Profile: Community Activist Miry Ben-Atar

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Profile: Community Activist Miry Ben-Atar

Miry Ben-Atar

Founder and CEO Miry Whitehill-Ben Atar is a stay-at-home mom and community activist with over 10 years experience in digital marketing. She can typically be found digging in the garden with her sons, Reuben and Sabo, or walking around Occidental College with her dog, Leroy. In 2016, she founded Miry’s List to crowdsource donated and surplus supplies for New Arrival families in California. Miry also serves as Treasurer on the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council.

Ma Hadash (what’s new)?
Yesterday, I started the day with one of our Afghan families, a mom give birth to a baby girl named Sana. I ended the day with one of the Syrian families whose relative passed away. It was my first time experiencing a muslim mourning ceremony to pay respects, it was sort of like an Islamic shiva. I started the day with life and ended it with death. Everyday is an adventure, we are here solving problems for refugees (new arrivals) in Southern California.

What do you do?
I’m a stay-at-home mom, and founder of non-profit called Miry’s List that assists resettled families in Southern California. It’s a startup, my whole life is in start-up mode. Still in a phase that’s in taking over my life.

What don’t you do?
There’s so many things I do, it’s hard to think of what I don’t do between babies, case workers, finding housing for refugees, and everything else. I can say that I have a hard time keeping appointments, I’m terrible at it. Having help has been a big game changer.

One thing you always carry with you?
Kid snacks.

You know you belong in your neighborhood because…
I live in Eagle Rock and I’ve been here 3 years, I’m also serving as a volunteer on our neighborhood council. The people that live here are very involved, conscious about their neighbors, and a lot are activists. It was the perfect petri dish to launch my organization. My company exists because I have my neighbors. As we discovered that there’s something that can be done to help the people from in-need populations, people here took action!

Where and what was the best meal you’ve had in LA?
I’m lucky! I get to eat at fantastic Syrian homemade food regularly, it’s the best tabouli, hummus, and baba ganoush! I’d say also suggest brunch form Lemon Poppy Kitchen in Glassell Park.

3 people you’d invite to your fantasy dinner party?
I get to have my fantasy dinner party every month. We have a monthly event series called the New Arrival Supper Club, where refugee families cater meals and we sell tickets to the public. I would invite Ellen DeGeneres, Oprah, and The Alawads – one of our families from Syria. They’ve basically adopted me as one of their kids. They always want to feed me and hug me.

If you won the lottery tomorrow, what’s the first thing you would do?
I would buy a building for my organization, a HQ in Glendale. It would be great to have a brick and mortar space for our families to come. Whether to not I win the lottery, I’m still planning to do it – just needing to fundraise now. Next, I’d buy houses for all of our new families.

If you were to invent anything what would it be, and why?
A nursing contraption to be able to let moms nurse while driving, and while your baby’s in the car seat.

One big accomplishment you’ve had this year…
One of our Afghan families recently received a call from another family member who is still in Afghanistan. The family member abroad knew all about Miry’s List and was asking more about out organization over the phone. They want to move to California and have heard about the program. It let me know that there’s awareness and we’re impacting people’s lives. Such a moment of pride for me, knowing our program is working!

Something you’re still working on…
Just today I extended my older kid into a full day of pre-school. I feel conflicted inside because I want to be able to grow my organization, but not have to outsource raising my kids. I’m getting better at saying yes to help, and learning to delegate.

Do you have a favorite Jewish memory?
I grew up Orthodox. I grew up with religious school, skirts everyday, in a very defined environment of what being Jewish was, and it didn’t click with me. After college, I took a job with a tech company in Israel. Going there, and eventually making aaliyah, it was the first time that I really found and felt a connection with Judaism – culturally. I discovered it’s not that Judaism and I are at odds, I was just coming at it from the wrong space.

What do you wish you’d knew about Jewish culture?
I want to know what the leaders in Judaism think about the work that I do, showing up in refugees homes and helping them. I talk to a lot of people from faith based organizations, but the ones I’m not hearing from are the ones from the Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox worlds. Where are we in 100% agreement, and where are there conflict? (If there is even a conflict). I’d also like to know which of them would partner with me on this project.

A past trend that you wish would come back?
People knowing their neighbors. When the moving van shows up, being there with a “hello” and snacks. I would love for that to be more typical.

What was your Bat Mitzvah theme?
My bat mitzvah was about 20 years ago and I didn’t have specific theme, but I made a speech about Moshe’s sister Miriam. We share the same name. I did a lot of research about her for my speech, with my mom’s help. One of Miriam’s special qualities was that she could really rally and bring people together. When the jews were slaves in Egypt, when Pharaoh announced the killing of male babies, the men were discouraged and felt emasculated. The men decided not to sleep with their wives anymore, to not take the chance of having male babies. Miriam understood though that no babies would mean no more Jewish people. She convinced the women to go out into the fields to seduce their husbands in order to procreate, or else their generation would die out! She’s the one that is given the credit for the continuation of the Jewish people. There are so many cool stories of her.

Best advice someone has given you?
“Mountains cannot reach other but humans can.”

5 years from now, you hope to be/be doing…
We just started being able to pay 2 employees. 5 years from now, I hope to be employing a very large number of resettled families and immigrants. I want them to work, and have steady jobs with benefits.

You love your life because…
It is full of love. I have a really good, great life. 

Give us your top 3 on the East Side for

Bite: Marouch – delicious Lebanese & Armenian dishes.

Bev: Found Coffee in Eagle Rock.

Be At: Beat Lab Academy – My husband’s music production school. We hang there a lot. 


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