Federation Volunteer Leadership is Core to Success

A few weeks ago, I was honored to deliver the graduate address to the Hornstein Program in Jewish Professional Leadership at Brandeis University. I received my Master’s Degree from this program in 1993 and am the recipient of this year’s Bernard Reisman Award. Bernie (z”l) was the founder of the program and served as its director while I was a student. Bernie was one of the gedolim (greats) of the field, widely praised for establishing this high quality training institute for Jewish professionals.

During my short speech, I reflected on some of the important theories my classmates and I were taught regarding lay/pro relations and about the importance of having a solid process in decision making.

When I attended Hornstein, the program provided a degree in Jewish COMMUNAL SERVICE. Today, as noted above, the degree is in Jewish PROFESSIONAL LEADERSHIP. This name change reflects the role of the professional today – as a leader working in true partnership with top volunteer leadership where the professional is counted on for their deep knowledge and expertise.

As part of my speech, I shared the following:

Relying on lay partners does not minimize the role and impact of the professional and yes, sometimes it can take additional time to include lay partners in a process. It makes the professional that much better. I have experienced that time and time again over the years. I have learned so much from my lay partners and to me, that is what continues to keep the work fresh and exciting…Working in partnership with our volunteer leaders has been and continues to be one of the greatest blessings I have experienced in this work.

That last sentence is so true. We are so lucky in Pittsburgh to have such talented, intelligent, diligent and dedicated volunteers. The partnership between volunteers and our professionals is the “secret sauce” that makes this Federation and this community so exceptional. For sure, Federation has done so many incredible things in just the past few years including our response to the shooting, our efforts to support the community through the pandemic, our planning process around Jewish cemeteries, our strategy around security and so much more. None of it happens without that lay/pro partnership. None of it happens without leadership. Continuing to invest in the development of both our professional and volunteer leadership is core to our future success.

Shabbat Shalom.

P.S. It was so fantastic seeing many of our donors and volunteers last night at our Celebration Event in the parking lot of Highmark Stadium. Thanks to everyone who joined us and special thanks to our staff who ran around delivering food and ensuring everyone had a great night.

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