When you look around Howard County, we do not seem like a community in need of philanthropy, in need of financial support. In reality, Howard County is no different than any other community in this country. From where I sit every day, I see people who need support … and the Jewish community turns to meet their needs. There are Holocaust survivors, one of whom I met with just this week, asking for our help. He had suffered unimaginable horror, surviving a concentration camp when he was just a boy. He now lives here on a very small fixed income with some help from his children, and all he wants is financial assistance to pay for a Russian TV station. It is our responsibility as a community to be able to help him.
On the other end of the spectrum, it is also our responsibility to support Jewish continuity — the Jewish future. This is not a case for financial need, but for Jewish peoplehood. Our future identity as a people must be nurtured by programs such as Birthright, PJ Library and BBYO. These are not to be regarded as supplemental programs, as nice to have but not needed. I will tell you — as a BBYO parent who has recently listened to 40 teens chanting Havdalah in my basement, 40 teens who are cheerleaders, dancers, soccer, baseball and basketball players, musicians and Boy Scouts, 40 teens who are also building a strong Jewish identity — we need these programs, for they are our past, our present and our future.
It has been an honor to serve as the executive director of the Jewish Federation of Howard County these last four years, a role I will be leaving on July 29. During this time, we have done so much to grow the awareness of the Federation and serve more community members in meaningful ways, all while continuing to meet our core mission of helping those in need in Howard County, in Israel and around the world. I am especially proud of my incredible colleagues, whose dedication and partnership with the community enables programs such as PJ Library, Red Tent and Jew Year’s Eve to be such successes.
I am confident in the work we have accomplished together, the groundwork we have laid for the future and the continued success the Federation will have in building and enriching Jewish life. I know the Jewish Federation will go from strength to strength!
Michelle Ostroff is the outgoing executive director of the Jewish Federation of Howard County.