Meet David Speer, Maryland/Israel Development Center’s New Executive Director

David Speer

As the new executive director of the Maryland/Israel Development Center (MIDC) — the second in the Associated agency’s 30-year history –David Speer knows he has big shoes to fill. After all, he is taking over from Barry Bogage, who had been the director since the organization’s beginning. 

Yet that doesn’t scare this Baltimore (Mt. Washington) native, Bolton Street Synagogue Board member and graduate of the St. Paul’s School for Boys. Friends with Barry and Nancy Boguslaw, MIDC’s Deputy Director, he’s worked together with them in his previous position at the Americans for Ben-Gurion University. We recently talked to him about his plans, his interest in Israel and what he does when he isn’t working. 

You almost had an entirely different career. 

I attended the University of Vermont where I majored in forestry. Unfortunately, or looking back, maybe fortunately, I graduated when the stock market crashed in 2009. My career counselor basically told me that I wasn’t going to get a job. I decided to join Americorps and ended up working for the Jewish Family and Children’s Service in Princeton, N.J. It’s funny how this would shape my career path because I never in a million years thought I would be working in the Jewish community and in the nonprofit sector. 

What did you do for Jewish Family and Children’s Services? 

I was there for two and a half years. My official roles included intake coordinator for mental health, case manager for individuals in need and manager of their Kosher food pantry. Basically, I did whatever they wanted a young college grad to do. 

What brought you back to Baltimore? 

In 2012, I had the opportunity to work for the Americans for Ben-Gurion University where I started as an assistant for the Baltimore/Washington Region. I later became the Regional Director and my last position was Director of Intelligence and Analytics. 

You worked for them for a long time. 

Yes, nine years. I enjoyed supporting academia and research. The University’s mandate was to develop the Negev region—one of the last places to be developed in Israel. Seeing the South grow over my tenure was incredible. And a lot of what I did touched on tech-transfer and the business side of things, which prepared me for MIDC. 

Why MIDC? 

I feel like my life was leading up to this. I’ve known Barry and Nancy for almost a decade, and we worked together on programs during that time. I knew the great work they did, and I became professionally friendly with them.  

I knew this was a great organization. Unlike many other similar organizations, MIDC provides full-time assistance to Israeli businesses who come here. And Maryland has such a strong Jewish community with so many Israelis here. And you can’t discount the strength of the tech, cyber, defense and medical organization….and its proximity to the federal government.  

And most important, I get a chance to support Israel and Maryland and create jobs in my home state. What couldn’t be better? 

Your plans for MIDC? 

I’m fortunate that Barry is staying on as an advisor for the next few months so I can learn from him. And one of the things I would like to eventually do is find ways to engage a younger audience. 

How did you originally get interested in Israel? 

My first trip to Israel was when I was around 10. My mom was a lifelong Jewish educator, and I tagged along on the trip. I was young so I didn’t really fully understand everything I saw, but I felt this deep connection – more than anywhere else I had ever been. When I was in college, I took a summer course on desert ecology through the Arava Institute (of Environmental Studies). It was held in the Negev. Later I would learn that my credit came through Ben-Gurion University. Oh, and my Mom made aliyah and landed in Omer, outside of Beersheba which is where Ben-Gurion’s main campus is. Everything comes full circle. 

I understand you moonlight elsewhere where you get to share your passion for Israel. 

Since my first trip to Israel, the idea of a Jewish homeland has become a passion of mine. In fact, for my “night job,” I teach Israeli studies on Sunday at Bolton Hill’s religious school. My interest is in the Jewish State and democracy and the juxtaposition that arises from growing that experiment. 

When you are not working, where would we find you? 

Playing with my new puppy that my wife and I recently got. He’s a yellow lab.  I also like to run, watch sports … I’m a huge Orioles and Ravens fan. I play guitar and recently learned to play clawhammar banjo. That’s something Barry and I have in common. 

If you could have a conversation with anyone, who would that be?  

If he were alive today, it would definitely be David Ben-Gurion. He was incredibly brilliant and made so many important decisions that shape the Jewish State today. And I would love to hear about some of his tough pre-state military decisions like the Altalana Affair and how he ended the war. As for someone living today, it would be Paul McCartney. 

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