Tag Archives: Jewish Baltimore

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Lights. Chanukah. Action.

Over the last week, the skies of Jewish Baltimore have been aglow — not just from the chanukiot, but with fireworks and laser lights.

Attendees at Beth Tfiloh’s Chanukah Fireworks Under the Stars on Nov. 27 enjoyed the color and excitement of the evening, despite some rain and the frigid temperature. Included in the evening were the candle lighting of a 12-foot menorah, a latke bar, warm sufganiyot and live music.

Community members were asked to donate new, unwrapped toys, which were distributed to sick children at the Herman & Walter Samuelson Children’s Hospital at Sinai, the Hackerman-Patz House at Sinai Hospital and to Jewish Community Services’ Toy Closet. With all of the donations, area children will be happy this year!

Then, on Dec. 3, Chizuk Amuno Congregation presented Laser Lights II to celebrate the sixth night of the Jewish holiday. Throughout the darkened sanctuary space, the laser lights of Chanukah bounced off the ceiling and pierced the air.

There was plenty of festive singing and Chanukah treats, too.

Created with flickr slideshow.
Maayan Jaffe is JT editor-in-chief — mjaffe@jewishtimes.com

The Associated Raises More Than $1.2 Million On #GivingTuesday

Baltimore residents stepped up this #GivingTuesday and showed their support of the Jewish community. At the conclusion of this national day of giving, The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore raised $1.264 million dollars, surpassing last year’s #GivingTuesday total of $1 million, the most raised by any nonprofit in the nation.

The money raised will go toward The Associated’s Annual Campaign, which strengthens Jewish life in Baltimore, Israel and around the world.

“We are so pleased with how the entire Baltimore community has responded to Giving Tuesday,” said Marc B. Terrill, president of The Associated. “The past two years have been a testament to the kindness and generosity that Baltimoreans continue to exhibit. We are excited by the conversations we had with our donors and constituents about the importance of both giving back and making a positive difference in the community where we live.”

The money was raised through an old-fashioned “phone-a-thon,” where hundreds of volunteers committed part of their day to call on donors.

As part of the #GivingTuesday initiative, The Associated joined ‘Bmore Gives More’, a city-wide effort to make Baltimore the most generous city in the nation. Spearheaded by GiveCorps, which provides fundraising software and expertise to nonprofits, the stakeholders, which also included Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake, raised more than $5 million. The effort was recognized by Henry Timms, founder of #GivingTuesday.

Now in its second year, #GivingTuesday was established by New York’s 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation as a way to create a national day of giving on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving. The goal is to make this effort part of the national consciousness, following the retail “holidays” of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

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Amit Pays Tribute To Longtime Volunteers

Amit honored several of the organization’s longtime volunteers at a gala at Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion on Sunday, Nov. 17. Shown here, from left: Sonia Greenspon, Selma Mosgin, Russell  Hendel, Isabel Levinson and Fern Friedel. (David Stuck)

Amit honored several of the organization’s longtime volunteers at a gala at Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion on Sunday, Nov. 17. Shown here, from left: Sonia Greenspon, Selma Mosgin, RussellHendel, Isabel Levinson and Fern Friedel. (David Stuck)

Selma Mosgin has one distinct memory that exemplifies why she has volunteered with Amit for more than 50 years.

On a trip to Israel in 1993, she visited several of the organization’s facilities, including a family residence where 11 troubled boys lived with a young couple. She remembers a peaceful scene with dinner preparations under way.

“The husband was talking to us and his little boy was standing there with his arms around his father’s side, and he was telling us about this particular group of boys that were so disturbed that they could not be in an apartment with the other children,” she said. “What they do with them is they save their lives. They give them special attention.”

Since 1925, Amit has been helping needy children in Israel with education, housing and other necessities. The organization operates 110 schools, youth villages and family residences along with many programs; it will help 26,000 children this year.

“We enable Israel’s youth to realize their potential,” said Robbie Pearlstein, Amit’s mid-Atlantic regional director.

On Sunday, Nov. 17, the organization honored several of its volunteers, some posthumously, at a gala at Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion.

“We’ve had so many wonderful ladies who volunteered, and I felt like it was time to pay tribute, even to the ones who have gone,” said Sonia Greenspon, who organized the gala. She has been volunteering with the group for decades and was also honored.

Many volunteers, including Greenspon, got involved with Amit, which has had many names over the years, through other family members.

“[My mother] sat on the phone for hours every time there was a function, trying to get people to come and contribute,” Greenspon said. “My picture of her is sitting on the telephone.”

