Let Us Not Turn Away

Let Us Not Turn Away

As I write this, in San Diego, a funeral is taking place for Lori Gilbert Kaye OBM, who was murdered by a 19-year-old at a Chabad during Passover services. You know of this event, and others like it. When such things happen, we might experience many emotions: sadness, fear, shock, anger, numbness. But we have one job before anything else. We must feel the immediacy of the event, we must overcome its seeming distance, we must know that it is our own family that has been affected.

 It is natural to protect ourselves from the pain of the world through abstraction. It is easy to put up layers of armor against the assault on our sense of safety, and our moral sensibility, through distance. But Torah calls us to oppose that distancing. It calls us instead to closeness.

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Feedback is the Key to Developing Leaders... And It's the Gift We Aren't Giving

Feedback is the Key to Developing Leaders... And It's the Gift We Aren't Giving

It turns out, there is an actual recipe for creating a leader. Start with a heavy dose of dynamic work experience, add a few dashes of mentoring, mix in a pinch of formal training and voila! You have a leader. It’s called the 70-20-10 leadership development model, and it was developed by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) decades ago.

Notice something interesting? A full 70% of this formula hinges upon the cultivation of increasingly challenging, on-the-job “work experiences.” Yet too often this key ingredient is overlooked by managers. After all, it is much easier to simply approve an employee attending a one-off, skill-building course, say, rather than meaningfully support them in leading a new program – a riskier and more time-consuming proposition.

But the latter is exactly what organizations need to do in order to successfully cultivate workplace cultures that enable individuals to develop as leaders. Unfortunately, our sector is falling short in this area.

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The Attitude of Gratitude

The Attitude of Gratitude

Growing up I wanted to be a stewardess, an actress and a lawyer.  At no point did I ever think, say or strive to be a fundraiser. But since none of the eight women who founded the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP) wanted to raise the money, I said I would try until we hired a professional.  That was 10 years ago, and although it has not been easy, what I have learned through fundraising changed my life forever, and how I have grown far outweighs any of the challenges.

One of the biggest lessons is gratitude.  The greatest philanthropists I ask to invest in our movement are the ones who after I thank them for giving say, “No, thank you.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity.”

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Sparks of Service

Sparks of Service

At my synagogue before the High Holidays three women with busy lives take on the annual task of putting name labels on the appeal cards that worshippers use to indicate how much they will contribute to the synagogue for its own and community needs.

The labels must be printed by the synagogue office staff before the volunteers can put them on the cards and often the printing isn’t done until the last minute, waiting for the last congregants to sign up for seats. Yet despite the mad rush at the end, every year the three women set aside the time to complete the work. Asked how they could give up precious hours when so much is needed to be done for their jobs, in their homes and for their families before the holidays, the women all said it was a task they took on delightedly each year knowing that “just a bit of peeling and sticking” would result in needed funds. “It’s my service to the synagogue and community,” said one.

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Of Grades and Judaics – Responding to the Call to “Pursue Distinction”

Of Grades and Judaics – Responding to the Call to “Pursue Distinction”

“If we agree that we want to build Jewish self-esteem in students and cultivate their Jewish greatness, what role does administering exams and assigning grades serve?” – Manette Mayberg, Mayberg Foundation Trustee

How should Jewish Day Schools respond to this radical appeal? 

Pressure from testing and grading inculcates little love for learning among students and creates tension at home. However, the consistent rejoinders demur that Judaics classes without grades won’t motivate students – What would punish tardiness or disrespectful behavior or what gives a class gravitas? These criticisms have merit in the present form of Jewish Day Schools. The current hierarchical structure of many Judaics classrooms situates authority and knowledge in the teacher’s hands, leaving students to be graded on compliance, likability, and innate talent. This appeal dreams a world where new underlying assumptions alter the context, changing the espoused values of a Judaics classroom and producing artifacts that do not include grades or their harmful side effects.

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The Jewish Tool in the Freezer

The Jewish Tool in the Freezer

Any Jewish professional or lay leader knows that sometimes you have to field complaints.  The optimist in me believes it’s because we come from a culture that thirsts for goodness, raised to believe we have the power to create the best scenario possible.  But do we have the tools we need to get us there?

In the past few years at GW Hillel, residing in a temporary space without an oven, I often heard complaints about the cancellation of the beloved Thursday night challah extravaganza.  Each week, stage one of the process involved one or two volunteers arriving to make the dough in the morning. Stage two involved many friends joining them later that afternoon, cramming into the kitchen to braid and kill time while the challah baked.  Our students missed the camaraderie and couldn’t find a creative way out of this loss.

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Shaping a Better Leadership Story

Shaping a Better Leadership Story

I often ask people to write their personal leadership story in six words. This condensed leadership memoir forces people to focus hard on either the few key moments that have shaped their leadership or the leadership principles or behaviors they most value. The idea is to get people to surface something deeper, more elemental and distinctive about the way they lead, in the spirit of what author Octavia Butler observed about herself, “Every story I create, creates me. I write to create myself.”

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