Talia Jordan, 31, moved to Baltimore this year from New Jersey to act as Beth Tfiloh Congregation’s new director of programming and engagement. Before her move, Jordan worked as the director of Hillel Northern New Jersey.
Jordan received her undergraduate degree from Williams College in Massachusetts. She is also currently finishing a master’s degree from the Jewish Theological Seminary in Jewish education and leadership.
Jordan, her husband Aaron and their son Levi belong to Beth Tfiloh.
Why did you decide to make a change and work for Beth Tfiloh?
It was a lot of factors. Some factors included changes with COVID-19, and my husband had been begging me to get out of the tri-state area for a while. This opportunity arose to come to Beth Tfiloh. I was extremely struck by the opportunity to work at an Orthodox synagogue that was actively interested in doing cutting-edge, innovative and engaging education. It also had a pluralistic philosophy.
What is a director of programming and engagement?
With the caveat that I am relatively new at what I do, my job is to help [with] implementing a vision for Beth Tfiloh’s programming and engagement initiatives in which we create a vibrant calendar of opportunities for all kinds of congregants. Everything we do is connective, meaningful and hopefully inspiring as well.
Do you feel like there is a similarity between your previous work with Hillel and your work with the congregants?
Yes, I am definitely a disciple of Hillel’s engagement model and of relational Judaism in which we think of everything in a relationship-based model. How are we helping people to connect with each other, with themselves and with the text/ritual that we are exploring? I think that you must grasp that everything falls under that blueprint of wanting to make an extremely interactive experience where you care about people and their experience.
How would you describe your Judaism?
One of the most impactful experiences I’ve had growing up was when I went to a liberal arts college in the middle of nowhere. I was one of the only observant Jews on campus and suddenly I had to articulate the meanings of texts and ritual and things that I had been taking for granted for so long to people who were not Jewish. There was no way to take it for granted there, and I had to build the meaning for myself. That has been really fundamental to how I think about Judaism. I want to understand its full range of meaning, and I want to understand why it’s important to me. I think that everyone can benefit from doing that work of digging deeper and understanding all the different ways that the rituals can shape our lives. I am really passionate about Jewish education. I think that specifically interactive text study and chavruta are some of the best ways to enrich our Judaism. I think that it’s something that is incumbent upon us to create more adult Judaism. If our adult Judaism stopped when we were in school, then we are probably missing a lot of the good parts of Judaism. Jewish texts are beautiful because they can be ambiguous and subversive, but simultaneously, enlightening and inspiring.
Do you feel like there was ever a time when your Judaism was challenged?
Yes. When I was at college, it was extremely difficult to keep kosher when there was no kosher food or restaurants around. It was extremely difficult to carry my hard copy keys around campus when everything was accessible by keycard. I was different. It was an informative but difficult process to find out who I was as a Jew in that experience.
Why did you decide to go there instead of somewhere where it would have been easier to be observant?
I think I was sick of the bubble. Orthodox Jewish communities can feel insular. I wanted to step out and see what life was without that Jewish infrastructure that I had been accustomed to for so long. It was a bold choice, but it was very rewarding.
What is your favorite thing about living in Baltimore?
I think there is a really uniquely warm and welcoming community. That’s something we’ve really enjoyed as newcomers to Pikesville.