Samantha Dubrinsky: Awe. Excitement. Unity. Fear.
THE BJF IN FOUR WORDS
Samantha Dubrinsky, a recent graduate of Birmingham-Southern College, works at The Birmingham Jewish Federation as a Projects Assistant. Samantha also is a participant in The BJF's new Leadership Writing Project.
By Samantha Dubrinsky
Awe. Excitement. Unity. Fear.
These four words describe how I feel about my work at The Birmingham Jewish Federation. These words, much like my work, are diverse and unpredictable. As a Projects Assistant, my schedule is never 9 to 5, and my work changes week to week.
When I started working with Joyce Spielberger, BJF Director of Community Relations and Overseas Programs, I expected my work to focus on projects within our Jewish community. While that is a large part of the job, a lot of my work also involves our broader Birmingham community. My amazing job provides me with the chance to tie two loves together: bettering Birmingham and advancing Jewish values.
The BJF has a long arm that reaches across the globe to make life better for people in Israel and other faraway regions. One way we do this is by funding projects through The BJF's Israel-World Jewry Bureau (IWJB). Through our IWJB allocations process, members of our community can submit requests, advocate for organizations and try to help them get funding. At times, the process leading up to the final IWJB meeting can be arduous, and the meeting itself lengthy. I was a little nervous heading into my first meeting; however, Joyce reassured me that it would be a great experience.
So, the meeting took place, and I couldn't believe what I was witnessing. I was amazed as I watched people advocate and debate as to which organizations should receive BJF funding. Committee members had spent time and emotional energy getting to know the organizations. It was exciting to know we were all working toward the same goal: strengthening Israel and Jewish communities abroad. To say I was in awe does not really do this process justice; I believe that being involved in this process is one of the most important things I have done at The BJF.
PALPABLE & CONTAGIOUS
More recently, I had the chance to work with BJF Director of Outreach Caren Seligman on establishing a project known as PJ Library. Through PJ Library, Jewish children in Birmingham can receive free, Jewish-themed, age-appropriate books. Caren asked me to help make our database current so the books could be mailed promptly.
What excited me most about this project was the passion Caren has for PJ Library. Hearing her talk was intoxicating -- her excitement was palpable and contagious. Our Birmingham Jewish community can reap tremendous benefit from this project. Our children will receive books in the mail that reflect Jewish themes and values, enforcing and enriching their learning. Before I knew it, I was telling people about how PJ Library was going to be great for Birmingham's Jewish community. I was excited.
Caren told me about the PJ Library project one morning at 7 am when we were together, providing breakfast for volunteers helping to build a new playground in Pratt City, an area hit hard by last April's tornadoes. The YWCA had approached The BJF to help build this playground. The project was sponsored by KaBoom!, an organization that believes every child should have access to a playground within walking distance from their homes. Our BJF, I am proud to say, provided volunteers, breakfast and shrubbery for the playground.
Standing with Caren and other BJF colleagues that morning was a unifying experience. Though this wasn't necessarily a "Jewish" project, we were practicing the values that Judaism holds so dearly: implementing a better community for those inhabiting it. As we served breakfast in the Antioch Baptist Church, I felt united not only with my co-workers, but also the broader community surrounding us, as we all worked to improve conditions in Pratt City.
Finally, probably the most intimidating experience I have encountered at The BJF was a security briefing on Iran. My co-workers and I gathered in BJF Executive Director Richard Friedman's office for a meeting on what would happen if war broke out between Israel and Iran. Richard's tone and seriousness unnerved me. Iran pursuing nuclear weapons is fearful and real, and The BJF is doing everything in its power to assist Israel.
While I felt anxious in this meeting, I also felt emotions that I had experienced in other areas of my work. I was in awe at the enormity of the situation with Iran and the vast and detailed plan The BJF was ready to implement at a moment's notice. I felt excited that The BJF was going to have a hand in helping Israel if the need arose.
Lastly, I felt unified with my co-workers, the Birmingham Jewish community and the worldwide Jewish community, knowing that we all were working toward ensuring the safety of Israel and the United States.
I've truly enjoyed all the opportunities I've experienced at The BJF. The emotions highlighted above weave a "tapestry" of sorts, that reflects the fulfilling and rewarding experiences that have come my way. Everyday in so many ways -- as we say at The BJF -- I am privileged to be part of a unique organization, whose mission and achievements are far-reaching and immeasurable.