Christopher Elliott, Pikesville therapist, dies

Pikesville social worker who explored his Jewish faith was known for compassion in counseling teenagers

Christopher Moshe Elliott, a Pikesville therapist who specialized in treating teenagers and was heavily influenced by his Jewish faith, died in a bicycle accident in Upperco on Aug. 26. The father of two was 42.

His father, Michael Elliott, said Mr. Elliott was cycling and struck a stopped pickup truck at an intersection. "His vision was obscured by a mature corn field," his father said.

Mr. Elliott had an informal, relaxed demeanor with patients, which helped him get through to younger clients, said Dr. Frank Gunzburg, a psychologist who was Mr. Elliott's landlord for about seven years at the Bedford Avenue office building where he practiced.

"He did a lot of work with teenagers," Dr. Gunzburg said. "They didn't feel like they were coming in dealing with an authority figure. He was more like an older brother — professional, but more on the open and relaxed end."

Sometimes, if a young patient was having a difficult therapy session, Mr. Elliott would take him or her outside for a walk or to dribble a basketball, Dr. Gunzburg said.

Mr. Elliott specialized in treating "addictions, anxiety, depression and trauma with children, adolescents, families and adults," according to his profile on the website Psychology Today. He was a licensed clinical social worker.

"My belief," he wrote on the site, "is that we are inherently good and want to create solutions that work for us. When those solutions no longer serve us we have the opportunity to re-create our lives to rediscover our inherent sense of joy through the therapeutic process."

Mr. Elliott's deep spirituality was evident in his work and his interactions, Dr. Gunzburg said.

"He was always thinking about the greater good and impact of things in his life," he said. "He touched a lot of lives."

He went by the Jewish name Moshe, after the prophet Moses, said his longtime mentor, Rabbi Shlomo Porter, president of Etz Chaim Center for Jewish Living and Learning in Northwest Baltimore.

Mr. Elliott, who was born in Towson and raised on St. Dunstan's Road in Govans, was born a Jew but raised in a Christian household.

He attended McDonogh School and was a 1992 graduate of Calvert Hall College High School in Towson, where he was wrestler and played soccer.

He received a bachelor's degree from Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pa., and a master's degree in social work from Yeshiva University in New York.

"He knew how to be a friend to everyone," said his father. "He attacked life and he didn't hold back."

Around age 20, he began searching for his Jewish roots, said Rabbi Porter.

"With the support of his family, he went to Israel and became a very spiritual Jew who continued his growth into his spirituality until his untimely death," the rabbi said.

He visited the Jewish learning center regularly and became close with Rabbi Porter, who described Mr. Elliott as being "like my son."

"Elliott was like a light bulb, vibrant, full of joy and always exuding his warmth to others," said Rabbi Porter.

"He was a real person, no facade, always looking to make himself into a better person," he said. "And he was very caring, when it came to his feelings. He chose his field of profession because he could help people and he was a very loving father to his daughters."

Family members said Mr. Elliott enjoyed the outdoors and hiked in wooded areas. He was a lover of nature and gardening.

"He could talk to anybody. People trusted him. He truly wanted to help those who were in crisis," said his sister, Lucie Tattersall of Dundalk.

"I was his baby sister and I worshipped the ground he walked on," she said.

Services were held Aug. 31 at Sol Levinson and Brothers.

In addition to his father, a retired advertising executive, and a sister, survivors include his two daughters, Odelia Elliott of Mount Washington and Sophia Elliott, of Del Ray Beach, Fla.; his mother, the former Susan K. Smulian of Houston, Texas; his stepmother, Cindy Elliott of Baltimore; and his grandmother, Fatima Elliott of Annapolis. His marriages to Rachel Kraft Elliott and Kena Rohi "Raquel" Custage ended in divorce, and family members said they remained friends and partners in parenting.

Reporter Jacques Kelly contributed to this article.

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

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