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Al Feldstein Named to Thomas Kennedy Center Board March 7, 2024

Albert Feldstein of LaVale was recently elected to the Board of Directors of the Thomas Kennedy Center. Based in Hagerstown, Maryland the center is named for Thomas Kennedy, who as a Maryland delegate from Washington County led a long struggle for the 1826 passage of what became known as the “Jew Bill.” Prior to that time Jews could be sentenced to death for not expressing belief in the divinity of Jesus. Kennedy had never met a Jew, but believed religion was “a question which rests, or ought to rest, between man and his Creator alone." The bill gave Jews the… Read More

Governor Hogan Leads Hannukah Celebration December 20, 2019

(Annapolis, MD) - Earlier this week, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan joined with First Lady Yumi Hogan to welcome the holiday season.Thomas Kennedy's founder Rabbi Ari Plost was with Governor Hogan and the First Lady. Governor Hogan said, "The First Lady and I were delighted to host a Hanukkah brunch at Government House to honor our state’s rich Jewish culture and celebrate this season of miracles. I pledge to continue to strongly support and advocate for Maryland’s Jewish community and for the state of Israel, which is one of America’s best and most important allies."Rabbi Plost said, "It was a wonderful… Read More

Monarch Alliance and Garden Volunteers Add Landscaping to Thomas Kennedy Park November 24, 2019

During the summer of 2019, several volunteers worked tirelessly to add plantings, trees and shrubs, and lots of wonderful flowers to the Thomas Kenendy Park.The new park was dedicated on October 11, 2019, and the park looked beautiful!Thank you everyone! Read More

News Story: MD Politicians Honor Thomas Kennedy, Religious Freedom Champion November 24, 2019

From the Baltimore Jewish Times:Baltimore Jewish Times MD Politicians Honor Thomas Kennedy, Religious Freedom Champion By Carolyn Conte - October 17, 2019 On Oct. 11, Hagerstown dedicated the Thomas Kennedy Park and Statue. Gov. Larry Hogan, Sen. Ben Cardin, Sen. Van Hollen and Rabbi David Saperstein were in attendance, among other community leaders. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan speaks at the dedication of the Thomas Kennedy Park Friday in Hagerstown. Kennedy was a Washington County lawmaker in the 1800s who was successful in establishing a law allowing Jews to hold public office. Rabbi Ari Plost, 43, of Congregation B’nai Abraham, spearheaded… Read More

Final Hanukkah Menorah Candle Lit - Thomas Kennedy Sculpture Briefly Unveiled December 10, 2018

Elected officials, business and community leaders, and members of the Congregation B'nai Abraham gathered at the under-construction Thomas Kennedy Memorial Park in the evening of Sunday December 9th. A large gold Menorah was placed in front of the Thomas Kennedy sculpture, which was briefly uncovered for the ceremony.(L-R, Tom Riford, Thomas Kennedy Center Executive Director; Ari Plost, Rabbi of the Congregation B'nai Abraham; Maryland Delegate Paul Corderman; Leon Seidman, President of the Congregation B'nai Abraham)December 9th was the 200th anniversary of Thomas Kennedy's Introduction of the Jew Bill that opened the doors for Jews to fully serve in public life in… Read More

Dec. 9th 6pm Thomas Kennedy Sculpture to be Briefly Unveiled, Menorah Lit December 9, 2018

There will be a lighting of a large menorah and an unveiling of the Thomas Kennedy sculpture tonight Sunday Dec. 9th, 6pm. December is the 200th anniversary of Thomas Kennedy's Introduction of the Jew Bill that opened the doors for Jews to fully serve in public life in Maryland. Tonight is the last night of Hannukah, a Jewish holiday that celebrates religious freedom. On Sunday Dec. 9th at 6pm...A candle lighting ceremony will be held at the Thomas Kennedy Park across the street from the Congregation B'nai Abraham at 53 East Baltimore Street. It will be led by Rabbi Ari Plost,… Read More

Thomas Kennedy Park in the News - Work Continues November 14, 2018

This is a photo of a picture from the November 14th Herald-Mail Newspaper.The photo was done by reporter Tamela Baker.The caption of the front page photo says:Wayne Rippeon of Hagerstown's Department of Parks and Recreation smoothes the newly poured concrete base for the plaza for the Thomas Kennedy Park on Tuesday. The park is currently under development on Baltimore Street. The concrete will be covered with slate, workers said. Read More

Washington County Arts Council Presents Grant to Thomas Kennedy Center November 5, 2018

