Creating Community and Building Jewish Identity


From its very beginning, The Associated invested in the Jewish future of the community, providing educational and social opportunities that instilled a strong sense of Jewish identity. Always adapting to the needs of the community, The Associated connected the next generation to their Jewish roots, through traditional and innovative programs that resonated with them.

More centennial themes

THE SOCIAL NETWORK

At the heart of Jewish life in Baltimore were the social organizations, precursors to the JCC, which provided a place to gather and learn. The Jewish Educational Alliance (JEA), established in 1909, was one of the original agencies of the Associated Jewish Charities (AJC).

Families paid 5 to 15 cents a month for membership, depending on their children’s age. As the organization grew, it became a refuge for neighborhood residents who participated in everything from basketball leagues to music lessons — even forming an 88-piece ensemble orchestra. There was also a night school for recent immigrants.

JCC building in the 1950's
JCC children & teen programs, teens dancing, c.1960’s

In 1935, the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Association (YM & YWHA), joined the AJC. Their building on West Monument Street — with its swimming pool, billiards room, gymnasium, classrooms and libraries — held socials and dances where many Baltimoreans found their beshert (destiny).

The JEA and YM & YWHA merged in 1951, forming the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore (JCC). In the years since, the JCC has gone beyond its original mission of youth development. Today, it encourages the physical, social and intellectual enrichment of all Jews in Baltimore.

SUMMER VACATION

Providing summer activities and experiences for kids — and a place to escape Baltimore’s oppressive heat — have always been one of The Associated’s goals. The Woodland Country Home, located in Catonsville, opened in 1922. Women, children and families would visit to regain their health, eat nutritious meals and enjoy the fresh air.

Over the years, The Associated continued to support day camps by creating Camp Woodlands, the JEA day camp and Camp Milldale, which began in 1953 on Stevenson and Keyser Roads. When it closed, the JCC launched J Camps, offering children unique opportunities to connect with each other and with Judaism, while providing space for them to play, learn and enjoy their summer vacation.

Recognizing how Jewish camp plays a significant role in impacting future Jewish identity, The Associated created the Center for Jewish Camping in 2013, partnering with area Jewish camps and helping families find the perfect fit for their children.

boys making a Camp Milldale sign
BJE teacher certification class

PROVIDING A JEWISH EDUCATION

In 1921, the new AJC created the Board of Jewish Education (BJE) as a central agency to coordinate the financial and educational administration of the Talmud Torah Schools — Talmud Torah Society, Isaac Davidson Hebrew School, Western Talmud Torah, Southwestern Talmud Torah, Har Zio Talmud Torahs — as well as Baltimore Hebrew College.

As the needs of Jewish educators changed, the BJE adapted to include opportunities like teacher certifications to ensure a higher level of professionalism. The BJE later became the Macks Center for Jewish Education (CJE), encouraging Jewish education by providing programs, special education advocacy and professional development. Meanwhile, Baltimore Hebrew College would merge with Towson University in 2009, becoming the Baltimore Hebrew Institute at Towson University.

THE JEWISH JOURNEY

As the next generation of Baltimore Jews looked for new ways to express their Judaism. More than 3,000 young families receive free PJ Library books in their homes each year.

CJE also created a connector program where young parents would create their own programming and invite friends and neighbors to learn about traditions and holidays. 

In addition, Pearlstone began offering earth-based learning on their outdoor campus, where children, families and adults could connect to their roots through food, music, hikes and more, integrating Jewish learning with the environment.

Two young girls at Family Camp Day at Pearlstone
Skip to content
This Website is committed to ensuring digital accessibility for people with disabilitiesWe are continually improving the user experience for everyone, and applying the relevant accessibility standards.
Conformance status