Brian Litofsky and Ann Rubin Take on New Initiative to Welcome Baltimore Newcomers

Moving to a new area can certainly be exciting yet daunting, especially when your friends and family are miles away. And sometimes, as you transition to a new life stage, it can be challenging connecting to people with similar interests. 

That’s why The Associated, often referred to as the gateway to Jewish life, recently relaunched Shalom Baltimore, a program designed to help welcome newcomers of all stages to Jewish Baltimore. 

Leading the effort are Shalom Baltimore Co-chairs, Brian Litofsky and Ann Rubin. A Baltimore native and a Michigan transplant respectively, they know all too well the value of connection. We recently spoke with them to learn more about Shalom Baltimore, their vision for the project and how they spend their free time.   

Why spend your time co-chairing Shalom Baltimore? 

Brian: When I see people looking uncomfortable or out of place at synagogue or at a party, I tend to go over and talk to them. Shalom Baltimore is kind of a big version of that. How do we connect new people? How do we help new people make connections and feel like insiders instead of outsiders? Baltimore isn’t easy. It can feel cliquey. I can see that because my wife is from Maine. She is no longer amazed that when people ask, ‘where did you go to school,’ they mean high school, not college. It’s like a screening tool. 

You’re not from here Ann. What was it like when you first moved to Baltimore? 

Ann: I had both good and bad experiences. Like I remember my husband heard about some basketball game but they weren’t including any more people. You know, this was a game where everyone was friends from high school– no newcomers invited. We encountered people who literally said, ‘I have enough friends. I don’t need any more.’ 

But I also had good experiences that counterbalanced those experiences. The year I arrived; Shalom Baltimore held this brunch at someone’s house for all these people who were new to Baltimore. And I remember how inviting and welcoming it felt. I met a friend that I’m still friends with today! It was a great way to meet people. 

What else have you done with The Associated? 

Brian: I started out as a big brother for Jewish Big Brother/Big Sister League many years ago. Eventually I was asked to join the board. I’m still in touch with my little brother from time to time. 

For a long time, my wife Teri and I would do Mitzvah Day with the kids. Most years, we would volunteer at the Jewish Convalescent Center. The kids would have fun serving snowballs and playing bingo. It taught them about doing good deeds in the community. We also participated in a friend’s mitzvah project, knocking on doors for older adults, to give them emergency kits. 

I’ve also done fundraising calls and for the last two years I’ve been involved with Kesher, a program that connects people from Baltimore with people from Ashkelon, Israel. 

Ann: I think my first involvement was with a two-year program called Dor Tikvah, which was a leadership program that taught about The Associated and its programs and agencies. After the two-year program, I was invited to participate on the Board of the Baltimore Jewish Council. The highlight of my participation was hearing from a lot of different speakers on important topics to the Jewish community. Advocating in Annapolis – that was also one of the highlights.

What’s your vision for Shalom Baltimore? 

Brian: I’d like to see outreach to college students, synagogues and preschool families who are new to Baltimore. When people move here to go to college or for a job, we want to help them get connected to the Jewish community. We hope to have “ambassadors” who have their eyes open to identify new families. We’re hoping Hillel directors will let us know about Jewish students who plan to stay here after graduation, so that we can reach out to them. 

One of my favorite quotes by Earl Nightingale is hanging on the wall at Crown Trophy. “The deepest craving of the human being is for recognition and self-esteem, to be needed, to feel important, to be recognized and appreciated.” Community is all about connection. I hope people will reach out and see that everyone wants to belong.  

Ann: This year’s Shalom Baltimore will only be similar to when I moved here in that they will welcome new Jewish people to the community. Unlike when I moved here, it will be an ongoing program where we hope to stay in touch with new community members and introduce them to everything The Associated has to offer.  

We’d like a variety of people to be ambassadors. So, maybe different religious denominations – Conservative Orthodox or Reform, but just trying to reach out to everybody and be inclusive of everybody that is entering our community. We are still in the planning stages but there will definitely be events. I want all the events to be welcoming and inclusive. 

I’m always open to meeting new people. Everybody has something to bring to the table. I just hope that people will have a really positive experience when they move here. 

Tell us something that most people don’t know about you. 

Ann: I’m very into pickleball right now. I really enjoy the sport. I had been a tennis player for years. I love tennis but it’s very strenuous on the body. Pickleball is not as strenuous, it’s a really fun sport and it’s very social. Also, I’m a vegan!  

Brian: I’m a new chicken farmer. As of last spring, I have four backyard hens. I got them from Kayla, my daughter, who had chickens for her fourth graders. I said “what are you going to do about the chicks when they’re born? I want one.” Now, I get four eggs a day. 

I also became a pilot. And recently, I became a health coach after losing 80 pounds. I do one-on-one coaching with people who are overweight, have type II diabetes etc. It’s nice to relate to someone who understands about food addiction and how gaining weight can make you feel bad about yourself. 

With whom would you most like to have coffee? 

Brian: Oprah and Dr. Phil. Oprah – because she’s a remarkable human who changes people’s lives forever. Dr. Phil –because he’s got a cool accent and he really gets to know people on a deep level in a short period of time. 

Ann: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She’s a fellow attorney and a trailblazer who has advocated for women’s rights and paved the way for other women to feel empowered. 

What are you reading these days? 

Brian: I am reading Flight Training magazine. And I still study physical therapy and medical journals. I also listen to a lot of podcasts like Airline Pilot Guy and Harvard Business Review’s IdeaCast. 

Ann: I recently joined a book group in my new neighborhood. Since moving in, we’ve had two visitors who came over with welcome baskets and plated cookies. And one of them invited me to the book club. So, they’re reading a memoir called “Know My Name.” I just started it yesterday. 

What fictional character do you identify with most? 

Brian: Willy Wonka is my all-time favorite. If the movie – the original one with Gene Wilder – came on right now – I would stop and watch it. You know, Gene Wilder was actually an introvert. 

Ann: I asked my daughter, Elana, to help me answer this last question. She is a graduate of the Writing Seminars at JHU (Johns Hopkins University), and an avid reader, especially of classics. She said Anne of Green Gables always reminded her of me because of Anne’s “green eyes, red hair, [her fondness for] books, and the way she stands up for herself. 

If you or someone you know is new to Baltimore and looking to connect to the Baltimore Jewish community, please reach out to our friendly Shalom Baltimore Coordinator, Jenny Seidman, at 410-369-9258 or visit to learn more. 

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The Associated is a home for everyone in the Baltimore Jewish community. We offer several email lists to help people find a community, engage with their peers and support Jewish journeys around the world.

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