A Sense of Belonging

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As Bill Withers sang in his 1972 hit “Lean on Me,” we all need somebody to lean on.

I sang that song an innumerable amount of times to wrap up NFTY (North American Federation of Temple Youth) events as a teenager. It was a time in my life when I had youth group friends, synagogue friends and school friends.


As we move through life, opportunities to connect with friends new and old abound, especially with the prevalence of social media.

But the subjects of this week’s cover story by Shana Medel, the founders of a group called the Bagel Boys, felt a void in that department. Long past the days of built-in social activities like bar mitzvah parties and school dances, they found it harder in their post-work lives to make connections.


While there were plenty of social groups for women, there weren’t so many for men. So the Bagel Boys created one of few men’s groups outside of synagogue brotherhood organizations.

Each Tuesday for the past four years, the Bagel Boys have met for food, socializing and lectures that have covered eclectic topics ranging from archeological digs in Israel to how to make Krazy Glue.

“Not only do we all go home with something that we learned each week, but the Bagel Boys gives us an identity,” Howard Cornblatt, one of the group’s three founders, said. “And everyone needs to feel that they’re involved in something.”

For those with few living relatives, the group becomes a second family. From my own family, I know how valuable such opportunities can be.

My grandfather, Max Wolf, used to teach a current events class at the Pikesville Senior Center. I spoke to the class once about my travels to Greece and Australia, and they were a very engaged and receptive audience. And for my grandfather, who ran union newspapers, it was equally if not more engaging.

The Bagel Boys gets increasing participation all the time. I hope that the group lasts for a long time to keep men engaged and connected well beyond their working years, perhaps inspiring even more men to start their own groups.

All of us need friendship, human connection and intellectual stimulation — no matter how old we are.

mshapiro@midatlanticmedia.com

1 COMMENT

  1. I recall many years ago entering Temple Beth in Albany, New York, as a child and not being permitted to have a head covering–but some time ago I read that a later, if not latest, “Pittsburgh Platform,” encouraged Reform Jews to have a kosher home so that any fellow Jew would feel welcome.

    With all that, I recall that “NFTY” stood for “National Federation of Temple Youth.” Has the word, “Temple” been dropped?

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