Ask any grandparent and they’re bound to tell you that being a grandpa or grandma is the best job in the world. They get all of the benefits of a child’s love and adoration with none of the parental responsibilities. They’re able to say yes to almost everything and quick to step aside when it comes to discipline.

And as a mom, that’s exactly how I want it!

In Baltimore’s Jewish community, many grandparents enjoy the advantage of living near their grandchildren. Now, the Louise D. and Morton J. Macks Center for Jewish Education, an agency funded by The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, is providing grandparents and grandchildren a unique opportunity to interact and bond.

Last Sunday afternoon, Feb. 9, the CJE launched its new grandparent connectors program called Saba-ba: Grandparents on the Go. The kickoff event took place at AMF Pikesville Lanes, with more than 40 grandparents and grandchildren bonding over bowling. In fact, my father and father-in-law attended with my daughter and niece.

“The word sababa is a slang Hebrew word for awesome, the word saba means grandfather, and the word ba means come,” said Ann Abramson, connector coordinator for the program. “We are inviting the awesome grandparents to come together with their families to create meaningful Jewish memories.”

While many communities have parent connector programming, the concept of a grandparent connector program is a unique initiative, made possible by a grant by the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Fund of The Associated. The program’s purpose is to help grandparents create Jewish memories and a sense of community with their grandchildren.

“Legacy conversations between grandparents and grandchildren are one of the main goals, and we are looking forward to co-creating Jewish memories with these families,” said Abramson, who has four grandchildren who live in Baltimore. “We know that for many families, the grandparent serves as the Jewish educator of their family, and now they have a way to continue that role in a cohort with other grandparents.”

Abramson shared what my father-in-law, Richard Friedlander, told her as he was leaving last Sunday’s gathering. “He explained that he used to bowl at AMF Pikesville as a child, his son was an avid bowler there and now he is taking his grandchildren to bowl there,” she said. “This is the third generation of bowlers at AMF Pikesville in his family, and it was powerful for him to connect with his grandchildren and other grandparents at an event like this.”

Other grandparents talked about how much they enjoyed spending quality time with their grandchildren, sans parents, and that the Jewish educational component — while small — was impactful.

Attendees participated in an arts-and-crafts project for Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish new year for trees, and each child went home with a goodie bag filled with prunes and raisins in honor of the holiday’s agricultural theme.

With the parents getting a little Sunday break, and grandparents and grandchildren enjoying special one-on-one time together, it’s safe to say everyone had a fun-filled afternoon!

For information about Saba-ba, visit https://www.cjebaltimore.org/.

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