New hire helps women connect to federation
Sarah Portilla settles into her new position as Jewish Federation of Monmouth County’s development manager in charge of Women’s Philanthropy and missions.
If you go
What: A History of Jews and Chocolate with author and chef Sheilah Kaufman
When: Thursday, Dec. 5, 11 a.m.
Where: Congregation Torat El, Oakhurst
What: Women’s Tu B’Shevat seder
When: Sunday, Jan. 12
Where: Shalom Torah Academy, Morganville
December 2, 2013
For Sarah Portilla, 32, her new position as development manager for the Jewish Federation of Monmouth County is just one more step along a road of Jewish involvement and Jewish community service.
She comes to the federation after a stint at Rutgers Hillel, where since 2007 she served as director of engagement and later as associate director for new initiatives.
At federation, she will coordinate the Women’s Philanthropy effort and organize missions to Israel and other parts of the world.
“We have an eight-day Mega Mission planned to take off on Oct. 26 next year and are planning for a large turnout,” said Portilla, who lives in Marlboro with her husband Daniel, a business analyst with Novo Nordisk, and their two sons, Noah, three, and Ezra, eight months.
“I loved my time at Hillel,” she told NJJN, “but this opportunity with federation was too good to turn down. Here, I will be able to apply my knowledge of the nonprofit world, particularly in the important area of fund-raising.”
Portilla said her long-range career goal is to help people channel their passions into service and philanthropy for the Jewish community.
“I inhaled Jewish culture from as far back as I can remember,” she said. “Not just from my parents, but my maternal grandparents, too. They were founding members of the Reconstructionist synagogue Bet Ahm Shalom in White Plains, NY, and my zayde also tutored bar and bat mitzva students for over 50 years.”
Growing up in Cranford, Portilla attended Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union in West Orange (now Golda Och Academy) from kindergarten through graduation from high school.
As an undergraduate at Rutgers, she focused on political science and Jewish studies, earning a bachelor’s degree in 2003.
Her first job out of college was as a fellow in the Jewish Campus Service Corps at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Adding to her communal service credentials, Portilla then attended graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania, where she picked up an MSW degree.
She worked briefly for Big Brothers Big Sisters in New York, before resuming her Jewish-oriented career.
Interviewed less than 10 days after she started with federation on Nov. 12, Portilla said she was diving right in. “I’ve been planning for upcoming events, developing more details for next fall’s mega-mission to Israel, and meeting with Women’s Philanthropy and Federation leaders.”
Portilla said she came away from these conversations determined to engage as many Monmouth women as possible in the work of Women’s Philanthropy. “Our aim is to strengthen our collective leadership capabilities, our relationships, and our pride in our community.”
SARAH PORTILLA said there’s quite a bit on Women’s Philanthropy’s plate. The Main Event, scheduled for May 7, 2014, will have a new twist this year. “This is our signature event of the year,” she said, “and we will be honoring women drawn from a list nominated not just by synagogues, as in the past, but by various Jewish community organizations.”
Selections will be based on the nominees’ contributions of time, talent, passion, and efforts toward tikun olam (repairing the world). Portilla said, “Each winner will be awarded $180 to be donated to the Monmouth County Jewish agency or synagogue of her choice.”
Portilla also noted two other forthcoming events: A History of Jews and Chocolate, featuring cookbook author and chef Sheilah Kaufman, to be held Thursday, Dec. 5, at Congregation Torat El in Oakhurst, and a Women’s Tu B’Shevat seder on Sunday, Jan. 12, at Shalom Torah Academy in Morganville.
Long-range, said Portilla, she would like to expand Women’s Philanthropy efforts by working cooperatively with women’s groups from federations in neighboring counties like Middlesex and Mercer. “This is something that we want to put on the table, but no details have been worked out yet,” Portilla said.
The 2014 Mega Mission in October is an example of how such inter-county activities could be implemented, she said. That trip is expected to include travelers from the regions of three federations — Monmouth, Greater Middlesex, and Princeton Mercer Bucks.
Aiming to attract as many people as possible, the organizers have priced this “Choose Your Own Adventure in Israel” tour as affordably as possible, said Portilla.
“There’s a highlight sightseeing tour suggested for both first-time and return visitors to Israel. The cost for that is $1,649, provided it’s booked by May 23,” she said.
In addition, there are two specialized itineraries, one that will feature contact with many of Israel’s high-tech and medical professionals — for which American doctors can earn CME credits — and another that focuses on fine living, including quality wines, cuisine, and the fine arts. Either of these is priced at $2,049 until May 23.