Most Jewish community professionals don’t get their start through acting, but that’s what Noah Mitchel did. As a Montgomery County native, Mitchel began performing in Washington, D.C., theater companies before diving into the administrative side of theater, including marketing, fundraising and educational outreach. After working with an organization called “The Jewish Plays Project,” Mitchel thought that working for Jewish nonprofits might be his calling.
Now a resident of the Govans neighborhood in Baltimore City, Mitchel was recently promoted to assistant director of communications for the Baltimore Jewish Council after working there for two years. He feels that now, more than ever, is a great time to be working for the Jewish community and leading interfaith and social justice efforts.
You recently got a promotion at BJC. Tell us about some of your new responsibilities.
During my first two years at BJC, I was program coordinator for a whole range of programs, not only community relations programs — Holocaust education programs, the Elijah Cummings Youth Program. A lot of what I was doing was working with Madeline Suggs, which was fantastic. She was a fantastic mentor and the reason I got interested in community relations work. The Social Justice Teen Fellowship that we’re doing with ECYP is going into its second year. I was helping coordinate it in its first year, but now I’m representing BJC in that partnership while we revamp it. We’re working right now with Kathleen St. Villier Hill, the director of ECYP, to come up with the new curriculum.
What will the Social Justice Teen Fellowship revamp look like?
The main aspect in the revamp is that instead of bringing in outside facilitators, we’ll be running it ourselves. What we do is pair the ECYP senior class — with teams of primarily African-Americans — to teams of primarily Jewish 11th- and 12th-graders. The idea came from a program BJC used to do called BLEWS, another African-American Jewish teen fellowship.
What is it about social justice and interfaith work that is so important to you?
I’m doing some work this year with the Institute for Islamic Jewish and Christian Studies for their program “Imagining Justice in Baltimore.” We really explore the intersection of social justice work and interfaith work. Our faith communities can be a very powerful tool for doing social justice work. It can make our voices louder than they would be on their own. It gives us a channel for which we can connect with other faith communities to form very powerful coalitions.
How does the current political climate make you feel about social justice work?
I think it makes it more important. I think it means we have to be even more vigilant in terms of education about anti-Semitism and about racism. We had one of our highest turnouts during a program we did only a few days after the 2016 election. One of the biproducts of the current political climate is a renewed interest in spiritual programs.
You recently joined Hinenu: The Baltimore Justice Shtiebl. What’s that all about?
It’s a new congregation that’s forming in Baltimore that aims to be radically inclusive. That means being welcoming to people of color and people of interfaith relationships, etc. It’s very exciting because it’s something that the Baltimore Jewish community has really been yearning for. Ariana Katz is going to be the rabbi for this congregation.
What do you do outside of work?
Since I started working at BJC, it really opened up a community for me here in Baltimore that I didn’t have before. I had it in the D.C. area because the theater community is very similar to the Jewish community there. It’s very close-knit, everyone knows everybody, or at least a mutual acquaintance. I started missing that, but now I feel really connected as part of the Baltimore Jewish community. A lot of the things I do outside of work are opportunities I found out about through work. The first was Pearlstone, so I volunteered there for a year. Another is Repair the World. They formed an advisory council and I am starting a two-year term as its co-chair.