You Should Know… Ethan Litvin

Photo courtesy of Jackie Black

Thirty-year-old Ethan Litvin lived in eight states while growing up. He’s the volunteer and intern coordinator at the nonprofit SEEC in Silver Spring, which is also where he lives.

What is SEEC?

Seeking Employment, Equality and Community provides services to adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities. I work in the partnerships department, so my role is to really help with community engagement and recruiting volunteers, so that the people that we support have a community and a support system to be successful.

What is Judaism for you?

Judaism to me is feeling like you’re part of something bigger than yourself. To me that means community and helping people connect to the community and feel inspired to connect to Judaism in whatever way works for them. I’ve been in a lot of different communities. And I think what I love the most about it is that we have traditions that we still keep and that everyone can participate in. I love doing Shabbat dinners and knowing that they’re happening all over the world.

So I guess for me, it’s incorporating Jewish values and traditions into my life so that I can help others as well connect.

D​​o you belong to a synagogue?

I do not. I kind of am involved in so many different communities in D.C. that I kind of just move around to whatever we could see going on, wherever my friends are going to. I love The Den Collective. I’m really involved in that. And then I have friends that are also involved in, like, Kesher, a D.C. minyan, Chabad, you name it. So I’m pretty much the Wandering Jew around D.C.

Is there a lesson or piece of wisdom that you’ve learned that sticks with you?

I think it’s really important to focus on your own happiness and personal growth and exploration. Self care is so important, and life is too short to not do what you want to do and to not be happy with what you’re doing. If you want to do something, go for it and it doesn’t matter what people say or think. I would say, take risks and do what you love.

What was your Jewish upbringing? Because now I know, in your own words, you’re the Wandering Jew, in essence.

I grew up in a Reform community. My mom converted to Judaism before she married my dad, and we grew up in a synagogue in South Florida, very involved Jewishly, and went to services, like every Friday night, all the holidays. I was a pretty involved Jew growing up — was in NFTY, BBYO, did birthright, Hillel, all that.

Now I consider myself in the exploration phase of my Jewish life — how do I want to keep traditions when I get older, when I, you know, if I find a partner and raise a family? And I think what I’m focused on now is to discover what kind of tradition I want to keep with me and what I want to be involved with moving forward.

Have you ever felt like people discourage you from working in the nonprofit world?

I’ve had people tell me, like, “You can’t do this because that’s just not realistic, people aren’t going to want to support you” or “you’re going to be behind in life.” I’ve traveled so many different places and it was amazing. I’ve had people tell me, “You shouldn’t be traveling, you should be working. And you should be focused on making money.” Eventually I stopped listening to them and just traveled. It was the best time of my life. So, create your own path and stick to it.

You spent a year studying in Israel. How’s your Hebrew?

So I’ve lost, unfortunately I lost a good amount of it but I still try to speak as much as I can while I’m here to keep my practice going. I like to talk to my Israeli friends in Hebrew and people that I know that speak Hebrew. There’s like Hebrew speaking groups in D.C. that I’ve joined. But yeah, I definitely need to keep practicing.

Know someone age 40 or younger who has something important to say? Nominate them for a You Should Know interview. Email WJW Editor David Holzel at [email protected].

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