Tomorrow night the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington will be hosting it’s Annual Meeting. Each year, the Jerome J. Dick Young Leadership Award is awarded at the annual meeting. The Jerome J. Dick Young Leadership Award has been given out for 44 years to individuals in their early forties, or younger, in recognition of their dedication to the Jewish community and capacity for leading and motivating people. Recipients of this award have gone on to become major players in the Greater Washington Jewish community. A full list of recipients can be found here: http://www.shalomdc.org/page.
This year’s recipients are Josh Stevens and Michael Plostock. Below is our interview with Josh. Read Mike’s interview here.
Throughout the past 6 years or so I have become increasingly involved in the Jewish community through programs and mentorship provided by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. What initially attracted me to the community is their investment in the 11,000 plus Birthright Alum that live within the Greater DC area, and their belief that by engaging them they will not only create a continuation of their transformative Birthright experience, but also enhance the local Jewish community as well. This was the catalyst towards my involvement in Birthright NEXT, and subsequent participation in the development of such programs as the Reverse Mifgash, Birthright Alumni Leadership Mission, NEXUS, Impact DC, as well as many other programs that engage young Jewish professionals. From these experiences, I have learned so much about the work of Federation and their investment in both the local and global Jewish community. I have also become increasingly involved in the strategic planning and a summer employee at JFGW’s partner agency Capital Camps. Causes that truly resonate with me.
I love this community. I am forever inspired by the older generation of leaders that helped create this community, the professionals that work so hard every day to make sure we have the money and resources to sustain it, and my peers that follow their very own passion in finding new and innovative ways to enhance the community. These are the people that keep me involved, wanting to invest every available free second to something that I truly believe in, and continuously learn from those that came before me. I believe that the more I know about this community, the better ambassador for it I can be. So I try to go to every program, event, and meeting that my schedule would allow me to attend.
You serve as the Young Leadership Co-Chair- what do you do?
I work in partnership with the Young Leadership professionals at Federation and lay leaders to educate and engage the DC-area young adult community in the work of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington by: Providing opportunities for personal growth and leadership, supporting new and innovative avenues for outreach, and identifying individuals with a desire to make an impact on the Jewish community and connecting them with meaningful opportunities.
You’ve taken an active role in the Birthright alumni community. What motivated you to do so?
I’d like to say that I am a product of Birthright. I went on a DC community Birthright trip in the summer of 2005 and like many others, was truly transformed. Being so moved and inspired by the impact it had on both me and so many other participants, I felt compelled to become involved. There were thousands of Birthright alumni just like me who came back from their 10 day trip to Israel with a new sense of Jewish identity and desire to feel more Jewish in their day-to-day lives and/or continue their connection to the state of Israel. I grew up in a very reform and unaffiliated Jewish family. While my parents always reminded me of my Jewish identity and threw me an amazing Bar Mitzvah, I never felt part of a Jewish community. Following the summer of 2005, I felt an instant connection to this thriving community of Birthright alum and compelled to be involved in the further development of it.
What do you do when you’re not being a Jewish powerhouse? What is your day job?
I am a 5th grade teacher at Bradley Hills Elementary School in Bethesda, MD. I also teach Hebrew School at Beth Ami Synagogue. During the summers, I am a village leader (unit head) of 8th and 9th graders at Capital Camps.
If you could change one thing about the DC Jewish community, what would it be?
I would want to clear people’s misconception that Jewish communal events are just designed to make people more Jewish and that the Jewish philanthropic events are designed to take people’s money. Programs are created to engage young professional in the Jewish community. This is done with the idea in mind that our community is made up of eclectic individuals seeking different things out of the community around them. Our community offers programs focusing around religious education, business networking, current Israeli issues, Jewish culture, Philanthropy, leadership development, volunteer opportunities in areas of need within the community, social events like happy hours, classes for interfaith couples, and much, much more.
Describe the DC young professional community in three words.
Thriving, Inclusive, Innovative