Jewish youth leadership program has multigenerational impact – Sun Sentinel

(JNS) They were the next generation for several generations.

The Jewish Federation of North America (JFNA) National Cabinet of Young Leaders (JFNA) alumni roster reads like a “who’s who” in the Jewish world of philanthropy, politics, art and business. And many of them proudly credit their ministry experience with defining their lifelong Jewish journey.

“It’s an important part of our leadership development pipeline. But it’s really important for everyone who is Jewish. If you look at the leadership of almost any major Jewish organization, you’ll find people who were Cabinet members whose interest in Jewish community leadership has been sharpened and inspired by their Cabinet experience,” Eric Fingerhut, president and CEO of JFNA, former president and CEO of Hillel International and former cabinet member, told JNS.

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), a former cabinet member, surprisingly recently announced that he will be leaving Congress later this year to lead the American Jewish Committee. He told JNS that his foundational cabinet experience contributed to his desire to pursue Jewish service in his post-Congressional life.

“I think all the things in the Jewish community that have meant to me throughout my life have contributed to that. I think if I had asked my office chevra (‘society’) if they were to look ahead a few decades, would it be more likely that I would end up in Congress or end up leading a large organization like the AJC, they probably would have found the position of AJC equals more likely. And those experiences, because they’re so personal, absolutely resonated with me when that opportunity presented itself. It made it even bigger,” Deutch said.

Just last week, cabinet members were in Israel for the first major North American youth leadership mission to Israel since the coronavirus pandemic, dubbed “New Mission for a New Generation.”

The goal was to engage in dialogue around the challenges of Israel-Diaspora relations, Israel’s emerging and dynamic geopolitical and humanitarian role on the global stage, and pluralism and diversity in Israel, according to JFNA. The firm met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, as well as Israeli changemakers, philanthropists, social entrepreneurs and young innovators; explored Jewish Federation-funded projects promoting diversity and inclusion; and met new immigrants from Ukraine and Ethiopia.

The firm’s mission is to train and inspire the most promising young volunteers, between the ages of 30 and 40, for leadership positions in the Jewish community, providing them with tools to improve themselves and enhance their capacity as as leaders through continuous learning, reflection and action. Members participate in a five-year program that is grounded in a series of Jewish values: hinini (“call to leadership”), achrayut (“responsibility”), kehilah kedosha (“sacred community”), Klal Israel (“Jewish people”) and haze (“vision”).

“I definitely have to cut my teeth on what national leadership looks like. Before, I had only done things in my own community. I never knew what it was like to be part of a national effort and I learned from those around me, from those before me and was able to mentor those who follow-up on what it means to lead a national organization, and how you do it,” Julie Platt, alumnus of the firm and new chair of the JFNA Board of Directors, told JNS.

Firm alumni praise the leadership program as a program where members not only learn the skills they need to succeed, but also have the opportunity to put those skills into practice.

Rep. Kathy Manning (DN.C.), former JFNA Board Chair, told JNS that “it was a great experience in so many ways. Not only did I make friends that I still have today, but when I look back… not only did I learn a lot more about Judaism than I had learned in many previous years, I learned fundraising techniques. You know, you can’t do the job that I’m in right now unless you can be a fundraiser, and I could never have had the jobs that I had at JFNA unless I don’t know how to be a fundraiser.

Deutch agreed, noting the intensely personal nature of the firm. “The opportunity to spend a lot of time with people who are brought together because of their shared commitment to the Jewish community – and then have the opportunity to talk in the most personal terms about why it matters to you, how did you come to love Israel and the Jewish community, what is your background that made it a priority for you – these kinds of conversations don’t really happen anywhere else,” he said. he declares.

“A team building experience and a skill-building experience”

The firm, as well as American Jewish life in general, has gone through countless changes since its founding some 60 years ago. According to program management, however, some basic principles remain the same, even as the mission adapts to the times.

“The program has been completely transformed for a new generation of young leaders. It keeps its roots in the basic DNA of its original foundation, its values ​​and its vision. But the experience itself has changed quite significantly since its founding 60 years ago,” Rabbi David Kessel, JFNA Associate Vice President for National Youth Leadership and NextGen Engagement, told JNS. . “We have developed a leadership program – a five-year, year-by-year trajectory – and the program develops from year one starting with yourself as a leader, and your personal stories and values ​​and collide over the five years to build relationships, build teams, build community, and take a holistic look at Jewish life as broadly as possible.”

Kessel highlighted the cabinet leadership’s launch of a fundraising campaign for Ukraine. Members raised over $200,000 in about a week to meet basic humanitarian needs through JFNA’s partner organizations operating in the Eastern Europe region. The firm also organized a collection of clothing and supplies for refugees settling in Israel.

Manning, the first woman to lead JFNA, also noted that the firm has transformed when needed while remaining grounded in its roots.

“When I started, there was a men’s cabinet and a women’s cabinet. It was in the Stone Age. I think our retreats maybe overlapped by a day, but we didn’t have joint retreats. And, of course, that changed quite dramatically,” she said. “What has remained the same is the notion that the practice should be an educational experience. It was meant to be a team building experience and a skill building experience.

As Deutch prepares for a return to the world of Jewish service, JNS asked what it wants to pass on to the next generation of leaders.

“Well, the question is the answer, isn’t it?” he posed. “I think I recognize the responsibility of creating this next generation of Jewish leaders. I want the pro-Israel people who come to me, the young people who come to me, the Jewish community activists of the young leaders who come to see me now in Congress, I want them to appreciate what they are capable of doing now to impact the discourse, impact the way their circle of friends and their community perceive these issues.

“I’m going to have the chance to do this full time, right? Have the ability to ensure that young people who benefit from high school advocacy programs and then make their way to college campuses are well equipped to meet the challenges they are going to face and give them the tools to succeed, by partnership with so many other great organizations doing this important work on campus. And then find a way for them to get involved when they leave.

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Kevin E. Boling