Black and Jewish businessmen teed off on Oct. 17 at the seventh annual HeBrOpen Golf Outing, a fundraising-based golf tournament held in Baltimore. Players competed not just to determine the best golfer but to raise money for the SEED School of Maryland in Baltimore.
The event was held by the similarly named HeBros, a brotherhood of Black and/or Jewish businessmen — formed 20 years ago by businessman Tony Hawkins — that often bonds over golfing events and group travel. The Jewish (“Heb,” as in Hebrew) and Black (“Bros”) members of the organization often engage in discussions of religion and race in order to foster solidarity between the two minority groups.
“Over the years, it’s grown close to 30 members,” said John Baum, one of the founders and organizers of HeBrOpen. “As issues like Ferguson [Mo.] and [the killing of] Michael Brown started coming up, they started having very in-depth discussions about racial issues. It grew from a group of guys who were wanting to get together and have a good time golfing to a meaningful organization that tries to do beneficial things.”
The HeBrOpen Golf Outing specifically was founded in honor of Baum’s brother Charles, as well as Charles’s friend Harry Lebow. Both passed away at around the same time, and Lebow was a founding member of the SEED Board of Trustees, having contributed to the founding of Maryland’s only public college-preparatory boarding school. It was a meaningful way to honor the memories of Baum and Lebow, as well as to continue aiding the SEED School, according to those involved.
“It’s really important because it supports the external opportunities program,” said Carmel Gambacorta, senior account manager of the 360 Agency, which works with the school. “They’ve raised money for the kids to go on trips abroad to places like Honduras and Brazil; they’ve taken them to see movies like ‘Schindler’s List’ and ‘Hidden Figures’; and they have conversations about topics that are challenging and create really good dialogue. It’s just a really special relationship.”
The SEED School is open to children whose families are below the federal poverty line, with many students who are from difficult backgrounds or who are the first in their family planning to attend college. It is a helpful resource for children who do not have very many academic options available, said Gambacorta, explaining that students get admitted “by lottery. So every kid has a chance to get in regardless of their educational background. The school’s job is to get them up to speed academically so that they can succeed in high school and get into a good college.”
‘A great resource for our community’
HeBros had worked to raise money for academic institution even before the HeBrOpen was founded, as Hawkins was a member of the school’s development committee. The HeBrOpen was meant to be a one-time event in 2015, but it proved popular enough that that group has held it consistently for the past seven years.
The golf outing included lunch beforehand and dinner out afterwards. Four years ago, the HeBrOpen started incorporating speakers at the event; this year’s will be former American professional baseball player Willie Mays Aikens.
Aikens played first base in Major League Baseball for the California Angels, Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays between 1977 and 1985. He is the subject of the 2022 biopic “The Royal” about his recovery from drug addiction.
“He was a client and friend of my brother’s,” said Baum. “It’s very gracious of him to come and be the guest speaker this year.”
This year’s tournament is helping to fund a SEED School trip to Montgomery, Ala., to see civil-rights sites and monuments. “That’s where Charles and I grew up,” noted Baum.
He continued, saying “students who grow up in challenging conditions don’t get the opportunity to do a lot of activities. We planned the trip for about a dozen or so students, and about 20 friends and family, and the hope is to reschedule it for the fall of 2023.”
The trip was originally planned for 2020 but was pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“[HeBros] is very passionate about the SEED School, and the school itself is a great resource for our community,” said Gambacorta. “And a lot of people don’t know about it. So they’re doing great work fundraising and spreading awareness.”