Greenspon, who has two grandchildren who attend Amit schools, has a similar story to Mosgin’s about a serene scene she once saw when there was a measles epidemic. Children who normally would have been in school were home in bed, but rather than complain, they seemed happy and content.

“They really give each child what they need — individual attention,” she said. “Seventy percent of the kids Amit helps live below the poverty line, and the organization’s alumni number more than 100,000.

Mosgin said the Israeli government turns failing schools over to Amit, and the organization brings in its own principals, teachers and curriculum. She said Amit’s schools produce top students.

“We get them prepared to go to college,” she said. “We just do miracles.”

Mosgin, 85, got involved in her 30s. Her grandmothers, mother, aunts and cousins were all involved. She’s served as president, and now co-president, since the early 1990s.

“So many of us are there because our parents or grandparents were there, and so it [was] passed on l’dor v’dor,” she said. “It’s a great honor, and I’m proud to have any part in what Amit does.”

Pearlstein said Amit volunteers, who span the age spectrum, truly feel connected to the organization’s work.

“They feel that they’re their kids, they feel ownership toward them,” she said. “It’s all about the kids and their love for Israel.”

She hopes that the gala served as a call to action.

“What hopefully will come out of this event [is that] the children of these women, who have worked their entire lives for the organization, will step up to the plate,” Pearlstein said.


Created with flickr slideshow.

Marc Shapiro is a JT staff reporter — mshapiro@jewishtimes.com

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Israel. Bring It.

Penina Romanek says volunteering in Beit Shemesh is teaching her the importance of the State of Israel. (Maayan Jaffe)

Penina Romanek says volunteering in Beit Shemesh is teaching her the importance of the State of Israel. (Maayan Jaffe)

There are upward of 300 young men and women from the Greater Baltimore-Washington, D.C. corridor who are spending between five and 12 months this year in the State of Israel — volunteering, learning and living.

These people — young adults between the ages of 18 and 30 — are part of an international program called Masa Israel. Spearheaded in 2004 to increase the number of young Jews who come on long-term programs to Israel, Masa gives travelers the opportunity to touch and feel what life is like in Israel.

Take, for example, Devin Sutton, a 28-year-old graduate of University of Maryland, College Park. Sutton said she discovered Masa and its English Teaching Fellowship by chance. She was working as a kindergarten teacher in a Carroll County public school when she became frustrated by the administrative work. She switched to a job in customer service, only to become disillusioned by her choice; Sutton still wanted to teach. She also wanted to revisit Israel. She had only been to Israel once, on a Birthright trip.

“I had gone on Birthright through Oranim. I went back to the website and stumbled upon this program,” Sutton said. “I thought it would be one of the best ways to get back to teaching.”

With help from Masa grants — “I would not have been able to do it without help” — Sutton made the move. She said the year (she is living in Ramle and teaching underprivileged children in Lod) has achieved its goal.

“In Baltimore, I am not that connected. I did not go to Hebrew school, my family does not belong to a synagogue. Here, I have been able to find my Jewish identity and to teach. That is why I did this, I wanted a change, an opportunity to do something new and different … and to have the most impact,” said Sutton.

According to Mary Haar, director of Israel and Overseas for The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, 832 young adults have traveled from Baltimore on a Masa program since the city became involved in 2008. In 2013, approximately 160 people took part. The Associated, whose 2013 grant to Masa was $303,000, hopes to increase that number in 2014 by 60 people.

Explained Haar: “One component of the grant is to create and implement a strategic, multimedia marketing campaign to increase awareness of Masa.”

The campaign is scheduled to launch in January 2014.

In Washington, that awareness has already been building for the past several months. Bold ads for Masa can be seen on the Metro and in other key venues throughout the area. This campaign — and a full-time Masa Israel recruitment professional — is made possible by a generous, anonymous donor.

According to Avital Ingber, chief development officer for the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, this donor “wanted to help more local community members learn about Masa Israel. The donor’s child had a difficult time finding information to research a potential Masa Israel experience, and [the donor] wanted to help make this process easier for others.”

Jenn Rheuban is part of the Federation’s Young Leadership team.

According to Ingber, approximately 150 young adults from the Greater Washington area participated in Masa programs in 2013. The community is expecting an increase with the launch of masaisrael.org/dc, a new portal that features local Masa alumni and statistics about the positive impact of Masa Israel. Since its recent launch, site traffic is nearly doubling monthly.

In addition to young people from the area who are traveling to Israel through Masa, many young adults from across the country are volunteering in the communities’ partner cities, Ashkelon (Baltimore) and Beit Shemesh (Washington).

