Young Leadership Spotlight: Benjamin M

Young Leadership Spotlight: Benjamin M

Mazel Tov on your new role as Young Leadership co-chair! What are you most looking forward to?

Using the position to find a Jewish wife. Kidding. That said, along with my co-chair, the YL Board, and the wonderful professional staff, I am thinking about our ability to reach young couples and young families. We have amazing programming and engagement opportunities for young professionals and we have an incredible opportunity to extend that to young couples. Our Federation is a real leader in multi-generational engagement. To keep that going, I hope we can find creative ways to further engage this cohort. It’s important that our local Federation, as well as Federations all over North America, continue to find new and innovative ways to strengthen the Diaspora, and young people are a crucial component.

What’s something interesting we should know about you?

I am hoping to complete my first marathon (the Marine Corps Marathon) in October. Running with people is one of my favorite ways to get to know someone or catch up. You are welcome to join me on a training run anytime! Also, I’m a fan of all things Philadelphia especially it’s food scene and the sports teams. I will defend the city’s honor any time, any place.

Benjamin M

What is your favorite Jewish food?

Mommom Rita’s brisket. My grandparents have been married for 67 years and her brisket keeps getting better. In fact, my 90-year-old grandfather, Poppy Myer, complains that she only makes it when I am home in the Philly suburbs. I’m pretty decent in the kitchen, but I can’t hold a candle to hers.

What do you love most about DC’s Jewish community?

We don’t have a one-size-fits-all approach. We recognize that this is a transient town and have embraced the concept of “Make it Yours.”  Our Federation really respects and values the input of young professionals. We are active members of Federation’s Board and even have a seat at the Executive Committee table.  Very few communities really lead this way.

Benjamin M Obama

What is one piece of advice you like to live by?

Get to yes. Many of us live hectic lives both professionally and personally. Whether you are at the office, with friends, or volunteering – you know that feeling when you are asked to do that one extra thing. It’s easy to say no and it’s the first thing that typically pops into your head. I’m too busy, too tired, stretched too thin. Taking a step back, I like to ask myself if there is a way I can get to yes.  It’s almost always worth it.

Ben M at River

We heard you recently traveled to Israel to learn more about the work Federation does overseas. What’s one thing that really resonated with you?

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), one of our partner organizations, spoke to us about the Jewish communities’ ability to respond in times of crisis. Whether it was supporting women in Nepal suffering from PTSD, responding after the earthquake in Haiti or, providing relief after the super typhoon in SE Asia, the community is nimble and activates quickly. Gideon, a JDC representative, talked about the reaction from partners when he arrives in a command center and announces that the Jewish community is here – often in places with little or no Jewish people. As you might imagine, it’s a look of surprise and confusion. Tikkun Olam extends to the world and we respond in times of need. The mission participants were truly moved by Gideon’s explanation of JDC’s role in crisis response.

Additionally, for the first time since 1999, I was able to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus was crucified and is said to have been buried and resurrected. Watching enormous crowds enter the church and the emotional reaction as they pass through this holy site was incredibly moving.   At one point during our walking tour of the Old City, which included a stroll through the Arab Souk/Market and the Christian Quarter, we had an aerial view of all three holy sites — the Dome of the Rock, the Kotel/Western Wall, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. They are in incredibly close proximity in the Old City and being there in person gives you an appreciation for different cultures and religion.  It’s not perfect but it’s respectful and gave me a feeling of hope and optimism. I try to be supportive of all faiths and cultures and I wish more organized trips took groups on this walking tour and into the Church.