Category Archives: Leadership Development

A Precious Resource

resource library

By Melissa Cordish
As Jews, we understand that the concept of a covenant is central to our tradition. From Abraham and Sarah to our collective experience at Sinai, the theme of Brit appears over and over again. Striving to understand what is expected of us and working to fulfill these expectations is part of the essence of being a Jew. This concept is also key to the relationship between volunteers and the organizations for which they serve; A clear mutual understanding is critical the achievement of a meaningful volunteer experience. Members of boards or committees accept responsibility for their work and, in return, expect a level of respect and enrichment from their experience.

To facilitate this mutually beneficial relationship, The Associated’s Center for Community Engagement and Leadership (CCEL) has developed a Brit Avodah, a covenant of service, between board members and the organizations they serve. CCEL works both within The Associated system and in the general Jewish community to ensure that those who generously give their time and talent come away from the experience feeling good about the work they have done and also enriched by their interaction with the organization.

This is no small feat. To achieve this goal, CCEL has developed the tools organizations need to keep volunteers engaged in their board or committee experience and works with organizations to help them put these best practices into action. A robust resource library covering everything from writing a D’var Torah to ice breakers for meetings to Jewish values is featured on the Associated’s website and is available to the community.

CCEL professionals and ambassadors also work directly with volunteers in The Associated system to ensure that their communal role is well-suited to their wants and needs. By meeting individually with each person and exploring his or her strengths and areas of interest, CCEL is able to match volunteers to the right leadership opportunity. Some people pursue involvement which utilizes their particular talents; others may choose an area of need which resonates with them. No matter what they seek, CCEL can help connect an interested volunteer with the right opportunity.

CCEL’s commitment to this mission reflects important elements in Jewish communal life in Baltimore – the effective use of the time and talent of our volunteers and the cultivation of a cadre of active leaders for tomorrow. These dedicated volunteers are an incredible asset to our community. The decisions made by these boards and committees have the potential to impact countless lives. And the stronger and better trained that cohort of leaders is, the stronger our community will be.

Baltimore is unique among Jewish communities. Many struggle to engage leaders and lack a plan for succession among their boards. The Associated has been training future generations for many years and benefits from a robust cadre of volunteers who are poised and prepared to lead our community for years to come. Every committee or board member working in our community has the ability to lead from any chair. These leaders move our communal agenda forward and take care of our community. Thanks to them and their willingness to learn and grow in their roles, our community truly is in good hands.

Melissa Cordish is chair of The Associated’s Center for Community Engagement and Leadership.


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Filed under Leadership Development, Professionals, Volunteering & Advocacy

Reflections from Diller’s North American Seminar

American and Israeli Diller Teens in Baltimore
By Anneliese Feldman

diller nsa

The North American Seminar (NAS) was so much fun in Baltimore. All the Diller teens were together before the Israelis came, and we were so excited. Finally, the Israelis arrived, and everyone was hugging and talking as if we were already best friends. We played some games to get to know each other and learned more about each other before we went to our individual houses with our Israeli match. By the end of the first night, we already had become closer.

Although most of the American students were not present for the activities of the second day, the Israelis had a great time exploring the Inner Harbor, M & T Bank Stadium and Fort McHenry. That night the American families spent time with the Israeli they were hosting,and the Israelis learned more about their host family. Afterwards, all 40 teens got together to hang out and play games.

The next day, many American teens joined the Israelis in Washington D.C. We first went to the Martin Luther King Jr. Monument, then the Lincoln Memorial, the Einstein statue and the Vietnam Memorial. The Israelis had done research about these people and events and shared their knowledge with the rest of the group. The next part of the day was spent at the Newseum, where the group explored the history of American news and important events. Finally, the day ended at University of Maryland, College Park, where the group was given a tour of the campus and talked to Diller alumni who attended the University of Maryland. Everyone in the group was able to learn something new about America and American history in the nation’s capital.

The weekend retreat began Thursday evening, and we slept at the Owings Mills JCC. Friday morning, the group left early to head to Capital Camps in Pennsylvania. When we arrived, we unpacked our belongings; then we sat together in a room to begin a set of interesting discussions headed by Uriel, the Israeli coordinator. After these discussions, everyone went to their rooms to prepare for Shabbat, and we all had a blast taking pictures outside with everyone in white clothes.

