Noa Nir… You Should Know

Noa Nir. Photo Courtesy.

Noa Nir is a longtime resident of Arlington and has ties to the Northern Virginia Jewish community that stretch back to some of her first jobs in the area and have continued through a career working with Jewish organizations. Nir currently works for GatherDC, part of the larger Gather Inc. organization, as its engagement director, connecting people in the area with local Jewish life.

Can you tell me a bit about yourself and your job with GatherDC?

I am a longtime Arlingtonian. I have lived in Arlington for over 20 years now. I currently live in Rosslyn but I’ve kind of lived all over the city. I am the engagement director at GatherDC. What that basically means is that I work at GatherDC, which is the city chapter of the larger, national umbrella organization of Gather Inc. And in my capacity, I manage the GatherDC Engagement Team, which connects thousands of Jewish 20s and 30s to DC, Maryland and Virginia Jewish life and to other Jews in the DMV, and ultimately helps them cultivate a more meaningful Jewish identity through those connections. In my role, I also oversee our Jewish 30s portfolio and I manage a lot of our cohort and partnership work as well. I came to Gather in April of 2022. So, I’m coming up on my two-year anniversary this year.

Can you describe some of the specifics involved with your job?

I know that a lot of people are like, there is no typical day. I think that’s also quite true for the engagement director role. As I mentioned, I oversee our engagement team, which consists of a DC community manager and a NOVA community coordinator. And so really in partnership with them, I oversee the ways that we connect on the ground with folks in the DMV region. That can look like everything from coordinating our series of cohorts, to timing our happy hours versus our neighborhood gatherings versus our smaller Shabbat that we do in each region. And as I mentioned, I oversee our 30s portfolio. So that means that I will get coffee regularly with people in their 30s who are either new to the region or re-entering Jewish life in the region. And I hear their stories, hear their Jewish journey and work with them to find the people or the space that most resonates with them.

How did you become interested in doing this sort of work?

I have been in the DMV Jewish nonprofit scene for 10 years now. I have always been a Jewish nonprofit professional. But before I came to Gather, I was actually working in Jewish nonprofit development work. And one of the things that really spoke to me about that work was creating and cultivating relationships with people. And a big part of Jewish development work is really getting to know people on an individual level and hear their own stories, hear their own kind of connections with their Jewish identity, and build a relationship with them that really seeks to help them connect Jewishly. And I think what drew me to this role at Gather was that that’s the entire focus of this work — cultivating meaningful Jewish relationships with people and really helping people explore their individual Jewish identities. And it just felt like the natural progression of my role to move from development work into more engagement-focused work.

What is the personal importance of being able to provide connections and a Jewish community experience to people?

Just speaking on a personal level, I think it took me a long time to find my footing in DMV Jewish life, even having lived here for 20 plus years. I think that the scene is growing and changing all the time. And I think it took a lot of internal work and also some more field research to find spaces and people who really could help me, could help affirm me and my Jewish identity. And having been in this region for a long time and having explored all these Jewish spaces, I feel like I have a lot of knowledge and a lot of empathy for people who are starting that journey here or restarting that journey here. So, it’s little bit of an effort to pay it forward, for lack of a better term. I think it feels very meaningful and important to me to kind of make integrating into DMV Jewish life as easy and as seamless as possible for folks. I also know that it takes some trial and error sometimes to find the space that really resonates with you. And I think having a person to bounce ideas off of or check in with periodically – which is what I and the rest of the engagement team are – it just feels invaluable. To me, it just really feels meaningful in that way.

How does your Jewish identity impact you on a day-to-day basis?

To be a little vulnerable, I think I’m still in my searching phase of my life – I think I am still figuring out what my Jewish identity looks like to me. And I think part of that exploration happens through this work. I think it happens that sometimes in conversations with other people in which I’m asking them questions about their own Jewish identity, they can say things that really kind of trigger something in me that makes me think about my own Jewish identity. And I feel like this work is very external-facing, I’m doing a lot of people facing work. But so much of what we do at Gather, from the coffees that we go on, to the cohorts that we lead to the retreats that we initiate, they all encourage a lot of self-reflection and introspection. And I think, at Gather more than anywhere I’ve worked, I’ve grappled with what it means to be Jewish and what my own personal Jewish identity means to me. I think it’s incredible to be in a job that encourages me to keep questioning and keep learning more about myself, as I accompany other people on their Jewish journeys.

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