If you’re new to Capitol Hill, it can be hard to find others who share your background or values.
One association has created a community based on a shared religious affiliation.
“I hope everyone finds their group in addition to what they do during the workday because it is so hectic,” said Becca Brukman, president of the Congressional Jewish Staffers Association. “So that’s what we’re trying to do here.”
Brukman, 24, is deputy press secretary for California Democratic Rep. Alan Lowenthal, who is also Jewish.
The association celebrates special occasions together from Shabbat dinners, which are generally attended by about 15 people and hosted at different members’ homes, to an annual Passover Seder, which takes place during the workday and draws roughly 60 people for a service in the Capitol.
Members rely on the association to tell them where to go for Yom Kippur services around Washington or where to attend weekly Torah sessions on the Hill.
“It’s hard to find people who share the same cultural values that you do and have had a similar upbringing to you,” Brukman said. “I hope people are really getting something out of the association.”
At these group events, people at different levels of their careers can interact on a casual basis.
“I hope that this group is truly a resource for Jewish involvement both on the Hill and in other places,” Brukman said.
While in college, she interned for Lowenthal and became a staff assistant and press assistant in August 2014. She became his deputy press secretary in October 2015, around the same time she became president of the association.
The group was established in the early 2000s and past leaders of the association reached out to Brukman to see if she would take on the role.
The bipartisan, bicameral group plans “cultural, educational, social and religious activities around Judaism for Jewish staffers,” and aims to hold one event a month, Brukman said.
“We’re nonpolitical but by meeting different people in different offices, you can use that in your work life,” she said.
The group has around 500 people on its email list and interns are encouraged to be involved so they can get to know people. While the group doesn’t have formal professional development or mentoring programs, they keep an eye out for each others’ careers.
Looking ahead, Brukman’s goal is for the group to do more community service.
“There’s a [phrase] in Hebrew, Tikkun Olam, which means to heal or repair the world,” she said. “This year, I would really like to see us do more community service and be giving back to build up that Hebrew ideal.”
Lowenthal is the association’s congressional sponsor.
“Congressman Lowenthal started at the community level and I think he really believes in and sees how important it is to learn from the experiences of others around you,” Brukman said.
She said her communications job complements her role in the association.
“Learning how to communicate with people in valuable and meaningful ways is a great overlap for me,” she said.