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Werdesheim case blown up out of proportion

I've followed the Werdesheim case closely in the 18 months since the incident on Fallstaff Road took place ("Elder brother guilty in assault," May 4). I've lived a few streets from the occurrence for over 40 years. From The Sun's perspective, two columnists feel strongly this compares to the Zimmerman tragedy out of Florida. Both are certain Eliyahu Werdesheim is guilty of assault. Earlier articles were far more balanced than later ones, columns and editorials.

Believe me, this is an extremely sensitive, difficult and painful subject to write about. Here's my opinion on it.

Initially, something should be noted about Northwestern High School where the youth in question attends or attended. If environment is ever at issue, this is an environment that should be explored. Toward the conclusion of my 37 years in education, not that long ago, I spent a year at Northwestern. It was not a pleasant experience. We had six arson fires, and a gang badly beat up a student and dumped the body in front of the office, among other almost daily events. Student entrepreneurs, pockets stuffed with stolen cell phones, did a steady business selling them to peer drug dealers.

It was my understanding the young man who was allegedly victimized had a criminal record.

In the time I have lived in my neighborhood in Baltimore City, bordering the county, we have never had a crime. I attribute this, at least in part, to the presence of the neighborhood watch cars I see, on average, up to two or three times an evening passing my home. Now, community groups want volunteers tested for emotional stability and monitored as well. It makes sense you won't get many volunteers under those conditions. It's an invitation for an increase in crime in my neighborhood if what is recommended transpires. What it will mean to the area is, potentially, no more neighborhood watch. Early, it was recommended neighborhood watch be eliminated. One incident in decades of patrolling and angry community groups want our buffer against crime dismantled. Where is justice in this?

One of the brothers involved is studying medicine and has an unblemished civic record. He is, by every measure, a fine student as well. His brother, the neighborhood watch volunteer, is a law school student with an unblemished civic record as well.

They allegedly observed this youth, with a police record, looking into houses and cars. He allegedly defended himself holding a board with a nail. The older brother who struck him did so with a radio. A board with nail to defend one's self from a radio? Call me biased, but it sounds somewhat suspect.

Now, the youth testifies he does want to prosecute them. But justice is on another track and does so, regardless. One of the brothers is now facing a possible sentence of 10 years.

I am most saddened to note much of what was reported some 18 months ago is no longer part of the ongoing story. That is, the story behind the story.

Then, enraged community groups in support of the youth had all manner of incendiary remarks to make about Jews and Israelis.

Allegedly, one of the brothers told the youth that he did not belong there.

The anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism leveled at Jews 18 months ago somehow got omitted here. Members of community groups accused the brothers of what they felt they were doing to Arabs in Israel.

If that isn't profiling, anti-Semitism, or pure bigotry, what is? It was reported then that leaders of these groups declared the city would be torn by civil strife if something wasn't done to stop the Jews from pushing their children around.

Almost immediately, this became more than a case of assault. It became a blatant attempt to create — if not necessarily a Zimmerman situation — a Crown Heights, New York episode. I blame media and others with an agenda that had little to do with the youth for this. In fact, it had a tinge of Tom Wolfe's "Bonfire of the Vanities," to it as well.

Now, there's a threat of a $6 million civil suit.

In the news this week, the religion of the new city state's attorney came into question when his spiritual affiliation and a possible bias became an issue.

The situation should never have resulted in racist allegations. It should never have brought out anti-Semitic slurs. Israel was never at issue. Anymore than Italy might be an issue if a police officer accused of overstepping his authority comes from an Italian background. Nor is the religion of an elected official in Baltimore of any concern. This isn't Sociology 101, either. And The Sun, hungry for a cause, had no business comparing this to Florida and Zimmerman.

This was, and is, a situation where a decision should have been made on whether a child was or was not assaulted. No more. No less.

Samuel A. Zervitz, Baltimore

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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