Erica Laskin keeps busy. At 23, she’s worked on a local political campaign, sung in two of the country’s most renowned concert venues and has traveled to Israel three times with separate programs.
Laskin, a lifelong congregant of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, studied vocal music at The George W. Carver Center for Arts and Technology in Towson and then focused on psychology and social work at Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.
Back in Pikesville, Laskin worked on her father Sheldon Laskin’s unsuccessful primary campaign for the Democratic nomination for State Senate District 11, and is now concentrating her efforts on making social change in Baltimore and beyond.
What sort of social work do you do?
I’m in my last year at the University of Maryland School of Social Work. I graduate in May, and until then I’m interning at Year Up, a nonprofit that bridges the opportunity divide. It’s a national organization located in different cities where people need opportunities. They have the talent but don’t have the tools get there on their own.
I work with the student services department. A lot of our students need assistance in areas like housing and food, and also having someone to talk to.
How did you get into social work?
I think my upbringing had a lot to do with why I went into social work. I was adopted from China when I was 6 months old and I was raised in a Jewish, white family. I love working in the city because I’m very aware of minorities and how they are overlooked or misunderstood. For me, being an Asian Jew, I don’t feel like I’m white, but I don’t really have a traditional Asian upbringing. So in a way I feel like I’m in a class of my own. My parents raised me to see that I’m diverse, not different, and to see that as a strength.
It’s important for all people to be recognized. We should be able to have the same opportunities. I know that’s difficult in these politically charged times. But I think with enough people, optimism and advocacy, we can improve the situation.
Has your Jewish upbringing informed your social work?
Back in the day with NFTY, we would always do community service. There were weekend retreats, and each retreat had a social action theme to it. We’d go out to different communities and do something there.
I think being raised in the Jewish community taught me a lot about tikkun olam. Something I love about Judaism is that it is accepting of all. It stresses connection, not differences. All the community service I did through my temple or with NFTY, I don’t think I would’ve done that if I wasn’t raised in the Jewish community.
You’ve been to Israel several times. What were those experiences like?
The first time I went for a month with Baltimore Zionist District. That was when I was a sophomore in high school. Before that trip, I never considered myself spiritual, but there is something about Israel that made me feel so connected to the earth. We went out in the desert near the Bedouin tents and I saw my first shooting star there. I’d never seen a sky full of stars like that.
It’s so rich and full of history, and everybody, no matter their background, could all appreciate that Israel is a holy place. That piqued my interest and love for nature.
I went back again with my parents to do the Maccabi ArtsFest and then again on Birthright. That was incredible. I made some amazing friends.
Do you still sing?
I’m looking to join an a cappella group. I record myself singing covers for fun, and post it online. I would love to audition for “The Voice.” I miss performing because I used to do it all the time with my choir in high school. I was in a Jewish teen choir and got to sing at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, so that was pretty cool.