Born in Israel but raised in Pikesville since the age of 11, Caren Leven has a fierce love for Israel. She studied marketing in college to learn how to attract people through advertising. Today, her skills in marketing and communications are being put to use as the executive director of the Baltimore Zionist District.
What do you do at Baltimore Zionist District?
My main role, which is really aligned with our mission, is to engage and connect our community with Israel, through informative programming, through lectures, through community events — and I will say that over the past six months, I’ve really been lucky to meet with some really great members of our community. I’ve also been really privileged to meet with Jewish leaders from all over the world, which has really opened my eyes to things like anti-Semitism, the BDS movement, a lot of work that needs to be done in our community to educate our community, our children and our young adults.
We’re getting ready to host Passover cooking workshops that we’re really looking forward to. We have our community Yom HaZikaron program that is one of our big events that we host for the community, and we’re co-sponsoring Yom Ha’atzmaut with Beth Tfiloh and Chizuk Amuno.
What’s the best part of your job?
I think that the best part of my job is that I feel inside everyday this sense of fulfillment knowing that I’m here in some way as a source of information within our community, letting people know that there is a reason for the existence for the state of Israel. And that we definitely as a community and as a nation don’t want to see history repeat itself, reading all the statistics of anti-Semitism being on the rise in the United States.
What’s on your reading list?
I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately and research on the growth and the spread of anti-Semitism — in the past, in how history has shown how anti-Semitism grows, how it spreads, how we as Jewish people, unfortunately, have suffered. Back when it started to spread, we didn’t have the state of Israel. Now that we do have the state of Israel, how important it is that we as a community and as a nation connect back to Israel.
Who inspires you?
I have so many people that have inspired me in the past. I want to say that the people who have inspired me for this position would really be the women in my family, which would be my mom, my grandmother and my great-grandmother. They were all Zionists in the movements and have always supported Israel. My great-grandmother had actually met with Golda Meir, so I’ve always had Zionism in my blood for three, if not more, generations. So the people that inspire me are people that are in my bloodline and in my family. I’ve always grown up loving Israel and having very heartfelt feelings for it. It’s in my heart, it’s in my soul and it’s in my blood, and I’m inspired by my family who have always trusted in their lives, in their hearts, in their souls.
What is something that people don’t know about you?
I think that people a lot of times see me and perceive me to be a very outgoing person and friendly, which I am. But on the opposite side, I actually am quite a shy person, and sometimes I think people don’t know that I’m actually a bit shy.
What do you do to relax or for fun?
We do Shabbat dinner with my mom every Friday. We as a family travel down to Naples, Florida, where my dad and my brother live. I love to do girls nights with my girlfriends. As a family, we spend Sundays going to the movies, going to parks when it’s nice out.