We are so excited to welcome Seth Chalmer to the Leading Edge team as our new Director of Communications.
Seth is thrilled to join Leading Edge. A native of Vermont and a graduate of NYU’s Wagner-Skirball dual Masters program in Nonprofit Management and Judaic Studies, Seth also holds a B.F.A. in Musical Theatre from Wright State University. Here are a few Q&A’s to help you get to know him!
What drew you to Leading Edge?
My two big passions are Judaism and the arts. Both of those are ways of forging connections between people (and with God, and with the world) at the deepest levels of our humanity. For years I’ve been following Leading Edge’s work, and I’ve been inspired by how this organization is influencing the whole Jewish impact sector to refocus on people. Helping Jewish organizations get and keep amazing people in leadership, and helping those leaders to value, develop, and engage the people on their teams at every level, is a fantastic opportunity to enrich Jewish life and strengthen Jewish efforts to heal and brighten the world.
What does a “great place to work” mean to you?
In a great place to work, people thrive. They use and develop their skills to do work that matters, with collaboration and mentorship from colleagues and leaders whom they like and trust, in an environment that helps them perform at their best, while being compensated fairly and integrating their jobs into fulfilling family and community lives.
What’s your favorite place to travel?
If I have to pick just one place, then speaking as a kosher-keeper, the abundant and magnificent kosher food in Israel makes it the obvious choice (and an incredible choice for other reasons, too).
What do you enjoy most about storytelling?
In middle school I was miserable most of the time and I assumed that was because of other middle schoolers being cruel. Then I found theatre and felt what it was like to rehearse one scene in six different ways — same words, endless choices of tone and meaning. Soon enough I realized that I had just as much ability to try new emotional angles in the cafeteria and gym as I had in the rehearsal room. I couldn’t change what other people did, but within myself I could unilaterally change the orchestral underscoring in my mind, and rewrite the nature of my own character’s objectives, actions, and reactions. I found that by revising how I told myself the story of each moment I was in, I had the power to radically change the experience of my life. Later, in my twenties, I started becoming Jewishly observant, and that’s another way of living out an old-new story that reframes and invigorates everything else.
I lead with those examples precisely because they’re not “storytelling” in the ordinary ways we often mean, although I do love those ways. I love writing stories, songs, and plays. I love acting and singing and playing music. But everything in human society that isn’t stuff you can touch, every kind of relationship or institution— marriages, friendships, nations, laws, governments, currencies, religions, ethics, ideas, Jewish nonprofit organizations — it’s all made up purely out of stories that we tell and retell and revise together, to ourselves and to each other, every day.
So all of us are storytellers, wielding enormous power in how we choose to tell them. Stories are the heartbeat of human life.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
My mother is incredibly wise and has given me invaluable advice over the years, both in words and in personal example. One of many things she has taught me is that if we’re facing a question that has nothing but bad answers, sometimes the best way forward isn’t to try to pick the least evil of the answers but instead to try to ask a better question.
Best movie or TV show you’ve seen in the past year?
There was a 2019 documentary called The Biggest Little Farm and if you look up a synopsis of it you might think it’s probably boring, but it’s really splendid.
Anything else you’d like to share?
“I always think there’s a band, kid.” — Meredith Wilson (Harold Hill), “The Music Man”