Learn more about this exciting new platform, where Reform congregational leaders connect with colleagues and peers who have similar concerns, interests and responsibilities.
Contact: Lauren Theodore at 212-650-4154
New York, NY; November 14, 2019 –
The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) has selected nine individuals to participate in the URJ JewV’Nation Fellowship’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Leadership Cohort, a nine-month program dedicated to promoting and incorporating DEI principles in Reform Jewish congregations across North America.
Led by URJ Program Manager Rachel Hall, this cohort was created out of a need to equip Reform communities with the tools necessary to embrace and implement DEI-related practices so that all who enter them may experience a sense of belonging.
Studies show that our already-diverse Jewish community will continue to become even more diverse. An estimated 10 percent or more of North American Jews identify as LGBTQIA+, while at least 1 in 7 American Jews is a person of color, and 20 percent or more of Jewish families include relatives of color. We know, too, that the Jewish community includes family structures, faith backgrounds, disabilities, socioeconomic statuses, geographic locations, relationship statuses, and more.
In order for our Jewish community to be truly whole, we must recognize and embrace the diversity within it, ensuring that it reflects the identities of Jews from all backgrounds and lived experiences, and work collectively to make our spaces more equitable and inclusive.
Our fellows will not only learn the skills necessary to grow in their Jewish leadership, but also work directly with Reform congregations to focus on the experiences of marginalized groups within our Jewish communities. In the fellowship’s first three months, fellows will engage in an intensive DEI-focused training to prepare them for the following six months – partnering with congregations and/or Reform Jewish spaces (e.g. URJ Camps, URJ Youth Programs, and more) while continuing to build their own knowledge and skillsets through further training.
In partnership with URJ staff, each fellow will work directly with a Reform community to begin (or further) its work related to DEI and to determine the community’s current understanding of these practices, as well as to identify areas for improvement. With their congregational partner, each fellow will set goals and propose action plans to accomplish their specific goals, for example: incorporating inclusive media on congregational websites and social media that accurately reflects the diversity of the Jewish people; increasing new visitor attendance; understanding and addressing implicit bias; providing more inclusive programming; or attracting and sustaining more lay leadership from marginalized backgrounds.
Each fellow brings a broad range of leadership experience as educators, musicians, public policy professionals, activists, and nonprofit executives. Furthermore, this Fellowship serves as a pathway for fellows to become – or grow as – leaders in the Reform Jewish world.
Says Rachel Hall, URJ program manager for Audacious Hospitality, “We are already humbled by this cohort’s generosity, as they have offered up both their expertise and their lived experience in the name of justice. This work comes from the soul and requires immense amount of vulnerability and strength – and the contributions that this cohort is committed to making are key ingredients to the recipe for a whole, just, and inclusive Jewish community, where we can all find a home.”
As part of URJ’s 2020 Vision, Audacious Hospitality is a transformative spiritual practice rooted in the belief that we will be a stronger, more vibrant Jewish community when we fully welcome and incorporate the tenets of DEI work in all of our sacred spaces. The JewV’Nation Fellowship is grounded in the six Jewish values representing Audacious Hospitality’s guiding principles, including honor (kavod), watchfulness (zehirut), and open tent (ohel patuach).
The JewV’Nation Fellowship has been proudly funded and sustained by grants from the Leichtag Foundation, the Genesis Philanthropy Group, a URJ donor in collaboration with the Jewish Funders Network, the Jews of Color Field Building Initiative, and anonymous donors. This specific cohort is made possible by a generous grant by an anonymous donor.
