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

June 25 

A Traveler's Reflections on B'nai Israel's Recent Jewish Heritage Tour of Morocco
with Larry Lesser

Larry will offer his impressions based on a memorable Jewish heritage tour to Morocco taken recently by a group of B'nai Israel congregants and a few others.  Led by Rabbi Safra and Sharon Safra, the group was one of the first Jewish groups to enter the country after Morocco lifted its state of emergency and reopened its borders February 7. The tour originally was planned for 2020 but had to be postponed twice due to COVID-19. 

Larry Lesser is a member of the political science faculty at the University of Maryland Global Campus where he teaches courses in government and politics. Previously, he worked on Capitol Hill for members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and as a staff member of the House Appropriations Committee. Larry and his wife Susan are long-time members of B'nai Israel and regular attendees at our Shabbat morning services.  Larry has served on the board of governors and on various synagogue committees.  He's also an active member of the Men's Club, where he helps plan the popular Men's Club-sponsored Political Forum each election year.  

July 2

What My Family is Bringing Back to Israel
with Elkana Bar Eitan

After nearly 6 years in Rockville, our family is moving back to Israel. Our time in the US, taught us to appreciate the strength of the Jewish community, the importance of egalitarian services, and the critical support that Israel receives from overseas. Our years in the US also taught us the importance of hard work and dedication and the amazing opportunities that the US offers in terms of financial prosperity and individual freedom. Choosing between Israel and the USA is very hard but we decided to continue our families journey in the state of the Jewish people.

Elkana is an entrepreneur and business manager with a deep passion for education. Since 2007, Elkana has been in the field of experiential education and social entrepreneurship, focusing on community building, social awareness, humanities, and Jewish identity. Elkana serves on the local council of the IAC (Israeli American Council) and is the Co-Founder of the Kol Ami Jewish peoplehood leadership academy in Israel. Elkana currently resides in Rockville, MD, together with his wife, two daughters, and son.

July 16 

Sacred Spaces: Building, Holding Onto, and Letting Go
with Rabbi Cheryl Stone

What does it mean to create a sacred space? How do we imbue those spaces with meaning? When do we need to let go? 

July 23 

Our Year in Israel
with Ellie, Noa, and Lilah Meyerstein

The Meyersteins spent the past year living in Modiin, Israel. While Avi worked with ALLMEP, the Alliance for Middle East Peace, and Dana ran her business remotely, Ellie, Noa, and Lilah attended secular Israeli public schools in Hebrew.

Ellie Meyerstein is a rising 11th grader at Walter Johnson High School. Her “major” at Ironi Hey was Chemistry, and she also babysat, played volleyball, took a drawing class, and learned Krav Maga. Noa Meyerstein is a rising 11th grader at Walter Johnson High School.  Her “major” at Ironi Hey was Theater, and she also volunteered at a horse farm, dog-walked, and babysat.
Lilah Meyerstein is a rising 6th grader at CESJDS.  She took photography and environmental science as her electives, and she also played basketball, learned judo, and took a dog-training class.

July 30 

The Undiagnosed Cases of COVID-19
with Heather Kalish

In March 2020, our family was dealing with a health crisis of its own. Not COVID, like so many, but rather my husband was undergoing radiation for gastric cancer. And while people were being asked to stay home, I was asked to return to work to study the prevalence of COVID-19 in the general population.  Asymptomatic SARS-COV-2 infections posed a public health risk to the containment of COVID-19 in the United States and I was asked to work on a multidisciplinary team to study the seroprevalence of COVID-19 in undiagnosed individuals. With the support of my family, I returned to the lab to develop an assay that would detect the presence of Immunoglobulin antibodies indicating a prior SARS-COV-2 infection. Ultimately, I have now spent the last two and half years utilizing this assay for many different studies and contributing to solving the scientific mystery of COVID-19. 

Dr. Heather Kalish earned her PhD in chemistry from UC Davis. She is the Unit Chief of an Immunochemistry lab within NIBIB at the NIH. She has been part of a multidisciplinary team looking at the seroprevalence of COVID 19 and was awarded the NIH Directors Award for their work in 2021. 

August 6

Congregation and Community: An Evolving Relationship
with Jaime Matyas

B’nai Israel’s  SEA Change program can be transformational if we embrace it. My journey and the exciting potential it represents for meaningful engagement.

Jaime Matyas is CEO of Hatrix Advisors, a social impact strategy and innovation consulting firm and the Interim CEO of Galvanize, Inc. a software engineering bootcamp company. She is a former JWI Women to Watch awardee. Jaime, her husband, David and their children, Daphne and Mackenzie are members of B’nai Israel. 

August 13

Reckoning with America’s Racism as a Jewish Community Leader
with Marla Schulman 

In March 2022, Marla traveled with our Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s Community Leadership Program to Alabama and Atlanta for a deep dive into how our Jewish and American identities inform our leadership in the Jewish community. The group of 17, made up of program participants and Federation staff, spent four days touring historic sites from the Civil Rights Movement in Montgomery, Selma and Birmingham, Alabama and Atlanta, Georgia. Marla will share highlights and her key takeaways from the trip.

Marla and her husband Bruce and children, Sophie and Sammy, have been very involved and engaged members of B’nai Israel since 2001. Marla is the President and Owner of Schreiber Translations, Inc. and serves in many community leadership positions including on the boards of B’nai Israel, the Jewish Federation, and the Jewish Community Relations Council, working in the areas of Vibrant Inclusive Jewish Life, Multifaith and Intergroup Relations and Racial Justice.


Tue, May 21 2024 13 Iyyar 5784