As a proud Yemenite Jew, Lauren Gibli sees herself as a bridge linking the rituals of her ancestors to future generations.
“I’ve always loved continuing the Jewish traditions that my parents and grandparents taught me,” said Gibli. “By making a Yeminite dish or chanting a song, I act as a vector between past and present.”
It’s that mentality that inspired her passion for the American Sephardi Federation, an organization that documents the rich experiences of Jews from the Middle East and greater Sephardic diaspora.
An active member in the organization, Gibli saw that further work was needed to engage younger Sephardic Jews — so she founded the ASF Young Leadership Board this past January. There, she works with a group of 15 young professionals to create programming aimed at making Sephardic culture more relevant to younger Jews.
In starting the Board she made use of her leadership experience as a former president of Wharton Women, which represents 75 percent of undergraduate women at the University of Pennsylvania’s business school. As president, Gibli led a 12-person board, created publications, organized conferences and oversaw mentorship programs — all aimed at helping young women explore business-related careers.
“I saw first hand that a team is more than just a sum of its parts. With that in mind, I sought to find a harmonious balance between the many different viewpoints and strengths of the board members,” said Gibli, who now is a senior analyst at American Express.
Though the Board is relatively new, it’s already planned a handful of events, including dedicating one night of the ASF’s Annual New York Sephardi Film Festival to young professionals with dinner, drinks and speed dating after the film, and hosting an evening for young professionals at the new ASF exhibit, “Sephardic Journeys,” with talks by leading rabbis, live music and dessert. More social and educational programs are forthcoming.
“The general response so far has been very positive,” said Gibli, “but many young Sephardis just don’t realize what type of resources or social opportunities are available. It’s part of the Board’s mission to make them aware of these opportunities.”
Crying out loud: Gibli often cries “happy tears” when she laughs.