Who the Folk?! Todd Sandler

Welcome to “Who the Folk?!” Every week on Monday we feature a new member of our Jewish community. Know someone we should feature? Nominate them by sending an email to [email protected].

Last week we got to know Molly Bloom. This week meet Todd Sandler!

TC Jewfolk: Are you from the Twin Cities?

Todd: I am. I grew up in Golden Valley, born and bred.

TCJ: And you’re in charge of NextGen!

Todd: What’s that?

TCJ: Uh oh, I think I have the wrong Todd Sandler.

Todd: Yeah, I think you might…

TCJ: Is this awkward now?

Todd: Yeah…

TCJ: Well, all the questions we prepared were about NextGen, so could you maybe talk about NextGen anyway? Maybe start with what it is and how it started?

Todd: Of course! NextGen exists to deepen connections within the community to JFCS. As many people know, the organization is 105 years old, and the agency determined about five years ago that we needed to launch some sort of effort to connect people to what we’re doing here in the community. There was a void in the community, especially in terms of hands-on volunteer opportunities. We were reading that a lot of people in this Millennial age bracket were looking for ways to get involved and ways to give back to their local community, so NextGen was born out of that need.

TCJ: Can you give some examples of what you’re doing to build that community, specifically?

Todd: NextGen is really three things. We have events every month. They range from personal and professional development events, to social events, to large-scale volunteer opportunities. For example, in December we have the annual JFCS Hanukkah Festival. We have 30 or so volunteers there to work with the kids and work different stations. We also have large-scale social events, like at moto-i over the summer. And we do an annual rabbi panel where we invite 5-6 different rabbis to have a conversation about modern issues that engage the Jewish community. Plus more.

TCJ: How did you personally get involved with NextGen?

Todd: I had been working for the Sabes JCC for a few years, and I remember there was a point in which I reached out to Zoe Stern, who was my predecessor, and inquired about volunteer assistance for the program I was running at the time, BBYO. I became aware of the fact that there was this amazing group of people in NextGen who were trying to get involved and better the community. And after having a meeting with her and trying to figure out how to get volunteers for BBYO, there was also a place for me to get involved. So I applied for and was accepted to the board in June, 2013. I was on the board for about three months before Zoe resigned, and I was approached and asked if I would apply. So I transitioned into actively being in charge of the program.

TCJ: What is your personal favorite part about NextGen and JFCS?

Todd: I love seeing people that move to town wanting to connect with Jewish people in their age group. It’s amazing how we’ve been able to connect these people and actually provide them with a community, almost overnight. Also, for the people who grew up in this community, it’s been really great to be able to help them to build new connections with people that they may have lived side-by-side with, but never really had a relationship with. So I really feel like the program is successful in creating this community. And it’s not a NextGen community–it’s not a JFCS community–we’re building a cohesive Jewish community. When I meet with people, I’m constantly telling them about the other opportunities in town–like Beth El Young Adults, and Adath’s Makom program, and Temple of Aaron’s TAXY program, and Temple Israel’s young adult efforts. I want them to look up TC Jewfolk, too! So that’s been really rewarding to be somewhat of a conduit for connecting people with this community.

TCJ: Are you involved with any other TC organizations?

Todd: Yeah, I sit on a committee for Herzl Camp, I’m a volunteer with BBYO, I’m a big brother with the JFCS Big Brother/Big Sister program, and I joined the Rimon: Jewish Arts Council board this year.

TCJ: What is your favorite way to celebrate Shabbat?

Todd: I have the greatest time when friends of mine invite me and my girlfriend Dana over for dinner. I never really quite understood the impact that a Shabbat dinner could have on a week. And knowing that you have this dinner at the end of the week, that you’re going to be gathering with good friends and able to just enjoy a relaxing evening together, is surprisingly pretty awesome.

TCJ: What’s your favorite Jewish food?

Todd: Would you say that a pastrami sandwich counts? A deli-style pastrami sandwich?

TCJ: Of course!

Todd: Then, yeah. Pastrami on toasted challah.

TCJ: That bread choice is not going to sit well with one of our board members, Jeff Mandell.

Todd: Well… I did just have really good pastrami on rye at Canter’s in L.A., but I’ll still stick with pastrami on toasted challah.

TCJ: Have you been to Israel?

Todd: I haven’t! I’m actually terrified of being on a plane for that long. I signed up for Birthright three times and backed out before leaving each time. Because of the plane ride.

TCJ: Finally, give us one more reason why you’re folking awesome! 

Todd: I’m very committed to building community, and genuinely just want to meet as many people as possible and connect them to what they’re passionate about.

Click here to nominate your favorite TC Jew to be featured on our weekly Who the Folk?! series!