Baltimore Jewish Pride

By Erika Schon
Director, Baltimore Hebrew Institute at Towson University

I am a “kveller.”   I admit that I take great pride in the good things happening around me, and there are many.  For a transplanted northerner with roots in New Jersey and New York, I have a fair share of Baltimore Jewish pride.  Just this past week I was pleased to read of the ASSOCIATED’s stable campaign (no easy feat in this economy!) and enjoyed a thought-provoking article by senior editor Neil Rubin in the Jewish Times (“Mission Over?”)

Baltimore Hebrew InstituteThere are so many professionals and Baltimore Hebrew University -BHU (now Baltimore Hebrew Institute at Towson Univeristy – BHI) graduates I admire locally including Debs Weinberg at Acharai, Cindy Goldstein at The Darrell Friedman Institute for Professional Development at the Weinberg Center, Nancy Kutler at THE ASSOCIATED.   Neil, too, is “one of ours,” meaning he studied at BHU/BHI at Towson University.  Neil keeps his finger on the pulse of world events, with sensibilities that have been sharpened by years of study and historical analysis.  “Dr. Rubin” further had the distinction of receiving Towson University’s first Ph.D. upon completing his doctoral studies under the guidance of BHU/TU emeritus professor Dr. Robert O. Freedman.

Here at the Baltimore Hebrew Institute at Towson University, programming for both degree-seeking students and adult learners offers a wide range of educational opportunities, including daytrips,  lectures and Hebrew language programs.  Be sure to check our website regularly to see what is coming up in the fall – a trip to NYC, followed by two outstanding lectures – or send us an email to have your name added to our contact list.   At our core, BHI supports Jewish education, including Israel education, a vital component of professional training for our affiliated students.  This year, under the leadership of Dr. Hana Bor, Towson University will launch its first graduate level mini-mester in Israel. Students have already begun to sign up.

My good feelings continue when I reflect on our recent graduates, and follow their professional journeys.  For example:
Melissa Berman (MA Jewish Communal Service 2011) is the new Assistant Director of Adult Life at the Greater Baltimore Jewish Community Center;
Kayla Helfman, (MA Jewish Education 2011) will teach this fall at the Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community Preschool;
Lacy LeBlanc  (MA Jewish Studies 2011) is the Program Coordinator at the Foundation for Jewish Studies in Washington, D.C.;
Alex Saltzberg (MA Jewish Education 2011) will begin his Rabbinic  training at the Jewish Theological Seminary, joining alumna Jess Minnen (MA JE 2009). Check out Jess’s blog for an engaging peek into the Rabbinical School Year in Jerusalem.

As Director of BHI, my pride often extends nationally, for BHU/BHI–affiliated graduates hold leadership positions throughout the country. Individuals who quickly come to mind:  Joanna Ballantine (MA JS 1996, Executive Director, Harold Grinspoon Foundation), Marc Blattner (MA JS 1994, President and CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Portland), and Erica Brown (Ph.D. 2006, noted author and Jewish educator). With each year of talented graduates, the list of Baltimore-educated Jewish professionals grows.

As always, the BHI-affiliated graduate programs at Towson University are rigorous, but clearly rewarding.  I am reminded of one graduate’s words.  Upon entering her Ph.D. program in Hebrew Bible at Vanderbilt this past year, Caryn Tamber Rosenau (MA  Jewish Studies 2010) wrote to Dr. Susanna Garfein: “Thank you for kicking our collective ‘tushes’!“  I share Caryn’s sentiment – my more than 40 credits from BHU have humbled me and also fueled my passion for Jewish education.  As Lacy LeBlanc advised prospective students, “Don’t be intimidated…it’s worth it.”

Finally, I was gratified to read a recent BHI blog post by my colleague, Jill Max (BHU MA JS 1991).  Jill is busy planning the inaugural BHU/BHI alumni event at Towson University on September 14.  Alumni, please mark your calendars.  And be prepared to kvell.

THE ASSOCIATED and its network of agencies offer many Jewish learning opportunities. For a full list of Jewish learning programs, go to For Jewish learning events, visit


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Filed under Jewish Learning, Leadership Development

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