Some people build friendships by breaking bread together. The members of HeBros do it by playing golf. The group of Jewish and African American golfers held its fourth HeBrOpen tournament on Oct. 15, to benefit the SEED school.
The idea started when Charles Baum and Tony Hawkins won a golf trip to Florida.
“We had a golf trip where African American successful businessmen and Jewish businessmen got together and the rules were they had to spend the hotel night in the same room, so that they ended up talking to each other about their families, their kids, their lives,” said Hawkins, who is African American.
They became good friends, and 21 years later, the HeBros “support each other, go to each others’ homes, weddings and bar mitzvahs,” Hawkins said.
When Baum died, the group started the HeBrOpen in his memory. Baum’s childhood friend and HebBros cofounder, Harry Lebow, was also a founding board member at the SEED School of Maryland. When Lebow died, the group decided to donate the HeBrOpen proceeds to the SEED School of Maryland.
According to the 2017 FBI hate crime statistics, blacks and Jews are the most common victims of hate crime.
“It’s seriously important to know each other,” Hawkins said. “We think we know each other, but we really don’t. You don’t know about a thing until you experience it.”
The HeBros are important to the black and Jewish communities, he added, “because there have to be people that know each other to have a community. We were missing that for a long time. Somebody needed to step up and do something about it.”
The HeBros help SEED, which offers free education to low-income students. Katie del Carmen Byram, SEED director of development, described the HeBros as the school’s “godfather.”
“They’re all very successful, civic-minded local men,” she said. “The metaphor is like having a really wonderful godfather always supporting you. They have helped us bridge a network with people in Baltimore, help us find internships for the students, field trips, fund senior internships, summer opportunities.”
One of the members is donating a van, she said, adding she would like a mentorship program between younger students and the HeBros.
Charles Baum is survived by his brother, John E. Baum, of Mount Washington. He said the HeBros set a goal for the tournament of about $70,000, adding to the $150,000 they have netted in the last 30 years.
Ten-thousand dollars from the proceeds will go toward a high school student to participate in the Elijah Cummings Youth Program. In this leadership development program, established by the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), students go to Israel for one year and spend the next year fostering leadership in Baltimore, according to ECYP.org.
Baum said about 75 golf players were at the Green Spring Valley Hunt Club for the tournament, with another 30 to 40 guests joining for dinner.
Player Ken Sines, of Colombia, heard about the event through friends. “I help kids at Western Maryland [a church program that repairs homes]. I would love to get more connected,” said Sines. Shanaja Johnson, 15, of Baltimore, is a SEED student who volunteered at the golf tournament. “I want to be a nurse,” she explained. Hebros and SEED are helping her learn about biology.
Lucas Metesa, of Baltimore, was glad to see the students. “They welcomed me in the parking lot, grabbed my bag, talked with me” he said. Metesa noted the event “represents Baltimore well.”
“It’s good to see all types of people get together,” Baum said. “I think it initially was about getting to understand each other and just to have fun socializing.”
The Baums grew up in Alabama in the 1960s.
“My brother was supportive of civil rights. After he passed away, his wife donated to Rosa Parks Museum,” John Baum said.
Today, HebBros members work in political activism, according to Hawkins.
“This group on three separate occasions has influenced the mayorial election. We are about representation, and we use it in a positive way to help the community. The men would complain at dinner that we don’t do enough to help out, so now we are very active with the kids.”
The event also offered tennis, cocktails and a book signing with author Chris Wilson.
As the tournament kicked off, John Baum encouraged visitors to share stories of his brother and the founders. “Or if you don’t have any memories, make them up, because that’s what he would have done!”