Shep Englander — Strategic Initiatives
Cincinnati 2020 in 2019: Natalie Adler
Each installment in this series will feature a different perspective on Cincinnati 2020, the Jewish community’s collaboration to build an engaged and empowered Jewish community by the year 2020.
This week, we hear from Natalie Adler, a young adult who got more involved with Jewish Cincinnati through Cincinnati Vine. The new website was launched last summer to help engage Jewish young adults under 45 and make them feel more connected to the community—a key goal of Cincinnati 2020.
The inspiration for Cincinnati Vine came out of a series of parlor meetings with Jewish young adults throughout 2017; the site was then developed by young adult volunteers. Natalie’s experience using the website shows the fruits of their labor.
Where are you and your (very new) husband from? How did you meet?
I’m from the Cincinnati area, and my husband Josh is from Columbus. Right now, we live in
Deer Park. We actually met at work. I was already in the process of converting to Judaism at the time. When he found out that I was Jewish, he came up to me and told me he was, too. I thought he was lying; I just thought it was a pickup line! Anyway, it turned out, it was true. And the rest is history.
Why did you decide to convert?
That’s a really good question. I’ve always been really interested in Jewish history, and I’ve always, even when I was really young, loved to watch the History Channel. As I got a little older, in my mid-twenties, I had a friend who was converting and going to Isaac M. Wise Temple. She was my neighbor, and I asked her if I could go with her sometime—just to see a service. Once I went, I didn’t stop going. I loved it and just found my way. I love the traditions and meaning behind Jewish rituals.
As you got more serious with each other, you and your husband were looking for ways to get involved in the Cincinnati Jewish community. What did that look like?
We always participated in activities, as we heard about them. There is a program called Next Gen @Wise, which has been happening on a monthly basis at Wise Temple for several years. But aside from that, it was just word of mouth or through Facebook. Cincinnati Vine really gave us a place to go and see everything that’s going on. Now we can pick and choose what we want to do—from a really wide range of options. And to be honest, I feel like there are too many options! I want to do everything! It’s just so awesome to have so many different kinds of events available.
If I were to think about the number of things we did on a weekly basis as a couple, and separately, a year ago, and compare it to now, it’s dramatically different. We are so much more involved in the community.
So was it that you did not have access to these events before Cincinnati Vine?
It was more that we were not aware they were going on. I have actually wondered: Were that many things going on, and I just didn’t know? Or are there now more activities going on? I have no idea, but I’m glad to have a wealth of options now.
Since the launch of Cincinnati Vine, what have been some of your favorite events?
Typically, we do something every week, even if it’s just Shabbat dinner. One of my favorite events was the Thanksgiving Shabbat dinner; once you signed up for the event, everyone got assigned to go to someone’s house. We were hosted by an Orthodox couple. It was so far out of my comfort zone, but they were so welcoming and explained everything so perfectly. I messed some things up—like not washing my hands—but they were so gracious. After that event, we got together again for a game night. As we’ve gotten to know each other better, I’ve learned so much, and have even taught them things about Reform Judaism.
I also really liked the young adult grand opening of the Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center. It was really neat to be there with people our own age and look at the events through a similar lens. It was so much different than other young adult events because it was so sad. However, being there with others like us made us feel like everyone was right there together. There was a great sense of community that night.
Have you heard of other young adults who have had a similar experience using Cincinnati Vine?
One of my friends moved closer into town a few years ago, and she wanted to get involved in the community. She went to a couple of events, but she wasn’t really excited about them, and she didn’t really connect with other people. Over the fall, though, I told her about Cincinnati Vine. Since then, she has gotten on and signed up for several events. She told me the scene is completely different than a few years ago—much more vibrant. She is so much more involved now. So it’s working. Word is getting out there, and people are really enjoying these events.
Did you know that Cincinnati Vine came out of a larger initiative called Cincinnati 2020? The community set goals in 2010 to build a more engaged and empowered community by the year 2020. A few years ago, the community held forums for young adults, called Beyond 2020, to determine what would help young people get involved in Jewish Cincinnati. As a result, Cincinnati Vine was created.
I didn’t know that, but I’m grateful for Cincinnati Vine. It is so important for our community to focus on young adults because we are the next generation of leaders. Getting people involved at a young age and making those connections that will carry throughout our lives is vital. And to meet young adults where they are—in the digital space—makes getting involved so much easier. It’s just a better way, and I’m glad to hear it’s a priority for this community.
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