Shari Malinow and Karen Pearlstone are the new co-chairs of 4Front’s Advisory Committee- which serves as a sounding board for program feedback and advice and works to advocate for Jewish teen education and engagement as a communal priority. Parent involvement and input is integral to 4Front’s vision of empowering our teens and the adults who care about them. Get to know more about them and their passion for teen leadership in the Baltimore community!
Tell us a fun fact about yourself!
Shari: I have always loved planting a vegetable garden each summer and maintaining indoor house plants throughout the year. In the Fall of 2019, I finally gave into my husband’s gentle nudging to become a Master Gardener through University of Maryland Extension. Now, I maintain the Monarch Waystation at University of Maryland Extension – Baltimore County Master Gardener 1114 Shawan Road in Cockeysville and provide educational out-reach to the community. In addition, I grow my own fruits and veggies all year round now.
Karen: I was Valedictorian of my Nursing Class.
What is a favorite 4Front program you or your child have been a part of?
Shari: Hands down I would say the Diller program for all three of my young adults. They had different experiences, but all were life altering and impactful.
For my daughter in particular, she was the one who brought this program to our attention after some of her older friends that she danced with strongly suggested that she apply. Throughout this program we all immediately saw how much she was growing. She learned to question, reflect, and stand up for what she believed in. It was a diverse group of teens both in Baltimore and Ashkelon. They formed their own community and shared a safe space to discuss their love of Judaism, Israel and everyday adolescence concern with talented young, youth professionals as their leaders and themselves.
My daughter encouraged her brothers to apply when they became of age. In fact, even though they were younger at the time, they saw their sister’s metamorphosis. What a great role model she became to our family! The Diller opportunity was really transformative for all of our kids.
It is incredible that our Baltimore community offers these types of leadership opportunities to our teens. In fact, in May of 2019 when I was the Evaluations Chair of the Baltimore Ashkelon Partnership (BAP), I was able to visit many people to people grants that were funded by the Associated in our sister city of Ashkelon. Over the years, I heard from many of the Diller parents they wished there was a similar program for adults. Why do our kids get all the fun…what about us! While on this mission, our group visited a program called Peoplehood in a neighboring town of Ashkelon that connected with Metro West, NJ (coincidently, Metro West was my JCC back in the day). We were able to experience this Diller-like group of adults and knew we could create something special of our own. That summer a group of like-minded individuals, spearheaded by Gail Green, went to work writing a grant to offer a cultural connection to adults living in Baltimore and Ashkelon.
Fast forward about 4 years, I just returned back from visiting Ashkelon as chair of the second Kesher cohort. We just completed our closing meeting in August and hope to perpetuate the program in the future as we really formed strong bonds both with the Baltimore and Ashkelon groups, just as our kids did.
Karen: There is value in every program. For my son Zachary, now 21 I would say that I saw the most emotional growth in him after completing the Peer Leadership Fellowship. I believe he was one of the first cohorts and it was part of a pilot study at the time. He had taken all the skills he had learned throughout his years of involvement with STAC, PLF, Diller and put them to the test by having had to communicate effectively to engage with his peers and form connections with them. For my younger son Jordan, 17 I would choose Diller. He had so many preconceived notions about what his Diller journey would look like and in the end, it was entirely different. He saw Judaism from a different lens which was interesting because he has attended Jewish Day School since kindergarten. He has gained a new set of friends locally and around the world he otherwise would have never crossed paths with and shared unique and memorable experiences over the course of these past 11 months. Each one of his peers including his mentor, Barak Stockler (Diller Program Coordinator) encouraged him to be the best version of himself.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of your involvement in 4Front?
Shari: Volunteering and giving back to the community has always been instilled in me when my parents role modeled its importance. The most rewarding aspect for me is making a small difference in the world. Connecting with others, learning from one another, creating community is at the heart of who I am.
Karen: I have seen first-hand the influence each of our teens has on one another and that being a part of 4front is a really caring close knit community.
What are you most excited for when thinking about your leadership as a chair of the advisory committee?
Shari: I am excited to work with Karen Pearlstone as the co-chair of the 4Front Advisory Committee. We each bring different skills and talents to this committee and believe in it. We want to involve the parents, as well as the teens. Parents play such an instrumental role in supporting their young adults. Diana, Sophia, Barak, and its newest hired leader, Isabel are amazing. We hope to be able to showcase the teens this year to our community. We also want to look into having an Alumni event as well!
Karen: Making meaningful connections with all of the Advisory committee members and working towards a common goal.
What do you want to tell other parents of Jewish teens about 4Front and our Baltimore community?
Shari: The Baltimore community is very unique. It provides the opportunity to allow your teen to expand their networks and learn new skills in a safe and comfortable environment. I have seen so much growth from my children because of these programs, and I know they feel the same.
Karen: 4front is a way for teens to connect with their peers, explore their identity, learn about their heritage, and have fun in a safe and nurturing place. The Jewish community offers a variety of opportunities for teens to get involved, such as youth groups, summer camps, social justice seminars, Shabbatons, travel programs and more.