This past winter, in the midst of the bomb threats to JCCs across the country, I witnessed something incredible. I was in a meeting at the JCC with Jewish Volunteer Connection when we learned of a bomb threat to the JCC next door and heard we needed to evacuate.
As we left the building, I saw children, caregivers and teachers walking to shelter nearby. Yet, what most impressed me was the professionalism of agency staff and volunteers who were focused on everyone’s safety.
It was in this moment of a community coming together that I realized how proud I am of our Associated system. It also made me aware of the security and safety procedures that The Associated has put into place along with the partnerships that the system has created with local, state and federal agencies to make sure that we all feel safe.
As chair of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore’s community planning and allocations department, I’m often asked how we translate the money we raise from our annual campaign into our incredible work on the ground.
The answer is multifaceted.
Every year, we sit down with agency lay and professional leaders, listening to what they see happening in our community. We talk about our most pressing needs, and we then engage the expertise of our professionals and volunteer leaders, who help us devise solutions that are not just one-time change,s but are systematic program initiatives that will also impact future generations.
These are the conversations that spark planning processes and lead to some of our innovative initiatives, from CHANA’s SAFE: Stop Abuse of Elders, which has become a statewide model to counteract elder abuse, to the establishment of 4Front, a teen initiative focused on collaboration, education, innovation and advocacy. In fact, 4Front, directed by the JCC, is the direct result of a broader understanding that teens were disengaged Jewishly after their bar and bat mitzvahs.
When we saw the rise of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement nationwide, we brought in Israel fellows to our college campuses to engage Jewish and non-Jewish students. And when CHAI saw a need to strengthen the Pikesville neighborhoods, it helped develop the Pikesville Coalition, a collaborative effort targeted to improve schools to ensure strong neighborhoods.
I am always so proud of the outpouring of support we get from our community in contributing to our annual campaign. This generosity is what enables us to serve our needs and to strengthen Jewish identity.
And I cannot begin to be impressed by the hard work of the professionals at our agencies. They are truly our partners, guiding our thinking on how best to serve our community.
Beth Goldsmith is chair of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore’s community planning and allocations department.