Young Leadership Spotlight: Mitch Malasky & Jeffrey Finkelstein

Jeffrey Finkelstein (left) & Mitch Malasky (right) at Mitch’s 5th birthday party.

For Young Leadership’s 2018-2019 program year, we’re proud to present a duo that has been in development for decades. Childhood best friends, Mitch Malasky and Jeffrey Finkelstein are taking the reigns as Young Leadership Co-Chairs and we couldn’t be more excited about it! So we asked them, what inspires their work in our Greater Washington Jewish community.

Why did you decide to become a leader on the YL board?

Mitch: On my DC-based birthright trip in 2011, I had a bit of a revelation at the Western Wall. It wasn’t the wall itself, it was writing a note to put in the wall and trying to think of what I’d like for my future.

I was ultimately swayed by what President Obama said at his inauguration “We are the one’s we’ve been waiting for.” If I want Federation and the DC Jewish community to thrive, I can’t just wait around for someone to do it. I feel like it is my responsibility to do everything I can to help, and joining the YL board has been the most effective and fun way to do my part.

Jeff: For generations my family has been involved in supporting the Jewish community. I was raised with strong role models and the concept of l’dor va dor (from generation to generation). Jewish continuity is important to me and serving as a leader on the YL Board enables me to be an active, contributing member of my Jewish community. The wide-ranging, impactful work of our Federation makes volunteering particularly meaningful.

Tell us about your favorite Jewish memory…

Mitch: There are many, but two stand out. One is signing the Ketubah at my wedding. We did things a little differently and signed it as part of the ceremony. It felt really amazing to participate in this tradition and [for my wife and I] to affirm our commitment to each other in front of our family and friends.

The second was on my birthright trip. Right when we reached the top of Masada, one of the Israelis [on our bus] pulled on me and a few other folks.  We locked arms, jumped around, and chanted “Achim, Achim, Achim” (meaning brotherhood or family). I was exhausted and out of breath, but invigorated to celebrate the connection I built with friends a world apart who I didn’t know the week before.

Jeff: It is tough to specify one particular favorite memory, but when I think of the holidays, good Jewish memories come to mind. Dipping apples in honey, enjoying matzoh ball soup and lighting Chanukah candles with family and close friends are fond Jewish memories that I cherish.

What makes the Greater Washington Jewish community unique?

Mitch: Being in the Capitol, the DC Jewish community is in a unique position to be the role model for the rest of the country. Besides the government, there are so many organizations, non-profits, advocacy groups, etc. that are headquartered here that we have the opportunity to engage with. Additionally Jews from around the country and around the world move here, so we’re a melting pot for the Jewish community, representing Jews of all walks of life.

Jeff: The Jewish community in the Greater Washington, DC Metro area is longstanding and tight-knit. In addition, the area can be quite transient and attracts individuals and families from across the country and around the world who come and go with the ever-changing political winds. The fact that so many people choose to stay in the DC area is, in part, a testament to our warm and welcoming Jewish community. The combination of families who have called the DC-area home for generations, and people who decide to make DC their new home contributes to the strength and diversity of our Jewish community and that is what I think makes it unique.

Where is your favorite summer spot in the DMV Area?

Mitch: In the city, I feel at home either on the softball field (I captain a JCC league team) or at Nats Park. I also love walking around on the boardwalk in the Navy Yard neighborhood where I live.

Jeff: Favorite?  There are so many wonderful summer spots around DC. That said, catching a game at the ballpark is always fun!

How do you feel about the upcoming year with Federation’s Young Leadership (YL)? What can we expect?

Mitch: I am pumped for the upcoming YL year! It’s been a quiet couple years as we’ve undergone some transitions and evaluated how we should be working. But with new staff, some new volunteers and new plans, we’re ready to hit the ground running! I think we can expect new and diverse programming that speaks to Jews of all interests. We’re going to have more classes for community members to learn more in-depth, meaningful community service events, social experiences, like our signature event ImpactDC that we’re reimagining and bringing back. Plus we’ll be working more with our partner organizations to highlight the great work that they’re doing. So we have a whole lot in the works and we hope that everyone will join us and enjoy!

Jeff: Our board is comprised of incredible members of the community and our staff is just superb. That combination—talent and execution—is why I am so excited about this upcoming year for YL!

Mitch (left); Jeffrey (right)