Millennial Jews finding ways to connect on the North Shore

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Alex Powell and Toby Jacobson discuss the Six13 North program. Photo by Steven A. Rosenberg/Journal Staff

 

By Shelley A. Sackett

 

Last November, a group of young Jewish professionals gathered at the home of Congregation Shirat Hayam Rabbi Michael Ragozin to brainstorm ways to engage their fellow North Shore millennials. Ranging in age from 22 to 45, few of them   had met before and most knew the rabbi only minimally.

Yet all shared the same longing to create a vibrant local community of Jewish friends. They quickly focused on their purpose: To maximize the number they would connect with over the next six months.

They decided to apply for a $2,500 Combined Jewish Philanthropies Young Adult Community Grant to start the group. Named Six13 North after the 613 mitzvot in the Torah, it defines itself as “an open community of young professional Jews and friends with the stated mission to design environments to create, grow, and deepen connections on the North Shore.”

Within two days, recent college graduates Alex Powell and Axi Berman delivered a draft business plan. The group collaboratively revised it and on Dec. 21, CJP awarded the grant and Six13 North was officially launched.

Its first event, Hometown & Homeland, will feature a tasting of local spirits and Israeli wines paired with light snacks at the Bit Bar in Salem at 8 p.m. on March 8.

“We wanted to create a fun, low-barrier social gathering for young, professional Jews and their friends,” Rabbi Ragozin said. 

Subsequent plans include a cooking class, a networking event, and an outdoor recreation get-together.

“Many millennials have the view that temple doesn’t have to be a weekly trip for them to have faith,” Powell said. “My hope is to create a social experience in which participants take the lead and decide what they want to get out of it.”

The Swampscott native attended Temple Israel and Shirat Hayam and grew up in a religious family where Shabbat dinners were frequent and family and friends always gathered to observe Jewish holidays. As a recent Franklin Pierce University graduate, he thinks traditional temple affiliations are more appealing to young families than to “a post-grad still strapped with student loans. There are other means to feel connected.” 

Elliot Adler-Gordon attended the inaugural Six13 North meeting with his wife, Jenna. “People choose to be involved with religion when they find it to be meaningful, and I think that the synagogue-oriented Judaism that many people have grown up with over the past 40 years can be difficult to relate to,” he said. “This is why there needs to be a focus on creating alternative opportunities.” 

Adler-Gordon grew up as an “involved Conservative Jew on Long Island,” attending Jewish day school through high school and Jewish summer camp. He was very active in Jewish life at the University of Pennsylvania and met his wife during a junior year abroad in Haifa.

A product marketing manager at GCP Applied Technologies in Cambridge, Adler-Gordon moved to the North Shore a few months ago from the Brookline/Brighton area after Jenna was hired as the second-grade teacher at Epstein Hillel School. They left behind a strong group of Jewish friends.

“We knew, moving to the North Shore, that there is not much of an involved Jewish young professionals community, so I was glad to hear Rabbi Ragozin was looking for a group to create such a community,” he said.

In addition to sponsoring large events, Adler-Gordon hopes Six13 North helps people meet friends who share interests such as hiking in the mountains or sharing Shabbat dinners. “I am optimistic there are people who live on the North Shore who are looking to be part of a Jewish community,” he said.

Rabbi Ragozin’s plans go far beyond that. By empowering organic leadership within the group, he hopes this self-organized leadership team will design experiences that “create such a buzz that there’s a natural flow of millennials from Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Somerville, and Jamaica Plain into the North Shore.

“I’m speaking with as many millennials as possible. They’re hungry for spirituality and meaning. They’re looking to their faith tradition – Judaism – but not finding models from their childhoods that excite them today. They want the spirituality of social connections, Shabbat dinners, service projects, etc. Their first point of exploration is within Judaism, but up to now, they haven’t found it within existing North Shore Jewish institutions.

“Six13 North flips the script. We say, ‘You are the institution. You make it happen.’” 

To buy tickets ($10) for the Hometown & Homeland event March 8, visit bit.ly/Six13North01.

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Anti-Defamation League honors Swampscott native

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Diana Leader-Cramer

The Anti-Defamation League New England Region will present its 2017 Krupp Leadership Awards to Diana Leader-Cramer Moskowitz and Monica Snyder at its 15th Annual Young Leadership Celebration on Saturday, Dec. 16 at The Colonnade Hotel in Boston.

The award is given to community members who demonstrate outstanding dedication and leadership on behalf of the ADL.

Diana Leader-Cramer Moskowitz, a credit research analyst at Loomis Sayles, is one of the longest-serving members of the ADL Associate Board and has held various leadership positions, including co-chair of the programming and governance committees.

The Swampscott native credits Epstein Hillel School (then Cohen Hillel Academy) and her parents, “who lead and continue to lead by example,” for instilling in her a deep sense of wanting to give back to the Jewish community.

“Philanthropy has always been an important part of my Jewish identity and an important outlet for me. Despite working full-time and going to school part-time when I was pursuing my MBA, it was essential to me to stay involved with and support the causes that were important to me, such as the ADL,” the Wellesley resident and Washington University and Boston University alumna said.

After attending Cohen Hillel Academy, she volunteered as a teachers aid at the school and later continued her involvement with Temple Israel as a Torah reader until leaving for college. While in college, she continued to be an active member of the Jewish community, minoring in Jewish studies and becoming a member of the local Hillel and Jewish Student Union.

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Monica Snyder

As an employment lawyer at Fisher & Phillips, LLP, a national labor employment firm in Boston, Monica Snyder’s chosen field greatly influences her involvement at ADL.

