The Jewish Week’s annual 36 Under 36 honors young leaders, entrepreneurs and change-makers who are making a difference in the life of Jewish New York. For the full list of this year’s “36ers,” click here.
What do you do?
I am the co-founder and executive director of Ammud: the Jews of Color Torah Academy. I am also a davener, a Jewish songwriter and musician.
How did the pandemic affect your work?
I stepped into leadership at Ammud just after the pandemic descended upon us. We had actually been experimenting with hybrid learning prior to then, but COVID sent us into a fully virtual mode. That means I’ve been learning the ropes of leading a nonprofit organization in this alternate reality. The pandemic expanded Ammud’s base beyond our home in New York City. I have friends and colleagues now in Texas, California, Hawaii, Barcelona and beyond. As much as we’ve longed to turn pages together in person, growing this community across time and space has been an extraordinary blessing.
Was there a formative Jewish experience that influenced your life path?
During my first year at Davidson College in North Carolina, I remember learning a passage from Genesis in my humanities class. A question arose about the text, and suddenly I noticed the whole class was staring at me. In that moment, I felt internally that I could choose whether to honestly tell them that simply being Jewish did not mean I was an expert on the Bible, or to actually delve deeper and begin to take on this tradition I called my own. My journey of learning Jewishly as an adult has spanned realities of exclusion and inclusion and is a constant reminder not to take any moments of euphoria in this tradition for granted.
What’s your favorite place in New York to take an out-of-town guest?
Jackson Heights, hands down.
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