(401)j threw me a birthday party

By: Rachel Mersky Woda

I just got home from my 40th birthday party, also known as the (401)j Vodka Latke event. (Well, not just…I actually got home about 30 minutes ago, but I had to pay the sitter, straighten up the house and get ready for bed. As much as I need to get some sleep, my mind is filled with thoughts from tonight and I won’t be able to rest until I jot this all down.)

My name is Rachel, and today was my 40th birthday. I am a Jewish Communal Professional in Rhode Island. I am a parent of two students in Jewish day school. I am on the board of my synagogue and the chair of its youth committee. But it doesn’t really matter where I work, where my kids go to school, or which synagogue I belong to, because I believe in community.

(401)j is designed to serve the young leadership of our community. I believe I am still young despite the fact that so many asked me if turning 40 made me feel old or that I barely recognized most of the “younger” people at Vodka Latke. (For the record, I was one of the last people to leave the event. I think I’ve got a few more years left to party!)

Tonight I was with a variety of friends—some are colleagues in the Jewish community, others are parents at the same school my kids go to. There were friends who are fellow leaders at my synagogue and friends who are my kids’ teachers.  There were also friends who were former students, now old enough to share a drink with me at the bar. The best were the new friends who I met for the first time.

I looked around the restaurant that was filled to capacity with a sense of excitement for our community.  One of our distinguished rabbis present offered a d’var Torah and suggested that as a global Jewish community in 2013, we are not at war with assimilation, but rather with isolationism. In a world of social media and smart phones that allow us to communicate through devices rather than personal contact, we are at risk. He then went on to voice what I clearly witnessed tonight…our young community is winning that war.

So consider this my personal thanks to (401)j for throwing me such a great party for my milestone birthday!  As someone who values community both personally and professionally, I can’t think of a better way to have celebrated this occasion.


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