Reflecting on Pluralism and Two Years of Leadership Development

“From every human being there rises a light.” by Baal Shem Tov

As a Federation Fellow, I’m one of 20 participants in a program that educates us in nonprofit decision-making, cultivates relationships, and creates the next leaders of the Jewish community. During our final session together, we watched a very compelling video narrated by President Reuven Rivlin in which he touched on the changing demographics of Israeli society, and how he envisions the country moving forward. President Rivlin spoke of a “New Israeli Order” that is not dominated by one particular ethnic group. This “New Order” inspired part of the Federation’s mission to partner with on-the-ground organizations in order to strengthen Israeli society.

It also inspired me. Each demographic of Israel is unique and deserves a voice, but alone, one group cannot build a great nation. If we don’t stop fighting and start working together, how can we create a place where are all Israelis can live harmoniously?

Through the Federation Fellows program, we learned how the Federation’s commitment to pluralism is demonstrated in the organizations it funds. We also got the opportunity to observe the boards of nonprofits make tough decisions and discuss diverse viewpoints amongst ourselves. It taught us how a shared vision can unify people.

After almost six years in San Francisco, I am continually surprised at the diverse options we have to participate in the Jewish community here. From Moishe House to Mission Minyan to Wilderness Torah, it has actually been difficult for me to find the group that I want to call home. Growing up conservatively in the Los Angeles area, I was surrounded by many Jewish people during weekends at a USY Shabbaton, and an even more passionate group at my Hillel at UC Santa Barbara. San Francisco allows me, and many others, to identify as Jew-ish, surrounded by our somewhat incognito fellow Jews in the workplace, grocery store, or even at church. Though sometimes I long for the larger community, I appreciate the unique breadth of San Francisco’s Jewish community, providing me the space to openly practice any degree of faith.

As we end our time as Fellows, I am thankful for this opportunity to explore my connection to Judaism, develop meaningful relationships, and grow my roots in the Bay Area.

Adrienne (L) and other members of her Fed Fellows cohort

Born and raised in the Los Angeles area, Adrienne relocated to San Francisco after graduating from University of California, Santa Barbara with a double B.A. in Environmental Studies and Cultural Anthropology. Adrienne is a District Manager at Recology Golden Gate, San Francisco's waste management company, where she brings together her love for composting and recycling with logistics and customer service. When she is not getting her hands dirty in garbage, she serves as a board member for Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center, sings in a choir, and enjoys the outdoors of the Bay Area.

Categories: Leadership


June 27, 2018


Adrienne Gembala