Marissa Freeman, NFTY-CWR ’10; Chicago Hub Manager, OneTable
What was the highlight or most important part of your time in NFTY?
My NFTY experience was unique because by the time I was ready to be involved, the group needed to be reorganized. Having seen how my friends at Camp Ramah had gotten involved with their youth groups, I was motivated to get the ball running and put Hawaii on the NFTY map. Our chapter, Honolulu Oahu Temple Youth (or HOOTY), was small but strong. A highlight I reflect on to this day is working with our advisor to recruit and train our executive board. While it wasn’t an easy undertaking, it was so rewarding to see our group bond over our common traditions and community.
What is your role at OneTable?
I feel so fortunate to be the Chicago Hub Manager for OneTable. My role is to organize, engage, and grow the Chicago Jewish communities OneTable host network. In this role, I am meeting members of the community to discuss and create unique Friday night experiences. I also represent OneTable to many of our organizational partners and am able to join other efforts in the Chicago Jewish world.
What is the most exciting thing you’re (as an individual or as an organization) working on right now?
As Chicago Hub Manager, I am enthusiastic about the variety of organizations we are partnering with around the city. Our hosts create such meaningful Shabbat dinner experiences for their guests so I am channeling their energy into building up the partnerships we hold across the city.
What inspired you to take a job at OneTable?
After telling a Camp Ramah friend that I was moving to Chicago and needing to meet new people, I looked into OneTable as a potential guest. From there, I met more and more team members, realizing that the role as a Hub Manager was something I was interested in. In an early conversation with our Rabbi in Residence, Rabbi Jessica Minnen, it became clear to me that the work OneTable does helps people take a deep breath at the end of the week and welcome in their Shabbat with intention. From there, I was hooked. Every day I see that the work our team does empowers young Jews to create their own Jewish experiences, in whatever way they choose. That in and of itself makes this job a total passion project.
How do you feel NFTY prepared you for work in the Jewish community, and/or specifically at OneTable?
NFTY is where I launched myself as a leader in the Jewish community. Years and years of summer camp taught me the value of Judaism and the traditions we share but NFTY gave me a space to take ownership over my community’s activities, programs and education. As President of our Honolulu chapter, I was empowered to find my own voice as a Jewish leader and I use the confidence from that experience in my work every day.
How would you describe your connection to the Jewish community and why is it important to you?
My connection to the Jewish community stems from an upbringing in a Hawaiian melting pot. Having grown up in Kailua, Hawaii, I have always been exposed to a diverse Jewish community, always learning from other cultural practice and traditions. As a result, my connection to Judaism comes from knowing that my Jewish identity may be different from my peers and in that, we grow and learn from each other. This continues to be important to me as I take on new challenges and adventures; being able to enter a Jewish community means that I never feel too far from home or alone. This has been significant for me as I’ve established my new home in Chicago, all the while reaffirming that wherever you go, there always someone Jewish.
Are you involved in other Jewish groups or organizations?
The beauty of my Chicago adventure is that it’s just getting started! I’ve had so many incredible introductions to all that Chicago’s Jewish world has to offer – how could I pick just one?! I am excited, however, to continue involvement with LEADS, a program for Jewish learning provided by the Young Leadership Division of The Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago.
What recommendations do you have to current NFTYites who might be considering Jewish communal work after graduation?
While your post grad profession might seem far off, I would start by saying that one of the best things you can do is continue your Jewish learning as you move from chapter to chapter of your life. Conversations and opinions change with time and the questions you’re being asked about your Judaism, both by peers and leaders, will have different answers as your experiences evolve. Your next step, whether it be attending college, traveling or going straight to work, isn’t a chance for you to take a break from Judaism – it’s an opportunity for you to challenge yourself in discovering what the community means to you in a different setting. Regarding the moment when you launch your career, I’ll add in that I didn’t start off working in the Jewish world, I started in digital marketing. And while I enjoyed my time at my agency job, jobs in the Jewish world reward employees with a sense of community and support. Work is work, but knowing that my profession contributes to expanding Judaism one step at a time makes coming to work so easy.
Born and raised in Kailua, Hawaii, Marissa has found her new home in Chicago by way of Seattle. Along with finding the perfect Poke bowl and discovering Chicago one Shabbat Dinner at a time, Marissa has a background in Digital Marketing and community engagement. An alumna of Camp Ramah in California, Marissa can be found at a OneTable Shabbat dinner, taking a class at the Bar Method, or bundled up in her new (much appreciated) winter wardrobe.