Debra Isaacson Q&A

What do you do professionally, and what leadership role(s) do you have in the Jewish community – and at CJP?

I’m the Associate Dean for Degree Programs and Student Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, where I have the opportunity to work with an amazing collection of students – all of whom are passionate about making the world a better place.

When I’m not at my day job I love to do my own part to help others through active engagement in the Jewish community. In addition to being the chair of the Leadership & Innovation Working Group for CJP’s Executive Committee on Young Adults, I’m an officer on the Board of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), chair of the JCRC Membership Committee, a member of the JCRC Governance and Support and Evaluation committees, and a member of CJP’s Israel Advocacy Committee.

How long have you been involved with CJP – and how did you first get involved?

I first dipped my toes in the CJP pool in 2005, but didn’t become consistently and more actively involved until after I participated in LEADS in 2007.

What was your first CJP event? And your favorite CJP event/program/moment?

My very first event was “CJParty” at Fenway Park. I remember being amazed at how many young Jewish professionals CJP was able to convene in one place.

Picking just one favorite CJP event/program/moment is difficult, but I’d have to say being involved in LEADS first as a participant, then as a LEADS leader and ultimately as co-chair of the program, has been my favorite. I think the format of LEADS – small group meetings combined with opportunities to socialize with a wider collection of people – is a great way to make connections, and to begin to learn about the important contributions CJP makes to society here in Boston and around the world.

How would you like to leave your footprint on CJP?

Over time, my volunteer work for CJP – from LEADS to Kadimah and the Young Jewish Leaders Council – seems to have had leadership development as a common theme. It would be humbling to be able to say some day that I helped contribute to the quality and engagement of the next generation of leaders for CJP.

What’s your favorite Jewish childhood memory?

I went to a variety of Union of Reform Judaism overnight camps from the age of 9 through the summer before my junior year of high school, and my favorite memory (among lots of other fantastic ones) is celebrating Havdalah at the conclusion of Shabbat every week. The beauty of the short service, combined with the sense of connection to my friends and our Judaism, was really powerful.

Tell us three fun Jewish facts about yourself.

  1. We had such a small family that I was always the youngest at the Passover seder – and therefore had to ask the Four Questions – until I was nearly 24 years old.
  2. I once won a chocolate bar for singing Adon Olam in one breath.
  3. I spent 6 weeks in Israel the summer before my senior year of high school, and helped renovate the only (at the time) Reform synagogue in Jerusalem.

If you could have dinner with one Jewish person (living or dead) who would it be and why?

Even though I feel like the “right” answer here is to yearn for an intellectual conversation over dinner with one of the giants of Jewish history (Golda Meir, David Ben Gurion, Henry Kissinger…) I would honestly love to dine with Jon Stewart. I always appreciate his wit and his ability to bring important issues to light in incisive-yet-accessible ways, and I’d love to find out how close to his actual self his TV persona is.


Add Comment