Two years ago, when Stephanie Albero became a mother to daughter Jeanine, she felt the need to connect with other Jewish women, in particular those who shared similar values. Living in Springfield in Delaware County, Albero felt a bit isolated from other parts of the Jewish community and decided to go online to: www.jewishphilly.org . It was there that she discovered that the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia offered a packet called "Shalom Baby!"
Albero requested one to be sent to her home. That packet, representing an entrée to the world of Jewish parenting, was just the beginning of Albero's connection with the Philadelphia Jewish community. In fact, "Shalom Baby!" has also evolved. Today, in addition to the packets, it offers programming for new parents (not just new moms, but dads as well).
The welcoming packets include items such as a medicine dropper, a bib, an ice pack and insulated bag. To help couples connect to the Jewish community, the packets also include the Jewish Exponent and its Guide to Jewish Greater Philadelphia, as well as a tzedakah box and information on the Jewish holidays.
According to Roberta Matz, director of the Bux-Mont Region and coordinator of outreach for Federation's Center for Jewish Life and Learning, "Shalom Baby!" has been completely "re-envisioned."
"Our mission is to let people know there is a Jewish community there for them," said Matz, underscoring that one of the goals of the Center for Jewish Life and Learning is to focus on families with young children. Just a few years ago, some 50 packets were sent out each year; these days, that figure has jumped to 50 a month.
Sheila Kowit and husband, Uzi, have a 15-month-old son, Logan. Prior to becoming a new mom, Kowit, a Lansdale resident, was active with Federation's Young Leadership Council and the Renaissance Group. Presently, she serves on Federation's Board of Trustees and co-chairs Bux-Mont's Young Adult Outreach Committee with Robin Zappin.
Besides the "Shalom Baby!" packet, Kowit says they are creating meaningful programs to connect people in the suburbs with the larger Jewish community. Programming focuses on exploring what it means to be Jewish parents in today's world, forums on pertinent topics and innovative ways to celebrate holidays.
One program, for example, "Bagels and Babies" is ongoing with parents getting together at different homes. There are also Tot Shabbats, brunches and parenting workshops at various suburban locations.
Albero, who co-chairs a "Shalom Baby!" committee in Delaware County, recently attended a Tot Shabbat at Martins Run and last spring participated in a Passover celebration. She is happy to report that she has met other new parents with similar sentiments about raising Jewish children. "The 'Shalom Baby!' program is great," said Albero. "It's valuable because it gets you involved with the Jewish community."
New mom Melissa Scrimo of Exton in Chester County, who co-chairs the "Shalom Baby!" committee with Albero, has developed friendships with other new parents as a result of sharing ideas and concerns. "Shalom Baby!" has been a wonderful social outlet for her and 14-month-old daughter, Rachel. Besides exposing children to Judaism, Scrimo observes that programming is also about community-building.
"Being a new mom is joyous and stressful," confided Scrimo. "It makes me feel good that there are other Jewish moms out there with common interests. It's been a great support network."
To learn more, call Roberta Matz 215-646-4500, Ext. 102.