When Rachel Alexander graduated from Brown in 1995, she wasn’t quite sure what to do with her degrees in psychology and Judaic studies.
Then she received a call from Richard Joel, at the time president of Hillel International. He convinced her to apply for a Bronfman Fellowship at Hillel.
"When I was interviewed and asked why I wanted to be there, I felt like for the first time in my life I didn’t have to make up answers," she said. "I felt this was where I could do the most good."
Now the director of Vanguard and corporate sponsorship for the UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey and with a master’s degree in public administration and non-profit management from Columbia, Alexander was to receive the Leo G. Brody Award today from the New Jersey Association of Jewish Communal Service.
Alexander, who has been with the federation for four years, is in charge of raising $1.3 million from corporate leaders who donate annually to UJA.
The Brody Award presented to Alexander at NJAJCS’s annual meeting in Whippany is given annually to a Jewish communal professional who has been in the field for less than five years. Nominees come from federations, synagogues, and other service groups across New Jersey. The winner receives a $3,000 stipend for study in Israel. Alexander intends to travel to Israel in August with the New Israel Fund to meet with progressive community leaders.
Ken Saibel, assistant executive vice president for campaign at UJA, is responsible for Alexander’s nomination and happy that she chose her current path.
"Rachel is an outstanding young professional who has a great deal to offer, not only currently but for the future as well," he told The Jewish Standard. "Obviously I don’t know the other candidates but I was pleased that the committee saw the merits in the application."
There were nine nominations this year, said Wally Greene, director of Jewish Educational Services at UJA-NNJ and the outgoing president of the NJAJCS. Of those nominations, six were interviewed and those candidates then had to submit an essay on why they chose Jewish communal work.
"I’m very pleased that it’s somebody from our agency," Greene said. "A lot of people were very qualified and very competent. She just apparently stood out among the other candidates."
Last year, Sharon Rifkind, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council’s Tikkun Olam Initiatives, received the Brody Award.
Arthur Brody, past president of the Metrowest Federation, established the award in 1981 in honor of his father, Leo. Arthur Brody is active in national Jewish affairs and an honorary member of the NJAJCS.
"He really understands the importance of the Jewish communal professional," Greene said.
Alexander intends to continue her work in Jewish communal service. "I see it as a recognition of my commitment to working in the Jewish community," she said. "And faith that people would like to see me in a leadership position in the future."