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What Do We Learn?

Posted on 01/31/2014 @ 10:50 AM

This week, Judi Youngman, Amanda Minkoff, Manda Graizel, and Ira Dounn had the opportunity to hear Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth, speak at NYU. Below are some of our reflections from his talk.


We consider ourselves privileged to have sat in the audience of former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks on Wednesday night. As BBYO professional field staff, we were struck by his idea of leadership. In his view, there is no “one” who leads, but people working together in pursuit of a “collaborative truth.” Rabbi Sacks’ idea of collaborative truth was particularly poignant; he explained that two truths, even if they are contradictory, can simultaneously exist. Judaism is right, and so is Christianity. And Islam. Believing in the tenants of one religion doesn’t have to negate the others. We are all in God’s image, despite apparent and theoretical contradictions.

In BBYO, we see this manifesting itself in our membership: that despite our differences in our religious or nonreligious practices, we embrace all Jews into our chapters and into our regions. Membership is not just increasing TI numbers, but a reflection of how Judaism views humanity and an opportunity to engage one another in an active pursuit of a collaborative truth and leadership.
Amanda Minkoff and Judi Youngman, GJHRR


We’ve all done it. We have that kid who we say: "they’re a great kid, but they just aren't a leader." We pass them off, dismiss them, and figure out ways to work around them. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks talked about leadership as simply service to something bigger than you are. He spoke of Moses as "eved Hashem," a servant of God. He said that’s what kept Moses humble; he was serving something bigger than himself. We all have the ability – and maybe the requirement - to make a commitment to something greater than ourselves.

This has dramatic implications for BBYO. If we let go of the idea that leadership is charisma and accept the belief that leadership can be taught, then we can no longer dismiss the teen we think of as “not a leader. ” We can pinpoint the skills that are lacking in our leaders – accountability, organization, how to think big, how to think small – and then teach them. By shifting our shared definition of leadership, we have the ability to make it possible for any of the teens in BBYO to be leaders, as long as they have the desire and the passion to learn the skills of leadership.
Manda Graizel, BAR


And in closing, just two quick reflections on the reflections: 1. Having different takeaways from the talk exemplifies Rabbi Sacks’ point: We have different approaches and ways of understanding our world, and this diversity ought to be embraced. One of the profound statements that he made was: “The opposite of a minor truth is a falsehood. But it’s often the case that the opposite of a profound truth is another profound truth.” 2. It is important for us, as BBYO professionals, to engage in continual learning and growth. Please consider seeking out opportunities for your own Jewish learning and speak to Rachel Meytin, Rachel Hochheiser Schwartz, or a DJE about this.

This Shabbat Message was written by Judi Youngman, Senior Executive Regional Director of GJHRR; Amanda Minkoff, Program Director of GJHRR; Manda Graizel, Program Director of BAR; and Ira J. Dounn, Director of Jewish Enrichment for the Northeast Hub.

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