Becky Eidelman, 30
HEBREW NAME: Rivka Chana
CURRENTLY LIVING IN: Cambridge
ALMA MATERS: Marblehead High
School ’07, Wesleyan University ’11
JOB: Program manager, Jobs for the Future
FAVORITE FOOD: Matzah ball chicken
FAVORITE MUSIC: Folk music. I love
Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Tori Amos, Neko Case, Crooked Still.
FAVORITE BOOKS: “A People’s History
of the United States,” “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,” “The Bear and the Nightingale,” “Pachinko”
FAVORITE MOVIE: Tie between “The Princess Bride” and “Alien”
FAVORITE TV SHOWS: “Freaks and Geeks,” “The Good Place”
FAVORITE TRAVEL DESTINATION: Pacific Northwest
PLACES YOU WANT TO GO TO NEXT: New Zealand, Japan
FAVORITE JEWISH PEOPLE NOT IN YOUR FAMILY: Howard Zinn,
Emma Goldman, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Amos Oz
FAVORITE JEWISH HOLIDAY: Passover, because it’s Jewish Thanksgiving
WHAT WAS YOUR JEWISH BACKGROUND GROWING UP?
I have always believed that being Jewish is an important part of my identity. When I was young, my parents reinforced the fact that Judaism is and has always been our heritage, and they made sure we grew up practicing Jewish traditions like Shabbat or hosting Seders or going to temple on the High Holidays. In high school, I attended Prozdor at Hebrew College in Newton, which was a little bit different than regular Hebrew school because it was more a pre-college school, so I got to take courses on Jewish and Israeli literature, which I loved, the philosophy behind Jewish tradition and belief. My mother and my grandmother were both in Jewish youth movements in New York City, so when I grew up I heard a lot of stories about how being Jewish means that you’re part of a larger community, and especially that very progressive community. Part of that is learning about tikkun olam, and I think my mom and dad really brought that belief back to our family. Being Jewish meant that you not only had this warm, very immersive community, but that it was really your job to welcome in strangers.
DID YOU CARRY THAT POINT OF VIEW WITH YOU IN YOUR CAREER IN EDUCATION?
Definitely. I have been working in nonprofits since probably 2013, and I’m going to be starting graduate school in the fall at Tufts, in their department of urban and environmental policy and planning, with a focus on community development and public education. I started out in more direct service work – I was a student teacher first on the Lower East Side of New York City when I was an undergraduate, and I loved that. I was also a student-teacher as part of the Boston Teacher Residency in a school in Mattapan. I ultimately decided that teaching wasn’t for me, but I still wanted to work adjacent to schools and education, so I went into more direct service work with nonprofits in the city, first with the Big Sister association … then I moved onto the New England Board of Higher Education, where I was the project coordinator for a [National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education] grant. I was doing curriculum development for them, working with community college instructors to develop these curriculum modules that used advanced manufacturing. I was there for about a year and a half, and then I came to [Jobs for the Future]. I work on their postsecondary team – their work focuses mostly on educational pathways and making sure that students attain credentials that support family-sustaining careers. My team helps to develop services that can train community college administrators on working better with students on providing those financial supports.
WHAT HAVE YOU TAKEN AWAY FROM WORKING IN THE EDUCATIONAL FIELD?
I really believe that people are lifelong learners, no matter whether they’re current students or not, and I think we absolutely need to be throwing all our energy and resources at public institutions, because they’re really the lifeblood of our democracy. Educated citizens are good citizens, and they make well-informed decisions. I think that access to education is hugely important – it’s important for equity, it’s important to make sure we have a strong workforce, and it’s important to build movement for people who otherwise have these economic barriers to move into the middle and the upper classes. But I am hopeful – I think people take education more seriously today, I think people take teaching more seriously today. I hope that public school teachers are respected for the tremendous work that they do. They’re probably the people in this country who have the hardest jobs of anyone, so even though I’m not a public school teacher, I have so much respect for them.