Last week was a perfect image of the diversity of Jewish Baltimore. In a four-day span, I attended (one I simply wrote about) four different programs that brought people from all pockets of the community together.
A strong community is built on the combined experience, skills, talents, perspectives and capabilities of variant individuals. It includes everybody, but celebrates values, respects uniqueness.
We’re doing something right in Jewish Baltimore.
Last Monday, the Project Ezra/ Chesed Fund AED event pulled tog-ether 120 community leaders to celebrate life — literally. The organization facilitates an automated external defibrillator program with 70 devices throughout the community. It was a call to action to keep on top of the program, but it also demonstrated that it doesn’t matter if you are Reform, Conservative or Orthodox — you value life. And we can save lives better if we work together.
The next night, at the Baltimore Zionist District’s annual gala, there was a different but equally diverse crowd. The rallying point: Israel. It seems that even in 2013, with Americans for Peace Now and the Zionist Organization of America, you can be old, young, observant or secular and still come together around Eretz Yisrael. That’s refreshing.
On Wednesday, it was the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership’s 10th anniversary celebration. Wow! An elegant evening at the Pearlstone Center, I was struck by how many people I knew … and how many I didn’t. The Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership has made people-to-people connections its top priority. On May 8, the people turned out (from both sides of the ocean) to connect … and reconnect.
Finally, Thursday night, I was taken away by a mesmerizing performance by Michael Feinstein at the Myerberg Center’s annual event. The Myerberg Center serves older adults. Its new executive director, David Golaner, is only 34. The gap between Golaner’s peers and the center’s members was closed by the stunning sounds and stories of Feinstein that night.
There were other events going on, too.
The Jewish communal trend today is “relational Judaism.” The idea: It doesn’t matter how many programs you have, what matters are relationships. That’s true, but I still think good programs have a place. Events can provide a platform for new relationships to spark, for old relationships to be rekindled or advanced. And they remind us that there are still people we don’t know — people who are worth knowing.
The Baltimore Jewish community, with 92,300 people, is both diverse and involved. And that offers opportunities for engagement, for leadership and for learning about one another.
Meeting people different from you is a good thing. Accepting and embracing disagreement is difficult, yet, without dissent and differing opinions, the world would be a very bland and conformist place.
Sometimes disagreement can lead to conflict, but it can also lead to discussion and learning. Indeed, provided you’re willing to engage in discussion, it is likely that learning about an opinion or perspective different from your own will broaden your understanding of an issue.
And, two people who seem radically different can turn out to have more in common than they would believe.
Baltimore is lucky to have so many Jewish organizations, causes, shuls and schools that we can choose how we want to affiliate. But it’s refreshing to know there are causes around which we can all rally and times we can still come together.