(Hagerstown, MD) - On November 5th, 2018, the Washington County Arts Council presented grants to several local non-profits. The Thomas Kennedy Center had applied for grant funding to help with the public art sculpture project, in the Thomas Kennedy Memorial Park.Arts Council Executive Director Mary Anne Burke (on left) presented a grant check to Thomas Kennedy Center Executive Director Tom Riford and Thomas Kennedy Board President Monda Sagalkin. Arts Council Board President Daniel Webber is on the right.Photo by Paulie Ward.### Read More

Vigil at Congregation B'nai Abraham Includes Thomas Kennedy October 29, 2018

The Thomas Kennedy Center is dedicated to celebrating Hagerstown-Washington County's state legislator Thomas Kennedy's tireless efforts of advancing religious liberty and inclusiveness in 19th Century Maryland; and teaching how his legacy applies today, regardless of differences that might exist among us in race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, color, orientation, and gender. The Thomas Kennedy Memorial Park will be dedicated to the ideals of religious freedom and tolerance. In light of the shootings of eleven innocent people, Rabbi Ari Plost wrote an Opinion Letter in the Baltimore Sun. In relating to 19th Century Thomas Kennedy, the Rabbi says, in part: "Elected to… Read More

Large Bronze Sculpture of Thomas Kennedy Revealed - Mounted on Pedestal in Thomas Kennedy Park, Spring Dedication Planned October 24, 2018

The large bronze sculpture of Thomas Kennedy was revealed at a special "sneak peek" reception at the gallery of artist Toby Mendez. The 7--=pond-plus sculpture was installed on a 3,800-pound granite pedestal at the Thomas Kennedy Park.A Spring 2019 dedication ceremony is planned.Photos of the sculpture can be found on the Thomas Kennedy Facebook page! Read More

WDVM Explores Thomas Kennedy Center project August 1, 2018

Thomas Kennedy Center executive director Tom Riford appeared on WDVM Television.The two-part episodes can be seen here (two separate links):First Part: Part: ###  Read More

Several Proclamations Awarded to Thomas Kennedy Center July 26, 2018

During the standing-room only groundbreaking ceremony, there were several proclamations presented to Monda Sagalkin - the President of the Board of Directors of the Thomas Kennedy Center.Governor Larry Hogan presented this proclamation in honor of the historic event:### Read More

Official Groundbreaking Ceremonies Held for Thomas Kennedy Park July 25, 2018

(Hagerstown, MD July 25, 2018) - The Governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, visited the Congregation B'nai Abraham on Wednesday July 25th.  The Governor was joined by Maryland State Senator Andrew Serafini, Delegate Paul Corderman, Washington County Board of County Commissioners President Terry Baker, Hagerstown Mayor Robert Bruchey, Hagerstown Councilman Lew Metzner, and Washington County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Paul Frey. Toby Mendez, the world-renowned sculptor, was introduced to great applause. There were several other elected officials present, including members of the Board of County Commissioners, Hagerstown City Council, and members of the House of Delegates. There were also… Read More

Groundbreaking Scheduled for July 25 5pm, Governor Hogan to Attend July 18, 2018

Media Release Thomas Kennedy Park – Official Groundbreaking Ceremony July 25 5pm Maryland Governor Larry Hogan will join with City Officials, Members of the Washington County Delegation to Annapolis, and the Thomas Kennedy Center; July 25th 5pm Event Planned for Memorial Park honoring Maryland lawmaker who fought for Jewish rights (Hagerstown, MD) -- The Thomas Kennedy Center and the City of Hagerstown are hosting an official groundbreaking ceremony at 50 E. Baltimore Street, at the site of the new Thomas Kennedy Park.  The ceremony will include keynote remarks from Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey, II, Washington County… Read More

Rare 1816 Thomas Kennedy Book Donated to Thomas Kennedy Center July 3, 2018

A huge thank you goes out to George Anikis! The Washington County resident, and published historian, donated an original book by Thomas Kennedy. This book is the only known work by Kennedy, published in 1816. This extremely rare and valuable book of poetry only exists in a handful of renowned libraries. The Thomas Kennedy Center will always treasure this one of a kind historic book! For more information about the book, and to actually read a Google digital copy, see: Thomas Kennedy Poetry, 1816 Read More

US Senator Ben Cardin Keynote Speaker at 125th Anniversary of Congregation B'nai Abraham; Senator Praises Thomas Kennedy Center June 16, 2018

