Meet Ellen Lightman

When the French National Railroad wanted to bid on a Maryland State contract, Ellen Lightman knew she needed to make her voice heard.

After all, this was the company that transported her grandparents, and tens of thousands of Jews, to the death camps during the Holocaust.

Working with the Baltimore Jewish Council (BJC), she went to Annapolis to testify for a bill, which passed, that said companies must open records of their World War II actions in order to bid. 

“We may live in the present, but if we don’t learn from the past then it could happen again,” she says.

Concerned again this year about the power of anti-Israeli organizations, Ellen returned to Annapolis with BJC.

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement and the American Studies Association’s (ASA) resolution were calling for the end of “the Israeli occupation of Palestine,” and BJC, along with Delegate Benjamin Kramer led the charge on language to be adopted in the state’s budget. The language reaffirmed the State’s Declaration of Cooperation with Israel, opposed Maryland public institutions’ support of the BDS movement and condemned the ASA’s academic boycott of Israeli institutions.

“I believe the destiny of the Jewish people is tied to Israel. As we saw in the 1930s, not so long ago, little by little they chipped away at the credibility and rights of the Jewish people. BDS skews the truth and takes away the credibility of Israel.”

Ellen first became involved with BJC more than 30 years ago when, upon completion of The Associated’s Young Women’s Leadership program. It was then that she began to see how the agency affected Baltimore’s Jewish community – and recalls their work advocating for Soviet Jewry.

In recent years, Ellen was co-chair of the Baltimore-Israel Coalition to promote Israel education and advocacy to the community. Israel 65!, celebrating Israel’s 65th anniversary last year, was a huge success, attracting thousands of community members. This year, Ellen will serve on the executive committee of BJC.

“BJC uses its voice to advocate for issues that matter to the Jewish community from Israel and anti-Semitism to inter-religious and intra-communal issues. We all benefit from their work,” she says.


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