A Leader's Update: Living the Dream

The following blog first appeared Friday, June 8, as an email update from Keith Krivitzky, CEO, the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey.

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I hope this note finds you well.

I know a recurring theme of my writings is change in the Jewish world and how we need to respond, manage and lead through change. I have been in a number of conversations, with Federation colleagues nationally and local leaders about some of the challenges facing Federations and the Jewish world and on the one hand, I think there are lots of opportunities for exciting and innovative approaches to strengthen Jewish life within our grasp. On the other, I think that even more radical and significant shifts and dislocations in the Jewish community in America are in the offing. Which will mean disruption, discomfort among some, and lots of uncertainty.

I am not offering a prescription for anything now, but I realized that through many conversations this week with different people in different roles, I found myself talking about some of the same themes. Again, since sharing is caring, I thought I would share them with you so y’all can be part of these discussions. ;-)

1. One understanding of effective leadership is that it takes alignment, direction and commitment. However, I have seen getting alignment within our Jewish world is really tough. People have their own beliefs and often baggage they don’t want to let go of; there aren’t usually shared understandings of present circumstances or future possibilities and pitfalls. And while I recognize that alignment isn’t necessarily the same as consensus, many of our Jewish institutions still operate in a consensus mindset which doesn’t work so well in times of change, and which means we don’t move very far or fast. One reason why we are stuck in so many ways.

2. In a related vein, as people get frustrated by these challenges, we often focus on differences that can pull us apart, rather than recognizing that people have good intentions and often want to be in a similar place. I have been using the phrase that we are a people that eats its own entirely too much of late.

3. I have also been feeling a lot like we are in a lifeboat with a leak, and we are collectively not bailing fast enough. Or the corollary, to stay afloat we need to be a lot more in sync. 

4. Federations are torn between wanting to be all and do it all vs. being more effective by focusing on a few areas where there is a critical need, the opportunity to make a difference, and no one else to step up effectively. The question of having your cake and eating it too is very real.

5. To be truly effective, we need to appreciate multiple points of view…even if we don’t listen to all of them. And, along those lines, we need to pay extra attention to folks outside of the “in” crowd. If we want to grow and strengthen our people, this is where to find them.

I think you can see how these threads all wind together and one issue influences and complicates another. I happen to love a challenge and focusing on solving problems, but I recognize that without a compelling vision and a clear gameplan, it is tough to stay motivated and positive. I’ve noticed a phrase used by more and more colleagues when asked how they are doing living the dream.

Sure, this is a nice-sounding phrase, but I think it is usually said with a bit of resignation or even exasperation. People are recognizing that what has worked, in terms of Jewish organizations, institutions and approaches, isn’t working so well anymore. That is frustrating and disheartening to many.

Nearly all of my colleagues got into this business because they had or bought into a dream, a vision of how they could make a difference. I think the combination of the factors above has complicated or muddied things, and it is getting harder to recall a clear picture of that dream but, if we as a community want to survive and thrive, we have to focus on finding such dreams we can all share.

With that, lots of reads for the weekend:

With that, best for a Shabbat Shalom!



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