Newsletter   /   May 2022
We Have a Future in This Sector: Q&A with Leadership Fellows

Branches with buds and Stars of David, We Have a Future in This Sector Q&A with Leadership Fellows

Almost 7 months into our New York Hub’s Leadership Fellowship, our Fellows are reflecting on their experiences and learning with new perspective. They have completed their first placements—temporary positions at Jewish nonprofits in New York City—and have already begun their second placements at different Jewish nonprofit organizations. Amidst their busy calendars, we asked the Fellows to pause and think back to their accomplishments, learning, and new visions for the future that they have cultivated throughout the Fellowship.  


What projects did you work on while at your placement that you feel proud of, and what was your role? 

TOVA HARRIS: I’ve always been fascinated by the power of imagery. My first placement was at Hannah Senesh Jewish Day School. It’s always concerned me that Hebrew school text and imagery used online and in Jewish spaces haven’t been updated since the 60s or 70s. I thought it was a great opportunity for me to bring on a friend who is a photographer to take pictures of families at Hannah Senesh and create a kind of “Humans of New York” experience. We gave the opportunity to all families, not just families who are Jews of Color, so that the families could then opt in to having pictures taken and used for Hannah Senesh brochures. This project highlights how many types of families exist in Jewish spaces. It turned out really nicely, and hopefully Hannah Senesh will have a photo gallery in the next year to showcase these photos. 

MARYAM CHISHTI: I was also at Hannah Senesh, where I did a mix of projects, such as helping to brainstorm around interfatith engagement. I talked to different partner schools to brainstorm different ways to get their students and our students together. I also helped facilitate a lot of different community service projects; each grade had their own community service themes, so I brainstormed with them what would be feasible within project guidelines. I was also in the classroom helping out where need be. I was learning Hebrew with the first graders every day and just getting to be part of the school. 

JULES DUZE: I was at JCC Harlem with Kavi. At the beginning, I was mostly shadowing their existing programs and my project was creating my own program. I put together a trans and gender nonconforming panel with the intent of spreading awareness and raising general Jewish knowledge about trans and gender nonconforming folks. That’s one area of my own identity that has caused a schism between me and Judaism, so I wanted to help bring to life this opportunity for communal learning. 



What does professional development look like in the Fellowship cohort sessions? What sessions were most impactful for you? 

KAVI SUBRAMANIAN: The one thing that really stuck out to me was when we had a session with Yehudah Webster. He talked about organizing—what it looks like and what it means—and I think putting words and definitions to concepts was really useful to me and illuminated different ways you can make a positive social impact. 

TOVA: In general, I’ve never had a nonprofit or organization focus so much on self-care and betterment. I feel very appreciative and lucky that the Jews of Color Initiative has really created a mindful approach (by way of community guidelines, grounding techniques, etc.). There’s a very mindful way in which work that could possibly be emotionally overwhelming is being done with us every Friday. I’m very thankful to Riki and to JoCI for creating that. For me, I really enjoyed sessions in partnership with UpStart. I really appreciated the ways we figured out our personal values. I also haven’t had curriculum that looked at Jewish text from a JoC lens. That was offered for probably the first time in my life by these Friday sessions. 

JULES: I really enjoyed a session led by Whitney Weathers from UpStart. We talked about self-advocacy and celebrating ourselves. It wasn’t until this fellowship opportunity that I realized those feelings of imposter syndrome (or worrying that if you do something wrong you’ll lose an opportunity) and feelings of pressure don’t have to be there. Instead, there’s an investment in our potential and the reassurance that we belong here and that we’re worth developing. There’s a healing aspect of being reminded and reassured there is a space for us, there are connections in the field we can turn to for mentorship, and that we have a future in this sector.  



What are your thoughts on JoC communal space? In what ways do you hope the JoC and general Jewish communities grow? 

MARYAM: Something I’m passionate about and would love to see in JoC space is the merging of interfaith Jewish identity. I’m someone who has an interfaith background and that’s a huge part of my Judaism. When I look for a Jewish community, I look for spaces to be welcoming of interfaith backgrounds, and sometimes I’m met with a lot of trepidation or questions about which one I really am. I’ve had great experiences in places that have been so supportive and welcoming. Interfaith inclusion is something I’d love to see in JoC spaces because I think that’s going to be a huge part of what JoCs look like in the future. I’d also love to see Jewish institutions making space for Jewish creative arts and theater so JoC stories are authentically told. Art really reflects how people view Jews and what the Jewish community looks like. I hope for the Jewish community to make space for JoCs to really be out there and integrated with the whole community, while also having some spaces to be by themselves. Jews of Color should feel and be safe and healthy in both of those spaces. 

KAVI: I think that it’s really important and valuable to have spaces and institutions that are our own. I don’t want to see segregation, and I’ve had wonderful Jewish experiences with white Jews as well, but having those institutions and spaces exist and not just within other institutions helps them really feel like they’re our own spaces. There’s something categorically different when you get to be in a space that’s filled with Jews who are all non-white people. It’s a precious experience. I hope more non-white Jews are able to have that in the future. I think when you have your own institutions or spaces, you’re able to create a culture. If you want to affect a cultural shift, I think the way to do that is to create something that is our own that says, “we’re not guests here.” I think that will enrich the entire Jewish community across the board. 


You can learn more about our Fellows and the New York Hub, supported by UJA-Federation, New York, on our website. 

Date Posted

May 2022


Jews of Color Initiative