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As the founding director of Agudath Israel of Maryland (AIMD), Rabbi Ariel Sadwin has been able to channel the organization’s efforts to accomplish in one short decade what many larger entities have not over longer spans of time. In recognition of Rabbi Sadwin and AIMD’s outstanding leadership in Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic region, an estimated overflow crowd of 700 + gathered at Baltimore’s Beth Tfiloh Congregation on Sunday evening, October 14 to celebrate AIMD’s Tenth Anniversary Gala.

Joining the impressive crowd – which included a large number of esteemed rabbonim and community askanim, as well as local, state, and federal government officials, was a contingency of Agudath Israel of America leaders – both lay and professional – who traveled in to Baltimore to join in the celebration.

The Featured Honored Guest of the evening was Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. The Gala also paid tribute to Dr. David Fowler, Chief Medical Examiner of Maryland. Both have played integral roles, thanks to the advocacy of AIMD, in enacting state legislation and procedures which are in alignment with Torah values and providing great benefits to the Jewish community.

Rabbi Sadwin also serves as the president of Maryland’s Council for American Private Education (CAPE), the statewide non-public school coalition. Acting in that capacity, he has been able to successfully promote several programs, beneficial for Maryland’s Jewish day school community, that have been facilitated or enhanced by the Hogan Administration, including the BOOST (Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today) Scholarship program for low-income families; and Maryland’s approval of 529 savings accounts for day school families. The governor’s attentiveness to the needs and desires of the Jewish constituency in the state of Maryland, as mentioned at the Gala, is also evident in his prioritizing the increase of joint ventures between Israel and Maryland and anti-BDS legislation, among other initiatives.

In addition to Rabbi Sadwin’s close working relationship with Governor Hogan, his strong bond with Dr. Fowler has influenced medical examiner protocols and interaction throughout the Mid-Atlantic region and beyond, ensuring that a Jewish meis (decedent) is handled with the utmost respect, in accordance with the Torah. In the past decade, nearly 60 Jewish autopsies were averted by putting other non-invasive forensic tools in place—thanks to the efforts of AIMD.

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After an exclusive dinner buffet reception, Jacob I. Slone, the evening’s Gala Chairman and board member of AIMD, extended words of welcome. They were followed by Divrei Chizuk delivered by HaRav Aharon Feldman, shlit”a, Rosh HaYeshiva, Ner Israel Rabbinical College, and member, Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Agudath Israel of America. Quoting from this week’s parsha–“I will bless whoever you bless and curse whoever curses you” — the Rosh HaYeshiva extrapolated that anyone who supports the Jewish people, is given a special blessing by Hashem.

“Therefore, anyone who participates, supports and enhances the Jewish people in Maryland, is a recipient of that blessing—this includes political figures and anyone who lends a hand in the improvement of the Jewish society in Maryland,” noted the Rosh HaYeshiva, who concluded with his bracha to the government officials and the Agudah of Maryland.

Greetings by Maryland’s senior U.S. Senator Ben Cardin preceded the Message delivered, on behalf of the national office, by Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Executive Vice President of Agudath Israel of America.

Local philanthropist Dr. Paul Volosov subsequently introduced Governor Larry Hogan, who received a standing ovation for his efforts on behalf of the greater Maryland Jewish community. After Governor Hogan’s remarks, a brief on-screen student presentation to the Governor took place, and a scrapbook full of appreciative submissions from students representing nearly all of Maryland’s Jewish day schools was delivered to the Governor. Rabbi Sadwin then introduced Dr. Fowler and presented him with a limited edition glass sculpture of “Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine” created by local glass sculptor, Gianni Toso. After Dr. Fowler’s remarks, a video presentation, to celebrate AIMD’s Decade of Impact was shown, followed by Rabbi Sadwin’s closing remarks, which preceded a dessert buffet.

After the event, Rabbi Sadwin expressed, “We greatly appreciate Governor Hogan’s participation in this event. It’s a display of how he values the work of our organization, as well as the role our community plays in the state of Maryland, advocating for the community’s interests. I’m also appreciative to Dr. Fowler for being our tributee – my relationship with him has been so impactful in protecting our religious freedoms.”

In turn, the well-deserved kudos for Rabbi Sadwin’s tireless efforts were shared with me during the reception, beginning with Governor Hogan: “I’ve had a great relationship with [Rabbi] Ariel [Sadwin] over the past four years…I’m very proud of all the wonderful work they [AIMD] do and I’m here to help them celebrate.”

AIMD Founding Board member, Rabbi Boruch Neuberger, remarked, “I think this is a wonderful testament to the incredible work that Rabbi Sadwin has done on behalf of the broad community, representing primarily the schools and the children of our community—both those in regular schools and those that need special education. Their needs are of paramount importance to our community and he has done a fantastic job. And, for other constituent services, that sometimes fly under the radar screen, he’s always available 24 hours a day to help people.”

Former AIPAC President Howard Tzvi Friedman, mentioned: “Rabbi Ariel Sadwin does an incredible job representing everyone in our Jewish community…This event is testimony…”

HaRav Moshe Heinemann, Rav of Agudath Israel of Baltimore, shared, “I think that Agudath Israel of Maryland has done so much for the Jewish community…we really owe them a big hakaras hatov through the Governor and his whole administration. I have a personal thanks for Dr. Fowler, because when my grandson died, he was the first one that became familiar with the Jewish needs not to perform an autopsy, and he was able to work it out, legally, so he shouldn’t have to have one.”

Elizabeth Green, who serves as one of the Governor’s appointees to the BOOST Advisory Board, emphasized, “Working together with Rabbi Sadwin, both as a board member of the BJC as well as a member of the BOOST Advisory Board, has been a pleasure. Rabbi Sadwin brings a professionalism to everything that he does. He forges wonderful relationships with different members of our legislature, as well as members of the Maryland Department of Education, and BOOST has been a source of oxygen for our families that struggle so hard to pay their tuition on an annual basis.”

Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel admitted, “I allowed myself to be distracted from all my national-based work to come out here and enjoy the nachas of seeing the remarkable things that have been accomplished by Rabbi Sadwin over the course of the last decade. I am just so proud of the wonderful work that he has done and the fact that he generates not only positive results in the community, but enormous respect –the entire advocacy world looks up to him and appreciates his work. That’s a kiddush Hashem!”

Agudah Israel of America’s Chairman of the Board Shlomo Werdiger concluded, “I am part of a large contingency from New York who came down to show our hakaras hatov to Ariel and the wonderful work he is doing in the community. It’s ten years of tremendous avodas hakodesh and the whole community has benefited from it. We came here, really, to give him chizuk– and we get chizuk from it! We get chizuk that all the branches are successful and that we were, Boruch Hashem, to be the source of all the Agudahs sprouting all over the country and seeing, first hand, the beautiful work that they are doing. We congratulate him, and the Abishter should give him koach m’chayal l’chayil, to continue, and iy”H, in another ten or twenty years, we’ll be back here again to show our hakaras hatov!”