Young Leadership Spotlight: Carly S.


Why did you first get involved with Federation’s Young Leadership?

I was your average hyper-involved college student – balancing school with an on-campus job, leadership positions in various organizations and volunteer opportunities. Once I graduated from college and the initial appeal of free time wore off, I found myself wanting to engage with other groups I cared about. A mentor from my college job was working at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and encouraged me to look into a DC Community Birthright Israel trip that Federation sponsored for young adults in the area ages 22-26. I really hesitantly accepted a spot on the trip, thinking I’d drop out if I didn’t feel like going. Ultimately, I went on the trip and had the most incredible experience, and then I didn’t want that connection to end. Luckily for me, there are a ton of ways to get and stay involved in the DC Jewish community through Federation’s Young Leadership!

Where did you grow up and how did Judaism play a role in your childhood?

Confession: I am a Hebrew school dropout! I grew up on Long Island, NY, where I was surrounded by Jewish people and had a fairly standard introduction to the Jewish religion. I attended preschool at a synagogue, went to temple on the High Holidays and spent two afternoons a week in Hebrew school until I decided I didn’t really feel a connection to what I was learning for my Bat Mitzvah. That said, even though my parents graciously allowed me to discontinue my religious studies, there is something inherent about Jewish values that was always present in my youth. As an adult, I am primarily compelled by the ritual, tradition and culture of Judaism. My interpretation of Judaism in childhood was a great foundation for my understanding of what the religious .means to me now.

What inspires you to give to Federation?

I’m fortunate that through my involvement in Federation, I’ve been able to see the far-reaching impact of the work Federation makes possible, both within and outside of the Greater Washington community. From volunteering at a DC school garden during a NEXT DC Mitzvah Hoppin’ (a program of Young Leadership of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington) event to spending a day outside of Tel Aviv with IDF soldiers with special needs, Federation has made it possible for me to participate in their mission of pursuing tikkun olam (righteousness) in the ways that resonate most strongly with me. Beyond the work that Federation does, I simply love the people in the community. It is so incredible to me that even though I had no personal connection to the Greater Washington area before coming here for college, the Jewish community has embraced me so graciously and openly through my years of involvement. I am grateful for the opportunities I’ve been afforded through my involvement in Federation – it would be hard not to support such wonderful causes!

Tell us about your role staffing the Birthright Israel: DC Community Trip this month.CarlyS3

I am SO excited to staff a Birthright trip! In no small part to my own amazing trip leaders, this is something I’ve wanted to do for quite a while. I had a really wonderful experience on my own DC Community Birthright Trip back
in June of 2013, and was lucky enough to travel back to Israel in October of 2015 as part of The Jewish Federation’s NEXT DC Alumni Leadership Mission. As DC based trips, the connections made on the trip are unique and important as we get to maintain that community back in the states. For those who haven’t been involved in Federation before, I’m excited to help to introduce the incredible DC Jewish community to trip participants!

What are you most excited about this summer?

It might be the most obvious answer of all time, but going back to Israel is absolutely going to be the highlight of my summer! My past two trips have offered me two different perspectives and I am thrilled that I’ll be able to get a third look at Israel with another group of people. For the first time, I’m also planning to extend my trip for a few days and explore some places I haven’t been before. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with some Israeli friends, returning to some of my favorite spots and seeing some new ones as well!


Who is your Jewish role model and why?

My maternal grandmother, who passed away when I was 8. Not only was she the single best person I’ve ever known, but her involvement in the Jewish community greatly inspired mine. She served for many years as the Executive Director of B’nai B’rith Women and visited Israel numerous times. Aside from her professional involvement in Judaism, she and my grandfather maintained an true partnership in their 50 years of marriage, building a home strong with Jewish values. That’s part of why I love returning to Israel – it’s equal parts overwhelming and wonderful to find a place where I can feel a connection to someone I haven’t seen in nearly 20 years. She loved Israel enough to devote her life’s work to supporting such an incredible country, and it is incredible to be able to return to the places that were most important to her.