Coaching from a Patriot

Last week was the National Football League draft when top players from across the college ranks are selected by NFL teams. As I watched the first round of the draft I repeatedly heard the announcers talk about some of the great coaches in the league (present and past) and how they used the draft to build their teams. One of the best is Bill Belichick, the current coach of the New England Patriots.

Much has been written about Coach Belichick and his way of managing his team. He is a true leader (stylistically he may not be for everyone) and has the results to prove it. He has been to 10 Super Bowls, seven as the head coach of the Patriots – winning five with the Patriots and two as an assistant coach with the New York Giants.

As I did last week when I shared a bit about the successes of and lessons the Jewish community can learn from how they do their work, the same holds true for Coach Belichick, his leadership approach, and his “secret sauce” to winning:

● Belichick challenges all his players to do their job….be attentive…pay attention to details…and put the team first. He has said, “Ultimately, the team has to come first even though we all have individual goals and preferences.” 

This is a key message that Ed Tonkin, Federation’s Chair of the Board, has been saying since he began his term. The “team” is our Jewish community. We have many independent Jewish organizations and congregations. Each has its own mission and role within our community. But, at the end of the day, we must all work together for the benefit of the Jewish community as a whole. This seems to be easier said than done.

● Build a team that is exhaustively prepared, but able to adjust in an instant. Sometimes the game plan has to change. Things happen that require our ability to respond and adapt. New initiatives and programs may require new funding. Anti-Semitic incidents and anti-Israel resolutions sadly happen in our community and elsewhere. Our JCRC is there to respond on behalf of our entire Jewish community. We have to be nimble. Process is important, but action makes the difference.

● Never rest on your laurels. We should be very proud what our community has accomplished and continues to do each year. Belichick would tell you that is nice, but the past does not matter. It is about what you are doing today and tomorrow. The Jewish Federation and our Jewish organizations must all be future-focused to address the evolving and changing trends in Jewish life. Too often, we live off of our past successes. Look no further than Toys R Us and see just how quickly things can change.

● Success is about dependability, consistency, talent, and understanding what you need to improve. Building Jewish community is a marathon and not a sprint. In fact, we have been at this for 4,000 years. But with forethought, planning, and great volunteer and professional leaders who are willing to be open and honest with our current position, we can improve and create our own future successes! 

Bill Belichick is all about what he calls “collective leadership.” Ed Tonkin has focused the Federation on collective leadership. His mantra is that only together, with a shared vision, shared goals, and total commitment to overall communal success can Greater Jewish Portland reach its full potential. 

I am pleased to share Greater Portland Hillel celebrated its 10th anniversary this past week. The event celebrated students and alumni, honored community leaders Rob and Mara Shlachter, and heard the President of Portland State University, Rahmat Shoureshi, share his vision for an open, diverse campus that will include robust academic relationships between PSU and Israel. 

A major highlight of the event was premiere of a video highlighting PDX Hillel's FactFinders trip -- a trip of a lifetime exploring Israel for 21 non-Jewish Portland State University student leaders. PDX Hillel and the Cultural and Historical Association for Israel planned the 10-day trip, which was led by PDX Hillel's Israel Fellow, Hagit Ojalvo. Sixty non-Jewish student leaders applied to be part of the FactFinders trip, which was paid for through a foundation grant that PDX Hillel received to build bridges between students inside and outside the Jewish community. 

On another high note, our very first borrower from our Jewish Free Loan program (provides up to $4,000 in interest-free loans for “life’s ups and downs”) just finished paying back her loan (and on time). She used the funds to help pay her final tuition costs for her master’s degree program at Portland State University. What makes the loan program so great is that Federation has a pool of funds that can be “recycled” as individuals borrow while others are paying back their loans.

In addition, we have been able to expand the program throughout the State of Oregon and SW Washington, and we just made our first loan to a resident in Salem.

Finally, a reminder. If you are new (or kind of new) to the Portland area, you are invited to an informal evening of fun and live music where you can meet and network with people who have also recently moved. The event, co-sponsored by the Mittleman Jewish Community Center and the Jewish Federation, is scheduled for Monday, May 7 at 6:30 p.m. at Cellar 503 (4407 SW Corbett Avenue) and is free to attend (appetizers and drinks will be served). Please contact Lenny Steinberg at for more information and to RSVP.

Shabbat shalom.



Add Comment