Joyful Commitment is Contagious

This blog was written in response to a Wexner Alumni event titled “Making sense of being Jewish: A conversation with Avraham Infeld.” Mr. Infeld is a Jewish community leader, teacher and Wexner scholar.

Driving home after the evening, I reflected upon Avraham Infeld’s impassioned words and was struck by the figurative "shot in the arm" I felt he had given me. His presentation inspired me to think about the style and substance of my Jewish communal involvement. Avraham's mission and vision clearly continue to burn brightly for him. Being in the presence of such joyful commitment is contagious.

I was drawn to the way in which Avraham uses humor to encourage active listening and realized that in pursuit of a task we often get so caught up in what needs to be done that we can unconsciously shelve our sense of humor, rather than use it to bring others along with us. His non-judgmental, informal approach also made me mindful to set a more relaxed tone as I engage in, and advance a project. This can be an effective tool to inspire creative thinking and enable people to take action.

I was re-energized about my current involvement with Limmud Bay Area, since this festival of learning fosters a sense of belonging and honors the importance of Jewish peoplehood that has been Avraham's life's work. By creating a welcoming, pluralistic platform, Limmud attendees are empowered to explore and further their own "mode of Jewish expression."

Referring to several legendary biblical figures, Avraham illustrated both effective and inadequate leadership. It was good to be reminded that all the key elements of leading cannot all be found in a single person. It was gratifying to recognize that the Limmud model is built on multiple teams of volunteers collaborating to shape the entire program. By genuinely inviting and integrating the input of others, Limmud leadership balances the tension that Avraham alluded to between having a vision and not being wedded to a preconceived notion of the outcome. This melds with the important need to give others room to lead and express their ideas.

Like Avraham, I too grew up in South Africa where we were surrounded by a staunchly Zionistic, remarkably homogeneous Jewish community. On a personal level, it was helpful that Avraham reinforced the enormous potential our Bay Area diversity brings, despite its own set of challenges.

Speaking of diversity, that same evening it was exciting to meet and hear from the impressive members of the new Wexner cohort. How fitting that their backgrounds, life experiences, interests and talents are varied and their passions for our Jewish community are strong. Wishing each of them the "ride of their life" as they begin the transformational Wexner “journey.” I look forward to continuing to learn with and from them in our shared goal to strengthen Jewish peoplehood.

Janice Brenner is an alumna of the Wexner Heritage Program. Born and raised in South Africa, she immigrated to the USA in 1986. She has a B.A. in Clinical and Industrial Psychology from the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS) in Johannesburg, South Africa, and a graduate honors degree in Human Resource Management from the Graduate School of Business Administration, WITS. Janice is passionate about Jewish peoplehood, patient healthcare advocacy, and the performing arts. She is proud to be a member of the 2018 Limmud Bay Area programming team and currently serves as a member of the Board of Trustees for foolsFURY Theater Company. She has previously served as assistant to several Consuls General at the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco, and much of her professional work has been in the fields of public affairs, community-building, and promoting a strong US-Israel relationship.

Categories: Leadership


June 01, 2018


Janice Brenner