In 1976, my husband and I moved to Howard County. I was 24 years old, had been married for four years and had just purchased a home. I was called by a representative to pledge money for the Jewish Federation of Howard County. Our first pledge was for $50. I can remember this because at the time my husband had just graduated from law school, and I was beginning my second year of attending law school at night while working full time. Suffice it to say, we did not have a lot of money. I have never regretted the decision to support our Federation.
We raised our three children in Howard County, and we all benefited from the Federation. Our synagogue received Federation funding for vari-ous programs, and our children attended the Jewish preschool Bet Yeladim along with Purim carnivals and holiday festivals.
Over the years, my husband and I have held various positions on the executive board of the Federation. Our children, now in their 30s, witnessed our involvement in the Federation and our commitment to our Jewish community in much the same way that my husband and I learned from the example of our parents.
My parents are both Holocaust survivors, so Yom Hashoah has always been an important day to commemorate. Each year, the Federation spearheads the poignant and solemn Yom Hashoah program, and I have seen it develop into an educational experience for the community, where survivors have an opportunity to share their special stories with others.
In 2010, I moved both of my parents from Montgomery County, where they had lived for more than 50 years, to Vantage House in Columbia. My mother received some services from Jewish Community Services in Howard County. At Vantage House, the Federation funds the services of hospice chaplain Rabbi Amy Scheinerman, who conducts Shabbat services each month. When my father, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, first came to Vantage House, those Friday night services were truly a highlight for him. He would often return to his room carrying a siddur because the liturgy of the service was so familiar to him and, therefore, enjoyable. For my mother, the Shabbat services helped her to meet other Jewish residents and connect with them for social events and friendship.
I continue to participate in Federation programs such as the Red Tent, where my mother and I held A Conversation with a Survivor program, community missions to Israel and the annual Federation Live fundraiser. My youngest daughter recently became a member of jLEADS, a Federation leadership training program for young adults.
My granddaughter Emma, 2, receives a book every month from the PJ Library in Howard County program, and she will attend Bet Yeladim this fall, just like her mother did.
We are four generations of one family living in Howard County, all having been touched in the past, are being affected in the present and looking forward to connecting with our Federation in the future.
Brenda Fishbein is a past president of the Jewish Federation of Howard County.