Rhona Edelbaum Sloan is an alumna of the Wexner Heritage Program from San Francisco, is the President of the Board of the Holocaust Center of Northern California and can be reached at rhonaedelbaum@yahoo.com.

Shortly before graduating from the Wexner Heritage Program in 2008, I felt a kinship to Moses in his initial reluctance to accept G-d’s leadership plan.

My husband had been the Board President of the Holocaust Center of Northern California for the past five years.  He shepherded it through a strategic plan; raising money for and overseeing its move to the San Francisco Federation building; initiating and implementing a merger with the Bay Area Holocaust Oral History Project.  He was burnt out.  New leadership was needed, but no one was willing to assume the mantle.

A little voice inside me whispered – “You can do it; you should do it; you must do it.” I couldn’t ignore the voice.  Logically, it was insane.  I have three young children; a fine arts consulting business; a strong involvement in Federation. But that inner voice got louder and more insistent until finally, I shocked everyone by volunteering to take on the Presidency.

It’s not an easy role.  Most non-profits are struggling to fundraise, retain staff, maintain services and programs, keep their doors open and their lights on. These challenges inspire me because I believe so passionately in our Center’s mission of research, remembrance and education. We were the first  founded in the Western United States; the first to gather oral testimonies; the first to organize a Survivor’s Speaker Bureau; we have a 15,000-volume library; and a world-class archive and Yizkor book collection. 

I internalized Wexner’s message that true leaders lead because they feel compelled, not because it’s easy or convenient.  Sometimes, we must listen to that voice in the burning bush – after all, you never know who’s speaking.