2017-09-27 / Voice at the Shore

Rachel Waldman named new Hillel and Young Leadership director

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER
Voice shore editor


Working as a Jewish professional has “been a really fun professional path,” said Waldman, who helped start a program to “engage teens Jewishly” in Baltimore. Working as a Jewish professional has “been a really fun professional path,” said Waldman, who helped start a program to “engage teens Jewishly” in Baltimore. Rachel Waldman likes to joke that working as a Jewish community professional was not her choice but her destiny.

Waldman, the new Hillel and Young Leadership director for the Federation of Atlantic and Cape May Counties, comes from a long line of Jewish professionals. Her mother, Elise Waldman, was the Margate JCC’s Camp director for 16 years; her grandfather, Stuart Alperin, served as director of the Cherry Hill JCC, the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey, and the Saltzman Foundation, a Cherry Hill-based Jewish philanthropic organization.

Still, Waldman’s desire to serve the Jewish community clearly comes from within. The 25-yearold Atlantic County native described her two “passions” as Judaism and helping kids and young adults. Her new position allows her to pursue both of those passions at the same time.

Waldman, who started working at Federation at the beginning of September, is now responsible for “creating a Jewish experience for young people” in our community, said Federation Executive Director Kirk Wisemayer. “She’ll be working with Jewish students on campus with Hillel at Stockton, engaging them in Jewish life and experience. With Young Leadership, she will be giving young adults in our community the tools and desire to connect with their Jewish community and to become the next generation of leaders,” he explained.

Waldman’s winning combination of skill, enthusiasm and creativity made her the ideal candidate for the job, he added.

Waldman began working for the Jewish community as a teenager, as a counselor for Camp by the Sea and as a teacher’s aide at her synagogue, Congregation Beth Israel. For Waldman, the Northfield synagogue is like an extension of her family; she, her parents, and her younger sister Lauren were all actively involved there, and Rachel fondly recalled how she “grew up inside those walls.”

While attending Muhlenberg College in PA (which she chose in part due to its “very strong Jewish presence”), Rachel continued teaching Sunday school, then at Knesseth Israel in Allentown. “It reminded me so much of Beth Israel—it was a great fit,” she said, adding that the school director there “really showed me what it was like to be a Jewish professional.”

After getting a double degree in Jewish studies and psychology at Muhlenberg, Waldman went on to Lehigh University for a Master’s degree in school counseling. She then moved to Baltimore to be near her fiancé, Jordan Posner, and got her first job creating a program for Jewish teens called “4front.” This new, experimental program was funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation. “We were one of ten cities selected as part of an experiment to see how to engage teens Jewishly,” Waldman explained. “I got to create and roll out the program.”

For Waldman, being back in Atlantic County and working at the Federation, which is located in the JCC building where she attended camp and many other Jewish events while growing up, is an exciting homecoming full of possibilities.

“My Jewish roots in this area are three generations deep,” noted Rachel. While her grandparents on her mother’s side, Stuart and Marylee Alperin, are “mavens” in the Cherry Hill area, Rachel’s father, Mitchell Waldman, grew up in Margate. He and his parents, Dori and Stanley Waldman, have a long history in the shore Jewish community.

Rachel is excited to find creative ways to bring Judaism alive for others and draw them into the Jewish community that has been such a vital part of her life. “I just feel like there is so much potential here, with both Hillel and Young Leadership,” she said.

With Hillel at Stockton, she hopes to continue building upon the strong program that is already in place there; with Young Leadership, she plans to explore many new possibilities for programming and community partnerships.

“There is a real opportunity to form something here that our community has not seen before,” said Waldman. 

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