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Growing into Jewish Leadership

August 18, 2020

Every fall, the Center for Small Town Jewish Life welcomes a new cohort of Jewish Leadership Fellows. Selected from Colby student applicants, fellows of all backgrounds are taught to exercise leadership in our community in accordance with the wisdom, cultural riches, and values embodied in the Jewish tradition. Each fellow works closely with Center staff to develop and execute programs, and to cultivate confidence and valuable skills. The fellowship integrates service to the Colby, Waterville, and statewide communities with rigorous Jewish learning and mentorship. 

In the following videos, three of our recent Leadership Fellows share their perspective on their experiences with the Center.

Lane Kadish, Colby 2020

Hi, my name is Lane Kadish. I graduated from Colby in 2020. I majored in Economics with a minor in Jewish Studies, and joining the Center for Small Town Jewish Life was the single best decision I made in my four-year college career. At the Center, I worked as our Community Conversations fellow, so I worked on our Community Conversations programming, which was designed to bring together Colby students and faculty with Waterville community members to discuss issues of common concern. 

I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, and I never really anticipated Judaism being a huge part of my college career or my life, and the Center for Small Town Jewish Life really changed that. Once I got linked in with them, I really found a community at Colby to be a part of, and I think one of the best parts of being a member of the Center was just being able to be around such amazing, knowledgeable people, and being able to sit in on planning meetings and other discussions. And I really learned a lot of things—soft and hard skills of just learning how to interact with a team, be a part of an organization like that. I am very, very appreciative for the two years that I spent working for the Center.

Noa Gutow-Ellis, Colby 2019

My name is Noa Gutow-Ellis and I graduated from Colby College in 2019, where I majored in History. These days I live in Brooklyn, New York. When I think about what most prepared me to begin working at a large cultural institution in New York City immediately upon graduating from Colby, I think about my work with the Center for Small Town Jewish Life. The Center gave me an opportunity, through a leadership fellowship, to work directly with the director of summer programs to assist in the planning of the Maine Conference for Jewish Life. I was doing meaningful work for someone at any age—let alone a sophomore in college—from coordinating with the keynote speaker, to getting into the deep logistics of scheduling spaces, and even presenting my own research through the Colby Jewish Studies program for an intergenerational audience at the Conference. 

I think most importantly, my work with the Center showed me, as someone who grew up in a very large Jewish community in Houston, Texas, that you don't actually need a large synagogue to have a meaningful Jewish experience. What you need is people, and the Center for Small Town Jewish Life masterfully brings together people in a way that keeps the focus on the rich Jewish tradition that we share.

I actually attended Jewish day school for seven years before I got to Colby, and it wasn't until my work with the Center that I really began to appreciate and to understand what it means to be a part of a Jewish community, what it means to be Jewish—that it's to show up when someone needs to say Kaddish and there needs to be a minyan. You know, it's learning in intergenerational groups and not being siphoned off into your age category time and time again. And I just am forever grateful to the Center for Small Town Jewish Life, to its leaders, to its staff, to its programming, for giving me the gift of finding my place within the Jewish community and within the tradition, and doing it in Maine.

Tori Paquette, Colby 2020

My name is Tori Paquette. I graduated from Colby College in May of 2020, with a degree in Jewish Studies and a minor in Creative Writing. I am currently living in Waterville, Maine, with a Center for Small Town Jewish Life staff, and I'm planning to attend Princeton Theological Seminary in the fall to get a master of divinity. Working for the Center for Small Town Jewish Life gave me the opportunity to participate in and feel completely welcomed by another religious community. Working on the Fall Shabbaton and the Maine Conference for Jewish Life, I got to have a lot of conversations with people from totally different backgrounds than mine, as someone who grew up in a very conservative Christian community. That was really valuable for me in shaping my understanding of interfaith work and my role in the world as a religious person. 

And then I had the opportunity to help design a course, design and build a course shaped around my interests, which is something most college students don't get to do. The Center for Small Jewish Life created that position for me. And we ended up running this course on how congregations do faith-based work around poverty in our community, and how they do community building. And that really helped shape my sense of what I wanted to do with my life and in, hopefully, my congregation in the future. 

For all of my work with the Center, I was treated as an equal staff member, even though I was a student, and that gave me such confidence in my ability to do something meaningful in a professional setting. I'm just really grateful for everything the Center's done for me and how they've shaped my career trajectory.