Get to Know Marc Wernick:
A Passionate Leader in the Jewish Community

Marc Wernick

It’s not everybody who can say that they’re the only certified mahjong instructor in Maryland. Marc Wernick should know. He certified himself! In fact, Marc, a trustee of Bolton Street Synagogue’s board of directors, is super-proud that he started the March Madness mahjong craze at his Roland Park congregation.  

And while Marc isn’t one to toot his own shofar, that’s hardly the only project he’s taken on as a Jewish communal leader. A graduate of Na’aleh’s ACCELERATE, a leadership program, Marc is also a board member and chair of the marketing committee at the Macks Center for Jewish Connection (MCJC); a member of the JCC’s Arts and Culture and Queer Jewish Arts Festival Planning committees and a member of JPride’s Grants Committee and Needs Assessment Task Force. Na’aleh, the MCJC and the JCC are all Associated agencies. 

Recently, we caught up with the Brewers Hill resident to find out more about his Jewish journey. 

What inspired you to be involved in Jewish community? 

My father was very involved in the Jewish community in Montgomery County where I grew up. When he passed away very unexpectedly, I decided I wanted to say Kaddish for him every week. When you go to services every week, they recruit you to be on committees. That’s how I started. It’s really because my dad was a role model that I’ve become involved in Jewish communal work. I feel my dad’s presence when I do that work. It’s very comforting. 

Some say that it’s hard to break into Jewish Baltimore when you didn’t grow up there. 

I don’t subscribe to that. Bolton Street has really become my community and there are only a handful of Baltimore natives there. Most of us are transplants seeking that sense of community and family of choice. Whether it’s serving on a committee, bringing dinner to someone who just had surgery or meeting up with a friend from synagogue for coffee, it’s natural to build relationships.  

You became involved with The Associated. 

Before I got involved with The Associated, I had some misconceptions about it. One was that you had to be a third generation Baltimorean to be an asset to the organization, that they had this inner circle of people that they catered to and as a transplant, queer Jew, I wasn’t of interest to them. That wasn’t the reality. It’s been easy to get involved in the Macks Center for Jewish Connection for instance. 

The second misconception was that it was a pay to play organization and that I needed to write a check with more zeroes than I can count to be on a board. And I was a little nervous when I had my meeting with Annette Saxon to make my donation. But I loved the way she phrased [the ask]. She said, ‘what amount of money would make you happy?’ And I thought that was a really artful way of saying that giving should be a joy, not a burden. I love that approach. Whether I gave $18 or $18,000, it doesn’t matter. Now, my sense of The Associated is that they’re making a very concerted effort to engage people on terms that are meaningful to them. 

What’s happening these days with JPride? 

JPride is very vibrant. We’ve given out over 25 grants totaling over $25,000 to seed programming in the queer community — everything from the Queer Jewish Arts Festival to our annual Passover Seder. We’re funding books in libraries on queer topics. We’re helping out with breaking down stereotypes and homophobia in the Orthodox community. 

The other thing that I’m incredibly excited about is we just did a needs assessment study where we talked to individuals, Jewish communal leaders, parents of Orthodox Jewish kids, college aged kids, millennials, baby boomers and retirees to find out what’s needed to form a cohesive queer Jewish community in Baltimore. The results of the study will be released soon. I think this study will really help galvanize and take JPride to the next level.  

What are you watching?  

Who isn’t watching Mrs. Maisel? I did improv for a while, so I love comedy. I watched the new release of the Jewish Matchmaker and was disappointed that they didn’t have any queer people.  

Any personal goals you’d like to share? 

Losing another 30 pounds. I lost 50 during COVID and I’ve got another 30 to go. Oh, and I’m single and ready to mingle! 

What about goals for Baltimore’s Jewish community? 

I’m very challenged by the work that we’re doing at the Macks Center for Jewish Connection, looking at ways to engage unengaged Jews, people who aren’t affiliated with the synagogue, people who aren’t sending their kids to Jewish summer camp. How do we reach these people? I think we’re developing a very interesting portfolio of activities and relationships to be able to engage people in ways that are meaningful to them.   

I’m also very excited about the work we’re doing with Rabbi Gordon at Bolton Street. We’re looking at making liturgy more inclusive. For instance, what do we call a bnai mitzvah for someone who’s gender non-binary, gender expansive or transgender? 

We’re also considering how to contemporize rituals. For example, how do you mark a retirement? The third initiative is about building community around festivals. I love Rabbi Gordon’s metric: If you have people in strollers and people in walkers you’ve done a good job.  

Besides mahjong, what is something people might not know about you? 

I’m a true foodie. If you need a restaurant recommendation or a recipe for a dinner party, I’m your guy.  

Subscribe to our newsletter

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.

Join Our Mailing List

Add Impact to Your Inbox

Sign up for our newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter

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.

Join Our Mailing List