Two Historic Organizations to Work Together to Promote Diversity

Last spring, for the first time in their 160-year-plus history, two historic Baltimore organizations got together to look at ways to promote diversity and inclusion in the community.

The JCC of Greater Baltimore, founded in 1854, joined forces with the Y in Central Maryland, founded in 1853, in the first phase of what the two organizations believe to be a long-term partnership that will build bridges and make a lasting social impact in Baltimore.

The new initiative, Better Together, kicked off with a day-long retreat for nearly 250 professionals of both organizations. They spent the morning sharing their expertise while discussing and presenting opportunities for collaborative programming that would build more inclusive environments for all individuals.

Several ideas tossed around in this session included working together on programs focusing on individuals with disabilities, which may include an aquatics program, as well as teen programs that foster social change. For example, the JCC’s STAC (Students Taking Action for Change) program could join forces with the Y’s Student Government group for an advocacy or social justice project.

A leadership team representing the JCC and the Y will be convening to identify new opportunities to work together in the coming year.

For the past five years, Barak Hermann, Chief Executive Officer of the JCC, and John Hoey, president and CEO of the Y in Central Maryland, met regularly to talk about their work. But the idea to collaborate solidified shortly after the shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

“In a time of divisiveness, we wanted to explore how we could do something to bring people together,” says Hermann. “Marc Terrill is always saying that we have to celebrate the other. The more we bring people together to celebrate each other and get to know each other, the more we can explore how to combat racism, anti-Semitism, any form of hate, and make a stronger social impact.”

As a first step in getting to know one another, the professionals also participated in service projects throughout the city the afternoon of the retreat. Some of these included playing games with senior residents at the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Gallagher Mansion and Stadium Place, organizing snack and hygiene bags for the veterans of The Baltimore Station, in conjunction with Jewish Volunteer Connection, and cleaning up Carrie Murray Nature Center in Gwynns Falls Leakin Park, among others.

Rafi Rone, Program Director of the Israel and Jewish Community of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, also led a closing discussion on the service learnings and collaborations.

“This first session is meant to begin building the foundation and relationships that will help us plan and execute partnership opportunities in the future,” says Hoey. “I think it’s hard to precisely predict what will come of this, but given the nature of our respective organizations, people and the communities we serve, and the obvious need to create a more connected Baltimore and region, there’s tremendous opportunity moving forward.”

Join Our Community

Take a small step to make a big impact