School(s): Jewish Day School of Metropolitan Seattle (2000)
How has your day school education shaped your life, values, and your involvement in the Jewish community?
It was just yesterday (ok, 25+ years ago!) that my family moved to the Seattle area. A shy and anxious newcomer, I was welcomed into my Jewish Day School class with handwritten cards from every one of my soon-to-be-friends and classmates. I will always remember how good it felt to be seen, invited in; embraced — by teachers, peers, and their families alike. In this experience, and through so many others, JDS taught me to be a co-creator of Jewish community; community that’s warm and joyful, and that’s full of folks who care about and actively support one another’s wellbeing.
In addition to nurturing that sweet feeling of belonging, my day school education ignited a connection to our shared, time-spanning heritage. Studying the stories of our ancestors; learning the language, songs and rituals that have animated Jewish life for millenia; being guided to ask big, complex questions and to seek nuanced answers, even when it’s hard; and reflecting on what it means to be part of something much greater than myself… all of this deepened my curiosity about, my love for, and my commitment to Jewish history, traditions, values, and people. All of this helped shape my conscience. A dynamic secular education woven together with the opportunity to build Jewish literacy in structured ways over time was an enormous privilege, and a humbling honor. It planted seeds for the kind of confidence, and deep responsibility I feel within, and for, our Jewish community, today; confidence to live a proudly and actively Jewish life, connected with lifelong friends and familiar faces — and responsibility to work with others to ensure that all of our community spaces and experiences (Jewish and beyond) do indeed feel sweet, nurturing, meaningful, and motivating to *everyone* interested — now, and into the future.
More about Talya
Talya Gillman develops experiences and resources that spark and support meaningful social action, rooted in the idea that we must “awaken from the illusion of our separateness” (Thich Nhat Hahn). Many experiences and relationships have fueled her commitment to building ecosystems of equity and belonging, where everyone is safe, treated with dignity, and has agency: a sense of connection to her ancestors and generations of diverse peoples who navigated challenges and opportunities that shape our lives today; teachers who speak truth and take risks; and community organizers who live and act with moral clarity, integrity, and commitments to justice. Talya has workes, taught and developed initiatives with organizations including Citizen University, Jewish Family Service-Seattle, University of Washington, and Repair the World. She received a Covenant Foundation Pomegranate Prize for emerging Jewish educators, and holds an M.A. in Transformational Leadership from Seattle University. Talya organizes with anti-racist and immigrant justice community networks in Seattle, and is a member of Tzedek Lab and Schusterman’s ROI Community.