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Title: Foundation Aims to Amplify Jewish Leadership around the World

Leadership programs tend to take a number of approaches and cater to a number of different demographics. Anyone familiar with Jewish activism on college campuses – at least at larger universities – might be familiar with a number of leadership development events and programs that offered to students. Others might look for younger high schoolers, still others emerging college graduates or members of the Jewish communal field.

The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation recently announced it would launch a new 18-month-long Jewish leadership program that would cater uniquely to experienced professionals.

This program is taking a more eclectic approach. Instead of fostering potential leaders, it will enhance proven ones. What the fellowship intends to do is to professionalize leadership development, which for the organizers means catering to participants more with extensive experience than as-yet-to-be proven potential.

“The Schusterman Fellowship responds to the need for executive leadership programs that feature personalized professional development,” says Adam Simon, Schusterman’s Director of Leadership Initiatives.

“This means that our fellows have access to coaching and leadership advancement opportunities that will build the specific competencies they need in their current roles while also forming a strategic network of peers they can leverage as they work toward leading transformational change in their organizations, the Jewish community and beyond.”

With experience as the common thread, the pool of participants is extremely diverse. Including 24 fellows from Jewish communities the world over, they have worked in traditional Jewish organizations and new initiatives.

Participants include Danielle Abraham who is a foreign policy adviser to MASHAV, Israel's Agency for International Development Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Barak Hermann, President of the JCC of Greater Baltimore; Diego Ornique, (Joint Distribution Committee) JDC-Europe Regional Director; and Brachie Sprung, Senior Advisor for International Affairs and Media to Nir Barkat.

“We created this opportunity for individuals--lay and professional--who have a proven track record of leadership, who have significant potential to grow and who have expressed interest in taking on critical leadership roles in the Jewish community and Israel,” says Simon.

“Age and seniority were not determinants of entry into the program so we have Fellows who are at different points in their professional development, from earlier on to further along.”

The differentiating factor is the customization of the program for each participant. While there are certainly opportunities to work together and network, the program is highly individualized. The Schusterman Foundation is hoping that its immense resources can shape something unique in terms of Jewish leadership, which could serve as a model for more Jewish leadership development down the road.

“The fellows will work with our team and their coaches to design customized tracks that will target the specific competencies they each need in their current roles and to build their careers.”

“One fellow, for example, may decide to go to Israel for a weeklong program designed to help deepen Jewish knowledge. Another fellow may participate in a program by the Center for Creative Leadership in North Carolina," says Simon. "Still another fellow may design his or her own program to shadow successful fundraisers around the country to improve fundraising skills.”

When asked what led to the decision to do an 18-month-long program as opposed to something shorter, Schusterman explained the complexity of the program and the desire to foster new skills necessitated a more sustained effort. In fact, it could be said that time limits are arbitrary on far-reaching efforts like this one. All things considered, the Schusterman Foundation wanted to ensure it could track real progress and growth in the program’s participants.

“Eighteen months is the most realistic time frame to achieve those goals and create real change.”

“Change takes time. We wanted to provide the time and space to conduct a leadership assessment, understand the findings, zero in on leadership needs and pursue opportunities to address those needs.”

Over the course of that year and a half, the participants will all meet together three times and meet with executive coaches several more.

“Fellows will also participate in three gatherings and work with an executive coach over a long period of time. Finally, we wanted to cap the program with an 'Organizational Change Initiative' to help fellows apply their new skills and learning to a stretch project within their organization and community.”

Simon also addressed other growth programs that have been put into force within the Jewish community. While entry-level guidance and fostering potential into something kinetic are worthy efforts in and of themselves, this program seeks to make some of the Jewish world’s best contributors even better.

“This program is designed to amplify those efforts by matching individuals with opportunities that will best suit and maximize their skills and capacity.”