Last weekend, all eyes were on Pimlico Race Track for the 139th running of the Preakness Stakes. While spectators and news cameras focused on California Chrome winning the second leg of the Triple Crown, they missed the story of renewal and renaissance happening a short distance from the track.
The surrounding communities represent the rich tapestry of Baltimore. Our neighborhoods are shared by the diverse populations that make Baltimore so special and have done so for generations: African-Americans, members of the Jewish community, Latinos, Asians and other immigrants seeking a piece of the American dream.
The area around Pimlico has had its ebbs and flows over the years, but there is a resurgence of creativity, ingenuity and collaboration in the air.
Whether it’s outreach and wellness programs anchored at Sinai Hospital or neighborhood collaborations in Fallstaff, it is clear that our community is able to accomplish much when we welcome and encourage partnership and collaboration.
Just a few months ago, on a frigid January afternoon, a groundbreaking marked the first new residential building constructed in Southern Park Heights in close to 40 years. The Jean Yarborough Renaissance Gardens is a 60-unit independent-living apartment complex for low-income seniors.
This project exemplifies the power of a shared vision. The Jewish and African-American communities joined together to address an issue, in this case housing, and tackled it together.
The Park Heights Renaissance, Inc. and Comprehensive Housing Assistance, Inc. (CHAI), an agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, dreamt together and took action. The result is a beautiful facility that improves the quality of life for seniors in our city.
There are countless other examples of intra-community and intercommunity cooperation, but the simple lesson is that for there to be collaboration, there must be relationships, dialogue and trust.
Through the Baltimore Jewish Council (BJC), another agency of The Associated, ongoing dialogue and joint planning and programming exists in important and provocative ways. These programs are geared to understanding and appreciating one another. The atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation enables communities to work well together in times of harmony or discord.
Building relationships with other communities is a lesson that we must also teach to the next generation. The BJC recently re-absorbed the Black/ Jewish Forum of Baltimore, known as BLEWS, which promotes better understanding, communication and educational intervention between the African-American and Jewish communities. Recently, students at Beth Tfiloh High School and Western High School began working together and learning from each other about the similarities and differences between them. The BJC plans to expand this program to more schools next year.
The desire to work for social justice is a hallmark of Jewish tradition, one rooted in a belief that individuals share the responsibility to repair the world. It is this fundamental tenet that underscores The Associated’s desire to strengthen the community in which it serves and the general community in which we reside.
Whether it’s revitalizing a neighborhood, promoting racial and religious cooperation, securing the dignity of our seniors or partnering with community associations to enhance educational opportunities for youngsters, The Associated is committed to investing in the future of Baltimore’s citizens.
Marc B. Terrill is president of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.