Stepping into the Future of Jewish Leadership

When it comes to the question of how to engage the next generation of Jewish leaders, there’s one word you won’t hear the Federation’s Leadership Director, Katherine Tick use. And it’s… well, “engage.”

“It’s not just that it’s overused to the point that it can seem meaningless,” said Katherine from her Federation office. “But it also has a connotation of commitment that can repel younger Jews.” In fact, polls conducted by both the Pew Research Center and Gallup show that Millennials have a tendency to be commitment-phobes and, as such, the prospect of “engagement” in any new relationship, personal or philanthropic, can scare them away. “That’s why I talk about ‘stepping in’ instead. There’s nothing intimidating about stepping into something new. Like dipping your toe in the water. And the deeper you go, you realize that it’s not so scary.”

One of the ways in which young Jewish professionals are stepping in, is through the Leadership 365 initiative, a cohort-based leadership development program and a perfect opportunity for first timers to become acquainted with the Jewish community.

“We often talk at Federation about the “leadership pipeline,” said Young Adult Program Manager, Joey Blatt. “And I think Leadership 365 is a perfect example of that.”

Inaugural Leadership 365 cohort

Specifically, Leadership 365, which had its first cohort in 2018, is a six-month program in which participants cultivate their leadership skills while gaining exposure to key players and partners within the Bay Area Jewish community such as Urban Adamah, the Jewish Community Relations Council, and Moishe House. Monthly meetings cover everything from grant making to public speaking and offer real exposure to the ins and outs of the Jewish non-profit world. The program concludes with a capstone project where participants pursue independent, personally meaningful projects with support from Federation staff.

Their first capstone was Day of Volunteering, in which the cohort planned, chose locations, and served as site captains at different volunteer locations throughout San Francisco. “They really rocked it,” said Joey. “And they put their stamp on an event in a way that was so much more substantive and meaningful than the typical get together. With Day of Volunteering, and for that matter, throughout the entire program, they really demonstrated their values.”

There are many ways that the Federation works to provide a spectrum of opportunities. One is the NextGen Professionals Network (NPN), a networking group of staff from Jewish organizations that works with the Bay Area's young adult Jewish community to share best practices and form collaborative partnerships amongst each other. Another is the Young Adult Division’s “Newish and Jewish” Happy Hour which provides an opportunity for recent transplants to increase their social circles and have fun while connecting with representatives from Federation’s community partners.

“To stay on the ‘stepping in and dipping your toe in the water’ metaphor,” Katherine added. “When a person becomes a Federation Fellow, that’s when he or she is ready to swim.”

Indeed, the Fed Fellows are an impressive bunch, serving a two-year fellowship which goes beyond leadership training into the nuts and bolts of nonprofit finance, community building practices and the development of personal philanthropic missions. Each member of the cohort is mentored by established leaders within the community and given the opportunity to serve on the board of a Federation partner agency. Approximately 85% get invited to stay on their given board upon completion of the fellowship.

Fed Fellows, 2018

So whether it’s Leadership 365, the NextGen Professionals Network, or Fed Fellows, there are a plethora of opportunities to participate in the Bay Area Jewish community.

We’re dedicated to educating and developing members who will work together to make a significant contribution to transform our Jewish community. Through our leadership programs, we deepen our volunteer leaders' knowledge base, inform them about Jewish community issues and challenges, provide a multitude of networking opportunities, acquaint them with community service providers, and strengthen their relationship with the Federation. Read more about our work, and if you are interested in finding out more about our programs, committees, or just want to explore leadership opportunities, please contact us.

Categories: Young Adults, Leadership


December 26, 2018


Jon Moskin