Lessons Along the Way

Our city is still reeling from the tragic murders on the MAX train one week ago. The Jewish Federation is a founding partner of the Interfaith Coalition for Dignity (ICD), representing a diversity of faith and ethnic communities in Greater Portland—Jewish, Muslim, Christian and others. ICD made a statement earlier this week about the attack.  I was also struck by comments from multiple clergy and other leaders in our community. 

Two I thought I would share:

Rabbi Ariel Stone wrote about Israeli historian Yehuda Bauer’s  three mitzvot of the Holocaust – You shall not be a perpetrator; You shall not be a victim; You shall not be a bystander.

Merrill Hendin, Principal of Portland Jewish Academy, wrote the following to the school’s parents: At PJA, we help students understand the importance of standing up for justice and goodness, and give them opportunities in a variety of ways, to do acts of hesed, kindness. We teach children about being a Rodef Shalom, a pursuer of peace, and to deal with reason and care when in conflict with others…In our classrooms and in individual conversations with students, we talk about ways to support each other, not be bystanders, and always get the help we need to do what is right…We will continue to pursue goodness and kindness in our world. 

This past week we celebrated the holiday of Shavuot. One of the traditions on Shavuot is to stay up all night and learn – tikkun leil Shavuot. I took the opportunity to do my own learning and reflection. You see, June 1 was my 23rd year anniversary in the Jewish Federation field. 

I was thinking about my career and my “hits and misses.” What I have learned, areas where I have excelled, and those times where I failed. In every case, I saw them as positive learning lessons. Here are some that I wish to share (and, of course, still working to improve on many of these):

•   Listen. Listen. Learn. Listen some more. Learn even more. Never stop listening and learning.

•   Do not try to make too many big decisions all at once. Every new job I took in the Jewish Federation field I did just that. Our work is truly a marathon and not a sprint. 

•   “People support what they help to create.” I had a supervisor who said this phrase all the time. Too often, people in leadership roles “go it alone.” Involve people in the “creating” stage and decision-making process.

•   Utilize your team and delegate. When I worked at the Philadelphia Federation I oversaw multiple departments that had 65 professionals. Too often I would want to do things by myself. I quickly learned to be a better delegator.

•   History matters to people. What “was” in the past is important. Although we always wish to look forward we must not forget what got us here.

•   With any decision, no matter the process, there will be those who feel they are on the “losing side.” Communal work is not about “winners and losers.” Communal work is about advancing the community’s agenda and making the best decisions possible with finite resources.

•   We are in the relationship business. Too often, we are focused on “transactions.” We must be more than that.

•  Be interested as well as interesting.   

•  When looking for professionals to add to your team, always “hire for attitude – train for skill.” I believe the Jewish Federation has been blessed for decades with top notch professionals who devote their energies and passion to the Jewish community – and they do it with gusto and a smile. 

•  One person’s opinion is still just their opinion. 

•   QTIP – “Quit Taking It Personally.” People will always have their opinions about who you are, how you are, your messaging, etc. In leadership roles you will not always be liked. You must not take it personally and instead do the best job you possibly can.

•   You can never do wrong by doing right.

•   In simple terms, the Jewish Federation’s Annual Campaign is nothing more than one person asking another person to help a third person. What could be wrong with that?

•   One of the greatest challenges in Jewish communal life is work-life balance. I think all my colleagues would attest to this. I know Sarah and I have worked hard to provide each other the opportunities and space to fulfill our professional careers, while also being there for our children. Not always so easy. This is something we continue to focus on, and I hope I provide my Federation colleagues the opportunity for a positive environment and healthy balance.

I would be interested in hearing the lessons you have learned along the way. Feel free to share by replying to this email.

A few final notes:

Jewish Federations of North America continues to co-sponsor an ambitious educational project related to the 50th Anniversary of the Six Day War. Three weeks before the outbreak of the 1967 war, Egypt blocked Israel's Southern Port while five other Arab armies sent troops to Israel's borders. Video 3 in the Countdown to the Six Day War Project looks at how Israel responded to this unambiguous threat.

Please join us on Tuesday, June 13 at 4:30 p.m. at Congregation Neveh Shalom for the Jewish Federation’s 97th Annual Meeting. Rabbi Jay Moses, Vice-President of The Wexner Foundation, will speak about Leadership the World Needs in the 21st Century. Rabbi Moses has served for many years as Director of the Wexner Heritage Program, North America’s premier Jewish leadership education program, which Portland is excited to bring back in 2020. 

Finally, do not miss out on two sports related Jewish Heritage Nights: Wednesday, June 28 at the Portland Thorns and Tuesday, August 8 with the Hillsboro Hops. These events, co-sponsored by the Jewish Federation and the MJCC, are open to people of all ages. Get your tickets now at the links above. 

Shabbat shalom.



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