Melanie Fineman wants to be the change she wants to see in the world. The 29 year old has already done a slew of advocacy work, including for Jewish organizations and is on track to graduate from Georgetown Law School in 2023. To top it off, Fineman is also an accomplished runner and has competed in 10 marathons nationwide.
When did you realize you wanted to go to law school?
Prior to law school, I lived and worked in DC for over six years. I worked for a number of different advocacy organizations. I’ve always been an advocate and it was not a surprise to anyone that I would end up going to law school but it took me a bit of time to figure out that was a great path for me to make a difference. I have been very grateful that I made that decision, I’m glad I decided to go when I did even though I’m definitely on the older end of law school students in my class and I’m excited to see what I can do with this degree.
What are you looking to do after graduating?
I’m going to be at a law firm this summer in DC. I’m excited to learn lots more about what that work is like and get experience working with different practice areas and then I’ll be going from there. I know whatever I do I will bring my positive attitude, my curiosity and my desire to have an impact. I am excited to use this degree to make a difference and to do good work that makes me happy.
Can you touch a little more on your advocacy prior to law school?
After undergrad, I worked at the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism. When I worked there it represented 1.5 million Reform Jews, 2,000 Rabbis and 900 congregations across North America. That was an incredible experience. I managed the Economic Justice portfolio there, which included housing, homelessness, hunger, minimum wage and more. Then I went to work at J-Street in 2015, which was definitely a different time in terms of some of the conversation around certain issues. When I was there, I did a lot of social media and communications work. After that, I worked at Media Matters for America, which is a media accountability organization. I did a lot of coalition work, taking the organization’s work and making it actionable. Finally, after applying to law school, I went to work at Demand Justice, which does a lot of court reform work.
How does running play a role in your life?
I started running when I was in high school. I ran at a very high level in high school and I also ran Track and Field and Cross Country Division I at Brown University. I was injured unfortunately throughout a lot of my collegiate career, I had bone marrow edema in the femoral neck part of my hip. I still found ways to help the team however I could and really tried to step out and support the team. After I graduated I took a little break from running but I got back into it when I moved to DC. To make some running friends, I decided I would run the Marine Corps Marathon in 2015. I loved it and wanted to try it again. I ran nine more marathons, I’m running my next one on April 18th. Running the Boston Marathon has been a lifelong dream and I qualified and ran it in 2018 and 2019. In 2020 I did the virtual Boston Marathon where I made my own course and ran from Maryland to DC to Virginia and back into DC.
Where does Judaism fit into your life and your activism?
My Judaism is essential to all of that and a lot of my Judaism has been centered in social justice. Professionally I am really interested in voting rights work and democracy reform and I think some of that comes from really how I was raised in this importance of showing up, doing the right thing. Not just believing in things, but doing things. I celebrate Shabbat every week and go to a lot of GatherDC events. I’m very proud of my Reform Jewish identity and am excited to continue growing and thinking critically about what that looks like.
What are your Passover plans?
When I was at Hillel in college, I was co-chair of the Holidays Committee and I organized all the seders at Brown-RISD Hillel. This year I will be going to Boston before the marathon. The marathon is on Monday and my boyfriend and I will be flying to Boston on Thursday night to do Passover with my parents. We will be FaceTiming some of my relatives who are across the country. In the past few years in DC, I’ve done virtual seders with my family, I’ve done matzah in a box takeout so I’m excited to be in person with my family this year and I’m grateful for the opportunity to do that and for the timing to work out so well with the Boston Marathon.