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Who are Emerging Jewish Leaders?

Community professionals and lay leaders will likely be interested in the findings in a new study just released by the Avi Chai Foundation, titled Generation of Change: How Leaders in their Twenties and Thirties are Reshaping American Jewish Life (2010)

We haven’t had time to digest it ourselves, but we know this topic is on the minds of local leaders. Here’s just one tidbit:

Established organizations will have to rethink their governance structures to make room for younger Jewish leaders. The latter find ample opportunities outside the Jewish community and also in the nonestablishment sector to rise rapidly to positions of influence. Established organizations tend to place younger people on a slower track, testing them and socializing them into the organizational culture before elevating them to positions of influence. This frustrates many creative young people who have experience taking the initiative in other settings and don’t want to “wait their turn.” One can acknowledge the virtues of mentoring and grooming as the preferred way in establishment organizations, while also recognizing that time is not working in favor of those organizations.”

Here’s another:

The actual ecosystem of programs for young adults cannot easily be divided between the innovative and the conventional. For one thing, participants go where they please, with little regard to who is sponsoring an activity. They don’t care whether a Federation or a national organization is sponsoring an event, any more than they care if a start-up is. What matters is the quality of the experience, the presence of people with whom they wish to associate, and the meaning (or pleasure) they can derive from an event. For another, the leaders and organizers of these programs themselves move fluidly from one to the next.”

And we would be remiss if we didn’t take notice of this remark:

It is striking how small a role gender plays in the patterns of leadership we have examined.”

In the table on page 43 of the report, we can see that female leaders outnumber male leaders in all categories of “Young” organizations:

  • Young Nonestablishment, 65% female 35% male
  • Young, Mixed  63% female 37% male
  • Young, Establishment 55% female 45% male

as well as in the category “Old Nonestablishment” (56%: 44%).  The only category where female leaders lag male leaders is in “Older Establishment” organizations.  Ratios of nearly 2 to 1 among young leaders sounds like more than a small role.

Nice shout-out to our friends at E-3 and to Heshy Fried, whose Frumsatire blog got a mention in the study (advisory: mature content on that one).

For more reading about the study, here’s a link to a JTA article about it (with a provocative title): New study of emerging Jewish leaders shows class differences.

We look forward to reader /leader comments about the findings and how you see them at play in our own community.

–Cheryl & David

About Editor

I'm David Fellows, and I've served as a writer, photographer and/or an editor on my junior high and high school newspapers; the Daily Trojan at USC (where I earned my journalism degree); the student newspaper at the Anderson School at UCLA (where I earned my MBA); and I've written and edited countless business documents and presentations in the ensuing twenty years. I was also a professional photographer from 1978 to 1988 (although you never really stop...). I've been involved Jewishly since my bris and in Boulder since 1995. I'm married to my Executive Director Cheryl, and we have two children, Lauren and Ethan.

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