For those who know Amy Pollokoff, they know of her kindness, her commitment to family and community and, of course, they know about her legendary cookies. The more than 60 batches of peanut butter, candy bar cookies, mandel bread and more that she traditionally bakes for family, neighbors and friends each High Holiday season.
True to her grandmother’s recipes, each year she travels to countless stores and markets for the 30 pounds of flour that is needed, that special Damson plum jelly that she uses in her favorite strudel. She spends weeks in the kitchen, recreating the recipes — recipes held in a green metal box that hold special meaning. For she learned their secrets sitting side by side in the kitchen with her grandmother who, at the time, was stricken with Alzheimer’s and didn’t know who she was.
This passion that she brings to this holiday tradition is the same passion that she brings to all that she does, and a passion she expects to share particularly this year as the new Campaign Chair for Associated Women.
When Amy looks back over her long volunteer commitment to the Associated, there are many memories she can point to that have meaning. After returning to Baltimore, newly married to Bob Pollokoff, she joined what was then called the Young Women’s Leadership Council (YWLC) and in year two, became its president.
Over the years, she volunteered with The Girls Project, through Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters, and took on roles as chair of numerous events. Yet it was two years ago, on an Associated Women’s 70th Anniversary Mission to Israel, that really struck a chord.
She, along with women from all over the world, were gathered for a special ceremony on Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet dissident and human rights activist, got up to speak.
“When he spoke to the families of fallen soldiers he said, you carry the burden of your loss on your shoulders year-round and today we are here to help you carry that burden. It made me realize, we, as women, are matriarchs of our community. It is our responsibility to carry our Jewish community, locally and worldwide on our shoulders.”
This is particularly important to her now, as antisemitism is growing. “I’m afraid for the first time in my life to be Jewish in America. I have friends who don’t want to say ‘I’m Jewish’ because they are also scared, but we can’t be silent! We must stand up and be proud!
Addressing anitsemitism is critically important to Amy. So is helping people understand how crucial The Associated’s services are to Baltimore and how the organization was there to help during Covid-19.
Years ago, Amy became a Lion of Judah with Associated Women. When her mother passed away, and she was cleaning out her things, she found a pin with a flame.
“Now I knew that she was always very involved in The Associated – she helped start the women’s division. But I didn’t realize that she was a Lion and had endowed her gift,” she recalls.
It was then that she decided to honor her mother and set an example for her two daughters, Heidi and Alexa. ” I couldn’t think of a more meaningful and impactful way to honor her memory than to endow my Lion gift. And this endowment to The Associated became our endowment, Bob’s and mine.”
Family. Perhaps one of the most important parts of Amy’s life.
She is lucky. She has the good fortune of having both her daughters, their husbands and her grandchildren living close by.
Before the pandemic, Amy and Bob would host large holiday gatherings — often 150 family and friends would gather in their home for Rosh Hashanah. Now, since the pandemic has curtailed large in-person gatherings, this Rosh Hashanah will be much quieter. She’ll still make the cookies, but fewer of them, inviting her cousins and immediate family to pick up their favorites at her door.
But, despite the pandemic, Amy remains committed to continuing Jewish tradition, celebrating weekly Shabbat Friday Zooms with family. She bakes challahs weekly for the family to pick up and eat over Zoom.
“My four-year-old grandson Spencer can’t wait for Friday,” she says.” He always asks, “Is it Shabbat? Can I get my challah?
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