One Word: Identity

Our community is undoubtedly blessed by the various opportunities available to teens, young adults and families. Many of these opportunities focus on Israel. Whether it be through travel, lectures or leadership roles, there is no question: In Baltimore, if you want to be connected to Israel, there is an opportunity that can suit both your interest and curiosity.

Organizations such as The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, the Jewish National Fund and the Baltimore Zionist District play a crucial and urgent role of helping us connect to Israel.

But the goal of the Diller Teen Fellows program is not to create teenagers who are so hypnotized by and obsessed with Israel that moving there is always on their minds — although that often happens.

And the goal of IMPACT (the young adults division of The Associated) is not for young adults to meet, fall in love and get married — although that happens more than you might think.

And the goal of Associated Family Missions is not for families to go on a trip to Israel and to joyously love their way throughout the Holy Land — although this always happens.

So what is the communal goal? What ties all of these programs together?

The answer can be summarized in one word: identity. Whether we realize it or not, our community seeks, and succeeds, in creating experiences that foster connections with Jews in Israel and around the world. This knowledge of global peoplehood — and responsibility for Am Yisrael — will undoubtedly shape what our Baltimore Jewish community — and the entire Jewish world — will look like a year from now and in 50 years.

This Jewish identity will seek to motivate, inspire and empower. The magical thing about identity is that it is different for each person. While some connect to the modern history of Israel, others connect to its Biblical history, and still some to Israeli food.

However unique our identities become (and the more unique the better) Baltimore’s Jewish community can — and must — actively pursue a quest to unite these identities. Israel is a way to do this. It is the people of our sister city of Ashkelon, and it is the love for the dream that Theodore Herzl had and that David Ben-Gurion made a reality.

While the many in the world may look at Israel with skepticism (recent headlines have not been kind), we know, and we must share with others, the Israel we, as Jewish Baltimore, love and cherish. The task of standing with Israel in the 21st century will not be an easy one. However, if the Baltimore Jewish community can stand with Israel while embracing the way that each individual identity connects, our community will be stronger. And Israel will be stronger, too.

The community is invited to celebrate Israel’s 65th birthday on June 2 at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC. For more information, visit baltimoreisrael coalition.org.
Justin Hayet is a JT internjhayet1@binghamton.edu

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