Leadership Initiative

In February 2017, The Jewish Education Project will pilot a new Leadership Initiative that will require the partnership of directors of education and a senior clergy member at approximately six area congregations. Pairs from each congregation will develop their leadership skills as professional and personal change agents to increase efficacy and impact in their communities. This initiative will allow participants the opportunity to delve deeply into their own leadership capacities, work on partnership strategies, become familiar with adaptive leadership and design thinking theory, and begin to implement change in their own congregation.

Meet our Coaches:

For more information, please contact Rabbi Jennifer Goldsmith, our Director of Congregational learning, at jgoldsmith@thejewisheducationproject.org.


BACKGROUND:

Building on the important work of the Experiment in Congregational Education (ECE) and the Leadership Institute (run jointly by JTS and HUC), The Jewish Education Project has spent the past decade collaborating with the professional staff, clergy, teachers and lay leaders at more than 100 congregations to help them develop models of learning that are successfully engaging children and families. Today there are dozens of congregations in the New York area who are providing better quality and more engaging Jewish education because of models we introduced and professional development and coaching that our agency has provided.

We find ourselves at an interesting moment for congregational schools because there is both very positive and very troubling news about them. On the one hand, there are many examples of new and exciting models of religious school education that are having much success; on the other hand, we know that congregational school enrollment overall is in decline as synagogue membership declines, as well. But we believe that the “news” – both the positive and the negative – provides an opportunity for positive change, especially as we seek to invest in and elevate the role of clergy as part of that change. Across the liberal streams, rabbis are keenly interested in stemming the tide of decline in congregational schools and a significant number of them have indicated that they are motivated to take an active role in strengthening their congregational schools.

OUR THEORY OF CHANGE:

Only strong leadership teams, with an honest understanding of the root causes of the challenges that they face, a deeper empathy of their multiple stakeholders, and the knowledge and skills of how to confront these challenges, will have the self-awareness and willingness to take the risks that are crucial to succeeding at implementing the changes they seek and will allow Jewish education to thrive in today’s ever-changing world.

In order to develop these sought after skills in local educational leaders, our 12 month initiative will: Introduce leadership teams to the key concepts of Adaptive Leadership that will provide a framework for them to view the complex problems that they are facing; Develop strong leadership teams that hold respect and collaboration as foundations that enable them to confront their adaptive challenges better together; Ensure leadership teams understand that an empathetic understanding of multiple stakeholders is the key to designing any solutions; Introduce leadership teams to Immunity to Change theory that allows them to confront the resistances inevitably come along with change; Provide ongoing coaching that supports leadership teams grappling with these changes; and develop a network of change agents with Jewish education that support one another and influence the field of Jewish education.

In order to be able to provide these new skills to our congregational teams we have enlisted a number of experts in the field of leadership and change as well as strong coaches who understand this work. Maya Bernstein, a consultant based in New York City and cofounder of UpStart Bay Area, a nonprofit accelerator that supports innovation in the Jewish community, will help facilitate our kick off day in February 2017 sharing the theory behind Adaptive Leadership and getting our participants excited for the journey they are beginning. In March the participants will have a 2-day retreat with facilitators from The Center for Creative Leadership to help assess and develop each participant’s leadership and team building skills. The remainder of the initiative will be tailored to each congregation’s needs helping them think through their own barriers to change and taking actions steps to overcome those and create the change they envision. Three coaches will help make this a reality: Rabbi Jennifer Goldsmith, Rabbi Michael Mellen and Debra Brosan.

During the year-long initiative we hope to facilitate an experience that will allow for the clergy person and the director of education to understand each other’s leadership styles better in order to partner more effectively. To support the team in creating a compelling educational vision and mission for their congregation. And to work with them to develop small noticeable changes that positively affect the leadership at the congregation as well as the education being delivered.

By the completion of the initiative we hope each congregation will have a strong educational vision and mission that is supported by the whole community; that the teams will have adopted an “adaptive leadership” approach to their work that allows them to better confront all complex problems moving forward; that the team will bring new skills to bear in working with their staffs, thereby increasing the impact of the initiative to whole teams of professionals; and more constituents in each participating congregation will receive higher quality Jewish education because of this work.