One of the worst things about living in DC is that with each summer, some of my favorite people leave.
I had planned on beating the system by staying here just one or two years – I would be the person who left, not the person left behind.
That plan failed.
But the silver-lining of this is that with each outgoing batch of friends, a new – potentially great – group of friends enters. True, these newbies require a bit of training, and it is a hassle, but the rewards outstrip these costs (see, e.g. GTJ leadership and friends Aaron and Noa).
This DC cycle is perhaps best embodied by the recent turnover at the Jewish Federation for Greater Washington. Lani Hart and Marisa Saltzman – two of the community’s best friends and most active participants – are leaving DC in a matter of days. Lani served as Assistant Director, and Marisa as Director, for Young Leadership at the Federation. NeXus, Shabbat Hoppin’, Jewnity, Sukkah Hop, Afikomen Scavenger Hunt, if you participated in any of these events (and many others), then you benefitted from the hard work of Lani and Marisa.
My personal debt goes much deeper. Lani is one of my longest-standing Jewish DC friends: She’s seen me make a fool of myself (multiple occasions?); she’s encouraged my involvement in many Jewish programs (e.g. Israel Diplomacy Fellowship); and she’s never once missed a chance to flag me down on 17th street, at Adas Israel, or at Sixth & I to give me a big hello and a smile. Lani also featured as Jewish Girl of the Week for this website!
Similarly, Marisa oversaw my participation in NeXus and really encouraged my increased Jewish participation. In one of the first NeXus classes, she asked me, in particular, to tell the group about my Jewish journey. I’d never really considered my Jewish journey that noteworthy before; growing up in Utah, I barely knew what a Jew was… But Marisa helped changed that.
Finally, it MUST be said that Gather the Jews could not be where it is today without the help of Lani, Marisa, and the other Young Leadership people at the Federation (Sarah Arenstein, Avital Ingber). They’ve been very supportive and have encouraged us to stay at it. For this, thank you on behalf of all of GTJ!
Lani and Marisa are both leaving DC, but they are not leaving the Jewish community, and they’re not even leaving the world of Federation. Lani will start a dual degree program at NYU that will allow her to continue her work with the Federation, and Marisa will soon start work for the Federation of Los Angeles. I know that NYC and LA have NOTHING on DC, but I’m sure these lesser-cities will be getting some major Jewish assistance.
As alluded to at the beginning of this article, for every exit, there is a similarly fantastic entrance. Former Jewish girl of the week Casey will take over as Director of Young Leadership at the Federation, and though I don’t know him, I’m sure – Andy, who is joining the team to bring the Presentense Fellowship to Jewish DC – is similarly great. We at GTJ look forward to working with Casey and Andy, but we also won’t forget, and we hope to stay in touch with, Lani and Marisa (GTJ in NYC and LA!!!!)
Thanks for everything Lani and Marisa,
Gather the Jews
To become a part of Young Leadership at the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, email Casey and Andy at: firstname.lastname@example.org