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From HUC-JIR to the White House

When Deborah Mohile (SJCS '94) came from North Miami Beach to study at UCLA, hoping for a career in the entertainment industry, she never envisioned that one day she would be working at the White House. While a student at UCLA, she took undergraduate classes in Jewish studies with Dr. David Ellenson, the I.H. and Anna Grancell Professor of Jewish Religious Thought at HUC-JIR/LA. "Dr. Ellenson inspired me. I did not know what I wanted to do professionally, and did not know much about nonprofit organizations. He opened up a whole new world for me and told me about HUC-JIR and the Irwin Daniels School of Jewish Communal Service. It was a program and career path that made sense to me."

Today, Mohile is President Clinton's liaison to the American Jewish community. As Associate Director in the Office of Public Liaison at the White House, Mohile credits her combined degrees of Master of Arts in Jewish Communal Service from HUC-JIR's Irwin Daniels School of Jewish Communal Service and her Master of Public Administration from the University of Southern California as invaluable to her professional career. "My day-to-day work and understanding of the organized Jewish community is due in no small part to the education I received at HUC-JIR." Mohile is not only responsible for getting President Clinton's message out to the community but for serving as the "eyes and ears" of the Jewish community in order to report its needs and issues back to the President.

The combination of academic course work and field placements gave Mohile the theoretical and practical knowledge needed to begin her career in the Jewish community. "During my first year at HUC-JIR, I served as an intern at the Government Relations Committee of the Los Angeles Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation. I quickly learned how the public policy and Jewish communal spheres overlapped and recognized the importance of lobbying legislators on behalf of Jewish communal interests."

Current issues on her White House desk include hate crimes, the separation of church and state, and religious freedom in the federal workplace (which would allow Jewish employees to observe Shabbat and the holidays without consequence). It is her responsibility to make sure that President Clinton is briefed for meetings with Jewish groups in the White House. Mohile opted to complete her second year of the double master's program at USC's campus in Washington, D.C. She served as a graduate intern at the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) where she lobbied on the tracked legislation issues of concern to NCJW. This experience was particularly valuable for Mohile because it led to her position as deputy director of Jewish Outreach at the Democratic National Committee, where she was largely responsible for bringing together concerns of the organized Jewish community and which also involved fund raising, politics and policy.

In 1996, Mohile became the director of Jewish Outreach for the Clinton/Gore '96 campaign. The Jewish Communal Service program at HUC-JIR provided her with the knowledge of many intricacies of the community: everything from the historical background of communal structures to relationship between professionals and lay leaders. "My education at HUC-JIR has provided me with significant advantage when compared to individuals without the degrees. I enthusiastically recommend the program to anyone interested in nonprofit management."

When Mohile's tenure at the White House is completed, her dream is to move to New York to run a Jewish summer camp. In the meantime, HUC-JIR has provided her with invaluable skills. To sum up her experience at the College-Institute, "I still use much of what I learned. I don't know where I'd be without my education at HUC-JIR."