“The eternity of Israel shall not disappear.”
–Samuel I, 15:29
“There is no Beit Midrash, without innovation (Hidush).”
–Tosefta Sotah 7:9
“All things are mortal but the Jew … What is the secret of his immortality?”
–Mark Twain, Concerning the Jews
“It is not the strongest of species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the most adaptable.”
–Leon Megginson on Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species
One of the great Jewish paradoxes of our time is between power and vulnerability. The Jewish People has never been more powerful, yet it has rarely been as vulnerable. This reality must challenge us to a new kind of leadership, what I call Flexigid leadership.
Jewish power at the beginning of the 21st century is visible to the entire world, particularly in the State of Israel and in the United States of America. However, our vulnerability has risen as well: we are now perhaps over-concentrated in two cultural, political and economic polities, Israel and the USA; some of the unique features of the Jewish People, such as our global spread and universal education, have become common to many people or “nations”; and our societal DNA, which has ensured our resilience, prosperity, and leadership, has been changing at unprecedented pace.
Therefore, the Jewish People needs more “flexigid leaders” who are focused on its “big picture“. Leaders whose interventions are inspired by a holistic, broad, historic, and systemic view of Jewish society, and who focus on fundamental elements such as law, membership, community institutions and language, as well as on collective prosperity and security.
All flexigid leadership is necessarily “adaptive leadership” as defined by Ron Heifetz, a key faculty member during the Israel Fellowship year at the Harvard Kennedy School. Such leadership is about engaging with challenges to the security and prosperity of the Jewish community and Jewish People, which stem from societal, political and technological changes that undermine the status-quo, and force us to deep learning and to adaptation. It must emanate from a broad understanding of the workings of Jewish society, which is essential for serving it.
Thus, the Flexigidity Project evolved from my attempt to create a framework for understanding the secret of the success of Judaism, Zionism and Israel, in order to inform and guide my own leadership work and that of the Reut Institute, which I founded and now head together with Roy Keidar (WIFA Class 19) and Netaly Ophir-Flint (WIFA Class 24). I was intrigued by Mark Twain’s query about the secret of Jewish immortality and by other questions such as: why does the Jewish People house both the most conservative and the most progressive factions in humanity? Why are Jews so united yet so divided? Why are Jewish communities so similar while no two are identical? And why is anti-Zionism as integral to Judaism as Zionism? In this journey of discovery, I came to realize that Zionism’s success stems from the mechanisms and dynamics that ensured the resilience, prosperity and leadership of the Jewish People in the Diaspora over millennia.
Flexigidity is a portmanteau, created by combining the words ‘flexibility’ and ‘rigidity’ to capture the secret of Jewish survival, security, prosperity and leadership throughout the centuries. It relates to Judaism’s unique societal hybrid of new and old, innovation and tradition, unity and adversity, flexibilities and rigidities: flexigidity. These tensions are structured into and inherent in our society, never to be resolved, powerfully optimizing our collective adaptability. The Flexigidity Project seeks to explore these mechanisms by uniquely combining a self-published book – titled Flexigidity: The Secret of Jewish Adaptability and the Challenge and Opportunity Facing Israel – and a soon-to-be-launched web-platform to support a broad mass-deliberation on the ideas of Flexigidity by people who want to enrich, challenge, and develop them.
Throughout the writing of Flexigidity, I particularly had the Wexner community in mind, as a pool of talent with unlimited potential for flexigid leadership. I now look forward to engaging with you. Please follow us on our facebook page so you can join the online conversations we will be sponsoring in the coming months. And if you live in the New York area, I will be speaking about Flexigidity at a Wexner Foundation Lunch and Learn on March 12th at 12:30 pm. Hope to hear from you.
Gidi Grinstein, a Wexner Israel Fellowship alum (Class 13), is the Founder and President of the Reut Institute, Israel’s leading not-for-profit strategy and action group. Gidi’s new book Flexigidity: The Secret of Jewish Adaptability and the Challenge and Opportunity Facing the State of Israel, can be found here. Endorsements for Flexigidity include Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman, Avraham Infeld, and Dr. John Ruskay. Gidi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.