Meet JLW

Meet JLW: Deb Fink, Director of Family Learning

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Q: What is your name, title and role at Jewish LearningWorks.  How long have you worked here?

A: My name is Deb Fink and I’m the Director of Family Learning. I rejoined the staff of Jewish LearningWorks in 2015 and have worked here for a total of 7 years, since 1999, in various roles related to youth and families.

Q: Where do you live and what do you like about your neighborhood/community?

A: I live in Berkeley and can’t imagine living anywhere else! In addition to how much I value the natural beauty, the wacky vibe, the outdoor lifestyle and the social politics, I have found that it’s the right Jewish community for my family. We’re out-of-the-box and hard-to-label in terms of observance but that works just fine at our shuls, Netivot Shalom and Beth Israel, as well as the many other Jewish organizations we frequent.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your journey - what did you do before you joined our team?

A: After finishing my M.Ed. in School Counseling, I went to work in New Hampshire. Wow. As someone whose entire childhood and young adult life were spent immersed in Jewish communities, I found myself figuring out what it meant for me to be Jewish in a place without other Jews. Through a deep dive into my own beliefs and practices I wound up spending three years in Israel, learning and growing and exploring my Jewish path while working with camps, teen tours, and other educational programs.  As opposed to the Jewish education I grew up with (which was focused on acquiring specific knowledge in order to observe traditions, participate at synagogue, etc) I came to understand the role Jewish engagement can play in developing a sense of purpose, meaning and identity.  Since that time, and throughout my subsequent career as a Jewish educator, I have sought out professional opportunities that focus on Jewish learning that is transformational for the learners.

Q:What excites you about your work

A: I’m excited about empowering parents to raise children in Jewish homes that feel relevant and meaningful to their unique families. Our modern communities are extremely diverse and we are developing innovative approaches to “meet them where they are”.  Jewish LearningWorks is a place where I feel supported to experiment with new ideas and where I have fantastic colleagues to turn to for collaboration.

Q: Describe a time that you really felt like you/your work made a difference

A: One fabulous summer in Israel, I was the Director of Ramah’s Day Camp for English speakers that mostly served families visiting from abroad. I loved designing the program and supervising the staff who led educational activities on campus and tiyulim around Jerusalem. It was very inspiring to see the children developing their relationships with Israel, many for the very first time, and to be guiding the team that was facilitating that process.

Q: Describe a time that felt really challenging for you.

 Deb and her family on vacation in 2016

Deb and her family on vacation in 2016

A: One of the years I co-directed the Diller Teen Fellows program, we had to make the difficult choice to cancel our summer Israel trip due to the outbreak of the second intifada. This was heart wrenching for me and I struggled to make peace with the decision. Given that the teens had spent many months learning text and participating in projects related to social justice to prepare for the trip, we searched for an alternative experience. Even though it wouldn’t be in Israel, we wanted the group to have the opportunity to volunteer, contribute to people in need, and explore Jewish identity in a different part of the world. In the end, we traveled to Costa Rica and had a very meaningful experience of service work as well as an interesting visit with the Jewish community there. This turn of events was quite significant for me because I wound up marrying the guy who ran the program in Costa Rica!

Q: Tell us something that might surprise us.

A: I am blessed to have wonderful 8 siblings from my highly blended family.  And, since my children have 12 first cousins from my side of the family and 13 from my husband’s side, there is never a dull moment when we visit relatives!

Q: What are you reading? 

A: I just read “The Magician’s Assistant” by Anne Patchett. She is one of my favorite novelists and I tend to read her books, or something similar, every year on Pesach. I struggle to find time to read for pleasure on a regular basis so I take advantage of those 4 days of chag to grab myself a good page-turner!

Q: What do you want to be remembered for?

A: I hope that I’ll be remembered as someone who was there for others in their time of need.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet JLW: Rachel Dorsey, Director of Marketing

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What is your name, title and role at Jewish LearningWorks.  How long have you worked here?
I’m Rachel Dorsey, Director of Marketing.  I’ve worked with Jewish LearningWorks since 2013  - right when we changed from BJE to JLW.  I was originally hired as a consultant and have held several pieces of work in various configurations since then.

