Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner says…
As leaders, one of our most important qualities might be courage. Courage to draw attention to the difficult questions (naming the elephant in the room) and to enter challenging situations, even when you might want to run away in the opposite direction.
This is not easy; seeking approval and remaining firmly within comfort zones is much less demanding. People in positions of institutional leadership have to continually earn respect and their position and not assume that their title entitles them to anything. As leaders, we should have the courage to reshape our own leadership.
Structures should be permeable and collaborative. Young people in particular do not have a deferential approach to institutional authority and this is fully understandable. When leaders can take risks, there is a possibility of effecting real change for the good of individuals and for our wider communities.
We are blessed that, in Jewish communities, we have so much voluntary leadership, which is democratic and rotates among community members. Jewish leadership is also about being in partnership with God, as we all are. Being in a communal leadership role is a joy and a privilege; one for which I am most grateful.
• Laura Janner-Klausner is senior rabbi to the Movement for Reform Judaism
Gabe Pogrund says…
I am writing this at Limmud Conference in Warwick, an event where everyone and no one is a leader. Here there are no distinctions between participants and
presenters, no volunteer that is identifiably more senior or responsible that any one else. It resembles the opposite of the Jewish community’s Byzantine leadership structure, and its division along ideological lines.
Participants can express being Jewish in the most free and open way. This is non-hierarchical and democratising Jewish leadership: it’s why Limmud conference is the greatest expression of Jewish creativity in the UK and why the model has been replicated the world over. Our leaders should stimulate conditions for a community that is inclusive and empowering in a similar way.
We should judge them by looking to ourselves – our own cultural/religious vibrancy – not their rhetorical skills or individual flair. The Queen is the figurehead of an institution whose very nature makes the diffusion of power and responsibility impossible – a model, through no fault of her own, for ineffective leadership. Our leaders should embody the opposite.
• Gabe Pogrund is a a Madrich for RSY-Netzer