Shabbat candle lighting: 8:07pm

Building a Thriving Jewish Community Downtown

Parents with young children love the Downtown Baltimore JCC (DBJCC) because it’s a wonderful entry point toward building community in Baltimore City.

The DBJCC is more than just a great place for infants and toddlers to explore and develop; it’s also a space for new moms and dads to enhance their parenting skills. But learning isn’t the only thing that takes place at the DBJCC! Parents and caregivers love to socialize and hang out together, and, of course, it’s also a terrific place to throw a birthday party!

According to DBJCC mom Diana Coyle, “The DBJCC is just so easy. It has everything you need if you have young children - stroller parking, changing stations. My kids know it and they’re comfortable there. They love the toys and they have fun!”

Ellie Brown, Program Manager at the DBJCC says, “Today we’re seeing a lot of parents who are working, as well as trusting nannies and grandparents to care for their little ones. The parents who bring or send their children here, love that their child is socializing and learning to share.”

“There is a growing community of families raising children in the city,” Ellie says, “and we provide a supportive environment for parents to connect with each other and socialize with their children.”

“Our parents love to come for classes, playtime (open-play) & Jewish kids programs such as Tot Shabbat, Shabbat family happy hour and family Havdallah.”

Stacy Harvey is a DBJCC member and the mother of two young girls, Talia and Ariel. “We live downtown and we have great walkability to the DBJCC, where there is always something going on.”

“We live by the Federal Hill Park – our kids can play in the park, we can grab dinner with friends, but what else is there to do to occupy my little doodles’ minds?

“Visit the DBJCC!”

Stacy, a native of Syosset, Long Island, works full-time for pharmaceutical firm Gilead Sciences; her husband Justin, works for T. Rowe Price downtown.  Justin and Stacy met on J Date while they were both living in New York City. They moved here over three-and-a-half years ago, opting for Baltimore’s slower pace.

According to Stacy, DBJCC “is just a safe space, the electrical sockets are covered. All the parents can hang out, talk to each other and socialize. We just have an amazing Jewish community.” 

“The Hello Baby class is great – the first exposure to other young moms is wonderful,” she says.

“It’s so good to be with other moms in the same situation and I was really drawn to Miss Cindy [Neuman, the J’s beloved ‘baby whisperer’], and the way she fielded my questions and anxieties. She helped so much, it was great to share information and experience, and I loved her Infant Massage Class, with techniques to help your baby with relaxation, circulation, and digestion.”

“Winter,” says Stacy, “is the best, when you can’t be in the park, you go to the DBJCC. I go for open play on Sundays. I show up and my friends are there with their Starbucks.”

We have made so many close Baltimore friends and this has given us a real Jewish community downtown. The DBJCC is one of the biggest reasons we stay downtown.

Tim, a DBJCC father, concurs with Stacy.

“I like that the DBJCC is a convenient, welcoming, safe place where I can take my kids for open play.  I like that the staff is always warm and friendly, and I like that I can bring a cup of coffee!”

The DBJCC is “a visible member the neighborhood's ‘kid’ scene.  Everyone I know involved in the DBJCC is committed to its success.  One of the main reasons we live here is that there seems to be a core of families that are invested in the success of the neighborhood as a great place to raise our kids.”

Since the DBJCC opened in 2013, it has strengthened – and been strengthened by – downtown Jewish families and surrounding institutions.

According to another DBJCC mom, “The center of Baltimore’s Jewish life is uptown. But with an infant in tow, driving uptown can feel like hitchhiking to Utah. The DBJCC is a place – our place – designed for the youngest community members.”

“The DBJCC is a place for dual-faith, Jewish, and non-Jewish families to convene; it’s warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It is bigger than our row house living rooms, and it has different toys. It is a place to chat up a new parent or just catch up on the news for a few minutes. (For a stay-at-home parent with young children, ‘catching up on the news’ can be a radical, life-affirming act.)

“The JCC invests in young families downtown. With this support, the next generation of families is fostering a renaissance of a modern Jewish community.”