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Jewish Group's Facebook Photo of a Black Man Spurs Criticism

Photo of an African American male riding a bike, with another in tow, was posted on the site of the Shomrim of Baltimore's Facebook page. Most commentors were critical of the group's posting of the photo for implying he is stealing the bike.

The Jewish neighborhood watch group at the center of an incident that had inflamed black-Jewish tensions in Northwest Baltimore posted a photo of an African American man this week on its Facebook page that led many commenters to criticize the picture's implication of wrongdoing.

The photo, posted on Shomrim of Baltimore's publicly-accessible Facebook page, is simple enough: it shows a young, black male riding a bicycle and towing along another, riderless bike.

The photo—posted without a caption, credit or explanation (see clarification below)—drew nearly 20 comments, some of which implied the unidentified black youth was a thief. The photo, like most on the page, was posted by someone with administrative privileges to the site—and not by a fan of the page, which is used to report anything "suspicious."  

Many commenters questioned why Shomrim posted the photo on Tuesday. It was still on the site as of 3:45 p.m. Thursday. Some asked if it would increase existing tensions spurred by an incident between a Shomrim member who was convicted earlier this year for assaulting a black teen he suspected of a crime.

After Pikesville Patch contacted Shomrim about the matter, all the comments were removed from that post. The seven "likes" remained. Patch is not identifying the commenters because their identities have not been confirmed.

  • "Buy one, get one free, (assuming he paid for the first one)."
  • "A picture is worth a thousand words. This picture and negative comments are what is causing tension in our community. I demand an end to Jews assuming this guy is returning a lost bike. He clearly is wearing his hat in a normal, civilized fashion and is not wearing a hoodie."
  • "I just think if he stole this, he looks pretty calm and nonchalant about it. He is not trying to flee ..."
  • "The comments (as well as the picture being posted with no explanation) is pretty inappropriate, especially given recent events. It is no service to our community to make fun of this kid. Be d an l'kaf zechus."
  • "Notice which direction on park heights he's headed got the goods and rollin on out thank you very much." 

View the photo on Shomrim of Baltimore's Facebook page.

Nathan Willner, general counsel for Shomrim of Baltimore, confirmed Wednesday evening that the Facebook page is managed by the local group.

The photo shows in the background an Upper Park Heights house that's recognizable to residents.

While Willner had not yet seen the photo or accompanying comments when interviewed on Wednesday, he said the comments did not warrant any media attention.

"I'm sure there is not a story there," said Willner, adding that he did not know who posted the photo. He said posting it is a "A freedom of speech thing.”

The Upper Park Heights neighborhood has a problem with people , he added. The Facebook page—which has 538 "likes"—features mostly updates and tips about crime in the Upper Park Heights area near Pikesville. The page's "about" section says: "If you see anything suspicious, please call us ..." 

"More times than not, the person stealing the bicycle has a bicycle. You see someone who is the wrong size for the bicycle, or you will see one person with two bicycles,” he said.

Willner said he would look at the post and call back, but, as of publication time, he had not returned that call, nor another left at his law office Thursday morning.

The photo was posted three months after one of Shomrim's former members, Eli Werdesheim, was convicted of second-degree assault and false imprisonment of Corey Ausby of Baltimore.

Werdesheim was patrolling Upper Park Heights as a member on Nov. 19, 2010, when the assault of the 15-year-old Ausby occurred.

During trial in June, Werdesheims' attorneys asserted that Werdesheim approached Ausby because Ausby had allegedly been going up to house doors and looking into vehicles.

Ausby, who is black, refused to testify in the trial, but his attorney said Werdesheim held Ausby against his will.

The watch group's members are primarily Orthodox Jewish men—as is Werdesheim—who reside in the largely Jewish Upper Park Heights communities that straddle northwest Baltimore and Pikesville, and are anchored along Park Heights and Greenspring avenues.

The group, which mainly patrols those areas, but has been known to help other groups in northwest Baltimore County as well, is open to all residents, Willner has said.

While the 2010 incident involved a white man and a black teen, the assistant prosecutor, defense attorney and judge each made it clear during Werdesheim's trial that there were no charges based on race.

Werdesheim was sentenced June 27 to three years in prison—all suspended.

However, he was also given homework: to research and write essays about Baltimore City's special interest groups and the strengths and weaknesses of its neighborhoods.

Baltimore City Circuit Judge Pamela White explained the assignment: "You need to broaden your sense of community," she told Werdesheim.

UPDATE: Shomrim Explains Facebook Photo of Black Man

Clarification: 

The original article stated that the photograph was posted without a caption, credit or explanation. By "credit," the article was referring to who took the photograph. It is still not clear who took the photograph. But the posting of the photograph on the Facebook page can be credited to Shomrim of Baltimore. The photograph was originally posted for nearly three days without an explanation until Pikesville Patch editor Janet Metzer called with questions. The comments that had been affixed to the post were removed and an explanation was added. 

