Forget splitting the sea, this Jewish legend is all about keeping it down.
Meet Yael (Brodsky) Levine, a native of Fair Lawn, NJ, a former New Jersey NCSYer and TJJ advisor, and now an urban infrastructure manager, working for New York State’s Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery.
“My job is about preventing damage from future storms in case something like Sandy happens again,” Yael says. “We work on making communities and cities more resilient”.
She explains that her job is like urban planning, but with a focus on the vital systems of cities like water, transportation, and energy. She helps implement infrastructure plans that are both beneficial to communities and sustainable. .
Ironically, Yael’s husband, Hart Levine, does something similar, albeit on a cultural level. Founder of the Heart to Heart Project, Hart works with affiliated Jewish students on college campuses around the world to reach out to uninvolved Jews on campus and provide an entranceway into Jewish life. While Yael works on the physical aspects of a city to make it better for its residents, Hart works to create more inclusive, sustainable communities.
And in true fashion, Yael joins in her husband’s efforts.
Yael & Hart Levine, on the birthright trip they staffed this past Winter.
“Don’t get me wrong, it can definitely be hard and overwhelming at times,” Yael said. “Like when I was in school and writing papers on the bus on the way to visiting college campuses for Shabbat. But even though being involved in Heart to Heart requires pushing myself a bit, it’s so rewarding. I love that I’ll always be connected to Jewish communal work through Hart.”
Still, Yael has done more than her part for the Jewish community up until now. As a teenager, she was involved in NJ NCSY, going on shabbatons and to Latte and Learnings. She liked interacting with both day school and public school kids and even was elected to her regional board in senior year.
“It really made my high school experience so much more fun.”
But she didn’t stop there. In college, she went on NJ and Midwest shabbatons, ran programming in Plainview, NY as part of Friday Night Lights, and staffed a TJJ Midwest bus.
“That was the most impactful summer for me,” she said. “It was really ridiculously awesome. Now it’s five years later, and my ‘kids’ are planning to go on Birthright together, because now they’re eligible. A lot of them are graduating college now-I’ll be really excited if any of them move to New York!”
Now, living with Hart in Washington Heights, she continues making Judaism more accessible for people who don’t have a Jewish background. Her latest adventure was hosting a seder for people who may not have had one otherwise. And NCSY has played a pivotal role in her Jewish development.
“NCSY will always be linked to my life. TJJ was my most impressionable experience, which gave me a sense of what Jewish community I want to be a part of; one that is open and inviting, warm, incorporates spirituality, and even the playing field to make people of all backgrounds feel welcome.”