The Associated Contributors

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The Associated Contributors are writers from The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

Finding Her Niche – Meet Rachel Samakow

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Coming to a new city is never easy but discovering a community that gives you a sense of purpose can connect you to your new home. Originally from Pittsburgh, Rachel moved to Baltimore after receiving her bachelors’ degree in 2009 and then beginning law school at the University of Baltimore.

After permanently relocating to Baltimore, she soon found her niche in the Jewish community. It all started with one event, that has since grown into an active life in Jewish Baltimore.

Volunteering Through the Eyes of a Retiree

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Today I popped into the main office of Miguel’s high school to request an early dismissal for him. I was bringing him to his sixth and final appointment with an angel… a pro-bono dentist who treated and saved this 16 year old, his teeth and his smile.

My experience helping newly arrived individuals and families began when I was the assistant director of volunteer services with Jewish Family Services (now Jewish Community Services). At the time we were setting up households and arranging transportation through Mitzvah Mobility for Russian refugees.

Now, 35 years later, as a retiree, I volunteer to provide a more direct service to a family from Guatemala seeking asylum. I became involved after receiving an email from the team at Jewish Volunteer Connection (JVC), who had been asked to solicit Spanish speaking volunteers to assist with the many tasks of welcoming and offering support to families fleeing from the horrors of their native homes and their experiences at the border.

Zack Garber: Busy Helping Baltimore

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To pin down Zack Garber’s involvement in the Baltimore Jewish community, and the greater Baltimore community, would be difficult. From his professional career as a financial advisor on the Garber Wealth Management team, to his time spent on various boards, task forces and volunteer organizations (not to mention a personal project or two), Zack’s day is filled with one goal – how to help others. Zack sat down with us earlier this month to give us a glimpse into his day-to-day, what inspires him and what advice he has for those looking to change the narrative.

Did you grow up in the area?

I did. I grew up in the Owings Mills area, went to Beth Tfiloh for elementary school and then went to McDonogh for middle and high school. After that I took a training program in London for four months before moving to New York and then ultimately earned my MBA at Penn.

Meet Brad and Melissa Hecht

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On November 20, The Associated will present its signature Keynote event, “After Pittsburgh: Pride, People & Power.” Held at Woodholme Country Club, the evening will feature a conversation with Bari Weiss, New York Times staff writer and editor and author of How to Fight Anti-Semitism.

Baltimore natives Bradley and Melissa Hecht are co-chairing the event with Morry and Lisa Zolet. We spoke to the Hechts about Keynote, Weiss and their involvement in the community.

Meet Mike Fuld

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Mike Fuld will never forget the first time he saw his wife, Samantha. He was working at Kutz Camp as a staff member; so was Samantha.

Mike and Samantha first met in 2006. They happened to both be assigned to work on an all-camp evening program. The rest, as Mike puts it, was history! They were married eight years later in 2014.

Overnight camp. For Mike, it was not only where he met his future wife, but the place where he spent more than 20 summers as a camper and a staff member. It was where he formed lifelong friendships, enjoyed summers filled with swimming, climbing the tower and rocking out during song sessions. It’s where he celebrated his Jewish identity through immersive, yet creative, programs that emphasized Jewish values and traditions.

“What also really stands out about camp is that you gain independence and the experience of living as a community,” says Mike whose parents also attended Jewish camp.

Get to Know Jeffrey Kahn, PhD, MPH

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A Q&A with Jeffrey Kahn, PhD, MPH, the Andreas C. Dracopoulos Director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics and Levi Professor of Bioethics and Public Policy. Dr. Kahn is also the featured presenter for The Associated’s upcoming November 5 Maimonides Society program “Genetic Tinkering: Could We? Should We?”

What brought you to Baltimore? It was really a return to Baltimore for us, in that I did an MPH at Johns Hopkins in the mid 1980’s while I was a doctoral student at Georgetown and I always hoped I might have the chance to come back to the faculty. I was recruited back in 2011 and became director of the Berman Institute in 2016.

Meet Bill Robinson

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Bill Robinson admits that he may not be in Baltimore today, as the first executive director of The Associated’s new Center for Leadership, if it were not for a conversation he had with his sociology professor his sophomore year at college.

At the time, he was pursuing a degree in computer science. Yet, he was fascinated by society’s challenges.

“I started college thinking I would be addressing difficult problems that would ultimately yield solutions,” he recalls. “But my professor made me realize that the challenges we face in the social world are not easy to solve. In fact, sometimes we don’t know where to begin, as we can’t quite figure out what the problem is. To tackle that was thrilling – and set me on a path I never expected to be on.”

The Associated Expands its Green Initiatives

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In the wake of climate change, The Associated is doing its part to go “green.” From solar farms to green loans to reforestation, the organization is making a commitment to a more sustainable future.

“Climate change is real and is already affecting millions of people around the globe,” says Jakir Manela, Pearlstone’s chief executive officer.  “Just as many Jewish leaders stood up during the Civil Rights movement to push forward that critical progress for our country, so must we do so now.”

Pearlstone, an Associated agency, is at the forefront of these efforts.

Laurie Weitz Makes Women and Girls Her Priority

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Born and raised in Pennsylvania, Laurie Weitz arrived in Baltimore in 1993 for her husband’s business. Living in the Greenspring Valley area at the time, she quickly connected with the Jewish community. She was involved as the first co-chair, along with Ned Himmelrich, for ACHARAI, president of Hadassah for two terms, then participated in programs through Associated Women.

Today, this businesswoman – her family owns restaurants at BWI – is chairing the Jewish Women’s Giving Foundation (JWGF) at The Associated. JWGF is a giving circle that empowers women, each of whom contributes the same amount, to direct grants to organizations that support women and girls.

Finding the Right Sport for Your Child

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The sports activity and clinic season is upon us, and it’s that time of year when many parents are faced with scheduling activities to keep their children busy and active during the afternoons and weekends.

Youth sports cover a wide range of activity and choosing the correct mix for a child is not a one-time event.

For some first-time parents selecting the right activities will be a process fraught with angst and indecision. Just remember, says JCC Sports Coordinator and Coach Wendell Lee, “There is NO single right way. There is no roadmap for your child or children. Activities that may be vital and sustaining for one child may seem restrictive and suffocating for another.”

The Associated recently caught up with Coach Lee:

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