Tehilah Eisenstadt recently joined the CBE team as Director of Yachad & Family Engagement. Tehilah has an extensive career in Jewish education, having received Master degrees in Jewish Education and in Midrash/Biblical Exegesis from the Jewish Theological Seminar and certification in Early Childhood Administration. She is a graduate of HUC-JTS’s Leadership Institute, and a proud alumna of Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. She also has a deep commitment to social justice. Notably, she was instrumental in forming the New York coalition of Bring Back Our Girls, which strives to raise awareness about the 276 school girls from Chibok, Nigeria who were kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram in 2014.
Director of Yachad & Family Engagement
Photographed and Interviewed by Nate Jaffe, Communications Associate
“CBE was the place my husfriend and I felt at home in, thanks to CBE making a space for our Altshul community and hosting Purim and Shavuot festivities every year. CBE grew to be our main family spiritual home because of Debbie Brukman’s Tot Shabbat, the Hurricane Sandy food collections, all of the social justice and spiritual events we feel called to be a part of here at CBE. Now CBE is a spiritual, educational, and social justice home for my family where I get to guide our Yachad community in the best ways to access deep and relevant Judaism for themselves.” – Tehilah
Nate: How long have you worked at CBE?
Tehilah: A little over a month!
Nate: Where were you/what were you doing before you came to work at CBE?
Tehilah: I came from the UWS, where I was Director of Education & Family Engagement at SAJ – Judaism That Stands for All, the first Reconstructionist Synagogue in the world. Prior to that I was the Community Director for Luria Academy’s Primary. Luria is a post-denominational community, with Open Orthodox and Montessori roots.
Nate: Where are you from? If not, NYC, how did you get here?
Tehilah: Born in North Miami Beach, raised there and Brooklyn (Flatbush), then Plainview, Long Island. I meandered here. I didn’t quite understand what brought my peers to Brooklyn back in 2004. I was stuck in my very narrow childhood view. I came to Brooklyn via Tel Aviv, Binghamton, Jerusalem, West Village, and then the Upper West Side.
Nate: What is your favorite part of your job?
Tehilah: That people and Jewish values are intertwined. We get to serve our community and build educational experiences from a deep sense of relevant Jewish narratives, rituals, and values.
Nate: What is your favorite family holiday tradition?
Tehilah: Before Purim, our family decides our costume theme, then we integrate our theme into the foods we’ll place in the mishloach manot (gifts to friends). It drives us crazy each year and then delights us once Purim arrives and we’re dressed up, handing out treats and enjoying the holiday.
Nate: Do you speak any languages other than English? If not, which language(s) would you like to learn?
Tehilah: Depending on the year (meaning how often I get to practice), I both understand and speak Hebrew with modest fluency. This year might be one of those years where I do both. I learned Spanish in High School but I can speak very little.
Nate: Aside from necessities, what one thing could you not go a day without?
Tehilah: Chocolate milk. I’ve tried to go without it, but besides Yom Kippur it simply isn’t pretty to see me without it.
Nate: What is your favorite movie, tv show, or book of all time?
Tehilah: I teach preschoolers that “favorite” can be of the moment. My favorite movie right now is “About Time,” favorite book is either “The Power” by Naomi Alderman or anything by Anne Lamott or Jeanette Winterson.
Nate: If you could host a talk show, who would be your first guest?
Tehilah: Evon Idahosa. She is a person of sincere faith that she puts into concrete action. When she sees something needs fixing, she uses her impossible array of talents to get things done. Most specifically working to end trafficking and gender-based violence in Nigeria, and worldwide. She’s also an extremely articulate and persuasive speaker who always teaches me something new.
Nate: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Tehilah: “The best gift we can give our children is the notion of repair.” – Sue Meisler
Nate: What motivates you?
Tehilah: Justice, love for my family and friends, small joys, my Jewish history and narratives.
Nate: Who inspires you or who is someone you look up to?
Tehilah: Simon Feil, he was raised as a Yeshiva boy with a passion for acting so he did both. He then added building the first ethical kosher meat co-op because he needed it and it didn’t exist, then he added being the main caregiver for our child, Adin Geshem. Along the way, aside from building a successful acting career and a sushi edutainment business, he facilitates Israel-Palestine conversations where ever he’s called upon in the U.S. He trains organizations in anti-sexual harassment practices through Ta’amod, is an executive narrative-crafting coach while still being the main caregiver, food maker, and awesome partner who challenges me on my assumptions and celebrates my triumphs.
Nate: Describe a past experience, from any point in your life, that defined or impacted who you are today.
Tehilah: In 2014, I read that 276 school children had been stolen from their school during finals. I had just been speaking alongside Muslim and Christian colleagues at a symposia and we agreed that we had to do something together driven by our faith. In the middle of the night, I sent them an email begging to do something, I couldn’t look my son or students in the eye without taking some action, however impossible, to affect these girls in Nigeria. We ended up with a large turnout at Rev. Jaqui Lewis’s church in downtown Manhattan. This led to new friendship, new colleagues, my being brought in to help create curriculum and train teachers in the first moderate Muslim religious school in NY. Despite it all, 5.5 years later 112 girls remain missing, my group Bring Back Our Girls NYC continues to fight, and maintain awareness until the girls are brought home and their families are supported in their healing.
Nate: What’s your favorite quote or mantra?
Tehilah: “What’s your goal?”
Nate: Is there anything you’re looking forward to in the coming months?
Tehilah: Meeting our educators, parents, children and seeing a vibrant new year of Yachad in action!