JewishBoston is introducing the 10 remarkable Chai in the Hub honorees in two parts (read part two here). All the honorees will be feted at a Feb. 3 gala. Meet a group of young adults whose passion for the Jewish people comes through in unique and admirable ways.

Emily Cable

Updated Emily Cable picEmily Cable knew early in her college career that she wanted to help people in the realm of global health. Cable, 27, grew up in Weston and graduated with a master’s degree in public health from Boston University. She is an associate at John Snow Inc., a public health consulting firm dedicated to global health projects around the world. Cable is currently focusing on an HIV health project in Tanzania, where she often works on the ground with local partners.

In addition to her interest in health and wellness, Cable is passionate about her role on CJP’s Boston-Haifa Connection young adult committee. “This [project] is close to my heart,” she recently told JewishBoston. “It’s particularly meaningful because I spent a semester studying at the University of Haifa my junior year of college.” Cable also spent a college summer volunteering in a CJP-sponsored program. She noted that “everything has come full circle for me: my connection to Boston, Haifa and CJP.”

Cable is also committed to Israel as co-chair of israel360, a CJP-sponsored platform for conversations about Israel. “We started israel360,” said Cable, “as a response and solution for the need to have conversations about Israel for young adults. We invite different perspectives and try to make our programs as bipartisan as possible. We also have creative programming around Israel. It brings young adults to the table for a productive conversation about Israel and presents a side of the country that people can connect to.”

Cable was raised in a household in which “Israel was very much a part of my life.” She’s a Birthright Israel alumna who went on to participate in the Birthright Israel Fellows program. The fellowship offered training in experiential education, and Cable subsequently went on six Birthright trips as a staff member. “Part of my connection to Israel is helping others to connect to the country, to find what is special about Israel for them,” she said. “It also allows me to show them what is meaningful to me about Israel.”

Jillian Cameron

JillianCameronJillian Cameron, the Boston community rabbi for InterfaithFamily, has catapulted her “Ask the Rabbi” sessions into a notable and successful part of her rabbinate. The 35-year-old New Jersey native came to Boston almost four years ago, and in that time her outreach to interfaith couples and families has been trailblazing. “An important part of my work is listening to people’s stories,” Cameron told JewishBoston. Toward that goal, Cameron has hung her “Ask the Rabbi” shingle out in Boston-area coffee shops. She invites couples, families and individuals “to sit down and talk to me in a comfortable space in their neighborhood about issues they’ve been dealing with.”

Cameron not only ministers to Boston’s interfaith community, she was also raised in an interfaith home. The daughter of a Catholic mother and Jewish father, Cameron described her parents as “hippies who got married and didn’t think about religion.” When Cameron was 7, a friend invited her to attend Hebrew school for an afternoon. “I loved school and jumped at the chance to go to more school,” she fondly recalled. “I wanted to go back and learn Hebrew.” But the Hebrew school was for members only, so Cameron’s parents joined the Reform synagogue so she could attend. “Luckily for me, we were welcomed as an interfaith family,” she said. “Ever since then I found a path in the Jewish community, and so did my family.”

Forging paths for interfaith families in the Jewish community is at the top of Cameron’s agenda. “Part of my role is to get the word out about what could be great for interfaith families,” she said. “We try to connect interfaith couples with Judaism in a way that makes sense for them. We’re trying to help them access Judaism on their own terms.”

Cameron’s role at InterfaithFamily has also ushered her into the Boston Jewish community. She has brought her trademark “Ask the Rabbi” sessions to the CJP LEADS program. “I consider myself a community rabbi, and part of my goal is to give people alternate expectations of what a rabbi is and what a community can be,” she said. In partnership with the Jewish Arts Collaborative, Cameron participated in a recent Hanukkah party at the Museum of Fine Arts, where she was among those who took part in the candle-lighting ceremony. “Three-thousand people saw me light the candles and listened to what I do,” she said. “Having me at the MFA showed that Hanukkah [and any other Jewish event] was open to all who want to participate.”

In her minimal spare time, Cameron is learning Norwegian. “I missed learning and spending time on something completely outside of the normal work I do,” she said. Learning a language to which she had never been exposed fit the bill. “When you learn a language, you learn about culture too,” she added.


Mike Fishbein

MichaelFishbeinMike Fishbein has that rarest of talents—he can meaningfully communicate with a teenager. As assistant director of Jewish education at Temple Israel of Boston, Fishbein, 39, is in charge of The Tent, a Jewish learning community for Greater Boston teens located at Temple Israel. Fishbein told JewishBoston that The Tent is “based on partnerships with other congregations. We re-launched the long-standing synagogue-based model into one that serves the entire community. Five years ago, we had almost 90 teenagers, all of whom were from Temple Israel. Today we have 110 students representing six congregations and independent families.” This translates into one school serving the different movements of Judaism. For Fishbein, it means these teens are not only in community together, but they are also creating Jewish life together.

Fishbein’s personal entrée into Jewish life began as a young congregant at a Reform synagogue just outside of Trenton, N.J. He recalled that he grew up with a strong Jewish identity in which Shabbat played a central role. “That metaphor of how the first-century rabbis transformed the sacrificial altar into a Shabbat table resonates with me,” he said. “I identify my various dining room tables—my parents, my grandparents and my own as the most sacred places in the world.”

