Empowered Through Service: Becoming Catalyst Fellowship Alumni

The Catalyst Fellowship powered by Repair the World – a journey of Jewish service commitment, planning, and reflection.  In this inspiring three-part series, we delve into the heart of The Catalyst Fellowship program powered by Repair the World and in partnership with Jewish Federations of North America, exploring each pivotal phase: the initial commitment, the intricate process of program planning, and the meaningful reflections that follow. Through nine dedicated Catalyst II Fellows stories, we will explore the passion, challenges, and triumphs that define their Jewish service and learning journey. In part three, we meet Laura (she/her), Hannah (she/her), and Jodi (she/her), and learn about their unique Jewish service journeys and personal growth. Read about how they measured the impact of their efforts and the exciting next steps they are taking as alumni. Through their stories, witness the transformative power of dedication and the lasting legacy of The Catalyst Cohort II.

The Catalyst Fellowship, powered by Repair the World, a groundbreaking initiative designed to inspire service through the Jewish Federations of North America, has profoundly impacted the intertwined journeys of Laura (she/her) of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, Hannah (she/her) of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, and Jodi (she/her) of The Jewish Connection Network. They have not only deepened their commitment to fostering a culture of service within their local Jewish communities but have also significantly grown their professional skills and networks.

When Laura, Hannah, and Jodi joined The Catalyst Fellowship, they each brought unique perspectives and experiences, yet found common ground in their dedication to Jewish service. Laura initially saw the fellowship as an opportunity to rejuvenate her local Jewish community in Portland, Oregon. “I thought I knew the community one way, but the community really needed something else,” she shared. Similarly, Hannah’s experience profoundly changed her understanding of service in community, leading her to integrate Jewish learning with service. Jodi, with a volunteer-centric professional background, viewed the fellowship as a chance to refine her skills and expand her network.

Their paths soon began to intersect through shared experiences and mutual support. Laura designed and implemented the Mitzvah Project, organizing quarterly service events in partnership with the Mittleman Jewish Community Center and Friends of Tryon Creek. These events addressed environmental concerns and fostered a sense of community and shared purpose. Hannah’s initiative involved organizing multi-step educational programs, which included tours of facilities addressing homelessness and mental disabilities, combined with discussions led by a local Rabbi. This educational component enriched the service activities, making them more meaningful for participants.

Jodi, working closely with the young adult division of The Associated – Jewish Federation of Baltimore and Repair the World Baltimore, emphasized the importance of effective partnership management. Her collaborative efforts, similar to Laura’s and Hannah’s initiatives, creating a network of support and shared resources. “I’ve grown so much and learned a lot about what it means to be a good partner and to lead a group of different organizations in a meaningful and impactful service project,” Jodi noted.

Throughout their fellowship, Laura, Hannah, and Jodi’s professional skills and networks expanded significantly. Laura’s ability to pivot and persevere, Hannah’s insights into integrating Jewish learning with service, and Jodi’s partnership management skills all contributed to their collective growth. “Hearing how others have handled challenges and their creative event planning has been really helpful to my professional development,” Hannah noted, reflecting on the shared learning among fellows.

Their journeys were marked by mutual inspiration and support. Laura’s perspective on fostering a culture of service evolved greatly. “Through The Catalyst, I realized it’s about more than just activities—it’s about creating opportunities for people to connect deeply with their Jewish identity through service,” she emphasized. This sentiment was echoed by Hannah, who noted the deeper significance of service when combined with Jewish learning. Jodi continued to integrate the comprehensive framework provided by Repair the World into her service events.

Hannah organized a service project where 500 wellness kits were packed.

Looking ahead, Laura, Hannah, and Jodi plan to sustain and expand their initiatives, leveraging the solid foundations they have built. Laura aims to establish quarterly service days as a permanent fixture in her community’s calendar, while Hannah plans to implement bi-annual service projects that combine preparation and hands-on activities. Jodi is working on a proposal for an upcoming event that incorporates all four components of a Jewish service learning experience; issue area education, Jewish values learning, hands on service, and reflection.

One crucial lesson they all learned was the importance of communication and genuine community engagement. “Communicating with your community before starting programming is a huge lesson,” Laura shared, a sentiment echoed by Hannah and Jodi in their respective projects. For aspiring professionals, their collective advice is clear: passion, genuine belief in what you’re doing, and understanding the needs and priorities of your community (both partner organizations and lay leaders)are essential for driving impact.

As part of The Catalyst alumni network, Laura, Hannah, and Jodi are eager to maintain and deepen the connections they have made. The alumni network provides a platform for continuous learning and collaboration, allowing them to share ideas and support each other’s initiatives. “We have a WhatsApp group that keeps us connected, sharing ideas and supporting each other’s initiatives and goals,” Laura noted, highlighting the ongoing collaboration and mutual support among the fellows.

Their intertwined journeys exemplify the transformative power of dedicated Jewish service, strategic collaboration, and the Jewish values of strengthening each other, hitchazkut, and action and learning, na’aseh v’nishma. Through their enhanced skills, expanded networks, and deepened commitment to their communities, Laura, Hannah, and Jodi along with the other Catalyst Cohort II fellows are poised to make lasting impacts. Their experiences highlight the importance of integrating Jewish values into service, fostering strong partnerships, and continually seeking ways to make a meaningful difference. As they continue their work, they embody the spirit of collective strength and action, inspiring others to follow in their footsteps.

The Catalyst Cohort II training at Fed Pro in Chicago.