Sean Tully August 02, 2012 at 08:58 PM
From Shomrim Facebook page (under photo in question): "We received several phone calls regarding a group of individuals that initially each had an individual bike and then after riding in circles around the same several blocks ended up with a another bike as seen here." The problem with the above statement is that the group is implying that the kid in the photo was on one bike before "riding in circles" around a few blocks before ending up with the second bike. Are they reporting that the kid had one bike then ended up with two? If so, either the kid stole the bike, bought it from someone, or produced it out of thin air. Which is it Shomrim?
Sean Tully August 02, 2012 at 09:02 PM
Bryan, I beg your pardon, Janet's and the Patch's. I saw the "breaking" news banner and the time the story was posted and thought this was all happening now. In any event, they made a bad situation worse by adding the caption that I am reporting on.
Sean Tully August 02, 2012 at 09:09 PM
I will add one other problem and that has to do with the Patch's banner headline and the story content. The headline and the story claim the person on the bike is a "man". I am not so sure that the person on the bike is 18 years old or older. He appears to me to be younger, thus I refer to him as the "kid". Maybe I'm wrong.
Bryan P. Sears August 02, 2012 at 09:33 PM
I don't think your question on the age of the person pictured is a "problem." I just don't know that we can reasonably determine age either way.
Sean Tully August 02, 2012 at 09:40 PM
Brian, fair enough on the age question. I think the story also refers to the person as a "male" (neither young or old). That probably would be the safest and most accurate description.
Sean Tully August 02, 2012 at 09:45 PM
p.s. Brian, the "problem" that comes in with calling the person a "man" is that if he is a minor and his parent or guardian sees it, they may be rather upset that their son is the center of a story.
Doug Donovan August 02, 2012 at 11:27 PM
That was posted after our calls to the group. You could say there is "credit" because the photo states "Shomrim of Baltimore." I'll correct it. Thanks.
Janet Metzner August 02, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Here's an additional story: "Shomrim Explains Facebook Photo of Black Man" http://patch.com/A-wB9Q
Reality bites August 02, 2012 at 11:42 PM
@Steve the same reason BPD allow all crimes such as bike thefts rapes and murders .
Sean Tully August 03, 2012 at 12:27 AM
Does BPD allow the crimes? If that is the case then all they have to do is stop allowing the crimes and problem solved and no need to carry hand guns for protection.
Ron Wise August 03, 2012 at 12:34 AM
Good Lord! Is there no end to this foolishness?
Laura Jackson August 03, 2012 at 12:54 PM
Nope, Ron--it looks as though there'll never be an end to this foolishness. They say that Park Heights Avenue runs all the way from Israel to Africa. So, since everyone in that area is "connected," you might as well learn to get along with each other. For the record, I wish everyone would stop referring to black people as "African-Americans." Unless one is BORN in Africa and then BECOMES an American citizen, he/she cannot call him/herself an "African-American." I actually know of a caucasion man who was born in Africa and moved to America and became a citizen. Therefore, this WHITE man would technically be able to say he is truly an "African-American" citizen. My point is this: We are ALL American citizens. Isn't it bad enough there are wars with other nations? Why must we fight here? Everyone should just try to get along with each other and mind their own business. Yes--if you DO see something suspicious, then I agree you should call the police. Let THEM deal with the issues. But, posting a picture of a perhaps "stolen" bicycle isn't going to do anything. Does anyone really think (if the bike had been stolen), they'd EVER get it back? I have a solution here. When you have a bike--when you're done riding it for the day/evening, take the bike and put it INSIDE YOUR HOUSE! Do not "allow" your kids to leave their bikes/toys unattended! This simply asks for trouble. And, "Steve"--the BCPD does NOT "ALLOW" thefts. It's parents "ALLOWING" their kids to steal!
VoiceOfReason August 03, 2012 at 04:43 PM
Ah, OK, then. When a bike is stolen, let's just BLAME THE VICTIM! How come that doesn't hold true for other crimes? I say we blame the THIEVES. When I see a 6' "kid" driving a girls' bike designed for a 4' tall girl, I think it is theft. But you prefer to blame the girl. Nice.
VoiceOfReason August 03, 2012 at 04:46 PM
The report was factual. What is wrong with reporting the facts?
Ron Wise August 03, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Trust in God, but first, tie your camel! (Old Turkish saying) There are many changes to our American Society since the 60s that are good; there are some that I wish we could go back to from years ago. I wonder if the Golden Rule is lost to us forever. We have gained several new freedoms, lots of wonderful technologies, but where is the compassion, tolerance and plain common sense of authors of our constitution? I don't believe people should be given government assistance at the drop of a hat, nor do I believe folks in dire strates, through no fault of their own, should have to suffer unaided. The idea that the State owes us just because of what was done to our great-great grand parents, is ridiculous. Long ago, Americans believed in being rewarded for hard work. Kudos to those who do today. It's time we all worked for the common good. Hear that Big Businesses? There are more billionaires and millionaires than ever before. There are also more people without a decent income. One of these days, we are going to wake up to a revolution in our own Country, and wonder why. I will stop now, lest I rant to long.
