Reposted with thanks to eJewishPhilanthropy.

[Cindy retired earlier this year after spending almost 18 years with the Wexner Foundation. This is the final lecture she gave to the Alumni of The Wexner Graduate Fellowship.]

I grew up in Montreal in an immigrant family — my father was the first to be Canadian born and my extended family continued to live the European experience in Canada. With this background came both incredible stories and huge challenges. I am a product of day school, summer camp, youth movements, like BBYO, and Zionism was part of our family and community DNA.

I knew early in my adolescence that I wanted to work in the Jewish community and aspired to positions of leadership like those peers and counsellors I admired.

Leadership emerges from one’s own life stories — your family, life experiences, coaches, teachers, friends, youth group leaders, counsellors at camp and the best mentors one can find, regardless of gender. Sometimes leadership is strengthened by wanting to prove oneself. In my own personal narrative, I grew up in a family that didn’t believe in praise. Perhaps it had to do with tempting the evil eye, and/or being part of the immigrant experience of pushing the next generation towards success, and not settling for less.

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Get To Know The Author

Cindy Chazan retired as Vice President of The Wexner Foundation. In this capacity, she facilitated collaborations among the Wexner leadership constituencies in North America and in Israel, developed partnership communities for the Wexner Heritage Program and engaged Jewish communities in greater leadership development activities. She holds a BA in Jewish Studies from McGill University and an MA in Contemporary Jewish Studies from Brandeis University. As a lay leader, Cindy is a founding Board Member of Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community and is on the Board of the Jewish Funders Network.