More than 50 people came out on Nov. 1 for what was billed by the AMIT Mid-Atlantic organization as a “NewGen Israeli Wine Tasting Event” at Union Wharf in Fells Point.
AMIT, which stands for Americans for Israel and Torah, is a nonprofit that has played a longstanding role in Irina Diamond’s family.
“My husband’s grandmother and mother have both been involved in AMIT as presidents and members,” said Diamond, 40, a Pikesville resident. “AMIT holds a special place in my heart because it’s about Israel and I am a very devoted Zionist. My mom immigrated to America from Russia, but at the same time the rest of my family moved to Israel.”
With approximately 50,000 members, the American Jewish organization is now looking for ways to introduce the next generation to the work they do to improve educational opportunities in Israel.
At the wine-tasting, guests gathered for an evening of fun as they dined on Israeli food, drank Israeli wine, learned about the plethora of kosher wines from Michael M. Fishman of Quarry Wine and Spirits in Pikesville, and were educated about AMIT’s goal of “building Israel one child at a time.”
For many in attendance, this was their first introduction to the organization. “I heard about this event through Facebook,” said Hana Feiner, 22. “It’s a great cause supporting education, and this was a way to learn more about an organization that supports Jewish values.”
Feiner showed up with her roommates and friends who are involved in the Moishe House, a Jewish cooperative program located in Canton.
“I hadn’t heard of AMIT before this but after learning more about it, it’s definitely significant,” said Gabe Davidson, 24, a Moishe House resident and Baltimore City teacher. “As Jews, a lot of our upbringing is based on values, and if our contributions can further these values through education, that’s a really positive thing. I thought coming tonight would be a cool way to meet other young Jews in Baltimore and become more engaged with charity.”
Founded in 1929, AMIT strives to connect the United States and Israel though education. To date, AMIT operates 110 schools, youth villages and surrogate-family residents in 29 cities across Israel. There are 34,000 children within the AMIT network; 70 percent of those students come from at-risk backgrounds.
“Our teachers and principals go above the call of duty and get involved with the kids on a personal level,” said Robbie Pearlstein, development director for the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions of AMIT. “Our staff provides these kids with a feeling that someone cares, which is important for them to thrive.”
AMIT has an over 85 percent high school graduation rate, compared to Israel’s national average of 70 percent. Additionally, there are more than 265,000 AMIT alumni, over 95 percent of graduates serve in the Israel Defense Forces or national service, and the Israeli Ministry of Education named AMIT the country’s leading educational network.
“Our graduates not only get an excellent education, they also leave our schools with a strong Jewish identity and the foundation for higher education and meaningful employment,” said Shelley Labiner, AMIT’s director of marketing and communications.
The organization’s commitment to education is what makes it so unique, said Pearlstein, and why those involved believe it’s important for younger generations in the U.S. to know more about.
“As Jews, we need Israel and there isn’t much that’s more important than our youth and strengthening them so they go on to become future teachers and leaders,” said Pearlstein.
Sara Pearlstein, who organized Wednesday night’s event, couldn’t agree more. “You are helping children get educated in Israel,” says Pearlstein. “For me, being involved in the organization is a no-brainer.”
As for Irina Diamond, a second grade teacher at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community Day School, educating today’s youth both in the Un.S. and Israel is an ideal that hits close to home.
“Israel’s children are the country’s future and we need to keep them feeling like they have an advantage,” she said. “Even though we live in different countries, as Jews we are one community and Israel is a part of us. This is one way that I can support Israel besides visiting the country.”
For information about AMIT Mid-Atlantic, contact Sara Pearlstein at firstname.lastname@example.org or Robbie Pearlstein at 410-484-2223 or Robbiep@amitchildren.org.
Photos by Steve Ruark
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