Ali Duhan, 27, of Owings Mills is so sick of staring at screens that she’s quit all TV and joined a book club in quarantine. “I’ve read so much in quarantine,” Duhan said. She recommends “Such a Fun Age” by Kiley Reid and “All Adults Here” by Emma Straub.
As IMPACT’S senior development associate, Duhan is a change-maker for Jewish young adults. The Baltimore native brings her background in sociology and Jewish studies to this position. She also volunteers with Repair the World Baltimore. Recently, IMPACT partnered with Repair for a brunch and serve where they made cards for healthcare workers and seniors.
The JT once wrote about your plans to organize the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life conference. How did it go?
Wow, that was years and years ago! The ISJL conference is a really interesting annual conference. It was part of my fellowship [five years ago]. They provide educational resources, so the main thing was curriculum.
We did some experimental morning services. We did a silent minyan with a lot of imagery. The second year we did how to get little kids excited about morning service and brought in a ball pit.
Why did you study American Sign Language, your minor?
I always really liked the language. I just think the linearity of spoken language didn’t quite capture all the directions my brain was going in. As a kid, the habitualness and tactile-ness of ASL made sense for what I wanted to say. So I wanted to explore that.
It’s one of those things that becomes relevant in odd times throughout life.
Let’s talk about your Jewish background.
In high school, [as madricha at Temple Emanuel] I would help set up the classroom. I met Amy Goldberg [at Temple Emanuel] and she was one of the best mentors in my life. … My parents were very engaged at Temple Emanuel and now at Baltimore Hebrew. They just always put the value of cultural-religious aspects of Judaism at the center of our life. It was an “engage if you want” kind of thing, and I always felt centered in Judaism. We all engage in the world in a thousand different lenses, and theology was the right one for me.
Then I was interning with JVC in college, and by grad school I knew I wanted a degree in Jewish leadership. I have a master’s in social work with a focus in Jewish communal leadership.
I use that background to support my community.
Amy Goldberg, my mom, and my supervisor [are my role models]. I look up to people who are passionate and compassionate.
How is IMPACT changing with COVID-19?
It’s definitely different. It’s for young adults 22-39, and so we really focus on philanthropy and community building. COVID has really changed how they engage with the world through a screen. I will say you can still build really incredible community online. We do a program called CHAT, and it’s going to be online [in November] so it will look and feel different, but it’s about finding the opportunities in the challenges. And we can even do cooler things that we couldn’t do before. For example, we couldn’t bring in the guest speaker before because they don’t live in Baltimore. We’re also doing a virtual painting tutorial. The cool thing with The Associated is we can partner with so many agencies, too. You can join by going to The Associated’s website under 20-30s tab or our Facebook page.
What do you look forward to when the pandemic passes?
I’m trying to figure out if I can go home for the High Holidays. I would like to see my parents and brother.