Michael Hantgan, 29, has always felt a pull toward helping his community wherever and however he can.
Originally from Owings Mills and currently a resident of Mount Washington, Hantgan has operated for the last year as the YL Chapter president (Young Leadership division for ages 21 to 40) for the Baltimore region of the FIDF (Friends of the Israel Defesne Forces).
Hantgan also has been on the board for the Baltimore region’s branch of JNFuture for the past four years. Both JNFuture and FIDF are advocacy and fundraising organizations focused on issues revolving around Israel.
While not busy with such altruistic endeavors, Hantgan is intensely engaged in the realm of computer technology, laboring during the day as an IT systems administrator for a new, small startup company in White Marsh.
Though he’s been a professional in the field for the better part of the last decade, Hantgan said computers have been a large part of his life ever since he can remember.
When did you first know you were going into your current professional field?
Like every young boy who was into video games, I wanted to go into game design and things like that. As I got older, I got better at understanding the different between software and hardware infrastructure. I was 6 when I performed my first hardware install, and that was before the “plug and play” components made it so easy. I distinctly remember installing my first CD drive; it was really cool, and I knew this was the field I wanted to be in. A lot of this [what I do now] didn’t exist when I was growing up: the cloud and so much happening with cybersecurity. So the concept of IT has changed a lot over the last 20 or 30 years. It’s a growth industry.
How did you become so involved in groups such as FIDF and JNFuture?
To a lesser extent, I was always involved [in the issues advocated by these groups]. I also happen to sit on the national board for both of those organizations in terms of young leadership. It wasn’t until I had become a board member for both that I really understood what [FIDF and JNFuture] were really about. I didn’t want to just keep donating, not just give money and say that’s enough. I wanted to do more. My parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents were very involved in the Jewish community, the land of Israel and this country. I suppose you could say it was a genetic predisposition to want to be so involved. In 2015, I lost three of my grandparents. The last surviving grandparent, my grandma, would have had her 100th birthday this March. After that, I felt an absolute push to make sure to get more involved. I feel it’s definitely something my grandma would have been proud of.
What are your thoughts on the rather divisive opinions on Israel right now?
It’s terrible. It’s important, especially as Americans, that we’re able to talk about these things properly. Whether you’re Jewish or not, everyone should have a valid voice on the issue. But don’t buy into only what one side says, either. We need to have that dialogue and open communication. People aren’t communicating in the right way; they’re saying something, and it’s taken the wrong way. It just breeds more hate, and we have to find a better way to communicate with one another.
Do you see any connection between your work in IT and community involvement?
The concepts of IT are very logical: building a network of communication that has the ability to grow. Being able to take that logic and reasoning and apply it to young leadership can be tough at times, but it helps give that structure and grounds in realism. There are people who have great ideas, but we need just as many people who can make them happen.