Sasha Altschuler, 23, has lived in the nation’s capital for less than a year, but she has already become local royalty. The San Diego native last month was crowned 2015 Jewish Girl of the Year by Gather the Jews, the young professionals group. More impressive is that her peers in the D.C. Jewish community voted for her.
Altschuler works at Jewish Women International. Prior to working at JWI, she was a development intern at the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition and a government relations intern at the Corporation for National Community Service.
She was graduated from the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, where she focused on nonprofit management and political advocacy. At Michigan, Altschuler founded a performing group called the Smile Bringer Singers. The group performs musical numbers at nursing homes, homeless shelters and family centers.
Altschuler took time out of her busy schedule for an interview at the JWI offices in downtown Washington where she talked about her work, winning Jewish Girl of the Year and the differences between San Diego and D.C.
What was it like winning Jewish Girl of the Year?
Honestly it was really exciting. I was really humbled that I was able to create such a strong sense of Jewish community here in D.C. Having only lived here for less than a year, it was really great having a lot of my friends come out to the voting session as well as meeting new people at the happy hour. It was really exciting and I really thank Gather the Jews for giving me this opportunity.
How did you get involved with GTJ as an Open Doors Fellow and what do you do in this fellowship role?
I first heard about Gather the Jews through a friend when I moved to D.C. They told me that Gather the Jews provides you with a lot of different resources in the Jewish community such as events and housing, a job board, things like that. And then I heard about this Open Doors Fellowship which gives people the opportunity to welcome new Jews in D.C. I thought that would be perfect for me because as a new Jew in D.C., I didn’t know that many people and I had to make friends and go to events by myself, which I was comfortable with. But, I wanted to give people the opportunity to have that link to go with people to events, to know what was happening in D.C. And that’s really what the Open Doors fellowship is all about is really connecting the Jewish community and through the resources that Gather the Jews gives you, the Open Doors fellows are able to be that main connector for people.
Tell us about your dual roles at JWI?
JWI is the leading Jewish organization empowering women and girls. We work on advocacy, community education, training programs and philanthropy. I’ve had the opportunity to run both the Young Women’s Leadership Network and the National Library Initiative.
At the National Library Initiative, we are trying to build 100 children’s libraries in battered women’s shelters all across the country. We’ve already built 50, and my job is to help with that final [goal] of building 50 more [by 2017]. In February, we launched our Book by Book Capital Campaign. Right now, we have about 30 shelters interested in obtaining these children’s libraries, and we’re seeking out donors to help build those libraries. We already have three that are about to be in the works, in Detroit, Sacramento and Cape Cod. So, we’re really excited about that.
Young Women’s Leadership Network’s goal is to get professional development opportunities as well as social networks for young Jewish women in their 20s and 30s. We plan events that allow women to gain professional development skills while also really connecting together.
How does San Diego compare to Washington?
It’s actually really different, and I’ve got that question a lot considering the weather is a huge difference. The thing that I really like about D.C. is that people are always walking to work, and so you know that people are going with a purpose. You know that people are going to do great things. In San Diego, a lot of people use cars so you don’t really see that professional attitude that D.C. has. That’s something I really enjoy. I also think that I can pick up a conversation with people in D.C. much more [easily] than anywhere else, whether it’s on the Metro or just walking or at different events. I feel like I’m always interested in what people are doing in D.C. and trying to learn more. And I think that’s something special that D.C. has to offer that really any other city doesn’t.