Local Jewish Changemakers on Building Networks and Connection During COVID-19

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

If I am only for myself, what am I?

And if not now, when?

– Rabbi Hillel

This summer, over 1,000 Jewish Changemakers Fellows, including 18 from Minneapolis and St. Paul, asked themselves these questions. This Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) Fellowship, intended to spark leadership skills and create some good professional contacts, inspires young adults to lean into their community and act at a time of unprecedented crisis and challenge. YALA Twin Cities Manager, Emma Dunn, and Minneapolis Jewish Federation Israel Programs Specialist, Amanda Feigin, worked with young adults seeking opportunities to plug into Jewish life, from leadership roles in the Twin Cities to educational programs in Israel, and facilitated exploration, reflection, and goal-setting during local cohort meetings with the Fellows. 

Fellows completed three weeks of intensive learning on professional development, global Jewish peoplehood, and service and advocacy. At its conclusion, Fellows were eligible for $500 stipends, a bank of recorded sessions and resources, and continued opportunities for engagement locally and nationally.

Below, hear what two participants had to say on the value of the Fellowship!

“After being an active member of the University of Minnesota Hillel and Chabab at U of M for the entirety of my undergraduate career, I was devastated when my final semester of senior year was cut short due to COVID-19. I valued my connection to the Jewish community on campus and to have my college experience end the way it did was heartbreaking. Luckily, some of my friends informed me about the Jewish Changemakers Fellowship. It gave me the opportunity to stay connected to friends I knew from college and the opportunity to meet new people. I also had friends who were from out of state and it was a great chance to be able to have a shared experience with them since we were physically distant from each other. The Changemakers programming built on the experience I had in college and centered around personal growth and connection to my Jewish heritage.  

After successfully graduating from the first cohort of Jewish Changemakers, I felt motivated and inspired to expand upon old connections and grow the new connections I gained during the Fellowship. This experience reconnected me to Jewish values and traditions I had missed so dearly and lost during the uncertainties of the pandemic. I have been celebrating Shabbat at home again with my family and immerse myself in conversations about Israel and other Jewish topics with my friends more regularly.” —Olivia Weitz, Cohort I

“As a recent college graduate, searching for a job during a global pandemic is a major challenge. Jewish Changemakers helped to fill that void and gave me resources like a mentor who helped me rethink how I was using my network. I learned from my mentor the importance of the connections within the Jewish Federation and similar organizations. After the Fellowship, I tapped into my Jewish non-profit network to get a job in my local Federation and deepen my connection even more to Jewish non-profits.” —Michael Alperin, Cohort I

President & CEO of JFNA, Eric Fingerhut, sums it up: “A Changemaker is never satisfied with the status quo—They know that we can do better.” Federations are proud to invest in Changemakers. The Jewish community needs visionary, dedicated volunteer and professional leaders as the engine of Jewish growth, vitality, and innovation. Now is the time for an entire generation to see the Jewish community as an opportunity for their dreams to be realized and passions fulfilled—and we’re proud to say that this Fellowship, and other opportunities with YALA Twin Cities, helps open the door for the leaders of today and tomorrow.


Interested in learning more about future sessions of the Jewish Changemakers Fellowship and other leadership and connection opportunities with YALA Twin Cities? Email YALA Manager, Emma Dunn, at [email protected]. YALA Twin Cities is the young adult program of the Jewish Federations of Minneapolis and St. Paul.