The Force Behind Tze’irim

By Jon Wood | Issue Date: September 2011

Chair of the 20s and 30s Tze’irim group here at BJ, Wendy Leiser is serving in that role for her second year. Now we find out how Wendy connected with Tze’irim and what motivated her to take the reins in leading this vibrant and dynamic community of young adults.

Wendy Leiser. Photo Credit: Channa CaminsHow did you connect to BJ?

When I first moved to New York, my sister, Nicki Greninger, was in her last year of Rabbinical school at HUC. At the time, my brother, sister, and I would get together regularly for Shabbat dinner. But it never occurred to me to join a synagogue. After she graduated and moved away, I didn’t have many Jewish friends and I decided it was time to join a community. One of my sister’s classmates in school was Esther Lederman, who was BJ’s Marshall T. Meyer Fellow at that time. So, I figured, I may not have known any members, but at least I knew a rabbi! Pretty quickly after joining the synagogue, I got involved in Tze’irim.

What led you to Tze’irim?

BJ is a big place; it’s important to find your niche, something you can grab onto and feel a part of. For me, that was Tze’irim. It’s a community of 20s and 30s, singles and couples, students and professionals. It’s big, but many of us share similar interests, similar goals. We’re all looking for a community to call our own. I was very fortunate to find a place that felt so comfortable shortly after joining BJ.

What motivated you to consider a leadership position?

I’ve never been the type of person to sit back and relax. I find programming much more fun and exciting from the perspective of the planner than the participant. Within six months of joining BJ, I was planning events, and six months after that, I was running Tze’irim.

What would you say to someone who wants to get involved but isn’t sure?

It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. Come to a program or service that sounds appealing and see what you think. Another thing—don’t be shy; there’s this misconception that all of Tze’irim knows each other and you will walk in feeling like the only outsider. But with over 800 people, there’s always a new face and a new friend just around the corner. If you keep coming back, you’ll start to see familiar faces, and that’s when it starts to feel more like a community.

Do you have a favorite Tze’irim event?

I didn’t know it was Tze’irim at the time, but shortly after joining BJ, I volunteered to cook dinner as part of the Rosh Hashanah home- hosted meals. To this day, I am still friends with all the people who came over and shared dinner at my apartment.

What else are you involved with, within BJ and outside of BJ?

I sit on the New Members Committee at BJ, and as head of Tze’irim, I am fortunate to attend the Board of Trustees meetings as well. Outside of BJ, I do programming and run a book club for my alma mater, Emory University. Oh, and I have a day job.

What Tze’irim events are you looking forward to in the upcoming year?

I love the ebb and flow of our community. As the leadership changes, so does the programming. So, I’m just as excited as you to see what this next year will bring!

How will Tze’irim look in the future?

Older? Just kidding. As with most 20s and 30s in New York City, we’re a transient community. People in our demographic are constantly moving around, so it’s hard to pinpoint in what direction we, as a community, will move. I think we have many more couples involved in Tze’irim than we did a few years ago, but I’m sure if we planned a singles or dating event, the numbers would prove me wrong.

Interviewing Wendy only added to my excitement as the new staff liaison to Tze’irim. This group has tremendous potential, and we’re building on a base of solid leadership. We are aiming high as we begin this year’s programming.