Meet Stacy Harvey

Transplanted from Manhattan in 2013, Stacy Harvey wanted to make Baltimore feel like home.

So shortly after having her first daughter she became a “connector” with the Macks Center for Jewish Education’s Community Connectors program.

Launched in April 2014, the Connectors program encourages individuals to spend time with and get to know other Jewish families in their local communities. Connectors draw interested parties into existing Jewish community activities while also creating new Jewish experiences for them.

For Stacy this has meant reaching out to about 30 Jewish families in the downtown neighborhood where she and husband Justin are raising two daughters, Talia and Arielle. They get together to light Shabbat candles and celebrate Havdalah. They have holiday parties and Jewish-themed moms'-night-out events.

“My role as a non-religious Jew is to find ways to incorporate Jewish values and traditions into my kids and my neighbors' kids’ routines,” she says. “I see it as promoting the cultural and traditional parts of Jewish life.”

Stacy aims to make her events fun and friendly, a chance to forge friendships in a Jewish context. “It's super casual. We sing songs, the kids run around and play. It's religion in a way that is informal and fun,” she said.

One recent moms' night out included yoga, aromatherapy and a discussion of how scents and oils have been used historically in Judaism. “It was time for us to come together without the chaos of our kids running around, just to connect as Jewish women.”

Participants take away a range of experiences, often based on their own backgrounds and personal sense of Jewish identity. “For some it brings them back to traditions they had in their childhoods, and for some of us we are learning these traditions for the first time as adults,” she says. “Either way, I hope it is making people feel more connected to Judaism.”

Stacy recalls growing up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood: Sixty percent of the kids in her public, Long Island high school were Jewish, so feeling a sense of communal identity was almost unavoidable. While she didn't have that same sense of belonging as a newcomer to Baltimore, her work as a connector has helped to ground her.

“Our group consists of many transplants to the area as well as Baltimore natives,” she says. “By coming together, we have been able to build a community of families who can support each other’s efforts to raise Jewish children.”

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