Most of us have met our fearless leader on at least one occasion, but do we really know what brought Rabbi Brian Fink to Engage and what his vision is for the future? Here’s (almost) everything you’d like to know:
Brian joined Engage as director/community organizer in the summer of 2013. After receiving his BA from Tulane University in 1999, he participated in AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps and worked as a legal advocate at the Urban Justice Center until 2004. He then worked at several Jewish organizations in community development and attended the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, graduating in 2011, and spent the next two years as a rabbinic fellow at Cornell University Hillel before coming to the JCC.
Why was the Engage opportunity just the right fit for him? While in school, Brian tried to come up with ways for retirees to get involved in social justice/Jewish service opportunities, as there were very few volunteer programs geared toward this population at the time. Most programs were targeting individuals from their B’nai Mitzvah years to Millennials. There were a plethora of offerings, and Brian thought "I wonder if these could be adapted and applied to this generation." He then learned of the opportunity for the Engage position, and the rest, as they say, is history.
I asked Brian how Engage has grown and what it takes to keep it going for the long haul. Engage was established and is funded by UJA-Federation of New York, whose support is critical to sustain the program. When Engage started, there were initial agreements to work with three partner organizations and no volunteers. Within a relatively short time, Engage has grown to roughly 300 active volunteers who help address the needs for an ever-increasing number of organizations serving the Jewish community. Brian notes that in addition to the sense of purpose that being a volunteer provides, a lot of people retire to the Upper West Side and are searching for a community of their own. Engage provides a wonderful opportunity for volunteers by participating in meetings and social and volunteer events. They are part of a vibrant community where they have a voice in its development and can meaningfully contribute to its success.
Brian is committed to building the Engage community by empowering and developing strong leaders and volunteers. This involves a commitment to determining the community's needs, establishing meaningful connections, providing support, and holding events for volunteer recognition and celebration throughout the year.
What does he look forward to in the future? A lot...growing Engage in Brooklyn, refining the leadership model, identifying more short- and long-term volunteer and leadership opportunities, increasing the depth of programming and frequency of volunteering, and developing key partnerships with Manhattan synagogues are among his goals. Brian also wants to share the key elements of the Engage model to help other Jewish organizations build similar programming of this scale.
To sum it all up, our wonderful leader is committed to the long-term growth of Engage through his dedication to volunteer support, leadership building, and community outreach and collaboration, of which there is significant and long-term potential.
We thank Brian for leading us on this path of community, service, and connection.