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Meet Valerie: Jewish Woman (International) of the Week!

Meet Valerie and other Jewish People of the Week at our Jewish Person of the Year Celebration on May 10th!

Get to know Valerie Brown – lover of “brinner”, The New Yorker, re-runs of The Office, and empowering women and girls nationwide. Read on for our exclusive 1:1 interview!

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Valerie: I was living in France, and a bunch of my college friends had all moved to DC. It seemed like they were having a fun time out here, and I was having a lot of FOMO. So, on my way back from France, I stopped in DC and wound up getting a job here doing design work.

Allie: Why did you transition from design work to the nonprofit organization you’re at now?

Valerie: After the 2016 election, I really wanted to see my work affecting people and feel like I was making a positive difference. I wanted to be at a company that had specific goals to improve the world. JWI (Jewish Women International) – an organization dedicated to supporting and empowering women and preventing domestic violence – was a perfect fit.

Allie: What has most inspired you at JWI?

Valerie: Women to Watch, which happens annually in December, is when we honor 10 Jewish women in our community who are leaders in their field. Getting to interact with them was incredible. They have so much good advice and insight, and are so successful in both the business world and in life. Rabbi Dana Saroken was really amazing; she runs The Soul Center in Baltimore, and I just really connected with what she had to say.

I also admire the Mother’s Day Flower Project that JWI does every year. People donate $25 and JWI sends a Mother’s Day card to whoever you choose. The donation helps send bouquets and financial literacy resources to domestic violence shelters across the country. A lot of time, women who have experienced domestic violence have never received flowers with love, and this shows them that we hear you, we are here for you, and we support you. This year, it feels more relevant than ever. Also, I also designed some cool shirts, sweatshirts, and tank tops to benefit the project.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to spend Shabbat?

Valerie: With my good friends (and past “Jewish People of the Week”!) Molly Cram and Jackie Zais. We rotate hosting and making dinner for our friends. Recently I made “brinner” (breakfast for dinner) for everyone. This is one of the reasons we put together the upcoming Reclaiming Ritual Retreat – we love spending Friday nights celebrating Shabbat together, and we want to explore Jewish rituals like this with others.

Allie: What do you like to do on a rainy day?

Valerie: Go to a cozy coffee shop and read a book! I’m plagued by “New Yorkers” stacking up every week and would also love a chance to read those.

Allie: What’s a quote that motivates you?

Valerie: “This too shall pass.” It’s reminds me to lean into those moments when you’re feeling really down, and just be present – feel all the feelings. Being able to embrace the painful feelings ultimately helps inform who you are.

Allie: What is your favorite Disney movie?

Valerie: “Moana”, definitely because of the song ‘You’re Welcome’ – I just really identify with that.

Allie: Who is the coolest Jew you know?

Valerie: My brother/future rabbi, Timmy. He inspires me to be a better Jew every day.

Allie: How do you like to relax and destress?

Valerie: When I’m not out at a Jewish happy hour, I’m probably watching Netflix and crocheting on my couch. Right now, I’m rewatching “The Office”.

Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Valerie: I want to quote my pal Liz Lemon and say “I want to go to there.”

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

All Aboard: Why I Joined JWI’s Young Women’s Leadership Network

board 1Washington, D.C. and I are about to celebrate our 5 year anniversary. A lot has changed for me in those five years: I have had 2 great jobs, started graduate school, seen friends move here and then move away, met a great guy (and endured some less-than-quality time on OK Cupid…), and seen the streetcar finally carry passengers up and down H Street. Some of these five years have felt all over the place, but one of the most important constants for me has been my involvement in Jewish Women International’s Young Women’s Leadership Network (YWLN).

JWI’s mission is powerful: to end violence against women domestically and abroad, and to ensure that women and girls are empowered to control their financial futures. JWI staff are just as likely to be found in the halls of Congress educating Senators about the intersection of domestic violence and gun violence prevention as they are to be training young women on college campuses about how to manage their finances or negotiate their first salaries. The Young Women’s Leadership Network is just one way in which JWI has shown its commitment to supporting women at every phase of their lives. As a founding board member of YWLN, it has been immensely satisfying to create a space for young women to learn professional skills while meeting their personal needs, targeting themes that range from how to quit your job and start a business to how to merge divergent Jewish traditions with a significant other or roommate.

To me, DC has always felt hyper-focused on self-serving professional opportunities. But YWLN is different. Memorably, in our first year we hosted a breakfast with a corporate leader at Scholastic. I watched as a conversation between our speaker and a young engineer began with how technology can encourage education reform, but quickly morphed into advice on how to negotiate a promotion, and ended with a broader question about how to create a more personally fulfilling career. This is just one example of how, in intimate settings, YWLN provides the space for women at the top of their fields to “pay it forward” by melding personal and professional advice in the same way that it is melded in the real world. Our members are empowered to serve as mentors to each other within our network as well, helping each other through the seemingly minor but often difficult decisions of building a career and a life.

