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Summer Speaker Series

During the summer months, we invite members of our community to speak on Shabbat mornings and address the congregation about the interesting ways that they connect special experiences to their Jewish identities.

Zoom link:, Password 6301

June 26

Keeping Your Family on Track for the Next Normal with Erik Feig
As more opportunities and choices become available as the world continues to move beyond remote, to hybrid, to in-person activities, parents and families are faced with new sets of decisions, logistics, and transitions to manage. Clear communication is crucial.  Join Erik Feig for a discussion about ways that parents can stay-in-step, and help their families be resilient and reduce stress as we all continue to move into the pandemic’s next phase - and whatever comes after.

Erik Feig and his family are longstanding members of the B'nai community.  He is the founder of Feig Mediation Group in Bethesda, where he helps parents have more productive dialogue when they get stuck, especially when important issues, decisions and conflicts affecting their neurodiverse families are on the table.

July 3

Creating Generational Change: A Look Inside the Ground Game for Israeli-Palestinian Peace with Avi Meyerstein
Israeli-Palestinian relations are at all-time lows and getting worse. But there's another story building just beneath the surface. A network of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians building deep partnerships is gaining steam, and a U.S. law passed just weeks ago will invest hundreds of millions of dollars to scale up their efforts. Together, they're building schools, countering extremism and incitement, delivering clean water, launching start-ups, facilitating life-saving medical care, and building trust. Avi Meyerstein, longtime B'nai Israel member and the founder and president of the Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP), will share an inside look.

Avi Meyerstein is the founder and president of the Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP). In 2003, as a lawyer working pro bono, Avi brought together dozens of NGOs to join forces in a single umbrella coalition, creating ALLMEP. On behalf of the coalition, he then led a team of volunteer attorneys to develop proposals and advocacy strategies to significantly expand resources and scale up Israeli-Palestinian people-to-people activities. Their advocacy resulted in over $130 million in annual U.S. funding for Israeli-Palestinian people-to-people activities. Avi also proposed, launched, and has shepherded the initiative to create an international fund for Israeli-Palestinian peace. Those efforts most recently led to the bipartisan passage by Congress of the Nita M. Lowey Middle East Partnership for Peace Act of 2020, which provides $250 million for joint economic and people-to-people projects. Avi continues to lead ALLMEP's board as its president. 

July 10 

Finding Connection and Purpose Through Children’s Musical Theater with Naomi Gerstenblith 
During the pandemic, Naomi discovered that virtual theater productions can be a riveting and powerful way to build community, keep kids connected and involved in Jewish life, and learn Jewish stories and values. Naomi will share her new startup, Curtain Up Creative, and how it has helped her to find connection and purpose during this challenging year.
Naomi and her family have been members of B’nai Israel for the past 8 years. She wrote and directed B'nai Israel's last two Purim Productions, A Peter Pan Purim, and The Wizard of Oz Purim Mashup. Her three children, Ayla, Eden and Levi each graduated from the B’nai Israel Schillit Nursery school. Naomi earned her masters degree in Speech and Language Pathology and worked with young children for many years. She has a passion for singing and theater and has performed in community theater since she was a child. She also has written original lyrics and performed songs for countless family occasions. Naomi is the founder of Curtain Up Creative, which offers custom lyrics and musical theater productions for families, schools, and the community. 

July 17 

Community is a Verb: Creating a Space of Belonging with Stacey Watson
How can we apply the principles of Universal Design to community building? Just like the need for food and shelter, a sense of belonging is a basic human need. We create vibrant communities and fulfill this need in others and ourselves with a mindset of inclusion and accessibility.

Stacey Watson is the Director of Member Experience at Main Street Connect, a community center and apartment building in Rockville, Maryland founded on the principles of affordability, inclusivity and sustainability. Stacey earned her MSW in Management and Community Organizing from the University of Maryland and a BS in Policy Studies and Communication and Rhetoric from Syracuse University. Stacey is proud to be a 3rd generation member of the B’nai Israel community. 

July 31

Resiliency and Adaptation: Adult Jewish Engagement Through the Pandemic and Into the Future
with Matthew Silverman

The Haberman Institute for Jewish Studies provides adults with high-quality, in-depth encounters with Jewish thought, history, and culture. Our Institute’s demographic has historically consisted of local to the area, older Jewish adults. The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to become solely reliant on an online platform, and a silver lining quickly emerged. The Institute’s vision of a Jewish community enriched through lifelong Jewish learning flourished in many new ways, now reaching a larger and more geographically diverse audience with more programs and classes than ever before! So what happens next?

Matthew Silverman became the Executive Director of the Haberman Institute for Jewish Studies in April 2020. He is native of Northern VA and graduated magna cum laude from James Madison University with a bachelor’s degree in economics and religion. He also attended the Candler School of Theology at Emory University where he received a Master of Theological Studies degree and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College where he received a Master of Arts in Jewish Studies degree. Most recently he served as the Assistant Director of the religious school at Congregation Emanu El in Houston, TX where he developed and implemented programs for all ages. Matt has worked and taught in numerous Jewish organizations throughout the country including: the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Camp Ramah Darom, Hillels of Georgia, and Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Philadelphia. Matt lives in Maryland with his wife, Jill, and two daughters, Nava and Miri. Family time is filled with gardening, fused glass art projects, chasing their dog, and bouncing on their new trampoline.

August 7

A Look at Zohar
with Rabbi Jim Michaels

Many Jews have heard of Zohar and recognize it as the foundation source of Jewish Mysticism. Very few people study it in any depth. For the past two years, Rabbi Jim Michaels has engaged in on-line learning with one of the experts on Zohar. He will give an introduction to this classic work, and explain some of its basic ideas. He will also provide information about how others can access it.

Rabbi Michaels served as the Director of Pastoral Care at the Charles E. Smith Life Communities from 2003 to 2018. Prior to coming to Rockville, he served communities in New York, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. Since retirement, he has worked as a substitute community chaplain through the Jewish Social Service Agency. His wife Karen is the clinical manager of pharmacy at Holy Cross Hospital, Germantown. They have five children and nine grandchildren.

August 14

Intergenerational Programs Fuel Connections
with Rachel Lanman

This pandemic has touched every person in a unique way, but it has connected all of us through the shared experience of feeling disconnected and isolated. The JCA's Heyman Interages Center has connected people of all ages throughout the pandemic, helping hundreds to feel supported, make new friends and develop meaningful intergenerational relationships.

Rachel Lanman is a program coordinator with the JCA Heyman Interages Center working to break stereotypes and help people build mutually beneficial intergenerational relationships. She holds a Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance from The University of Texas at Austin, and earned a Master of Music in Music Education from Kent State University while raising a family and teaching music in Beijing, China.

August 21

My Experience with “Student to Student”
with Noah Lenkin

My work with Student to Student consists of two main discussions with peers in the DMV area. One gives us a chance to teach other faith groups about our faith while we learn about theirs. Another discussion gives us a chance to educate students in schools about Judaism. Through these discussions, we are able to share more about who we are as Jews and educate our peers about Judaism and Jewish life.

Noah Lenkin will be a freshman at Boston University this fall studying political science. Noah enjoys playing tennis, going to the beach, and reading a book. He and his family have been part of the B’nai Israel community for multiple generations. 


Sat, July 24 2021 15 Av 5781