives in the new Congress. As a result, the government is entering its second week of a shutdown, keeping hundreds of thousands of workers at home. Trump wants the wall to slow illegal immigration. Congress members and their staffs, separate from the executive branch, are not affected by the shutdown. HIAS has taken a lead among groups opposing Trump’s immigration restrictions, including initiating and joining lawsuits against some of the president’s policies. Warren launched her bid for the presidency in the waning days of 2018.—JTA


Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wears cleats to honor the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting during the Nov. 4, 2018 game against the Baltimore Ravens. (Will Newton/Getty Images)

Steelers Donate $70K to Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting Attack Victims

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Stronger Than Hate campaign inspired the city and the world to rally around the Jewish community in the wake of the shooting attack on a local synagogue building that left 11 dead. On Dec. 30, the Steelers donated $70,000 to help the Jewish community and the families directly affected by the Oct. 27 attack on Tree of Life Or L’Simcha Congregation building while worshippers were gathered for Shabbat morning services. Prior to the Steeler’s home game against the Cincinnati Bengals, President Art Rooney II presented a check to the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s Fund for Victims of Terror. Rooney was joined by Tim Hindes, CEO of Trailblaze Creative, who created the logo, and Mike Withrow from Underground Printing, which also participated in the effort.

Read more: Steelers Donate $70K to Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting Attack Victims




Hate crimes in NY: Jews targeted in 2018 more than all other groups combined

New York saw more hate crimes against Jews in 2018 than all other targeted groups combined, according to police figures. Anti-Semitic incidents rose by 22 percent from last year, NYPD figures show, according to a report Dec. 26 on Patch. Of the 352 hate crimes this year recorded as of Dec. 23, 183 were anti-Semitic incidents. Overall, the tally of hate crimes in New York is up about 6 percent from 331 in the same time last year. Evan Bernstein, the Anti-Defamation League’s New York Regional director, told Patch that those holding anti-Semitic beliefs are feeling emboldened. ADL believes that 12 to 14 percent of Americans hold such beliefs. The Oct. 27 slaying of 11 worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue by a lone gunman unleashed a spate of incidents in New York and “opened up people even more to act out on these feelings,” Bernstein said. “I think for certain people it gave them (a) green light and that’s what is so concerning.” The ADL has recorded a 60 percent increase in anti-Semitic assaults this year, according to Bernstein. Anti-Muslim incidents dropped by nearly half, according to the same figures. There have been 18 this year, down from 34 last year and 31 in 2016.—JTA

1 in 5 non-Christians in France never heard of the Holocaust, survey finds

More than 20 percent of non-Christians in France never heard of the Holocaust, while another 15 percent said it’s either an exaggeration or a lie. Those are among the results of a survey of 1,014 Christian and non-Christian adults, as well as those who said they were without religion, conducted this month for the American Jewish Committee and two other groups by the Ifop research group. Ignorance about the Holocaust and revisionism appeared strongest among far-right and far-left voters, and people who said they follow a faith that is not Christianity.  Among non-Christians, 21 percent said they had never heard of the Holocaust, compared to only 10 percent of all respondents. Overall, 21 percent of all respondents didn’t know when the Holocaust happened. Among non-Christians, the figure was 34 percent. Among respondents who said they are religious but not Christians, 11 percent said the figure of 6 million Holocaust victims was “exaggerated” and a further 4 percent said the Holocaust was “invented.” Just over a quarter of non-Christian respondents said the Holocaust was merely “another tragedy among many others in a war with many victims.” Overall, only 3 percent of all respondents agreed with the statement. Among supporters of the far-right politician Marine Le Pen, 15 percent said they had never heard of the Holocaust. That figure was 10 percent among supporters of Jean-Luc Melenchon, a far-left politician. Only 4-5 percent of supporters of more centrist politicians indicated total ignorance with regards to the Holocaust.–JTA

Maryland political issues

Among the issues important to Maryland politicians this legislative session are: The health of the Chesapeake Bay, the future of Pimlico Race Course, potholes and the infrastructure and the opioid epidemic. (Composite image of handout photos)

Political Roundup

Members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives start their sessions on Jan. 3 in Washington, D.C., while the Maryland General Assembly convenes on Jan. 9 in Annapolis. Jmore recently asked 15 politicians of particular interest to the local Jewish community to discuss what they will focus on in 2019.

Read the story.




Don’t miss the best of Jmore each week. Go to to sign up for our weekly Jmore Newsletter and This Week in Baltimore Eating newsletter.