Baltimore City Partnerships Commission Building Upon Associated’s Social Justice Agenda


As the country mourns the brutal deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and too many others and responds by protesting racism and intolerance, The Associated is building upon its long-standing social justice agenda to partner with other organizations in tackling structural racism and improving quality of life.

Motivated by its commitment to Jewish values, this year The Associated launched the Baltimore City Partnerships Commission. Among its many goals are leveraging its existing work with its agencies and Baltimore City partners. This includes building trust across communities and encouraging volunteerism with partnership organizations in ways that support community needs.

“For The Associated, helping Baltimore’s Jewish organizations to build and strengthen partnerships with organizations that directly serve the most vulnerable residents of Baltimore City is doubly important.  In addition to improving the quality of life for everyone who lives in Baltimore and the surrounding area, these partnerships create meaningful opportunities for members of the Jewish community to express their Jewish values in service to the broader community,” says Michael Saxon, co-chair of The Associated’s Baltimore City Partnerships Commission.

“With so many challenges at the moment, we are fortunate that several constituent agencies and programs of The Associated already have longstanding partnerships with organizations serving Baltimore City,” he adds.

With one of the goals to acknowledge and confront implicit bias and structural racism, the Commission felt it important to participate in an implicit bias training. Led by Dr. Leah Cox, Vice President of Inclusion and Equity at Towson University, the Commission members learned how human beings are triggered — both positively and negatively—when exposed to different kinds of people.

“As we seek to solidify our community’s commitment to Baltimore through partnerships and collaborations, we decided that a necessary first-step was to reflect inward, and gain an awareness of implicit biases that we as a community and individuals possess,” explained Howard Feldman, co-chair of the Commission. “The training certainly increased my understanding of how implicit biases can impact everyday interactions and decisions … and provided me a framework with which to consciously confront them.”

It was the recognition of the value of this work in framing any future conversations, that The Associated hopes to bring this implicit bias training to a larger audience within the Jewish community.

At the same time, The Associated, through the work of the Commission, wants to build a community where residents can thrive, with an emphasis on fostering safe and healthy neighborhoods for all residents. Several neighborhoods that The Associated is focusing on have long-standing ties to the Jewish community. These include Jonestown, Reservoir Hill and Park Heights.

In keeping with this goal, this year, The Associated allocated two grants for local organizations to create new, or expand programs, in partnership with Baltimore City organizations that align with the Commission’s goals. Recognizing that the coronavirus pandemic had major implications for Baltimore City residents, the group recommended the following allocations:

 

Emergency Food Response

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, approximately one in four Marylanders suffered from food insecurity; today that number has only grown dramatically. Thanks to The Associated grant, Pearlstone will expand its emergency food response to produce and deliver healthy meals to individuals and families struggling with food insecurity.

Through its ongoing partnership with Promise Heights, Pearlstone will prepared and distribute meals each week, through Promise Heights’ Community Schools & B’more for Healthy Babies programs. That includes three elementary, one middle and one high school in the Promise Heights community.

 

Working Together to Promote Safety

In response to the current COVID-19 public health emergency, CHAI and the Park Heights Renaissance (PHR) have connected to share resources and support one another in offering effective services to meet needs and promote health and safety. Recognizing that the 21215 zip code has been affected severely, with the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the Baltimore metro area, they are using the strength of their collaboration to both message the importance of following CDC (Centers for Disease Control) guidelines and reinforce that we are all in this together.

CHAI is working with the support of the Baltimore Jewish Council (BJC) and in collaboration with PHR, will promote health and safety messaging. Messages will focus on adherence to CDC guidelines. In addition, CHAI will distribute masks and other safety supplies to community members through existing points of contact, which may include PHR’s school partnerships programs where there here are food and supply drops at both Pimlico and Arlington Elementary/Middle Schools. The safety supplies are provided by One Park Heights, a partnership co-led by CHAI and BJC.

“It is so important for us to work together to keep the virus at bay,” explains Lisa Budlow, CEO of CHAI.

Moving forward, The Associated will continue to leverage its partnerships to promote social justice on behalf of the entire Baltimore community.

“While we have a lot of work to do, this Commission has already developed a framework for discussion and implementation of long-term partnerships which will help our community solidify our commitment to all of Baltimore,” says Sarah David, co-chair of the Commission.

“We have both lay and professional commitment on this Commission to continue to work toward a stronger community and look forward to enhancing our existing framework with both new and sustained challenges that have manifested this year,” she adds.

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