June 12, 2020
Good Morning JFSA Community.
I would be remiss to begin my first official letter without a thank you and yasher koach (“strength be with you”) to my predecessor, Ronit Sherwin. As Ronit transitions over the next few weeks, away from our San Antonio community and back to her home state of Ohio, I want to take this opportunity to mention her legacy.
Ronit devoted six years of her life to passionately lead our San Antonio Jewish community at the helm of the Jewish Federation. We are all familiar with the joke, “two Jews, three opinions”, so I encourage you to consider what it must have been like for her to lead a community of almost 10,000 Jews! As Golda Meir was said to have told U.S. President LBJ, “You may be the president of 200 million people, but I am the prime minister of two million presidents.” In fact, it is in this week’s Torah portion, Beha’alotecha, where we read of Moses’ lowest emotional point of his leadership career, “Why have I not found favor in Your eyes that You place the burden of this entire people upon me?” (Numbers 11:11).
We are not an easy community to lead. But, nonetheless, Ronit did so with a dedication, commitment, and belief that we are stronger together, and that we can do so much more if we unify our resources and are strategic in envisioning our future Jewish community together.
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks described this week’s Torah portion as one that identifies two types of leadership styles, technical leadership and adaptive leadership. Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt in the Book of Exodus using his technical leadership skills. But now, in the Book of Numbers, now that this nation is a free nation, with free speech, open opinions, no longer passive and dependent, Moses must transition to an adaptive leadership style… and this style requires a strength of conviction to hear the peoples’ complaints, empower their independence, nurture their ideas, and yet still do what was in the collective groups’ best interest. It is this burden to respect our individuality, our multitude of personal opinions, and our often passionate and contradicting convictions, yet continuously strive to bring us under one collective tent that causes Moses’, our greatest leader and role model for how to do the job, to say enough is enough!
Well, Ronit, I want to start by saying thank you! Thank you too, to all the lay leaders and fellow staff to whom I am also greatly indebted. In paraphrasing the words of our sages, I stand on the shoulders of those who came before me!
I look forward to getting to know the members of our community and I eagerly embrace the responsibility to lead our Jewish Federation of San Antonio in the next chapter of our collective Book of Life.