Danielle Weiss is no stranger to leadership positions at the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. In September, Weiss began a new role as Chair of the Jewish Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), bringing along her wealth of knowledge and experience as a member of the Board of Trustees, board member of Women’s Philanthropy, Board Chair Emeritus of NextGen and member of the Campaign team. 

Weiss hopes to create opportunities and inspire others, particularly those of the next generation, to become leaders.  

As for Weiss’ own inspiration, the attorney and partner at Haines & Associates looks towards the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a role model for her constant pursuit of justice through Jewish values.

“Justice Ginsburg once said, ‘Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you,’” reflected Weiss, who is completing her term as the Philanthropy Co-Chair of the Jewish Federations of North America’s National Young Leadership Cabinet. “I can think of no words more appropriate to inscribe on my heart as I step into this role, pledging to do just that.” 

We spoke with Weiss to learn more about her and her vision for JCRC.

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As the new chair of JCRC , what do you envision for its future?

It’s truly an honor to be stepping into the role of JCRC Chair. Now is the time to reinforce our commitment to the core Jewish values of repairing the world, loving the stranger and seeking peace. 

The JCRC does incredible work to build strong alliances for the Jewish community through our social justice initiatives, public policy advocacy work, and engagement with our local, state, and federal elected officials. JCRC works tirelessly to bring awareness to those issues that most deeply affect the Jewish community, such as creating access to Holocaust education, Israel advocacy and combatting the concerning rise of antisemitism. Right now, it feels especially important to not only bring awareness to these priorities, but also to serve as a conduit through which our non-Jewish neighbors can deliver information about key initiatives where the Jewish community can be an ally. We are a stronger and safer Jewish community when we both look out for ourselves, as well as support and advance the goals of the broader community.  

 

What key issues are you most looking forward to working on with the JCRC?

I am most looking forward to working together with organizations outside of the Jewish community to explore ways that we, as Jews, can be better allies.  When there is hate or discrimination against anyone in our community, we are all negatively affected. We cannot hope to have the support of our non-Jewish neighbors if we do not open ourselves up to the concerns facing outsiders to the Jewish community. Finding common ground is the first step to battling bigotry in all of its forms, including antisemitism. 

I also look forward to working on initiatives that will advance inclusion within the Jewish community. We can, and must, do more to make sure that all Jews, regardless of race, gender identity, sexual orientation or denomination feel welcomed and valued in our Jewish communal spaces.  

 

How have your many past leadership roles within the Jewish Federation prepared you for your new position with JCRC?

In each of my past leadership positions, I’ve worked as collaboratively as possible with the extraordinary people who sit on each committee and board. There is so much passion and experience around the table, whether at NextGen, Women’s Philanthropy, the Board of Trustees, the Campaign team and now at JCRC. I’ve learned the most simply by watching and listening. But I am unafraid to push for change when I see that innovation is needed to modernize our organization to better achieve our goals. 

At the same time, I come to any leadership position, this one included, with the deepest respect for those who came before me. My greatest champions have been my predecessors and my Jewish Federation professional partners. I’m thrilled to work with Robin Schatz, Jason Holtzman and Beth Razin, JCRC’s professional team, to advance our shared goals for JCRC during my term.

 

What is the most impactful advice that the outgoing JCRC Chair, Arlene Fickler, shared with you?

Arlene Fickler has been a tremendous resource to me as I transition into this role. She reminds me that JCRC, like the Jewish Federation, is part of a national network and to look critically at the priority areas announced each year as a guide for the issues most important to Jews in North America, but not to be afraid to make sure that our local agenda meets our local needs.  She has also stressed the benefits of standing together with other communities, particularly the JCRCs across Pennsylvania, to ensure our legislators understand the power of our collective Jewish community voice.  

 

Why do you give to the Jewish Federation? 

I give to the Jewish Federation, because I trust that my philanthropic dollars will be put to the best use to support a thriving Jewish community locally and around the world.  Whether supporting Jewish institutions like synagogues and schools, providing security, addressing food insecurity, ensuring access to affordable housing for struggling families, or caring for our seniors, the Jewish Federation makes sure every dollar is spent with purpose and intention. It’s not only my responsibility, but also my honor to do my part to give back to the community that has given me so much. 

 

Have you picked up any new skills during the pandemic?

Like many people, I think I became somewhat of an amateur set designer/movie director while living my life on Zoom!  I tried to find the best ways to get good angles and light, while hiding the laundry drying on the rack, or the clutter on my desk. 

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For more information about JCRC and to get involved, email jcrc@jewishphilly.org.