Rabbi Marc Baker, former head of Gann Academy, recently stepped into the role of president and CEO of CJP. Marc is a North Shore native, living now in Brookline with his wife, Jill, and their four children, Elisha, Meital, Maor and Alanna. We had a chance to sit down with Marc and Jill to chat about their Jewish identity, their volunteer work with JF&CS and why CJP values an ongoing partnership with JF&CS.
Being part of the Jewish community, personally and professionally, is clearly important to you both. How does the work you do reflect your Jewish values? Who, and where, did those Jewish values come from?
Marc: I was raised in a family that was deeply committed to the Jewish community and Jewish values. I have felt a strong sense of my Jewish culture since I was a child—formed also by time spent at Jewish summer camps and then as a young adult in Israel, where Jill and I met.
Professionally, I’ve devoted my life to Jewish education and the Jewish community. This comes from a deep sense of the power of community and the potential that living a Jewish life has to add meaning and purpose to our lives. We build a Jewish family because we feel that Jewish traditions, practices and learning are compelling ways to raise kids and to create meaning for our family.
Jill: After college, I spent time in Israel, where I became more connected to my Jewish identity. From there I’ve been committed to all aspects of Jewish life, such as raising our family Jewishly and sending our children to Jewish day school. Growing up, I was raised in a home that valued spirituality and had a deep commitment to giving back
You’ve been involved with a few JF&CS programs—specifically Jill as a Lauren & Mark Rubin Visiting Mom volunteer working with new moms, as well as giving back as a family with Family Table. What is important to you about volunteering with JF&CS? What has surprised you about your time with JF&CS?
Jill: I was pleasantly surprised to learn that JF&CS helps everyone, regardless of their background. Our family is so connected Jewishly—for example, our kids go to Jewish day school and we observe Shabbat every week. And volunteering with JF&CS has integrated our particular Jewish values with our more universal concerns for our broader community and the world. The Family Table and Visiting Moms programs mobilize people to do something meaningful, and the experience is so powerful because they enable us to help people directly.
Marc: This is a time when people are looking for meaningful ways to volunteer. People are looking to give back, add value and make an impact. JF&CS is one of the premier volunteer opportunities. JF&CS has created really powerful and authentic volunteer engagement opportunities at a time when we need more of those as a community.
For the past three or four years, we’ve volunteered with Family Table. We volunteer with our children, who are 16, 14, 12 and 9. The facilitation of direct contact for our kids with the people who we’re serving is powerful. We’re not just packing the bags of food—with Family Table you actually go to someone’s apartment and meet them. There’s a dimension of this work that is highly interpersonal, that deepens empathy and that gives our kids the skills to be in relationship with people who may be more vulnerable than they are, and certainly who are coming from a very different place and in very different situations than they are used to.
We also participated in a poverty simulation with our kids, and that was a great example of how JF&CS not only facilitates service but also tries to help change mindsets and broaden people’s understanding of systemic issues.
There are clearly big changes in your lives as you step into this major role at CJP. How do you see CJP’s relationship to JF&CS? Why is this partnership important to you?
Marc: JF&CS is a powerful vehicle for members of the entire Jewish community to live out their Jewish values and to volunteer in meaningful ways. CJP deeply values our partnership with JF&CS in part because of the incredible work JF&CS does to create a community that takes care of the most vulnerable. Through JF&CS, our community adds its voice to the world and gives back, not only to the Jewish community but to the broader community as well.
Much of people’s Jewish lives are lived inside their particular communities. I think because one of the core organizing principles of JF&CS is chesed, or acts of loving-kindness, for those who are more vulnerable, JF&CS is able to bridge communities and bring together a range of people that many other experiences do not.
The reality is that even though many of us have a deep Jewish instinct to give back through acts of loving-kindness, it’s actually not always an easy thing to do. JF&CS facilitates living out one of our most core Jewish values: taking care of the vulnerable. This is really a gift to the community. They give us the gift of being able to give.
If you would like to make a difference with JF&CS, visit our Volunteering page to find the perfect volunteer opportunity for your interests and abilities.
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