Q&A with the CEO
Q: Tell us a little bit about you. What are your pronouns? Where are you from? What did you do before coming to Young Judaea?
A: My pronouns are she/her and before coming to Young Judaea, I worked for the last 12 years at the UJA Federation of New York. I was involved in grant-making and community planning, mostly working with synagogues and day schools and voluntourism in the New York community.
Q: This might sound kinda silly, but what do you DO as CEO of YJ?
A: It's a lot of Zoom, that's mostly what I do now. Welcome to my corner office, this is it, my bedroom. It's really glorious! Really, the main thing I do as CEO is ensure that the mission of Young Judaea is carried forward in our programs and in the way we represent ourselves. Through Young Judaean teens, alumni, staff, and all participants, I make sure our mission is reflected and accomplished. I am like the keeper of the flame.
Q: What kind of kitchen utensil best relates to your job? Why?
A: I love this question because I’m a kitchen gadget gal. I am a sifter because a lot of what I do is sift out the really important things, the things that we should be focusing on and working on, and the stuff that is less important but still there, the fluff.
Q: Describe yourself in three words
A: Musical, aspirational, family-oriented.
Q: Tell us more about your musical background!
A: Well, before I went into Jewish communal work, I wanted to be an opera singer. I sang and played piano for many years, and also danced. I majored in music in college, and then when I got involved in Young Judaea at the end of college, I worked at TY. That’s when I decided I didn’t want to be an opera singer but I wanted to work in the Jewish community. So then I went to cantorial school, and got a cantorial degree, and became a cantor. Then I worked at UJA Federation in New York and then St. Louis.
Q: What do you think makes Young Judaea special?
A: The lion. Best logo ever. Fierce, for sure. Fierce and connected to Israel! The reason why I got involved in Young Judaea, the reason why I really wanted to do this work is that I was very moved by the history and legacy of Young Judaea. To have an organization that is 110 years old and still, to this day, the pillars of our mission (Jewish Identity, Social Action, Zionism, Pluralism, Peer Leadership) are still so critical today. And in a lot of ways, we were ahead of our time. These are things that very much resonate with people today. And the main reason why I took the position, is I felt that as timeless as those pillars were, they needed a refreshing. That we needed to figure out ways of bringing the movement into today. Making it a movement for this moment! It felt like there was a really important moment here to take an organization that has a long legacy and history, bring it into the contemporary, and make it really vibrant and vital and relevant for today.
Q: Which Young Judaea pillar speaks to you the most (Jewish Identity, Social Action, Zionism, Peer Leadership, Pluralism)?
A: Oh no it's like picking from my favorite children! That’s a very hard question and I'll tell you why: to me, part of the beauty of Young Judaea is that we don't have to choose. That being involved in Young Judaea you can hold all of these different pieces and hold them in relationship to one another and have them be in dialogue. We should come up with some type of visual where the pillars can all be in communication. I almost see it as a Venn diagram. So I can’t quite answer the question of which pillar speaks to me the most because I really do see them in a dialogue with one another.
Q: Do you have any pets??
A: I don’t have any pets. My kids every single day of the pandemic have begged and begged and begged for a pet. And I joke with them that we had a fourth child and that was a pet! And then as our youngest got older (she's now five), they are like ‘so now can we have a pet?!’ And now I joke with them, ‘actually, no, I started a new job and that Young Judaea is the thing that I need to take care of and groom and grow.’
Q: What is your go-to road trip song?
A: My playlists usually include a bunch of female acoustic guitar. Anything in the range of Indigo Girls, Joni Mitchell, and also lots of contemporary female acoustic singers and Israeli contemporary. I love Omer Adam, Ishay Ribo. Idan Raichel is on my repeat. I guess it depends on my mood but mainly goes between those two. Lately, I have been listening a lot to this Ishay Ribo song, Halev Sheli, which is this beautiful, beautiful song. Check it out! Listen to it!
Q: What are you most looking forward to about this year?
A: I hope I can travel because I would really like to visit all of the camps and I would like to go to Israel to see where you all spend your time when you are there on Gesher and Year Course. Once I am traveling I would love to visit with the different mazkiriot and just meet all of you all. But until then, I’ve been meeting so many people, and that’s been unbelievable. So many people have reached out to me from the alumni community and that’s been amazing. Everyone still feels the love and connection to Young Judaea and they want to do everything possible to make YJ awesome. So really uncovering the individual stories has been the most exciting part right now.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers of the Kol Hatnua?
A: Well, I very much look forward to hearing from all of the teens that are involved in Young Judaea. To me, it's really important that I hear from this current generation, what you all care about, in what ways Young Judaea is meeting your needs, and how Young Judaea can be a conduit for you to express your values, and your leadership. To me, Young Judaea should be shaped by each of you in very critical ways. I want to hear what’s on your mind. The more I can be in touch with the voices of today, I think the better it’s going to be for the organization as it starts to think not only who we need to be today but who we need to be in the future.