Where do you live and what do you like about your neighborhood/community
My family and I recently moved from Oakland to the North Bay. We’re still figuring out how our family fits in here… I’ll tell you what I miss about Oakland - every single day I would run into a friend on the street.  I stopped in my old neighborhood for 30 minutes last week on my way through and ran into a friend.  It doesn’t happen in our neighborhood yet, but I’m sure it will soon. 

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Tell us a little bit about your journey - what did you do before you joined our team?
I started my career in wine marketing, focusing on “new media” content production back when Youtube, Facebook and Twitter were brand new. After a life-changing Birthright trip, I reconnected with my roots, moving into the Jewish non profit world as director of Birthright Israel NEXT in the Bay Area.  When the national organization shifted their operating model, I was offered a job directing marketing for a local bank.  I simultaneously received offers to consult.  As my consulting portfolio grew, I left the bank and hung a shingle as a business growth consultant.  Jewish LearningWorks was my first BIG client.  My relationship with JLW has grown and deepened since then.

What excites you about your work
My colleagues are brilliant.  They are creative, they are engaging and they care so deeply about our purpose: to empower educators and parents to flourish as learners and as Jews.  I love crafting a compelling message that helps our constituents imagine the impact they can have on the kids in their lives as a result of participating.  I’m especially excited for our newest initiative, Voices for Good. Created by women, for women, Voices offers two tracks.  One for emerging and one for established leaders.  I would have really benefited from the Fellowship earlier in my career and I've already benefited from the very first East Bay Salon.  I'm looking forward to the next one.

Describe a time that you really felt like you/your work made a difference
I feel incredibly lucky to sit at the intersection of everything that goes on in this busy place. I feel like I’m making a difference every day.

 Our CEO with Rachel's Son, Levi

Our CEO with Rachel's Son, Levi

Describe a time that felt really challenging for you.
Since joining the team, I’ve become a mom and then became a mom of two.  Being a working parent is no joke.  Figuring out how to juggle it all and be present for it all… it’s a challenge. But in this job and in this place I’ve never had to choose who I’m going to be.  I get to bring all of me to the table.  Each facet is considered an asset, and my colleagues love my kids. That’s incredibly empowering.

Describe a time when you felt triumphant.
When we emerged from our strategic plan, our work was significantly streamlined.  We were concerned that the community might not understand our direction and might not support the choices we made.  I had the opportunity to work closely with our senior leadership to craft our communications around the transitions and when the positive kuddos rolled in…. triumph.

Tell us something that might surprise us.
In addition to my work with Jewish LearningWorks, I operate a successful business.  While I still consult for businesses and coach entrepreneurial woman, my main business (outside of JLW) is a full service film production company.  I’ve had the great fortune to produce and direct projects for Facebook, Mixbook and Whole Foods, among others.

What are you reading (and what would you like to share about it?)
It's incredibly challenging to find time to read, so I've been listening to a lot of podcasts lately to maximize my drive time. BUT - my mom recommended Anita Diamant’s The Boston Girl and once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down.  

 Officiating a wedding and being referred to as Rabbi Rachel for the rest of the night... 

Officiating a wedding and being referred to as Rabbi Rachel for the rest of the night... 

What do you want to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered for my can-do attitude and my head-down work ethic.
But more than that, I want to be remembered for chesed (loving kindness).

And the time people thought I was a Rabbi.  That was pretty great.

Meet JLW: Vavi Toran, Israel Education and Arts Specialist

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What is your name, title and role at Jewish LearningWorks.  How long have you worked here?
My name is Vavi Toran, I am the Israel Education Specialist and I’ve worked here for fifteen years, not continuously.

Where do you live and what do you like about your neighborhood/community?
I live in San Francisco, in the now trendy NOPA neighborhood. I loved the neighborhood when I moved in with my family close to thirty years ago for its diversity and urban grunge, and I love it now because it’s cool, young and buzzing with activity, great cafes and restaurants.


