National Jewish Leadership Development Program Launched in Philadelphia

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Philadelphia has been selected as one of five pilot communities for Yesod, a leadership development program created by Jewish ethics expert Dr. Erica Brown.

Gail Norry, campaign chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, is excited that Philadelphia has been selected as one of five pilot communities for Yesod, a national leadership development program developed by Dr. Erica Brown, an expert in Jewish ethics who currently serves as scholar-in-residence at the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. Yesod means “foundation” and is identified as one of the 10 divine qualities on the Kabbalistic “Tree of Life.”
 
Norry views the program, which is designed to build a cohort of men and women who are ready to assume key Federation leadership roles, as “a wonderful opportunity for Federation to develop a dedicated pool of young talent who are committed to leading our Jewish community now and in the future.”
 
“All five pilot communities enjoyed a private study session during the General Assembly with Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of Great Britain,” said Norry who co-chaired the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly in November, when Yesod kicked off.
 
One of the highlights, according to Norry, is that Daniel Eisenstadt and Daniel Erlbaum agreed to serve as co-chairs of this select group of 24 individuals, who have the desire and the ability to assume greater responsibilities than they already have within Federation. They will meet monthly for one year.
 
Ten of these meetings will be study sessions, led by Rabbi Joel Seltzer, the director of Camp Ramah in the Poconos. These meetings will explore the relationship between Jewish texts and leadership, with time set aside for Shabbat dinners and social activities.
 
Both Eisenstadt and Erlbaum believe that the program’s emphasis on using Jewish texts as the basis for insight and instruction is what distinguishes Yesod from all other leadership development programs.
 
“I think that we can all grow as leaders by continuing to be self-reflective and by insisting that a few thousand years of Torah and Jewish learning is relevant to our leadership journeys today,” said Eisenstadt, who expressed confidence that “Yesod can help us all along this journey.”
 
Erlbaum, who studies Torah regularly, sees leadership in each parshah. “Every word sheds light on how we positively influence the world, which is what leadership is all about. I couldn’t be more excited that Federation has embraced the two topics — Torah and leadership — as one and I’m energized by the opportunity to build knowledge and acumen alongside some outstanding Jewish leaders.”
 
It is Erlbaum’s hope that Yesod enhances not only the resolve of its 24 participants but also their willingness to take the next steps on their journey as Jewish communal leaders.
 
“Our success as a Jewish community hinges most on our commitment to the Jewish cause — how much are we willing to give of ourselves to solve Jewish problems and maximize our opportunities?” he said.
 
Erlbaum says he is confident that Yesod, which has Jewish learning as its very foundation, “has the potential to re-energize us around the “why” — why Jewish communal work really matters — as well as the “how” — how to lead smarter to generate a greater return on effort.”
 
Federation officials have high hopes that the graduates of Yesod will take their place as future members of the organization’s board of directors, board of trustees and other key leadership positions within the organization.
 
For more information on Yesod, contact Addie Lewis Klein, senior manager of Volunteer Engagement and Campaign Operations, at 215-832-0828 or email: [email protected].

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