Neely Tal Snyder Community Impact Award
This award honors the memory of Neely Tal Snyder z”l by recognizing a professional with strong commitment and passion for Jewish community. The winner of this award demonstrates creativity, openness and inclusion and helps to build immersive and hands-on experiences/programs that have community impact.
Neely Snyder was a committed and passionate Jewish professional; she was able to connect, engage and inspire all who knew her and worked with her. Neely had a particular ability to create experiences, oftentimes immersive and hands-on, that helped build connections to self and to the larger community. She had a commitment to inclusion and openness that helped to define the community she wished to create. She was a risk-taker and launched new programs and ideas that bent the arc of the Jewish community toward justice, integrity and authenticity. Recipients of the Neely Tal Snyder Community Impact Award have been involved with programs/projects that speak to this advancement of the Jewish community and have demonstrated their ability to impact the community, either as an individual or through the specific program. Programs/projects that the nominee has worked on can demonstrate a new modality for the community in terms of service delivery, can serve an unmet need, can have a demonstrated level of impact or can continue to push the Jewish community toward openness and inclusion. Nominees should also share some of the attributes that Neely represented in her life and her profession.
Director, Disability and Inclusion Services, Macks Center for Jewish Education
Rachel has a vision for an inclusive Jewish Baltimore. She provides the language and tools that create space for the participation of people of all ages with disabilities, and works steadily and with purpose opening hearts and minds and building programs and initiatives that have changed the face of the Baltimore community.
For example, Rachel imagined a kit of sensory materials that could be loaned to an organization in order to create a safe, calm experience for those who need it at any large-scale community event. The kit came with a free critically important training that in Rachel’s special style helped participants reimagine inclusion. Through Rachel’s framing, participants can understand the value of each individual and the contribution that person makes to our whole community. Then, Rachel realized that a backpack loaned to an individual family might be another way to provide access, so she went on to write and receive a grant for that. With Rachel’s background, it would be easy to go online and purchase the correct equipment to stock the kit and the backpacks. Of course, Rachel didn’t just do that. She also hand-sewed a weighted blanket for each one that would be just the right size.
Rachel’s strength lies in ensuring that committee members have equal voice. And she is a deep well of information and support. If you are a community member with a disability or in a role to support people with disabilities, you know that Rachel is an advocate. In addition to her role as Director of Disability and Inclusion Services at CJE, Rachel is the principal of Gesher LaTorah, the community’s Jewish education program for students with significant disabilities. There are certainly educators with Master’s level expertise like Rachel who are teaching and supporting the students. There are also assistants who have disabilities, sign language interpreters, people in special wheelchairs, people who have many different kinds of materials including Braille, 3D, large print and just about anything else. This is a world where everyone is valued, and everyone has what they need to be a full participant in Jewish learning and living. This is Rachel’s world. Rachel not only has a vision for an inclusive Jewish Baltimore, she is the creator of that world.
Rachel creates a compelling experience that excites students and helps them carve out their Jewish identities in a complicated world. It is not only the Gesher LaTorah student on her roster, or the child in need of noise-cancelling headphones at an event, it is the entire family that benefits from Rachel’s interventions. When the Jill Fox Memorial Fund approached CJE to see if we could facilitate access to the fund for the families we serve, Rachel jumped at the opportunity. She took on this additional responsibility in addition to her already full role. It was not for additional compensation or for additional honor, it was because Rachel understands that this was a chance to wrap a Jewish communal hug around a family who needs support. Rachel designed a system that would ensure confidentiality and provide a family with access to resources as well as other Jewish educational opportunities. It made total sense in Rachel’s world. By recognizing Rachel with this award, we are acknowledging that Rachel’s world is one we should all aspire to.
Past Award Winners
The Pearlstone Center, 2016
Jews United for Justice, 2017
The Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore, 2018
Jewish Volunteer Connection, 2019
Towson Hillel, 2021
Macks Center for Jewish Education, 2022