During my 16 years in Federation work, I have worked closely with many wonderful leaders. These people have committed a great deal of time, energy, financial resources and brain power to enhancing Jewish communal life for all of us. I marvel at the number of meetings and events these leaders attend and how caring they are about the community. But the concept of leadership, the roles of leaders, and where a leader devotes his/her time continues to evolve.
This week, I read a new study, “Generation of Change: How Leaders in Their Twenties and Thirties are Reshaping American Jewish Life” I encourage you at a minimum to read the Executive Summary. It focuses on the divergent interests of young adults today in regard to organizations, how they view the “organized” Jewish community, and the increasing role of technology. The study highlights the divide between involvement in “establishment” organizations (i.e. Federation, AIPAC) and “non-establishment organizations” (i.e. Moishe House, independent prayer groups) for these young adults. Surprisingly (and positively so) in both cases, one finds the tremendous impact Jewish day schools, Jewish summer camps, and time in Israel has on encouraging those in their 20s and 30s to seek leadership roles. Anyone interested in understanding the dynamics at play among our future leaders should pay attention to this study.
The question for our community going forward is how do we meet these leaders “where they are” and involve them based on their own mindsets and desires?
The reason I share this is that our community must invest in future leaders, no matter where they are involved. Currently, there is no leadership development program (despite many wonderful examples in the past) in our community that provides the knowledge and skills-training for people to be effective leaders – not just for Federation, but for our agencies, synagogues, and other “start-up” communal organizations. We need to quickly create a top-notch leadership development program to engage creative and committed leaders for decades to come. We owe this to the magnificent women and men who built this community – and to our children and grandchildren’s future.
What are your thoughts?