Meet Debra S. Weinberg

If there is one common thread that seems to run through Debra Silberman Weinberg’s life, it is the overarching sense of community.

For it is her love of community that defines this Baltimore native, and it is community that motivates her to give back.

Raised by parents who were dedicated to uplifting those around them, Weinberg credits their values with making an indelible imprint early on. Eugene and Sandy Silberman were active in their four daughters’ schools and held leadership roles with numerous Baltimore nonprofits, including The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore. In fact, it was through The Associated that they officially met, during the organization’s G-Day, a fundraising day in which women went door-to-door asking for donations to The Associated’s Annual Campaign.

“My parents were determined to improve our community and our world,” says Weinberg. “Volunteering speaks to how we were raised.”

Landing in Israel as a teen in 1976, Weinberg was caught up in an historic moment that would ultimately broaden her understanding of her role as a global citizen. The date was July 4, and she would soon learn that the country had completed a daring mission in Entebbe, Uganda, saving nearly all the passengers who were held hostage on an Air France flight to Tel Aviv.

“It’s hard to explain the passion we felt that day. It made me realize that we are all connected, and it became important to me that Israel remain an integral part of my life.” That connection proved stronger during her trip as she stood in front of the dining hall at K’far Silver in Ashkelon, which would later become Baltimore’s sister city. It was there that she saw a plaque with the names of Baltimore Jewish philanthropists. On that list, was her grandfather’s name.

“Here I was, a world away, and there was this connection to my home in Baltimore,” says Weinberg. “It had a profound effect on me and the impact I wanted to make.”

It was this bond to Israel, and later through her work at Jewish Family Services (now under the umbrella of Jewish Community Services) where she helped resettle the 1,200 Jews arriving from the former Soviet Union, that she realized that helping others globally only strengthened her own self-identity.

Later, as executive director of ACHARAI: The Shoshana S. Cardin Leadership Development Institute, Weinberg found a mentor in Cardin, the organization’s founder. She also served as the director of The Darrell D. Friedman Institute for Professional Development (DFI) at the Weinberg Center, helping to build leaders for the future.

Following her parents’ lead, Weinberg became involved with The Associated, sitting on its Young Leadership Council, and chairing a number of committees, including the Israel and Overseas, as well as Community Planning and Allocations committees. Today, as The Associated’s Chair of the Board, Weinberg is proud that she can continue her work to build a strong Jewish community.

“People often come to me when they are facing difficult times. For example, I was recently asked about how to help an older adult, who experienced financial abuse and I referred them to CHANA, The Associated’s agency that supports abuse and trauma survivors. I also connected people who lost jobs to The Associated’s network of organizations, including Jewish Community Service and CHAI, to help them get back on their feet.

“I am so grateful I can provide them with a number for where to turn.”

One of Weinberg’s most memorable moments came years ago, when she was newly married to her high school sweetheart, Joe. It was then that her mother-in-law, Lillian Weinberg, gave her the gift of becoming a Lion of Judah.

Being an Associated Woman and a Lion of Judah is meaningful to Weinberg.

“I still treasure that moment. When she passed down the family legacy of giving, it made me realize I had a philanthropic responsibility to give back and make an impact.”

The lesson is not lost on Weinberg who wants to continue the philanthropic tradition.

“I’m looking forward to passing down this legacy to my children, including Lion of Judah to my daughters, making them Associated Women, so that they too can make the world a better place to live.”

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