Craig Simon wants to better his community. The 38-year-old Kemp Mill resident juggles a family, a full-time job at Xcelerate Solutions, his role as vice chair of the Montgomery County Committee Against Hate and Violence and other civic and religious volunteer positions.
Can you speak a little bit about your role on the Montgomery County Committee Against Hate and Violence?
We meet monthly and we meet with representatives from the police department, from the Office of Human Rights, really from all over the county, to discuss how we can best eradicate instances of hate, violence and bias. We recently hosted a webinar about gender equality, specifically related to the trans community. I also spoke with the Maryland State Senate about our work and we’ve worked on passing an anti-bullying resolution. We work really closely with nonprofits to make sure that our county is as welcoming as can be. It’s led me to have very good relationships with the chief of police and members of the County Council.
Why do you serve in this role?
There’s been a tremendous increase of instances in antisemitism, not only in America but in Montgomery County specifically. By having a seat at the table, I can ensure that the Jewish community is well represented. There’s a lot of conscious decisions that we make to be as inclusive as we can, and to be inclusive you have to have people that can speak to that.
How are you involved in Jewish life?
I’m on the board of the Chevra Kadisha of Greater Washington, and during COVID I was on the Special Covid Task Team. I’m on the board of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. One of the reasons that I’m really excited about that is because the Jewish Federation is a great organization and it’s realized that they’ve had an issue in the past with not being as inclusive to the Orthodox community, the frum community. We’re trying to find ways to bring in the frum community. I’m also on the board of my synagogue, Young Israel Shomrai Emunah.
What do you see as some of the greater challenges you’re fighting?
For The Jewish Federation, the greatest challenge is twofold. It’s showcasing the great work that The Federation does to the frum community and making the frum community more aware that The Federation is the largest donor to all the Jewish schools in the area. At the same time, it’s getting The Federation to understand the sensitivities of the Orthodox world so they can be better brought in. It’s nice to see that both sides of the issue are working on it together. The frum community is often seen as an other in the Jewish world, but we’re not. We’re Jews.
In terms of the Committee Against Hate and Violence, one of the biggest issues we’re facing is just the overall rise of hate crimes. It’s an awkward thing because we’re never happy with any hate crime and we’re not proud that we have a high number in the county but it means that people are comfortable to report them to the police. The more we know about it the more we can do to fight it.
How do you see all of these roles intersecting?
One of the things that really moves me is my personal rabbi, Rabbi Hillel Klavan. He had a sign in his office that said “Someone Who Controls his Time,” and it really left an impact on me. What am I doing with my time? What am I doing with the time and strength Hashem has given me? I’m not a great learner. I wish I was but I’m not. But I can do these things. I can forge relationships. I can bridge the gaps. Whether that’s informing people what Jewish life is like and bringing more people to whatever mitzvot they feel comfortable with, it’s what really drives me. That’s that big intersection. All of these things have to do with the idea of service to others.
What do you hope to accomplish in these endeavors?
My goals are to help Jewish people do Jewish things when I’m in that context. And it’s to help people be people, to live their lives the way they see fit when I’m working in non-Jewish contexts. It’s to bring sensitivity to others. Whether or not you agree or don’t agree with people, you have to treat them as humans, view them as b’tzelem Elohim, as someone created in the image of God. That refers to Jews and non-Jews. Even the people you despise. That’s one of the biggest goals we can have. To get people to understand that people are people and then go from there.