Young Professional Jewish Leaders Look to Improve Collaboration

Tribe12 members at a Jews and Booze local brewery tour. Courtesy of Tribe12

During Chanukah last year, Tribe12 and Moishe House Philly accidentally scheduled parties on the same day.

The issue was later resolved, but the instance suggested a larger community issue.

“It is hard,” said Moishe House member Gavi Weitzman. “Sometimes we have an idea, but it’s like, OK, something big is already happening that day.”

Philadelphia has a sizable population of Generation Z and millennial Jews and a host of Jewish organizations to support the population. From Tribe12 to Moishe House to synagogue affinity groups, there are numerous vibrant pockets of community. But with so many organizations, each with different personalities and programming, there are bound to be challenges, organization leaders said.

As 20- and 30-something Jews continue to make Philadelphia their home, organizations are adapting to how they work together to best accommodate them.

“We all have different schedules. We all have different staff members, different days exactly when we can do things,” said Rabbi Megan GoldMarche, Tribe12’s executive director. “None of it is malicious. There’s not a strong sense of competition. It’s more just a sense of, how can we communicate with each other without it being over-burdensome?”

This is a challenge for most organizations for Jewish young professionals. Before the pandemic, several organization leaders convened as JCoalition, an unofficial group that meets several times a year to discuss common goals, collaborations and programs. The group hosts an annual New to Philly Happy Hour, this year on Aug. 29, and other collaborative events.

Founded as a professional development organization, JCoalition transformed into a collective of young professional Jews each representing a different organization. As the pandemic waned, JCoalition member and Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia NextGen Director Susan Becker saw the group as a way to strengthen cooperative efforts.
“We know that competing for the same population is not going to be effective, so we want to kind of work together,” Becker said.

Many 20- and 30-something groups hold events in collaboration with one another, not only because it helps eliminate instances of events being booked for the same day, but also because it allows organizations with smaller budgets to host larger events and attract new members.

Tribe12 members at a goat cheese-making event. Courtesy of Tribe12

“Having co-sponsorship and co-collaborative events really allows for us to expand what we offer to the 20s and 30s Jewish community because, instead of having one small budget, if you throw in 15 small budgets, that’s a pretty big budget,” said Trent Works, director of engagement of the Jewish Graduate Student Network, part of the Greater Philly Hillel Network.

Not all organizations want to have collaborative events. Groups such as Spruce Street Minyan, which meets monthly in Center City, have a niche audience and enjoy serving a specific demographic.

“We fill a void that doesn’t exist in the city other than us,” said Spruce Street Minyan board member Melanie Hilman. “… We are the only young adult egalitarian minyan. And that in and of itself is attractive for egalitarian Jews who value that kind of thing. If Spruce Street Minyan met more frequently, we’d probably get less turnout, honestly.”

Groups agree that to be more efficient and organized, there should be some sort of organizational system or database to upload events. The question is, who will organize this system?

Moishe House, like Spruce Street Minyan, is run by its volunteer members who also have full-time jobs. They often don’t have extra time to invest in social media posts or extra projects.

“That’s a very big difference between us and other organizations,” Moishe House member Hannah Levi said.

Another complication is the changing use of social media among the intergenerational 20s and 30s population. Gen Z occupies Instagram, while millennials still use Facebook. Some eschew social media altogether.

“As someone who spends 23 hours on my phone a day, I don’t want to spend even more time on it,” Spruce Street Minyan board member Gidon Kaminer said.

Organization leaders identified a community calendar as a potential solution to the scheduling problem. In other cities with large Jewish populations, such as Washington, D.C., a separate organization oversees event coordination among Jewish groups.

GatherDC, a Washington, D.C.-based organization, provides similar services, sharing and organizing events for Jewish young professionals and creating a consolidated resource list.
“We know that the most common barrier is getting easy information,” said GatherDC Managing Director Alexandra Tureau. “Like, who has time these days to get on Google and Google about 500 organizations and just find the one that works for them?”

Created in 2010 as a grassroots nonprofit, GatherDC is funded by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and other donors. Tureau said that, like Philadelphia, D.C. has a large young Jewish demographic. With a large pool of resources and more time to connect one-on-one with Jews new to the area, GatherDC can meaningfully engage with young Jews to facilitate connection.

“It’s about connecting to the right people, and it’s about building relationships and a people-focused Jewish life,” Tureau said.

Sasha Rogelberg is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia.


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