As the holiday season approaches, several Jewish business owners in Baltimore have made it a point to become involved in a cause they are passionate about through philanthropy.
Stanley Drebin, owner of Goldberg’s Bagels in Pikesville, said since he opened his store almost 18 years ago he has donated to hundreds of charities, giving to some two or three times per week.
“Everybody gives to charity,” he said.
Every day, Drebin said, Goldberg’s sets aside 10 percent of its sales for the Ahavas Yisrael Charity Fund, which gives aid to needy Jewish families in Baltimore. He also donates to the Ben Cardin Jewish Scholars Program and chooses seven Wednesdays out of the year to invite students in for a meal.
“You’re talking about 100 people coming in,” he said.
Blumi Weil, who has operated the women’s clothing store Shell Li out of her home in Cheswolde since 2008, said she and her husband donate to many of the local Jewish day schools, including Bais Yaakov of Baltimore, Bnos Yisrael of Baltimore and the Torah Institute of Baltimore.
“We try to give back in any way we can,” she said.
Weil’s store caters to Orthodox women who have a difficult time finding a modest shirt in the mall. She said she will often hold auctions throughout the year and donate gift certificates. Her husband also volunteers with The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, and this year they are participating in Giving Tuesday on Dec. 1 — an initiative started three years ago by New York’s 92nd Street Y that has turned into a national day of giving. Jonathan Davidov, one of this year’s co-chairs for The Associated, said there are eight business owners participating, including Weil and Jeff Karlin, the owner of Miller’s Deli.
“I think business owners recognize that giving back to the community is good business and hopefully it does drive business to them,” he said.
Davidov said last year’s Giving Tuesday raised $1.38 million for The Associated’s annual campaign. He envisions that the event will eventually become a national day of service.
“It’s definitely growing in terms of its reach and its popularity, and the state of Maryland has been aggressive in embracing this as a day of giving,” he explained. “I know we in the [Jewish] community jumped on it pretty early, because this was a neat idea and a way to mobilize people.”
Karlin is participating in Giving Tuesday for the first time this year after his business partner, Mark Neumann, who is the board chair of The Associated, convinced him to climb aboard.
“I hope it says that my partner and I and our staff are mensches, because the community has allowed us to be in business for all of these years at this location,” he said.
Karlin said Miller’s has had a long history of giving back to the community, holding events 15 to 20 times per year in which 10 percent of sales after 4 p.m. go toward a particular cause. Supported charities have included The Mount Washington School, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and Covenant Guild.
“We’ve done it with a very broad group of organizations,” he said.
Another cause Jews in the community donate to is the United Way of Central Maryland’s Harvest of Plenty initiative. The program is in its 23rd year and distributes 4,000 Thanksgiving dinners to low-income Maryland families.