Ron Wise August 03, 2012 at 05:59 PM
Hey, Reason...The 6' foot kid might be the girl's bro.
VoiceOfReason August 03, 2012 at 06:06 PM
Sure he could be. Anything is possible. But that hardly makes it the likeliest story. If a little girl is crying to her parents because her bike was "borrowed" on the street, posting a picture that might lead to recovering stolen property is perfectly reasonable. I have repeatedly seen packs of 4-8 kids walking from Northern Parkway, and then riding back. Repeatedly.
Gregg Roberts August 03, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Oh yea, those Jews, always persecuting us..The Holocaust..the Inquisitions.. the Pogroms. Why do they hate us? Come on people! Yes, I was being sarcastic. Hey why aren't there groups like Shomrim protecting the African American community from crime.. you knows there are so many shootings and robberies commited by Jews against Blacks in Baltimore, right? Oh, I think actually the worst was a guy was probably a thief getting thrown to the ground by a rambuncious (sp?) younger guy. You see I don't see anything on Shomrim sight saying something bad about Blacks. But Shomrim is ''Jewish Group'' -- just like the patch article ''Jewish man Sentenced.'' I'm not Jewish but I find this whole idea extremely offensive. Geez, it's a Jewish community near the city. They are having problem with violence. The perpetrators happen to be black. Let's get over it. It's not racism. It's reality. They are getting robbed and attacked. Concerns members of the African American community should be worried about putting an end to that and not feeling offended....because 99% of that community is as against the violence and crime perpetrated by the 1% as the people in the Jewish community.
Ron Wise August 04, 2012 at 04:46 PM
Sarcasm aside, You speak the truth, Gregg!
Ron Wise August 04, 2012 at 04:48 PM
True dat!
RARE MARYLAND INDEPENDENT August 04, 2012 at 05:11 PM
I would ask the reporters of the Patch to try to do more than the typical knee jerk racial type stories over and over that a 12 year old could write. The formula, let's find a not black non muslim group and find something that we can take to so called black or muslim leaders to create a controversy is tired. I give you two suggestions, first how about a comparison of the comments made by the mayors of Chicago, San Francisco, and DC regarding Chick-Fil-A and compare those comments made by those of other racist regimes in history (yes one specific does come to mind - let's see if you are bright enough to see it). Second, how about an article of the Obama Administration's plan to silence military voters in Ohio. This would be a big more interesting than riding around looking for a sign or name of a street that somehow offends someone. I hope that does not mess up your next story that the phrases "White Perch" and "Black Drum" are racist phrases for fish. That would take some work, but I hope you are up to it.
William Metzner, Sr. August 04, 2012 at 09:56 PM
Do the folks on the East Coast have nothing else to do?
Steve August 04, 2012 at 09:59 PM
LOL "Obama Administration's plan to silence military voters in Ohio." Another made up conspiracy theory.
Buck Harmon August 04, 2012 at 10:10 PM
Based on the purpose and intent of this watchdog group, ...I would have to say that the way the photo was used is an accusation. You can do a better job than this by thinking your actions through next time..
Chillin August 05, 2012 at 02:38 AM
Agree, there was some intent to instigate, but there was some intent to make their Facebook visitors aware of a common problem experienced in their neighborhood too .Do you think that it would have been OK to post the photo, but blur out the bike rider's face?
Buck Harmon August 05, 2012 at 02:45 AM
Yep...big difference.
LCA August 05, 2012 at 10:16 AM
it's not made up at all...the idea is to not allow for a three day extension many military voters need due to deployments...why would you not want to give those deployed an extra day or two to get their vote in? this is an attempt to lower the military vote (which would more than likely go against the current President)...
Steve August 05, 2012 at 02:35 PM
It's made up. Read the lawsuit. The lawsuit seeks to have the time extended for everybody ......including the military. You won't learn that glued to Faux News though.
funnyguy August 07, 2012 at 12:45 AM
anybody know any good news websites?
remington lover September 04, 2012 at 10:45 PM
blur out the face?so as to not identify the race of the mayb perp?well,heres 2 funny angles...i notice a lot that,unfortunately,black(i am black also) people say that when the person accused is black,and they themselves believe he is probably guilty,and 2,i dont think any black journalist or otherwise hid the fact that george zimmerman was not black.....hmmmm

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