Leading the Way: A Conversation with The Associated’s Israel and Global Managing Council Co-Chairs

Meet Atara Frankel and Harel Turkel, the dynamic co-chairs of The Associated’s Israel and Global Managing Council.

Harel, a native Baltimorean and Atara, who grew up in Montreal, speak candidly about their new roles – their priorities, potential challenges and unwavering support for Jewish communities in Israel and beyond.

Here are 7 things to know about Harel and Atara:

Harel Turkel

Harel Turkel

Tell us about your journey and role at The Associated.

I have been involved in the Baltimore-Odesa Partnership, the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership and the Israel and Overseas Committee at The Associated. As I was finishing my responsibilities with Jewish Community Services (JCS) I heard about the opening on the Israel and Global Managing Council and thought I had the skillset, background and relationships to really be successful in this role.

FY24 priorities?

I’d love to say that the Ukrainian conflict will be over but there really seems to be no end in sight, so a top priority remains our enduring support for Odesa through our Baltimore-Odesa Partnership. Our continued support for our partner city of Ashkelon, as well as programs throughout Israel, are always a top priority as well. 

Harel Turkel with his daughter

Your own ties to Israel?

On my mother’s side of the family, we can trace seven generations in Israel since the Spanish explusion. My father made Aliyah in the early seventies. They were married there before moving back to Baltimore. I did a gap year in Israel right after high school and today, we try and go every summer with our kids. It’s definitely a second home for us.

How do you respond to those who question giving to Israel?

I think we have a responsibility to maintain the programs that help the most vulnerable, especially in the State of Israel. You’ll see an Ethiopian absorption center in Ashkelon, for example, and how we’re making a difference for people who might be one generation removed from just living in tent cities in rural Ethiopia. I truly believe that donors understand that we’re making an impact locally and abroad. Our stance has to be that we support people on the ground and not politicians or government policies. It’s about really explaining that we support people and not governments as a whole.

What’s on your bucket list?

I’ve always been an avid traveler. I’ve been to about 39 countries. I really just want to see 100 countries in the world over the next 15-20 years – they call it the Century Club. That’s my plan.

Favorite country?

Thailand. I backpacked there with my buddies after we graduated undergrad. Then, my wife Randi and I went on our honeymoon there in 2008. And we just went back again with the kids and my in-laws this past winter. It’s stunning and very magical.

Harel Turkel

What do you do for fun when you are not working, volunteering or traveling?

I love extreme sports and pushing the envelope. Although I’ve become a little more tempered since I had children, I still definitely take risks often. I’m a big scuba diver and have gone down to extreme depths. I like hiking for long hours and tackling serious elevations. I really just like getting out there and finding ways to connect to nature.

Atara Frankel

Atara Frankel with her husband

How did you get involved with The Associated?

When we moved to Baltimore in 2006, Yehuda Neuberger invited my husband and I for coffee and told us about the work of The Associated. My first involvement was with the Young Leadership Committee (YLC) which I later chaired. Over the years I have sat on many different boards including the UMBC Hillel board. I moved into a lot of work with Israel, helping to develop The Associated’s Insight Israel Forum, the first in the country to provide opportunities for Jews to enhance their knowledge, understanding and relationship to Israel. 


I love Israel. I love everything to do with Jewish identity and just being a proud Jew. My goal and my mission are always to create positivity around Israel and keep it in a really positive light. I think it’s just part of who we are as Jews and, whether we agree or disagree with certain current policies, Israel as a whole is still very important to us as Jewish people.

As past co-chair of the Insight Israel Forum, what are you most proud of?

Aside from having the best co-chairs, I’m very proud of the way we were able to keep the conversation around Israel really positive and make it personal in terms of meeting people on the ground and exploring different things that people wouldn’t necessarily have known. And we offer great education from experts in the field, including learning from Avi Malamed, who teaches about context and nuance and the realities in the Middle East.

Favorite thing to do in Israel?

We try to go to Israel once a year. We love walking the streets of Jerusalem. We put so much mileage on our feet when we’re there. We do travel around Israel a bit and a little downtime at Cramim or Beresheet Spa of course – you can’t go wrong with that.

What keeps you busy?

I do a lot of volunteering. I run the local chapter of a nonprofit for single moms in the Orthodox community called Sister to Sister. It was actually founded by Yehuda’s wife, Anne Neuberger.

It’s hard to be a single mom raising your kids alone anywhere but especially within the Orthodox community where boys have to go to shul with their father. Moms might have several children in our society, so being a single mom under these circumstances can be especially trying. So, we try to create a support system that makes them feel a little less alone and raise their families with a little more dignity.

Atara Frankel and family

And for fun?

I love to go hiking with my family. We recently went to Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon. I love nature – being outside and family time. I also love working out and hot yoga. I read a lot and cook every day.

Personal mantra?

I was once babysitting my two-year-old grandson at the time who turned to me and said, ‘Omi get off your phone.’ The kids really hate it when we are distracted, so I think the more present we can be the better off we are.

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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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