Young Leadership Spotlight: Jamie and Mitch

Jamie and Mitch are the chairs of Young Leadership’s Chai and Double Chai giving societies.

What are you hoping to accomplish in your roles as Chair of Federation’s Chai Society and Double Chai Society?

J: If we can have meaningful connections with people in our community who otherwise would not have known about Federation or felt comfortable engaging with us, that’s success. I want to bring people in, one by one, in a way that feels intentional and that meets them where they are. These giving societies are about an achievable commitment and a feeling of community. If we can accomplish that, I’d feel great!

M: I’d really love for our two new societies to let Jewish young professionals feel more comfortable and included. Becoming a part of the community and getting involved can feel so daunting, and I think the Chai society will make it much easier for folks to find their path. I hope that Double Chai society will then allow everyone to take the next steps further down that path and increase their involvement in the community.

How did your experience on the Alumni Leadership Mission prepare you to serve as a Young Leadership Board Member?

J: By connecting me to other young Jewish leaders in DC (Hi, Mitch!) and teaching me leadership skills—like how to moderate tough conversations, how to connect with your peers while also leading them, and how to tell a story in a way that makes an impact. But it also introduced me to what Federation is and how it invests in programs and people by seeing this in action.

M: The trip was one of the most amazing experiences in my life and assisted me so much personally, professionally and Jewishly in three ways in particular. First, it introduced me to so many terrific people (like Jamie!) who care passionately about the Jewish community, and have continued to do excellent work at Federation and many other outstanding Jewish organizations. Many of them also became close personal friends. (I think a table at my wedding was just people from our trip.) Secondly, it showed me how important Federation’s work is by seeing first hand many of the projects Federation supports in Israel. Whether by bringing Jewish and Muslim kids together to play soccer, improving the living conditions of immigrants from Ethiopia and Russia, or helping female entrepreneurs start their own business, so many organizations are doing wonderful work in Israel thanks to Federation’s support. Finally, I learned a lot about leadership and how it isn’t what people always think about it. Sometimes you need to tell your story and lead by example, but sometimes you need to nurture and encourage those around you. On a trip that was a little more than a week, I learned a lot!

Given your backgrounds and where you grew up, how did you find Federation and what inspired you to get involved?

J: I was not involved in Federation in my hometown of St. Louis, but the transient nature of DC led me to pursue a more permanent community here, like I had at home. That feeling of being surrounded by others who share your values and traditions in a place that can, at times, lack continuity—that’s what led me to Federation.

M: I am a native Washingtonian who grew up with many of the organizations that Federation supports. I went to Adas Israel’s pre-school, attended DCJCC’s summer camp, was part of USY, saw shows at Theater J and more. Federation has been with me my whole life. But I didn’t realize it until I was much older.

What really sparked my Federation involvement was a DC-based Birthright trip in 2011. I hadn’t been very active Jewishly since being confirmed, but going to the Western Wall on Birthright ignited my activism. It wasn’t actually going to the Wall itself that changed my perspective—it was great but didn’t wow me the way it does some people. What really inspired me was thinking what I was thankful for and what I wanted to wish for my future to write on a note for the wall. I hadn’t really considered that before and, after some time of reflection and consideration, I realized that being proud of my Judaism and an active member of the tribe was very important to me.

If someone wants to get involved with Federation, what is a good first step? 

J: Come say “chai” to me! It’s a little too hot for chai lattes this time of year, but Mitch and I will be holding coffee shop “office hours” in the fall and I’d love to get to know people one-on-one to find out the best way to connect them to the programs and people who are part of Federation.

M: I have two recommendations. The first is to just show up to an event! I would suggest going with a friend or two. It doesn’t have to be someone you know well, but knowing at least one person there makes it easier. But once you’re there, make a point of trying to meet new folks, so you have more friends to go to future events with. The other idea is to come to talk to me or Jamie or one of our awesome Federation staff. We’d all love to talk to you about our experiences and find the best way to get you involved. The coffee shop hours Jamie mentioned are going to be a great combination of both avenues, so make sure to keep an eye out for that in the fall!

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

J: Its inclusiveness, its diversity and its energy.

M: I love how diverse and active we are. There are so many different groups that focus in so many different areas, both within the Jewish community and outside of it, it can be hard to keep track!

What is your favorite Jewish tradition?

J: Shabbat. Hitting pause on the week, reflecting with friends and family, sharing a highlight of the week (a tradition I learned from friends in DC) and singing the blessings our ancestors sang thousands of years ago—it’s a perfect way to transition from week to weekend.

M: I love anything that is done together with others. Passover Seder is always a highlight of the year (especially since we’ve added a lot of songs and show tunes to our Hagaddah).  But, I really enjoy Havdallah. I don’t do it that often, but getting together with friends, getting in a circle with your arms around each other, and singing the prayers is really magical. We did a big group Havdallah at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in June during Reverse Mifgash (a reverse Birthright trip with Israelis from our DC-based Birthright trips). Joining together with our Israeli friends to do Havdallah in front of a DC landmark was unifying and inspiring.