Keshet Awarded $250,000 for Inclusion Training

Keshet, a national grassroots organization that works for the full equality and inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual a...

Keshet, a national grassroots organization that works for the full equality and inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Jews in Jewish life, has been awarded $250,000 by the Jim Joseph Foundation.

The funding will support the expansion of Keshet’s signature training, The Keshet Leadership Project, to Jewish organizations in New York and Los Angeles over the next two years. The Leadership Project is a multi-service program that convenes, trains, provides resources for and supports Jewish institutions to become more inclusive of LGBT individuals and families, with a particular focus on youth. The Project is designed to impact the policies, programs and cultures of Jewish institutions by supporting the leaders of those institutions to make sustainable change over time.

For over a decade, Keshet has worked with organizations, trainers and leaders within the Jewish community, to gather and test best practices for an impactful training model.

The Keshet Leadership Project is an intensive program, consisting of five phases: Assessment, Learning, Planning for Action, Follow-up, and Evaluation. The Project launches with the Keshet Leadership Summit, an immersive and experiential day-long program designed to build the capacity of individual leaders, such as rabbis, executive directors, heads of schools, camp directors, youth movement leadership and top lay leaders. Each leader and institutional team drafts an action plan with objectives and a timetable for implementation. Following the Summit, leaders receive specialized coaching over the course of a year to help them carry out their action plans. In addition, Keshet Trainers are available for on-site trainings for an institution’s entire leadership, faculty, staff or community members.

The Leadership Project is currently underway with Jewish community institutions in Miami, Boston, and Palo Alto.

You can learn more about the Keshet Leadership Project by visiting the project website.

Keshet Awarded $250,000 for Inclusion Training, August 27, 2014, eJP

Leadership in the Volunteer Community

Long standing professionals often forget for whom they work. They also tend to forget the importance of their role to...

Long standing professionals often forget for whom they work. They also tend to forget the importance of their role to nurture leadership and volunteerism. They forget the need to apologize to others, to admit they have erred.

I have been studying the structure of volunteer organizations and analyzing the leadership of their professionals’ leadership styles for a little more than forty years. I have founded a number of synagogues in Europe and the United States, worked as a congregation rabbi and finally served as the exec director of the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs (FJMC) for nearly thirty-five years. My work has been guided by the belief that if one wishes to build a community one must empower and invest in its volunteers.

This isn’t always easy and it runs counter to the way most organizations function. The majority of not-for-profit organizations when they wish to develop a community or a project choose to invest in professionals. This, is a logical means of moving forward but it often overlooks the fact that the professional staff is only one part an equation. The second part of that equation is the volunteer culture. The manner in which professionals interact with their volunteers often determines their continuity and the success of the organization they represent. The success of any not-for-profit organization is dependent upon this volunteer/professional relationship.

A large number of professionals assume that part of their position is to create and articulate a vision but the manner and the strategies that the professional employs to empower others with that vision is rarely taken into account.

In order to create a working meaningful volunteer/professional culture the professional or professionals needs to develop a plan that engages and develops volunteers. Too often this fails to occur and tensions between lay and professional leaderships develop.

I often ask newly ordained rabbis, serving in their first pulpit, to define their leadership style in a simple sentence ending with an adjective and a noun. For example, “I am a dynamic leader.” The results are usually very interesting primarily because they have never been asked to consider this question. When I am asked this question, and I usually am, my response is “I am a servant leader.”

Servant leaders help make their volunteers the best volunteers, the best leaders, they can be. Servant leaders places volunteers in the spotlight, and helps them learn how to motivate others. Servant leaders quietly create the roles models we wish to be emulated. They are the ones who help their professionals make decisions. They are the ones that learn how to lead grace after meals so they can teach others.

In order for this to occur, volunteer leaders require backups and partners and the security that they will never fail, because the professional understands that their lives, like ours, are extremely busy and very complicated. Someone will lose a job, or contract an illness, or have something happen to their family which will limit their ability to serve. At times this means that the volunteer leader might not meet some people’s expectations. They might not perform in a position the way someone else would. It might mean two steps forward one step backward. The servant leader helps leadership understand they are doing the best they can and are learning how to be more effective volunteers and possible leaders if they are properly encouraged. In the volunteer world a culture of friendship means that no one ever fails, they just might not succeed as much as they desired. The professional’s job is to create a culture of friendship and trust coupled with the recognition that everyone has different abilities.

