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Summer Speaker Series 2024


Saturday mornings, June 22 through August 10

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. All presentations take place during Shabbat services, at approximately 10:45 AM. 

June 22

“Together We Will Win” (ביחד ננצח): My Wartime Trip to Israel
with Jim Ackerman

This Israeli slogan, which was adopted in the days following October 7th includes all of us, even in the diaspora. In February, my wife and I traveled to Israel to bear witness and show support. Our Jewish history and identity drive our Zionism. We are one nation, עם אחד (am echad)

Jim Ackerman is president of Ackerman Asset Management, an SEC-registered investment advisory firm, founded in 2005. In addition to managing a core investment strategy for clients, he also offers a globally diversified portfolio related to Israel and its key economic trade partners. He is a past chair of both the B’nai Israel Congregation and JFGH Investment Committees and currently is a member of the Jewish Federation Endowment Committee. 

June 29

A Call to Action: Reflections on the B'nai Israel Civil Rights Trip
with Ellen Ginsberg

In February 2023, Ellen traveled to Alabama and Atlanta with B'nai Israel for an exploration of the Civil Rights movement and its connection to the Jewish community past and present. Ellen will share highlights from the trip and how lessons from the past can inform our individual and communal social justice efforts today.

Ellen is a third generation B'nai Israel member and currently serves on the synagogue's Belonging Committee. For the past eight years, she has been an active volunteer with Moms Demand Action, a nationwide gun violence prevention movement working for commonsense gun laws. Ellen resides in Bethesda with her husband David and their three children, Ava, Nathan, and Ryan.

July 6

Reflections on B’nai Israel’s Recent Jewish Heritage Tour to Buenos Aires, Argentina
with Peggy Pearlstein

Peggy will offer her impressions of an exciting and memorable Jewish Heritage tour to Buenos Aires taken in March by a group of B’nai Israel congregants. During the eight day journey, led by Rabbi Safra and Sharon Safra, the group toured many historic sites of the city and beyond. The main focus of our trip, however, was to learn about the largest Jewish community in South America. We visited major Jewish institutions and enjoyed numerous opportunities to meet and mingle with members of the Buenos Aires Jewish community.

Dr. Peggy K. Pearlstein earned her PhD from The George Washington University. She enjoyed a 31 year career in the Hebraic Section of the African and Middle Eastern Division of the Library of Congress. From 2006 until her retirement in 2013, she served as Head of the Hebraic Section. When Peggy’s family relocated back to Maryland in 1981, she taught at B’nai Israel Congregation and Talmud Talmud when it was part of the Consolidated Hebrew consortium of five Conservative congregations. The family joined B’nai Israel soon after. Peggy was a member of the Kol Bo havurah for a quarter of a century. As part of B’nai Israel’s 90th anniversary celebration, Peggy partnered with others to create professional video interviews of Rabbis Safra, Schnitzer, and Simon (z”l). Peggy is the proud mother of three adult children and seven grandchildren.

July 13

Sephardic Jews: Experiencing a New Golden Age in America 
with Larry Bensignor

Sephardic Jews trace their roots back to the Golden Age of Judaism, on the Iberian Peninsula, before 1492. Today, the American Sephardic community is strong and vibrant. Join us 522 years after the Expulsion, to the month, when Sephardi and congregational member Larry Bensignor describes his family's heritage and legacy, the century-old Sephardic Jewish Brotherhood of America and the organization's recently adopted strategic plan for the future.

Larry Bensignor was an attorney and business executive for four decades, who retired from work in 2018 after surviving a massive heart attack. He now devotes his time to giving back to the community. Larry is a leader in the Sephardic Jewish Brotherhood, where he is a member of its national Central Council and serves as the Chair of the organization's Strategic Planning and Governance Committee. Larry also serves on the Board of Governors of Shady Grove Medical Center and chairs its Philanthropy Committee. He is the immediate past Chair of its Foundation. Furthermore, Larry volunteers with fundraising efforts for Bethesda-based Hope Connections for Cancer Support, which provides classes and therapy to cancer patients and their families and caregivers. 

July 20

Reflections and Insights From Three Years of Shlichut
with Hagai Dagan-Schlachter

From his tenure as the Senior Shaliach at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, Hagai will present the project's vision and trace its evolution from the onset of Covid to October 7th. He will offer reflections and insights on this journey, highlighting both challenges faced and opportunities seized.

Hagai is the Senior Shaliach to the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. He aspires to strengthen the Jewish community's connection to Israel and to fortify the community's values through its link to Israel. For 10 years he worked mainly in Israel's geographic and social periphery, including south Tel Aviv and the Galilee. From 2014–2017, Hagai was The Jewish Agency’s emissary to Cape Town, South Africa, where he managed the Cape Town Israel Centre. Between 2017 and 2021, Hagai worked for Israel’s Ministry of the Economy. Hagai has a BA in Philosophy and Computer Science, and is a group facilitator by training. He lives in Rockville with his wife Anne and three children.

July 27 

I Lost My Parents but Found Them, and More, in a Year (Plus) of Daily Minyan 
with Diane Saltzman

In a ten-month period, Diane experienced the loss of her stepmother, father, and mother. She’ll share how attending B’nai Israel’s daily minyan provided an unexpected anchor, a new community, and helped her adjust to her new reality. 

Diane, her husband Richard and their sons, Zachary and Alexander, have been members of the synagogue since 1999. Diane has been on the staff of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum for more than 28 years. As the Director of Constituency Engagement she manages the program for survivors, works closely with the Museum’s board and oversees government relations. Prior to that she was on the curatorial staff of The Jewish Museum in New York for 10 years. 

August 3

The Legal Battle Against Campus Anti-Semitism 
with Denise Katz-Prober

Ms. Katz-Prober will discuss the work of the Louis D. Brandeis Center For Human Rights Under Law—a national non-profit legal advocacy organization—to combat anti-Semitism in higher education and k-12 schools and to protect the rights of Jewish and Israeli students.  

Denise Katz-Prober, Esq. is Director of Legal Initiatives at the Louis D. Brandeis Center For Human Rights Under Law (the Brandeis Center). Prior to joining the Brandeis Center, Ms. Katz-Prober was a trial attorney at the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, where she served as a criminal prosecutor and defended the District of Columbia and its employees in civil lawsuits in D.C.’s state and federal district courts. Ms. Katz-Prober has also served as a Special Assistant United States Attorney at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, where she prosecuted domestic violence offenses. Before law school, she worked for a research organization focused on counterterrorism and extremist groups. Ms. Katz-Prober graduated from Brandeis University and Suffolk University Law School. 


Tue, May 21 2024 13 Iyyar 5784