The Capital Jewish Museum (CJM) in Washington, D.C., created a new role on their leadership team in early September, and named Malki Karkowsky, a decorated local and national non-profit professional, its Chief Advancement Officer. Karkowski grew up in the D.C. area and has spent approximately 20 years working in strategic fundraising, donor stewardship and team building, primarily for the Jewish community. She’s energetic and friendly, enthusiastic about her job and has a vault of “dad jokes” ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Could tell me what you do as Chief Advancement Officer for CJM?
I oversee our development efforts and our communications. It includes bringing general attention to the museum, making sure that we are getting wonderful foot traffic because we are so proud of our space. We also have incredible events that we want people to come and join us for and kind of help us fulfill the mission that we have. Our mission is: Connect, Reflect, Act. We use history as an opportunity to connect it to our own experiences and to reflect on how that affects us and how we think about things and then act, and take that as an opportunity to do something to not just be a bystander, but to actually be an agent in the work of the Washington Jewish community.
What is something that you’re excited to be able to do while working for CJM?
Showing the museum to all the people … that’s so much of what Judaism is, it’s community. It’s also helping to build meaning into what you do on a daily basis, that it’s bigger than you and it’s not just about living. I think the museum is very thoughtful in understanding that and when people come in, hopefully they have that chance to both feel the community and also see the meaning that is just inherent in who we are, our traditions and how we interact.
What was the educational and career journey you took to get you to your current position?
I actually went to Berman [Hebrew Academy] before it was Berman … I do think that was really important for me to have a really beautiful Jewish communal experience. It wasn’t unusual for us to walk over to someone’s house and just hang out on Saturday afternoon together. I did a gap year in Israel learning at a seminary and then I went to University of Maryland. I majored in English … I didn’t exactly know what I wanted to do with my life, but I was very involved in the Hillel on campus. And I found it to be really meaningful and wanted to help other people find community just like I had and so that was what triggered me. I started working for what was called the JCSC (Jewish Campus Service Corps) Fellowship … And then I worked at BBYO for around five years. This was all in leadership development, community engagement, programming, all that wonderful stuff, and I still do love to dabble with that. While I was at BBYO they were trying to professionalize the team. So, I was one of the people who was able to participate in an MBA program through Indiana University jointly with Hebrew College, where I also got a certificate in informal Jewish education.
Outside of your career, what do you do in your free time?
I have three children. They take up most of my time when I’m not working. We are very lucky. Part of why I have been working for the Jewish community is because I find that I have such a beautiful, wonderful Jewish community and just feel really lucky to be part of something bigger that has shared values. I do enjoy cooking. Do my kids enjoy my cooking? It depends. I like staying active as a family. We’ll often go hiking, although I wish it was more often. I’m a super an of dad jokes that are really bad, fun, parent jokes. You can blame my dad for that. But that has definitely been key to all my success.
Why is it important for you to be able to work for the Jewish community for CJM?
The experience of being in a Jewish community has really punctuated my life. And it’s been so influential on me and part of it is recognizing the unique contributions that have made the D.C. Jewish community what it is today. Recognizing that there’s some sort of special sauce here. And I think the museum is able to pull some of that together. My initial response of going into the museum is this long line of families — generation to generation – of establishing and building the community to what it is today, and it’s an honor to be able to feature all those people who have been so key not just to D.C., but also globally. We live in a very special place, and I think that the museum shows the contributions that the Jewish community has had to make it what it is today and also to influence the world in some really important and special ways.