One might say Morris “Maury” Garten has been preparing for his new role as chair of the JCC’s board his whole life. The 50-year-old Pikesville native has been involved with Baltimore’s Jewish community since he was a child, and he attributes much of his involvement to “the absolutely terrific education that I received on Mount Royal Avenue” at the hands of The Associated. “Baltimore is amazing in its ability to provide the education for our Jewish leaders to succeed,” said Garten. “I am very much a beneficiary of that.”
“Maury was chosen as the new board chair because of his exemplary dedication to and understanding of the JCC’s mission,” said Barak Hermann, CEO of the JCC of Greater Baltimore. “He has been involved for over a decade with various initiatives, and we are thrilled that he will be the next chair of the board. He brings intellectual curiosity, he is smart, passionate and community- centric, and he believes deeply in our role as a convener of Jewish life.”
Garten, an attorney, graduated from law school at the University of Baltimore and works for the Fedder and Garten Professional Association.
His call to engage Jewishly came directly from his grandmother, Bess Fedder. “She had a unique ability with me and family to always find the special passion that we have in Judaism,” said Garten. “Being involved in community, that was her thing, and I so admired her for that. She was highly engaged in Hadassah, and she talked about how much that meant to her. That inspired me.”
After he finished school, Garten recalled, members of The Associated invited him to join a young leadership council, which he ended up chairing. Shortly after, he served on the board of what was then called Hillel of Greater Baltimore. In 2005, Garten was encouraged to join the board of the JCC by his cousin/then-chair Larry Rosenberg and by its former executive director, Buddy Sapolsky. In addition to his years on the board, Garten also served for many years as a member of the JCC’s finance committee. This year, he completed the ACHARAI Community Leadership Program.
Garten will officially take over for Annette Saxon as chair of the board on June 8. Moving forward, Saxon will remain involved in the JCCA movement as a member of the national board. She will also be chairing the JCC Nominating Committee and the Leadership Development Committee as the immediate past chair.
“I am humbled and honored to have had the opportunity to be part of our J Team, made up of such a committed and hard-working board and staff who complement each other so well,” said Saxon. “This year, we initiated a visioning process that involved top leaders from the The Associated. I know Maury will continue to shepherd this process and provide excellent leadership.”
Garten will be at the helm of the JCC’s strategic visioning process as it unfolds over the next year.
“The J is in a unique position to think about how its decisions impact the greater Jewish community,” said Garten. “I think it’s a mistake to focus on the JCC as a place that has 16,000 people who are members. That’s an extraordinary statistic in our community, but it minimizes the amount of people that utilize us for services in all kinds of comprehensive ways, whether they are a camp family or they are a Gordon participant or they engage with us as a community convener. There are thousands of Jewish people who come in and out of our building each month, and it’s really quite impressive.”
The strategic visioning process will consider the JCC’s future and what it offers the community. After the JCC examines financial and policy considerations, community outreach will begin. “When the plan is completed,” Garten assured, “the community will feel very much a part of the process.”
Garten said he’s inspired in his new role by the writings of Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa in “Pirkei Avot”: “Basically, he said, ‘Anyone whose good deeds exceed his wisdom, his wisdom will endure.’ I think that that is very emblematic of our Jewish faith. We are a people who wish and want to provide great deeds.
“Having the wisdom is one thing, but actually doing is where we are. I think that’s really reflective of where people want Judaism to be in their lives. They want to make an impact, feel inspired, and they want to share what they know with others and help them.
“I think that’s what the JCC does as a part of its mission each and every day.”