On Saturday, the group broke down into smaller groups. These groups, combinations of Israeli and American teens, worked together to determine what they would organize during Community Week in Ashkelon. Each group had different themes and ideas of what to do, and everyone was very excited to plan a day of activities in Israel. After a really fun Shabbaton, the group packed up and headed back to the JCC to get picked up by parents and to head home.

The only planned activity on Sunday was at Art With a Heart where the teens decorated bird houses with pieces of cut glass to be hung after they were finished. Although everyone was tired from the crazy weekend, it was a very calming and relaxing activity that everyone enjoyed.

Finally the American and Israeli teens who were matched were given free time. While many went to the Towson Mall to go shopping, others went to places such as the National Aquarium or mini golf. The matches had another fun dinner with their host families and afterwards met at an American teen’s house.

The next day was one of the most exciting. The Americans took their Israeli match to school with them until lunch time so that the Israelis could have the opportunity to meet their match’s friends and teachers and to see what American school is like. After school, many of the Americans met the Israelis at the Pikesville Target to go shopping and buy some really cool things.

Later that evening was the Teen Summit where the Israelis and Americans listened to interesting speakers. The following day was unfortunately the last full day of NAS. At the closing dinner with all the American host families and Israelis, we enjoyed amazing slideshows that allowed everyone to reflect on the fun times during NAS.

It was a great closing to the crazy 10 days. Everyone realized how amazing the experience was – to be able to learn so much about each other’s cultures and lives. It was very sad having to drop the Israeli’s off at a hotel that night where everyone said their last goodbyes. We have all made lifelong friends in Ashkelon. Now we are counting down the days until the flight leaves from Baltimore to Israel!
What An Experience
By Andy Neumann
diller group

Truthfully, I was not so excited for the North American Seminar (NAS). I barely spoke to my match beforehand, and I was nervous about missing school and losing sleep. I had no idea of how amazing those 10 days would be.

From the first dramatic meeting, filled with smiles and hugs, the excitement of the NAS never diminished. The dynamic in our Baltimore Diller group is so special that when we found that the Ashkelon Dillers had the same bond, we immediately clung to them. It felt like one crazy 39-person family where each member contributed differently to make the NAS incredible. The first night silenced all my apprehensions: I knew I would love everything in store.

Over the next few days, Diller became my beacon of every day, my “light at the end of the tunnel” every evening. During school I would daydream about being reunited with my new family. Despite my exhaustion and homework, I felt like it was all worthwhile just to spend a few more minutes with the awesome bunch.

The NAS put me on something that I can only describe as a “Diller high.” I’ve felt it before, mostly from the retreats, but this time it was more intense. The 10 action-packed days felt more like a dream than reality. I longed for time with the Israelis to bask in that warmth just a little longer. It was so incredible to be a part of that group through all of the energized yelling, the Hebrew punch lines and the friendly mocking. I am so excited for Israel and I know we will pick up exactly where we left off.


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Filed under Leadership Development, Teens

The Dor Tikvah Experience: Saying Yes

dor tikvah

By Elizabeth Schuman
Associated Women

I met an amazing group of women. I learned so much about the wide variety of great agencies and organizations in Baltimore. I re-ignited my Jewish spark that was always there … and Dor Tikvah inspired me to become more involved in the Jewish community.
Aileen Losin

I was exposed to so many things I never knew existed in my community. I met so many outstanding people during this journey and I would encourage other women to follow in my footsteps.
Ellen Driscoll

When many of us think about our schedules, we think about a packed to-do list and endless scheduling. So, it was with no small amount of consideration that the 14 women in the Dor Tikvah Class of 2014 said “yes” two years ago to the Dor Tikvah program.

For these women, saying yes was the start of a journey that took them from leadership skill building to personal Jewish growth to in-depth knowledge about our community. Under the leadership of co-chairs Tammy Heyman and Heather Cohen, the Dor Tikvah Class of 2014 met monthly from September 2012 through May 2014.

