Devra Sadler, originally from Youngstown, Ohio, credits her time in youth group as what set her down a path of service in the Jewish community. Sadler recently began a new position as the assistant director of Hillel at Miami University.
“I feel like my entire life has been leading me up to this career,” said Sadler.
Sadler was heavily involved with BBYO growing up and credits her advisers in BBYO for influencing her love of Jewish life the one who made the most impact was Ben Kranitz.
“Ben was the one who got me to be staff at camp at the J,” said Sadler. “He gave me the space to grow when I was only 16, and he gave me my first taste of real responsibility in the Jewish professional world by making me the art specialist at camp. I thought at the time that was something so big…a college student should be in charge, but he believed in me and gave me that opportunity. Even outside of camp, he encouraged me in BBYO by pushing me to do the Maccabi games and he just made sure I was involved.”
Sadler was always drawn to working with kids and discovered her passion for programming while attending college at the University of Cincinnati.
“When I was a junior in college I started helping Adath Israel with their kid’s group, called ‘Jewish Stars,’” said Sadler. “I helped come up with programs once a month and then ran the programs. It gave me a taste of what it would be like to move into a programming role in the Jewish community and I really enjoyed it.”
After college, Sadler went down to Savannah, Georgia, to work for the Federation there, overseeing children’s programming ranging from babies to young adults.
It was there she had a direct opportunity to work with college students at the Savannah College of Art and Design Hillel.
“I oversaw their engagement efforts,” Sadler said. “I worked with a staff of three to four engagement interns every year teaching them how to find people and welcome them to Hillel – it was such an amazing experience.”
After three years in Savannah, she moved back to Cincinnati and began working at the Mayerson JCC overseeing children’s programming. It was while working at the J that she was accepted to the Merrin Teen Professional Fellowship, an 18-month fellowship for JCC professionals who work with teens.
“It was an incredible and transformative program,” said Sadler. “We traveled to different JCCs [learning] about their teen initiatives…I learned a lot about Jewish teen life. How it has evolved, how we can support them, even understanding their brain development, and how they grow from 13 to 26 years old. It truly prepared me for when this Hillel job came about.”
Sadler joined the Miami U Hillel one year after it was the target of antisemitic vandalism. But antisemitic threats are not something that has Sadler worried.
“Antisemitic threats are not going to stop us from being Jewish or doing programs that are Jewish-focused or Israel-focused on campus,” said Sadler. “The best thing we can do is continue doing programs out on campus and providing education for Jewish and non-Jewish students.”
Sadler is excited to begin working with students, and to help Gen Z Jews grow as people.
“Gen Z is incredible, they are so compassionate and they have so many ideas of how they want to change the world, and I want to be a part of that and help them because I had so many amazing people help me throughout my Jewish journey,” said Sadler.