Molly Amster, JUFJ's Baltimore Director, was honored for her work in the Baltimore Jewish community with the Neely Tal Snyder Community Impact Award on May 25, 2017. The following are her remarks from the awards ceremony.
Thank you. I’m overwhelmed to receive this recognition and truly honored to be receiving an award bearing Neely’s name.
Neely and I had a lot of parking lot conversations - long discussions about our passions that followed meetings or events. I remember one in which she shared how the thought of even one LGBTQ person leaving the Jewish community because they felt judged, rejected, or unwelcome broke her heart. Community was so important to Neely.
She had a vision of a more inclusive Jewish community, one in which we deepened our compassion, rachamim, to see the humanness and the divinity within each person, where we welcomed queer Jews with open arms.
We shared that vision, and another - a vision of a more outward looking Jewish community, one in which we deepen our compassion, rachamim, to see the humanness and the divinity within each person, including those outside the Jewish community. A community that understands our city and country’s history of systemic oppression of communities of color, and how that continues to impact our neighbors.
So many share that vision, and I have been blessed to spend the past two years and nine months working with them to establish Jews United for Justice here in Baltimore where we have helped win important campaigns for police reform, fair development and paid sick leave for all Marylanders.
Neely was one of our first supporters here in Baltimore and I believe that we’ve built a community she would be proud of - one that provides Jews of all ages with the Jewish home pursuing justice that they thirsted for. Whether that’s the 20- or 30-something like me whose story is, “I’m Jewish, I feel very Jewish, I want to be doing something Jewish that’s rooted in my values, but I have no idea what that looks like.” Or the longtime activist who for so long kept their activist life and Jewish life separate and was overjoyed to be at a march for Freddie Gray alongside 100 other Jews carrying signs with Jewish messages. Intergenerational spaces are rare and I hear from young adults and elders that they treasure sharing and learning with one another in JUFJ.
It is the collective work of a beautiful group of human beings - the JUFJ leaders, staff, partners, and funders that have birthed this community of Jewish action, and I believe we are creating a ripple effect through the wider Baltimore Jewish community. I share the honor of this recognition with all of them - there are just too many to name everyone individually. You know who you are and I hope you feel the same pride that I feel today - we did this together.
In closing, I want to thank Neely’s family for their generosity and for blessing the world with Neely. I will continue to live and work inspired by her life and legacy - a deep love of community. May her memory forever be a blessing.