Chair Spotlight Series: Dr. Sherrie Lewis-Thomas, Chair of the Diller Teen Fellows Program
Posted on 07/12/2020 @ 08:00 AM
Dr. Sherrie Lewis-Thomas grew up predominantly in Jacksonville, Florida, where she lived in a much smaller Jewish community than South Florida, and even experienced some prejudice among her peers. She received her Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from the University of Florida. At UF, she was able to have an inclusive experience with a Jewish community that inspired her to become more involved.
Sherrie received her M.S. in Community Counseling from Georgia State University and a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Southern Mississippi. Her time in the South was peppered with encounters of antisemitism. This ultimately led to her passion for social action and advocacy that shaped her goals for her life, her family, and her involvement in the Jewish community.
Sherrie lives with her husband, Colin, in Miami Beach, where they raised their two children, Blake and Rachel. They made a Jewish home at Beth David Congregation.
Sherrie’s introduction to CAJE was through her daughter’s participation in CAJE’s Diller Teen Fellows program. Not only did Sherrie see the benefits of Diller in bringing the community together, she saw that it provided a space for her daughter to grow . Rachel has continued her involvement with Diller, serving as the Alumni Student Intern for the Philadelphia Diller Program while she attends the University of Pennsylvania.
What about Jewish education or the Diller Teen Fellows program motivated you to take this position of leadership?
I see so much value in the Diller Teen Fellows program. As a result, I have been a fierce supporter of its leadership benefits , the opportunity it provides to connect with the diverse Miami-Dade Jewish landscape, and the importance of providing a space for teens to expand their experiences and worldview on an International platform.
In Diller, Fellows can explore the complexities of their own identities, both personal and Jewish . They can learn firsthand, through practical experience, about tolerance, self-management, confidence, self-awareness, and the importance of recognizing and accepting similarities and differences among people. I feel these are invaluable skills and lessons for our teenagers to be exposed to through the Diller program.
What do you hope to achieve in your time as Chair of Miami’s Diller Teen Fellows?
As chair of the Diller Teen Fellows Advisory Committee, my main goal is to solidify the success of the program, since there is nothing like it in the world . Diller is unique! It provides a safe haven for teens where they can explore their leadership, as well as their strengths and weaknesses .
One of the benefits of the Diller Teen Fellows program is that it provides the opportunity for teens to learn that leadership needs to be accompanied by values, ethics, and accountability to ourselves and others in order to be successful. These incredibly important life lessons and philosophies are what help to mold teens into better people, better members of communities, and better leaders.
The Diller Teen Fellows is an incredible program that allows teens to take an active role in their development and education. I feel compelled to inform and encourage community members to invest time and resources into CAJE’s Diller program as a result.
What is something you would like our readers to know about CAJE’s Diller Teen Fellows program?
I have said this before, and I will say it again, because it is so important - the Diller Teen Fellows is unique. I have never seen anything like it . I have seen through my own child’s experience how Diller connects teenagers to Judaism in an unprecedented way. It can teach teens how to go out and make a difference in their communities and the world. By focusing on the development of intra- and inter-personal skills, Diller empowers teens to impact their communities positively.
The program also provides teenagers a connection to Israel and to the larger Jewish world of peoplehood, spanning six continents . It allows them to evaluate their personal views within a global perspective. The program is simply incredible!
Diller education provides a safe and supportive arena for our community teens to grow in many facets of their lives. Through this amazing program, I have watched our Miami teens gain self-confidence, improve their sense of self, strengthen their identity, develop deep friendships, and evolve as leaders and influencers . This profound impact of the program is something our entire Jewish community should be proud of and committed to supporting.