Dara is a Recruitment Consultant for DRG and has more than a decade of experience working with Jewish non-profits.  Her work at DRG is focused in the areas of both informal and formal Jewish education, and in identifying a next generation of Jewish professional leadership.  She can be reached at dklarfeld@drgnyc.com 

In the Jewish community, the crisis of executive leadership is very acute. Hundreds of Jewish organizations will, in the very near future, experience a significant turnover in their leadership. In a recent survey commissioned by the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, the expectation for executive turnover is also above 40% in the coming five years.   However, only 25% of executives at Jewish nonprofits surveyed could identify an “up and coming star” that could run their organization after them. In addition, the majority of executives could not think of where their successors might be found. This leaves the community confronted with a sense of uncertainty, frustration, and concern about the capacity of a next generation of professionals who have the skills and experiences to serve in senior leadership roles in the coming years. 

In planning for future leadership of the Jewish community, it is important to identify and to follow the careers of professionals who are rising stars in their field and to have access to these professionals, and the next generation of executives, at an appropriate moment.  Accordingly, it is key to identify and cultivate a “pipeline” of professionals.

In order to identify and cultivate a strong next generation of executives in the Jewish community, the pipeline of professionals needs to be grounded in the notion of collective responsibility:

1.  It is the responsibility of communal organizations to mentor and train young professionals, with the understanding that they will likely take those learned skills  and apply them down the road to their work in a different organization.  Although trained elsewhere, the hope is that the cycle of leadership will land them in a senior professional capacity in an organization serving the greater communal collective.

2.    It is the responsibility of current senior executives to prioritize and enable an organizational infrastructure which incubates young talent.   Executive development is not just about coursework, seminars and conferences but in having the opportunity to handle executive responsibilities.  This is a widely appreciated  notion, but as many senior executives tell us, the work at hand is often overwhelming  in scope, and to allow for a professional structure which provides successful outcomes for the organization, will at minimum require additional funding, and will most certainly remove professionals from their day-to-day  responsibilities.

3.    It is the responsibility of the lay leadership to recognize the limits of human capacity, and to make sure that executive leaders have the appropriate professional support and access to their own professional development opportunities which are a prerequisite for a successful and appropriate tenure in a position.

As a premier example, The Wexner Graduate Fellowship has been, and continues to be a trailblazer in the Jewish community for nurturing and supporting young professional talent and grooming the next generation.  The early classes of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship Alumni community are beginning to lead the way in taking on challenging and important executive roles in the Jewish community, which is critical to addressing the crisis.

Looking ahead, developing a wide spread cadre of younger professionals who are not yet ready for senior executive positions, but who one day will have the critical skills and experiences required to lead will bridge to the next generation of Jewish executive leadership.