12 Questions with Madam President

We sat down with our newly elected President of our Board of Directors and asked her the important questions! Learn more about our fearless leader, Rachel Dukeman, and all about her favorite Jewish foods & celebrities. 

12 Questions with Madam President

1. Who are you?
Who are you? Who? Who? Whoo whoo? That’s what I assume everyone hears in their head when they read this question. Who am I? I’m just cool enough to know that those lyrics were written by The Who and definitely nerdy enough to associate the song with The Masked Singer and CSI.

I’m a native digital user who loves to unplug by going for hikes and birdwatching. I love plants and gardening. I’m an avid amateur chef and homesteader. I live in South Philadelphia with my partner of 12 years. I run my own business (a consulting practice).

I love learning about and tasting new wines. I find it a great way to relax while appreciating new places and cultures – throughout history wherever there has been grapes and people, there’s winemaking. And that now includes my basement!

2. What would your 6-word memoir be?
Almost perfect but not quite.

3. How long have you been involved with Tribe 12?
When the light first shined in the darkness, I was there. So… since the beginning. I was involved with Tribe 12’s predecessor, The Collaborative, and when Ross (our CEO) was talking to people about launching Tribe 12, I joined the Founding Executive Committee of the Tribe 12 Fellowship. A few years later, I joined the Board of Directors (one of the youngest members at the time!). I’ve been a board member for 7 years now. Then I joined the Board’s Executive Committee, and now I guess I’m stuck for life.

4. What’s your favorite homesteading project right now?
Oh, so many! Like many of us in the pandemic, I binged all of Bon Appetit’s “It’s Alive! With Brad Leone ” and started fermenting garlic in raw honey, which takes a while, so I’m excited that it’s now 4 months in and it’s so yummy with a splash of soy or Brag’s and homegrown green onions as a chicken or tofu marinade. You’ll never need take-out with this easy, flavor-packed meal. If this is not already happening at your fermentation station, I’m challenging you (Davinica)!

I also am very proud of my lacto-fermented lemons, which are a Morrocan-style preserved lemon. Takes about a month for the magic to happen. Then chop one up with some garlic, parsley, and add to full-fat Greek yogurt – oh my heavens! Delish. I eat that with everything from crudité to Adana Kebabs.

And lastly, homemade kombucha is the new sparkling water in my house — which is to say the most popular not-from-the-faucet beverage to drink morning, noon, and night.
Fav flavors include strawberry and ginger. I’d like to experiment with a pineapple mint.

5. Favorite Jewish celebrity?
Jon Stewart. No, Paul Rudd. Did you see his fun PSA about wearing masks? Well- watch it here! It’s a tie. They’re both smart and funny (and, did I mention, good looking?).

6. What is your bagel order?
I go classic with this. None of that rainbow unicorn nonsense. Give me an everything bagel with lox and the works. Do not skimp on those capers! (Mom, if you’re reading this, it’s a whole-wheat-everything bagel.)

7. What’s your favorite memory with Tribe 12?
Eleven years ago, I called Ross (our CEO) to ask to pick his brain about Jewish engagement of young professionals. I needed some first-hand insights to inform a strategic plan I was working on. Now either because it was a very Jewish discussion or a very nonprofit one, I entered the conversation asking for a favor and left having agreed to join a committee! (And now, as they say, the rest is history.)

AND a second favorite memory for you: A few years back, when Tribe 12 discovered it has a surplus of people named Rachel, it organized a Rachels-Only Happy Hour!

8. Who is the most interesting/most surprising person you met through a Tribe 12 connection?
Every connection is interesting! Ha! But most surprising to me was when I was at a dinner party and the host invited a childhood friend from Ohio who had recently moved to Philly. As a way of introduction, she motions to me and says vaguely that we’re both involved with Jewish nonprofits. So I make an invitation to Tribe 12’s Launch Night (the culminating event of the Fellowship program). As it turns out, her guest had already agreed to be on our Board of Directors! Jewish geography at its finest. Just goes to show how far-reaching our networks are.

