Baltimore’s tight-knit, engaged Jewish community presents an ideal setting for national organizations to run test projects or pilot programs. Two such recent efforts give us cause for pride and a challenge for the future.
First, Repair the World, is Jewish-sponsored “AmeriCorps,” whose goal is to “enable more Jews to volunteer more frequently and more meaningfully.” Baltimore is one of four cities chosen to pilot a new urban program called “Repair Communities,” which began this fall. In this effort, a small group of Repair the World fellows will recruit and train their local peers (and Jewish volunteers of all ages) to participate in a variety of social action projects.
Second, is Kveller, a New York-based web portal for young Jewish families. The launch of Kveller Baltimore earlier this year is the organi-zation’s first local website outside of New York, and includes all of Kveller’s regular features, plus additional material for local readers, such as listings of local events and resources for young families, including preschools, day schools, mohels and restaurants.
These two innovative projects, which are designed to appeal to what one would assume to be underserved parts of the Jewish community, fit well with the broader communal outreach and inclusion efforts already in place in Baltimore, and keep our community’s inclusion efforts at the cutting edge.
It also turns out that both pilot programs address issues raised in the recent Pew Study of American Jews — although the rollout of these programs pre-date the issuance of the Pew Report. Nonetheless, while other communities are nervous about some of what they are finding in Pew, we are proud of Baltimore’s ongoing efforts to address the changing nature of Jewish identity and affiliation.
We expect that Kveller and Repair the World to be successful programs, and are pleased that both organizations chose to run their experiments in our home town. But we can’t stop there. Instead, let’s take a hard look at the Pew Report, and think through what we might do as a community that will make Baltimore Jewish life even more welcoming and available. Then let’s run our own pilot program to show the rest of North America how it should be done.