Penina Romanek, from Chicago, landed in Israel in October 2013 and is volunteering in Beit Shemesh through the Ethiopian National Project (ENP). She helps mentor the youth and assists in a Beit Shemesh school. She said while she feels good about giving back to the community, she feels she is gaining from the experience, as well.

“I have learned so much from the kids,” said Romanek. “They are teaching me the importance of the State of Israel. I can’t wait to go home and tell people what I see here.”

Similarly, Abby Mandel, of South Carolina, is working with ENP in the afternoons; she studies Hebrew in the mornings. She said she had no idea about the Ethiopian community before coming to Israel. She finds her work “inspiring.”

Said Mandel: “This feels very real.”

Maayan Jaffe is JT editor-in-chief
mjaffe@jewishtimes.com

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Friedman ‘Starts Up’ With MIDC

MIDC’s hiring of Ilan Friedman comes at a time of new growth  for the organization. (Provided)

MIDC’s hiring of Ilan Friedman comes at a time of new growth for the organization. (Provided)

The Maryland/Israel Development Center has made a new hire. But you won’t see him too often at the MIDC office in the Department of Business and Economic Development in Baltimore City. That’s because his office is in Netanya, Israel.

Ilan Friedman will now serve as the connector between Maryland and Israeli companies and the MIDC. His role replaces a years-long relationship between MIDC and Trendlines, which, according to executive director Barry Bogage, had become less effective because of Trendlines’ focus on seed-stage startups that were not ready to enter or collaborate with the American market. Friedman will focus on more mature high-tech companies with the capability to expand into the U.S. arena.

Friedman comes to the MIDC after more than a decade of working with a similar organization out of Atlanta and then with assisting Israeli companies through his firm, Ncompas International Market Development, in their marketing and sales initiatives to better prepare them for international growth. Born in New York but raised in Israel since the age of 2, Friedman has spent time in both countries and has a deep understanding of the two economies. Now that he signed an agreement with MIDC, which became official at the first of the month, he will focus solely on Maryland-Israel economic relations.

“The whole idea is to promote MIDC and Maryland, and I can’t be working with competing groups or states,” Friedman said.

Friedman’s hire comes at a time of new growth for MIDC. According to Bogage, Gov. Martin O’Malley increased the state allocation to MIDC for 2014 by 100 percent, doubling funds available for staff, marketing and projects that can bring jobs to both economies. In addition to hiring Friedman, Bogage added Jennifer Rubin Raskas in Montgomery County to better expand opportunities in that area of the state.

In the last two years, MIDC has scored some big wins, including convincing defense giant ELTA to open its American office in Howard County. Likewise, several Israeli companies are applying to enter (or have already entered) into area incubators, the first step in a Maryland presence. Those companies include Hybrid Security, Roboteam and Zuznow, among a handful of others.

“We already have a lot of new activity, and we expect to keep growing exceptionally,” said Bogage. “After years of doing this by myself, it is fantastic to have great staff.”

Friedman said he believes that Maryland and Israel have the potential for even more and improved synergy. While he is not setting a metric in terms of number of companies he would like to see collaborate, he said he is focused on getting Israeli companies investors, customers and partners in the state. He does not think that Maryland companies could necessarily benefit from having storefronts in Israel, but rather from learning about Israeli technologies and creating partnerships that would enable local companies to use the innovation in Israel to enhance their products and services.

The two primary areas of potential synergy are in the cyber security and the life-science arenas. He said both Maryland and Israel are leaders in these fields, and he expects they could better assist one another.

Concurrently, MIDC has a robust membership of close to 300 companies and/or individuals. Friedman will work with the rest of the MIDC team to figure out how the organization can better tap into its professional network to assist Israeli companies and to look at what more MIDC can offer the professionals in terms of access to Israeli innovations — first and for profit.

One other message that Friedman hopes to convey: “Israel is not in the same position as it was in the past. It is not a needy market. It used to need [economic] support, and it received that support. … Israel today has an extremely powerful economy and is a very influential country.”

He said that while there is much Americans can still do for Israel and things that Maryland can offer the Jewish state, he also hopes that he can use his role to improve the local market. He noted that Israel being the startup nation with the highest concentration of innovation in the world did not happen by accident but was the result of a process put in place by the Israeli government and the private sector.

“We can and should learn from the U.S.,” said Friedman. “But there is a lot the U.S. can learn from Israel.”

 See related article, “Showcase Of Innovation”>>

Maayan Jaffe is JT editor-in-chief
mjaffe@jewishtimes.com