Sounds like typical advice an executive might impart to someone more junior. So, perhaps you’ll be surprised to learn that the original source for these words can be found in Yitro, this week’s parsha, from none other than Moses’ eponymous father-in-law. Observing an over-stressed Moses shouldering all the responsibility for leading the Israelites, Yitro urges his son-in-law to appoint “people of substance, God fearers, people of truth … and they themselves shall judge every minor matter, thereby making it easier for you, and they shall bear [the burden] with you.”
Still very good advice.
From our desert wanderings thousands of years ago to today’s quickly changing global landscape, cultivating effective Jewish leadership has always been a critical challenge. And, of course, the challenge is not simply burnout; it’s about having the requisite knowledge, skills, and vision to carry our community forward.
Many have bemoaned the lack of a Jewish leadership pipeline. As recently as 2016, it was estimated that 75 to 90% of Jewish nonprofits would have to find a new professional leader over the next 5 to 7 years. And appropriate leadership becomes ever more pressing in times like this, as we confront highly complex problems, whether external (growing anti-Semitism) or internal (deep fractures and polarization within our own Jewish community).
For all these reasons, UJA has long invested in Jewish leadership, both volunteer and professional. It’s absolutely vital for the sake of the Jewish future that we attract and develop the best and brightest to take leadership positions in the Jewish community.
This week, I returned to Columbia, my alma mater, to teach a class at the Institute for Jewish Executive Leadership (IJEL), funded by UJA in coordination with Columbia Business School. The program brings together 25 senior professionals from across the spectrum of the Jewish world — JCCs, advocacy groups, human service agencies, camps, day schools, and rabbinic groups. A very diverse cohort, both politically and religiously, what they all have in common is a desire to raise the bar within their own fields to sustain and strengthen Jewish life.
Beyond IJEL, UJA facilitates a range of fellowships, internships, and learning institutes for professionals and volunteers at various points in their career trajectories. You can learn more about them here.
When we talk about UJA’s work, we tend to think about the essential services we support on the ground. But offering the individuals overseeing these services the opportunity to grow is every bit as important. Hopefully, in the near future, graduates of these programs will return to the classroom, sharing their own hard-earned wisdom with the next generation of leaders. And that generation, in turn, will do the same.
After all, if Moses needed some leadership coaching, so do we all!