Building community, making the world a better place and challenging ourselves to think beyond our own experience — Cheryl Pruce, 34, tackles all of these head on in her role as a program officer at the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, in the grassroots dialogue initiative she founded and in the community she fosters.
What are your reflections on this moment right now, while we are grappling with so much in this country?
I think that COVID has made it abundantly clear just how inequitable our society is. We have an opportunity, especially in 2020, to create a more equitable and just world.
I think this is such a moment with COVID when we are seeing our most vulnerable citizens on the frontlines. Eighty percent of our healthcare workers are women, many of those — especially home aide and care workers — are women of color. My big epiphany in all of this has been thinking more about those people and how to support them.
Tell us about your role as program officer at the Schusterman Foundation.
I joined the Schusterman Family Foundation three years ago and had the pleasure of being on their Jewish grant-making team, and then had the opportunity to help them build out a gender and reproductive equity portfolio.
I love helping organizations try new things, and this was just the most amazing opportunity ever.
We have the opportunity to go out and meet all these amazing organizations who are out in the field doing incredible work. And we translate what they’re doing into a compelling case for funding that will resonate with our board. I literally wake up every day and want to do my work.
You are the founder of Minyan of Thinkers. What’s the goal of this initiative, and who participates?
The idea is to build bridges across lines of difference and create brave spaces to have challenging conversations. It started out as an intra-Jewish group, but the more that I evolved, the group actually evolved, too. We became a multiracial, multifaith group and I couldn’t be happier with that change. We’ve had really challenging conversations about topics like the Middle East and race relations in the United States.
The kind of person who is attracted to Minyan of Thinkers is someone who is searching and yearning for something. They’re searching for community, they want to figure themselves out, they want to learn, they want to read, they want to explore key issues and understand the history behind it, and they want to do it with intellectually curious, spiritual peers. Every time that I’ve been a part of a cohort, I have become more hopeful about where our society can go.
Any favorite memories from Minyan of Thinkers?
The best memories I have [pre-COVID] are when we have a session and people are still hanging out after the session ends. We’re trying to clean up and get out of the room and participants are still talking! And then they get each other’s numbers to hang out and talk more about the topics. It’s creating these meaningful relationships and community in ways that you don’t know until you bring the group together. And I personally keep in touch with many people who have been part of cohorts.
Do you view your socially conscious work through a Jewish lens?
Judaism has shaped my moral compass. It has instilled within me values of repairing the world, caring for your neighbor and listening to the voices of our most vulnerable. All of those things I learned from Jewish tradition. Jewish tradition, and my family, is very much about asking questions and I felt like I learned how to be a critical thinker and to try to understand the world around me.
I have a lot of Jewish practices that I do in a spiritual way that are meant to keep me grounded. Jewish traditions, to me, have a treasure trove of wisdom.
I feel lucky to have grown up in a community of people who are really conscious, and who share a lot of the values that I have.
You sound busy! Do you have time for hobbies?
I have a big focus on holistic health. I spend the time that I’m not working doing one of five things: running, cooking plant-based food, meditating, reading or connecting with someone I care about.
Because there’s more flexibility in my schedule during COVID, I have doubled down, especially on the mindfulness practice. This time has allowed me to live out more of my intentions around health and wellness.
When I do my runs during COVID, I like to pass the monuments. I’ve had runs where I’ve passed by the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. We just live in an amazing city.