Attracting Jewish Leaders
The roots of PLP run deep into Jewish Detroit. PLP is the
ay you are a secular Jew — unaffiliated with a syna-
brainchild of our Federation CEO, Robert Aronson. PLP co-
gogue, unconnected communally, indifferent toward
founders include local mega-philanthropists Bill Davidson and
Israel. You don't seek out Jewish services or programs.
Marcia and Eugene Applebaum. Bill Berman and Stanley
You don't care about Jewish leadership.
Frankel are local PLP donors. The New York-based Jewish
But should you be concerned about who is at the helm of
Life Network/Steinhardt Foundation and the Tulsa-based
the Jewish community and what it offers the hungry, sick,
Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation also sup-
young or aging?
port PLP. New Yorker Michael Steinhardt is chairman of
Jewish Renaissance Media, owner of the Detroit Jewish News.
Concern for the less fortunate is central to being Jewish. It's
PLP is based in L.A. because Aronson wanted Uziel, who
a Judaic tenet, however Torah observant you are. So, clearly,
now lives there, to head it. She's a Southfield High graduate
the organized Jewish world that serves us
and past Camp Tamarack counselor. Her background includes
hinges on the professionals who lead us.
13 years on the Washington staff that serves university Hillels.
But we can't force uninterested Jews to feel
Uziel's optimism about our Jewish future uplifts at a time
a part of this world.
when so many of us wonder if our kids and grandkids, amid
They must have the will to resist the
deeper Jewish assimilation and acceptance, will enjoy a vigor-
tugs of assimilation, ignorance and apathy.
ous Jewish community 20 years from now
It's easier to be a proud
Her letter in the PLP's just-released 2005
American who happens to
study convinced me that we may be headed
be Jewish than a proud Jew
ROBERT A. who also is proud to be an
American. Stirring the
imagination and excitement
Rhoda Weisman Uziel:
of uninvolved Jews thus
becomes the key to winning them over to par-
Driving hard to engage a
ticipation in and support of the Jewish commu-
new generation of Jewish
nity. We'll remain a people only if we have ral:-
lying points and effective leadership.
Leadership is now on Detroit Jewry's radar
given that several local communal leaders have
announced career moves. Their workloads will
be covered through hires, promotions and work
toward a Jewish leadership crisis but we also
consolidation, but attracting top-tier candidates
can avert it. The serum lies in our 20- and 30-
to fill any vacancies won't be easy.
somethings building successful lives from their wisdom and
Nationwide, the candidate pool is beginning to refill slowly.
dreams, while parlaying their skills and experience toward the
More Jews in their 20s and 30s with a Big Ten, Ivy League or
greater good of something they care about: their Jewish identi-
other well-regarded degree, and who are leaders in business,
law, medicine, science, public service or the arts, are pursuing
What turns off future leaders? Jewish institutions that reject
paid or volunteer Jewish leadership opportunities.
new ideas, keep mediocre leaders, lack the heart to take calcu-
lated risks and don't resist wasteful duplicated services — all of
"Because of all the things they can spent their time on and
which are out of step with a more questioning generation.
give their talents to, they're finding that enhancing and grow-
Uziel cited this promising finding of the PLP study, done by
ing Jewish life brings profound meaning, terrific connections
Brandeis University's Cohen Center for Modern Jewish
and networking, new job opportunities and lasting relation-
Studies: a high percentage of professionals, so crucial to stay-
ships," says Rhoda Weisman Uziel, executive director of the
Professional Leaders Project (PLP), a bold national initiative to ing in prime on the Jewish communal lifecycle, expressed
average to above-average satisfaction with their work lives.
assure a steady flow of Jewish leaders from generation to gen-
I'm not stunned by the study's recommendations for raising
the bar: coordinated recruitment, subsidized training, continu-
Last year, PLP's first class included more than 100 social
ing education, controlled time demands,
entrepreneurs, from Detroit and else-
family-friendly policies, improved career
where, who have a zest for Judaism. The
Points to Ponder
ladders, no gender bias, mentor-minded
project strives to make Jewish communal
supervisors, competitive wages, enhanced
work appealing to rising stars finishing
respect for communal workers.
degree work, in postgraduate studies or
Would you encourage a
Excellence must drive the Professional
job hunting. Not surprising, Jewish
young person who is
Project. Its standards cannot wilt.
camps, schools and youth groups com-
Our collective support must be strong.
prise the primary gateway into Jewish sec-
Other major Jewish groups must be in
Today, PLP alumni volunteer, mentor
Do you worry about the
Take it from Rhoda Weisman Uziel:
and lead because Jewish values and tradi-
state of American Jewry
20- and 30-somethings
tions resound. Young adults already
and its leadership
do just about anything
plugged in to the Jewish community have
15 years from now?
with their time. We must give them the
a leg up on drawing their uninspired
righ t reasons to choose us and keep choos-
Jewish peers to the joy that is Judaism cul-
The Jewish Sector's
ing us." ❑
turally if not religiously.
271 WEST MAPLE
THURSDAY EVENINGS 'TIL