President’s Column: Finding Tomorrow’s Leaders
This is the inaugural class of the Hadassah Leadership Fellows, a program launched in December 2013 and designed to establish a pipeline for Hadassah leaders.
The need for this kind of program, which focuses on women between 25 and 50, is clear. For the first half of its history, Hadassah flourished on a set of familiar demographic conditions. Relatively few women worked outside the home and philanthropic organizations had few leadership positions for women. If you were a Jewish woman who wanted to make a difference in the world, it was a given that you not only joined Hadassah, but that you became active.
By the 1970s, that model was eroding, due to the growing number of women in the workforce and increasing opportunity for women in volunteer work—not just in Jewish philanthropy but in the wider world as well. Hadassah’s membership growth continued into the 1980s on the strength of our momentum and history, but the landscape was altered.
The world today is utterly changed from that of our mothers and grandmothers. Active involvement in volunteer activity is on the decline, and there are many more organizations and causes competing for the shrinking pool of women who make the time to repair the world. Jewish organizations are scrambling to find not only members but also young people who will be the torchbearers of the future.
In a two-year program, leadership fellows will be given opportunities to learn and grow; to perform volunteer work for Hadassah and the larger community; and to empower themselves by gaining professional skills that will have an impact on every aspect of their lives. The program will be based not only on leadership opportunities but also on core Hadassah values of philanthropy, self-realization, political awareness and an appreciation of Zionism and Israel.
Although the first class has participants from all over America, we have made an effort to concentrate on high-growth areas—which typically have a larger leadership vacuum—in the Sunbelt as well as in Ohio, the St. Louis area and Westchester County, New York.
The HLF is a pilot initiative, but those who have seen the first class can barely contain their enthusiasm over the talent pool, which inspires great optimism for the future. Today’s fellows will become part of an elite core group of respected women who can influence and guide Hadassah policies and programs for the next generation. And they can also be the mentors of the second leadership class, which will be chosen in 2015.
What we hope to create is a virtuous cycle, with new streams of educated and engaged volunteers—women nurtured on a sense of responsibility to connect Hadassah to a new and diverse group of volunteers, to raise our profile in their communities, grow membership and increase our pool of donors. This is nothing less than a systematic effort to reinvigorate Hadassah’s leadership.
Despite the changes in American society and in the philanthropic landscape, tomorrow’s leaders resemble those of yesterday in many ways. Take Michelle Hubertus, who lives in Short Hills, New Jersey, with her husband and three children. A managing director in the risk management department of Citibank, Michelle is active in her Hadassah chapter and her synagogue. She has served on her town council, been a PTO president, a Girl Scout troop leader and led the board of a local Jewish early education center. She is a frequent lecturer on capital and risk issues.
As the saying goes, if you want something done, give the task to a busy person. And Michelle is just one of the first class. More are coming.
For more information on the Hadassah leadership fellows, click here. Help make sure that in a world with many roads to fulfillment, the path to Hadassah is well marked.