A major shake-up is coming to The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore and its programs with the impending launch of three new organizations this summer.
The new organizations — EngageCo, Jewish Educational Services and the New Jewish Library — will launch on July 1. They will be “dedicated to expanding and enhancing our Jewish education and engagement agenda,” according to a recent announcement.
The new organizations are partly a result of the 2020 Greater Baltimore Jewish Community Study and its findings, said Beth Goldsmith, chair of The Associated’s board, in an email.
“One of the many things we learned is that since our last study, conducted in 2010, there has been a 45% increase in people disconnecting from Jewish life,” Goldsmith said. “By building upon our successes and scaling up our programming, our goal is to offer a lifetime of Jewish adventures that will inspire Baltimoreans to create their personal Jewish journeys.
“These include new, inclusive and innovative Jewish experiences that will encourage Jewish Baltimore to connect to their Jewish identity, while strengthening our community,” Goldsmith added.
EngageCo will be made up of staff from both the Macks Center for Jewish Education and Jewish Volunteer Connection, and it will be continuing the work of these organizations, said Lauren Ades, the inaugural chair of EngageCo’s board, in an email.
“EngageCo is all about expanding opportunities and portals for engagement in Jewish life for more and more Baltimoreans; think personalized Jewish journeys and a concierge experience to Jewish life,” Ades said. “By scaling up existing CJE and JVC initiatives promoting Jewish learning, living and service to meet vital community needs, EngageCo hopes to ignite lifelong Jewish journeys.”
During the first year, a significant part of EngageCo’s focus will be on building a strong team and board, designing a system for data collection, building the organization’s brand and beginning a listening tour to determine what it is Jewish Baltimoreans are looking for, Ades added.
Turning again to the 2020 study, Goldsmith noted that “we found that approximately 50% of Jewish Baltimore were enrolled in some form of Jewish school.” To better meet the community’s needs, Jewish Educational Services, or JES, will support Jewish education in all its forms, including day schools, congregational schools and preschools, in the hopes of inspiring lifelong Jewish learning in children.
“JES is all about strengthening and supporting Jewish education in Baltimore,” said Rabbi Aaron Levitt, who will serve as its executive director, in an email. “This is key for a vibrant Jewish future.”
JES staff will be coming from both CJE and SHEMESH and will be continuing the programming of both groups, said Levitt.
Levitt plans to begin by developing relationships among JES staff and board members, and with the schools it will work with.
“We are looking to develop trust and to be responsive to the needs of each school,” Levitt said. “Relationships are key to our success.”
As for the New Jewish Library, it will be using what is currently the CJE library to connect community members to Jewish resources they can use in their Jewish educational journeys, said Jessica B. Fink, who will serve as the library’s executive director.
“Our library will go from ‘a best kept secret’ to ‘a well-known community hub,’” said Fink, a resident of Pikesville and member of Beth Tfiloh Congregation.
Fink expects to have a larger staff dedicated to the collection. She anticipates the library will be open for longer hours as well as on Sundays, and that it will spend more time working with day schools and congregational schools.
“The New Jewish Library will continue to offer a boutique-like experience for patrons through individualized consultations, connecting them to resources and people who will support their needs and deepen their Jewish journey,” Fink said.