Ensuring that children received a quality Jewish education in the classroom was one of the first tasks undertaken by the newly created Associated Jewish Charities in 1920. Founding members organized a Board of Jewish Education (BJE) as a central agency to coordinate the financial and educational administration of the city’s half-dozen Talmud Torah Schools as well as Baltimore Hebrew College, which was added in 1929. 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).
Today, the Macks CJE encourages Jewish education by providing programs, special education advocacy and professional development. At the same time, as the next generation of Baltimore Jews are looking for new ways to express their Judaism, The Associated responded with innovative programs that meet them where they live.
More than 3,000 young families receive PJ Library books each month from the Macks CJE and the agency’s connectors began creating programs for their friends and neighbors, from Havdalah programs to a Men’s Night Out, where dads tasted scotch while learning Torah.
In addition, Pearlstone began offering earth-based learning on the outdoor campus, where children, families and adults can connect to their roots through food, music, hikes and more that integrate Jewish learning with the environment. And, teens, interested in repairing the world, are working toward combining social justice with Jewish learning.
“There are many programs that encourage innovation,” says Ellie Hoch, who participated in the Social Innovation Fellowship through 4FRONT, a teen program housed at the JCC. “The Social Innovation Fellowship allows you to look at entrepreneurship from a different perspective. It connects us to our Jewish values and promotes Jewish identity while enabling us to fulfill our social responsibility.”
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