Meet Mark Edelson

Mark Edelson understands why young adults who go on a Taglit-Birthright trip to Israel be­come passionate about the Jewish state.

There is something about being there – the energy, the people, the history -- that inspires a deeper connection.

It’s why Mark, who traveled on Birthright as a young adult, doesn’t want that enthusiasm to end upon returning to Baltimore. He’s become involved with Beyond Birthright, which connects Baltimore Birthright alumni to one another through Happy Hours, intimate Shabbat dinners and other meaningful Jewish experiences.

“So many people returning from Israel have such a passion and we don’t want that feeling to go away,” he says. “Through Beyond Birthright, they can meet up with other alumni at Oriole games or Shabbat dinners where they can spend time as Jews, sharing their ideas of Judaism and Israel, while eating or drinking.”

Mark should know about this passion. Growing up in South Africa, he attended Jewish day school. Judaism was important to his family. Although he traveled to Israel with his family, it was the 10 days on Birthright, “an eye-opening experience,” that he admits altered his trajectory in some ways.

“Judaism and Israel are so closely linked. My Birthright experience made me want to get more involved with the Jewish community.”

He became involved with the Associated, attended events through Impact, The Associated’s young adult division. He went to TribeFest, a conference for Jewish young adults to network and celebrate the richness of Jewish life. He became a member of The Associated’s Young Leadership Council and was a board observer for Baltimore Jewish Council, the government relations arm of The Associated.

Through it all he realized that he wanted to ensure that other young Jews returning from Birthright would harness their passion for Israel into meaningful Jewish experiences.

As a result, he became involved with Beyond Birthright. “We don’t want to lose people who are coming back from Israel. They have such passion and we need to follow-up with them,” he says.

The goal of Beyond Birthright, he says, is to integrate Baltimore alumni into the community, encouraging them to find the path that most engages them. It may be pro-Israel advocacy, especially to counteract the anti-Israeli sentiment on college campuses, among other places, fueled by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Or it may be as simple as Happy Hour with other Jews to talk about the ideals of Judaism and Israel, or simply volunteering with alumni. “It doesn’t matter how, but we can get involved on so many levels.”

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