The Path Beyond Federation Fellows

The Unintended Benefits

Fed Fellows in a conference room

When I was asked to share my Federation Fellowship ("Fed Fellows") experience, I wanted to look beyond the program's 15 months, and reflect on where it has since led me to.

I started Fed Fellows by serving on the Federation's Teen Initiative Advisory Committee (TIAC), where I explored new ways to increase Jewish teens' excitement for (and engagement in) their communities. As part of TIAC, I helped launch JBridge, a digital hub that connects Bay Area Jewish teens and their families to valuable resources and opportunities.

But my journey did not stop there; as part of the program, Fed Fellows invite each other to their organizations' gatherings and community-wide events. I participated in five such activities. This led to me joining two causes that I am particularly excited about continuing to support, even while wrapping up my Fed Fellows term:

Jewish Pride Fund: Through a connection made via Fed Fellows Program Manager Dona Standel, I was introduced to the Jewish Pride Fund – a Giving Circle program of the Federation. The Jewish Pride Fund has given me a safe place to explore my LQBTQ+ identity further, build my professional network, and help fund organizations that support the LGBTQ+ and Jewish communities' intersecting needs, values, and interests in the Bay Area.

American Jewish Committee (AJC): After attending a few meetings, I decided to join the AJC's Marshall Society. Thanks to my involvement here, I have participated in several fascinating and inspiring discussions, lectures, and conversations. One such talk, about advocating for Israel, was led by an international diplomat. Others (which were virtual meetings called "ACCESSible Conversations") touched on hate speech in social media, as well as personal experiences with antisemitism. Two of my Fed Fellow peers, Melanie Levy-Hara and Nina Whitney, made my involvement possible by inviting me (and my class) to these talks.

Seeing the Community and Service in a Whole New Light

When I started my Federation Fellowship, I initially focused on attending the (remote) fellowship meetings and social gatherings and directly working on the Teen Initiative Advisory Committee and JBridge. But as time went on, I discovered what became my most transformative experience: through the American Jewish Committee and Jewish Pride Fund, I found my passion for policy work. Furthermore, I was able to explore and deepen this passion and my direct experience and networks within this critically important area.

I also learned that Fed Fellows is not solely about the Bay Area Jewish Experience, Judaism, or Israel. In many ways, my experience opened my eyes to several different aspects of our local Jewish community, a perspective I will bring back to my "core" communities (Birthright Israel and Honeymoon Israel).

As the saying goes, "life is what happens when you're busy making other plans." And as such, while my core service gave me valuable experience and great satisfaction, the best parts of my Fed Fellow experience came from our monthly coffee chats and side conversations. These more casual experiences revealed new perspectives and possibilities I would not have considered—or even known about—otherwise.

Words of Wisdom

With all of the above in mind, I'd like to offer the following five takeaways I learned from my Fed Fellows experience for those considering taking the plunge:

1. Your Board Work is Half the Experience: Don't get me wrong, the board/committee work is more than worth it. Through that work, I built a cohort I can continue to learn from and rely on as I continue my non-profit work in the years to come. But it's not the end-all, be-all of the Fed Fellows experience; if anything, it's the starting point to a life of service and purpose.

2. The People Make the Journey: As is so often the case the people make the journey, and the Federation, particularly Dona Standel, and the Federation build cohorts very intentionally, so we have a great mix of people. Also, anyone in the Federation will make time—if you ask for it. So lean on the people you meet to maximize your experience.

3. The Host Organizations Represent Sections of the Jewish Community: The non-profits hosting the Fed Fellows are among the Bay Area's foremost, leading, and most innovative Jewish organizations. Lean on their experience and institutional knowledge to build on your existing strengths—or learn entirely new skillsets.

4. Time Will Go Faster than You'll Want: Time flies when you're having fun. Enough said.

5. The Fellowship Ends Where the Rest of Your Journey Begins: Fed Fellows want to do good in the world through the lens of Jewish values, a surprisingly rare combination. With this commonality as a foundation, you will build incredible friendships with your fellow Fellows (pun not intended). You might even join your host's board for another term!

Unless you apply, you will never know what you are missing out on, how much fun you will have, or the lasting impact Fed Fellows will have on you. In my case, the Fellowship opened doors to the Pride Fund and the American Jewish Committee, even though neither of those was my primary host. So, which life-changing insights and discoveries could Fed Fellows reveal for you?

A Call to Our Partner Organizations

We know that Bay Area organizational boards need additional skills and leadership now more than ever, and young adult professionals like Alex are ready to step up to help.

Fed Fellows is a leadership development program that educates the next generation in nonprofit decision-making, cultivates relationships, and promotes a sense of belonging.

Participants who graduate assume volunteer positions in Jewish organizations throughout Bay Area – and that benefits our entire community. By hosting a Fed Fellow, your organization will gain fresh and diverse perspectives, cultivate committed ambassadors, and secure the future leadership for your board.

We know that making an impact of this magnitude cannot be done by one institution alone, and look forward to strengthening our community, together. Apply to host a Fed Fellow today.

Alex Goldsmith was born in Los Angeles. Raised in a Jewish household with a focus on giving back, he spent his formative years traveling, volunteering with youth and animal charities, and working in communications at 20th Century Fox, where he fell in love with the art of persuasion. He currently runs corporate technology communications at VMware in San Francisco, following positions at Cisco, IBM, and NetApp. Alex obtained a bachelor's degree in business and liberal arts at UCLA and an MBA from the University of Michigan before moving to the Bay Area to pursue his tech career. He lives with his husband and their adopted chocolate labradoodle, and his hobbies include trivia nights, tackling an ever-evolving bucket list, and studying languages including Chinese and Hebrew.

For additional information on Fed Fellows, contact Dona Standel, Senior Program Manager, Leadership Development.

Categories: Leadership, Young Adults


June 07, 2021


Alex Goldsmith