I've Come a Long Way, Baby
If you’ve followed this blog over the last nine months (the time it takes for new life to come to term), you may have been privy to my special journey here at JWA.
I began as a paid intern last summer, was briefly an independent contractor, and in October became JWA’s Online Communications Specialist and Blogger-in-Chief of "Jewesses with Attitude." It was an exciting dream manifested, because for many years I had dreamt about working at the Archive.
The art of blogging and social media engagement are not the only things I have learned. For me, it’s been about the work. It’s been about being able to midwife a favorite part of our mission: “Sharing Stories, Inspiring Change.” It’s been about connecting and dialoguing with a fleet of guest bloggers. It’s been about honing my craft—as a writer, as a communicator, as a curator of content, as a PR person thrown (willingly) headfirst into the pools of social media engagement.
I will continue to “share stories and inspire change,” though now I am returning to a true home: the performative medium. This storyteller will be traversing from page to stage. I will be returning to my art, attending graduate school (fingers crossed), making dances, and writing plays.
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Before I go, I want to talk about the heart of JWA: the people. I had never worked “an office” job before, and I am not exaggerating when I say it was eye opening. I have learned what it’s like to sit at a desk for eight hours a day and attend weekly staff meetings. But it is the interaction with my colleagues that has truly made this experience memorable. As I write this paragraph my eyes are starting to mist.
I do not have an office; I share space—what I fondly refer to as the “sun room” — with Helen Bennett, JWA’s Development Associate. Helen has long black hair, a beautiful bone structure, and a wry sense of humor. She has a grounding energy and used to work as an organic farmer. I loved sharing space with Helen. Sometimes we would play music quietly. Often we would season our work by sharing off-beat happenings of the day: receiving a funny email, discovering a relevant Facebook post, smiling together at an antic performed by one of our co-workers. Before publishing a blog piece, I would often count down: “3… 2…1… Go!” Helen would then offer a little cheer. It was wonderful to have a witness to my life, a person with whom I shared the little successes and losses, the daily deaths and victories.
Michelle Provorny Cash, our Director of Communications, has an office about a stone’s throw from my desk. Her only window looks out onto the shared “sun room.” She always keeps her blinds (and her door) open. I realize now, what comfort I received from Michelle’s presence. Here was a fellow writer, wrestling with the word, trying to tame the paragraph. I sought strength in her company. Sometimes we would both attend the same social media webinar, she on her computer, me on mine, and at certain moments we’d lock eyes, nodding, in telepathic agreement: “Yes, let’s implement that for our organization!” We shared many meaningful walks together as we looped around the charming streets near our office.
Ari Davidow, Director of Online Strategy, was one of the first people to welcome me into the fold. He is kind, paternal, and has a penchant for puns. I found it fascinating how we would find ways to translate: me from my artist speak, he from his tech speak, with great interest and good humor.
Etta King, Education Program Manager, is a woman who is a few years my junior but to whom I nonetheless “look up.” She is one of the smartest women I know: she takes my breath away with her insightful, articulate, and innovative comments. I mean this literally—because often when Etta speaks I realize I’ve stopped breathing. She’s a good woman, down to earth, who “under-promises and over-delivers.” She is a gem, and is rightly valued by the many teachers with whom she interfaces.
Stephen Benson, Executive Assistant, is a man who exudes graciousness and hospitality. Whether it’s through his genteel email exchanges, or when he affably greets guests, he anticipates and attends to all of their creature comforts. Stephen is always on point. He has taught me a lot about navigating the occasional rough waters of the non-profit sector. He has been a confidante and a model of diplomacy.
Patrick Dash, Web Producer, is a realist with a big heart. Under a sarcastic exterior is someone who cares about doing good work and doing the right thing. A college English major, his writing sensibilities explode on wonderful and surprising occasion. I shared some of my favorite moments with Pat as we were prepping our respective lunches.
Ellen Rothman, Deputy Director, took me under her wing. That wing is full of verve and conviction, extraordinary will and endurance. This is a woman who I’d believe could swallow nails and be just fine! She is hardy. She is resilient. Under her charge, my writing has tightened, my skin has toughened. Loyal to people, devoted to the organization, she champions what she believes in, and goes to bat for the underdog. She’s someone you always want on your team.
Gail Reimer, Executive Director, is the founder of JWA. It all began with her. Gail’s commitment to the work and the vision is so potent, so palpable. Her standards are astronomically high, which always gave me something to shoot for. She is an academic. She is a scholar. And though the Archive has many arms and offerings, at its core, it is this: a well of knowledge. Knowledge is power: saying this in 2013 may sound trite, but we cannot change the world if we are not aware. Gail and the Archive are steadily making us aware of many untold but necessary stories that the world needs to hear.
I had a wonderful last day. Gail took me to lunch, and Michelle took me for ice cream. Ellen, on behalf of the entire staff, bestowed me with a card and gourmet chocolates from a local chocolatier. The card, signed by my co-workers, was poignant; the chocolates, delicious. I definitely indulged throughout my last week, especially whenever I started to feel sad about my departure. Now, all that remains is a half eaten pinwheel of solid chocolate. You can still make out the frosted writing: “Thank You.”
I’d like to thank you, JWA staff and readers of "Jewesses With Attitude."
Rest assured, your regularly scheduled programing at Jewesses will continue uninterrupted. I leave the blog in Ellen’s hands until my successor, Jordyn Rozensky arrives from the Jewish Community Relations Council to take the reigns on Monday.
I’m so glad we had this time together… and if you’d like to continue our relationship, please visit me at The Jewish G Spot, a new blog I just started. It’s playful. It’s provocative. And it’s full of great content. There you’ll read prose, poetry, and comic strips (!) that explore feminism; friendship; Jewish thought, culture, and tradition; love; loss; personal inquiry and global calls to action. It is a blog after my own heart, and hopefully it will become dear to yours as well.
Thank you, co-workers, friends, and readers. I’m so glad we had this time together. It really was something special.
How to cite this page
Orcha, Gabrielle. "I've Come a Long Way, Baby." 2 March 2013. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on September 30, 2014) <http://jwa.org/blog/ive-come-long-way-baby>.