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Three Youth Orgs Form Hiring Collective

Read this story in the New York Jewish Week.

By Helen Chernikoff

In business, there’s a “war for talent,” but in the Jewish communal world, some organizations are feeling the love — they’re working together to hire and nurture the best employees.

Youth movement BBYO, campus group Hillel International and Moishe House, the global network of residences that build community for Jews in their 20s, announced last week that they have created the “Talent Alliance,” a shared mechanism for developing and promoting their 780 full-time employees.

The program emerged from conversations between the organizations about the problem of employees leaving the Jewish communal field to advance their careers, said Adam Simon, director of leadership initiatives for the Schusterman Family Foundation, which is a donor to all three and regularly brings its grantees together for strategy sessions.

“The Jewish community is not winning the talent game as often as we like,” said Simon, citing the “Leadership Pipelines Initiative,” a 2014 report from a group of Jewish funders that found that very few Jewish nonprofits do professional development, and almost no headhunting firms operate in the field to help employers and employees find each other.

A “career paths map” will show every position across the three organizations, and an employer within the alliance will determine benefits like time off and retirement contributions based on the total number of years an employee has worked for any of the three members. The organizations will also do joint training sessions.

“We want people to feel like we care about their growth and not just their service to Moishe House,” said David Cygielman, Moishe House founder and CEO.

A few online job boards post opportunities for Jewish professionals, and a small number of organizations offer systematic professional development, like JFNA’s Mandel Center for Leadership Excellence. But the degree to which BBYO, Hillel and Moishe House are planning to work together is new, said Steven Windmueller, an emeritus professor of communal service at Hebrew Union College.

Both Windmueller and Steven Noble, who ran the Mandel Center’s executive development program and teaches leadership at the Boston University School of Management, praised the idea.

But Noble also warned that the Talent Alliance needs to pair its effort with succession planning in order to demonstrate that its most prized employees have a shot at the top jobs.

The “Leadership Pipelines Initiative” reported that up to 90 percent of Jewish nonprofits must find new executive leadership in the next four to six years. It also quoted Noble’s research, which found in a 2012 study of 440 Jewish nonprofit CEOs that 91 percent had no formal succession plans.

“I would love to be a Jewish professional for the rest of my life but I’m not sure it’s feasible,” said Moishe House’s Midwest director, Eve Lowinger, 25, citing such concerns as financial security and career advancement. “Knowing this network is there reassures me.”

The costs of setting up the alliance — hiring lawyers to vet it, setting up a website — are minimal compared to the savings the organizations will achieve by reducing staff turnover, Simon said.

“Transitions are expensive for organizations,” he said.

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