The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore recently announced the relaunch of Shalom Baltimore, an initiative designed to create welcoming spaces for Jewish families and individuals new to the area.
The initiative is led by Co-Chairs Ann Rubin, a transplant from Michigan who moved to Baltimore in 2002, and Brian Litofsky, a native Baltimorean.
According to Rubin, Shalom Baltimore has not been active in recent years, although the program did have activities when she moved to the area.
This time around, Shalom Baltimore will be different in that there will be a component to follow up with newcomers, to make sure that “they feel welcomed and included,” Rubin said.
“Once we are aware of a newcomer, which could happen in several ways, we will assign one of many ambassadors to them based on similar interests who will call them and arrange a coffee date either in person or remotely,” she said.
Rubin knows well what it’s like to move to a new area and start over. When she first arrived in Baltimore, she attended a brunch for newcomers at the home of Leslie Pomerantz, now the chief development officer at The Associated.
“I was a newcomer to the area at the end of 2002,” said Rubin, who belonged to Chizuk Amuno Congregation with her husband for many years and recently moved to Annapolis. “Our family of five moved from New Jersey, and before that my husband, Avi, and I lived in Michigan. I still remember the Shalom Baltimore event that I attended and what a welcoming experience it was having recently moved to the area not knowing anyone.”
On what Shalom Baltimore means to her, Rubin said, “I immediately said ‘yes’ when asked to chair this event because I know how important it is, especially in this community, which isn’t always an inclusive one, to feel welcomed and included and supported as the ambassadors, myself included, can be a resource for them providing a wealth of information about the community and everything it has to offer.”
Litofsky said that, as a native Baltimorean, he realizes that it’s not easy for newcomers to feel at home, which is why it’s important for him to approach new people at a party or a synagogue, as they may feel out of place.
“My mother-in-law always tell me, ‘Brian, you don’t know a stranger.’ I say that to say that I like engaging in conversations with many different people, it’s a natural thing for me to do,” said Litofsky, who, along with his wife, Teri, a transplant from Maine, attends Chizuk Amuno.
As the owner of an awards and promotional products company, Litofsky talks to people every day, which makes it easy for him to find what he calls “uncommon connections” with people he just met.
“It’s great to find out what sports they like and why, or what schools their kids attend,” Litofsky noted.