Building a Jewish community has always been a priority for Michael Green. So, when Michael became very sick with coronavirus early in the pandemic, it was no surprise that an entire community of friends, family and colleagues stood ready to help in his recovery.
In March, after returning home from a New York trip of sightseeing and Broadway shows, Michael became very ill with double pneumonia as a result of COVID-19 and was in the ICU at Mercy Hospital, sedated and on a ventilator for more than seven weeks.
He was later transferred to Levindale Hospital where he stayed for two months working with speech, physical and occupational therapists around the clock.
At the end of June, Michael was finally able to come home. And a community that he helped to build was right there to support him.
“The Associated reached out and made me feel like I was part of a family and probably more importantly, they helped Gail get through a very difficult time. Synagogue members sent cards and the past co-chair of the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership apparently called Gail once a week to check in on me to see how I was doing. It was amazing to see the relationships that we built were stronger than ever, at a time we needed them the most.”
Having moved to Baltimore with his mother and sister when he was ten years old, Michael grew up learning about Judaism at Beth Jacob, the synagogue he attended three days a week as a young child. His schooling there provided a strong foundation for his Jewish education and the values that would shape his Jewish journey.
“The Jewish community here in Baltimore is very important to me,” says Michael. “I grew up in a house where there was just no emphasis really on religion. The education I received at Beth Jacob was priceless in terms of building a proper foundation.”
Almost 34 years ago, Michael and Gail helped found the Bolton Street Synagogue in an effort to create a sense of community and provide a similar Jewish learning opportunity that Michael grew up experiencing. Michael taught at the religious school they formed and served as principal of the Bolton Street Synagogue Religious School for 20 years.
During that time, he became involved with the Center for Jewish Education, sitting on their board and helping to create Jewish programming.
“We completely revamped one of the programs that just wasn’t effective. We gave it a new name – Shevet Achim – which helps to create relationships between Baltimore kids and Ashkelon kids in a school environment,” shares Michael.
The wide success of Shevet Achim, now in its sixth year, presented the opportunity for Michael to join The Associated’s Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership and reestablish his love of Israel and its people.
Recently, Michael was asked to co-chair The Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership Kesher program, a new two-year program for adults ages 45+ interested in exploring their Jewish identity and connecting with peers in Ashkelon, Israel.
Michael travelled to Israel for the first time after graduating from University of Baltimore School of Law and spent two months living in Jerusalem. Back in 1982, without cell phones, his wife Gail had to track him down to deliver the results of his bar exam.
“I was actually up North with a friend of mine when Gail had called to share the news. Friends in Jerusalem where I was living knew before I did. When I returned home to the apartment, they had a cake waiting for me. I don’t know if I would’ve come back home to Baltimore if I hadn’t passed,” jokes Michael.
Michael returned several times to Israel through the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership.
“The friendships that we made in Ashkelon during those first mission trips to Israel, we still have today. There’s people there who we really feel very close to and every time we’ve been to Israel since that first time, we always make it a point to visit Ashkelon and stay with our friends.”
As Michael continues to recover from coronavirus – he is still on oxygen and has permanent lung damage – he fills his days taking care of his grandson, getting back on the Peleton and walking a lot outside. He hasn’t been back to work since March and is in the process of possibly closing his law practice for good.
The COVID-19 pandemic has truly been mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting. Nobody knows that better than Michael. But rather than focusing on the pandemic’s negative impact, he chooses to highlight the resiliency of the human spirit.
“I’ve come to appreciate that you can’t take being here for granted. I’m one of the lucky ones who survived and I get to see my grandson every day and Gail and I spend a lot of time together, more so than we ever did. I have to say, not going to work every day isn’t the worst thing in the world.”
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