Girl of the Week – Avital

How has the DC Jewish community grown over the years?
I joined the professional staff of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington nearly seven years ago because I was a young adult in the DC Jewish community that felt completely disconnected from any sort of community.  Having grown up in a vibrant Jewish community, I was certain that there must be hundreds of young Jews who were also lacking this connection.  I made a choice to help build a vibrant, engaging, and innovative Jewish community for young adults.  The Jewish community today is more exciting and collaborative with hundreds if not thousands more people involved.  The opportunities for young adults to connect and take on leadership roles is cutting-edge and a model for other Jewish communities across the nation.

ImpactDC was an incredible celebration of philanthropy, volunteerism, and leadership.  It never would have happened five years ago because our community wasn’t ready for it then.  Today we embrace new ideas and opportunities to allow people to connect to their Jewish identity through community.

Partnership and collaboration are felt more today than ever before! We have so many wonderful local and national organizations in DC that are working collaboratively to offer opportunities for young adults to connect to the Jewish community. Jewnity is also a great example!

What is the best part of the DC Jewish community?
The inter-generational connections! I don’t know any other community that links together every generation as much as the DC Jewish community does. We have young leaders at the table making decisions in our community, which demonstrates the impact and role young leaders play in our community.  Through ConnectGens, a program of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, young leaders are matched with experienced business leaders as mentors in both the business world and Jewish community and philanthropy.  The seasoned leaders of the community incorporate ideas from the next generation, fostering continued growth and creation of a vibrant Jewish community.  I feel very lucky to be part of the DC Jewish community!

What was the best part of working at The Jewish Federation?
Some might say the 7 Birthright trips, 2 missions to Moscow, 2 Alumni Leadership Missions, and so many other trips to Israel, but for me it is really all about the people!  The meaningful relationships I have built with colleagues and lay leaders have been tremendously rewarding.  It takes a village to build community and every person that I have had the privilege to work with over the last seven years has made a lasting impact on me.  Thank you all for helping me find my community!

Where can we find you on a Friday night?
Friday night is my favorite time of the week.  You can almost always find me at a Shabbat dinner on Friday night, and I am often hosting.  I believe in building community through Shabbat dinner gatherings in my home.  It is a wonderful way to connect people and feel part of a Jewish community.

Growing up, we had Shabbat together as a family every week. My father was a Hillel Rabbi for 32 years, so every Friday night we would have Shabbat services and dinner together with my immediate family and our larger Hillel family.  Sometimes it was 25 people and sometimes 125, but I knew that everyone around the table was family.  My favorite tradition is going around the room on Friday night and sharing a highlight of the week.  It is a chance to reflect on all that was good during the past week and let go of the things that were stressful or not as good.  It’s a tradition that I continue in my home when I host Shabbat dinners.

What will the DC Jewish community be like in the next 10 years?
The face of the Jewish community will be completely different in ten years because of the investment in young adults today.  Programs like Birthright and Birthright NEXT and organizations like Sixth and I are changing the DC Jewish community for the future.  The investment in cutting-edge programming, education, and leadership development for young adults in their 20s and 30s is going change the face of the Jewish community in 10 years.  We will have more people feeling connected to their Jewish identity and having a desire to be a part of the Jewish community.  I predict that more Jewish children will be enrolled in Jewish preschools, day schools, and summer camps; a greater percentage of Jews will have a strong connection to Israel most specifically because of Birthright and MASA; and hopefully this will yield increased philanthropic resources to the Jewish community which in turn could help lower the high-costs of being Jewish (i.e. day school tuition, synagogue membership dues, etc). Today’s young leaders will be paying it forward and allowing for a continued investment in the next generation of young adults. If 250 young adults can contribute $24,000 to The Jewish Federation today through ImpactDC, imagine what this group will be contributing in 10 years!

You’ve spent the last seven years working for The Jewish Federation, what are you doing next?
Professionally, I will be joining the Foundation for Defense of Democracies as the Vice President of Development. Check it out; it’s a great organization, www.defenddemocracy.org. If you work in the field of counterterrorism or national security or are interested in pursuing a career in one of these fields, apply for the National Security Trip to Israel, www.fddisraeltrip.org.

But don’t worry; it’s not goodbye to Federation or the community.  I will be transitioning from professional to lay leader in the Jewish community by joining the Board of Directors of American University Hillel. In addition, I am joining the Executive Committee of the new ConnectGens Fellowship, powered by PresenTense, as a co-chair for Venture Development. I believe the ConnectGens Fellowship is the hottest new initiative in our community and I am excited to be a part of it! Learn more at http://www.shalomdc.org/fellowship.

What is the next event that people will not want to miss?
There are lots of exciting events before November such as the Sukkkah Hop or Mitzvah Hoppin, but if I had to pick one not to miss, it would be the Network Kickoff sponsored by The Jewish Federation. On November 16th, come out to hear Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s. It promises to be a great event that you won’t want to miss. Check it out and register today, www.shalomdc.org/kickoff.