I was recently asked by the leader of one of the great teaching institutions in America, how could I run an organization, the only one in the Conservative Movement that is growing and getting younger, with such a small staff? My answer was simple and straight forward. I empower volunteers to coordinate all of the various portfolios. I help them break down positions with tremendous responsibility into small achievable goals and tasks. I place them in positions where they can succeed and I trust them. I help them learn to share, to ask questions and to request help from others. I work hard at teaching them how to work as a team and to divorce themselves from ownership

Too often lay leaders, upon attaining high office, confuse “inauguration” with “installation”. They speak of their legacies and results. Attitudes like these creates cultures of fear and mistrust. When this occurs, organizational directions can be shifted in different directions at the whim of the president. On the other hand, a culture of friendship reflects a venue where incoming, existing and past leadership works together. They stay on course from administration to administration concentrating on previously determined goals.

In many instances the vision of the professional doesn’t always reflect the needs of the organization. This is one of the great pitfalls in the not-for-profit world. A person can be swept up in the perceived glory of becoming an international figure, a world Jew, when in actuality in order to strengthen the organization a different professional direction is needed.

Long standing professionals often forget for whom they work. They also tend to forget the importance of their role to nurture leadership and volunteerism. They forget the need to apologize to others, to admit they have erred. They forget how important it is to be a servant/leader.

Leadership in the Volunteer Community, July 15, 2014, eJP, by Charles Simon

Child Survivor Fund Established

The Claims Conference has successfully negotiated a $250 million landmark agreement with the German government. ...

The Claims Conference has successfully negotiated a $250 million landmark agreement with the German government.  As a result of last week's negotiations, a new fund will be established, to be administered by the Claims Conference, for Jewish Child Survivors of the Holocaust. This joint fund will provide support to Shoah survivors around the world who lived under Nazi occupation and will enable them to receive symbolic financial compensation for the traumas suffered during their childhood.  The payment from this fund represents an acknowledgement of the special trauma and hardship endured by children during the Shoah.

Our negotiating delegation emphasized to the German government that because Jewish children were in constant fear of death during the Holocaust, this trauma has overshadowed the rest of their lives. Early traumas are now resulting in late-onset physical and psychological problems that only now are appearing as concrete symptoms in their old age.

Those survivors of the Shoah who were born January 1, 1928 or later – the oldest of those would have been young children when Hitler came to power in 1933 – and who were in concentration camps, ghettos, or for at least six months under Nazi occupation (or 12 months in Nazi Axis countries) in hiding or under false identity will be eligible to receive a special one-time payment of €2,500 (approximately $3,280) because of special needs.

The agreement is subject to approval by the Bundestag and the Claims Conference.  It is envisioned that the fund will become operational on Jan. 1, 2015. Approximately 25 percent of the funding for this program will come from the Claims Conference, with the remaining 75 percent provided by the German government.  These were not easy negotiations - especially given the German government position that these survivors were already receiving pensions and therefore should not receive any additional payments.  Ultimately, these payments represent acknowledgment of the special needs of those who endured the Shoah as children, especially 70 years later.

The agreement reached in the negotiations between the Claims Conference and the German government comes on the heels of the first-ever symposium held in Berlin of Jewish child survivors, held on August 27 at Centrum Judaicum.  The symposium – “Lost Childhood: Jewish Childhood Survivors” – was organized by the Claims Conference, in cooperation with the World Federation of Jewish Child Survivors of the Holocaust and Descendants (WFJCSD) and the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel.  In this context, I want to thank Claims Conference Board members Stefanie Seltzer and Max Lazar Arpels, who have given their hearts and souls to child survivor issues over the years.

During the symposium, internationally recognized experts provided a comprehensive sense of the special suffering endured by Jewish children during the Holocaust and shed light on the particular situation of child survivors today.  This special symposium was the subject of last week’s email message from Greg Schneider.

We are all deeply grateful to Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, our Special Negotiator, who traveled to Berlin specifically for Thursday’s four-hour meeting, and returned to the U.S. that very afternoon.  His dedication to helping Holocaust victims runs extraordinarily deep.  Our thanks also goes to Roman Kent, who has been a driving force in negotiations with the German government, particularly regarding the homecare program, over the years.  Amb. Colette Avital also deserves special acknowledgment for her active involvement in the child survivor fund negotiations.

The Claims Conference negotiating delegation comprises Amb. Eizenstat; Roman Kent, Co-Chair; Holocaust survivor leaders Amb. Colette Avital, Uri Chanoch, Ben Helfgott and Marian Turski; Amb. Reuven Merhav and Rabbi Andrew Baker; and Claims Conference Executive Vice President Greg Schneider and the team of professionals from the Claims Conference led by Greg – including Rudi Mahlo, Representative in Germany, Karen Heilig, Christiane Reeh, and Konrad Matschke – who worked diligently to make this new fund a possibility.

These successful negotiations were a result of the skill of our negotiating delegation and their passion to bring a small measure of justice to those who had their childhoods cruelly ripped away. The Claims Conference continues to press for the liberalization of the criteria of other compensation programs so that every survivor can feel safe and cared-for in the last years of their lives.

Child Survivor Fund Established, September 3, 2014, Claims Conference, by Julius Berman