Tell us a little bit about your journey - what did you do before you joined our team?
I was raised in Israel in a bohemian artistic family and I was always involved with arts & culture or with education or with both. My life and work journey was inspired by these two passions. I dabbled in graphic design, furniture design, ketubah calligraphy and paper cut, teaching, and finally found my niche combining my love for art and my love for Israel as an educator. At Jewish LearningWorks I found a home that allows me to pursue both as an integral part of our philosophy of what constitutes high quality, multi faceted, experiential Israel Education.

What excites you about your work?
I’m excited when I hear and see how educators and students are impacted by the work we do. I also get excited when, in the course of my planning for a new workshop or creating a new resource, I discover things that I didn’t know about or make connections that I didn’t make before.

Describe a time that you really felt like you/your work made a difference.
It happened last week. I was invited to dinner with three local educators and two who are visiting from Israel. It suddenly dawned on me that I had, in one way or another, an impact on them, their school and their students. The two Israelis are teachers from the Democratic School at Eynot Yarden in the upper Galilee. Twelve years ago the Israel Education Initiative, whose founding director I was, initiated a school-twinning program that matched schools from Israel and the Bay Area. This collaboration is still ongoing for this school and several other local schools. Another teacher sitting at the table was using Apartment for Rent in her classroom this week - a program we started as Classic Israeli Tales, with a Puppet Show set created by Peter Olson. And the last connection was a Head of Judaic Studies, whose Jewish Day School is one of the pilots for On the Map program, which I created two years ago. I had a wide smile on my face while eating delicious Chinese food.

All of this and much more was accomplished in partnership with my beloved former colleague and brilliant Israel educator,  Ilan Vitemberg.

Describe a time that felt really challenging for you.
Israel education is challenging by definition. I welcome this ongoing challenge as it keeps me on my toes and pushes me to find different ways to present it and teach it.

Can you share something you are particularly proud of?
I just found out that I am being honored for my contribution to Israel Education at the upcoming  Yom Ha’atzmaut Community Celebration at Congregation Emanu-El, as one of seven torch lighters. I am humbled and excited that my work is being appreciated by our community.

Tell us something that might surprise us.
My real first name, as it appear on my passport, is Avishag. It’s a biblical name. Avishag was a young woman from Shunem, distinguished for her beauty. She was chosen to help King David in his old age. One of her duties was to keep the King warm in his bed. Well, it was cold in Jerusalem in the palace with no central heating! I usually refer to my namesake as the biblical version of the electric blanket.

What are you reading (and what would you like to share about it?)
Nili Mirsky, brilliantly translated the book I am reading, Fierce and Beautiful World by Andrei Platonov, from Russian to Hebrew. Laureate of the Israel Prize for Literature, Mirsky recently passed away in Israel. I am reading the book to honor her memory.

What do you want to be remembered for?
Since I don’t take myself too seriously... for my joie-de-vivre and for my great taste in shoes.

 

 

 

 

 

Meet JLW: Jenni Mangel, MA | Managing Director, Professional Learning

Our staff team is comprised of incredible leaders, thinkers and doers.  People whose work brings us ever closer to achieving our mission to advance Jewish learning that enriches lives, and that enables the learner to flourish as a human being and as a Jew.

In this installment of Meet JLW we feature Jenni Mangel, MA | Managing Director, Professional Learning.  We're thrilled to have her back on our team after a 10 year consulting break. 

Q: Where do you live and what do you like about your neighborhood?

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A: I live in El Cerrito, just north of Berkeley. I love that we can walk or bike just about everywhere. When we moved here we knew two people in the neighborhood. Over the last ten years we've made so many connections in the neighborhood I can rarely walk the dog without running into someone I know!! 

Q: Tell us a little bit about your journey - what did you do before you joined our team?

