I arrived in Baltimore in November, leaving behind a lifetime of Jewish community engagement in the New York/New Jersey area. I had heard wonderful things about Baltimore’s Jewish Community — its generous and highly successful Jew-ish Federation (The Associated), its growing and vibrant Orthodox population, its wealth of highly respected rabbis and their synagogues, an incredible system of agencies and, of course, its impressive Jewish Community Center, which was about to become my new home.
It has been an amazing nine months of transitioning into my role as the president of one the largest and most successful JCCs in the country. I have met with many passionate community leaders. I have engaged in meaningful conversation with members and staff and have come to learn much about what makes Baltimore such a special place to live Jewishly and how the JCC is a key player in the stability and growth of the Jewish community.
I have heard the stories from our members who feel rooted here at the JCC. Whether they came to dances or played basketball as a teen in the 1960s or started here as a preschooler and are now participating in the JCC Maccabi Games, our JCC has been there for hundreds of thousands of Baltimoreans throughout their lives, providing meaningful experiences, support, community and opportunities for personal and professional growth.
Every year our JCC continues to evolve to meet the needs of the community. Wellness, one of the cornerstones of the JCC, is expanding with new and exciting classes both in our studios and pools, while our fitness centers and locker rooms are undergoing major upgrades in the coming weeks.
We are growing in many other ways as well. Our arts and cultural offerings have been taken to a new level. Just look at our newly invigorated Gordon Center season with int-ernationally renowned performers such as Ethan Bortnick, David Broza and Mama Doni among many others.
I am also excited to see the amazing growth of the Downtown Baltimore JCC (DBJCC) in Federal Hill. With close to 100 members, DBJCC is attracting a growing number of Jewish families to our Tot Shabbats, Hands-on-Holidays and Shabbat Happy Hour programs, where they are taking their first steps toward engagement in our community. The same is true of Charm City Tribe, which strives to bring Jewish engagement to young adults living downtown.
In every program and service that we offer, our goal is to provide support, enrichment and, above all, klal Yisrael — care and concern for all Jews. We strive to make the JCC a place where lifelong relationships are created and enhanced, and we always do so with kavod — showing respect for everyone in our community.
How do we keep the JCC the vibrant and relevant organization that it remains to this day? We give much of the credit to the guidance, leadership and meaningful financial support that we receive from The Associated. By supporting The Associated and investing in a membership at the JCC, you are ensuring our agency’s ability to support diverse programming, maintain our excellent facilities and retain our talented and committed staff. We have so many valuable partners, and I thank them all for helping us to make Baltimore a wonderful place for Jews to live.
Barak Hermann is president of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore