Jewish Devotion


With the rhythm of the Jewish calendar bringing Shabbat every week and holidays to commemorate throughout the year, it’s easy for those of us who grew up Jewish to retain a sense of the religion’s beauty and meaning.

But for some people who did not grow up with regular Jewish observance, this beauty can be discovered later — and embraced with joy and devotion. We profile some of these people in this week’s cover story by Susan Ingram.

They include one person seeking ordination as an Orthodox rabbi, a young man who’s found a spiritual and professional home in Jews United for Justice and a woman who discovered her family’s hidden Jewish roots.

One subject found God at Chabad dinners. Another encountered Judaism as an intellectual door-opener. Still another was moved by Shabbat services and Hebrew prayers.

In addition to those who have converted to Judaism or who are in the process, Ingram spoke with people such as Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah Congregation’s Rabbi Yerachmiel Shapiro, who teaches a Basics of Judaism course.

“The vast majority of people I meet are extremely sincere and are inspired by what they see as a religion that values family and morality and has a strong intellectual base,” he said. “So I’ve found that these people are really coming with their full heart.”

The morality Shapiro speaks of is also on full display in our Giving Guide Insider this week. Each year before the holiday season comes around, the Jewish Times highlights charitable giving in the community.

This year’s section features stories on the Hebrew Free Loan Association, which offers interest-free loans; Sports Boosters of Maryland, which raises money to help sports programs in underserved areas; various nonprofits working to help Baltimore’s homeless population; car donations; and several other area nonprofits.

For those running these organizations, it’s more than a job.

“We love knowing that we are able to make an impact in the lives of children in a big way,” said Ron Levine, Sports Boosters’ executive director. “This is what we do.”

Elsewhere in the community, Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School seniors volunteered their own time to begin digitizing gravestones at Jewish cemeteries in the area in order to map them out and archive them. The effort was started by a concerned member of the Jewish Cemetery Association of Maryland and continues to grow with more community partners.

As Chanukah approaches, let’s take a cue from the philanthropic community and think of those less fortunate than us and celebrate the beauty of Judaism through our own acts of tikkun olam.

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