By Laura Porter
“I had to travel 3,000 miles to learn about Federation and the greater good they do,” says Ben Lyons of the trip he and his wife, Cara, took to Israel six years ago.
That 2011 trip, a National Youth Leadership mission through the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), was Lyon’s first step in an ever-deepening involvement in Federation. He currently serves on the board of the Jewish Federation of Central Mass (JFCM) as vice president of Campaign.
This summer, he will take that involvement a step further as he joins JFNA’s National Young Leadership Cabinet. He is one of only seven people nominated to Cabinet this year.
“The premier leadership and philanthropic program” of JFNA, according to the national website, Cabinet brings together women and men ages 30-45 for a six-year period of training and travel.
Annual retreats and study missions, in conjunction with trainings and national JFNA events and conferences, expose members to “the work of our collective system and develop leadership skills on a range of topics including Israel advocacy, solicitation, and what it means to be a Jewish leader.”
In order to be nominated and then named to Cabinet, prospective members must have already demonstrated their commitment, both financially and as leaders.
Lyons has spent the past six years doing just that.
In 2010, he and his wife joined YAD, or the Young Leadership Division of the Jewish Federation of Central Mass. They were looking primarily for social connections, “a group of like-minded Jewish people,” he says, and quickly made friends.
The Lyons had long planned to travel to Israel, and the National Young Leadership mission in 2011 seemed to be an ideal opportunity.
He returned “prouder of my Jewish heritage and ready to play a bigger role in the Central Massachusetts Jewish community.”
When positions on the JFCM Governing Board of Directors became available, he accepted an invitation to join.
In doing so, he embarked on “a real whirlwind learning experience,” he says.
In addition to heading the campaign, Lyons has served on a number of Federation committees and is also the JFCM representative for the Life and Legacy program in Central Massachusetts.
His role with Federation has also had a significant impact on his life in other ways.
“The service experience you get from being involved in a non-profit extends past that organization and into other walks of life,” he says.
To that end, he and his wife, who own a Luluroe business together, have recently returned from Guatemala, where they delivered clothing to an orphanage.
He was nominated by Mindy Hall, the Outreach Director for the Jewish Federation of Central Mass.
She notes that Lyons “has worked hard to get to this level and deserves it. It is wonderful for him, and wonderful for our Federation and Federation as a whole. Having young Jewish leaders is critical for the years ahead.”
She is also pleased to see one of the goals of JFCM’s Young Adult Division come to fruition.
“We want YAD to cultivate leaders of all types,” she says. “Ben has taken his role to the next level and we are really proud of him.”
Lyons’ six-year term will begin this coming August at the National Young Leadership Cabinet’s annual retreat.
Cabinet members are expected not only to become more involved as trained laypeople at the local level but also to help craft national programming. In addition, members give generously to their own Federation campaigns, beginning at $5,000 annually and increasing.
Lyon’s intention for his first year is to “sit back and understand the moving parts and understand the different programs out there, who’s involved, which makes the most sense for me and hone my leadership skills around that,” he says.
It’s an endeavour he is embracing wholeheartedly.
“It’s an honor and a privilege,” he says. “I’m thrilled that I get to join a platinum level philanthropic organization like this. I’m really excited to learn and to be able to serve and give back.”