The Importance of Deeper Connections

Michael J. Elman, M.D.
Michael J. Elman, M.D.

Jewish tradition centers on the family. We celebrate our most deeply rooted observances, such as Shabbat and the Passover seder, in our homes, where we  transmit our eternal heritage and rich traditions from one generation to the next. No matter the size, Judaism begins and ends with our family. Indeed, the great contemporary Jewish sage, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, described the Jewish people as one large family.

Because of the vital importance of family, the Louise D. and Morton J. Macks Center for Jewish Education aims to meaningfully engage families in a manner comfortable for them. The future of our community depends on the success of this ambitious mission.

Connecting Jews to each other and to our shared heritage is the CJE’s highest priority. An agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, the CJE aspires to serve as a key catalyst for Jewish growth within individual families.  By creating innovative educational experiences, the CJE strives to inspire and motivate parents and children to connect with Jewish learning, Jewish living and Jewish community.

Through the millennia, Shabbat served as the focal point for family time together. For many today, Shabbat provides a nurturing, relaxed opportunity for families and friends to connect.

This year, our community will participate in projects that celebrate the beauty of Shabbat and enable people — from all levels of observance — to experience it in relevant and meaningful ways.

The Associated has partnered with other organizations to create First Fridays (, a movement to inspire and encourage friends and families to bring Shabbat into their lives in some fashion on the first Friday of every month. This innovative project kicks off on Oct. 2 and is a wonderful way for anyone to make time and connect with their loved ones and their heritage in their own unique way.

Associated Women has collected resources on a website, shabbatresources, which encourages community members to spend Shabbat together and to open their homes to interested individuals and families.

Both of these sites provide resources to make Shabbat accessible and comfortable for people who may never have celebrated Shabbat and who need a starting point from which to embark on a Shabbat experience.

Once again, our community will participate in the Baltimore Shabbat Project, a worldwide observance of Shabbat, on Oct. 22-24. Programs include challah baking for women and girls, family and neighborhood-based Shabbat meals, programming for men and boys and a communitywide Havdalah concert. Around the globe, thousands of Jews will share in similar preparations for Shabbat and will observe the day in a way that is comfortable and inspiring for each of them. The Baltimore Shabbat Project aims to unify the global Jewish family through Shabbat.

All these important initiatives will help us make deeper connections. Even in our strong, vibrant Baltimore Jewish community, we unfortunately hear from people who feel disconnected from Jewish life. Through innovative engagement opportunities for families, educational resources and welcoming experiences, we aim to help people identify with our heritage, feel proud to be Jewish and feel connected to each other.

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