I’ve just returned to Ottawa from a wonderful weeklong Jewish Federation of Ottawa mission to Israel with about a dozen of my 40-ish and under peers. It was a Young Leadership mission, with each participant representing different institutions within our community.
Our mission, from January 9 to 15, travelled from Tel Aviv to Israel’s north and finally to Jerusalem as we learned leadership from varied organizations and individuals. But, beyond any particular location or speaker, the primary lesson that I took away from
this mission is that communal success is found in people and in relationships.
In the northernmost part of Israel, we gathered with other young leaders in the bar at Kibbutz K’far Giladi to listen to a group of amazing women share their stories of initiatives they were engaged in, which bettered that region of the country and, in some cases, even further beyond.
One woman shared her efforts to bring university-level learning out of the university’s ivory tower and into the smaller, poorer communities surrounding it.
Another spoke about her group’s efforts to restore an 18 billion shekel investment in the region from the government after it was pulled. And a third young woman told us about her initiative that raised 20,000 shekels to support injured Syrians being cared for at the hospital in Safed.
These impressive women saw needs within their community and leapt at it without waiting to be asked to serve.
Each of them took the initiative to bring about the change they wanted to see in their country. In doing so, each made a tremendous difference.
But, beyond any of their individual efforts, was the remarkable way that each of them also helped each other with their projects, rejecting the idea that they were competing for attention, donor dollars, and impact.
The relationships that existed between these women bolstered each of them as individuals, but also advanced their projects because of their shared support. Every one of these women inspired us through their deeds.
More than any individual speaker, or institution that we visited, the most valuable part of the trip for me was the opportunity to get to know my fellow participants better.
Whether at a formal program or, more often, on the bus or over a glass of wine, I now know each and every one of them better than I did when we left. I know what inspires them and what drives them to be leaders. I learned about their families and their stories in a way I never could have here in Ottawa with limited time and endless distractions.
Most importantly, I now have a dozen new partners with whom to build, grow, and sustain our remarkable Jewish community. I know that when I need a sounding board for something, I have 24 amazing ears. I am confident that when the occasions arise that we need to work together as a Jewish community, I have 12 friends who will join me.
Over six days, I learned that my peers are not future leaders. They are current leaders, ready to serve and work for the betterment of our Jewish community.
Our community is in remarkable hands with these wonderful men and women and it was a privilege to have shared this mission with them.