On Saturday June 16th, there was a great 125th Anniversary gala event at the Congregation B'nai Abraham. US Senator Ben Cardin was the keynote speaker, and said that there was no more important work done in the 19th Century by a Maryland Legislator, than done by Thomas Kennedy - and he said his work resonates with importance still today."The Jewish community being here adds to the strength of Western Maryland, and now to pay homage to Thomas Kennedy with this park that's going to be across the street, this community has given back so much beyond just its boundaries," said Cardin.… Read More

Hagerstown Jews Look Back 125 Years, by Washington Jewish Week June 15, 2018

Full article here: from the article: A 19th century drinking song of inclusion Saturday’s ceremony will also honor Thomas Kennedy, an early 19th century Maryland legislator who sponsored a bill to allow Jews to serve openly in state office. What was known as the “Jew Bill” passed in 1826, repealing part of the state’s 1776 constitution that required a “declaration of the Christian religion” in order to hold elective office. Among the songs Cantor Susan Berkson will sing on Shabbat is “Come Fill Up Your Glasses.” Its lyrics are from a poem by the same title written by Kennedy. Rachel… Read More

Thomas Kennedy Center Board of Directors Approves Sculpture of Thomas Kennedy; Toby Mendez Says the Large Thomas Kennedy is Heading to the Foundry to be Made in bronze June 11, 2018

This is the 7.5-foot tall sculpture of Thomas Kennedy is on display in world-renowned artist Toby Mendez's studio. The scultpure is made of clay. When this sculpture is cast into bronze it will be placed on a 3.5-foot tall granite pedestal in the new Thomas Kennedy Memorial Park on East Baltimore Street in Hagerstown. These two photos were from Monday June 11th at the studios of world-renowned sculptor Toby Mendez. Thank you to the board members of the Thomas Kennedy Center for their vision and leadership. Thank you also to Rabbi Ari Plost for his dream of honoring Thomas Kennedy, on… Read More

Governor Hogan Loves Thomas Kennedy Sculpture June 4, 2018

Governor Larry Hogan recently visited Hagerstown, and took the opportunity to see the Thomas Kennedy sculpture's "maquette." This model of the soon-to-be over ten foot tall public sculpture was visited by Delegate Paul Corderman, Senator Andrew Serefini, Thomas Kennedy Center Board President Monda Sagalkin, World Renowned Sculptor Toby Mendez, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, and Thomas Kennedy Center Executive Director Tom Riford.Govenor Hogan is making plans to attend the park's groundbreaking ceremonies.The Govenor recently approved state funding in the capital budget to help with the Thomas Kennedy Memorial Park and Sculpture project. Read More

Sculptor Toby Mendez Putting Finishing Touches on Large Thomas Kennedy Sculpture May 16, 2018

World-renowned sculptor Toby Mendez putting the finishing touches on the nearly 8-foot tall Thomas Kennedy statue. Clay work is complete... the next work to take place is at the foundry with the mold, and pouring the bronze casting. On its pedestal the statue will be ten feet tall! Read More

Rabbi Ari Plost Presents Opening Prayer to Maryland Senate on March 14, Invokes Thomas Kennedy March 18, 2018

Annapolis notes Mar 18, 2018 By Tamela Baker Representatives of the proposed Thomas Kennedy Center met with state officials last week in Annapolis. Pictured, from left, are Executive Director Tom Riford, Gov. Larry Hogan's Chief Legislative Officer Christopher B. Shank, Rabbi Ari Plost and sculptor Toby Mendez. Senate invokes spirit of Thomas Kennedy Rabbi Ari Plost of Hagerstown's Congregation B'nai Abraham delivered a prayer and a history lesson Wednesday to the Maryland Senate. "Driven with a holy zeal to labor for Your noble cause, we were lifted up through an immigrant, patriot, legislator of this body, by the heroism of… Read More

Executive Director Tom Riford and Sculptor Toby Mendez Presents to Hagerstown Rotary February 28, 2018

The Thomas Kennedy Center's Executive Director Tom Riford joined with world-renowned sculptor Toby Mendez and discussed Thomas Kennedy, the new Thomas Kennedy Memorial Park, and also presented the Thomas Kennedy sculpture. The finished statue will be enlarged to ten feet high, on its pedestal, and will be located at the small City Park on East Baltimore Street.Thomas Kennedy Center Board of Directors President Monda Sagalkin joined the presentation.Several new sponsors stepped forward, following the Rotary presentation, including Kaplan University which has committed to being a paver sponsor.### Read More

