Friday, April 4, 2014

The dilemma we like to have

I spent a day this week with the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley, meeting with senior leadership and their Board. We talked about the Jewish world, Ukraine, the work we do together and how we tell our stories.

One issue came up that struck me, and I want to spend a moment on it here.

Sitting at dinner with some lovely, inspiring leaders of the federation, I discussed “success” and our exit strategy. I've looked at exit strategies before – it’s a critical component of how we look at our work around the world. It means that we’re aiming for local empowerment. Local capacity. Local leadership. 
So we don’t run religious services in Cuba, we don’t run major JCCs in many Russian-speaking countries, we don’t manage Heseds with American or Israeli staff. 
More and more programs are indigenous. Leadership is locally-trained (or, even better, internationally-trained in incredible places like our Szarvas Camp in Hungary).

But there’s one challenge we have to face.

We want to empower local leadership … so we have to let them strive, and grapple … and even fail.
But on the other hand – we have amazing models of Jewish communal leadership here in North America. We know, in our federations and Jewish communal structures, how to train leaders. We know how to solicit gifts. We know how to articulate our work. And we want to share these ideas.

So this dilemma – reduce our role while sharing (and encouraging) best practices – is a good one to have. These are the kind of challenges we should encourage.

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