A: I came up in the field of Jewish education by way of Habonim Dror, synagogue schools and Israel experience. My family is a mashup of religious practice and affiliation and I have lived pieces of my life across the spectrum of Jewish practice. As a young student I developed very keen ideas about what makes for good teaching and learning environments and before I left high school I decided I wanted to "teach teachers," though I didn't know what that would look like.  

I earned a BA in History with a Minor in Education from UC Santa Cruz - my work there centered around immigrant rights in France and multicultural education. I later earned my MA in Educational Leadership from Mills College in Oakland where I focused on service learning as a tool for identity formation of college students. Over the years, I developed a love for program design and evaluation. My professional jaunts include a variety of roles across the community including at Berkeley Hillel, Jewish Vocational Service, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, and the Albany Y. 

All these experiences contribute to the work I do to align learning, community involvement, and leadership with personal and spiritual development. I feel honored to teach teachers - and also the administrators and lay leaders to support them!

 This was my first (and only) trip to Las Vegas - to celebrate my 40th birthday with many of the gals I grew up with in Habonim Dror. The friendships we created over the years at camp and while living in Israel together run deep. Now many of us are sending our own kids to Habonim Dror camps and love to see this new generation of relationships flourish in that environment.

This was my first (and only) trip to Las Vegas - to celebrate my 40th birthday with many of the gals I grew up with in Habonim Dror. The friendships we created over the years at camp and while living in Israel together run deep. Now many of us are sending our own kids to Habonim Dror camps and love to see this new generation of relationships flourish in that environment.

Q: What excites you about your work?

A: Over the years I've had many mentors and angels who gave me support, advice and encouragement at just the right time. I can't necessarily go back and do the same for those folks, but I am able to "pay it forward" and help other people develop their work as educators.

Q: Describe a time that you really felt like your work made a difference.

When I worked at Berkeley Hillel I had an office with a big window that faced the hallway. When students would leave for break, I always invited them to send me post cards from their travels. I put each one up around the window and they became points of conversation and connection. I still have all those postcards (in a binder now), but, more importantly, I still have relationships with many of those students, some of whom are now colleagues of mine in the field of Jewish education. Every once in a while one of them will tell me a story about something I said or did that helped them along their own Jewish journey or their professional path. It's gratifying, and humbling to know that I helped influence people. 

Q: Describe a time that felt really challenging for you.

A: In grad school we were given an "ethical dilemma" writing assignment. I chose to write about the tension between program design that is client-need based and program design that is funder-driven. In nearly every job I've had this tension has played out and it is always a challenge. There are so many dynamic and creative ways we can respond to so many varied needs in the jewish community and it is often so very difficult to find adequate financial support. More than once I've had to sunset stellar programs because they did not have an angel funder and did not have a viable fiscal model.

Q: Describe a time when you felt triumphant.

A: I always feel really good when I finish writing a lesson plan. I like the process of thinking through what I want to teach and how I can structure it.  It's fun to see what happens when I go into the classroom, respond to the live environment, and deviate from the plan!

Q: Tell us something that might surprise us.

A: Hmmmm... I went to bowling camp one summer as a kid... 

 I got snuggly with a baby goat at the Harley Farms Goat Dairy in Half Moon Bay as part of a friend's 50th birthday celebration last year!

I got snuggly with a baby goat at the Harley Farms Goat Dairy in Half Moon Bay as part of a friend's 50th birthday celebration last year!

Q: What are you reading?

I just re-read Madeline L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time" with my kids in anticipation of the movie's release in March 2018. This was one of my all time favorite books when I was young and I've read it many times as an adult. I love that it has multiple female characters and that the young people are the ones that solve the problem that the adults created (also, I love sci-fi). When I was young I found that message to be inspiring all on its own. Now, as a parent, I find it to be an important reminder to me about how I, and the adults with whom I work and live, need to make sure we make space for, listen to, and respect the young people in our lives. 


Q: What do you want to be remembered for?

Honesty, integrity and kindness. 

Connect with Jenni for support in educational leadership or program design, congregational coaching or custom professional learning opportunities.
jmangel@jewishlearningworks.org