Why Federation Now?


In this fast-paced, dynamic world of 24/7 news, it’s easy to get caught up in highlights of everything that is wrong with the world. Especially as a Jew, there are so many things to worry about. When I see news alerts about rocket attacks in Israel, I worry about the security of Israel and Jews around the world. In my role as president of the Jewish Federation of Howard County, I worry about growing anti-Semitism, some right here in our own county. I worry about how to best meet the needs of a growing, aging population. And I worry about how to ensure that our children hold onto our Jewish heritage.

Of course, there is a positive side to this news cycle as well — when bad things happen in the Jewish world, the speed at which we become aware is almost instantaneous and allows us to have a timelier response. I take great pride in knowing that at the Federation, we are addressing issues that affect our Jewish future while developing a stronger voice around issues impacting our community.

There has been such a growing need for a unified communal Jewish voice that the Federation recently created its first Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) to represent our interests with elected officials and local faith and ethnic communities. After a recent anti-Semitic incident at a Howard County public school, the JCRC has worked with the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) to strengthen policies that will empower students, parents, faculty and administrators to respond to incidents of hate or harassment within the school system. The JCRC has also provided additional curricula for the Holocaust education and anti-bias programs at HCPSS, to educate youth about the history of anti-Semitism and hopefully prevent future incidents.

Other facets of the Federation continue to Jewishly engage families — both those active in synagogue congregations and those unaffiliated — through PJ Library in Howard County, BBYO in Howard County, religious school scholarships and other engagement programs for all ages. The Federation also connects our community to Israel through our shlichut (Israeli emissary) program, which brings an Israeli to live and teach in our community for a two-year term. Through its social services program, the Federation provides pastoral and social work services to seniors, those facing illness and anyone in need throughout the county.

Despite all the modern challenges we face as a people and as a community, I feel lucky to be living where I do. Thanks to the Federation and our local community partners, Jewish life has a bright future in Howard County.

So why Federation now? Because in our own community, in our own corner of the world, we can help so much and heal so many.

Beth Millstein is president of the Jewish Federation of Howard County.

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