The class delved into their personality and leadership styles. Ask any Dor Tikvah graduate about her color and she’ll tell you the joys of being red, yellow, blue or green. Or she’ll tell you how to collaborate with someone who is a thinker … or a feeler. Or perhaps, she’ll share the importance of knowing your story and how to tell it in a meaningful way to the next generation.

The group met some of Baltimore’s most experienced and committed leaders – doers and visionaries leading our community into the next decade. They tapped into the brainpower of nationally recognized speakers and educators. They tried new things … and left their comfort zone.

I feel the programming was so very informative and well-organized. I enjoyed spending so much time with such great women. I learned so much about how The Associated takes care of our community. I had the opportunity to deliver a D’var Torah … and I was surprised how much I enjoyed that process. The program connected me to others and helped build my confidence!
Kim Brandwin

I really enjoyed being educated on the work of The Associated. Being new in Baltimore (again), this was a great and special way to connect with the community and with other women.
Deborah Levi Lowy

I learned so much about the Jewish Community in Baltimore. I also made a good group of new friends. I thought that the sessions were really informative and taught me a lot about myself.
Sonja Sugerman

The interactive, lively monthly programs showcased the critical work performed by the 14 different agencies and countless programs that receive Associated funding. Not only did the class learn about the importance of raising dollars to care for our entire community, they also learned about the intricate, thoughtful community process that allocates funds to causes and programs.

Throughout, overarching themes emerged: to leave the world a better place, to teach their children about tikkun olam and to lead by example. Today, these women are taking their next steps. Some are serving on Associated agency boards, others are leading or serving on committees. The seemingly all-too-short journey has helped them become more confident, sure and passionate about philanthropy, Judaism and community.

Much happens in two years. Beyond learning, these women gained something equally valuable – friendships. The class socializes and volunteers together. Their children have play dates. They support and care during a loss. They cheer and welcome at a birth – and members of this class had three babies during these two years!

I met amazing ladies, increased my knowledge about Jewish Baltimore and enjoyed community services and networking.
Rachel Gutman

It exceeded all of my expectations. I made new friends. I sat on the BJC (Baltimore Jewish Council) board, which was so interesting and informative.
Ann Rubin

I met so many amazing people. I love that I traveled all around Baltimore and explored new places. I have so many new and wonderful friendships and connections thanks to Dor Tikvah!
Wendy McChesney

To a person, the many benefits of the Dor Tikvah experience began when each said “yes.”

Mazel Tov to the Class of 2014
Lisa Berman. Kimberly Brandwin. Ellen Driscoll. Daina Garonzik. Rachel Gutman. Susan Haus. Sara Hoffman. Deborah Levi Lowy. Amanda Levine. Aileen Losin. Wendy McChesney. Sonja Sugerman. Melanie Yasbin. Tammy Heyman and Heather Cohen, Co-Chairs.

The Dor Tikvah Class of 2016 is forming now! Find out more by calling Liz Schuman at or 410-369-9251 or visit

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Filed under Leadership Development, Women

Traveling with TribeFest: Take Two In New Orleans

TribeFest Meme

By Dov Hoffman

Let’s run through a series of questions leading up towards my second TribeFest experience. If asked as a young child growing up in New York if I ever thought I’d live in Baltimore, I would have answered “no.” Even after spending middle school and high school at Yeshivat Rambam, if asked if I’d live in Baltimore as a young adult, I would’ve responded “unlikely.” Upon my return from a Young Judaea gap year in Israel, if asked whether I’d attend a young Jewish leadership conference in Las Vegas in 2012, the answer surely would not have been “yes.”

However, as we all know, life doesn’t always play out as expected. One of my favorite phrases to this day is the Yiddish quote, “Mann tracht und Gott lacht.” Translated into English, this means, “Man plans and G-d laughs.”

I moved to Baltimore the week after I turned 11. Despite not having a choice in the matter, this would pay off in years to come. Since graduating from Towson University in 2010, I have become an active volunteer within the Greater Baltimore Jewish community and an advocate for The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. After graduation, I realized that Baltimore presented great opportunity for an up-and-coming young professional, so I decided to call Charm City “home.”

