Reni Gertner, Chair of the Outreach & Engagement Working Group of CJP’s Executive Committee on Young Adults, talks honey tastings, chairing Chai, and the famous Y2K Summer Mission.
How long have you been involved with CJP – and how did you first get involved?
I got involved with CJP when I first moved to Boston in 1997. That’s almost “Chai” years ago now, which is amazing to me. I served on a newcomers’ committee, and went to some Women’s Philanthropy committee meetings for a minimum gift event. At first, I thought my best skill to offer was writing thank you notes to donors, but soon realized I had a knack for solicitation. My connection to CJP became even stronger in 2000 when I went on the famous Y2K Summer Mission.
What’s been your favorite CJP event, program, trip, moment, etc. so far?
My most meaningful CJP moments have been when I’ve had an opportunity to not only connect more people with our Jewish community, but also help them learn why the work we do here is so important. The event that comes to mind is when I chaired the first-ever young adult minimum-giving-level event, the Chai Event. There were doubts about whether we could fill the room at all if we required a minimum donation from a young adult. And lo and behold, it was standing room only!
What’s your favorite Jewish childhood memory?
I will never forget when I choose my own Star of David necklace in Jerusalem when I was about to turn 13. I can still remember how it felt to be in Israel for the first time, and it’s a feeling that returns every time I go back.
Tell us three fun Jewish facts about yourself.
- I was Campaign Chair of what was formerly YLD when my son was very little. To explain why I went out to meetings so often, I taught him what Tzedakah means and said I was going to “Tzedakah Meetings.” At 8-years-old, he still knows exactly what that means and has developed compassion for people in need as a result.
- Of all Jewish holidays, Rosh Hashanah is my favorite one to host. From my aunt, I’ve brought a super-fun tradition to our celebration: a honey-tasting. We add new and interesting honeys every year. The tasting concept gets even the youngest kids to quickly take their seats around the table, and it’s memorable every time.
- My husband and I had a wonderful Ketubah signing and Havdalah service all rolled into one. But somehow, no one brought any wine. So we had the only thing the rabbi could find: champagne! It was sparkly and so fitting. And we are celebrating our 11-year wedding anniversary tomorrow.
If you could have dinner with one Jewish person (living or dead) who would it be and why?
I would love to have dinner with Golda Meir. She was such an impressively strong woman and I’d like to hear her stories first hand.