Sam Stroum, Jack Benaroya, Herman Sarkowsky, Shirley Bridge, Althea Stroum — of blessed memory. These names are synonymous with leadership. Our Puget Sound Jewish community was built by strong leaders like these. Now, the next generation of Jews is being primed to steer our community into the future.
To help ensure a vibrant future, the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle is connecting up-and-coming Jewish leaders with the Advanced Leadership Development Program (ALDP). The training program prepares participants to serve on boards and committees of local Jewish organizations.
“Developing leadership skills will strengthen our community and ensure continuity and growth of Jewish life,” Federation CEO Keith Dvorchik says.
Under the direction of Clara Cantor at the Federation, the ALDP provides a valuable community resource by investing in emerging leaders and training them with the skills necessary to undertake lifelong leadership roles throughout the Jewish community. “We provide tangible knowledge, connections, and resources along with engaging each class in thoughtful discussions about our community and its rewards and challenges,” says Cantor. “I think that each of those things is essential to great leadership.”
To participate in the ALDP, members must be nominated by Jewish organization leaders and then submit applications detailing their interest in the program. The Federation selects 15 to 20 participants for each eight-month program.
“You essentially get a front-row seat to all the Jewish organizations and what they’re going through. Programs like this give you that regional perspective, so you can really make an informed decision about where to put your time and effort,” says 25-year-old attorney Julia Abelev, who is enrolled in ALDP’s current session to learn about volunteering on a community board. “It’s a really good springboard to getting involved in the Jewish community from an organizational standpoint.”
ALDP includes 12 sessions, four social and eight academic. Each academic session has a facilitator structuring the class around a topic, like the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s (JDC) Michael Novick on fundraising and development, or Rabbi Kate Speizer on community engagement and inclusivity. Each instructor fashions the sessions, but ALDP participants also collaborate and interact with each other.
Greg Gans, 28, who volunteers with the Holocaust Center for Humanity, says the current ALDP sessions have been crucial for helping him identify what he would like to focus on as an organizational leader. “The session based on Jewish philanthropy was very thought provoking, because it was about how Jewish philanthropy was different from other philanthropy,” he says. “It caused me to think about what was important in an organization to me.”
While ALDP participants are looking toward the future of Jewish Puget Sound and its organizations, Dvorchik believes that they must also look to the area’s past in order to effectively lead. For one of the ALDP sessions, the Federation partnered with the Washington State Jewish Historical Society to give participants a historical tour of Jewish Seattle.
“Learning from Puget Sound’s long, rich history will inform the choices our organizational leaders make for our community’s future,” Dvorchik says.
Howard Droker, who has a doctorate in history from the University of Washington, led the tour. He took ALDP students around Seattle to learn about local Jewish history, including the Central District where, as Droker says, “Eastern European and Sephardic Jews congregated to create Seattle’s Jewish neighborhood with its kosher stores, coffeehouses, and synagogues.”
“In order to understand our place in Seattle and the United States today and to intelligently deal with the future of the Jewish community, leaders should know what came before, how the community was shaped, and what were the successes and failures,” Droker says.
Abelev was excited for the tour. “Jewish history in Seattle is really nuanced,” she says. “Learning more about that puts things into context. I put a premium on knowing the background of places and how they came to be the way they are. Plus, I’m a sucker for a good tour.”