In the United States, almost 85% of those who serve on boards of non-profits are over the age of 40. Many wait to join a board until they consider themselves professionally successful or wealthy enough to donate monetarily. Conversely, being on a board at the beginning of my career has provided me with a way to continue to educate myself, build my professional network, design programming that speaks to me and my peers, and begin to instill the habit of giving time when money is not as available. Without the daily pressures or bureaucracy that come with working on the staff of an organization, YWLN has given me the opportunity to take the “30,000 foot view,” engage in strategic conversations about innovative programming, and establish the mission and vision of our young organization.

I hope you will consider joining me on the YWLN DC board and help us as we continue to expand. In just the past year we have opened a new chapter in NYC, baked babka with a well-known chef, learned about public service from Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and celebrated Mother’s Day with a fundraiser that benefitted survivors of domestic violence. Be a part of what happens next! Applications will be accepted from now through June 1 and can be found here!

The Power of Young Women

If you look on their website, Jewish Women International defines their Young Women’s Leadership Network (Sponsored by The Sondra D. Bender Community Leadership Institute) as a group that bring together Jewish professional women in their 20s and 30s to grow as leaders in their workplaces, their communities and their personal lives.  The group is meant to build community for Jewish women at a time when it is often hard to find your place in society. The years immediately following college and beyond are by no means easy. There is pressure from all around to be successful, find a partner, get promoted, workout, learn how to cook, have kids, you get the idea. This is where the Young Women’s Leadership Network (YWLN) comes in.

I’m fairly new to DC, having only been here six months, so I was thrilled to come across a group to which I immediately felt connected. JWI does great work across the US working on domestic violence prevention, building healthy relationships, and teaching women the skills they need to be financially literate. Joining YWLN allowed me, a young professional living in DC, to be a part of their great work as well as grow myself as a leader.

This was my first time attending their third annual Young Women’s Leadership conference. Being familiar with JWI’s great work, I knew I could expect a good conference. What I didn’t know though was just how incredible and truly inspirational of an experience it would be. Rachel Horowitz, Talent Associate at Hillel International says, “I loved hearing all of the speakers. It was a really inspiring to hear from successful women and how they overcame various challenges in their lives.” The conference filled the room with inspirational and talented women both behind podiums and in the audience.

IMG_5936It was a truly refreshing experience to see that everyone in attendance was there with the genuine hopes of learning, growing, and building community. I am of the belief that if I learn one thing that I can apply to my life then the conference was a good use of my time. This conference however left me with so much more. Some of my favorite pieces of wisdom include:

“Women do not get what they deserve, they get what they negotiate”

“You don’t have to have all your ducks lined up to take one step forward.”

In the past six months the Young Women’s Leadership Network has truly become a part of my growing community and I am thankful for all they have done for me. For any woman that is new to the DC area or just looking to get involved I would highly recommend checking out the network!

Get involved with YWLN in D.C. or New York by liking the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/youngwomensleadershipnetwork) and attending an upcoming event (http://jwi.org/ywln)! Email saltschuler@jwi.org with questions, comments and ideas.   

JWI’s Mother’s Day Flower Project: Give Mom a Meaningful Gift & Help Women in Need

JWI momA Meaningful Mother’s Day Gift for Loved Ones and Women in Need

Guidance, wisdom, unconditional love… a tissue from her purse, a scolding you’ll eventually thank her for… Mothers are constantly giving to us; but what do we give back?  This Mother’s Day, May 11th, give your mom – or all the important women in your life – a gift that expresses how much you value all the mothers of the world.

Jewish Women International (JWI) is making this holiday special for some of the 45,000 women and children spending Mother’s Day in battered women’s shelters. We can make a difference for these survivors of violence while we celebrate the women we love. JWI’s Mother’s Day Flower Project lets you give a gift that honors everything Mom has given you – and the person you have become because of it.

Through the annual Mother’s Day Flower Project, JWI will send bouquets of flowers, as well as beauty products from OPI Products, Inc., to 200 shelters across the United States.

Here’s how it works:

  • You choose an inspiring woman in your life – mother, sister, wife, daughter, friend – and make a $25 donation to JWI in her honor.
  • JWI sends a beautiful card, which will arrive by Mother’s Day, to each designated recipient, stating that a charitable contribution has been made in her honor
  • JWI uses proceeds from the sale of these cards to send beautiful bouquets of flowers and baskets of beauty products to domestic violence shelters on Mother’s Day
  • Your donation funds JWI’s work year-round.

You can buy your Mother’s Day Flower Project cards online at www.jwi.org/fp.

For more information, please contact JWI at 202-857-1300 or flowerproject@jwi.org.  All gifts to JWI are tax-deductible.