[Hpn] Rabbi Helps Fight For Homeless, Defies Baltimore Feeding Ban (fwd)

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Fri, 22 Dec 2000 15:13:45 -0800 (PST)


ALERT: Help serve homeless people FREE FOOD on Mondays
       starting 3:30PM outside Baltimore City Hall!

http://members.truepath.com/CharlieGospelseed/ECC_GC.html
Environmental Crisis Center / Charles J. Swiden, Director
1936 East 30th St. (near Harford Rd.)
Baltimore., Maryland 21218
410-235-7110 (Linda, Charles or Chayim)
EMAIL "Rabbi Chayim Levin" <ChayimLevin@Hotmail.com>

http://www.jewishtimes.com/scripts/edition.pl?now=12/22/2000&SubSectionID=30&ID=
1329
FWD  Baltimore Jewish Times - December 22, 2000

     RABBI HELPS FIGHT FOR HOMELESS

     Deborah Walike Staff Reporter

A crowd of approximately 100 activists and homeless people assembled in
front of City Hall on Monday, Dec. 18, braving the bone-chilling, 23-degree
air.

Every day, twice-a-day, for the last  2 1/2 years, members of the
Environmental Crises Center - a non-profit homeless advocacy group - and
other organizations have been meeting in this exact location to distribute
meals to the homeless. Monday's larger assembly had gathered to protest an
official request from the office of the mayor to move the operation to
another location.

According to police, use of the alternative site across from the state's
prison complex at the corner of Fallsway and East Madison Street, should
have commenced on Dec. 4. But the organizations refused to comply and
continued to feed needy people at City Hall. The Dec. 18 protest was
organized after police handcuffed participants in last week's food
distribution. No arrests were made.

Rabbi Chaim Levin, a Lubavitcher teacher at the Tomb of Samuel the Prophet
Kollel in Jerusalem, has worked with the ECC for the past three months. The
Chicago native said he feels obligated to advocate on behalf of the
homeless.

"This is a Jewish story," said Rabbi Levin. "The Torah tells us that God
created the world for the Jews. So therefore, everything that is wrong in
the world is also [a Jew's] responsibility."

Rabbi Levin joined arms with ECC director Charles Swinden, as the crowd
linked hands to form a circle. Mr. Swinden, a self-described born-again
Christian, offered a hopeful prayer for understanding and a peaceful
resolution to the impasse, before the food was distributed.

Soon after, as the hot chili, hot dogs, cupcakes and fruit were doled out
to the 30 to 40 homeless recipients, Rabbi Levin pointed out an absurd
observation that compounded his frustration with the mayor's request.

Two blocks south of the contentious City Hall square is a well-known spot,
commonly called "The Block." The gaudy locale sports brightly lit marquees
and pornographic entertainment.

"So down the street is this X-rated block  I didn't know it was there and
I had to cover my eyes," exclaimed Rabbi Levin. "[Businesses on The Block]
are protected, but here - feeding the poor - this we need to hide from the
public eye."

Mr. Swinden contends that feeding the poor in front of City Hall is not
only a handy, accessible and practical place to reach a lot of people with
needs, but serves to make a social comment as well.

"We have the right to assemble and the right to bring our grievances to
City Hall," said Mr. Swinden. "This problem shouldn't be swept under the
rug, or shoved under a bridge."

The ECC also provides services and resources for homeless and
poverty-stricken people and has recently initiated a new program called the
Homestead Project, where the group repairs donated houses and places
previously homeless people in them. The group feeds between 100 to 150
people daily.

In his time here in Baltimore, Rabbi Levin has been counseling at the
center and "doing a lot of cooking." Working at the center is not
political, the rabbi said, but it is the work that God wants him to do. "We
are all homeless until Messiah comes," said Rabbi Levin. "We are all in
exile, trying to get back to the Garden of Eden."

Although the group anticipated arrests, Monday's gathering attracted little
attention. Police walked quietly around the square, but no attempts were
made to stop the food distribution. At press time, Mayor Martin O'Malley
announced a commitment to provide shelters and services for the city's
homeless around the area, scheduled to open by spring 2001.

In the meantime, Rabbi Levin hopes the mayor will allow the organizations
to continue their work in peace.

"What the Torah tells us is that [Jews] are not allowed to turn away ANYONE
in need," he said. "We don't want to fight with the mayor. We will pray for
him."

END FORWARD

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RELATED ARTICLES ONLINE:

http://www.sunspot.net/content/cover/story?section=cover&pagename=story&storyid=
1150520211100
FWD  Baltimore Sun - 13 December 2000
     GROUPS TO DEFY CITY ON FEEDING
     Officials want site for aid to homeless away from City Hall
     Order is termed 'an insult'

http://www.sunspot.net/content/cover/story?section=cover&pagename=story&storyid=
1150520214046
FWD  Baltimore Sun - Dec 19 2000
     News  /  Maryland
     MAYOR PLANS DAY CENTERS FOR HOMELESS
     NEWS FOLLOWS PROTEST OF BAN ON GIVING OUT FOOD
     AT CITY HALL
     By Gady A. Epstein
     Sun Staff
          In the midst of a flap over a ban on feeding the homeless in
front of City Hall, Mayor Martin O'Malley said Monday that he will
establish several daytime resource centers for the homeless throughout the
city.


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