NJP (Nice Jewish Person) Lisa Berenholz
Each month, The Well highlights an amazing (and eligible!) individual.
This month, we have a conversation with NJP Lisa Berenholz.
TW: How did you decide to make your adult life in Metro Detroit?
LB: I was born and raised in Farmington Hills and then I set off for college to Indiana University when I was 18. I then went to New York City for graduate school and work. After nine years in NYC, I decided it was time to come home. I was pregnant with my daughter and wanted to raise her around my family, which was a great decision!
TW: How do you spend your days?
LB: I have two amazing jobs that I truly enjoy. I work part time for the Jewish Federation of Metro Detroit as their special education consultant. I rotate between four different Jewish day schools and Yeshivas where I help students, teachers, and administrators approach difficult or challenging situations. It’s really interesting and rewarding work, and I love that I get to meet with so many people every week and collaborate with some incredible professionals. My second job is at a Yeshiva every afternoon, where I work in the resource room with elementary aged boys. Although incredibly challenging, I have learned a lot from working there.
TW: Have you always worked in Special Education? How did that passion come about?
LB: I have always gravitated towards the special education field. While in graduate school, I was placed in a general education setting as well as a special education setting and I remember feeling bored in the general ed. classroom. My first special education placement was in East Harlem in a classroom with emotionally disturbed sixth graders and I was terrified. I was chased around the classroom by a student holding a large pair of scissors while she was threatening my life. I witnessed violence and was exposed to various other events that should have sent me running, but it truly intrigued me. I wanted to see if I could make some kind of difference. I stuck it out and ended up working in the Autism field for many years and felt a great sense of fulfillment.
TW: What's your favorite book and what about it moves you?
LB: I have to admit that since having my daughter, I haven’t been able to read much (or at least stay awake to read a full page), but I would have to say “Beach Music” by Pat Conroy. The writing is brilliant and captivating and now that I’m talking about it, I may read it again!
TW: Where would you most like to travel to that you haven't visited?
LB: I feel so fortunate to have traveled to many wonderful places. I would have to say that I have always wanted to go to Fiji and Australia.
TW: What is your favorite smell in the whole world?
LB: Campfire for sure!
TW: How do you like to give back to the community / others?
LB: I would have to say that working at the Friendship Circle has been a great way for me to give back to the community. Throughout the year on Sundays, I assisted the classroom teacher in the Hebrew School and was able to develop incredible relationships with the students and staff there. The Friendship Circle is so important for the Detroit community and I’m honored to be a part of it.
TW: What's your favorite Jewish holiday and why?
LB: I would definitely go with Chanukkah. Lighting candles and singing songs, especially with my daughter, feels special and soulful for me. The combination of games, songs, and traditions makes it a rich and meaningful chag with lots of fond memories from my childhood.
TW: Favorite Jewish food?
LB: My mom’s made from scratch gefilte fish. I will not eat any other version!
TW: What fictional character do you wish you could meet?
LB: Ray Donovan for sure.
TW: Who is the coolest Jew?
LB: My mom, duh.
TW: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
LB: My beautiful daughter.
TW: How about a fun fact?
LB: I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.
TW: What are your three favorite movies?
LB: This is really hard to answer and I’m probably forgetting some titles, but Wet Hot American Summer, The Intouchables, and Anchorman.
TW: When you've had a bad day, what do you do to make yourself feel better?
LB: Usually talk it through with my mom and sister.
TW: Would you rather win an Olympic Medal (event?), an Academy Award (category?), or a Nobel Prize (field?)?
LB: Any one of them would be amazing, but I like the sound of Academy Award for best screenplay.
TW: If you could travel anywhere in time, where would you go?
LB: If I could travel in time, I would go back to the 60'/70's to see as many Beatles concerts as I could. George is my favorite Beatle, btw! ;)
TW: Finish this sentence: When I go to The Well...
LB: I hope to meet other like-minded people who are connected to Judaism or hope to find their way.