Raisa Koltun’s family immigrated to Milwaukee from the Soviet Union when she was just 9 years old. They sought to escape the restrictions imposed on the Jews and to find a better future.
Koltun said that background inspires him to pursue the full range of opportunities offered by life in the United States. She cites her upbringing as pointing her in the right direction. “You have to take advantage of these huge opportunities that you have in this country,” she said.
His position with the National Cabinet of Young Leaders of the Jewish Federations of North America allows Koltun to do just that. Koltun is part of the firm’s leadership team and has participated in a virtual conversation with members of the Jewish community in Venezuela, in addition to other educational programs and activities. And it’s only just begun.
The National Young Leadership Cabinet is a six-year program for Jewish volunteers between the ages of 30 and 45 that “is grounded in a series of Jewish values,” including hinini (call for leadership) and achrayut (responsibility), to develop participants personally and as leaders. According to its website, the nearly 60-year-old firm has 4,000 alumni and raises $2.6 million from its members each year. Although the program has gone live during the pandemic, a normal firm mandate includes leadership development programs and “premium travel experiences that include hands-on service opportunities.”
Philanthropy is an important part of the firm’s mission. According to Koltun, the money collected by cabinet members is reinvested “entirely in local communities”. Je work supports the Jewish Federation of Milwaukee’s annual campaign.
“I went to Jewish School in Milwaukee, my grandparents relied heavily on Jewish Family Services, and I spent summers at JCC,” Koltun said. “So I have these deep ties to the institutions in Milwaukee that – in the beginning – funded a lot of these experiences for me and really shaped who I am as a Jewish person and as a person in general. And now, I’m in a place where I can give back, and that’s really meaningful and important to me.
Koltun is the only cabinet member from Milwaukee, and she estimates that only 10 of the 4,000 alumni are from her city, a number she would like to see increased.
“I try very actively to recruit people,” she says. Wisconsin is also represented by a member of Madison’s cabinet, Koltun said.
Even though Koltun is only in her first year at the firm and the experience has been entirely virtual so far, she said she is already imagining how to bring what she learned back home to Milwaukee.