My name is Talya Kravitz and I am so excited to be joining IPC as the Partner Congregation Coordinator for my year of service with AmeriCorps! As Partner Congregation Coordinator, I will be focusing my efforts on the new Partner Congregation Pledge, engaging congregations through the pledge, and recruiting congregations to sign the pledge.
I have always felt a strong connection with the environment. I grew up with a park in my backyard which gave me constant access to the outdoors and the many creatures that live there and spent many summers at Jewish sleep away camp in a beautiful area in Massachusetts. It was at camp where I found a spiritual connection with nature. Every Friday evening the whole camp would gather in a space surrounded by tall pine trees called the Chorsha (Hebrew word meaning grove) to welcome in Shabbat (Hebrew word for the Sabbath) with praying and singing. Even during my youngest years at camp, praying in such a beautiful natural landscape felt very meaningful to me.
It wasn’t until my first year of college as an architecture major, however, that my passion for the environment came alive. In my first semester I took an architecture course on urban planning and placemaking where I learned about the negative impacts that suburban sprawl and urbanization have on the environment and our personal health. This course struck a chord in me that immediately changed my career aspirations from becoming a traditional architect to working to reduce the environmental impact and increase the sustainability of buildings and communities.
I recently graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in architecture and a minor in sustainability. During my time at UMD, I focused my studies on sustainability as it relates to the built environment. I spent a semester in Copenhagen where lived in a green living & learning community and studied sustainable food systems and integrated climate change planning in urban design. During my senior year I received my Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Associate credential from the U.S. Green Building Council and later held an internship with them where I primarily conducted policy research.
While I was at UMD I was very involved in the Jewish community, spent most of my Friday nights at Shabbat dinners, and was involved with a number of Jewish student organizations. During my junior and senior years I was the president of JFarm, a Jewish community garden and environmental club. I loved programming JFarm events around the Jewish holidays because it provided a unique opportunity to highlight connections between Jewish text, practice, and environmental stewardship. Engaging in deep philosophical discussions about those connections with students that had maybe never thought about them before was incredibly rewarding for me.
In my free time I love listening to music and discovering new artists. I am an avid concert goer so I am eagerly waiting for live music to start back up again. In the meantime, I’ve been playing a lot of guitar and teaching myself new things along the way. I also enjoy cooking new vegetarian and vegan recipes, going on outdoor adventures, reading, and spending some quality time with my pet hamster.
On my first day here at IPC, I toured several congregations in the Cabin John watershed in Montgomery County and learned of the projects they installed to help restore clean water. Thank you Suzy (Beth Shalom), Rosie (Geneva Presbyterian), and Barry (St. James Epsicopal Church) for showing me around. I am looking forward to inspiring more congregations to follow in your footsteps and join the movement!
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