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Rojean Kashanchi Takes Us on Her Jewish Journey

Rojean Kashanchi is a Los Angeles native who works at UCLA Health as the Senior Director of International Business Development. She has her master’s degree in public health from Columbia University in New York City and her bachelor’s degree in mass communication from UCLA. Rojean has been involved with several nonprofit organizations and has played an active role with The Jewish Federation including serving on the YALA board, the NuRoots Incubator, traveling to Morocco through The Jewish Federation’s partnership with the JDC, and is currently on the Steering Committee of the Federation’s Rautenberg New Leaders Project (NLP).

In a recent interview, Rojean shares about her Jewish journey from when she was young to when she first joined NuRoots as a Young Adult Chair to participating in NLP with our Federation. We invite you to join us on Wednesday, October 28th, at 5:00 PM as Rojean moderates a discussion with Dr. David Carlisle and Liz Forer on “Understanding and Addressing Black Health Disparities in L.A.”

Register here: https://jewishla-org.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_4Js4smG4TNOdRXkW_BqySA/

As a Persian Jew, what has your experience been like growing up in L.A.? How can we better bridge our communities together (Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Mizrahi, etc.)? 

I feel very lucky to have grown up in such a diverse city like Los Angeles that provided me exposure to multicultural groups within and outside the Jewish community. Having grown up within the Persian Jewish community of Los Angeles, I have a particular appreciation for deep interpersonal relationships and communal responsibility — two values the Persian Jewish community prioritizes. Many of my Ashkenazi friends would echo this sentiment about their own communities. There is a distinct warmth within the L.A. Jewish community exuded by Ashkenazi, Sephardic, and Mizrahi Jews alike. By harnessing our strengths in relationship building while aligning our common interests and celebrating our differences, we can better bridge our communities. Social and educational programs that allow for cross-cultural programming and dialogue, such as the Moradi Berkowitz Fellowship offered by 30 Years After, are a wonderful starting place. Ultimately, the Jewish voice is more powerful when we are unified, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to connect more deeply.

JDC Entwine Morocco Trip 2018

How has your Jewish identity grown since you first heard of the Federation? 

Since becoming involved in the Federation, my Jewish identity has become stronger, more closely tied to my civic and community involvement, and more deeply reflected in my personal values. Mainly attributed to my participation in NLP, I’ve had the opportunity to lobby our state legislatures during JPAC’s Advocacy Day, become involved in the LA Homeless Services Authority’s annual Homeless Count, and support local causes I’m now deeply more educated about. I have also grown my network of fellow Jewish individuals who are passionate about making a difference on the local and national level. The Federation has shown me a multitude of ways to have a Jewish experience and develop a nuanced notion of what it means to be Jewish beyond my level of faith and observance.

How did you go from being a part of the NuRoots Chair to joining NLP? 

I was so impressed by the sophistication of the NuRoots staff in creating meaningful events for the Los Angeles Jewish community that I was eager to deepen my involvement with the Federation in a way that spoke to my civic interests. As luck would have it, I happened to be on a Federation/JDC Entwine trip to Morocco, recommended to me by the NuRoots staff, when the new friends I met on the trip — shout out to Noah Berkowitz and Sarah Kate McGowan! — encouraged me to apply for NLP the day applications were due. NLP’s reputation for educating future Jewish community leaders and exposing members to unique learning experiences, such as lobbying for JPAC in Sacramento, getting an unfiltered historical tour of downtown L.A., and meeting with local change makers, motivated me to submit my application that day despite the 8-hour time difference. I’m grateful for the life-long friendships I’ve developed through the NLP network and the opportunity to develop my knowledge of Southern California’s civic community from local subject matter experts. I look forward to serving on NLP’s Steering Committee and helping to further strengthen the ties between members and contribute to meaningful programming.  

The Rautenberg New Leaders Project 2019

As businesses/nonprofits adapt to the “new normal,” how can we connect better with the Jewish young adult community? 

The Federation has done a great job of connecting with the young adult community through its virtual programming and tailored communication. There have continued to be a variety of high-quality events that provoke thought and meaningful connection — even in this new normal. I look forward to seeing what exciting new programs the Federation comes up with!

With your experience in public health industry, how have you seen the Jewish community affected by COVID-19? Do you have any advice?

Based on my personal observations, I believe all communities are struggling with the same things: uncertainty about the future, economic instability, and social isolation. The last few months have been incredibly difficult for most, especially those within the Black and Latin communities. There are several Jewish organizations that have taken it upon themselves to help wherever they can. Because of my friendships with fellow NLPers Joe Goldman, Rachael Sonntag-Bloom, and Farah Shamolian — three incredible leaders — HIAS, IsraAid, and the Federation come to mind. There is no panacea for the social, emotional, and economic impacts of the pandemic; however, there are likely actions people can take to be kind to themselves and each other. Acknowledging the unprecedented nature of the current environment and going out of our way to connect with members of our network and provide assistance can make a bigger difference than we think.

The Rautenberg New Leaders Project 2019

As you continue your Jewish journey, what do you hope to see for the future of the L.A. Jewish community? 

I hope to see the LA Jewish community act as a national beacon and advocate for empathy, equality, and justice. One of Judaism’s core tenets — tikkun olam — encourages us to repair the world. With a unified message across a diverse group, the L.A. Jewish community can make a substantial impact to enhance the lives of our fellow Angelenos.

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