In 2020, COVID hit — and Rebecca Gerber and her husband packed up their New York City apartment, scooped up their young daughter, and moved back home to New Haven. Her move was made easier by the Jewish Federation’s Family Outreach Coordinator Kayla Bisbee, who was instrumental in introducing her to the Jewish community, says Gerber.
Gerber wanted to help other young moms make a similar transition, so she was quick to say yes last August when Bisbee asked her to co-chair Shalom Baby, together with her mother and mother-in-law.
“My goal through Shalom Baby is to help moms and families meet each other and form communities since it can be very isolating in the early years,” says Gerber, who was pregnant with her second child at the time. The group went so well that Gerber took it a step further. “We launched Shalom Baby Café in January,” says Gerber. “We started with just a few moms and have grown outside of our regular space with an average of 10-15 groups each week with babies up to two.” As it turns out, Shalom Baby Café was especially welcoming for first time moms, like Sydney Brosler. “Shalom Baby was a group that I was nervous to join,” says Brosler, mother of Ari. “However, Shalom Baby Café is extremely welcoming and warm, especially to young new moms. It made opening up very easy and natural as everyone was in the same or similar phase of life with their children. “I look forward to going each week! I always wanted to be a part of this type of group once I had a baby and this was the perfect place to start. I look forward to many events and gatherings in the future.”
Shannon Garfield felt the same after the birth of her first child, Moshe. “Since Moshe was only four weeks old, each Wednesday morning we’d go to the JCC of Greater New Haven for Shalom Baby — time to gather with other new parents with babies, sit on the floor to play and drink coffee. This weekly gathering has consistently been a highlight each week and has meant so much to me on my parental leave. As a family we’ve truly gained an incredible community,” says Garfield. “During our weekly time together, I learned so much, including tips for keeping socks on little baby feet, how to increase my breast milk supply, and where in town were the best children’s consignment shops. I saw other awesome moms with children older than mine, prep for their first date night, go back to work, plan for their first family vacation...” and more. “I’m so thankful we’ve found this community and even more grateful that he has made some of his first friends,” said Garfield. Gerber wishes Shalom Baby Café was around when her now three-year-old daughter was born. “It’s been great for me and Ari, who is eight months old, to meet other families in the area. I feel like I missed out on building a community when my daughter was a baby due to COVID, so I’m really enjoying getting out of the house and finding new friends. I’ve learned a lot from the other moms already!” she says. Shalom Baby is an initiative of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven’s Women’s Philanthropy, and meets as a Tot Shabbat on Fridays at 11 am. There is also a What’s App Group, “Shalom Baby on the Go” for meetups around Greater New Haven. For more info or to provide the names of new families, contact Kayla Bisbee at email@example.com or (203) 387-2424 x300.