9. What do you think Jewish life will be like in 10 years?
Since a Jewish woman will be President of the United States, the country will be running much smoother.

Yes, and… Since more people better understand the intersectionality of our multi-culturalism, we’ll find antisemitism, racism, and xenophobia are much rarer than present-day.

The trending decline of brick-and-mortar synagogue membership continues, however, in our post-pandemic world more people have discovered the joys of forming intentional communities of like-minded people who share common goals or interests. ::clears throat:: Y’know, tribes. These intentional communities or tribes act as safe spaces for people to express their authentic selves, explore interests, and work collectively – to overall live happier, healthier lives.

As the intentional communities branch out and intersect (yes, you can be in, say, a Jewish theatre tribe and an anti-racism activist one), we develop great leaders who respect and advocate for Jewish values.

10. As the nonprofit world questions the equity/access of the traditional board structure, what are you bringing to the table to create change from within?
I see myself as a catalyst to bridge our nonprofit into its next phase. With nearly 20 years of experience working with nonprofits, I’ve had the opportunity to see what it takes to run one from the volunteer level to running programs to managing staff to being executive leadership to sitting on a Board of Directors. This 360-degree-view has provided me with insights that, combined with my graduate studies and 12+ years as a strategic planning consultant, will enable me to promote and adopt new policies and help bring more voices to the table.

I say “help bring” because it is not on me or any one person alone to make our organization more equitable or accessible – it is on all of us. What is on me more specifically as the Board President is to create a platform in which all voices are heard within the organization. It is the role of the Board President to facilitate discussion, to listen to, and reflect on constructive criticism and to set a precedent that all perspectives are valuable. The next generation of nonprofit leadership is not top-down; it is grassroots, it is homegrown, it is collaborative, and it is reflective of the constituency it serves.

I am hopeful that with the years of experience I have within the organization, I am in a good position to build trust and understanding with as many stakeholders (staff and board, foremost) as possible. The fact that people know me pretty well should make it easier for me to challenge the status quo and push people to think differently – to stretch outside their comfort zone while knowing they are in safe hands.

11. If you had a magic wand what are your biggest aspirations for Tribe 12?
Well, if it were a truly magic wand, I’d just abracadabra us a large endowment. I mean, who doesn’t want a well-endowed organization?! 😉

All jokes aside, that does bring me to the heart of what I’d like to see Tribe 12 achieve over the next few years, which is to say: more money! With a larger operating budget, we would be able to better compensate our staff who are the life blood of our organization.

I am a firm believer that the term “non-profit” is misleading because, for most people, it implies “no” profit – and that is not the reality of the situation. In a nutshell, a non-profit is required to re-invest all of its profits back into the organization and its mission. That doesn’t mean a nonprofit cannot compensate its employees well (or fairly). It also does not preclude a nonprofit from making money.

I aim to have Tribe 12 increase its budget by diversifying funding streams, enhancing earned income options, and improving our ability to fundraise with individual donors. Of course, this is the worst economic time since the Great Depression to take on such an endeavor –but anything worth doing may come with challenges.

12. Pats or Genos?
Bleh, neither. Those two over-publicized monstrosities have lost sight of what makes Philadelphia an amazing city to live in. They have to see the irony of putting up signs that say things like “English Only” when your own relatives came to this country not knowing the language. Or how shaming people for not knowing the [highly contrived] lingo of ‘wit’ or ‘witout’ is a silly strategy for a business that benefits from this City’s tourism. And, let’s not even get started on the health or climate implications of a menu that revolves around beef (and processed cheese).

Now that I sound like a complete (and annoying) social justice warrior, I’ll play your game – I’ll add Tony Luke’s to the mix so that I appear accessible and seem like I’m one of the people, but I’m venturing slightly off the beaten path like the trailblazer I am. LOL. In all honesty, I do like how their menu has more offerings and that pickle bar is a Jewish foodie’s best friend.

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