Mitzvah Maker – Yael

by Gather the Jews Staff / December 12, 2012

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Yael Eisenstat is a founding member of The Survivor Initiative.  The Survivor Initiative is an organization that raises money to provide support to Holocaust survivors living in poverty. 

Aaron: What brought you to DC?
Yael: I moved here from California for graduate school.  I caught the “Africa bug” early on, and I knew I wanted to work in this vague world of international affairs.  SAIS seemed to be the right place to embark on that path, so here I still am.  I’ve moved overseas or elsewhere in the US several times over the years, but DC has remained my home-base.

Aaron: What’s your favorite thing about the DC Jewish community?
Yael: I love that there is such a variety of passionate Jews involved in global, national, and local issues.

Aaron: What Jewish organizations are you involved in here in DC? Do you have any current projects?
Yael: I am a founding member of The Survivor Initiative, a volunteer-led national effort that raises awareness and funds for Holocaust survivors living in poverty.  When I returned to DC last year, I was seeking a way to make more of a difference in my community.  I had focused so much on working in Africa and in the foreign policy world, that I had lost sight of also working within my own communities.  When Rachel Cohen Gerrol told me one evening about the funding shortfalls for programs supporting Holocaust survivors living in poverty, I was shocked.  I immediately knew this was the cause I wanted to dedicate myself to, and I joined her effort to form the Survivor Initiative and raise funds to support the amazing work of organizations such as the Jewish Social Services Agency (JSSA).  The idea that someone who survived such an overwhelming tragedy could possibly end his/her years in poverty right here in the US is both mind boggling and shameful, and we are dedicated to making sure these survivors are not forgotten or neglected.  In fact, we are in the middle of our Hanukkah fundraising campaign.  If I may make my plug now, you can read more about the fundraiser and even make a (tax deductible!) contribution through this link:  You can also visit the team site through that link and contribute to the pages of any of our 13 amazing members, as it all goes to our one team effort.

Yael with the Survivor Initiative co-founders, Max Lipnik and Rachel Cohen Gerrol- both JGOTW alum.

Aaron: Where can we find you on a Friday night?
Yael: Ahh, the Friday night question.  That continues to evolve as time goes on.  These days, I try to keep my Friday evenings open for invitations to Shabbat dinners (Hint hint, GTJ readers!).

Aaron: Who is the coolest Jew?
Yael: Ever?  Yael, my namesake, from the Old Testament was a pretty butt-kicking hero, so I’ll stick with her!

Aaron: What do you want to be when you grow up? 🙂
Yael: My 8th grade yearbook predicted I would be the President of the United States.  I suppose anything is still possible.  But for me, when I grow up, I want simply to be happy.