By Susan Ingram
Although Addie Lewis Klein has held her Judaism and connection to the Jewish community very close to her heart all her life, you might be surprised to find out she grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas. Not a town you’d peg as a hotbed of Jewish life.
“My brother and I were the only Jewish kids in our school for most of our education,” Klein said. “So our synagogue life and Jewish summer camp was really, really important to us. And that’s where we saw the community thriving. Many of my close friends and my parents’ close friends were from the Jewish community.”
It was exactly that “small, but tight-knit Jewish community” in Little Rock that Klein credits for her deep connection to Jewish life, a connection she took to her college major, into her career and now brings to Baltimore as the first executive director of the newly created Macks Center for Jewish Connections. The new organization, of The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, will combine staff from the Macks Center for Jewish Education and Jewish Volunteer Connection, while continuing and expanding their work.
With a bachelor’s degree from Haverford College and a master’s in Judaic studies and Jewish communal service from Brandeis University, Klein went on to make a difference in Jewish communities for two decades, most recently through her position as senior director of leadership development and community engagement at the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.
“My Jewish identity was always very central in my life. [Colleagues] joked that we need to create a JPro chapter for Jewish communal professionals that grew up in Little Rock, because there are actually a lot of us who now work full time in the Jewish community all around the country,” Klein said. “We grew up in a small town where we all saw our parents creating Jewish experiences for us. When there’s not a lot of infrastructure in the community, it’s very DIY. You have to make community yourself. That was the example that we saw growing up. And now we are professionals that help create Jewish community.”
Klein is excited about being on the ground floor of the new Associated organization. She started the job on July 1. In August, she and her husband and son are moving to Stevenson, in Pikesville, where her son will attend Krieger Schechter Day School and her husband will continue with his current software position.
“The Federation in Philadelphia has been doing a lot of similar projects to the kind of work that the Macks Center for Jewish Connections is doing, and will be doing,” Klein said. “So this is a perfect extension of my experience.”
Klein said the vision for the new center is an outgrowth of what The Associated leadership learned from the 2020 Jewish community demographic study, with an eye to addressing recent trends of lower Jewish community engagement rates.
“I’m very excited that the Macks Center for Jewish Connections is going to focus on encouraging people to engage in Jewish life who aren’t already deeply embedded within it and help people navigate their way through Jewish Baltimore,” Klein said. “Our hope is that we’re going to ignite and sustain lifelong Jewish journeys and help people form lasting connection to the vibrant Baltimore Jewish community.
“I think people will see that there will be a lot of continuity of programs from the Macks Center for Jewish Education and from JVC. … But also, that there will be a new focus on meeting people who are not already involved in the community and helping them find their own way in,” she added.