Baltimore and Detroit Jewish Organizations Come Together for ‘Executive Expedition’


For two days, Baltimore-area Jewish agencies met and collaborated with officials from Detroit’s Jewish organizations, who traveled to Maryland for an “Executive Expedition” trip.

(pawel.gaul E+/Getty Images)

The Detroit guests were able to learn more about the offerings from organizations such as The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, Macks Center for Jewish Connections, Jewish Educational Services and more. Officials from Detroit’s Jewish organizations, such as Jewish Family Service, Friendship Circle and Detroit Chesed, were able to observe some of the Baltimore Jewish organizations’ humanitarian efforts and the inner workings of how they operate.

Baltimore was specifically chosen for the trip due to its similar size to Detroit, and both are areas with strong and thriving Jewish communities supported by local organizations.

Baltimore’s and Detroit’s Jewish organizations are connected through the larger Jewish Federations of North America, which comprises 146 different federations across the continent. While the Baltimore and Detroit communities have similar demographics, they take very different approaches to how they operate and to their respective component organizations.

“When two great communities come together to learn from each other, we are leveraging the power of our Jewish Federation network,” said Marc Terrill, president of The Associated.

The trip was funded by the Gerson Innovation Fund, which was created by the Michigan-based William Davidson Foundation. The foundation is primarily a philanthropic organization that supports Jewish and Israeli causes. The Gerson Fund, which was started in honor of Davidson’s sister Dorothy and her husband Byron Gerson, is meant to support work that fosters innovation and creative thinking.

“We thought that it would make some sense to help the Federation try and do some innovative things with the Jewish agencies. So we put together a fund for innovation to sponsor projects that the staff would bring to a committee,” Ralph Gerson, the eponymous couple’s son, said to The Detroit Jewish News.

“First, [it was] to see if we could learn some new approaches we could take back to Detroit, but also for the agency leaders to spend time together talking about their goals,” Gerson added.

Some of the subjects discussed by the representatives from the two regions included sustainability and eco-friendliness, supporting people through community service and providing public resources and different organizations’ management strategies.

“We did an on-campus tour [of the Pearlstone Campus for Living Judaism] where we talked about our land stewardship practices, what the Jewish programmatic elements of Pearlstone are and our merger with Adamah,” recalled Rachel Siegal, Adamah’s chief development officer and one of the participants in the Executive Expedition trip.

Another topic was the involvement of many Baltimore Jewish organizations in the Jewish Climate Coalition, which is composed of many different community groups aiming to operate more sustainably and make their practices more environmentally friendly.

The experience was one of mutual learning. While representatives from Detroit Jewish groups came to Baltimore to learn from their organizations, it was not a one-sided affair.

Some of the Baltimore participants spoke of the Detroit Jewish community’s unique offerings and how they could influence future Baltimore-area programming.

“We talked with some people involved with a food pantry in Detroit about the importance of fresh and mobile food, and how important that is for everyone on every level,” Siegal said. “Learning more about other people’s perspectives on food insecurity provided a different level of inspiration and aspiration, which I feel being at Pearlstone provided for them as well.”

Terrill said that he hopes the Detroit agencies learned a lot from their visit, and can use their own takeaways to inform how they approach their work in their own community.

“It’s always informative to hear what our partners are doing and share the best practices from Baltimore,” he said. “We welcome these learning sessions and are proud to show off our amazing Associated and Jewish Baltimore network.”

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