Alyssa Latala has a reputation around the Chicago area for bringing people under her tent – metaphorically speaking, though we’re sure she would make a delightful camping buddy.
Alyssa is Chicago’s Big Tent Judaism coordinator for the Jewish Outreach Institute, which reaches out across movements to unaffiliated and intermarried families in order to better incorporate them into the organized Jewish community. Alyssa meets with people to welcome them and connect them to the right Jewish fit and works with Jewish organizations on how to be most welcoming.
“"Through her determination Alyssa brings [different denominational Jewish organizations] out of their silos to sit across from one another,” said colleagues Patricia Nisenholz and Marnie Kalfen of JCC Chicago, two of Alyssa’s four nominators.
Alyssa also embodies the values she seeks to enhance within the Jewish community as she is in an interfaith marriage and raising two boys. Together, they attend Tot Shabbats, JCC programs, PJ Library events and more. “Alyssa's family is the face of the future, but Alyssa is the face of today's Jewish community,” said Jamie Black.
If you’re looking to get connected, definitely reach out to Alyssa; she never turns down a good coffee date.
I’m the Big Tent Judaism Coordinator in Chicago, which means I’m the local staff member of the national organization Big Tent Judaism/Jewish Outreach Institute (JOI). JOI is an independent, trans-denominational organization reaching out to unaffiliated and intermarried families, and helping the organized Jewish community better welcome them in. My role locally is to find Jewish and interfaith individuals and families who haven’t found a “way in” to the Jewish community and connect them with programs and events that meet their interests and needs.
On the side:
My “side job” is being mom to two amazing little boys.
How do you give back?
Pack up my family and travel the world, make sure all who are hungry are fed, and fund interesting projects and research.
Describe yourself in 10 words or less:
Genuine, diplomatic, silly, compassionate, loves to sing show tunes
Celebrity doppelganger/who would play you in a movie:
Ideally my life story would be told as a musical, and Idina Menzel would star.
How do you Jew in Chicago?
Outside of being a professional Jew, most of the Jewish things I do revolve around my kids. We go to Tot Shabbats, we participate in programs at the JCC, and in PJ Library and Hands-on Heroes events.
As the Jewish half of an interfaith marriage, I’ve experienced the kind of alienation and disapproval that my organization is working to change. I’m passionate about showing people like me that there is a place for them in the Jewish community. I’m also passionate about delicious coffee, and I’m trying very hard to develop a passion for running.
Chicago's Jewish community in 10 years:
I’m proud to be part of an organization that’s working to make the Jewish community more welcoming, inclusive, and accessible to people who want to participate. I hope that the work we’re doing here, alongside so many wonderful Jewish organizations, continues to create new pathways to Jewish life for all who wish to experience it. As a result, the Chicago Jewish community will be even more vibrant, more diverse, and more engaging.
Me in 10 years:
In addition to parenting teenage boys (oy), I will have an advanced degree in a field to be determined. Liberated from the demands of raising toddlers, I’ll have all sorts of time to cook, read and exercise, and I’ll be very well-rested.