Faces of the Movement: Rabbi Heather Miller and Melissa de la Rama
Rabbi Heather Miller and Melissa de la Rama fulfill multiple roles in their social justice work, showing up sometimes as volunteers, sometimes as donors. They bring social media savvy to campaigns for change, but are just as likely to show up in person at a rally.
Heather, a rabbi who you might find presiding at a prayer service at Beth Chayim Chadashim (the world’s first lesbian and gay synagogue when it was founded in 1972), was Liberty Hill’s first intern and later a staff member. Melissa, a marketing executive at Warner Bros.20th Century Fox Film, was a student volunteer on a number of political campaigns and later, for three years, recruited and oversaw the deployment of thousands of volunteers for Christopher Street West, the organization that manages the L.A. Pride festival and parade every June.
The depth and breadth of this couple’s community involvement is inspiring, but it’s their thoughtfulness about where they put their energy and how they make their choices that really defines “philanthropy” for a new generation of idealists.
“I'm privileged in many ways,” says Heather, “I'm white and went to a Seven Sisters school and have several educational and social advantages. But I'm also a Jew and a woman and a lesbian and grew up with class disadvantages. I have experienced injustice and am sensitive to the fact that others do, too. The question now becomes how am I going to use the privileges I do have in a way that will make the biggest impact and help the most people institutionally gain access.”
Melissa adds, “Liberty Hill donors are people who want to support good organizations and want to know for sure that the money's going to good use. It's an organization of interesting, like-minded, engaging people you want to get to know. It's not just, ‘Oh I'm writing a check, giving money.’ It's about ‘Let's interact with each other, let's support each other as well. I think that's really cool that there's also support for the donor-activist.”
Says Heather, “It's like catalyzing your privilege for positive social change.”