rGEN sends three to leadership retreat in Nashville to bond and interact with Israelis

 

BY EMMA PULLEY
rGEN Director
epulley@jewishjacksonville.org 

 

“The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been,” as Henry Kissinger said. However, for those of us emerging into the adult environment so strongly referred to as “the real world,” some of us are a little apprehensive about what that means. “Where they have not been,” could describe many locations, many milestones, and many experiences that we ourselves have yet to arrive. In this age of readily available information, it is still easy to feel a little lost and small in a world that is much bigger than ourselves.

 

Thankfully, I’ve had an opportunity that has lifted me out of those confines as this past November, I was fortunate to participate in the Leadership 2Gether program offered through the Jewish Federation of Jacksonville’s Israel Partnership Division. This learning cohort was comprised of a group of 20 young professionals- 10 Americans from the Southeast United States and 10 Israelis from our partner region of Hadera –Eiron. We spent 10 months paired together with guided lessons aimed at making cross cultural connections between our lives, our work, and our relationship to our Judaism.

 

At the end of the program, we spent an incredible week together here in Jacksonville and then in Nashville learning about local Jewish communities and discussing the responsibilities of the emerging adult generation and how we can each be a champion for evolving, inclusive Jewish life in our respective communities.

 

The gift of being together in the same place for a week helped us see that, despite the uniqueness of where we each come from, we are all facing the same questions and sharing the same hopes for the future. We could start to see in each other the eagerness to travel down the same roads together, even if we are still miles apart.

 

“Leadership” is a word more ambiguous than it may seem. The definition varies across temperaments and levels of confidence. I find that for myself, I often look for leaders in others and the absolute last place I look for a leader is my own mirror. But I should… Everything, all of it – the passion projects, the volunteerism, the fundraising, the connections – it starts with us. For all the good we wish to see in the world, we must set the example.

 

Whether or not we recognized it at the time, we had been leading each other – guiding language, behaviors, fashions, food choices, etc. We had been exercising influence and setting our own examples for others to respond to and it came more naturally than we realized.

 

For me, I discovered that leading is less about the ritual of buying a power suit or reading a self-help book and more about simple things like showing up and being present. Being a leader can be as easy as flashing a smile and letting someone know that they are welcome and that they belong.

 

I left Nashville with many things- a really cool water bottle, a Johnny Cash t-shirt, a ton of ideas, but my most prized souvenir was a greater sense of global community. In a short amount of time, a world that felt impossibly large suddenly didn’t feel so overwhelming. In my mind’s eye, I can see the kibbutz where my partner Calanit lives with her husband Inon and their three children. When I think of Israel, I don’t think of a place I haven’t been, I think of a home. I think of Mor, Adi, Maya, Yael, Cheli, Tlalit, Zohar and so many more.

 

This next generation has not just the responsibility, but the opportunity of turning the trepidation of “where they have not been” into the hope and possibility of “where they will go.” And I for one look forward to the challenges of the tomorrow – L’Chaim!