Thomas Kennedy Center Executive Director Tom Riford Joins With Sculptor Toby Mendez, and presents "Culture and Cocktails" at Washington County Historical Society February 9, 2018

(Hagerstown, MD Miller House/Washington County Historical Society, Feb. 9, 2018) Thomas Kennedy Center Executive Director Tom Riford joined with Toby Mendez, and presented a discussion on the planned statue and memorial plaza project, along with a historical look at the life of the famous 19th Century Maryland Legislator. (Photo credit Paulie Ward.)Culture and Cocktails at the Miller House was an exciting night on February 9th. Tom Riford talked about the famous Maryland Legislator Thomas Kennedy, and Toby Mendez presented his sculpture. The monthly Washington County Historical Society event also featured Whiskey Sours, popular in the early 1800s.The event was attended… Read More

Baltimore Jewish Council Announces Support for Thomas Kennedy Center January 17, 2018

The Executive Director of the Baltimore Jewish Council recently sent a letter of support to the Thomas Kennedy Center. In part, the letter said:"...On behalf of the Baltimore Jewish Council, I want to offer our organization’s support for the efforts of the Thomas Kennedy Center to honor the legacy of Washington County’s former legislator to promote religious liberty and inclusiveness in Maryland.Thomas Kennedy’s efforts in the early 1800s – particularly in pushing for passage of the so-called “Jew Bill” – were instrumental to not just secure rights for Maryland’s Jewish community, but also helped to set the stage for our… Read More

Hagerstown Planning Commission Briefs January 16, 2018

Thomas Kennedy Park The Hagerstown Planning Commission on Jan. 10 approved the site plan to construct Thomas Kennedy Park. The $330,000 project will be across from Congregation B’nai Abraham to honor Kennedy, a Washington County state lawmaker who pushed for the right of Jewish people to hold public office in the 19th century. The park will be approximately 75 feet wide by 109 feet deep. It will be built on city-owned Massey property at 50 E. Baltimore St., where two blighted buildings were demolished about two years ago. The proposal includes a bronze statue of Kennedy on a 3-foot-high granite… Read More

Thomas Kennedy Center to get grant help January 8, 2018

Efforts to preserve a Williamsport-area Civil War battlefield and a project to pay tribute to a Washington County lawmaker who paved the way for Jews to hold public office in Maryland are getting some financial support. The Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area, which promotes stewardship of historic, cultural and natural Civil War resources and stimulates tourism, said Monday that it has awarded $4,000 in grants for the projects. The Battle of Falling Waters was fought July 14, 1863, when Confederate troops were preparing to cross the Potomac River after the Battle of Gettysburg. The site is along Falling… Read More

Thomas Kennedy model statue unveiled in Washington County December 19, 2017

Herald-Mail article about the unveiling of the model for the Thomas Kennedy statue: Herald-Mail articleThomas Kennedy model statue unveiled in Washington County Washington County state lawmaker Thomas Kennedy's efforts to allow Jews to hold public office was met with defeat for years. County leaders gathered Monday to celebrate how Kennedy eventually had a profound effect on religious freedom, and they unveiled a statue of him in his honor. The unveiling of a small preliminary model of the statue follows work by numerous people to establish Thomas Kennedy Memorial Park and the Thomas Kennedy Center, where people will be able to learn… Read More

YouTube video footage of the Dec. 18, 2017 Press Conference December 18, 2017

CLICK HERE: YouTube City of Hagerstown Dec. 18, 2017 Thomas Kennedy Statue "Maquette" Unveiling - Press Conference and Unveiling Read More

Thomas Kennedy statue unveiled in Hagerstown - It's set to be placed at a new park across from the city's synagogue December 18, 2017

WDVM-TV story from Thomas Kenendy statue model unveiling Thomas Kennedy statue unveiled in Hagerstown It's set to be placed at a new park across from the city's synagogueBy: Rachael Espaillat HAGERSTOWN, Md. - During a press conference, state and city officials revealed what the Thomas Kennedy statue will look like as they move forward with the new park on East Baltimore Street in Hagerstown. The model of the Thomas Kennedy statue for the Thomas Kennedy Memorial Plaza project in Hagerstown honors the former Maryland legislator. He created the "Jew Bill," which allowed non-Christians to hold public office. Officials revealed the piece done by internationally-known sculptor Toby… Read More

Thomas Kennedy Statue "Maquette" to be Unveiled (Dec. 18th at 4pm) December 14, 2017

