Countless poems and songs expound upon the emotional connection many Jews have to Israel. It is a bond forged through centuries of tradition, decades of modern history and time spent with the people in the land of Israel.
To ensure that future generations care for our Jewish homeland, we must plant the seeds of love for Israel at an early age and nurture that relationship through the years. The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore is committed to connecting our children, teens and young adults to the land, people and culture of Israel.
A significant amount of Associated resources are used to help connect our Baltimore Jewish community to the global Jewish community, with a primary focus on Israel. Associated professionals and volunteer leaders are working tirelessly to develop innovative ways to forge those connections and to personalize the experience for them.
In the 10 years since the relationship between Baltimore and our Israeli sister city, Ashkelon, was established, there have been 10,000 people-to-people contacts between the two communities. For many Baltimoreans involved with our counterparts in Ashkelon, our sister city is Israel to them. I can say with full conviction that when I go to Israel, I have a home in Ashkelon because of the strong connections we have built there.
We are always looking for new opp-ortunities and means to deepen that relationship and to expand it to our local system of agencies. In conjunction with the Macks Center for Jewish Education, for example, the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership launched a book club to discuss Israeli literature. The goal this year is to review the same book in Hebrew and English so we can engage in dialogue with our friends in Ashkelon.
For the young adults who travel to Isr-ael on Associated-sponsored Birthright trips, the experience can be transformative. But, we must continue to connect them to Israel in a meaningful way, even after their trip. Beyond Birthright serves as a connector for those young adults, linking them to what the organized community has to offer and to their like-minded peers.
The Associated is also proud to be part of the Baltimore Israel Coalition, which supports Israel through education, advocacy and community building. The coalition is reaching out to the broader community through events like Israel65. Celebrate! — a day-long celebration on June 2 for Israel’s birthday. It’s hard to fathom that Israel is still a relative child in the community of nations, but recognition of the Jewish state’s significant accomplishments in its brief 65 years is cause for communal celebration.
In an effort to support these type of connections, The Associated has established the Israel Engagement Center to develop and fund strategies and initiatives in partnership with the Jewish Agency for Israel that help connect individuals and families in Baltimore’s Jewish community more closely to Israel and its people. The center will work to advance our community’s understanding and lasting commitment through innovative programs such as Israel Campus Fellows.
These are all small steps. But, taken together, they will hopefully create a community in which our children, teens and young adults feel a strong bond to Israel and continue to recognize the powerful hold it has on our collective hearts.
Marc B. Terrill is president of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. To learn about The Associated’s Israel programs, visit associated.org/globalimpact.