Olympia resident Danny Kadden has taken over the executive director position of Interfaith Works in Olympia.
JTNews readers may know Danny from his work on Holocaust reparation in the state insurance commissioner’s office, which he still does. Danny heard about the new part-time position through the grapevine.
“We live in a small community, relatively speaking,” he says, and the 36-year-old organization “has a pretty visible place in the community.”
“Word gets around quickly in a small town…in Mayberry,” he laughs. As a visible organization doing good works, “it seemed a natural and familiar fit” to take on the additional work.
IW’s mission dovetailed nicely with his work on property restitution for Holocaust survivors. (For more information on this, visit the Holocaust Survivors Foundation Web site at hsf-usa.org.)
“My work with survivors and Holocaust education really provided me with a sense of the power of interfaith discussion,” says Danny, himself the child and grandchild of survivors. “When we confront the Holocaust, we have to — we are required to — apply the lessons of the Holocaust to the world at large, especially to prevent genocide.” Because the Holocaust moves many non-Jews, it becomes a powerful tool for interfaith efforts, he says..
Danny hopes members of the Jewish community will attend a future program, still in planning stages, in Olympia that will focus on the Cambodian holocaust. Many survivors of that time live in the Puget Sound area and “the parallels are very powerful,” he says.
Growing up in a politically involved Conservative family on Chicago’s south side, Danny moved to Seattle in the 1980s after getting his doctorate in sociology from Brown University. He became familiar with Olympia while organizing the Evergreen College chapter of WashPIRG (Washington Public Interest Research Group — the consumer rights and public affairs organization) and also met his wife, Sheri Gerson, there. After moving back east and then back west, he and Sheri, a hospice nurse, returned to Olympia. They have 17-year-old twin girls.
Installed on May 11, Danny plans to keep IW on course. As a small organization with limited resources, he feels it’s important to stay focused on the community-wide issues of homelessness, domestic violence, intolerance and hunger.
“At the same time, we promote interfaith understanding because [IW lets] people learn about other faiths in a very direct way,” Danny says. Membes “see their own faiths enriched by other faiths…not threatened,” and IW becomes a place where “true friendships” develop.
Beginning 30 years ago as a Christian organization, IW leadership realized in the ’80s that they weren’t truly “interfaith.” Temple Beth Hatfiloh (Olympia’s largest Jewish congregation) was invited to join and now the organization includes “an amazingly diverse coalition” of Baha’i, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Christian denominations.
Some of Danny’s interest in interfaith stems from living in a small community with few Jews.
“When you live as a very small and marginal community…even if your suitcase is full of Jewish resources,” Danny says, “you are forced to engage with…the wider community in a deliberate way... [and] develop a commitment to interfaith engagement as part of who you are.”
“That’s why it just fits into my everyday Jewish life.”
Learn more about IW at www.oly-wa.us/interfaith/index.php.
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Mercer Island native Briana Holtzman was among 19 camp assistant and associate directors who recently completed the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s inaugural Yitro leadership program.
Briana, the assistant director of the Union of Reform Judaism’s Camp Kalsman, says Yitro was “a great opportunity to work and learn…[with people] who are doing the same job,” from around the country and all Jewish movements.
The Avi Chai Foundation-funded program is the first to provide this kind of training. Participants attended a series of seminars over the course of a year meeting in New York (twice), Israel, Boston and California.
“The program was really focused on how to incorporate Judaism intentionally,” she says. “We spent time looking at how to do that through space and through time,” and learning how to train staff to do the same.
“Each session gave me a new perspective,” she adds.
Growing up at Temple B’nai Torah, Briana was very involved in the National Federation of Temple Youth. She attended American University in the other Washington and says living in D.C., “was a really great experience” that also helped her better appreciate the Northwest.
After college, which included participating in the Semester at Sea program, she returned to Seattle and worked for Tully’s and Regis, where she learned “a lot about logistics and business,” which she puts to use at Kalsman.
“It feels better to apply those things to helping kids in a Jewish way,” she says.
She spends summers at the Arlington camp, located on the former Love Israel commune, where she says they’ve had a warm welcome from the town. (Recommended reading for those interested in the property is The Love Israel Family by Charles P. LeWarne.)
Of all her duties, Briana especially enjoys training counselors. The teens and young adults on the staff, “are among those who benefit most from camp,” she says.
Kalsman has taken advantage of JFC’s other training programs, including the Cornerstone program for third-year counselors, and ELI — Executive Leadership Institute — which director David Berkman has completed.
Kalsman is on the Web at kalsman.urjcamps.org, where you can also link to other URJ camp sites, and the JFC is at www.jewishcamp.org.