In an effort to strengthen bonds between African-American and Jewish teenagers, the Baltimore Jewish Council (BJC) and Elijah Cummings Youth Program (ECYP) in Israel have teamed up for an eight-month fellowship program.
The program, which begins in September, will teach teens ages 15 to 18 how to facilitate constructive dialogue among their peers on contentious issues such as racism, anti-Semitism and social justice.
Madeline Suggs, director of public affairs at the BJC, said the idea was conceived over a “water-cooler chat” with ECYP program director Kathleen St. Villier as the pair looked to expand ECYP’s mission. By the end of the program, students will be prepared to serve as community ambassadors on diversity and inclusion, Suggs added.
“We’re really excited that we’ll be able to provide tangible outcomes and experiences to prepare teens on such important topics as they get ready to head off to college,” Suggs said. “We thought this would be a respectful tool to help continue building a strong relationship between the African-American and Jewish communities.”
There’s been strong interest in the program, which will include four social justice trainings in the fall and winter, a group project in the spring and a celebration and debriefing at its conclusion.
So far, more than 20 teens have applied for a spot, exceeding the demand Suggs and the BJC thought the program would generate in its first year. As of now, the plan is to admit 11 ECYP seniors and 11 Jewish teens, Suggs said, but if applications continue to pour in, accommodations might be made to admit more students.
The program will be funded with the remaining money of the now-defunct Black Jewish Forum of Baltimore (BLEWS) program, which the BJC absorbed more than three years ago. A small portion of the $22,000 grant the BJC received this year from the Samuel I. “Sandy” Rosenberg Foundation for interfaith programming will also help assist the program financially.
The deadline to apply is 5 p.m. on July 19.