Next fall, accomplished Baltimoreans will be returning to their roots.
Baltimore Homecoming, an interactive event planned for Oct. 3–5, 2018, will bring back some of Baltimore’s most esteemed alumni across all industries and sectors to learn, celebrate, engage and reconnect with the city that raised them and to connect with the people who are shaping its future.
The initiative was co-founded by Nate Loewentheil and JM Schapiro with the goal of building connections between great Baltimoreans at home and those who have left. The concept of the event was inspired by the annual Detroit Homecoming.
After the 2015 uprising, Schapiro felt a desire to help the city in a more profound way but didn’t initially know where to turn.
“I started meeting with many different people who were spending their time helping make our city a better place, and these people helped me understand some of the issues but also provided hope and encouragement,” said Schapiro, a fifth-generation Baltimorean and CEO of Continental Realty Corporation.
“For a long time, Baltimore’s exports were industrial and agricultural. Today, the great exports are our people,” said Loewentheil, a political organizer and nonprofit leader who served as director of the White House Taskforce for Baltimore under President Barack Obama. “Baltimore is a laboratory for energy and new ideas, and you see a remarkable group of people who come out of the city.”
Many accomplished Baltimoreans who have left don’t keep a pulse on what’s happening in the city, and this initiative seeks to change that. “They will see what they are missing [and will] meet people who are reshaping Baltimore, which will inspire them to get involved,” said Loewentheil.
The rich cultural and intellectual fabric of the city is often a hidden secret. The event will showcase Baltimore’s food, culture and arts scene and highlight innovation and exciting changes happening across the city.
In turn, those returning can feel reconnected with the city and share with their networks the great things happening in Baltimore. New investments, partnerships and philanthropy will likely emerge as local Baltimoreans connect with those who have left.
“I would hope that we could highlight the successes of our city but not shy away from the grit that makes Baltimore special,” said Schapiro. “We all know there is much still to be done. Baltimore Homecoming is a chance to create brand ambassadors who can go back to their cities and help change the narrative.”
The agenda of the multiday event is still in the works but will be filled with inspiring keynote speakers, thought-provoking activities, site visits and tours and ample time to make connections. Attendees will explore Baltimore’s diverse and vibrant communities and will engage with community members and leaders across all industries — including the arts, sports, business and government.
The Baltimore Homecoming Host Committee co-chairs include nine prominent individuals across entertainment, business, academia, government and social justice. The committee includes “Modern Family” actress Julie Bowen; Under Armor CEO and chairman Kevin Plank; Baltimore City artist and 2016 MacArthur Fellow Joyce Scott; and Congressman Elijah Cummings.
Co-founders Loewentheil and Schapiro have deep Jewish roots in Baltimore, and both attend Beth Am Synagogue in Reservoir Hill. For them, Jewish values are intertwined with their commitment to the city and social justice.
“Under Rabbi Daniel Cotzin Burg, there is a real commitment to life of the city,” said Loewentheil, who is also running for state delegate.
Loewentheil grew up in Southwest Baltimore, and his father owned the restaurant The Cultured Pearl, where diverse Baltimoreans mixed and mingled over Mexican food, beer and poetry. The ethos of the restaurant — a meeting place for a broad cross-section of the city — influenced the approach to the homecoming.
Schapiro’s ancestors came from Livuv, Austria (now a part of Ukraine) to Baltimore in 1910 looking for opportunity. Growing up, his family instilled the importance of giving back to the community and creating jobs, both at home and in Israel. Like his father, Schapiro went on to become campaign chair of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.
“Baltimore is the kind of place where the future of America is getting worked out,” said Loewentheil. “You discover a city ripe for change and with opportunity — a place with real community.”
In October 2018, Baltimore’s community will grow to include those who have left — and who have come home.
The community is invited to nominate accomplished Baltimoreans who are still in the city or not at Baltimorehomecoming.com/nominate.
Anna Lippe is a local freelance writer.