Dan Lowen has served on the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle’s board of directors since September 2010. On July 1, he became the organization’s board chair, adding a significant responsibility to his already busy life, which includes a family with two young daughters and a job as Unico Properties’ senior asset manager and director of portfolio management. Lowen, 38, has been an active Federation volunteer for seven years. He is a parnter in the Kavana Cooperative and a recent graduate of the Wexner Heritage Program.
In this Q&A, he talks about his decision to step up to the board chair position, Seattle’s Jewish community, and the fluidity and fragility of Jewish identity in today’s world.
RACHEL ROMÁN: Why did you accept the Federation’s nomination to be board chair?
DAN LOWEN: Even though this is a busy time in my life — I’ve got a young family and a busy job — I am very committed to the Jewish community and the future of the Federation. I recognize that the growth and change that we’re going to make is more important than my personal life being squeezed. I’m ready to stand up and lead the charge into the future.
RR: How do you foresee adapting your skills to helping the Federation grow?
DL: I look forward to being a strong lay leader who works in cooperation with all of the wonderful professionals that we have. I believe strongly that leaders lead, but not in the sense that you force everybody to do something. You’ve got to create the vision and get everybody on board.
RR: What is your vision for the Federation?
DL: The Federation has the power to be more than just a fundraiser and granting organization. We have the ability and history of doing things. We’ve learned [from JFGS’s 2014 Greater Seattle Jewish Community Study] about so many of the challenges for the future of Jewish Seattle, and the Federation is very well-suited to take on a number of those issues and serve for the betterment of the community.
RR: Can you speak a little more on your commitment to the Jewish community?
DL: I believe in the strength of the Jewish people and ongoing Jewish community, which I recognize has had to change and adapt every generation. We all have a choice now of how Jewish we want to be. Jewish identity is something that’s very fragile, and we have to continually reinvest in that.
RR: Why do you think that Jewish identity in this day and age is important?
DL: To me, it makes the world a smaller place. There’s a tremendous sense of commonality of experience and thought. A lot of people are not necessarily focused on their Judaism until they start having children, and now they’re trying to identify what that Judaism is going to look like for them and their family. I also know what it’s like to have another tradition in the family (because my wife converted to Judaism) and the questionings and the balancing act as a result. That’s part of adapting the Jewish community in the 21st century.
RR: How did you discover your own Jewish identity?
DL: I grew up in Bellevue and then lived in Philadelphia for almost 10 years. It was such a different culture. I could throw a rock and hit five Jews just in my (college dormitory) hall. I definitely found more of my own identity as a Jew because I was more immersed in Jewish culture versus Jewish religion in a place that just had more Jews. Before I found my own Jewish identity, I was living someone else’s idea of Jewish education and Jewish identity.
RR: How do you plan to connect Jews in the greater Seattle area?
DL: For people who don’t live in the small Jewish enclaves and only think about what they can afford and what’s closest to work, we need to meet them where they are with opportunities for them to engage in their Judaism and in the community. When you live in a place that has the true richness of Jewish community, it just finds its way into everyday life.