Forbes listed Baltimore as one of the “Coolest Cities to Visit.” Nothing earth shattering has changed since that 2018 notice. There has been a lot of focus on the outstanding quality of Baltimore’s medical centers and universities; on our noteworthy and sometimes quirky art museums, our start-ups and our rush of millennials. There is a lot of good to enjoy and experience in Baltimore.
Oh, we assume you have heard about our challenges. Those have gotten a lot airtime of late. Baltimore shares similar issues with so many American urban centers, regarding challenges in public education, equal access to health care, racial and economic disparities, and more. Our great city is struggling to get a handle on violence, even as it trends down in so much of our country. Yup, our current mayor stepped in when his predecessor resigned under a cloud. And yes, we are on our fifth police commissioner in as many years.
We know this sounds like a strange list when talking about how inviting our city is. However, Baltimore is inviting precisely because everything in the first paragraph is true and because our city is actively working to face up to the realities in the second paragraph.
An explosion of social change efforts confronts our challenges here. Consider these home-grown Baltimore initiatives, in their own words:
- The Elijah Cummings Youth Program in Israel is an elite two-year leadership fellowship for high school students in Baltimore. They gain first-hand cross-cultural knowledge and skill.
- Thread engages underperforming high school students confronting significant barriers outside of the classroom by providing each one with a family of committed volunteers and increased access to community resources.
- Center for Urban Families connects fathers to their children, creating opportunities for economic and financial security through work, and providing access to other key interventions and supportive services.
- Baltimore Cease Fire By agreeing to sacred weekends without murder, and by receiving the resources needed to help us avoid violent encounters, we all will eventually agree to honor the sacredness of EVERY day and put an end to murder.
These organizations and so many more are working to address challenges of economic disparity, healthcare access, educational opportunities, police-community relationships, and so much more. Baltimore has these kinds of initiatives, just as your community does as well.
As the month of Av approaches, Lamentations’ initial cry of “Alas, Lonely sits the city” recalls words that Stephen Mitchell places in the mouth of Rabbi Elazar. “Only words of lament of the destruction of Jerusalem remain. Why shouldn’t they be given to all the other cities as well?” (Congregation, Edited by David Rosenberg, 1987, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Inc, p.385) As words are spoken about a city with challenges, let us consider the words of that city and the actions of its citizens. Let Baltimore be defined primarily by Baltimore and its own efforts at improvement and progress, imperfect as they may be.
How inviting is Baltimore? Quite inviting… inviting of visitors, of innovation, and of hope.
Join us for CCAR Convention 2020 in Baltimore, March 22 – 25, 2020. Click here to learn more.
This blog was written by several Baltimore Area CCAR Rabbis.