Ellen Oshinsky (she/her) joined Many Hands in 2022 and has served on the Education and Membership Committees. She lives in Washington, DC and is the founder & lead educator for DMV Eco Adventures, an after school outdoor education program for elementary school students. A graduate of University of Miami (BA) and Teachers College (MA), she cares deeply about education and connecting children and families to the great outdoors. In addition, she is the DC manager of strategic partnerships for Avodah-The Jewish Service Corps and loves to use her skill set as a connector to support fundraising and partnership efforts to catalyze Avodah’s social justice and Jewish community building work. Outside of being a member of Many Hands, Ellen sits on the Board of Directors of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.
Why did you join Many Hands?
My mom had shared with me information about a Meet & Greet, and I had participated in a giving circle as a teenager, so I had experience with collective giving but not as an adult. Also, as someone who returned to the Washington, DC area in the midst of the pandemic, I had a really strong desire to better understand the not-for-profit and philanthropic space. I decided that Many Hands would be a phenomenal opportunity to get a scan of that environment and be able to connect with like-minded women who care about supporting causes locally.
What do you most appreciate about being a member?
I really enjoyed sitting on the Education Committee last year and having the opportunity to bring my background as an elementary school teacher to understanding education causes locally. Another beautiful element of that experience was that I got to learn from other people’s thinking regarding different organizations. Through sitting on the committee, I gained more clarity about the kinds of causes I care about and, within the education landscape, what types of programs really matter to me and what I really want to support. It was important for me to engage in wrestling with issues like the depth of a program versus the breadth of a program. I want to see good happen in the world, but what is the good that I want to see?
What, in your experience, is special or unique about Many Hands?
There’s a flexibility that’s required at the end of the day in engaging with collective giving because you’re a little bit out of the seat of control. Other members may not have the same priorities you do, and the organizations you most want to support may not receive a grant. But being able to wrestle with all these issues in community and collaborate together is inspiring. At the end of the day, we’re all on the same team in bringing these funds together and wanting to support people in the DMV who are doing incredible work that is making a tremendous impact. Recognizing that bigger goal, even when there are disagreements in the process, means that you can still learn from one another and be excited to champion whichever organization is chosen by the committee.
How has your experience with Many Hands affected your personal giving?
As I was considering where I wanted to make gifts at the end of last year, one of the causes I decided to support was an organization that I learned about through the Education Committee. While it did not receive a grant, I did make a personal contribution, and that felt really meaningful to me because I had had the experience of learning about the organization firsthand through a site visit and being really inspired by their work. In addition, Many Hands has connected me to members who have shared information about causes they care about and exposed me to new insights, which has also informed my giving.
-Interview by Mary Kwak