It is fair to say that Benjamin is involved in politics, just not "politics as usual." He works for a political consulting firm that specializes in fundraising for progressive candidates and causes, including U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, and he is responsible for raising $1.2 million for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee each year.
For two years, he served as the Media and Communications Manager of A Safe Haven, which helps homeless people become self-sufficient; he increased its online following tenfold while partnering with AVODAH, the Jewish Service Corps. He likes volunteering at the JUF Uptown Cafe, and even directed an acclaimed documentary examining the struggle of the homeless.
A comitted vegan, Benjamin co-founded Northwestern U.'s Jewish environmental group Environmental Campus Outreach (ECO), vastly enhancing the campus's sustainability and recycling. He says his "only leather possessions" are his tap shoes, his tefillin, and his softball glove; he leads a co-ed softball league and plays on an all-Jewish team.
Pays the bills:
I work as a political consultant at a boutique firm specializing in fundraising for progressive candidates and causes.
On the side:
I live at Moishe House Chicago, which does awesome Jewish programming for people our age.
Some people tell me I look a lot like Daniel Radcliffe, but I identify more with Elmo, a childhood hero of mine who also loves to talk (and sing).
How do you Jew in Chicago?
Well, I currently live at Moishe House Chicago. I am moving to the same block as a synagogue. Everyone on my softball team is Jewish, and so is my boss... So, how do I NOT Jew in Chicago would be a better question. I love participating in different Jewish spiritual communities, from Mishkan to Anshe Sholom. And, personally, I see the pursuit of justice as a quintessential part of being a Jew. I recently co-led the American Jewish World Service's lobbying team in Chicago to push for cost-saving, life-saving US Farm Bill Reform. The team was composed of people from the community, including Rabbis Siegel, Lopatin, and Russo, in addition to many lay leaders of all ages. It was a great experience, and now the team will move on to the House of Representatives. We were very lucky to have the endorsement of the Jewish Federations of North America. It's great to be part of a community that cares about true social justice.
I love dancing, sports, meaningful discussion, and helping others, preferably simultaneously.
How do you give back?
I am an active advocate of the homeless service agency where I used to work, A Safe Haven. In fact, I got a wonderful turnout of amazing people from Chicago's Jewish community, including Mishkan and Moishe House, to run/walk in A Safe Haven's 2012 RUN! To End Homelessness. I also really enjoyed my time volunteering at the JUF Uptown Cafe, which gives so much dignity to the people served by their social service agency, EZRA. It is just an incredibly gratifying experience that is in fact only a small part of the really important services they provide to people in need.
Fill in the blank: If time and money were limitless, I would:
I would spend more time with my fantastic friends; maybe finally finish an issue of The Economist or The New Yorker, read more books, too; and hopefully get to dance more. Maybe I'd also start watching TV...nah.
Chicago's Jewish community in 10 years:
Well, other than hopefully eating legumes on Passover (come on, guys), I hope that Chicago's very generous Jewish philanthropists can inspire all of us to step up and do a little bit more for people in need around us. It is a critical time for many of our neighbors stuck in poverty, but we are lucky to have some incredible organizations here in Chicago that are helping people get back to work, get over their addictions, and get their lives and families back together. I look forward to us all trying to help, to do a little bit more to leave the world better than we found it, and as the Torah says, to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Me in 10 years:
I'd like to manage an organization that works with business, political, and grassroots leaders to advocate for improved ways to run our elections. I believe we can find a superior system to help our leaders better serve the long-term well-being of our communities, just by updating our democracy's firmware, so to speak. I'd also love to still be with the woman who is currently my amazing girlfriend, and adopt a couple kids who need good parents. And hopefully, somewhere in there, I'll also be able to find some time to keep dancing.