Welcome Mike Rawl!
Later this month, the JCC will welcome Mike Rawl as their new CEO. Mike is joining Jewish Buffalo after leading the JCC in Youngstown, Ohio. For today’s Spotlight, we are pleased to reprint a segment of an interview with Mike that appears in this month’s Jewish Journal.
Mike, tell us about your family?
My wife Adrienne is an early childhood educator who works with special needs kids. She grew up the Youngstown, Ohio area and is incredibly passionate about her work. She’s the hardest working person I know and every day is an inspiration for me. We are the proud parents of 5 incredible children. Our oldest, Violet, who is named for my grandmother, turns 15 in December. She is currently a freshman in High School and is actively involved in BBYO. Our second child is 12 year-old Ivy who is preparing to become a Bat Mitzvah next April. Our third born and first son is Thomas who just turned 11. Thomas is named for my grandfather’s nephew who was killed in Auschwitz when, ironically, he was just 11. Growing up, my grandfather, who was a tough man, could never utter Thomas’ name without being overwhelmed with emotion. It was particularly meaningful for us to keep the name Thomas alive and to honor our family’s legacy. And now, to see our Thomas so full of life is really special. Our fourth child and second son is Lawren, named for my grandfather Lawrence, and he turns 5 in January. Finally, our youngest is Juniper, the sweetest little girl, who just turned 3 this month. We are so incredibly fortunate to have healthy and happy kids.
What do you the Rawl family do for fun?
“Free” time of course with this kind of work is limited but at the same time I’ve been able to integrate family in my work and feel very lucky about that. I like reading and playing music, which is to say, I attempt to play the piano! We are a very outdoorsy family and like to swim, hike and backpack. I also love to build things. At home, I’ve created and manage a garden and built an aquaponics community in my basement. I’m fascinated by how systems work.
What excites you most about moving to Buffalo?
Adrienne and I like to change things up; we believe that the most effective way to create personal change is to change one’s environment. So while I love my work at the JCC in Youngstown, the opportunity to build community and impact people’s lives in a bigger platform excites and motivates me. I have lived all over the Midwest and Buffalo is one of the most welcoming communities I’ve experienced. And the community’s size, at least for our family, provides so many more opportunities for us and our children.
Finally, please share with us your perspective and the role that the JCC plays in shaping the Jewish community in the future.
We’re in a golden age of the Jewish people. Think of the miracle of Israel since 1948 and the miracles happening in Israel since then in terms of technology. The global Jewish population has grown to a level close to that before the Holocaust and our connections to Jews around the world abounds. In fact, one could argue that Covid has underscored the power and ease in which we connect which other Jews. And for the first time, experiential programs like overnight camp and Israel travel through Birthright is accessible to all who want to engage. At the same time, there are real challenges that we must confront, in particular increasing polarization in the Jewish community that is reflective of the polarization in our society. The future of the Jewish world certainly rests on our ability to appreciate and see ourselves as Klal Yisrael – one Jewish people. That is part and parcel of the vision I have of the JCC; that on one level we are a physical place where all Jews are welcome, but we are also a place that interfaces with the outside world and builds community for both.