Thomas Kennedy Statue "Maquette" to be UnveiledRenowned sculptor, Toby Mendez, will participate in unveiling model statue of Maryland lawmaker who fought for Jewish rightsFor Release - December 14, 2017 The Thomas Kennedy Center and the City of Hagerstown are hosting an unveiling ceremony for the new Thomas Kennedy statue project. The internationally-known sculptor Toby Mendez was selected as the artist creating the statue for the Thomas Kennedy Memorial Plaza project in Hagerstown, Maryland. The "maquette" has been created and will be unveiled at 4:00 p.m. on Monday, December 18th in Council Chamber at City Hall. A maquette is a sculptor's… Read More

Toby Mendez Selected as Sculptor of Thomas Kennedy Project - Dec. 18th Unveiling of Maquette December 12, 2017

The internationally-known sculptor Toby Mendez has been selected as the artist creating the Thomas Kennedy statue for the Thomas Kennedy Memorial Plaza project in Hagerstown, Maryland. The "maquette" has been created, and will be unveiled at 4:00 p.m. on December 18th at the Hagerstown City Council Chambers.About the Artist: Antonio Tobias (Toby) MendezSculptor - Born 1963Toby Mendez a Maryland-based sculptor with over 30 years of sculpture experience creating significant public art. Toby was born in Denver, Colorado in 1963.Toby apprenticed under the Academy Award-winning makeup sculptor John Chambers (credited with films such as The Island of Dr. Moreau, Mission Impossible and… Read More

JMORE Article - Hagerstown Memorial and Center to Honor Jew Bill Legislator October 4, 2017

Hagerstown Memorial and Center to Honor ‘Jew Bill’ Legislator by Judy Colbert| Oct 4, 2017  As a native of the Free State, Rabbi Ari Plost says he’s never been more proud. “I’m so proud to see Marylanders coming together — city, county and state, Jewish and non-Jewish, government and private — all working together for a greater purpose,” said Rabbi Plost, spiritual leader of Hagerstown’s historic Congregation B’nai Abraham. “As a son of Maryland, now a rabbi in Maryland, it is awe-inspiring to bear witness to such love, especially during a time of divisiveness.” Rabbi Plost was referring to the planned… Read More

WDVM Story: Hagerstown Council hears update about proposed Thomas Kennedy Park project August 22, 2017

Hagerstown Council hears update about proposed Thomas Kennedy Park project By: Jonathan Hunter  Posted: Aug 22, 2017 11:10 PM EDT HAGERSTOWN, Md. - At Tuesday's council meeting, a top item on the agenda was hearing a proposal for the Thomas Kennedy Park from City Engineer Rodney Tissue.   Tissue came before the council saying the project would cost nearly $300,000 to build and was proposing the city put $30,000 towards the project. WDVM Story... Read More

"Honor Them" - Opinion Editorial from Cumberland Times News July 23, 2017

To see the entire editorial, see: Honor Them ... Honor them One is famous, one is not, but both are heroes Jul 23, 2017 ... Another statue is being proposed to recognize a little-known Marylander who also helped to achieve a type of freedom for another ethnic group that didn’t have it. Thomas Kennedy was born in Scotland in 1776  and settled in Hagerstown. When elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 1817, he took issue with the existing provision in the Maryland Constitution that said “all persons professing the Christian religion are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty.”… Read More

US News and World Report Article - Park Would Honor 19th-Century Lawmaker Who Stood up for Jews July 20, 2017

Park Would Honor 19th-Century Lawmaker Who Stood up for Jews Members of Congregation B'nai Abraham in Hagerstown are backing the idea of a park across from the synagogue to honor Thomas Kennedy, a Washington County state lawmaker who pushed for the right of Jews to hold public office in the 19th century. Read More... Read More

WDVM Story: New Hagerstown park proposed to city council on Tuesday July 18, 2017

New Hagerstown park proposed to city council on Tuesday By: Nina Kapur  Posted: Jul 18, 2017 10:56 PM EDT HAGERSTOWN, Md. - For the past 6 years, several Hagerstown residents have come together to discuss the creation of a park on East Baltimore Street. In 2015, the mayor and city council approved the demolition of two blighted properties to make room for it. Tuesday, the group proposed their tentative plans at the council meeting. The park would be named after Thomas Kennedy, a Maryland State legislator, who in 1826 reversed the body of the Maryland Constitution that forbid non-Christians from holding public… Read More