The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles offers many opportunities – social, professional, volunteer and leadership – through YALA, Young Adults of Los Angeles. Based on Jewish values of community, education, and giving, YALA strives to be an inclusive space for Jews in their 20s and 30s to grow and connect through shared interests, experiences, and goals.
We recently interviewed Danit Grill, a YALA Board Member and the Community Service Chair for YALA. Through her position, Danit has been able to combine her passion for community service and social action with YALA and the Jewish community. The Federation organizes community services days throughout the year. Read Danit’s interview below, and find out why YOU should join her in making a difference!
How are you involved with the Federation, and in what capacity?
I have been on the YALA Board (Young Adults of Los Angeles) for the past two years. Last year I was the Valley Chair, and this year I serve as the Community Service Chair. My involvement with YALA began about 2.5 years ago, when I was a member of the Community Service Committee for YALA. For 2017, I am continuing on the YALA Board for a third year. I’ll be continuing my role as Community Service Chair as well as serving as Valley Co-Chair. I’m also getting involved in women’s philanthropy in the Valley.
What inspired you to be involved with YALA and the Federation?
I was at a point in my life where I needed something “more” outside of work [teaching], but I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. I had just spent seven weeks in Israel teaching English, but I had never connected with my Jewish roots before that. When I spent time in Israel, I became more curious about the Jewish part of my identity. I wasn’t really raised with a lot of Jewish culture or literacy, and after my experience in Israel, I wanted to get involved and explore what Judaism meant to me as an adult. I literally was jogging one day in the Valley and saw a Federation street sign advertising community service days, and I decided to go. That was the first thing I did. At the community service day, I was immediately connected to a couple lay leaders, and they welcomed me and invited me to meet them for coffee. I felt instantly welcomed and connected, and I was immediately interested in getting more involved.
What has been one of your most memorable or impactful experiences with the Federation?
I’ve been very open at events and with people I meet through Federation about not knowing a lot about Judaism and what it is or what it means to me. The Federation – and the YALA Board specifically – were very open and warm to someone like me who was just “figuring it out.” They were welcoming to someone who didn’t know a lot, and it was clear through actions and words that there was a place for me. That’s what I try to talk about with newcomers to YALA or the Federation. There is a place for everyone here. That’s what I take away the most, and what I love about the Federation.
Why did this position on the YALA Board speak to you?
I did a volunteer event years ago (not through Federation) and ever since then, I’ve been interested in doing more. I thought that outside of my work [as a teacher], this is another way to give back. The more volunteering I did, the more involved and connected I felt. I enjoyed surrounding myself with people who wanted to give back and do more for their communities. I like being in that environment. My involvement with the Valley is more practical. I live in the Valley and YALA knew I wanted to get involved more and they wanted to expand into the Valley. So we started there, and it was very successful the first year. For 2017, I really want to expand the network of people in the Valley who are in involved. I want to make more people aware and create events that will draw them in – events they are interested in. I want to figure out the needs of young adults specifically in the Valley.
What types of community service projects have you been involved with as a YALA Board member?
We’ve done a lot of great projects on Community Service Days with the Community Engagement team. A lot of feeding, supporting, and helping the homeless and underprivileged in Los Angeles. HYPE is a really great project, it connects people with children and supports them preparing for their futures. LA Family Housing was a big event we just did, too. L’Dough V’Dough* is one of the most popular events we do, making challah with Holocaust survivors at the LA Museum of the Holocaust. We’ve also been involved with Roald McDonald House and have worked with Beit T’Shuvah feeding the homeless in Venice, a project they regularly run.
Why should others be involved?
Everybody has a little bit to give, either financially or time. Everyone has something, even if it’s small, to give. Everybody can be involved, they just have to find the time. And, of course, it feels good. The world is bigger than us. The biggest part of my story I think people can relate to is my background. I was brand new – but there was still a place for me and everyone welcomed me. I think everyone can relate to that a little bit.
*Our December 11 L’Dough V’Dough event filled up before Thanksgiving!
To learn more about Federation’s Community Service Days, contact Melissa York at MYork@JewisLA.org or call (323) 761-8161.