The 2019-2020 JewV’Nation Fellows are:
|Pam Alcala (she/her) is the assistant director of youth engagement at Temple Sinai of Roslyn in Roslyn Heights, N.Y. Born and raised in Santiago, Chile, she came to the U.S. to study and received her B.A. and MSW from Adelphi University. She is the lead educator for Temple Sinai’s Leadership Academy for the teen programs, coordinates all 4th-6th grade youth programming, and assists with all other programming for the youth department (e.g. holidays and social/community service programs). She recently completed a fellowship through the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture on leadership development and Jewish identity education. Pam is happily married and has two beautiful children.|
|Becca Anolick (they/them) earned their B.A. in Jewish Studies at Muhlenberg College in 2017 with minors in Women's and Gender Studies and Creative Writing. They currently serve as a full-time Jewish educator at Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, N.Y. Becca loves incorporating joyful, project-based experiences into their classroom and youth engagement programs, and they are passionate about creative arts, nature, social justice, and Judaism. In their spare time, Becca can be found writing speculative fiction, testing new recipes in the kitchen, or participating in live-action role-play (LARP) events.|
|Denise Dautoff (she/her) lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and two daughters. She is a coordinator for the International Rescue Committee in the Health, Education, and Wellness Department, providing newly arrived refugees from Afghanistan, El Salvador, Eritrea, and Burma with support and guidance in applying for state benefits (e.g. SNAP, medical insurance, etc.). She holds a B.S. in business from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and is passionate about amplifying the voices of Jews of Color and creating pathways to support their growth.|
|Laura Flegel (she/her) is a feminist, LGBTQ+ anti-racism activist in Washington, D.C. Currently, she works as the legislative and public policy director of a nonprofit advocating for workers’ rights. She has a B.A. in comparative literature and a J.D., both from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Laura is the mom of an amazing daughter and in a 32-year partnership with a wonderful woman; she is also a super-proud aunt, sister, and daughter. An aspiring Jewish leader and writer/poet, she continues learning new things at her synagogue, Temple Shalom in Chevy Chase, MD. She loves her hometown of Chicago and misses Lake Michigan most days of the year.|
|Tamar Ghidalia (she/her) is an educator and professional musician with 30 years’ experience in leadership, mentoring, program building, curriculum development, and program management. In 2018, she was honored by Shir Tikvah with the Radical Hospitality Award for her work with the Racial Justice Task Force and in 2005 received the Paul Wellstone Call to Action Award for her work in racial justice. She has a B.A. in education and Hebrew literature from Paris Sorbonne University and a B.A. in music from the Conservatoire de Paris. In September, Tamar completed six years as the executive director of Urban Arts Academy, a nonprofit serving students and families through art-infused education. She is now an independent consultant passionate about developing partnerships between organizations and collaborating for success.|
Jill Housen (she/her) was raised in Claremont, CA, and received her B.A. in fashion merchandising from California State University, Long Beach. She is passionate about Judaism, sustainable fashion solutions, food, and reggae music. She is currently a buyer for a contemporary women's boutique and a loving caregiver for her mother. In her free time, Jill can be found working in her garden, spending time at the gym, and experimenting in the kitchen with vegetarian dishes. She is a firm believer that coffee is the elixir of life.
Al Rosenberg (they/them) is the director of strategy and communications at OneTable, as well as an engaging speaker, experienced facilitator, and accessibility pro. Al serves on the Mishkan Chicago Board of Directors, mentors through JPRO, consults for adult literacy programs, and edits young adult fiction for major publishing houses. A trained editor and small groups facilitator, Al has worked with clients throughout North America. Al lives in Chicago with their partner and hosts monthly Queer Shabbats for a growing list of more than 150 individuals.
Sean Samitt (he/him) proudly serves Temple Kol Ami in West Bloomfield, MI, as cantorial soloist, leading services and shaping his musical and liturgical vision with the help of his congregational band and choir. Prior to joining Kol Ami in 2018, Sean served many communities in Arizona in various teaching and musical roles while studying at Arizona State. In addition to his vocal strengths, Sean plays guitar, cello, violin, and piano, and he serves as a board member of the Guild of Temple Musicians, is a member of the Michigan Board of Cantors, and represents Kol Ami in the West Bloomfield Clergy-Community Forum. Sean is also a dedicated patient advocate and advanced practice pharmacy technician. When he isn’t teaching or on the bimah, Sean can be found watching YouTube and Netflix, writing music, and curating his collection of puns and corny jokes.
|Caroline Winstel (she/her) is a Cincinnati, OH-based doctoral student at Northern Kentucky University focusing on accessibility and inclusion in Jewish education. Living as a Jew with a disability, her drive to be an agent of change is a personal one; the reality of barriers to inclusion within our community is a daily lived reality. In her role as an educator, her mission is to work toward a more equitable future and create space where learners of all ages and abilities can develop a personal connection with their Jewish identity and community.|
About the Union for Reform Judaism
The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) builds community at every level—from the way we collaborate with congregations, organizations, and individuals to how we make connections across North America to advance contemporary and inclusive Jewish life. Providing vision and voice to transform the way people connect to Judaism, we help congregations stay relevant and innovative, motivate more young Jews to embrace Jewish living, agitate for a more progressive society, and foster meaningful connections to Israel.
Founded in 1873, URJ has grown into the largest and most powerful force in North American Jewish life, with nearly 850 member congregations and work that inspires, connects, and educates millions of people. Our legacy, reach, leadership, and vision mean that we can unite thousands of years of tradition with a modern, evolving Judaism to strengthen Jewish communities today and for future generations.
Visit us at www.URJ.org to learn about our social justice initiatives, camps and programs for young Jews, services for congregations and communities, and how you can work with us to create a more just, whole, and compassionate world. Enjoy related content at ReformJudaism.org and connect with URJ on Twitter and Facebook.