Archive for : Talya Gillman

Repair Interview: Talya Gillman on Covenant’s Pomegranate Prize

What has been keeping you busy since you left Repair the World?
After leaving Repair the World in late August, I began work at the University of Washington’s Carlson Leadership & Public Service Center, coordinating – what else? – service-learning opportunities! The majority of our work at the Carlson Center focuses on creating opportunities for 1,000+ students to volunteer with hundreds of different community-based organizations in the greater Seattle area each academic quarter. Enrolled in thematically diverse service-learning courses offered by the university, these students spend time with, and support their partner organizations’ efforts each week, for the duration of the term.

The Carlson Center also facilitates multiple service and civic leadership fellowships, and other community engagement opportunities around town, each of which offer space for reflection and discussion about the complex social realities prevalent throughout the city. Operating at this scale, I draw upon principles of partnership, mutuality, flexibility and empathy each day. I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to practice and cultivate commitments to these ideals through my work at Repair over the last several years.

Congrats on getting the Pomegranate Prize! Can you tell us a little more about it?
Thank you! I was certainly surprised and humbled by this honor. The Pomegranate Prize is distributed annually by The Covenant Foundation to a small cohort of young, emerging educators who demonstrate promise in the field of Jewish education.

Although I’m no longer collaborating on the development of training and service-learning curricula for Repair’s programs, the Pomegranate Prize will help me explore something I’ve been thinking about for some time now: the connections between positive character traits (empathy, kindness, generosity, critical thinking, humility, etc.) and practical and impactful social justice work. My goal is to study, support, and build programs that use Jewish teachings, ritual, vocabulary and other resources to cultivate these ‘postures’ in young people, believing that if we can help these traits become more authentically ingrained within individuals and the Jewish community broadly, then maybe we can strengthen our inclinations and abilities to effectively address large and small-scale inequalities in society.

My interest in this work is grounded in learnings and values that have been sparked and deepened through my experiences with organizations like Repair, American Jewish World Service, ATZUM and others, and I’m eager to do what I can to channel the knowledge and insights that have come from them, to help address pressing needs in our world. And, I’m excited about joining the Covenant ‘community’ via the Pomegranate Prize, because it’s clear that so many thoughtful people within it are already doing this kind of work in powerful ways!

What’s next on the horizon for you?
In addition to my work at the University of Washington, I’ve also begun graduate studies at Seattle University (yep different schools ;-)), towards a Masters in Transformational Leadership (MATL). I’m loving it – the content and ideas have consistently been inspiring, challenging, thought-provoking, and more!

Seattle U is grounded in the Jesuit tradition, and/so steeped in principles of social justice (Jewish tradition offers many similar or parallel concepts, to be sure!). The MATL itself facilitates deep exploration of leadership and the mechanics of “meaning-making” in this justice context, and I’m eager to soak up as much as I can in order to develop programs and content that – as I mentioned before – help cultivate positive social values and character traits in more and more young people today.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov had a teaching: “The whole world is a very narrow bridge, and the most important thing is not to be afraid.” But I like to say instead, “The whole world is a very narrow bridge, and the most important thing is to help each other across.” And, I’m grateful for the opportunities the Pomegranate Prize represents, because I’m certain they will help chart new pathways for this important work!