That was a question that I was frequently asked, but could rarely come up with an answer that could adequately portray what it did for me and for others in the DC Jewish community. “We are nice to people and take them to coffee!” was my most typical answer. However, now that the fellowship is complete, I have a real answer for you: An Open Doors Fellow is a social individual who is not only interested in being a connector for Jews in the community, but also consistently interested in learning more about how to better the community. Open Doors Fellows explore the needs and interests of Jews in their 20’s and 30’s and strategize how to make life as a young Jewish professional more enriching and rewarding.
The Open Doors Fellowship was a successful and necessary next step for Gather the Jews. They have the events that cater to the interests of the community, but what was missing was connectors, people who would go with interested members of community to events that they were too nervous to attend alone; people who were trained to feel comfortable openly engaging in conversation at any size event. Gather needed individuals to help community members feel special, unique, and welcomed to an event. It is such a different experience to show up to a large event when you see a familiar face. If you have that, your comfort level can be immediately changed.
My Capstone project was an active way to engage a small group of young Jews and allow for meaningful conversation while exploring Washington D.C. Most of my coffee conversations were with Jews who had recently moved to D.C. and were looking for a group of people to do fun activities with. That’s exactly what my Capstone was all about; participants were able to do something fun with a great group of individuals. Attendees were split into teams and asked to take a picture doing ridiculous tasks. The tasks included: making a Jewish star with your bodies in front of the Capitol building, making a pyramid with strangers, doing the Beatles walk across the street, taking a ride on the carousel, and more. They also got to know a bit about each other by finding their home states in the WWII memorial. Following the scavenger hunt, I hosted a picnic in Meridian Hill Park so that people could continue their conversations, as well as meet members of the other team. I received wonderful feedback from participants who all felt like this was a great way to get to know the city more, as well as make some great connections.
If there is one thing I would take away from this Capstone, I would say, “don’t wait, just do.” You want to go up and talk to someone, but you are scared; you want to go to this event, but maybe it’s too far. JUST GO. I always leave events, dinners, happy hours and more, feeling happy that I did it. Whether I made a new friend, tried a new food, or just felt happy to be surrounded by peers, I’ve always made the most of every experience. Stop worrying, have fun, and you never know how much a simple smile or hello could make someone’s day.
Learn more about applying to be a 2017 Open Doors Fellow HERE!