PHOTO: After Changemakers, Portlander Melina Berber-Suarez made aliyah. “I currently live in Israel, one of the world’s most well-known places for conflict and clashing views. I find myself using a lot of what I learned from the program... I definitely feel that because I had a chance to participate in the Changemakers program, it helped me better understand what it means to take someone else’s ideas into account,” she says.
Want to change the world? If you are ages 20 to 24, the Jewish Federations of North America have just the program for you.
In 2020 a cohort of seven Portland-area young adults completed the three-week fellowship to become Jewish Changemakers.
“Not only is it a great opportunity to network with other young Jews across the country, but it’s a great way to discuss topics and issues that interest you, and develop a sense of belonging within the broader Jewish community,” says Melina Berber-Suarez, who was part of the Portland cohort.
She encourages her peers to check out this year’s two sessions. Applications close May 20 for the undergraduate session June 13-30. Applications for those in grad school or post college close June 24 for that session July 25-Aug. 11.
The Jewish Changemakers Fellowship is a virtual leadership development experience for Jewish young adults that focuses on career development, making a difference in the community and connecting with peers. The program begins with a three-week intensive session. Changemakers alumni have access to ongoing opportunities for leadership, mentoring, career advancement and community engagement. Through the fellowship and alumni engagement, Changemakers grow their skills and contacts needed for success in a competitive job market.
Participants who achieve the program requirements of approximately 7-12 hours a week for three weeks earn a certificate of completion and a $350 stipend.
“The Jewish Changemakers program definitely exceeded my expectations with as many amazing speakers and rabbis who came, and the different organizations and opportunities I did not realize were available amongst the Jewish world,” said Portland participant Ezra Saville in 2020. “I signed up for Changemakers because I wanted to have an experience of learning from many amazing Jewish leaders within the global community focused on social change. Learning about these perspectives from a Jewish lens and context is important to me, as someone who sees social justice being part of my Jewish perspective, instead of separate from my Jewish identity.”
Melina adds, “I decided to sign up for Changemakers because I thought it would be a great way to obtain leadership skills that are specific to being a young Jewish leader in this day and age.”
Following the program, Melina made aliyah and is now a lone soldier (soldier without immediate family in Israel) in the Israel Defense Forces. She says she referred a few of her friends to Changemakers and encourages other young adults to apply.
“I am currently serving in the combat search and rescue unit,” writes Melina. “Although I face challenges every day and extremely miss my family and community, I feel very grateful I made the decision to serve in our homeland. … I attribute a lot of my motivation and success to programs like these, my family/community and synagogue Beit Yosef. These are the things and people that truIy helped me to become the Jewish changemaker I am.”
For more information and to apply for one of this summer’s sessions, visit jewishchangemakers.org.