1 Just a couple of weeks ago, Eliana Rudee was part of a panel on the future of Jewish leadership at the Israeli Presidential Conference in Jerusalem.
The Mercer Island High School grad, who friends and family call Ellie, was already in Israel. She is on a five-month Career Israel internship through Masa, a program of the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency for Israel. Speaking at the annual conference, which was founded by Shimon Peres in 2008, was not originally on her agenda.
In early June, “I spoke at an informational session for future Birthright group leaders, telling them about my experiences on…Masa,” she wrote in an email. After the session, both a Masa director and a conference representative requested her bio.
“A couple days later, someone from the PC called me and said I had been nominated by multiple parties” to speak on a panel, she wrote.
While she was surprised at first at being sought out, she was less surprised on learning the panel topic. She knew it was vital “for a panel about the future of Jewish leadership…to have [the] perspective of…a future Jewish leader,” she said.
As president of the Israel club at Scripps College in California, where she will be a senior in the fall, and a board member and employee of Hillel, Ellie is already an experienced Jewish leader comfortable with public speaking.
The three-day conference’s theme was “Facing Tomorrow” and included a 90th-birthday bash for Peres, Israel’s ninth president. Ellie reports the conference was multi-disciplinary. “Scientists, psychologists, politicians, actors and actresses, economists, environmentalists and Jewish leaders” offered perspectives on “problems and solutions in the Jewish, Israeli and world community,” she wrote.
In Jerusalem for a five-month internship at the Institute for Terrorism Research and Response, Ellie is also researching women’s involvement in terrorism and their motivations compared to men.
Growing up at Herzl-Ner Tamid Conservative Congregation, Ellie says her involvement in Judaism is driven by passion and a sense of responsibility.
“I connect to faith…through loving and helping my community,” she writes, “and in my opinion, one of the most important things as a human being is to be responsible for other human beings. I cannot accept that there are problems facing our community that are not worth solving, or unsolvable.” And, she adds, “it is simply fun for me!”
Describing herself as athletic and close to her family, since being in Israel she’s taken up healthy cooking and buying fresh food from the shuk (market) and cooking for her friends.
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Joel Sacks, the director of Washington State’s Department of Labor and Industries. (Photo courtesy L&I)
In the mid ’90s, Joel Sacks was working for Joe Dear at the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) in Joel’s home state of New Jersey. Dear is a Washington native and in 1996 newly elected governor Gary Locke asked him to come home and lead our state’s L&I.
“Just on a whim,” at Dear’s going away party, Joel asked him if he could get a job out here, too. In 1998 there was an opening and Joel and his wife, Stephanie Hoffman, came to Olympia for what they thought would be a few years’ “overseas posting,” Joel joked. Fifteen years later, they’re still here; and in January Joel took on the leadership of Washington State’s Department of Labor and Industries.
“We just fell in love with the Northwest,” says Joel and the “much healthier lifestyle,” kept them here along with their daughters, Gabby, 9, and Samantha, 6. Plus, two of Joel’s siblings have moved here, too.
The family belongs to Olympia’s Temple Beth Hatfiloh, where Joel served a term as the congregation’s vice president.
“TBH is just great,” he says. Its Reconstructionist affiliation “aligns with our values.”
Growing up in a Conservative synagogue in Bellmawr in southern New Jersey directly influenced his choice of career in public service, Joel says. His parents were both very active in synagogue and “growing up in that Jewish environment…grounded [me] in a really strong belief in giving back” and convinced him “to spend my life in public service.”
While he enjoys exercising and reading, most of Joel’s free time is spent doing things with the kids. On Father’s Day the family drove to Paradise on Mt. Rainier, where the piles of snow tempted Gabby to climb higher and higher.
“I kept reminding her that we had to get down,” which they did, Joel says, but it involved “a lot more sliding than walking.”
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A correction: In my last column, I misidentified which college Julia Snyder attends. Julia is a student at List College of the Jewish Theological Seminary and Columbia University.