In college I was active in a number of student organizations, with the American Marketing Association (AMA) being one of them. At an AMA professional networking event which I attended, there were a couple of folks from The Associated. I connected with them, and it didn’t take long until I was introduced to IMPACT, the young adult division of The Associated. For one reason or another, I didn’t make it to any of their upcoming events.

Months passed and it was at my family Rosh Hashanah table that The Associated and IMPACT were brought up once again. My cousin and her husband, who are lay-leaders in The Associated, recommended that I check out IMPACT. Soon after, I heard about the annual Chanukah Latkes & Vodkas event and figured I’d give it a shot. After all, how bad could it be, they did advertise latkes & vodkas, right? It was through my continued involvement in meeting with IMPACT staff and attending their events that I heard about an upcoming young Jewish leadership conference in Vegas, TribeFest.

I was initially attracted to TribeFest because I was told it would be the perfect opportunity to connect with other like-minded young Jewish professionals equally passionate about growing a stronger Jewish community and other related issues. Plus, it was a chance to explore Vegas for a few days.

With it being over two years since attending TribeFest in 2012, I’m amazed at the impact it has had on my life – both professionally and personally. First of all, other than an experience like this, where else do you get to jam out with the Moshav Band, hear William Daroff speak, and take a picture with Rachel Dratch? And that’s not to mention the countless other moving speakers which we heard at the conference in addition to break-out sessions, evening “mash up” social events, and volunteer service projects. It was truly an inspiring trip.

Being with over 1,500 similar individuals, all there for the same reason: to connect, explore, and celebrate our Judaism was something I had never experienced before. I still keep in touch with the young adults who I met from other federations, but my strongest connections have been with my fellow young leaders here in Baltimore. We had 25 attendees and I barely knew anyone heading into the program. Now, I consider these some of my closest friends and we all get together regularly whether for Shabbat dinners, social events, or volunteer activities.

The obvious question: why did I go back for take two? Well, I never have been to New Orleans, so that was a reason in itself. But, in all seriousness, I went back because I left TribeFest in 2012 motivated to learn more about how young Jewish leaders are thinking and how I could translate that to being a part of growing a stronger Jewish community here in Baltimore. Between the social activities, networking events, and volunteer aspects, it was a logical decision to return again.

I feel that I’ve grown as an individual and leader from my TribeFest trip in 2012. Since then, I have participated in Taste of IMPACT, and am currently serving as a board member for Jewish Volunteer Connection (JVC), a committee member for Jewish Volunteer Connection-Young Adults (JVC-YA), in addition to being a part of the two-year program, Young Leadership Council (YLC). I have made a conscious effort to take the appropriate steps and groom myself as an up-and-coming leader. After all, despite what I thought growing up as a young child, in middle school or high school, or as a college graduate, I have since realized that for now, Baltimore is the place I can comfortably call home.

TribeFest 2014 was everything I would have expected and more. It built on the experiences from my previous trip, but it was extra special to spend Purim in New Orleans with over 1,300 young Jewish leaders from across the country. One of my favorite highlights were the speakers including Doug Ullman, president & CEO of the Livestrong Foundation; Joshua Malina, actor from the hit show Scandal; David Weiss, writer from the Rugrats Movie, and Avital Zeisler, self-defense expert and motivational speaker. I also really enjoyed the breakout sessions, in particular, Start-Up People: Strategies for Engaging Jewish Tech Entrepreneurs, as well as the musicians, Soulfarm and Mikey Pauker.

If I had to narrow it down to one takeaway from TribeFest 2014, it would be: don’t take the opportunities presented for granted. I consider myself fortunate to have explored my passion for volunteerism and Israel while discovering new avenues for action. I also got to celebrate and embrace the many rich aspects of Jewish life, heard dynamic speakers share their stories and why being Jewish matters to them, and most importantly, connected with over 20 fellow leaders here in the Baltimore Jewish community.

What sticks with me the most weeks after coming back are the last words I heard before departing the conference: “How will you take TribeFest home? It’s time for young adults to raise our voice. We are the now generation.”

This puts the responsibility on my generation to decide how we will impact the Jewish community. Not only here in Baltimore, but beyond. Whether it is planning a Shabbat dinner, helping out the elderly, or finding a way that’s meaningful to you, I encourage all young leaders to become involved. Raise your voice and remember, we are the now generation.

