Bringing Up the Next Generation


By the time I was a young girl, I knew that being Jewish meant responsibility. My grandfather would often sit me down and tell me stories about how our family immigrated to this country from Russia.

It was the age-old tale of religious discrimination, of pogroms and persecution. And through it all, he would ingrain in me that as Jews, it is our duty to take care of one another because if we didn’t, no one else would.

Listening to my grandfather for all those years ignited a passion in me to raise a Jewish family and give back to Jewish causes. That, in many ways, I knew that we are responsible for our Jewish future.

That is why I believe that as women — as mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters — it is important for us to raise Jewishly engaged children. For it is the younger generation that will determine the future of our Jewish community. If they believe in our mission, in our purpose, in the future of the Jewish people, we will move forward. If they turn away, we will struggle.

At its core, we must engage our children in positive Jewish experiences. In Baltimore, we are fortunate that The Associated, through its agencies, is providing a wealth of diverse experiences and these experiences are becoming increasingly accessible.

From Federal Hill to Hunt Valley, from Pikesville to Canton, young families are gathering in their neighborhoods for Tot Shabbats, held through the JCC or organized by a Macks Center for Jewish Education connector. Programs appeal to a cross-section of Jewish children from Pearlstone Center’s Tiyul Adventures, tying environmental ideas to our Jewish heritage, and the JCC’s 4Front, where teens engage in social entrepreneurship.

It means sharing our Jewish values of giving back and caring for others — tzedakah and tikkun olam (repair the world) — volunteering through a Jewish Volunteer Connection program or filling a tzedakah box with change.

And it continues so that when they become young adults, they are eager to engage in Jewish life, to choose to be leaders in their Jewish community, to find a place where they might belong.

As the 2019 Associated Women’s Campaign Chair, I believe young adults are our future. We must engage them. We must figure out how they want to be involved and how they want to make a difference. However, if we have not already laid the groundwork, we will fight an uphill battle.

Women can be at the forefront of this effort throughout our children’s lives. By modeling our Jewish values through volunteering and giving back, women can make a difference in the Jewish future of the next generation.

Over the years, my husband and I shared our Jewish values with our two daughters. Today, I am so proud that they heeded this lesson.

Ronnie Footlick is chair of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore Women’s Campaign.

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