Meet Hillel of Metro Detroit’s new social worker, Aliza Bracha Klein.
Growing up in the Oak Park area, Aliza Bracha Klein was surrounded by a thriving Jewish community. “I loved growing up in Oak Park,” the Jewish social worker recalls. “The community was very close-knit, and everyone was warm and friendly.”
To this day, Klein, 36, of Oak Park, where she continues to live, keeps in touch with many of her classmates. That’s because from an early age, she strengthened her connection to Judaism and became involved with numerous organizations.
First, she joined a Taglit-Birthright trip with Hillel of Metro Detroit in 2008. “That’s also around the time I went to my first Young Adult Division event, now called NEXTGen Detroit,” Klein recalls.
For the young adult, the Israel trip was life-changing. “Taglit-Birthright deepened my Jewish connections and encouraged me to become even more involved with Hillel of Metro Detroit.”
Growing the Community
Through her Hillel involvement, Klein became a Grinspoon Israel Advocacy intern with a focus on Israel multicultural dialogue. Later, she became a student engagement intern.
From there, Klein’s involvement with Hillel of Metro Detroit only grew. She eventually became a board member, finally sitting on the organization’s advisory board.
After Hillel of Metro Detroit, Klein spent four years at the JCRC/AJC as an administrative assistant.
“During that time, I had the wonderful opportunity to return to Israel under the JCRC as a representative to the Diplomatic Seminar for Young Jewish Leaders by the ministry of Foreign Affairs,” Klein says. “In addition, I also represented the AJC, before JCRC and the AJC merged, by attending the Allianz-AJC Third Generation Initiative in Berlin, Germany, called Germany Close Up.”
Still, there was more work to do. Following the JCRC/AJC initiatives, Klein joined NEXTGen Detroit’s board and co-chaired the volunteer committee, Now, she sits on the JFamily advisory committee.
Making A Positive Impact
As a social worker who graduated from Wayne State University, it’s second-nature for Klein to want to nurture and grow the community.
Throughout her childhood, Klein’s family “adopted” other families for the holidays to help those in need celebrate. In high school, she was involved in a community service club. She also served as an AmeriCorps member working with the homeless population.
Therefore, the idea of giving back was ingrained at a young age. It was an important lesson Klein carried with her throughout her various positions in social work.
During graduate school, for example, she completed her field placement at New Oakland Child Adolescent Services and the John D. Dingell VA Hospital. After graduation, Klein worked for ALS of Michigan as a patient services coordinator and St. John Providence-Ascension Eastwood Clinics as an outpatient therapist.
“I worked with various mental health disorders, providing therapy and substance abuse treatment to patients who were on federal pretrial, probation or parole,” she explains.
While working at Eastwood Clinics, Klein also took a leave of absence to study at Neve Yerushalayim in Jerusalem, the oldest and largest college for Jewish women in the world. “There I learned so much and grew as an individual and a Jew,” Klein says. “I met a lot of great Jewish women from different countries, and I still talk to many of them.”
Following her Israel studies and time with Eastwood Clinics, Klein went on to work for the Detroit Police Department Victim Assistance Program, where she provided crisis intervention, one-on-one therapy and group therapy to victms of domestic violence, sexual assault and secondary victims of homicide.
However, around that time, Oak Park School District was hiring a general education social worker. The role was set to work with at-risk children and provide crisis intervention to the schools. As an Oak Park native, Klein felt compelled to apply for the job.
Klein received an offer and began to do important work. “I provided one-on-one support, facilitated groups, led the crisis team, managed 504 plans, put on school-wide initiatives and also sat on the Oak Park Youth Assistance Board,” she says.
With a career that positively impacts many lives, Klein truly loves what she does. Like any job, it’s both rewarding and challenging. “The most rewarding part of social work is empowering individuals to be their best selves, while helping them through challenging times,” she says. “The most challenging part of social work is that you’re not able to help everyone and you don’t always know if you’re making a difference in that person’s life.”
Outside of work, Klein loves spending time with her husband, Aryeh Klein, and twin toddlers Meira Chana and Shlomo Aharon. “My twins were one-pounders born at 25 weeks,” she says. “They’re truly blessings.”
Although Klein feels bittersweet about recently resigning from her role with Oak Park School District, she’s excited to embark on a new career path with Jewish Family Service, where she was recently hired as a social worker for Hillel of Metro Detroit.
It’s a natural segway from one set of roots to another.
“I’m transitioning into a role that is similar to my school social work role, but this time, I’m working with college students,” she says. “My job will consist of providing Jewish college students one-on-one support, facilitating groups and helping with community mental health initiatives.”
Klein believes her new role is like “returning home.”
“Hillel of Metro Detroit is a place that helped me start my Jewish journey,” she says, “and helped me get to where I’m at today.”