Interested in learning more about ways for young professionals to connect with the Greater Baltimore Jewish community? Check out IMPACT’s website, or contact me directly if you’d like to find out about opportunities with JVC.

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Filed under Jewish Learning, Leadership Development, Young Adults

Our Trip to Baltimore Station

By Hayley Miller, T.E.E.N Member

On Sunday, December 1, our T.E.E.N. (Teen Education and Engagement Network) group visited The Baltimore Station to learn about how they help the community anImaged to spend time with residents living there. The Baltimore Station, located in south Baltimore, is a shelter for male veterans dealing with addiction. The men can live there and receive the proper treatment and care they need in order to become self-sufficient again.

Those of us in T.E.E.N., along with a Diller fellow and some of her friends, arrived at 4:30 p.m. and started off by preparing plates of food to serve for dinner. After spending a little bit of time learning about The Baltimore Station, we took a tour of the building. A resident living there was the one who showed us around, and he also told us his story and how he wound up staying there. Everyone in my group was stunned at first as he talked about his struggle with homelessness and addiction, and it really struck me for the first time how real these things can be. Of course, most of us in the group were aware of these issues in our community, but for many of us, it was the first time actually meeting people dealing with these issues.

On our tour, we were taken to the large rooms where the residents live. Rows of bunk beds lined the walls, and each man received his own set of shelves for his belongings. As we walked through, many residents smiled and introduced themselves and their ages ranged from 20 to 70 years old. There was a huge spectrum of different residents, but they were all very friendly to us and enjoyed showing us around.

We finished our tour in the TV room, where most of the men were sitting and watching the football game. We cheered along with them, and talked about our favorite players and who we wanted to make it to the playoffs this year. At around 5:30 p.m., we went back into the kitchen and began to bring out the food we had prepared earlier and served the residents dinner. Our group spread out amongst the tables, and we all had the opportunity to talk with the veterans and eat dinner together. The man I sat with was about 60 years old and he asked me about school, and then we talked a little bit about his experience growing up in Baltimore too. He showed me his medals from the war, and I was taken aback at how happy he was to talk to me.

Prior to my visit, I’d never heard of The Baltimore Station, and I barely knew anything about the poverty problems in our city. I knew they were there, but I had never encountered anyone who was actually facing them. I thoroughly enjoyed this visit, and I would really like to volunteer and get to know the residents better in the future. This was truly a rare opportunity, and I can’t wait to come back again.

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Filed under Leadership Development, Teens, Volunteering & Advocacy

Who Narrates the World?

By Jennifer Mendelsohn Millman
Program Director for the Jewish Women’s Giving Foundation of Baltimore


“Because the stories we tell determine what we think about what happens, which determines what happens next.” 

 Katie Orenstein, founder and CEO of the Op-Ed Project

Who is telling the stories in our community? If we are like the rest of the country, then the stories are being told by only a small sliver of the population.  Did you know that if you combine the voices on television, in Hollywood, in Wikipedia, in Congress, on corporate boards and on the opinion pages only 16.5 percent of them are female. To make matters worse, one of the reasons that our voices are underrepresented is that we are not raising them. When the Washington Post tracked submissions to their OpEd pages for five months in 2008, they found that only 10 percent of the submissions were from women.

The Jewish Women’s Giving Foundation of Baltimore (JWGF), a program of the Associated, was confronted by the above statistics when we hosted a seminar by the OpEd Project. The OpEd Project was launched in 2008 with a mission to increase the range of voices and quality of ideas we hear in the world. Their goal is to increase the number of women thought leaders contributing to key forums. In other words, women who are telling the story. Because when we start telling the story (an evidence-based, value-driven story, of course) we gain credibility. With credibility comes exposure and exposure leads to influence.


JWGF is just one of the ways Associated Women can gather to hear stories from our community. We are a women’s giving circle, a form of participatory philanthropy where individual members donate their money to a pooled fund, decide together where to give the money and, in doing so, seek to increase their awareness of and engagement in the issues facing their community.

