The three-year Strategic Plan adopted by the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater in 2011 was developed and instituted to unify and strengthen the Tidewater Jewish community.
A key initiative of the plan—one of seven—was to establish a community leadership development program. With representation from almost all area synagogues and all UJFT agencies, but without much fanfare, the 2014 ATID: Leadership for the Future program was inaugurated and held from January through June to fulfill that initiative.
A Hebrew word meaning “future,” ATID’s purpose was to cultivate an informed and committed Tidewater Jewish leadership to bring the community forward with shared values, in the spirit of trust and collaboration. Anna Goldenberg, principal of Goldenberg Consulting, LLC (and a former UJFT development staff member), directed and facilitated the program.
“There is so much need in our community, and the larger non-profit community, for skill building, for knowledge of how to effectively participate and run non-profit organizations,” says Goldenberg.
“We had many established leaders saying…‘I want to transform my own leadership; I want to get some focus, some education; I want to build my skill set; I want to get together with other leaders in the community to find out what they’re doing and what they’re thinking.’ So this was a program that was developed according to what we heard in the community, that they wanted,” she says. “I think that the Federation is perfectly positioned as a facilitator of change and movement within the community, and I cannot think of any other organization that would be more appropriate to spearhead this program.”
With input and nominations from synagogue and agency boards and executives, Goldenberg was hoping for at least a minimum of 12 participants. The number went beyond, exceeding the maximum of 20; in total, 22 members of the community took part in the monthly ATID sessions held at the Sandler Family Campus. The meetings included small group and brainstorming sessions, as well as workshops led by nationally-recognized professionals in the field of leadership development.
“Each session was better than the next,” says Susan Alper, a UJFT board member, who was also on the UJFT’s strategic planning committee. “The talks by the experts helped me not only to think about my role in the community, but also my role as a professional: how to deal with my staff, how to deal with people, how to have better relationships. The best take-away for me was how to use communication to help people do their best, be their best, to get the best from the people who work with you, because then you’ve succeeded.”
After agreeing to participate, Alper’s already full calendar of meetings got even fuller, but she didn’t consider attendance an effort.
“It got to the point where I didn’t want to miss it, because it would be my loss. One of the meetings was on an icy and snowy day, but I braved it because I didn’t want to miss the speaker, and, interestingly, most people did, too. I would have liked ATID to have been a longer program, to continue meeting.”
Wendy Auerbach is a Temple Israel board member and long-time Holocaust Commission member who wasn’t sure what to expect from the program, or the fact that it was presented by the UJFT.
“I realized after the first meeting, that as small as our Jewish community is, there are still a lot of people I don’t know,” says Auerbach. “I really enjoyed the opportunity to meet people who were probably in my backyard my whole life, who were like minded and creative—it was an extraordinary bunch of people.
“We talked about a lot of things that nobody ever mentions out loud, and we felt free to say whatever we wanted to say,” she says. “I think it was a very courageous thing for the Federation to invite a lot of people—some of who really didn’t know much about the organization or each other—to essentially talk about what the next era will look like, to have the opportunity to brainstorm, to share their challenges and their successes, and look at what the next steps will be for our community, to acknowledge how different the world is now and to make suggestions.
“All of us were ready to say, ‘there must be change, and we hope people will listen.’ Some of the things we are facing are huge, and we need to chip away at them and do what we can,” Auerbach says. “We don’t have all of the solutions, by any means, but the dialogue needs to start, because if we don’t acknowledge that we have a challenge, we can’t begin to fix it.”
Alper, Auerbach and the 20 other members of ATID are so committed to the group and the ideas they shared during the program, that they decided to not just talk about leadership, but to demonstrate it. ATID has taken over the planning and execution of what was originally a UJFT project, a community-wide Mitzvah Day on September 21.
Read more about ATID in the August 18 issue of Jewish News, and look for details about how to be part of the Community Mitzvah Day.
by Laine Mednick Rutherford