By his own admission, he said his early Jewish education left him with gaps to fill. In college, he took an introductory course to Judaism and felt as if he were studying a religion he barely recognized. “I came out of that experience with a burning need to figure out my Jewish identity,” he said.

By the time he moved to Boston in 2003 to teach high school biology in Newton, he was intent on “reestablishing my Jewish identity on my own terms as an adult.” He found an ideal place to do that at Temple Israel. He and his wife became active in Riverway Project, where they enrolled in a Me’ah class designed for 20- and 30-somethings. He became close to Riverway’s founding rabbi, Jeremy Morrison, and a few years later he was hired as Riverway’s coordinator. That same year he served as Temple Israel’s youth group advisor. “It was an inspiring opportunity for me,” he said. “As assistant director of education, I still work with the teen program.”

Fishbein is an ardent supporter of both the Racial Justice Initiative at Temple Israel and Keshet. “The boundaries are blurry between the professional and personal things I do,” he said. “When I happen upon great things in the community, I find ways to incorporate them into the work I do with my students.”

Shmaya Friedman

ShmayaFriedmanAt just 31, Shmaya Friedman has found his calling as one of the rabbis at Chabad of the North Shore. Born in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn to a Lubavitch family, Friedman said he has lived the Jewish experience his entire life. “Do you know the expression that the Jews haven’t kept Shabbos, but Shabbos has kept the Jews? That’s the way I feel about my work,” he told JewishBoston. “It’s not something that I necessarily chose, but I was born to do it.”

Friedman comes from an eminent Hasidic family. His grandfather is Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, the late Rebbe’s personal secretary and now the de facto head of the movement. His father is the director of Lubavitch Publishing House and oversees the publication of Chabad literature, prayer books and Torah commentaries.

Since his arrival in Swampscott seven years ago, Friedman and his wife, Aliza, have created or expanded Chabad’s youth programs, day camp, Hebrew school, preschool, teen programming and adult education on the North Shore. He described his daily work as a “dream job.” His goal is steadfast—to find creative ways for the 21st-century unaffiliated Jew to reconnect to his or her Judaism. Toward that end, Friedman said his calendar is “very program and event heavy. I like to tell my friends that I’m a community organizer.”

His challenge is to appeal to a wide demographic, in which he pushes himself to reinvent the children’s Shabbos programs and the Purim and Hanukkah experiences. He’s willing to listen to out-of-the-box ideas when it comes to celebrating Jewish holidays. As an example, he and his wife are planning a Shabbaton at the end of the month with three distinct events to appeal to three diverse groups. Shabbat dinner is aimed at bringing together empty-nesters, Shabbat morning services are directed to younger parents, and a Saturday night Havdalah program is for preschool families.

Although Chabad work is all-encompassing, Friedman finds time to volunteer with Yachad as the rabbinic advisor for the North Shore region. He’s also one of the co-founders of One Mitzvah, in which he escorts teenagers to areas affected by natural disasters. Next month he’ll take a youth group called the Jew Crew to Houston to help rebuild homes affected by Hurricane Harvey.

For Friedman, the work and spirit of One Mitzvah sum up his efforts at Chabad. “One mitzvah can change the entire world,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be big or fancy or monetary. It just has to be one person doing a good thing for another person.”

Jonathan Golden

JonathanGoldenWhen it comes to teaching his history students at Gann Academy, Jonathan Golden is inspired by the great American education philosopher John Dewey, who said the main purpose of education is to prepare students to participate in democracy. “That is what the classroom is all about, and it has been true of my career,” Golden told JewishBoston. Golden, 44, has had various roles at Gann, with the most recent one focusing on Israel education.

Raised in Worcester, Golden was an American studies major at Princeton University and earned a master’s degree in Jewish education from Hebrew College. He went on to receive his Ph.D. from Brandeis University in American Jewish history, where he studied with professor Jonathan Sarna. He also credits his 13 years at Camp Yavneh, as both a camper and counselor, with giving him a true sense of Klal Yisrael—Jewish peoplehood. 

In his current role as Gann’s Israel educator, Golden asks his students thought-provoking questions. “What is the place of the American Jewish voice in American Jewish life? What is our emotional connection to Israel and what is our knowledge of its history, culture and the like? Being a pluralistic school, we have a wide range of stances that people take on Israel,” he said. “I see that as an outgrowth of the democratic teaching I’ve done in other contexts.”

Since 2010, Golden has also been an active lay leader with AJC. He said the experience has opened his eyes to a global advocacy that includes the rights of Jews in countries around the world. He has also closely watched Israel’s place on the world stage and brought his observations to his students. On AJC’s national level, Golden has been involved in the Jewish Religious Equality Commission, which dovetails with his deep commitment to Israel and Jewish pluralism. The commission includes representatives from the three denominations of Judaism, the National Council of Jewish Women and various federations—all of whom are dedicated to supporting pluralism on religious issues in Israel.

Golden noted that his time at AJC has shown him how well a group can operate in the American democratic context. It has also enabled him to consider Israel’s place in the world, as well as the role of intergroup relations. He said he frequently draws on those experiences in the classroom, and one can confidently surmise that his students are all the richer for it.