Twenty-seven-year-old Emma Brofsky, a relatively new Baltimore transplant, likes to point out that her hometown is “like Brooklyn, backwards.” But there is nothing backwards about this Lynbrook, Long Island, native who, after earning her master’s degree in public health with a concentration in global disease epidemiology and control, is settling in as Moishe House Baltimore’s newest resident.
Growing up on Long Island, Brofsky was involved in her USY (United Synagogue Youth) youth group at Hewlett-East Rockaway Jewish Centre/Congregation Etz Chaim, where she was a chapter president. Influenced by her family’s Jewish roots and commitment to social justice issues, Brofsky found herself combining that passion with interests in science and public health, eventually earning a bachelor’s degree at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, in 2013 and her master’s at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore in 2018.
Brofsky is still unpacking and pulling her belongings out of storage, following a six-month stint in Guatemala, and getting to know her new Canton digs.
What triggered your interest in Jewish Involvement?
My family always, when I was growing up, had Shabbat dinners together and celebrated holidays. My older sister became really involved in youth group and I followed. But then I became interested and found my own friends and attachment to it — to being involved Jewishly — to being a leader.
Where did your early interest in public health start?
I think of public health as social justice with a health component. And since I was always into science — I was a science- research kid in my school — taking that interest in science and health and that passion for social justice, that I guess you could say was rooted in my Jewish identity, kind of helped me toward doing public health and working with underserved populations.
What did you do after Cornell that led you to Hopkins?
I was working for a few years with the CDC in local public health and also at the federal level. I wanted to go back and get more concrete skills in epidemiology, to pair with my experience working in the field.
Were you involved Jewishly in college?
At Cornell I was very involved. I was chair of engagement for Hillel. Did a lot of freshman orientations, planning events. At Hopkins, no. I was really busy. But I did start to get involved in Baltimore. I started going to Moishe House and some Charm City Tribe things to start to get to know the community here. And I like to go to The Harbor Minyan.
After I graduated Hopkins, I was looking for jobs and I came upon this opportunity to work in Guatemala for six months in maternal and child health, at a community birthing center. And I decided to take the opportunity to spend more time abroad, getting more field experience, working on my Spanish, which is really great now.
How’s the job hunt going?
I’m looking for jobs in the Baltimore/D.C. area in global public health or domestic public health. I’m interested in maternal and child health; I’m interested in infectious diseases; I’m interested in monitoring and evaluation of health programs. I would like to volunteer with the Spanish- speaking immigrant community in Baltimore. I think that would be a good way to keep my Spanish fresh and also help do some good in the community here.
What are you looking forward to at Moishe House?
I enjoy hosting events. Shabbat is a special time to have people over to the house. It’s the end of the week, people are busy. It’s so nice for people to come and take the time to relax a little bit, see old friends, make new friends, enjoy some food and unwind together. And I won’t have to travel anywhere — it will be in my house.
I’m excited to get to know more people in the community and to help them feel like it’s a safe space and a fun space to meet people. Connecting in whatever way their Jewish identity allows them, or to explore things they want to explore. If they have ideas for events, if they have things they’re passionate about and they want to start a conversation — we’re definitely open to it.