Bowling, Conversation & An Important Revelation
By Samantha Dubrinsky,
BJF Director of Community Impact
On Tuesday night, I had the opportunity to hang out with participants of the You Belong In Birmingham group, which is a Birmingham Jewish Federation initiative designed to engage Jews in their 20s and 30s more deeply in the Birmingham community.
It was a random week night and an event that was relatively simple to plan. We headed to a local bowling alley to bowl a few games and have some drinks. But, it’s simple nights such as this one that remind me just how wonderful our young Birmingham Jewish community is and can be.
I arrived at the bowling alley a few minutes before the program was scheduled to start, just to make sure everything was lined up for our fun night. A 29-year-old from New Jersey, who has been involved with You Belong since he moved here over two years ago, walked in around the same time I did. Since it was just the two of us for a few minutes, I had a chance to catch up with him one-on-one before the rest of the crowd arrived.
This young man is in medical school and I asked him, since his time in school is coming to an end, if he was going to stay in Birmingham. “I really want to,” he said. “I just have to convince my girlfriend that Birmingham is a great place.” And I said, “Well, that shouldn’t be too hard!” And he replied, “You know, it’s really not. When I first got here, I was really surprised by the young Jewish community here. I wasn’t expecting what I found.”
We talked for a few minutes about what he expected when he came to Birmingham, especially when he previously lived in New Jersey, which has a significantly higher Jewish population than Alabama. He said there was definitely an adjustment period, but he couldn’t imagine himself anywhere else.
As we spotted another You Belonger walking up, he said, “I’m not surprised anymore by what Birmingham and the Jewish community has to offer.” I looked at him puzzled and asked why. “Well, it just seems so natural here. I really felt like I came home when I moved to Birmingham.”
Conversations such as the one above don’t happen without a lot of hard work. Through You Belong In Birmingham, the BJF works very hard to make sure that every young person feels welcome and finds their space within the community. We emphasize the good in our community and explain that no matter what the future holds, we know that a vibrant Jewish community will be here for them, should they choose to stay in Birmingham.
Whether it be bowling on a Tuesday night or taking a new person out to coffee, the young Jewish community knows that the BJF is here for them. And that makes me feel really good.
Another young person, who just moved to Birmingham about a month ago, introduced himself to me and said, “The Federation is doing all this for us?”
“Yep,” I said proudly. “And you’re welcome to be a part of anything else the Federation has to offer.”
But it’s not just the Federation that is welcoming young Jews with open arms. The Levite Jewish Community Center, through collaboration with the BJF, is focusing on recruiting young Jewish professionals to be members. In just the past two months, several You Belongers have joined the J as members. All it took was showing them that there’s another space in the Jewish community where they can belong and feel at home.
From “bowling to belonging,” that’s us — the BJF. And our lane, along with the LJCC’s, always is open to any young adult who is looking for a place to be.