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The Short Version: Jewish professionals in the Baltimore area looking to get involved in their community while meeting like-minded people need look no further than The Associated. As a central fundraising source, The Associated works with more than 25 agencies and programs in and around Baltimore to help people find opportunities to donate, volunteer in work they’re passionate about, and engage in personal and professional development. Whether you’re interested in helping the homeless, assisting the elderly, or preserving Jewish culture and identity in Baltimore, The Associated can lead you in the right direction.
People have an intrinsic need to connect with others who share common interests, and this innate need is evident in both friendships and romantic relationships. Angela Bahn, of Wellesley College, and Chris Crandall, of the University of Kentucky, co-authored a study — the biggest to date in the field — that found that people are most often attracted to those with similar values and goals.
“You try to create a social world where you’re comfortable, where you succeed, and where you have people you can trust and with whom you can cooperate to meet your goals,” Chris said.
Wendy Berry Mendes, an expert in human emotion, agreed with the findings in the study and offered a comparison that most people are familiar with.
“This research offers one of the most definitive accounts showing that not only do ‘birds of a feather flock together’ but goes one step further to show that ‘birds of a feather find each other before flocking,’” Wendy said.
Rather than the idea that opposites attract, it appears people find happier, more fulfilling relationships when the foundation is built on common values and shared interests. For those in the Baltimore Jewish community, The Associated is a gathering place of culture, altruism, ideas, and like-minded people.
The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore supports 25 agencies and programs in the area, which enables them to function at the highest level without service overlap.
The organization consolidates the fundraising process, so each nonprofit can focus on the good work they do. Consolidated fundraising also ensures that the majority of money raised is spent on providing care for vulnerable citizens, investing in youth programs, and enriching the quality of life for Jewish community members while deepening the connection with the global community.
Employing a system that works both locally and globally, The Associated’s programs and agencies encompass a variety of missions, and they often work together to help the community. One of the core values of The Associated is fostering Jewish identity and caring for at-risk Jewish populations around the world.
“The needs of the vulnerable Jew in Israel or Ukraine are the needs of the vulnerable Jew in Baltimore. Our work strengthens the ties that make us one people,” according to The Associated website.
Ashley Pressman, the Executive Director of the Jewish Volunteer Connection, a program of The Associated, has seen the philanthropic spirit members and donors provide.
“The greatest value of volunteering is bringing communities together,” she said. “People come together around common causes and to meet new people. We also try to create cross communities with clients they might not usually engage with so they can get to know people on a deeper level. That is one of the greatest values of volunteering.
JVC meets multiple needs through the same volunteer experience. One of its models, Volunteams, is a particularly great way to connect with others.
“These are volunteer groups that take on a shared commitment to service. They meet the ongoing needs of organizations, which is critical for non-profits,” Ashley said. “The groups are larger than the need, so the need is certain to get met, and volunteers work out their schedules accordingly in teams. It’s also a great way to meet new people.”
Young professionals looking for a way to connect with the Jewish community and each other often join IMPACT. This affinity group welcomes members between 22 and 39 to commune for personal, social, and philanthropic development.
The group coordinates social events and hosts programs that deal with fundraising, education, volunteerism, and leadership development. Members can meet and mingle with other like-minded Jewish adults in a warm and inclusive environment. IMPACT also gives members the opportunity to discover where they fit in best so they use their skills, knowledge, and passions for the good of the Jewish community.
IMPACT can help you find the way you prefer to give back. It could be through donating money or lending time to hands-on volunteering projects. You could also join a task force or committee to influence Baltimore’s Jewish community, and IMPACT can help guide you.
Partner organizations, like Charm City Tribe, provide educational programs and social activities for young Jewish adults in the IMPACT age range. Most participants are post-grad professionals living in downtown Baltimore. The group hosts everything from an annual Brew Ha Ha for Hanukkah to a Repair the World volunteer project that often partners with a local brewery.
One new series, the Charm City Beit Midrash, centers on approaching relevant contemporary issues through an educational lens.
“For our first meeting, we focused on the opiate crisis, partnering with Jewish Community Services, an agency of The Associated, and Open Society Institute. Rabbi Jessy Gross led a portion of the evening, using Jewish texts to explore the issues of addiction and the stigma surrounding it in our society,” said Jake Max, the Charm City Tribe Program Director. “We also heard the stories of a recovering addict as well as a professional working in political advocacy.”
IMPACT is just one of the groups The Associated has assembled where members can volunteer to help others while making connections with their peers. These groups don’t just help raise funds for agencies and programs, they also help people find volunteer opportunities and teams that cater to their personal interests.
Members can join the affinity groups to increase their personal and professional development, network with others who can offer guidance and inspiration, and meet leaders in their field.
Affinity groups include young professionals, women, lawyers, real estate, a planned giving roundtable, healthcare professionals, and even a Russian-Jewish speaking initiative.
Within each of these groups, you can find inspiring people who share your interests and are looking to grow through giving while improving the community.
The Associated works by connecting people with the work that inspires them most through its partner programs and agencies. Since the organization was formed nearly 100 years ago, it has been bringing Jewish people in Baltimore closer to those in need, their communities, and each other.
Ashley’s organization, JVC, is able to match volunteers with their ideal volunteering situation through The Associated.
In partnership with the national organization Repair the World, JVC particularly helps busy young professionals by finding volunteer opportunities that work for them. They can volunteer at home, at work, in the community, and at nonprofits. And they can work in groups to bond with other altruists.
The Associated is making a huge difference not just for the Jewish community but the broader community as well. By joining, you can start down your own philanthropic path and connect with wonderful people along the way.