Posts Tagged ‘Jewish leadership’


How do Leaders Look?

Posted on: November 3rd, 2011 by Hayim Herring

rear view mirrorDid you ever try to drive without a rear view mirror? What about driving with one of your side view mirrors sadly dangling from the doorframe? Or, have you had the experience of driving with an annoying crack in your front windshield or with your rear windshield covered with fog?

Over the years, I’ve had all of these experiences. (I remember, especially, the time when a certain family member dislodged the driver’s side view mirror while backing out of the garage, and then proceeded to blow a hole in the tire while driving in reverse over it—not recommended!)

None of these problems with windshields and mirrors are beneficial and, while they can be repaired, they are often costly and dangerous. They create unsafe driving conditions because while a good driver spends the majority of time looking ahead, he or she also has to look to either side and observe what’s coming up from behind.

And that’s what leadership is: spending some time understanding your organization’s past, being aware of what other organizations on either side of you are doing now, and primarily leading confidently and safely to the next destination.

If you’re a leader, ask yourself:

  1. How much energy do you spend mired in your organization’s past?
  2. How much time do you worry about what others to the right or left of you are saying?
  3. How much effort do you give to achieving your next big goal?

Within the Jewish community, we need fewer leaders who spend time reliving a past that is not returning. We need fewer leaders who move too timidly because they are concerned about what those around them will say if they take a new route. We need leaders who, while sensitive to hindsight and peripheral vision, know that their primary task is to look ahead and give confidence to those whom they lead to do so as well.

We are the Biblical Abraham and Sarah’s spiritual heirs, whom God commanded lekh lekhah–journey forth. We can draw upon their courage and confidently move ahead into the future, even if we don’t have complete knowledge of where we are going. That’s what faith is ultimately about. Like Abraham, authentic leaders look ahead.


Rabbi Hayim Herring

The Jewish Future: Probable, Possible, Preferable – A Response to Dr. Steven Windmueller

Posted on: July 24th, 2009 by Hayim Herring

Dr. Steven Windmueller, a highly-respected scholar of Jewish communal life, published a paper this past Monday entitled, “The Unfolding Economic Crisis: Its Devastating Implications for American Jewry.” He writes, “The full impact of the current economic crisis may not be felt for years….The long-term outcome of the transformation is likely to be a far weaker, less cohesive American Jewish community… In turn, a communal system weakened by scandal and economic dislocation will inevitably be less powerful.”  For Windmueller, the future is dark.

But as sociologists like to say, we have to distinguish between the probable, the possible and the preferable.  Absent fundamental change, Windmueller is probably correct.  But the future he portrays is not inevitable. Our ability to create the kind of future we prefer is an issue of collective leadership and collaborative action.

Far before the economic crisis, 5 significant transitions, that spanned several decades, have occurred in American culture. We have transitioned from or are currently transitioning from the age of:

These overlapping transitions have also impacted upon the American Jewish community and its historical and emerging organizations.

Without minimizing the irreparable economic pain of the moment, none of these transitions are related to the economic crisis nor are our responses to them dependent upon large sums of money. Rather, they’re about values, new thinking and capabilities. Because now, if we’re really serious, we can:

Of course, anyone who loves the Jewish people and community would loudly proclaim “Yes we should!” But here’s the rub: we can now say, “Yes we can!” and that obligates us to get to work in new ways.

As Windmueller notes, we’re going to see continued downsizing of organizations. But that means we have to upsize our ideas and creativity. What we’ve lost economically, we can compensate for in large measure with ideas, technologies and vision. We can create the preferable future of a proud and flourishing Jewish community. If we let the current data drive us to darkness, the fault will be ours.

Please—respond with one creative idea you’ve seen or are thinking about that offers hope for the Jewish future. If I receive enough responses, I’ll be sure to post them.

Thanks, Rabbi Hayim Herring