As I mentioned on Friday, this past weekend was the Jewish Party in the Park, a celebration of urban Jewish life in Druid Hill Park spearheaded by Beth Am, the Reservoir Hill synagogue nearby. Among the events of the day was the Shofar Flash Mob, led by Beth Am's Rabbi Daniel Burg (who I profiled here). Just after 1pm, when Rabbi Burg yelled out "Tekiah!" (the first of three sounds shofar-blowers make on the upcoming Jewish High Holidays), about a dozen in the crowd took out their horns (including my little boy Benny, pictured, using the toy shofar his brother Jack made last year—you can see someone in a Ravens jersey blowing a real one in the background) and blew. Ok, so it was more of a flash-minyan than a flash-mob, but still fun.
The Party wasn't overwhelmingly crowded, but considering that the event was competing with the second Ravens game of the season, attendance was impressive. Most impressive was the kind of people who came: Mostly Baltimore City residents enthusiastically looking to find and build Jewish institutions in the city. For at least a couple generations, the center of Jewish life in Baltimore has been in the suburbs. But, spearheaded in large part by Beth Am and a few other groups, there is a push for local Jews to be re-connect with their urban roots. The movement comes parallel with a broader trend that has seen young middle-class and upper-middle-class families of all religious and ethnic backgrounds opting to stay in the city or move back, as discussed in this story and exemplified by the increasing membership and influence of the Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance (DBFA).
It was great to hear about a couple of some new initiatives for Jewish families in the city:
I've been involved with the Baltimore JCC for much of my life—and have long been familiar with its two locations, in Northwest Baltimore and in Owings Mills—so I was surprised and happy to hear about the new Downtown Baltimore JCC! There's no actual C (Center) yet, but the group holds classes for kids 5 and under and various downtown locations, and serves as a clearinghouse for other Jewish groups.
Shalom Hon! is a new initiative of the Center for Jewish Education. Hosted by the website for Baltimore's Child (a 2010 Best of Baltimore winner), Shalom, Hon! is a central calendar for all Jewish events in Baltimore, integrating the events of synagogues, preschools, and family-focused groups.
The Downtown Baltimore Jewish Family Network is a great way to connect with other families in the neighborhood and hear about upcoming events.
As we've seen in recent years, an increase in young families pouring their energy into the city is great for schools, for urban institutions, and for the children and families themselves. We're looking forward to even more movement in this direction.