When David BenMoshe was sentenced to a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence in 2010 for selling guns and drugs to an undercover police officer multiple times, he knew his life was a mess.
Now 29, the Frederick native has rebuilt his life — part of which included finding Judaism while in prison — since being released from a Baltimore halfway house four years ago with less than $20 and no friends or family to speak of.
BenMoshe, who resides in Federal Hill, is currently finishing up his undergraduate degree at Towson University in exercise science while working as an independent personal trainer. After he graduates, he plans to pursue a master’s degree in physical therapy to continue his newfound passion of helping people with their fitness.
In his spare time, BenMoshe volunteers with Charm City Tribe as a community connector, providing young adults living in the city with new and creative ways of tapping into Jewish culture.
What was your upbringing like?
I was raised Christian, and a lot of things about Christianity just didn’t stick with me. When I was younger, around the age of 22, I was going through a rough time in my life. I got into a little bit of trouble and spent 30 months in prison. There’s a lot of time when people don’t do anything in prison, and so I had a lot of time to sit and reflect on life.
One day, I just happened to see someone studying Judaism, so I took it upon myself to do some studying because it looked interesting to me. I quickly learned that everything about Judaism made a lot of sense. For me, I would study a Jewish text, which would lead to more studying of other Jewish texts and so forth. I just really got into it, and things started to click for me once I converted to
How has discovering Judaism changed your life?
I’m probably connected more now to the Jewish community than I am to the African-American community. Having been through a lot of the things that go on in the African-American community, at some point I feel like all races and ethnicities are going to have to come together. Right now, I think it’s easy to separate from the African-American community, but I want all of us to feel
connected to one another.
It’s interesting in the Jewish community, because when I go places, sometimes people will be extra nice to me. I really don’t get people around who are not doing anything good or nice to me, but I say to myself, ‘Would they be this nice if I wasn’t black?’ I’ve put a lot of work in on my chet, so whenever I give a good chet, people will go, ‘Oh, you must know a little bit of Hebrew.’
How have you connected to the Jewish community since moving to Baltimore?
I met Rabbi Jessy Gross, and she was putting together this initiative for community connectors through Charm City Tribe about a year-and-a-half ago. She told me I was very personable, easy to talk to and had a good idea of everything going on in the Jewish community.
Basically, the idea of the program is to help a lot of the young Jewish people who come into the area, and it’s nice to have them meet with someone, grab a drink and talk about what’s going on in their lives. For those people who are brand new to the area, it’s kind of hard to know what’s going on. But for someone who has been to a lot of these events, a community connector can talk to them about what events they might find appealing to stay connected to their faith.
What is your day-to-day job, and what does it entail?
I am a personal trainer and am also going to school to study physical therapy. So I train my clients at my private studio in Federal Hill during the early morning and at night, and in between that, I spend the bulk of day in class at Towson. It’s a lot of work, but it keeps me busy and focused on what I have to do.
I plan on going to graduate school in the near future for physical therapy and have already started looking at schools in Florida, Atlanta and California. I would like to continue doing personal training while adding more physical therapy into what I already do now.