Creating Purpose: The Foundation to Building Positive Change

Last month, California’s resiliency and empathy was put to the test. From north to south, land was ablaze, communities razed, and lives were lost. Additionally, a gunman took innocent civilians’ lives at a club. Rockets rained down on Israel, and our prayers were with Pittsburgh. It has been nearly impossible not to feel overwhelmed: our hearts aching with sympathy, our lungs longing for clean air, and our eyes tired of reading the negative news cycle. And yet, to feel this emotion is a call to action to do something.

In September, I joined the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund’s Federation Fellows, joining 20 young professional peers in a two-year program that will help us develop skills to become the next leaders of our local Jewish community. For our first informal get-together, I joined my cohort at a happy hour held on the Federation’s rooftop. Underneath the Federation’s sukkah and surrounded by a sunset spanning the Ferry Building to the Bay Bridge, my instinct was to consume – consume the new friendships I would build, the new materials and insight I would gain, and the new experiences I would be exposed to as a Fed Fellow. As the program took shape throughout the fall, consuming is what I did – I made new friendships, learned the mechanics of Board service, and participated in new social experiences. However, this past month changed my mindset as a Fed Fellow.

Just days after the shooting at the Pittsburgh synagogue, the cohort gathered for our monthly Fed Fellows meeting. Typically, Jewish meetings begin with a d’var Torah, an opportunity for an individual to relate the weekly torah portion to current events and the work of the organization. That week, though, the Fellow leading this program decided to create space for an interactive discussion around the event in Pittsburgh. We each went around the room sharing our thoughts and reactions; we concluded by reading memories of each victim and repeating the Mourners Kaddish.

That moment on a foggy Thursday evening in the Federation’s board room moved me. My vision blurred as I wiped a tear off my cheek. I felt angry with what was happening in the world, yet I felt grateful that for the first time that week, I had a space to truly feel all that I was feeling inside. I realized that Fed Fellows was my vehicle for the action – and the change – I sought.

As a Fellow, young professionals are given the opportunity to create top-down change as we serve on Boards of Directors for various Jewish agencies throughout the Bay Area. We learn about Board decision-making, nonprofit operations, and stakeholder management. I have learned to refocus this Board service from that of a consuming learning experience to that of an opportunity to act. By channeling all that I feel – passion, empathy, anger, ambition – about what is happening in the world into my Board service, I am finding fulfillment and meaning as I create a positive impact on the larger Bay Area community. As a Fed Fellow, I feel privileged to serve on the Shalom Bayit Board of Directors, where I am supporting an organization that is leading the Jewish community in the #MeToo movement.

Indeed, last month tested California’s resiliency and empathy. It also inspired many to mobilize, organize, and create positive change. Whether it is the waves of voters at the polls or the countless grassroots fundraisers on Facebook for fire victims, Californians are acting. I feel grateful that the Fed Fellows program is serving as my vehicle to give back and do something.

Originally from Chicago, Hannah Schlacter moved to the Bay Area in August of 2017 after graduating from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she earned her B.S. in marketing and management. As a student, Hannah was a social entrepreneur and served on the Hillel International Board of Directors. Currently, she works in Accenture’s management consulting practice and co-founded the firm’s local Lean In Analyst chapter. Outside of work, Hannah is an active young professional lay leader in the Jewish community. She is a resident of Moishe House Dolores, co-founded Ulpan SF, serves as an at-large member of the JCRC Assembly, and is an Israel Policy Forum Charles Bronfman Convener. In her free time, she enjoys reading, skiing, and spending time with friends and family.

Categories: Leadership


December 17, 2018


Hannah Schlacter