21 November 2022
The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington is pleased to welcome Manny Menchel to our professional team as our new Chief Impact Officer. We sat down with Manny to learn more about his background and what he’s looking forward to accomplishing in his new role.
Tell us about your background and what attracted you to the role of Federation’s Chief Impact Officer?
My formative years were based in the St. Louis, Missouri Jewish community, where my parents served as Jewish educators and communal leaders. This set the stage for my own service, both in Jewish education and community development, and in Jewish philanthropy. In many ways, the role of Federation’s Chief Impact Officer is a healthy nexus of my two areas of interest. I have the opportunity to draw on my experiences building local Jewish community and infuse my work with skills and insight I have gleaned within the world of philanthropy and Jewish policy. There are no other entities positioned to drive Jewish life in North American communities like federations can, with their unique mix of resources, network, and professional talent. I believe that investing in federations can yield unparalleled returns. I am honored to be a part of a forward-thinking Federation and Greater Washington’s vibrant, dynamic, and warm Jewish community and excited about what is ahead.
What about working in the Jewish communal world are you most passionate about?
As an educator at my core, I am most passionate about building a Jewish platform that is predicated on empowerment, exploration, and experience. When members of our community are empowered to explore ways in which Judaism is personally relevant, and enabled to experience Judaism’s gifts first-hand, we won’t be caught up with questions surrounding continuity; we’ll be too busy living rich Jewish lives.
What do you see as the greatest opportunity for Federation at this pivotal time?
As we emerge from a global epidemic, western society remains in the throes of a social and emotional epidemic. Individuals are stuck. Children, teens, and young adults are especially lonely. The social fabric that has promoted thick ties within communities has atrophied, and many social constructs that have driven cultural unity and ensured a sense of belonging are broken. One of the byproducts is that individuals maintain fewer allegiances to particular organizations.
In the midst of these challenges, I believe Federation can yield great long-term impact on two fronts. The first is empowered Judaism. We have an opportunity to provide individuals the paths, capacity, and networks to explore the ways Judaism can be most relevant to them and enable them to develop and own a deep relationship with Judaism and Jewish community. The second is the family and the home. Judaism’s strength has long been predicated on a strong model of family and generational connectedness. I’m particularly excited about the opportunities that can emerge from bolstering the Jewish home and supporting families with young children.
A core component of your role is leading Federation’s Strategic Planning & Allocations. Why is this work so critical?
With a finite set of assets available to the community, every choice for directing resources and allocating funds comes at the expense of alternative meaningful opportunities. We need to understand that with our sacred work we have the sacred responsibilities that come with tradeoffs. There are many worthy partners who offer incredible value to the Jewish community. It is our job to identify those whose work will uniquely lift our people and drive community, to enable us all to connect with purpose. From ensuring that each member of the community feels a deep sense of belonging and has access to Jewish learning and literacy, to sustaining the relational fabric that ties us together, we must recognize our role as the core unifying entity of Jewish life across Greater Washington. With our unique vantage point as a central convener of all facets of our Jewish community, we must lift up our partner organizations and the lay and professional community leaders who invest beyond themselves, offering their talents to raise us all. Though we can’t support every program and initiative, if we are strategic in deploying our resources and finding synergies amidst the multitude of offerings in our region and around the world, we can achieve a significant, lasting impact.
What do you like to do in your time away from the office?
Oh, so many activities! I love to dance. I am my happiest on a dance floor. Some of my other favorite activities include cooking and hosting, reading on a beach, and walking alongside large bodies of water. I am blessed with a tight-knit family, and while geographically we find ourselves in disparate locations, we prioritize sharing time and space. Lastly, I love live music. I listen to music throughout the day, but I find added spiritual nourishment from live music and shared song.