Leadership strength to inspire, not to direct
This month three years ago, in March 2020, I became the 6th Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of St. Joseph Valley. In arriving at this milestone of my third anniversary, I am grateful to my team, the community I serve, and my board.
My theme for this edition of Minute with Moshe is gratitude, adaptation, and revitalization. Like most organizations, the Federation had to pivot during the pandemic. Change and reinvention became our mantra.
Despite the challenges and uncertainty during COVID, we did not lose our way. My journey into Federation life was filled with learning, wonder, and awe. The gestalt, or the whole of my Federation community building experience, has been profound. Each day, so full of promise, reminds me of the legendary American author, poet, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou who said, “This is a wonderful day. I have never seen this one before.”
We have accomplished much at the Federation over the last three years. To this, I give credit to my team. They never gave up when the chips were down during these unprecedented times. I’m so grateful to my professional staff for putting in the hard work, supporting one another, and caring passionately about our community.
The Fed team have repeatedly demonstrated their talents and gifts to create outcomes we all can be proud of. To mention just a few examples of where their dedication and professionalism has shined includes:
Reimagining Camp Ideal and developing the successful Shi’Shuk Friday Market
Reopening our kosher kitchen and delivering a high-quality culinary product
Re-energizing NEXTGen, Teen Group (SaBaBaH), and Teen Leadership (Hadracha)
Developing new and improved ways to communicate
Providing a lifeline to the most vulnerable in our community
Beautifying our campus grounds
Working together, the Fed team is a force multiplier. They make the Federation a “multiplier,” not a “diminisher.” Their energy, optimism, and innovation have made the Federation more relevant. And these will be the same qualities needed to propel the Federation towards a destination we call Vision 2025.
Vision 2025, a three-year community plan, will require more than a motivated and high-performance team – it requires community participation. Taking responsibility for our future means getting off the sidelines and getting in the game to do our part. Engagement is vital because we know there’s no “one size fits all” when meeting our community’s needs.
Community building begins with deep, intelligent, critical conversations and is tailor-made for disagreements and debates. This tension is natural and goes to the very heart of our tradition.
In fact, our canonical texts are anthologies of arguments. We know Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah, and Job argued with Hashem. And I imagine some women heroines in the bible did too.
We are familiar with rabbinic literature and the almost endless series of Rabbi X saying this and Rabbi Y saying that. And when one rabbi had the chance to ask G-d who was right, G-d replied, “They are both right.” “How can they both be right?” asked the rabbi, to which G-d replied: “You’re also right.” The rabbis called this an “argument for the sake of heaven.” Here in Michiana, we might call this for the sake of community.
It may not be easy, but figuring out how to make diversity work on our behalf will be imperative. Community building is a team sport. It will reflect well on our community if we bring together different perspectives, ideas, and voices to make us better, stronger, and more resilient.
The essence of Vision 2025 is a community plan developed by and for the community. Creating a needs-based Community Action Plan must be the Federation’s principal strategic focus as a communal organization.
By working together, we can address what matters most in our beautiful and diverse community.
In this plan, I’m proposing two interconnected areas of focus. Each is uniquely suited to develop specific goals, milestones, and programs.
The first is a Hebrew expression. K’lal Yisrael – we are one people and one community. This term refers to Jewish unity and solidarity. It has been used for centuries to express Jewish Peoplehood or the whole of Israel regardless of religious views.
When it comes to our Jewish movements, who’s to say we cannot maintain our identities by coming together? The Federation’s interest is to strengthen our different brands of Judaism -- and, in doing so, create the economic and community synergies that will sustain us.
I’m intrigued by all the possibilities for harmonizing all our assets to actualize Jewish unity within our local community. Let our ingenuity be our secret sauce, and we’ll discover that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
And this brings me to Vision 2025’s second area of focus. Bayit Chazak – building a strong and courageous house – a metaphor for what the Federation can be as the central hub for our community. The operative phrase is what the Federation can be. This is the aspirational intersection for what we can become and want to be as a small Jewish community that can distinguish itself from our peers.
K’lal Yisrael and Bayit Chazak are the twin pillars of Vision 2025. This framework opens the exploration of all options to make informed and intentional choices.
May we travel as one united and strong community that understands that in each generation, the Shehkinah, the Divine presence, rests with those who take our old faith and make it new again.
Jewish Federation of St. Joseph Valley
Phone: (574) 233-1164 | Email: email@example.com