“My law firm represents employers in dealing with a wide array of employment matters, including issues involving discrimination,” she said. “I became a lawyer, in part, to cure the injustices in this world,” the Boston resident and Amherst College and Boston University School of Law alumna added.

Snyder co-chairs the Glass Leadership Committee and the Young Lawyers Committee, which provides opportunities for Boston area attorneys to network and to generate discussions through round tables and speakers.

A group made up of members of several ADL boards, directors and the prior year’s winners selects honorees.

“Monica and Diana embody ADL’s values and believe deeply in ADL’s mission. They are both widely respected leaders,” said Daniel Hart, director of Development New England Region Anti-Defamation League and a member of the selection committee.

The Young Leadership Celebration was created 15 years ago to recognize young leaders with a once-a-year signature event and to broaden ADL’s reach in the young leadership community in the Greater Boston area.

Both Snyder’s and Leader-Cramer Moskowitz’s involvement with ADL started with their acceptance into the Glass Leadership Institute, a year-long program that meets on a monthly basis, giving young adults the opportunity to learn what the ADL does first hand about issues facing communities. Shortly after, each decided to take on leadership responsibilities.

“This program gave us the opportunity to meet with experts from across the organization and learn about the different ways they make an impact on a daily basis. Gaining a full understanding of all the important work the ADL does motivated me to stay involved,” Leader-Cramer Moskowitz said.

Actively engaged in ADL since 2010, she spent two weeks in Germany in 2012 representing ADL in its partnership with the German government’s Close-Up program.

“I learned about Germany’s history and modern Jewish life. I am passionate about the ADL’s mission of promoting equality and fair treatment for all,” Leader-Cramer Moskowitz said.

She is proudest of her role in helping to create the Breaking Barrier speaker series that brings interesting and engaging speakers that are important to the ADL and to the community at large. Last year, Khizr Khan, the Pakistani American parent of United States Army Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed in 2004 during the Iraq War, joined the group for a conversation on religious freedom, civil rights, and security issues.

The 2017 series welcomed Christian Picciolini, a former neo-Nazi who now helps others counter all types of racism and violent extremism.

“These speakers bring important topics to the forefront and engage the community in discussions about what is happening and also what can be done to combat hate and promote equality for all,” Leader-Cramer Moskowitz said. “ADL’s expanded efforts to combat all kinds of hate is something that is critically and increasingly important today.”

For more information or to buy tickets, visit: http://bit.ly/2B5ugUF

Creating intergenerational bonds the old fashioned way: by writing letters

by Shelley A. Sackett

 

 

Stanley Elementary School fourth grader Drew Hause couldn’t wait to go to school last Wednesday, June 7. Since October, he and 21 other students in Mrs. Sami Lawler’s class have corresponded with pen pals from the Swampscott Senior Center and today was the day they would finally meet them face-to-face.

 

The seniors were just as excited. For many who live far away from their own grandchildren, gaining a peek through the keyhole of a nine-year-old’s life over the course of the school year was a welcome treat during the long slog of the New England winter. Meeting them in person would be icing on the cake.

 

The intergenerational program was started years ago by Marilyn Cassidy as a way to connect seniors and young school children. For the first few years it was at Hadley Elementary School, then Clarke Elementary School, and this year its home base was Stanley.

 

 

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Pen pals Drew Hause and Shelley Sackett get ready to try their luck at bingo.

 

 

“The kids loved writing. They poured their heart and soul into their letters and I learned things while I was proofreading with them that I would otherwise not have known,” Lawler said, adding, “It was pretty special.”

 

 

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Mrs. Ami Lawler (second from left) and fourth grade class mom chaperones at the Swampscott Senior Center pen pal lunch.

 

 

Norma Freedman, of Swampscott, chaired this year’s Senior Center pen pal program. She has had a pen pal for many years, and even wrote to one girl throughout the summer while she was away at camp.

 

“It’s a lot of fun and it’s good for the kids. They know there’s someone in the world besides their immediate family that cares for them,” she said.

 

The biggest challenge for her? “They draw a lot on the envelopes. I’m not an artist and I don’t draw, but I tried to, to keep it interesting for them too.”

 

The students arrived at the Senior Center by van (courtesy of the Senior Center) clutching handmade decorated envelopes, presents and lunch. Their senior pen pals were already there, and squeals of delight filled the lunchroom as hugs, presents and — of course — letters were exchanged.

 

Thomas Mello presented his pen pal, retired social worker Bill Foley, with a last letter in an envelope covered with colorful drawings of his pets, a guinea pig and an aquarium full of fish. Unsurprisingly, his favorite part of the pen pal project was “drawing on the cards.”

 

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From left: Thomas Mello, Bill Foley and Caleb Jaeger-Kerr get to know each other over lunch.

 

 

After lunch, seniors and fourth graders played four rounds of bingo, bonding even more over lessons in frustration and good sportsmanship. Freedman reminisced how her pen pal won one game last year and hugged and kissed her. “He was so happy. It was like I gave him the world,” she said with a smile.

 

Holly Mello, Thomas’s mother and one of the class chaperones, touted the scholastic benefits of teaching kids to communicate the old fashioned way — through letters. “It’s a great way for the kids to have an applied experience to practice their writing during the school year. They have grandparents, but they see and talk to them often on the phone,” she said.

 

Even though he didn’t win at bingo, Drew Hause had a big smile on his face as he hugged his pen pal goodbye and enthusiastically invited her to continue the correspondence after school lets out for the summer.

 

He offered parting words of advice to incoming Stanley fourth grade students. “When you guys are in Mrs. Lawler’s class, and she asks if you want a pen pal, you should say yes. You’ll be so happy because then you’ll meet them and it will be so much fun!”