For Colby Pellegrini, 31, it’s all about paying it forward. After graduating NextGen’s Leadership Development Program (LDP) in 2019, he joined the Committee for Jewish Life and Learning (CJLL) at the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. Proudly serving on the committee, Colby understands firsthand the importance of Jewish education and the work the Jewish Federation does to help all children have access to it.

While attending the Jewish Federation-supported Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, at the time Akiba Hebrew Academy, Colby’s father suddenly passed away and his family struggled to pay his tuition. Through scholarships and financial assistance, the Jewish Federation and Barrack Hebrew Academy ensured that Colby could remain at the school he loved.

Today, Colby is the Vice President of Employee Benefits at USI Insurance Services and is an active leader in uplifting the community that has always been there for him.

We spoke with Colby about his passion for Jewish education, the Jewish Federation and NextGen.

How did you first get involved with NextGen and the Jewish Federation?

I have always been very familiar with the Jewish Federation. They helped support my family and subsidized my tuition as a child. I didn't get involved with the organization until my late 20's. My friend Matt Shipon, NextGen Board Chair at the time, knew of my interfaith upbringing and thought I'd be a great addition to the already diverse group.

What is an organization, program or cause that the Jewish Federation supports that personally resonates with you?

I asked to become a member of the Committee for Jewish Life and Learning (CJLL) because of the impact the Jewish community has already had on my life. I was fortunate enough to have the Jewish Federation support me and my family, and provide financial aid, so I could attend Jewish day school when I was younger. My dad, who battled mental illness for years, suddenly passed midway through high school. Without hesitation, my high school, Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy (formerly Akiba), stepped in to cover my tuition for the remainder of high school.

I look back now and realize how truly lucky I was to have my community standing beside me when I needed them most. Being a part of the CJLL is meaningful to me because they help fund organizations that support kids who were just like me. I can attribute a lot of my success to the support I had. Now, I'm in a position and point in my life where I'm able to give back. It's my turn to pay it forward for the next generation.

Throughout your leadership journey in the Jewish Federation, what has been one of your most memorable experiences?

My most memorable experience was our NextGen Leadership Project through LDP. Our group spent months planning a social event for March Madness in 2020. The goal was to bring people in the community together while supporting an incredible Jewish Federation-backed organization, Makom Community, which creates family-centered, after-school Jewish experiences for children ages 4-11. We titled our event, “Makom Madness.” As we all know today, the timing of this coincided with so much uncertainty in our country. March Madness of 2020 was one of the first national events to be canceled due to the pandemic, with our local program being canceled as well. While our project may not have gone the way we had hoped, the mission of generating visibility and funding for Makom Community was a success.

Why do you give to the Jewish Federation?

I give to the Jewish Federation because I believe in what they do and the organizations they support. I can say firsthand that they have personally made an impact on my life. The Jewish Federation depends on donors, so without everyone's contributions, they wouldn’t be able to sustain the life-changing work they do each and every day for those in need. I think it's so important that people realize this. It's on all of us to continue to donate and show our ongoing support.

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting to get involved in NextGen?

I would advise anyone who is just starting to get involved in NextGen to take full advantage of the affinity group. Show up, attend the networking and social events, and be engaged. You would be surprised by the relationships that are formed through this group, both personal and professional.

What are three fun facts about you?

  1. At the beginning of the pandemic, my wife, Kay, and I decided to take on a full renovation for our first home in East Passyunk. Despite unforeseen material and construction delays, I wouldn't change a thing. The memories we built living with friends and in-laws are times that I will cherish forever.
  2. I lived in Israel for an entire semester in high school through the Alexander Muss High School in Israel, an educational experience supported by the Jewish Federation. This fueled my passion to travel. So far, I've visited 11 countries.
  3. I grew up in an interfaith family. My mother raised me Jewish, but I had the privilege of experiencing both Jewish and Italian Catholic cultures and traditions. I like to think it gives me a unique perspective and certainly a diverse culinary background.

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NextGen is the young professional affinity group of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. To learn more about NextGen, please email Max Moline at mmoline@jewishphilly.org and friend us on Facebook