2018-01-03 / Voice at the Shore

YLD kicks off to a new start in 2018

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER
Voice shore editor


Young Leadership board member Becca Weis (left) with YLD co-chair Meryl Shields and director Rachel Waldman at the Vodka and Latkes Chanukah event at Little Water Distillery Dec. 14. Young Leadership board member Becca Weis (left) with YLD co-chair Meryl Shields and director Rachel Waldman at the Vodka and Latkes Chanukah event at Little Water Distillery Dec. 14. “I thought I was the only Jewish person out there my age!” That was the sentiment expressed by many of the young Jewish locals, aged 25-45, who attended “Vodka and Latkes,” on Dec. 14, said Rachel Waldman, director of the Jewish Federation’s Young Leadership Division.

Roughly 60 people came out for the event, a Chanukahthemed gathering that sought to bring together young Jewish people in the area for the first of many events targeted to their demographic. The event was held at the Little Water Distillery, a hip new bar in Atlantic City.

“One theme I heard over and over at the event was, ‘I can’t believe there are this many new faces,’” said Waldman, who is hoping to find young Jewish people in the area who feel isolated and offer them new opportunities for friendship, fun, and participation in Jewish life.

“Everyone left asking when the next event was,” she said.

The Vodka & Latkes Chanukah party is an annual tradition for the YLD. This year, however, YLD’s new leaders took the event in a whole new direction by having it at a local club instead of someone’s home.

“We wanted to make it a big, fun party,” explained Meryl Shields, owner of the Northfield floral company Stemtations, who is co-chairing YLD along with Nick Pittman, a weather forecaster for SNJ Today. The co-chairs and Waldman all felt that people who had never attended a YLD event or were entirely new to the community would feel more comfortable going to a fun, public place rather than to someone’s home.

“We really want to bring community venues into our programming and utilize what we have in the area,” added Shields.

The ultimate goal of this and other YLD events being planned, said Shields, is “to bring a sense of community to a group of individuals who don’t realize there is a community out there for them.” This includes people new to the area as well as locals such as herself who know many people in the area but would still like to form new connections.

“I have a good amount of friends in the area,” said Shields, who grew up in Linwood, “but most are married. I am single and running a business. I’m looking forward to broadening my community through YLD.”

YLD’s new leaders plan to create different streams of programming within YLD for singles, couples and families. By offering these targeted, small-group events, said Waldman, “YLD will be able to build community in a more personalized way.”

Programming will reflect the fact that YLD’s demographic— young Jews aged 25- 45—are busy and diverse, and are only likely to attend activities that cater to their specific needs and interests.

For example, YLD may offer a Thursday night Quizzo trivia event for singles, or a family event at a yoga studio. The board is also kicking around ideas like cooking classes and a Mommy and Me group. “It’s going to be really fun; we have a lot of really fun ideas,” said Waldman.

Jewish education is another area of programming being explored. “I’ve met with a lot of local rabbis,” said Waldman. “Everyone is interested in engaging this demographic.”

In addition to Shields and Pittman, members of YLD’s new board include Julie Brown, Randee Rosenfeld, Melissa Goldstein, Hanna Newcomer, Becca Weis, Rikki Roth, Sadie Farruggia, and Sam Hammond. “There hasn’t been a YLD board in several years,” noted Waldman, who said she is really excited that the board brings together people of diverse backgrounds from all over the area. 

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