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08/01/2023 10:01:41 AM


Lauren Silva, Director of Youth & Family Engagement

Every so often, I find myself falling down the rabbit hole of checking what programs or opportunities are available for Jewish young professionals like me. Since moving to the Bay Area, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Late Shabbat programs and JCC events for the 20s and 30s crowd and they’ve helped me meet people in a region where I knew very few people my own age, especially Jews. But one day in November of last year, I came across a website for a group called J Leaders. I had always thought of myself as a leader, and the “J” (standing for Jewish) checked out as well. I quickly found out the organization offered something incredibly valuable: a six-month long academy that blended Jewish wisdom and socialization with career development. Unfortunately, the cohort at the time had already started and I wasn’t able to join. But after looking at the list of past alumni, I saw people I knew from various parts of my life! I also agreed with the J Leaders’ mission to empower participants to make the world a better place and their belief that our careers and our Jewish values can be a great vehicle for doing so. I wanted to get involved somehow, and a few more clicks on the website led me to their volunteer page. An opening for a philanthropic associate seemed perfect: I already work at a nonprofit, but have no experience doing financial development at such a large scale. This could be a great way to learn while also doing something for the community. I filled out the form and waited for a response. 

Much to my surprise, PTS’s own Dan Abouav was the person interviewing me to become a volunteer! He told me about how young an organization J Leaders is and how I could help. Curious and impressed because I knew the academy (which had only existed since 2020) already had so many alumni that many of them were my peers, I realized the impact of the program must be something special. I let Dan know that I was excited to help J Leaders and its founder, Peter Hoffman, with writing grants and learning how to manage philanthropic donor relationships. As time went on, my hunch proved to be true: J Leaders is offering something unique to Jewish young professionals, and does so in a welcoming and accessible way. While contributing to the organization’s goals then and now, the team has been so generous and supportive as I learn something entirely new to me. Though I’ve done fundraising in the past, it was still a little scary to hit “submit” once our team’s application for a grant had been pored over enough to qualify as a final draft. I still find myself learning more and more as J Leaders evolves and expands its reach throughout the community, and feel lucky to be able to help contribute to something meaningful to me.

J Leaders as an organization has provided me so much, even as a philanthropic associate. New skills, a positive and friendly team, and knowledge about the niche of Jewish young professional causes are an amazing asset to me at this point in my life and career. I haven’t even experienced the regular academy yet, but I’ve heard only incredible things about it and I’m excited to help the team recruit for the next cohort. Even without the academy, I was able to be another recipient of the J Leaders’ mission since volunteer work served as career development simultaneously. I’m very excited to observe our growth and excited to see more members of PTS get involved, as we recently had Keith Tandowsky join the J Leaders board. Most of all, I wanted to share this story of how my search for a fulfilling way to spend my free time has turned out to be a success in meeting people, learning, and doing good for others. Even though I wasn’t sure I’d be able to offer much in an area I had no experience in, others saw value in me and my willingness to help. As the summer is in its closing half, may you and your families be blessed with the tenacity to try something new and see the beauty in it, whatever it may be. 

J Leaders is currently accepting applications for the 4th Academy cohort, which closes August 31. Click here for more information.

If you don’t fall under the 25-39 year old range for the Academy but would like to be involved, check out J Leaders is always looking for ways to partner with the Jewish community.


Mon, June 24 2024 18 Sivan 5784