Who The Folk?! David Lauer

David Lauer’s connection to Jewish communal work comes from his family, but it’s not a place he thought he’d work. Now, however, he’s the coordinator of the popular NextGen program at Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Minneapolis. We talk more about his family ties to Jewish social service work, how he’s evolving NextGen, and what he’s planning for the organization this year, on this week’s Who The Folk?! Podcast.

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How long you been here at JFCS?

I started in November and it’s been a lot of getting my bearings and figuring out the community over here. I’m originally from the St. Paul area and both my mom and my grandmother actually worked at JFS of St. Paul for many years, so it’s kind of funny how I’m over here. I was pretty familiar with JFCS just knowing Jewish social services organizations and valuing that and wanting to work in that helpful nonprofit humanitarian context and originally. JFCS is built around the concept of Tikkun Olam, making the world a better place and healing the world, and I’ve built a lot of my life around my own personal conception of Tikkun Olam. My grandmother, who is a Holocaust survivor and she passed away about two years ago, but she a huge influence on me. Before college, I was a little removed from my Jewish roots but then realized in college that a lot of my human rights values in a lot of things came from my Jewish heritage. It led me to really want to reconnect and realign my own personal goals with sort of some of the Jewish traditions that I realized they were connected to. I feel like I can continue my grandmother’s legacy in some ways.

I think she’d enjoy that you’re working the Jewish communal space.

I really think she would and I don’t think she would have expected it either. She’s on my mind in part because today is March 15 and it would have been her birthday.

What have you learned about not just about NextGen as you’ve settled into the position?

I want to help connect people both meaningfully with their own thoughts and ideas and then also with good volunteer experiences and opportunities here around the agency. I think I’ve been able to do that, but there’s also a lot of learning to do. There was a lot of that NextGen was already doing but it also has and will continue to have a social role in the community. There are a lot of opportunities for really just fun social events, and I hope to be planning more of those in conjunction with the board, but I think the most important thing for me was that that not be the core focus.

What are some of the newer programs and events that you’re trying to get going?

One popular program that NextGen has done in the past was a rabbi panel and I’m sort of trying to figure out how we can bring that back in potentially a new way. We’re looking at doing a philanthropy panel in conjunction with Makom, probably this June although we don’t have a date set. I am really excited for another area that is a new program that we just have the pilot of last week called Tikkun Olam in the 21st Century. This one was focused on housing in the Twin Cities and we worked with Jewish Community Action. I’m really interested in looking at the intersection of Judaism and queer identity, and I have a couple of friends in the arts community who are really interested in looking at that as well. We’re also thinking about looking at Jewish history and immigrant history coming into Minneapolis. Once again that’s also a personal connection for me because my grandmother actually was resettled by JFCS 65 o4 70 years ago when she and her family came from Greece to Minneapolis.

How important is it to work with a lot of the organizations out there that are already doing some of this work already?

I think it’s really incumbent on us to not try and compete for resources our constituents instead reinforce each other and reinforce the community. I think that’s what NextGen should be is a connector for people to find valuable ways to engage and support the community.

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