The Federation’s Rautenberg New Leaders Project graduated its 2018 cohort on December 12th. 24 graduates and their families and friends gathered in Bradley Tower at City Hall for a celebration marking the completion of the yearlong program. Noah Berkowitz, NLP alum, spoke at the graduation to wish attendees good luck in the future and share some thoughts. Noah shared his remarks with us below.
“I know some of you, but to those who I haven’t had a chance to meet, my name is Noah Berkowitz. I am an alumnus of the 2016 NLP class, a current member of the NLP Steering Committee, and the recent winner of, ‘Person Most Likely to Post in the NLP Alumni Facebook Page Not Named Mary.’
Both individually, and on behalf of the Steering Committee, I’d like to congratulate the class of 2018. And a special thank you to those in attendance tonight to support this group.
As I stand up here tonight, I remember sitting in the same position as you two years ago. And if you’re anything like me, you might have a mix of feelings tonight. You’re proud of what you and your cohort have accomplished by digging deep into some of the community’s biggest questions like how do we address a lack of affordable housing, what is Jewish power, and why did Zach prioritize going to Morocco over November’s NLP session?
Maybe you have bittersweet feelings tonight knowing you spent the year enjoying each other’s company, but you’re wondering if tonight is the last time you’ll be in a room together again. And, perhaps, you’re thinking, ‘Okay, I am about to officially complete NLP, so now what?’
Being transparent, this question of, ‘Now what or what next?’ was on my mind most of the time I sat here two years ago. If you’re in this room, you’re already capable, driven, and engaged. You were these things before you joined NLP. So, if you’ve been told that membership in NLP is like holding a ticket, what’s the destination and what comes next?
While I don’t know how each of you will grapple with that question and I can’t say I had an answer at my graduation, I want to talk about how that question has continued to shape my experience as an NLP alumnus.
One of the important things I learned during my year in NLP was that the best way to win at trivia during the retreat is to have someone who works for the city on your team, but another thing I learned was the breadth of community issues The Jewish Federation and NLP touch.
Personally, a lot of my alumni experience has been a combination of reading emails from the Federation and NLP community and saying yes. That includes attending an event called ‘Combatting L.A.’s Homelessness Crisis.’ It was at this event, which featured NLP alums as moderator and speaker, where I heard Rabbi Farkas talk about viewing homelessness through a Jewish lens. This leadership of both thought and action has motivated me to be part of the Annual Los Angeles Homeless Count the past couple of Januarys. And by the way, who were my partners in the Homeless Count? NLP Alumni.
It’s no secret that members of the NLP community are politically astute and aware. We tout both our elected officials and the alumni who make them look good. So, when a close friend from my NLP class invited me to attend an initial meeting of a political group, I said yes. Today, that volunteer group helped contribute to the victories of four closely contested political races. It started because of NLP relationships, and today, it includes members of the 2015, 2016, and 2017 NLP classes and Remmie.
And because I responded to a Federation email and said yes, one month ago I returned from a trip to Morocco with Zach. To be clear, it wasn’t as romantic as it sounds — there were 20 of us. This trip, a partnership between The Jewish Federation and the Joint Distribution Committee, enabled us to witness how a once-vibrant Jewish community has diminished but remained strong. As you can guess, this trip had an NLP presence with members of the 2016, 17, and 18 classes. While we were in Morocco building new community, the Woolsey Fire was burning through our community back home. My parents were evacuated for a period of days. And when I couldn’t do anything from 6,000 miles away, back at home there was a community of NLP alumni and The Jewish Federation hosting info sessions and community meetings for those impacted, like my parents.
I couldn’t have woven together this story at my graduation. I knew some of what the Federation and NLP touch, but over the last two years, I’ve seen so much more. Even today, I still recognize there’s a lot more that our community is doing that I haven’t seen yet.
If there’s a theme to my experience as an NLP alum, I believe it is a willingness to say yes. As you ponder what comes next on your journeys as civic and Jewish leaders, I encourage you to find ways and reasons to say yes. Decide what you are passionate about and get involved. And if someone isn’t leading the way, then create your own opportunity. Invite your cohort! Some of them will say yes. When we say yes, we open ourselves to new possibilities, which means we find ways to push forward. And when people in this room push forward, they lead. So, as you leave here today, find ways to say yes. It’s part of your responsibility as leaders, as Los Angelenos, as Jews, and now as NLP alumni. Congratulations! I welcome you to the NLP alumni community and look forward to seeing how you determine what comes next.”
Noah Berkowitz works in technology as the Director of Sales at TeamFusion, a software start up, which provides a change management platform for organizations. Prior to his experience in technology, Noah worked in politics and consulting. Outside of work, Noah sits on the Steering Committee of The Jewish Federation’s Rautenberg New Leadership Project, of which he is an alumnus, and is a member of the Anti-Defamation League’s Glass Leadership Institute. He is a co-founder of the LA Election Project, a grassroots political group. Noah holds a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley and a master’s in Public Administration from USC.