Kerry Brodie ‘08
Kerry Brodie '08

For Kerry Brodie ‘08, the secret ingredient for her work as the Founder and Executive Director of Emma’s Torch is community. “We are so much more than the sum of our parts and a belief that a group of people can do the impossible.” This began with her CESJDS community which taught her to think critically about the world around her and instilled a deep sense of responsibility to make the world a better place. 

Kerry and her siblings, Nicola and Neville, each began attending CESJDS in kindergarten and are all lifers. While at CESJDS, Kerry worked on The Lion’s Tale, performed in musicals, competed in cross country and track & field, and was also a part of her grade government. Kerry is still very close with the friends she made while she attended school and she sees her former teachers as mentors who continue to educate her to this day. She is grateful to every one of her classmates as they left a real mark on her and how she sees the world.  

Following her graduation from high school, Kerry attended Princeton University for her bachelor’s and went to Johns Hopkins University for her master's. She also received her culinary degree from the Institute of Culinary Education. Kerry has always been passionate about refugee resettlement and the impact it can have on our broader community. While working at the Human Rights Campaign, Kerry started thinking about creating Emma’s Torch as a way to make an impact at a local level and allow her to build her career on work focused on supporting others, which stemmed from her years at CESJDS. 

Emma’s Torch is a non-profit social enterprise based in New York City and Washington D.C. Emma’s Torch is named after Emma Lazarus who was a Jewish woman living in New York during the 19th century, and was a tireless advocate for refugees through calling for action during a time when women were rarely heard. Emma’s poetry from her sonnet “The New Colossus” has some of its verses adorning the base of the Statue of Liberty, which for over 100 years has welcomed thousands of refugees hoping to chase a better life in the United States. Emma’s Torch's mission is to train refugees, asylees, and survivors of human trafficking in the culinary arts and to empower them to build meaningful careers. Emma’s Torch students participate in a full-time, paid culinary training program in addition to training at the Emma's Torch cafe in both Brookland, Washington, DC, and the Brooklyn Public Library as well as Carroll Gardens in New York. Additionally, Emma’s Torch also offers students training in packaged goods, and catering social enterprises. 

With the challenges that came from building a new organization, Kerry was able to lean on her family, her husband Tomer Yavetz, and her mentors to provide feedback, support, and guidance that have helped shape Emma’s Torch and made the organization the success it is today. “One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was to be curious and to seek answers. I love meeting new people and learning from them. It is how we all grow and how we can make sure that we are welcoming a wide range of opinions. This was so important when I was getting Emma’s Torch off the ground, and it continues to be one of the best parts of my job.” Kerry also says this advice was something that CESJDS helped teach her, as she was encouraged in every class to stay deeply curious. 

Today, Kerry spends her free time playing elaborate games of “hide and seek” with her two small children and chasing them around her home. She also enjoys utilizing her culinary skills to cook with her children. Additionally, she has just run her first marathon and hopes that her CESJDS cross-country and track coaches, Coach Mehr and Coach Belinki, will be proud of her accomplishment! 

Kerry is grateful for her CESJDS education and for instilling in her that we can all make a difference. “CESJDS made me believe that we can all make a difference and that, just as it says in Pirkei Avot, “Lo alecha ha’milacha ligmor, ve’lo ata ben chorin le’hibatel mimena, you are not expected to complete the task, but neither are you free to avoid it.” This sense of purpose and the imperative to do good, even in light of some of the most intractable challenges, has been a focal point of my career, thanks to CESJDS.”  

Kerry was also recently featured in the New York Times "Profiles of Change: For 7 Women, a Heartfelt Cause Became a Mission", for her work in Founding Emma's Torch. You can read her interview here.  

  • 2000s