Ear­li­er this week, Ste­fanie Per­vos Breg­man, the edi­tor of Liv­ing Jew­ish­ly, wrote about engag­ing 20- and 30- some­things in the Jew­ish world, Rab­bi Jason Miller wrote about explor­ing com­mon­al­i­ties between reli­gions and Riv­ka Neho­rai shared the truth about moth­er­hood. Today we hear from Liv­ing Jew­ish­ly con­trib­u­tor Rachel Wright. These Liv­ing Jew­ish­ly con­trib­u­tors have been blog­ging for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ing all week.

As a Jew­ish lay leader who works in cor­po­rate Amer­i­ca, my iden­ti­ty often shifts between my work world and the time I ded­i­cate as a vol­un­teer with­in the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty. If you fol­low me on Twit­ter or are a friend of mine on Face­book, it tru­ly looks like I only have one dimen­sion.

My favorite remark I get is when acquain­tances who may know me well enough to be friends on Face­book but not well enough to know what I do for a liv­ing, sim­ply assume and cer­ti­fy as they ask: You work for Fed­er­a­tion, right?” Gath­er­ing this assump­tion — because I sim­ply must — with each event and con­fer­ence I pro­mote and Jew­ish hol­i­day I’ll be well-wish­ing to my net­work.

What a com­pli­ment, I always think. That just means to me that I am doing a good job in my role as a vol­un­teer deter­mined to get as much out­reach and engage­ment as pos­si­ble.

Truth is, my pro­fes­sion­al job which allows me to be so involved with com­mu­ni­ty has lit­tle to do with my strong Jew­ish iden­ti­ty at all. Which means my work net­work couldn’t be any less affil­i­at­ed.

My Jew­ish friends across the globe who pride them­selves on involve­ment may relate. How many times have you had to explain that our mis­sions” to Israel, Ethiopia, Rus­sia, Cuba, Greece or Poland, for exam­ple, are not the mis­sion­ary” expe­ri­ence our non-Jew­ish asso­ciates want to under­stand?

Recent­ly, I was in Indi­anapo­lis at a nation­al con­fer­ence for the insur­ance indus­try, the field I work in. As much as I give to the Jew­ish world, I also give to the com­pa­ny allow­ing me the abil­i­ty to do so. Dri­ven to grow pro­fes­sion­al­ly, I work with peo­ple from all walks of life. While enter­tain­ing at this con­fer­ence, a ques­tion at din­ner lit­er­al­ly threw me aback.

As the check was deliv­ered– and after a few glass­es of wine– one of the mem­bers of my din­ner par­ty asked a clos­ing ques­tion: Not to be offen­sive, as I am sure this doesn’t apply, but does a Jew own your com­pa­ny?”

I sat a lit­tle unset­tled. In my pro­fes­sion­al life, I don’t often dis­cuss reli­gion as it’s sim­ply not appro­pri­ate. And, as a Detroit-based com­pa­ny, we are fair­ly diverse with peo­ple of many reli­gious back­grounds work­ing togeth­er in har­mo­ny. But, this ques­tion demand­ed a response.

As a pro­fes­sion­al in the cor­po­rate world who also hap­pens to be Jew­ish, I knew the only thing I could do worse than be com­pla­cent was to laugh or agree with any remark that would poten­tial­ly fol­low. This would be even worse than the most igno­rant of com­ments. But, not want­i­ng to be over­ly strong too ear­ly, I soft­ly asked why.

Because of the name of your com­pa­ny – EHIM. I was recent­ly in Israel with my church, and learned of the Hebrew word Elo­him. Is this a root from the ori­gins of your com­pa­ny?”

I breathed easy. His only mis­take was approach in the ask. If any­thing, I felt embar­rassed I wasn’t ready to be proud to say not only do I work for a Jew­ish woman but I also am part of this peo­ple.

He sim­ply need­ed an answer that would also teach him it wasn’t offen­sive to ask some­one if they were of Jew­ish descent if asked in the appro­pri­ate way.

In Liv­ing Jew­ish­ly: A Snap­shot of a Gen­er­a­tion, I was proud to have one of the blogs I wrote for Jew­ish Fed­er­a­tions of North Amer­i­ca Young Lead­er­ship Cab­i­net be includ­ed. This blog described the jour­ney I went on with an ex-boyfriend, explor­ing his con­ver­sion to Judaism from a very Chris­t­ian upbring­ing. Back then, I sat on the side­lines, tak­ing the stance that con­ver­sion was to be his pri­vate jour­ney as I didn’t want to define his sense and under­stand­ing of our very deep tra­di­tion and beliefs.

Near­ly three years lat­er and on the oth­er side, I see things a bit dif­fer­ent­ly. As some­one who aspires to grow into the very impor­tant role as a Jew­ish leader, one of the lessons I must learn is that we are not sim­ply lead­ing the Jew­ish peo­ple to fol­low or help guide them to find their way. We are lead­ing a world­wide com­mu­ni­ty that may not share our reli­gion or tra­di­tion – but can fol­low through under­stand­ing and a mutu­al respect we have for each oth­er.

We don’t need to preach to those who don’t ask. But we need to always be true to who we are. That is the way we lead by exam­ple and the way we con­tin­ue to evolve change through­out the world.

Rachel Wright is the Direc­tor of Busi­ness Devel­op­ment for EHIM, a Phar­ma­cy Ben­e­fit Man­ag­er in Detroit. She is also the Pres­i­dent-Elect for NextGen of the Detroit Fed­er­a­tion of Metro Detroit. Addi­tion­al­ly, Rachel serves as the Women’s chair for Rit­u­al and Judaica for JFNA Young Lead­er­ship Cab­i­net. She can be reached at wrightrachm@​gmail.​com. Fol­low her on Twit­ter at @rach_is_wright.