When Hannah, our oldest daughter, was 12, she turned to me in the car one day and told me she had finally figured out what I did for a living. I said, “Really… and what is that?” With a sense of innocence, she said, “You shmooze.”
While I have shared that story with the community before, I don’t think it was ever more poignant or true of an example than my work in the last week.
You may have noticed that I didn’t write my regular weekly column last week. This is because I was on my way up to Sacramento to participate in the Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California’s annual Capitol Summit. This two-day conference brought together over 300 leaders and community members from all across the state to learn and lobby California’s state legislators on issues and bills that are important to the Jewish community and those who feel disenfranchised and/or in need of community support.
I had a chance to network with colleagues from organizations like Jewish Vocational Services, American Jewish Committee, ADL, Jewish Family Service of the Desert, Jewish Community Relations Council of the Bay Area, and many others. Plus, I had the opportunity to see and talk with local elected officials, including State Senators (Anthony Portantino, Susan Rubio, and Scott Wiener) and Assemblymembers (Laura Friedman, Mike Fong, Al Muratsuchi, and Jesse Gabriel). The event also included dinner with members of the Jewish Caucus, at which I sat with Assemblymember Blanca Rubio, who I have gotten to know well over the years. I even talked with the City of Healdsburg’s Mayor (Ariel Kelley), the city’s first Jewish mayor.
The Capitol Summit culminated with attendees holding lobbying meetings with 103 of the 120 legislatures. Representing our local Jewish community as part of this event was incredible, and I hope other community members will join me at next year’s Capitol Summit.
And then last night, as you may be aware, the Jewish Federation held a special Town Hall meeting with the Consul General of Israel, Dr. Hillel Newman, at Temple Beth David. During his time as Consul General, I have worked with him and his staff at the Israeli Consulate many times. This relationship and friendship over the years led to last night’s event.
During the event, as the moderator, I had the privilege to ask Dr. Newman about a wide range of topics, including the rise of antisemitism and how Israel is responding, an update on the latest incident between the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the IDF, why Israel appears to have very poor public relations and how Israel is portrayed in the media, how Jews outside of Israel can support Israel, and pluralism and inclusiveness in Israel. And, of course, we touched on the hot-button issue of Judicial Reform that has brought out massive protests on the streets of Israel. The opportunity to be able to personally invite the highest-ranking Israeli official in Southern California to come out to the San Gabriel Valley so our community can be better informed is something I value.
Frequently, shmoozing has a negative connotation, and yet I believe in the power of shmoozing as long as it is done for the right reasons. In my mind, over my 13+ years as the Jewish Federation’s Executive Director, the relationships and friendships I have developed with high-powered individuals have benefited our community. And while there are definitely other aspects of my job… shmoozing on behalf of our community continues to be an essential part of my role.