You Should Know… Stacy Miller

Photo by Lacey Johnson
Photo by Lacey Johnson

Growing up in the Reston-Herndon area, Stacy Miller says she didn’t have many Jewish friends in high school. Now, facilitating Jewish friendships is her full-time job.

The 31-year-old Arlington resident is the founder of NOVA Tribe Series, a Northern Virginia-based organization that provides creative programming and activities for Jews in their 20s and 30s, with the goal of giving back to the community and establishing a new generation of Jewish leaders. “I’m Virginia all the way,” says Miller, who attended Oakton High School and James Madison University. “Something I’m really passionate about is connecting Jews to each other.”

Miller talked to WJW about founding NOVA Tribe and how it differs from other D.C. area young professional groups.

You founded NOVA Tribe after attending a summer Birthright Alumni Leadership trip in 2011. Can you tell us more about what inspired you to start this community?

I’d been pretty active in the community before I went on the trip. I was doing volunteer work with the JCC in Northern Virginia, and I really enjoyed working and planning events with them. Around that time, I had decided I wanted to take on more programming of my own. I was getting involved with that leadership trip, and they had asked us to plan a project to impact the community in some way when we got back. So I thought this is for me to form some ideas and see if any other young adults in the community were interested. I put it out to different synagogues and young adult groups in Northern Virginia to see if anybody wanted to join a committee of young adults to help me with my program. So that’s where I started and how we began.

How does NOVA Tribe differ from other D.C.-area young professional groups?

One big thing is we started as a grassroots organization. We weren’t initially funded in any way. It was basically me coming together with other young adults who were passionate about helping the community, and also wanting to find other young adults. We think it’s very important to create a hyperlocal neighborhood-type community.

We also started a new program called Hot Spots of NOVA to showcase Northern Virginia pride and show that there are a lot of free and fun things to do out in the suburbs. For example, we did a wine-and-whiskey tour last year and partnered with EntryPointDC at the DCJCC.

Tell me a little bit more about the events NOVA Tribe throws. I understand there are happy hours, speed dating, themed Shabbats and more.

We don’t actually do too many happy hours. One thing that makes us a little different is we try to do activity-based and meaningful programs. For instance, we did a hamantashen-baking class in Reston at Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation, which is our partner synagogue. Before that, we helped pack snack bags for a local elementary school that has a reduced and free lunch program.

How do you plan to expand the community’s outreach in the future?

I’ve been thinking of two different ways to reach out to different groups. One thing that I know from partnering with the synagogue is that more couples seem to join synagogues. This past spring we started a couples program, for couples without kids. We’ve had a couple events for that, and we’re going to continue reaching out to more couples in the suburbs so they also feel welcome in programs. Our programs are for singles and couples, but we wanted to also see if we could connect to more couples in that way. The other thing is that the Metro has extended out toward Tysons and Reston. And we know a lot of young adults work in those areas. So we’re planning on doing more programming that’s professionally focused, connecting young adults with mentors or helping them with their career.

You seem extremely busy. When you’re not running the Tribe, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time, if you have any?

I have a little bit of spare time [laughs]. I enjoy cooking. Before started NOVA Tribe, I was a teacher for a long time and I started an after-school cooking program for kids.

I also like to dance. I have another little project up my sleeve that involves dancing, which I haven’t quite put together yet.

I’m thinking of doing some sort of dancing challenge for myself personally and some sort of performance and raising money for a local organization. It will hopefully be one of my big projects for the New Year.

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