The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

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Hand(el)ing the situation

Handelman leads a session on Judaism for Ukrainian refugees in Poland during her time volunteering for the Jewish Service Corps Fellowship. Photo by Dalia Handelman, used with permission.

One of the most profound values alumna Dalia Handelman (‘18) gained while she was a student at CESJDS was that one should do good for one’s intrinsic worth, not for personal gain. It’s that commitment to ethical work that motivates Handelman in her job for the United Jewish Appeal Federation of New York.

Handelman, a Development Associate in the Lawyers Division at the United Jewish Appeal Federation of New York (UJA), has devoted her post-graduate years to doing work related to Judaism. After college, Handelman joined the year-long Jewish Service Corps Fellowship (JSC), which places recent college graduates in global service opportunities within Jewish communities.

“It was incredibly powerful,” Handleman said, noting that the experience really opened her eyes to conditions around the world.

“America is so detached from so many conflicts that are going on, because we’re so far away,” Handelman said. “We often think of refugee crises and wars and this and that as people that could never be us.”

Handelman signed up for the JSC not knowing what country she would get assigned to and she ended up in Krakow, Poland. There, Handelman worked at the local Jewish Community Center (JCC), rebuilding its community’s outlook on Judaism and providing aid to the influx of Ukrainian refugees as a result of the war in 2022.

“All of my best friends in Poland, most of them were Ukrainian refugees themselves,” Handelman said. “The people that were standing in line every day at my office to get food, it could have been me, it could have been anybody.”

Handelman worked along-side Marta Michalska, Director of External Communications at the JCC, during her year in Poland at the JCC. One project Michalska is currently working on is called “Right for the Living,” a fundraising event whose purpose is to commemorate the Holocaust.

Situated in close proximity to Auschwitz, the Krakow JCC has become a popular stop for many Holocaust survivors returning to Auschwitz after 80 years. To them, it serves as a reaffirmation of Jewish presence in the very place such tragedies occurred.

“[It is most meaningful] to celebrate that the Jewish life is still alive,” Michalska said.

After her year in Poland, Handelman moved to New York where she works on the fundraising team at UJA, the biggest Jewish philanthropy organization in the world. The UJA aims to care for Jews in and out of New York and respond to crises around the world.

Handelman channels her efforts into fundraising for anti-poverty work, crisis relief and Jewish life. Some of the funds go to projects that support Jewish causes, while others go to causes that help broader communities. Since Oct. 7, the UJA has raised over $65 million dollars to be allocated to various organizations in Israel that directly work with people.

“It was very stressful,” Handelman said. “But it was also incredibly inspirational.”

Handelman said that other activities at JDS, such as Zimriyah and Kabbalat Shabbat, also shaped her proud Jewish identity.

“I loved that part of growing up, and it made me so proud and happy to be Jewish,” Handelman said.

Handelman attributes her preparedness for this impactful work to the values and foundation instilled in her during her time at JDS. Though she has never been very religious, the Jewish values she received from her JDS education help guide Handelman in her everyday life as well as in her workplace.

She recalls Jewish text teacher Rabbi Reuvane Slater’s Jewish Life Cycles and Rituals class as being especially meaningful and influencing her positive outlook on Judaism.

“I try to teach [students] to grow, grow, grow,” Slater said. “In whatever lessons you’re learning, whatever subjects you’re learning, take something from it that will help you become a better you from that point on.”

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