From our inception 32 years ago, we have embraced Jewish diversity.
Kol yisraeil aravim zeh l’zeh…All Israel – the sages insist – is responsible, one for the other.
We stretch Wexner circles across different expressions of Jewish life while serving the broadest spectrum of Jews with a uniform sincerity. The Foundation’s methodology of developing leaders relies on building diverse cohorts of talented individuals who develop unique bonds. We count on you to honor each other’s truth without eroding the importance and vitality of your own. We are confident you will strengthen and sharpen one another's leadership agenda. We know this is not easy, particularly in a societal and political climate where indignation and insistence drown out dialogue and compromise. Abiding by established rules of engagement Heritage members are expected to conduct civil discourse across differences. We know this is not easy. On planet Wexner, giving others the benefit of the doubt as to their sincerity and integrity forms the baseline of healthy relationships. It enables the building of effective and enduring teams. Seek understanding, not consensus. Please, as we strive to do internally, talk to rather than at one another. We are responsible for one another.
We value emotional intelligence, binat lev, a heart of understanding.
The midrash teaches that the heart holds over 60 emotions. It sees, hears, speaks, stands, rejoices, weeps, and comforts. Emotional intelligence is measured by an intentional effort to be self-aware, to master reflective practice and demonstrate the capacity to listen, to manage our own desires, to face our fears and biases and to be open with our vulnerabilities, to be attentive to the full range of the heart itself. Each day in our Amidah we utter “Atah chonen l’adam da’at, u'melamed le’enosh binah”— “You grant to each person knowledge and teach the human being understanding.” The holy one gives out knowledge. Ah – but an understanding heart must be cultivated. Open heartedness requires a daily effort.
Practice patience. Savlanut.
Change in Jewish life is not sudden. Silver bullet…quick-fix thinking tends to oversimplify the reality that to move forward we need to be active on dozens and dozens of fronts. Patience paves the way to a discovery of what will advance our Jewish communities. Persistence is required to reveal our passions…and to connect those passions to purpose! Be slow to anger, we are told in Kohelet, lest anger define us. Instead, be defined by your sitzfleish, by your staying power and perseverance. Go slow to go fast. Savlanut. Patience, my friends is a precious value during the sometimes long hours, the drawn-out processes of decisive action.
We seek to live with humility, anavah.
Humility pushes open wide the gateway to new learning. It facilitates listening and the ability to self-coach. In a humble stance, we embrace our shortcomings and learn of our blind spots. The path to meaningful collaboration, necessary for a vibrant Jewish future, is built on a foundation of humility. Les says often, if he knew who had the Jewish future figured out, that is where he would put all of his money. He is diversifying. How? Through all of you. Candidly, humility might be the most challenging value to live out in a circle of high-powered individuals. That said, making room for others, knowing when to speak more/speak less and when to say nothing is paramount to the uniqueness of this program.
Savor to the fullest this precious opportunity to sit as a humble student. Every one of your Heritage classmates has something unique to teach you. In humility, you will discern just what that teaching is.
Rav Kook taught: it is not necessary to be afraid of greatness because it inspires us to do great things. But, he cautions, invest much effort in clinging to humility so that the greatness to which we aspire is for a holy purpose [2x].
Our fifth value is ceaseless curiosity, sakranut.
Imaginative questions require the use of special mind muscles. Plenty of smart people fail to knock on the door of wonder, fail to color outside the lines. Current organizational perimeters make us comfortable and lull us to be overly cautious in flexing our curiosity muscles. We habitually argue for "what we always have been" over energized tinkering and playful conversation about "what might we become?"
It was Einstein, of all people, who taught "curiosity is more important than intelligence." A large poster in in our Foundation office reminds us, “We cannot solve today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions.” Let go of assumptions and fill your Jewish life with commentary, questions, and alternative possibilities to the way it is. Be sure your to do lists routinely includes dreaming. We are the people of the questions, of hafoch ba v’hafoch ba, turn it and turn it even, or should I say especially when talking about our most cherished organizations.
Humor is required in our work. In Hebrew, of course, Simchah!
Joy is essential to leading, even – especially during seasons of despair. Laughter fuels our energy...leadership, though a serious undertaking should also be fun, playful and joyous. Leading should be uplifting – feeding and not diminishing the light of the neshama, our spirit and soul. In Ruach Chaim, an 18th century commentary to Pirkei Avot, we discover this energizing teaching "A person in a joyful mood can learn more in an hour than a somber person can learn in many hours."
Optimism – and in Hebrew there is no actual word, it is: אופטימיות in Hebrew:
We fill our kos kiddush, our wine cups, to the very top every Shabbos. It is a siman bracha, a sign that we are pursuing lives of full blessing.
Leaders must hold up high the promise of a brighter future. Research reveals that those who look on the brighter side of life actually seem to end up getting more sun. Belief in a better future makes the possibility of that future all the more probable. The pessimist accepts the world as it is, rather than seeing how the world ought to be. Our optimism is inevitably eroded by nightmarish cycles of ugliness and division, yet we cling to optimism. Each week, when we allow the dust of the prior six days to settle, we – again – fill our kos kiddush to the brim. The cup is full, and we repeat again and again l’chaim. To life.