Young Leaders in the Making

We are proud to announce the call for nominations for the 2020 Laurie Rogoway Outstanding Jewish Professional Award. Established 6 years ago to honor our esteemed colleague and friend Laurie Rogoway, a pillar of Jewish professional leadership for over 30 years in Portland. Please click here to learn more about the award and the nomination process.
This week, I received a call from representatives of the Wexner Foundation that they invited finalists to interview for one of 20 slots in this incredible two-year leadership program for people between the ages of 30-50 (with some wiggle room). Neither the Jewish Federation nor I have a role in selecting the finalists or the final cohort, but here is what I do know.
103 people were nominated by Portland community leaders for the program. 84 nominees completed the application. And, 33 people have been selected to interview.
Representatives of the Wexner Foundation shared how impressed they were by the quality of our candidates – the diversity, depth of Jewish involvement, and creative thoughts about Jewish life - more so than most other communities.
Earlier this week, I got to experience one of my favorite opportunities of the year. I met with program participants of Pathways, a young adult program creating avenues to learn more about our Jewish community, network, and receive mentoring from seasoned community leaders. This is our fourth cohort and we are delighted by the successes!
Lauren Goldstein, Jewish Federation Chair of the Board, and I met with 14 of the participants and had an informal and frank conversation about our Jewish community.
First, let me share a little about this group:
  • Five of the 14 attendees are native Portlanders. Most others have moved to Portland within the past 5 years.
  • Two attended Jewish day school.
  • Very few were involved in Jewish youth groups.
  •  Six attended Jewish overnight camp.
  • Twelve have been to Israel.
  • Most have been involved with young adult programs like Moishe House, OneTable, and synagogue groups since moving to Portland as a way to seek out community.
Lauren and I spent time talking about the Jewish Federation and its role in the community – past, present, and future. We also answered any questions they had about the Jewish community. But of greatest interest to us was hearing from these young people their comments and thoughts about our Jewish community and their experiences:
  • “If I am not a part of something, then I feel it does not exist. Where and how can I find out about everything going on?”
  • “Why aren’t more Jewish events announced in public places (coffee bars, etc.) and in secular press (The Mercury, Willamette Week, etc.). Those are places I look.”
  • “When I drop off my child at PJA I feel Jewishly inspired. Then, I go to my office and I feel like I am in a totally non-Jewish world.”
  • “I just moved here three months ago and I have always been involved in Jewish life. I look forward to finding more opportunities.”
  • “There seems to be so much going on Jewishly, I just need to continue my exploration phase. But I need assistance in doing that. Who can help?”
  • “When I arrived in town, my first call was to the Jewish Federation because I was involved back home. I appreciate them helping me find my way.”
  • “Jewish organizations need to work more closely together instead of ‘stepping on each other’s toes.’”
  • “I enjoyed my experience with Hillel while in college. It has been hard to connect Jewishly and meet other young Jews since I graduated.”
  • “Attending events cannot be too expensive. And joining Jewish institutions is often cost prohibitive at this time in my life.”
  • “There seems to be plenty going on for young adults who are not married and do not have children. But I feel there is very little for my young family.”
  • “I am looking for greater assistance in networking in the Jewish community for my professional career. Who can help?”
  • “I am looking for leadership opportunities and want to be more involved.”
  • I wonder if the 'Jewish voice' matters. How can the Jewish community play a stronger role in local and state government?”
When we asked them what kind of programs they are looking for, their answers included everything you would expect: Bar/coffee house nights out, hands-on volunteer opportunities, business networking events, etc. They also mentioned Jewish learning opportunities, cooking classes, book clubs, and holiday celebrations. They seem to be interested in as much as possible.
Many of these things currently happen, but not with the community level of participation we want. To build the next generation of community leadership, our Jewish young adult community/organizations need to more fully come together, work together, and support efforts to engage as many people as possible. We can do it!
Lauren Goldstein summed up the evening beautifully when she said, “It is refreshing to hear from this group so many positive and constructive ideas. You will make our community better for you and everyone else. We are fortunate to have so many young leaders in the making. Thank you.”
Shabbat shalom.


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