Name: Chelsea Todtfeld
Currently living in: Watertown
Alma mater(s): Cohen Hillel Academy (now Epstein Hillel), Gann Academy, and Brandeis University. I did go to Swampscott High for one year, and then transferred to Gann.
Job: I am a program officer at Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston. I oversee some of our programs, some of our young adult programming, which includes programs that are pretty accessible cost-wise, and fun social events.
Hobbies: I love art, I love learning languages, and I really enjoy hanging out with my friends and family. Pretty simple stuff. [I took] Hebrew, and I took Arabic for five years, and I’m still kind of interested in Arabic but haven’t been able to dedicate time to it post college. [In terms of art,] I love to sketch, that’s my main art, and painting sometimes.
Favorite music: Indie rock maybe? I really like Fleetwood Mac. Love some Ofra Haza, obviously … Her music isn’t as popular anymore, but she’s awesome.
Favorite movies: Honestly, “Prince of Egypt.” Obviously a great movie, 10/10.
Favorite TV show: “Six Feet Under” is my legit favorite, but that might be too depressing.
Favorite books: I’m trying to read more! I’m not a huge reader. That’s my Rosh Hashanah resolution.
Favorite travel destination/vacation: I haven’t traveled too much, but my favorite so far – obviously I would normally say somewhere in Israel – but I’m going to say Sofia, Bulgaria. I went exactly a year ago with JDC Entwine, which was a really cool organization, runs out of the [ Joint Distribution Committee], and they take young adults all over the world, literally to any country you could think of, to explore the country and the Jewish population that’s still there. It’s a really cool experience.
Favorite Jewish practice: I feel like Judaism has a lot of emphasis on family and family time … I feel really close with both grandmothers and my parents and my twin. I feel like … a lot of our love for one another is very Jewish, if that makes sense.
Favorite North Shore spot: Marblehead Neck, the lighthouse – it’s beautiful! It’s gorgeous. You can look out into the harbor, you can see into Salem, there are always dogs, I love dogs. It’s just gorgeous.
Tell me about your Jewish background.
I went to preschool actually at Shirat Hayam … and then I went to Cohen Hillel Academy, and was there K-8, and honestly, it was a wonderful time. I really had the most amazing teachers, and really amazing experiences there. Fell in love with Hebrew while at Cohen Hillel, and kind of realized that Judaism was a really special thing for me and my family and I wanted to continue learning about my own Judaism, so that’s why I went to Gann [after starting high school at Swampscott High]. I really enjoyed [being at Gann] … I really loved my time there. I was able to take both Hebrew and Arabic there. I played sports with my best friends, and it was a really great experience. Very warm and welcoming.
How is your Jewish experience now different from what you grew up with?
My parents aren’t religious, [so it] is definitely interesting that they sent [my twin] and me to Jewish day school. Growing up, going to Cohen Hillel and Gann, we’d have to pray twice a week and do Kabbalat Shabbat, and we never did that with my parents or my family. So I kind of just realized that those traditions have a really special place in my heart. And I’ve just kind of incorporated … different Jewish practices and values into my life that I didn’t necessarily grow up with. So, I … transformed the Judaism I grew up with into my own version.
[Now, I] do some Shabbat dinners, which is really wonderful. And you know, I try – very rarely – but I do go to synagogue sometimes, when I feel like it, but that’s not something we ever did growing up. And, I mean, working for a Jewish organization, a lot of Jewish values come to play. It’s interesting to both be professionally and personally Jewish. Socially, too, I think I’ve really sought out other Jews in social situations. Also, we never did Havdalah [growing up] … I never did Havdalah until high school, and it was such an interesting experience … So that’s something that I don’t do here as an individual, but I’ve really been interested in starting to do some sort of Havdalah ceremony, even if it’s not a traditional one.
What’s it like working for CJP?
One aspect of my job that I wholeheartedly enjoy is seeing other Jews in our community wanting to explore their Jewish identity, and doing so by reaching out to CJP, and going to different events. So, an aspect of my job that I really love is just guiding them or supporting them in their own individual Jewish journeys – I think it’s really cool. It’s also interesting to explore … different aspects of Judaism that I was never aware of beforehand. Seeing the other organizations that are out there that affiliate with Judaism … It’s really cool to see and work with the different organizations in our community that do value Judaism as well as other things.
Do you miss the North Shore?
I miss the beaches. I miss Bagel World bagels, but I do have to say, Coolidge Corner has way better bagels. I miss the community. I feel really connected to the community there. My mom grew up in Marblehead, my grandmother grew up in Lynn … It’s many generations of living on the North Shore. A piece of my heart is still there. It feels funny not to be there. Θ
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