The Jewish Week’s annual 36 Under 36 honors young leaders, entrepreneurs and change-makers who are making a difference in the life of Jewish New York. For the full list of this year’s “36ers,” click here.
What do you do?
I am the director of Jewish student life and engagement at Tanger Hillel at Brooklyn College. I consider myself a community organizer while simultaneously being a Jewish educator. I work closely with CUNY students of all backgrounds supporting them as they go through the most formative years of their lives during their college careers. I am passionate about making sure that all Jews across the spectrum are seen and heard. I can proudly say that many of the students I have guided from Mizrahi and Sephardi communities have gone on to take leadership roles in the Jewish world. I was also the first Bukharian person to become a Wexner Davidson Fellow, in 2021.
How does your Jewish identity influence the work you do?
Both my parents are from Samarkand, Uzbekistan, and my Bukharian heritage was very present in my life growing up. Growing up in Brooklyn I came to quickly realize that I was different because of the way I looked, which was very Mizrahi, with dark olive skin and thick curly hair. At a young age I began to realize what being different meant and that I had a responsibility to represent my community respectfully and educate others around me. As I started working in the Jewish nonprofit world, I realized that not many Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews were showing up in Hillel spaces or local JCCs and I wanted to change that. I made a vow to myself that every program I was creating and every Jewish community I was a part of I would strive to engage members of these communities and empower them.
Was there a formative Jewish experience that influenced your life path?
Growing up we didn’t have much. I was raised for most of my life by a single mom, whom I refer to as a real-life super heroine. Regardless of coming from a low-income household, I would always see my mom helping out in our local community, giving to others even when she didn’t have enough for herself. That stayed with me for years and sparked this desire for helping others. I always knew that my purpose in life was to be a public servant and meet the needs of my community.
What’s a fun fact about you?
I am a comedy addict and have dabbled in improv and stand up.
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