Her eyes red from crying, Lynn Katzen tried to explain why the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin had her so upset.
"Israel holds a special place in the hearts of the Jewish community and to see Yitzhak Rabin assassinated for trying to bring peace to Israel, it's just terrible," she said. "It's just shock, outrage. There's total disbelief this could happen."
Ms. Katzen, assistant director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, joined about 200 people at a conference yesterday on the status of the Middle East peace process at Baltimore Hebrew University. The conference had been scheduled several months ago.
Myron Aronoff, a Middle East expert from Rutgers University, told the crowd Mr. Rabin's slaying would likely have the same traumatic effect on Israelis as John F. Kennedy's assassination had on many Americans.
"I think there may be a backlash or a big sympathy factor that may be mobilized around the government because of this terrible tragedy. Those who had spoken out for violence before will be telling their colleagues to cool it," Mr. Aronoff said.
Mr. Aronoff and Peter Bechtold, director of Middle East Studies at the State Department's Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, Va., were joined in a panel discussion by Robert O. Freedman, acting president of the university, and Mohamed Musleh, a Jerusalem-born Palestinian who is now a political science professor at Long Island University.
Mr. Freedman and Mr. Musleh agreed that the peace process is likely to continue if Shimon Peres, named interim prime minister by the Israeli Cabinet on Saturday, can muster enough political support in the months ahead.
Joseph Marcus, a graduate student, said he thinks Mr. Peres has political momentum on his side.
"I think it strengthens the whole process because it de-legitimizes the right wing [which had opposed Mr. Rabin and the peace accord] in the eyes of the Israelis who were in the middle ground politically," Mr. Marcus said.
Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, the Maryland Democrat who met with Mr. Rabin at least a dozen times over the years, flew to Israel yesterday with President Clinton to attend Mr. Rabin's funeral.
"This is not a good day," Mr. Cardin said. "I'm making this trip to Israel with a very heavy heart."
Memorial programs were announced for 7:30 tonight at Chizuk Amuno Congregation, 8100 Stevenson Road in Pikesville, and Beth Israel Congregation, 3706 Crondall Lane in Owings Mills.
About 200 mourners gathered last night at Johns Hopkins University. Bathed in the orange glow of candles they carried, participants recited psalms, wept openly and did their best to console one another over the assassination.
Eddie Wipper, a freshman who serves as co-editor of the Jewish newsletter Hamakor ("The Source"), said he felt sad and angry. "Anger because I hate evil, and murder is evil, and sadness because the leader of the Jewish people is dead and he's been murdered," said Mr. Wipper.
Added Laura Zarembski, a sophomore: "I think the tears were not only for Rabin but the fact that one Jew could turn against another Jew like that."