Highlighting Our Community of Leaders: Rebecca Stapel-Wax : Successful Nonprofits

Highlighting Our Community of Leaders

Rebecca Stapel-Wax, Executive Director of SOJOURN

by llinger

Highlighting Our Community of Leaders

Rebecca Stapel-Wax, Executive Director of SOJOURN

by llinger

by llinger

What are you excited about that is going on at SOJOURN this year?

We have a new team member which makes things so interesting. It’s fascinating to see and witness what happens when a new entity is introduced into a small group of people. I also love seeing the changes and the molding to create space and excitement and new opportunities…What’s going on and what’s going to happen is boundless.

What do you want our readers to know about your upcoming event, Purim Off Ponce?

I don’t understand why everybody doesn’t come to this event! It’s on March 11 at The Temple. POP is costumes, food, drink, entertainment, and community. There are just so many layers of joy to this event.

This year’s theme is Xanadu. And while it’s not one of the best movies ever, it’s colorful and has great music and super-duper costumes. This year’s emcee is a person who grew up in an Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, came out as lesbian, and is a comedian. She has charisma and attitude and sweetness all wrapped up in one person. And I cannot wait to see how she engages the 300-person plus community. I’ve also wanted the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus joins us for years, and they finally are this year!

Every year we honor somebody. This year I have the unbelievable pleasure of being that person. I was just asking myself, “How am I gonna handle all that joy all at once?” I have people from all throughout my life coming. That’s three and a half hours of constant love and I think it’s gonna be overwhelming. A lot of people don’t get to have this during their life — sometimes they get it after they’re gone. I am so grateful for this — it’s a tribute to my whole family because I wouldn’t be in this place without them.

Visit SOJOURN’s website to learn more about POP!

What is your guilty pleasure?

The “guilty” part is so funny — why is it a “guilty” pleasure? Am I supposed to be ashamed? My utimate pleasure that is giving me so much joy these days — that I’m not ashamed about — is being around babies. Last week was a year since my mother died and I chose to spend the day with my godson. And when my parents were sick and passing, one of my nieces had had a baby. Having children around just gives me hope. There’s such innocence and delight and wonder and excitement and discovery. That’s all the pleasure I need.

What was the best piece of advice you’ve received?

I think it’s “never give up.” We all have our capacity. I’m thinking about the gym, the work I do, the family members I’ve been estranged from. But there’s just endless possibility. Recently, the weekly Torah portion was about miracles. Miracles were equated from the Sea of Reeds opening so people could get through to the smallpox vaccine (no one could ever have imagined a vaccine in the 1700s or 1800s when people were dying all the time, yet today we have one). So never giving up feels like a happy medium — I push myself past my comfort zone and whatever I achieve beyond it is success.

What have you learned about Board management?

You have to be intentional about who your Board members are. It is so important for us — and for me — to be surrounded by people who are passionate, focused, and interested. And to be surrounded by people who don’t show up to be contentious, but are here to fulfill the mission and are trying to get to “yes.” It’s wonderful to have diversity, but not for diversity’s sake. I’m thrilled about all the forms of diversity we look for at SOJOURN, but not at the expense of the mission. We have to prioritize the mission of the organization. And so we have to make sure that we are intentionally building a Board of people who really want to be there.

How have you set good boundaries between your personal life and your work?

I’m not sure how I operated before the pandemic anymore because I had to become more intentional about taking downtime once I was working from home. But now I have clear boundaries, especially at the end of a week. I practice the Sabbath in a way that feels like I am regenerating so I am not resentful of having to work. I shut off at sundown on Friday through sundown on Saturday. Sometimes I check my email after sundown Saturday and maybe I work on Sunday. But I feel that this separation has been so healthy for me and helped me keep my workspace from seeping and oozing into my home space.


Mission: To empower communities to advance and celebrate gender and sexual diversity across the South.

Vision: A South rooted in belonging, full inclusion, and justice

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