By Stacey Dresner
WESTERN MASS. – Seeking the next generation of Jewish leaders, the Young Adult Division (YAD) of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts has launched the Institute for Leadership Excellence and Development or I-LEAD.
The goal of I-LEAD is to identify future Jewish leaders and to give them the tools and training they need to become effective leaders in the local Jewish community.
“Our local agencies, day schools, and synagogues depend on many things to survive. The most obvious, perhaps, is financial support. But just as important for an organization’s survival, and, in fact, for a community’s survival, is strong local leadership,” said Joshua Grey co-chair of YAD and one of the creators of I-LEAD. “That is why this program is so vital. We are priming the pump to ensure that we will be able to continue to be proud of the dedication of our local volunteers.”
In late August, YAD sent out letters asking all local Jewish agencies, organizations and synagogues in Western Massachusetts to nominate individuals between the ages of 21 and 45 who they have identified as young or emerging leaders.
“This is a community program. The Federation is spearheading it, but it is really for the benefit of the entire community,” Grey said. “We wanted to get buy-in, not only from the participants but from the organizations that this is ultimately going to benefit.
“We know there are people out there, but we don’t necessarily know who or where they are,” he continued. “So we wanted to take the knowledge and information from these local agencies, synagogues, organizations, what have you, and say, ‘Who are the young adults who have been sort of active, who have been active, or you think can step up and want to but haven’t yet, and let us know who they are and nominate them,” Grey explained. “Because this is not for the unaffiliated. This is for those who are already in the pipeline. They can take these skills back and be more effective and successful lay leaders, but also be cheerleaders, if you will, for the various organizations – be able to say, ‘This is what B’nai Torah does, This is what Rachel’s Table does, and this is why we need your help.’”
I-LEAD was developed by a core group of Young Adult division members: Grey, YAD members David Steinberg and Jeremy Powers, and Rachel Berezin, director of YAD. Grey and Steinberg had talked about starting some kind of leadership or mentoring program for young Jewish leaders over a year ago. They subsequently attended TribeFest, a convention for young Jewish Professionals in Las Vegas earlier this year. While there they met with similarly minded young Jews from similar Jewish communities.
“We had a few conversations and Dave mentioned he saw the need for leadership/mentoring opportunities, but really TribeFest solidified it,” Grey said. “We saw what other communities were doing, where they were struggling, where they were succeeding. We basically brought that back and used that, in addition to my experience in the Initiative for Jewish Leadership a couple of years ago. So basically we started to mold I-Lead.”
The number of participants in I-LEAD will be limited to 25 individuals who will then participate in a series of education and leadership development activities. The program will feature 10 sessions with local and national speakers, such as New York Times best-selling author and editor-at-large for Esquire magazine A.J. Jacobs who will kick-off the program in January. The sessions will touch on various topics, including Jewish identity and leadership, philanthropy, business ethics, effective leadership, and conflict resolution. Participants will also have the opportunity for a subsidized trip to Israel. And a mock allocation process will show participants where Federation money goes – locally and internationally.
“With that knowledge, they will be able to go back and better lead their agencies and better lead and educate their communities,” Grey said.
Meredith Dragon, the executive director of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts, says, “I am thrilled that our young adults have taken the initiative to create and execute this terrific program. Developing leadership for our community’s future is one of the most important jobs of Federation. It is an honor to be working with such a fantastic cadre of leaders.”
I-LEAD is made possible, in part, by a generous grant from the Jewish Endowment Foundation of Western Massachusetts.
The Young Adult Division of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts was founded in 2009 with the mission to provide a broad range of social, educational and philanthropic opportunities for young Jewish singles, couples and new area residents ages 21-45.
For more information on I-LEAD or the Young Adult Division of the Jewish Federation, call Rachel Berezin, director of YAD, at (413) 737-4313, ext. 146.