Jewish Community Services: Addressing Challenges and Opportunities in Central Maryland

Jewish Community Services (JCS) is an organization that provides services to meet the needs of individuals and families in Baltimore. This year, the Reform Judaism Social Action Commission (CSA) received a record number of applicants from across North America for the Irving J. Fain Social Justice Award, which recognizes congregations that lead excellent and impactful social justice programs and initiatives. From this exclusive group of candidates, the CSA selected 21 congregations as winners of the Fain Award.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is a world leader in the fight against anti-Semitism, extremism, and intolerance. They use innovation and partnerships to generate impact and protect democracy. The Woodlands Community Temple created a working group on bridges to faith and friendship formed by members of the congregation and the clergy to reach out to Muslims in the community and begin to build lasting, authentic and reciprocal relationships. Research estimates that there are already expected to be between 10,000 and 20,000 pediatric patients in Maryland who have had or will continue to have prolonged COVID.

The project is based on research from the UNESCO Slave Route Project, which identified Middle Passage ports of entry, including five ports of entry in Maryland. In part, this was achieved by connecting Jewish history and values to the current crisis as a path to building shared understanding. The congregants drafted a law and lobbied the Maryland General Assembly to enact a law called the Summer Snap for Children Act, which successfully established and funded a program to add supplemental benefit amounts to electronic benefit transfer cards during school holidays, when students don't receive free or discounted meals at school. At the beginning of their confirmation year, Temple Emanuel students learned about the Jewish community's participation in social justice.

The Fain Awards are based on Jewish values and are awarded to congregations that advocate and organize around pressing issues of social justice, protect vulnerable populations, and participate across lines of difference. Congregation B'nai Israel strived to be more empathic and to empower allies in the fight for racial justice within the community, hoping that this would lead to concrete actions that would address the root causes of systematic racism. This scholarship seeks to inculcate in students a commitment to Judaism and community service, while offering opportunities to address the challenges of society through the framework of the Jewish text. JCS plans to use federal funds to expand their services with a new behavioral health clinic next to the University of Maryland Health Center in Largo.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has a program that allows employees to safely and honestly discuss diversity issues in the workplace. Voices United is a program in Miami, Florida, that promotes intercultural understanding through the arts and gives voice to young interns in Washington for native students. American University has implemented a program to provide Native American students with internships at various government agencies. World Communities of Louisville, Inc.

engages young people in schools, communities, and homes to think broadly and critically about the Jewish experience in all its diversity and complexity. Pro Hampton County (Pride Respect Opportunity) is a county-wide healthy communities initiative created in Hampton County, South Carolina in 1996. The White Flint Institute for Computational Life Sciences is a planned partnership between Montgomery County, University of Maryland College Park, University of Maryland Baltimore, State of Maryland, and State of Maryland to accelerate discoveries and advances in life sciences, biomanufacturing and medicine. The Jewish community in Central Maryland is taking many initiatives to address its challenges while taking advantage of its opportunities. From those days of slavery until today, Marylanders such as Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Thurgood Marshall, Decatur Dorsey, Pauli Murray and many others have played an integral role in civil rights both here in Maryland as well as abroad. Additionally, organizations such as HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges & Universities), churches and civil groups have been instrumental in promoting civil rights throughout history.

Finally, programs such as Summit for high school students allow participants to talk openly about prejudging others. These initiatives demonstrate how Central Maryland's Jewish community is actively working towards addressing its challenges while taking advantage of its opportunities. Through awards such as Irving J. Fain Social Justice Award given by Reform Judaism Social Action Commission (CSA), organizations like Anti-Defamation League (ADL) are leading efforts against anti-Semitism while Woodlands Community Temple is building bridges with Muslims through faith & friendship groups. JCS is also using federal funds for expanding their services with new behavioral health clinic near University of Maryland Health Center while Department of Veterans Affairs has implemented a program for discussing diversity issues at workplace safely & honestly. Voices United program from Miami is promoting intercultural understanding through arts & providing native students with internships at government agencies while American University has implemented similar program for Native American students. World Communities of Louisville Inc., Pro Hampton County & White Flint Institute are also working towards creating healthy communities & accelerating discoveries & advances in life sciences respectively.

Ankie Groot
Ankie Groot

Award-winning music aficionado. Professional web aficionado. Avid internet junkie. Friendly twitter fanatic. Certified food nerd.