Maya Katz-Ali is a multicultural Jew in every sense of the word, from her heritage to her experiences to her values. Maya is conversant in Hebrew, which she learned from her mother, a New York Jew who spent time in Israel, and she was inspired to learn Urdu by her father who grew up in India. She also became a decent Spanish speaker along the way. Being connected to her Jewish community is a core piece of Maya’s identity, and she needs that community to be as diverse and inclusive as her own life story is.
Maya first came to Hebrew Free Loan when she was finishing her bachelor’s program in International Development & Social Change at Clark University in Worcester MA. She wanted to stay for a master’s degree in Community Development & Planning, but didn’t have the funds to cover her living expenses. Hebrew Free Loan made all the difference.
“The interest-free student loan from Hebrew Free Loan allowed me to get my master’s degree and experiment with financial independence in a way that wouldn’t have been possible if I had to take on the burden of accruing interest for the next ten years.”
Maya was drawn to Clark by the school’s motto: “Challenge convention. Change our world.” She took that seriously, choosing a gap year before she started college. Maya spent a semester in Israel teaching English at several locations, including a majority Arab school, and a semester in India where she improved her Hindi/Urdu and explored the country’s multi-faceted cultural and religious traditions.
Later Maya participated in Germany Close Up, a government-sponsored program that introduces North American Jewish students and young professionals to contemporary Germany and engages them in dialogue with their German peers. She also visited Israel again to compile oral histories with Ethiopian Jewish immigrants.
Maya’s first job out of college was Program Coordinator at Be’Chol Lashon, where she used her education and experiences to advocate for the visibility of international Jewish communities left out of mainstream narratives. She now works as a Bay Area Field Manager at OneTable, helping young adults to find and sustain their own Shabbat practices.
Maya started at OneTable in March 2020, just when the Covid-19 pandemic was shutting down in-person gatherings and turning events virtual. As an extrovert, the idea that keeping distance was the best way to show love didn’t come naturally to Maya. But she and the rest of the team at OneTable have found creative ways to bring community members together online, and the work has been healing for Maya, restoring her hope and sense of purpose.
Maya recently joined the steering committee for Hebrew Free Loan’s Full Circle Club, where she looks forward to engaging fellow student loan recipients in contributing to Hebrew Free Loan and paying forward the help they received.
For Maya, a lifelong Oakland resident who attended Jewish Community High School of the Bay and became a bat mitzvah at Temple Sinai, the Full Circle Club is yet one more avenue for connecting to the Jewish community and living her Jewish values in all arenas of her life.