It’s disturbing.

We know a swastika was daubed on a suburban Washington, D.C., synagogue’s wall not long ago. Meanwhile, the chief rabbi of Paris recommends that men wear a baseball hat instead of a kippah. And in the past few years terror attacks have hit Jewish targets in Kansas City, India, Poland, Germany and elsewhere.

But it’s there, not here.

Well, there was that tension between a neighborhood watch group and African Americans in Upper Park Heights a few years ago. And in September, a Jewish patron at Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse saw anti-Israel notions morph into anti-Semitism. And last year a man shouted “Jews, Jews, Jews” and then shot a BB gun at three teens leaving a Pikesville yeshiva.

Now we’re not interested in raising unnecessary alarm bells and upsetting people. For sure, the local incidents are as much about ignorance as anything else. Still, it’s anti-Semitism and there’s no denying the headlines.

What does it mean? When are we overreacting? And when are we under reacting? When do we hit the proverbial nail on the head?  Most of all, how can Jewish volunteers and professionals respond effectively when implored by youth, friends, relatives – even colleagues -- to explain and act in responsible ways?

Jewish Baltimore is about to learn about that and a lot more with a remarkable new initiative. “New Frontiers In Confronting Anti-Semitism,” : an entirely local effort, is gathering an array of leading local, national and international presenters for a mid-day, five part-series, running once a month and starting in December.

Sessions, to be hosted by the Park Heights JCC, will be held on: December 3, January 7, February 11, March 3, and April 7. 

I will be facilitating and coordinating this program which will bring in leading figures such as: Seth Gordon-Lipkin of the Anti-Defamation League; Dr. Robert O. Freedman of the Baltimore Hebrew University and The Johns Hopkins University; Dr. Peter Black of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum; Russell Wolkind of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee; Dr. Rosann Catalano of the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies; Rabbi Geoff Basik of Kol HaLev Congregation; Aviva Vogelstein of the Louis Brandeis Center for Human Rights; college students, and people on the front lines of the African American and Jewish dialogue.

Aviva J. Vogelstein is Staff Attorney at The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law

Individually, these noted presenters will explore issues within the Jewish, African American, Moslem, Christian, and European communities. Collectively – through conversations and group work – they will leave us with both a deeper understanding and resources to move forward as we seek to craft a healthier society. Overall, the course is designed to give our local leaders the knowledge and skills needed to approach the complex realities that we can all face.

How did it all come about? As Cindy Goldstein, executive director of the Darrell Friedman Institute for Professional Development at the Weinberg Center (DFI), explained, “We were approached by some of our community leaders to gauge our interest in such a program and jumped at the opportunity. We wanted it to be educational, interactive, and something that gave people the tools needed to move forward within a Jewish context. We are thrilled to have such a great list of presenters. This is a first for DFI, on this topic, as we continue to train lay and professional leaders to move our community forward together.”

And as steering committee member Deborah Cardin, Deputy Director of the Jewish Museum of Maryland, said, “As professionals and lay leaders we hear things all the time and say to ourselves, ‘Should I respond? If so, how and when?’ When we better understand the historical context and the present-day meaning of what we hear – and what we say – we can help everybody get a little closer to the goal of being a multi-cultural society that is rightly proud of its diversity.”

This new initiative is funded by the Charles Crane Family Foundation and sponsored by DFI, in partnership with the Associated and agencies: the Jewish Museum of Maryland, the Jewish Community Center, Baltimore Hebrew Institute, Baltimore Jewish Council, in addition to AIPAC, and will provide a forum for leaders to question, to articulate ideas and stimulate conversations.

Seating is limited. For more information, contact  go to , or call 410-843-7560.