Staff and Volunteer Spotlight

Staff and Volunteer Spotlight

Alachua Nazarenko: Leadership Engagement Coordinator

What is your role and what do you do at Shalom Austin?
I am the education and engagement coordinator at Shalom Austin. In this role I coordinate young adult programming, develop curriculum for and facilitate emerging and senior leadership development programs, initiate and manage affinity groups, and am an educator for the Rapoport Center.

What is your background and what brought you to Shalom Austin?
My background is in Jewish education and I earned my master’s degree in Jewish education, with a specialization in interfaith families Jewish engagement, from Hebrew College. Prior to moving to Austin in September, my husband and I lived in Jackson, MS where I worked at the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life for five years. I have always been drawn to working at places where people (staff and lay) really care about their community and encompass an, “If not me, then who?” attitude. Shalom Austin is that place and I was thrilled to come.

What do you feel has been your most rewarding experience so far?
I love to teach and I have already had so many opportunities to flex my educator muscles at Shalom Austin. The classes I’ve led and the responses I’ve received have been so rewarding and have enabled me to grow as a professional tremendously just in the short time I’ve been here.

What is your favorite part about working here?
From day one, Shalom Austin was never just a place that I worked. I was blown away by how quickly I was welcomed and enveloped into a true community of friends and people who really care about each other. I look forward to coming to work every day.

Describe any exciting programs or projects in the works?
Affinity groups! There are so many affinity groups coming to Shalom Austin and we’d love you to take part in them. If you are a young adult looking to begin your leadership journey, a parent of a different faith or cultural background who is raising Jewish kids, 55+ and single, or in the tech industry, I hope to see you at an informational meeting in the spring. Please contact me at alachua.nazarenko@shalomaustin.org for more information.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about getting involved with Shalom Austin?
There is a place for you, and everyone here is excited to help you find it!

Laraine Kentridge Lasdon: Shalom Austin Volunteer

What is your role at Shalom Austin?
I have been honored to be offered and to accept the role of chair of our new Arts and Culture Council. We have big dreams but the biggest of these dreams is to share the arts with all our members in a variety of ways, and to collaborate with our on-site programs and with groups in Central Texas whose mission, vision and values align with ours.

What made you decide to become a Shalom Austin volunteer?
I made a conscious decision about 10 years ago to build a Jewish life for my family. I joined our congregation, began attending events such as Mosaic, JBookfest, even the Chili cookouts! By personally experiencing the many activities at Shalom Austin, I saw that this was a caring, well run organization with outstanding professionals offering their expertise in a variety of subjects for members.

I experienced the vitality of the campus, the diverse communities on-site, and the expansion of arts and education programs. Services for seniors as well as programs like Jewish Family Service were also important to me. Knowing that we have an executive team working around the clock to improve this community jewel gave me the added element of knowing we have stability and fiduciary responsibility. Also, having an open door mission keeps Shalom Austin vibrant and fresh for all ages and different groups.

Why is volunteering important to you?
During the 60s I attended the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, where I soon became involved in the student anti-apartheid movement and learned firsthand the power of action as an agent of change. Another important lesson learned at this time and later was the idea of working as a team to allow for many different voices to be heard when engaged in a single or complex mission.

I have run my own successful marketing firm for many years and have served in leadership positions at city, county, business and service levels through organizations including the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, the Blanton Museum of Art and the Harry Ransom Center. My background in theater arts has also helped me pay attention to detail, take responsibilities seriously and share the spotlight at all times. As Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage.”

What would you say to someone who is thinking about getting involved with Shalom Austin?
My role at Shalom Austin has truly evolved over time and my philosophy and advice for all volunteers is to allow yourself time to become interested and connected to Shalom Austin by tapping into one or many of the programs offered. I would never have become a volunteer if I had not started by enjoying the gym, singing in the Dells’s Angels program and becoming chair of the Visual Arts League and finally joining the founding cabinet of the Jewish Foundation of Austin and Central Texas.

If anyone is considering how to become more engaged and share your talents and skills with Shalom Austin, I strongly recommend you visit with the professionals and lay leadership at all levels to find your place in Shalom Austin. ■

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