Young Leadership Spotlight: Ally S.

What was your favorite memory from the 2015 NEXT DC Alumni Leadership Mission?
There are too many to name! One of my favorite moments was visiting a city called Lod, which has a very diverse population full of Jewish Israelis (religious, secular, Ethiopian), Arabs and Christians. Our group had the opportunity to visit the Chicago Community Center – Ramat Eskol Lod and interact with partners in the Youth Futures Program. This is one of the Jewish Agency for Israel’s flagship programs that provides community-based mentoring for at risk children.

We were introduced to eight children from Lod: three were Israeli and five were Arab. My group worked with a ten-year-old Hagar. The girl spoke Hebrew and Arabic, and we had to work on a number of activities like building a bicycle that would be donated to the center. Despite not being able to speak the language, we drew pictures and made hand gestures to complete the tasks. Hagar also named our group Butterfly, which translated in Arabic is farashah. The entire time she had a smile on her face as we completed the tasks at hand.

The most enlightening portion of the event was when we interviewed the children about the experience. They felt excited that they completed the activity and happy to have new bikes. And I teared up as I saw two boys Adam (an Israeli) and Ahmed (an Arab) walking arm and arm talking about how much they enjoyed working together and being friends.

The Arab volunteers who helped us facilitate the activity explained how despite all the current conflict happening in the country, this program gives them hope to see children working together and that they could see potential.

I hear there’s an upcoming Mitzvah Hoppin’ event called Everything but the Turkey – can you tell me what Mitzvah Hoppin’ is and a little bit about this event?
Mitzvah Hoppin’ is a group for 20s-and-30s-somethings in the DC community that provides us with opportunities to volunteer locally and meet other young adults. Our first event of the Jewish New Year is “Everything but the Turkey” where we’ll help prepare over 20,000 servings of food for people in need in the DC metro-area for Thanksgiving. The Jewish Federation partners with DC Central Kitchen and the Edlavtich DCJCC and the food we make will be distributed to over 90 local homeless shelters, transitional housing facilities, and community kitchens in DC. The event is on Sunday, November 20 and I hope to see you there!!

What is your favorite Jewish food?
While I do make an award winning kugel, I would have to say my mom’s brisket, because isn’t everyone’s mom’s brisket their favorite?

What is your favorite thing about the DC Jewish community?
I enjoy that while DC may not be my hometown, it is the place I now call home. I’ve grown up and lived in different places over the years (Chicago, Orange County, Michigan), and it’s nice that while I’m not from here, a lot of people are on the same boat as me and I’m no longer the ‘only’ person from somewhere else. I’ve been able to create my own community that has its own unique traditions, as well as learn about my friends’ different Jewish experiences.