Every year we hear stories of need in Jewish and secular Baltimore, in Israel and beyond.  Through our grant cycle last year, we learned that a critical challenge faced by poor women with life-threatening conditions like breast cancer is access to nutritious, body-healing food. Moveable Feast, a local non-profit, tackles that problem by delivering free, healthy meals to breast cancer patients so that they can focus on strengthening their bodies and not on where there next meal will come from.

We also learned about a particularly vulnerable segment of the population in Israel, girls removed from their homes by court order because of neglect or trauma who were then dually traumatized by their proximity to rocket fire during Operation Pillar of Defense. NATAL, an Israeli non-profit that is world-renowned for supporting the treatment of Israelis who have experienced trauma related to terrorism, war and military service, was on the ground and ready to help. They empowered these girls with practical tools for dealing with their stressful situation.

JWGF was delighted to be able to grant over $100,000 last year to Moveable Feast, NATAL and seven other organizations working to address the above issues and others facing women and girls. Just as importantly, we listened to their stories, we learned from them and we were inspired to take action.

We were challenged by the OpEd Project to make a difference in our community by sharing the stories that we hear. And we in turn challenge you. In this season of giving, help our community and let your voices be heard. Share with others the stories that have inspired you this year.

Make an impact in our community with your voice.   If you would like more information about the Jewish Women’s Giving Foundation of Baltimore, please contact Jennifer Mendelsohn Millman at

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Filed under Leadership Development, Philanthropy, Volunteering & Advocacy, Women

Pew and the Jews…Baltimore Jews that is

ImageBy Michael Hoffman, Chief Planning & Strategy Officer

There has been much commentary about the recent release of the Pew Study Profile on American Jews.  A lot of commentary.  Literally hundreds of articles, blogs and rabbinic sermons on the impact of the study on the state of American Jewry.  There have been some who liken the release of the Pew study to the 1990 National Jewish Population, which provided shock and awe of the 52 percent intermarriage rate in the Jewish community.  There are sobering statistics in the Pew that illuminate some of the overarching challenges we face as Jewish institutions.

So what impact does Pew have on the Baltimore Jewish community?  The short answer is not that much.  Pew is a national study that, as of yet, has not been broken down regionally.  It is quite difficult to accurately translate the national Jewish experience to the local one.  Our Jewish experience in Baltimore is very different than one’s Jewish experience in San Francisco, Grand Rapids or New Orleans.  What Pew shows is that the Jewish experience is becoming more individualistic, less institutional and more experiential.  American Jews are looking for more meaning, relevance and demonstrated value in participation in Jewish life.

Here in Baltimore we have much to be proud of.  In 2010, The Associated released the findings of our own Jewish Community Study.  When you put The Associated study side-by-side with Pew, we compare significantly higher in many data points related to engagement and affiliation.  Baltimore Jews trend higher in wanting to be part of the Jewish community than what’s noted in the Pew study (82 percent vs. 28 percent).  More Baltimore Jewish households belong to a Jewish organization compared to national statistics (60 percent vs. 20 percent).  Baltimore Jews have a higher emotional attachment to Israel (74 percent vs. 69 percent).  We also trend better in Jewish education, philanthropy and show less of a decline in denominational Judaism.

Dr. Jack Ukeles, principal researcher for the 2010 Baltimore Jewish Community Study, stated it best when he said, “the Pew Study should be in the background, and the local study should be in the foreground.”  For Baltimore, Pew paints an important picture.  It presents a scenario on what Jewish life could look like in 10 years if we do not stay focused on the need to evolve the Jewish experience and stay relevant to the potential consumers of Jewish life.  Pew provides us with a case for giving, on why it is critically important to give to The Associated Annual Campaign – which nurtures Jewish life from cradle to grave by fostering opportunities for enrichment and education.  Pew provides us with a sense of validation in our investment in more than 30 innovative programs started after the Jewish Community Study including PJ Library, Charm City Tribe, Moishe House and the Baltimore Jewish Abilities Alliance.

Baltimore continues to be one of the most vibrant and exciting Jewish communities in North America, and thanks to the Pew, we now have data to prove this.  What makes Baltimore so unique is we do not rest on our laurels.  I am most excited about what is to come next from our dynamic Baltimore Jewish community and Associated system.

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November 4, 2013 · 4:43 pm