Finding Community in Los Angeles and Around the Jewish World with JDC Entwine

When Sarah Herman got connected with JDC, she realized the organization was already part of her family's post-Holocaust Jewish journey. Now, through travel, she's found Jewish community around the world.

By Sarah Herman - JDC Entwine Community Representative | October 12, 2020

Sarah Herman (second from right) poses for a photo at Mqinvartsveri, outside of Tbilisi, on a JDC Entwine trip to Georgia in July 2019.

To me, community is very important. I tap into the many different communities that I am a part of, both personally and professionally, to bring value to my life.

I have been fortunate enough to hold a career in the sports industry for over a decade — an industry that thrives on the notion of community-building. The way I see it, sports speaks a universal language. It really doesn’t matter what your socioeconomic background is, your race, gender, political affiliations, or occupation … there is something about sports that brings people together and unifies a community in times of happiness and in times of despair.

Whether we’re rooting for the same team or not, sports has a magic that brings people together. It’s for that reason that I have pursued a career in this industry, to amplify community-building through the lens of sports.

Now, let me bring it back to my personal life. My Jewish identity has always been strong: I grew up attending Jewish day school through the age of my bat mitzvah, observing Jewish holidays, and attending Camp Ramah as a child. I was an active member of the Hillel community when I was a student at the University of Southern California, and I traveled to Israel on a Birthright trip shortly after I graduated.

I felt part of a community again, part of a group of likeminded young professionals who shared the same Jewish values and passions as I did.

Despite this strong Jewish background, after college, I focused my energy and time on my career. As I navigated through the early years of my professional life, my Jewish identity never wavered. But I was not playing an active role in a Jewish community, and I felt like something was missing. It wasn’t until I found JDC Entwine, JDC’s young adult platform, that I bridged that gap. I felt part of a community again, part of a group of likeminded young professionals who shared the same Jewish values and passions as I did.

With Entwine I had the opportunity to explore global Jewry, and learn about my past and present in ways I never had before. I first learned about Entwine after a friend of mine traveled on a week-long Insider Trip to Cuba in 2018. After hearing about her journey, I was immediately interested in participating in a future trip. When I started to research the organization in more detail, I came across the JDC Archives — and it was through that database that I uncovered documentation of my own family members who were assisted by JDC after the Holocaust.

Of course, I’d heard stories of how my Savta spent time in a Displaced Persons camp in Germany after the Holocaust before finding her way to the United States, and how my great-grandparents traveled to Australia after the war as well. I never knew, though, that it was JDC that played such a central role in getting them to their final destinations, and I had certainly never seen the actual documents that told those stories.

When I found these artifacts I knew immediately JDC was an organization I wanted to be a part of. Without even realizing it, JDC had been a part of me all of these years. I still get chills thinking about looking through the Archives because my family’s story is very special to me. I am confident that many of my peers will also be able to connect the dots of their family histories through the Archives.

Sarah Herman on a walking tour of Old Havana during her JDC Entwine trip to Cuba in December 2018.

Fast forward a few months, and I was accepted to my first Entwine Insider Trip. The trip was to Cuba, and offered a unique opportunity to learn about the Jewish community there. Entwine gave me a new lens through which to look at global Jewry — I was able to show up for myself, show up for my community, and connect Jewishly with my peers. I realized that my community extended way beyond the bounds of Los Angeles, or even the United States. There is something so special about exploring a new country with an unfamiliar native language, walking through the doors of a JCC or synagogue, and immediately feeling at home.

The following summer, I joined Entwine in Georgia and Azerbaijan as an Insider Trip Chair.  As a Trip Chair, I helped to recruit for the trip, facilitated content during the program, and developed lay leadership skills. And suddenly my worlds collided! I wrote earlier of my passion for sports and how it speaks a universal language. Now here I was in Georgia, playing a pickup game of soccer in the mountains of Tbilisi with a handful of my tripmates and JDC clients from the local area.

I can tell you right now: I don’t speak Russian, and I don’t speak Georgian, but I had a deeply meaningful experience. It only reaffirmed my desire to continue to look at opportunities to build and nurture communities that I am a part of locally, nationally, and globally, all through a Jewish lens. 

Sarah (left) poses for a photo in a forest outside of Tbilisi, Georgia in July 2019.

Every time I travel somewhere new in the world, I add “visiting synagogues” to my to-do list so I can connect my travels to my Jewish identity, regardless of the level of exposure I’ve had to that part of the world. Through my travels with Entwine, and through some of my own, I’ve had Jewish experiences in Asia, Europe, North America, and Australia. And I hope to add to that list. I have been able to explore global Jewish causes and understand the value of bringing that back to my Jewish community back home.

To take that next step in my leadership journey, I joined Entwine’s Community Representatives program earlier this year to further develop my leadership skills and bring what I’ve learned to my own community in California. My Jewish identity has never been stronger, and I continue to build on my existing foundations.

The role JDC has played in my life so far has been invaluable: It’s helped me realize the importance of a commitment to action and that tikkun olam and global Jewish responsibility are core parts of who I am. JDC has helped me understand that I am a part of a generation of global leaders capable of shaping the future of Jewish life.

These experiences have allowed me to look backward and think about my history in a new way. And as I look forward, I have a newfound appreciation of community, catalyzed by my global Jewish experiences.

Sarah Herman is from Los Angeles, California and is an experienced digital media manager with a strong background in the sports industry. She currently works at the National Football League, advising the NFL’s 32 Clubs’ executive teams with their digital strategies and initiatives. Sarah holds a B.S. in Business Administration and a Masters in Communication Management, both from the University of Southern California. She is also currently pursuing her Masters in Sports Industry Management from Georgetown University in a fully employed graduate program.

Sarah traveled with JDC Entwine to Cuba in 2018 and served as a Trip Chair to Georgia and Azerbaijan in 2019. She has been a Community Representative with Entwine since January 2020. Sarah is also a member of the Community Leadership Institute (CLI) with the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles, and sits on the young adult board of Jewish National Fund as the president of JNFuture Los Angeles.

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