In my lifetime so far, I have relocated to seven new cities. I have enjoyed the exploration and discovery of each new place with all the culture, physical beauty, new climates, etc. The one element that is the most difficult to navigate, however, has been creating a sense of belonging in a new place, especially in the Jewish community.
The larger the city (i.e. New York, Chicago, Minneapolis and Atlanta) the more challenging it has been to connect to the Jewish community. In each instance I tried a few activities that I thought would ease the development of a group of Jewish friends to hang out with. In New York, for example, I took ballroom dancing at the 92nd Street Y. While fun and entertaining, it was too small a group and not really conducive to socializing. In Chicago I attended my first Young Adult program, but this group was way too big to connect to anyone on an intimate level.
In my professional life here in Dayton I have all kinds of avenues to connect with the Jewish community – it is my purpose. But, if that weren’t the case, would I be able to find people in the community with whom I share interests? How would I make those connections in an easy, friendly manner?
Last night, I saw how this is accomplished. I was invited to join a group of women, some new to the area and some who have been here forever, that was organized through the efforts of Cheryl Carne, Director of External Relations here at the Jewish Federation. Cheryl has been focused for the past several years on outreach, newcomers, donor stewardship and the Young Adult Division. I know what she has been doing but I hadn’t experienced the magic myself until last night.
I was randomly seated next to someone whose name I know but haven’t really had the chance to meet. Wow, I was overwhelmed with our mutual love of two of life’s greatest pleasures – baseball and football. I had met another woman who was as passionate as I am about college football, the NFL and the love of baseball, including the “bucket list” goal of visiting all the baseball parks in MLB.
I am aware that this magical connection that creates Jewish community in Dayton occurs many times throughout the year at our synagogues, Jewish organizations, cultural activities and programs. I want to thank all those who make outreach to newcomers a priority. While our numbers are small, the heart of Dayton’s Jewish community is really large.
Every time I meet someone new to the area and they tell me that the Jewish community of Dayton is so special I ask why they feel that way. The answer is that they can easily “join the family”. Please reach out to us here at the Federation or contact any of the synagogues or Jewish organizations if you are new to the area or know of someone who has recently moved here. They will be welcomed with open arms.
Visit Shalom Dayton on our website for information on how to connect with the Dayton Jewish community.
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