Joel Griffith is a research fellow with The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, but that’s not all he does.
Griffith, 40, also works to bring people together as the layleader of D.C.’s chapter of Young Jewish Conservatives, an organization that unites and creates communities for Jewish conservatives in four chapters across the country.
What is Young Jewish Conservatives?
We are an organization that attempts to bring together young, Jewish professionals. We work with people ranging from high school through low 40s across the country. The goal is to have a place where those on the right can speak freely, develop friendships. Of course, people don’t always agree with everybody, but it’s a place where people think independently and talk with each other. As an organization, we really do value our country’s founding principles, our constitution, and are proudly Jewish as well. That means we do our best to help members develop not just an appreciation for Israel but more knowledge and education on matters related to foreign policy and Israel.
What are some things you enjoy about this work?
My role as the chair of the chapter is to bring people together. That involves a lot of networking. Anytime I’m out and about, I want to find people that want to be involved. That’s what I like most about the role is actually seeing people engage with each other and form those friendships, especially during the past year. At a time when so many people were craving human interaction, this was a place where, for some people, this was the biggest interaction that they had had in the course of the past year. That brought a lot of joy to me personally, just seeing that it made their lives a lot better.
Can you speak about your experience of being a Jewish conservative in Washington?
Definitely, overall, being a conservative, you are in the minority in D.C. Especially within the Jewish community, there are more people on the left. I’ve been in D.C. now for about 10 years, and I’m thankful that I’ve met a lot of friends through nonpartisan events in D.C. For the most part, those interactions have been pleasant. I can count a number of friends that don’t see politically the same as me. There are occasions where it has been problematic, but with some of the organizations, some of the services from congregations have become very political and very partisan. It’s unfortunate to see that happen because when we come together to pray or study, that doesn’t have to be a partisan event.
If you’re young and conservative and want to come to D.C., yes, you’re going to be outnumbered politically overall, but you will find many good people that share your perspective or are open to discussing ideas with you.
What’s your role with The Heritage Foundation?
That’s my day job. I’m a research fellow, and I focus on financial regulations. A lot of what I do day to day is getting to know people that work in congressional offices or in the regulatory space. A lot of what I do is an immense amount of reading about current events and finance in general, trying to understand what some threats are to growth and prosperity and what some of the opportunities are. We’re trying to figure out how to best create a country where opportunity can flourish. How do we allow people to really pursue their dreams and chase opportunity? There’s so much room for improvement, and that’s what makes it exciting and challenging. There’s a combination of reading, writing and meeting other people, and there’s a component of it where we write articles or do TV appearances.
Where do you see overlap with Judaism at the Heritage Foundation?
My role is working in financial regulations, but we’re doing quite a bit on speaking out and finding ways to combat anti-Semitism. We have a really great team in the foreign policy and religious liberty space, we have experts there. I am just very passionate [about] becoming a world and country and college campuses where anti-Semitism doesn’t thrive. How do we best fight that?