When Stevenson University senior Avi Miller decided to take a winter class on international marketing in Panama, he knew he wanted to seek out the country’s Jewish community.
Miller, who went to Krieger Schechter Day School and the Shoshana S. Cardin School, wound up having a brief but fulfilling visit to a Reform congregation just outside of Panama City.
“I’ve never had an empanada in a synagogue before,” he remarked after his return.
Miller was part of a 14-student group organized by Stevenson professor Larry Burgee that journeyed to the country as part of a 300-level international marketing class. They interacted with nine Panamanian companies and learned about the global market in a country that sees ships from 180 countries pass through the Panama Canal, said Burgee.
With the help of the class’s group leader, Miller found himself at Congregacion Kol Shearith Israel just northeast of Panama City in Costa del Este. Although he, the group leader and a classmate didn’t get there until after Friday night Shabbat services, he was still able to speak with a past president and the rabbi.
“I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was extremely similar to what I see here in Baltimore,” he said. “I’ve always learned that you can find Jews around the world and they’ll always welcome you, and it was a neat reminder.”
Miller explored the sanctuary and was given a siddur to take home when congregants noticed he was intrigued by it containing Hebrew, English and Spanish. He’s fluent in Hebrew and English and knows a good amount of Spanish as well; the trip was his first opportunity to put his Spanish skills to the test.
Said Miller: “Seeing new places is eye-opening.”