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Profiles in Volunteerism: Leah Dembitzer

LeahDembitzerThis month we begin our series of profiles of notable community volunteers – people who spend their time and energy making Scarsdale a great place for all us of to live. There are hundreds of people who pitch in – doing everything from manning the PTA’s, coaching sports, planting and maintaining gardens, advocating for those in need to serving on the boards of community organizations and Village Boards and Councils. Perhaps this network of committed volunteers is what makes Scarsdale the special place it is.

For our first interview, we are spotlighting Leah Dembitzer, the incoming President of the League of Women Voters in Scarsdale. We first spotted her at School Board meetings where she sat for many hours, observing the proceedings of the Scarsdale School Board. At times, she was the only one in the audience. Following these meetings, she reported back to the League and spearheaded in-depth consensus statements on board policies and actions. The League served as the community’s eyes and ears, providing an independent view on matters that affect us all.

Here is Leah’s perspective on her experience and why she volunteers:

When did you move to Scarsdale? Did you have a career prior to coming here and if so, what did you do?

I moved to Scarsdale in March 2009 after the birth of my second child. I was in graduate school for Art History for many years and worked in the New York art world as a Fine and Decorative Art Appraiser and as an art historical researcher.

What was your first volunteer job - and how did you get involved?

I first got involved at my son’s preschool. The school director (at Westchester Reform Temple Early Childhood Center) asked if I would be interested in being one of her program’s ECC Co-Chairs. The Co-Chairs work on creating welcoming events as well as social and cultural programs for ECC families. I was an ECC Co-Chair for three years and really enjoyed the volunteer work. I met so many new people and really enjoyed the creative collaboration.

What did that lead to - what are some of the other jobs that you have taken on?

After being ECC co-chair, and as my kids moved into the Scarsdale Schools, I became involved in the Quaker Ridge PTA, serving as PTA President and chair of the school’s Learning to Look program. I co-chaired PT Council Young Writers’ Workshop, an annual event for 3rd - 5th graders that is celebrating its 25th event in November. I met and worked with many talented local writers and creative thinkers through YWW on a well-loved event.

I also became chair of one of the Jewish Learning Lab programs at WRT, Sharing Shabbat, and am a member of WRT’s Board of Trustees. For WRT, I co-chaired their 65th Anniversary Homecoming Gala Event a few years ago.

How old are your children and do you find it difficult to balance you volunteer commitments with your responsibilities to your family?

My son Lucas is 12 and is entering 7th grade; Noah is 10 and is an incoming 5th grader and Sloan is 6 and will be in 1st grade. Sometimes it can be difficult to balance, usually when I have to attend meetings or events in the evening. Generally though, as I’ve been involved in the schools and organizations that the kids know, they are excited when I explain what I’m doing volunteer-wise.

What are you doing for this coming year?

This coming year, I’m President of the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale (LWVS) and I’m thrilled to be doing the important work of voter and issue information and education during such a complex cultural moment in our country. The League has many exciting upcoming speakers, programs and opportunities for community engagement this year.

What do you like about working with the League of Women Voters?

I really enjoy working with the League Board of Directors, an incredible group of local women. I like learning about Scarsdale’s local government and the schools. The League has been very involved in Youth Engagement as well and it is inspiring to see political interest and engagement in our student community.

Have you experienced challenges or found some people difficult to work with?

Yes, volunteer work is not always smooth sailing and you encounter people with many diverse personalities and ways of interacting. It is not always easy to get from Point A to Point B when you are coalescing diverse views. I’ve found that it is important to be positive and light with others and to not hold onto a negative interaction, to move forward.

In order to do you volunteer work, have you had to give up anything you like to do?

In general, I’m really happy as a volunteer in Scarsdale, and feel that the role fits well with my life. It’s not always easy or seamless to balance work or volunteer work when you are taking care of your kids too but volunteering in Scarsdale has brought a new edifying and inspiring dimension to my life.

What advice would you give to someone new to town about getting involved?

I would encourage anyone new to Scarsdale to seek out something related to your interests and get involved. There are so many volunteer roles and these roles are a powerful way to get connected to the community and to make a positive contribution.

What do you hope to accomplish?

Through the League of Women Voters, I hope to get people excited and engaged in voting and advocacy on the cusp of the 2020 election. The League is a near 100-year community organization — we celebrate 100 years in 2021 — started by Scarsdale women who fought for the right for women to vote in public elections. The Scarsdale League of Women Voters has been deeply involved in helping to inform the public about local issues. We welcome and encourage all community members to join the League and to get involved in making democracy work.

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