Dov Hoffman on Jewish Identity and Growing Up Jewish

For Dov Hoffman, embracing new experiences is a part of developing as a person and as a professional.

From his moving to the Canton area, to taking on a leadership role with the American Marketing Association Baltimore Chapter (AMA Baltimore), not to mention his role on the board of Towson Hillel, Dov’s life is a busy one. Even so, he still finds time to be engaged Jewishly.

What was it like growing up Jewish?

Looking back at my childhood, Jewish life in the home was so important – whether it was celebrating the holidays or going to synagogue – there was a sense of Jewish life being a part of how we lived our lives. I went to Jewish day school and when I moved to Baltimore from Staten Island, I attended Yeshivat Rambam.

You didn’t go directly to college?

When I finished high school, I thought it would be a good idea to spend a year in Israel. While I had planned to go to college, and I ultimately went to Towson, there was a sense that I didn’t need to necessarily jump right into it. I thought, this way, I would be able to have several new experiences. It was probably one of the best decisions I ever made.

I attended a Young Judaea Year Course gap year program and it gave me the chance to explore Israel in different ways throughout the year. I spent three months volunteering on a kibbutz up north with one of my jobs being milking cows waking up at 4:00 in the morning; I took some classes in Jerusalem for which I ended up getting college credit; and, I volunteered for three months for Magen David Adom in Bat Yam, a city south of Tel Aviv. Near the end, my family came in and we did our own version of touring around Israel.

Have you gone back since?

I’ve gone back to Israel twice. The second time was during my freshmen year for a volunteer program in Northern Israel and helped do cleanup work around the area. My dad retired and three years ago made Aliyah. So, about a year and a half ago myself, my sister and my grandmother went out there for a couple weeks to visit.

What’s it like living in Canton? Does it affect your Jewish identity?

That’s an interesting question. I think from what I’ve seen, the Jewish community here in Baltimore is one that is very rich, and there are a lot of opportunities to engage in. You can even create your own opportunities.

Such as?

In addition, a few years ago, when I was getting involved with YLC and serving as an observer on the Towson Hillel board, fellow alumni Austin Nusbaum, Janna Zuckerman and myself formed what is now known as JTAA – The Jewish Tigers Alumni Alliance. It was something we wanted to create for Jewish Towson alumni including those involved with Towson Hillel while they were a student and those who weren’t as involved, I think it says something that we were able to say, “let’s do something about it” and we did.

I remember when I moved to Canton many of my Jewish friends and peers either lived in the area, whether it was Canton, Fells Point or Brewer’s Hill. People go to friends’ places for Shabbat dinners or attend Chabad. I definitely get the sense that there are a lot of young adults who are in the area, who are Jewish, and are getting together and being a part of the community.

What advice would you give to the person who either recently graduated or moved to Baltimore?

In all honesty I would personally say connect with The Associated. Over the past several years I’ve learned that there is an overwhelming amount that The Associated does for the Baltimore Jewish community and beyond. The Associated can steer you in a direction that is best suited to you.

Can you touch on your experience with Towson Hillel?

I first got involved with Towson Hillel my freshman year. I remember spending time there especially during holidays like Passover. Unfortunately, as I continued my studies and took on different leadership and volunteer roles, I found I had less and less time to maintain my involvement. It was partially for that reason that when I had the chance to observe a board years later through The Associated’s Young Leadership Council (YLC), I chose Towson Hillel. I’ve been on the board since 2014.

Do you see engagement with the younger generation, particularly when it comes to faith or religion, as a challenge?

I think no matter what the organization in question may be, engagement is a huge factor – especially with the younger generation. I think a part of what we’re after at Towson Hillel is to always keep driving for deeper levels of engagement and grow that community. I can tell you from the past few years of being on the board and hearing from the students and the activities going on that there are more and more students getting involved.

Favorite Jewish holiday?

I think it would be a tie between Chanukah and Passover. But since it’s on my mind recently I will say Passover. 

Favorite place to hang out in Baltimore?

I think I just really enjoy being along the water in the Canton or Fells area.

Are you a Ravens or Orioles fan?

Both. Despite growing up in New York, I can say that I’m not a Giants, Jets, Yankees or Mets fan. I guess we can contribute that to either coming here at a young age or growing up in a household where my dad was a diehard Steelers and Pirates fan.

Dogs or Cats?

Well growing up I had cats but most recently I would have to say dogs. I actually have been dog watching for my cousins so let’s say dogs.

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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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