November 6, 2020
Early in my career, while sitting through a management training course on leadership, the audience was asked to share their thoughts in small group settings. I had the opportunity to be part of a group with up-and-coming community and agency leaders, who have since had long and distinguished careers. Their insights were perceptive and discerning, however, while they focused on the leader, I was imagining the people being led. I imagined how the leader understood the people’s needs, how this leader made the necessary decisions to keep the people united, motivated, and hopeful along their journey together. It was as a result of this training, that I realized the aphorism, “In order to be a great leader one must first learn how to follow.”
Avraham Avinu (“Abraham our father”) is known as THE patriarch of the Jewish people, as well as the father of the Muslim nation, and all the other monotheistic faiths. Abraham is commonly known as the first person in the bible who breaks away from the common culture and sets himself and his family on a path to seek a world with greater reason and higher understanding. This could have been Noah only a few chapters ago, however, Noah was identified as “a righteous man in his generation” (Gen. 6:9). Noah’s generation did not want to be led, which sentenced them to the perils of the flood. Noah never learned what it meant to be led, therefore, he wasn’t in a position to lead the others when the time came.
In this week’s Vayera Torah portion, we see Gd “test” Abraham to see if humanity had reached a point of development where they could learn to follow. In a matter of only a few chapters Abraham experiences pain, joy, laughter, anger, fear, parenthood, love, loss, faith, and so much more! It is because of all of these experiences, unlike Noah, that Abraham was now prepared to lead the way because he understood taking other people’s perspectives into account.
BUT, like my experience at the training so many years ago, my focus today is not on the potential leaders, rather, it is on our community, our nation, our citizens. We are at a time of uncertainty, apprehension, and even fear. Not only are we deep into a pandemic with an unknown timeline for an antidote, we are in the thick of a cultural and identity crisis sweeping our country. We have lost great trust in our elected officials because of decades of personal agendas, legalese, obfuscation, and political strife, and although our human inclination is to congregate and socialize, we are unnaturally distant and alone, and because of these unique conditions we are primed for emotional outbursts, heated debate, passionate discourse, and irrational behaviors. This is not an excuse, but rather a recognition that calm, pause, reflection, and consideration be our elevated virtues at this time.
As of the writing of this column, we still do not have an announced President-elect. We have a nation divided. I never understood how nature manages to balance itself with an approximately 50:50 male to female ratio, but it is as if we have found that same balance in our nation, 50% on the left, and 50% on the right. Maybe this is our natural tendency? Maybe this is how we keep the scales of our community in check? Maybe this is how it is supposed to be? Maybe, just like our unique differences between the men and women of the world we need the other half to keep perpetuating and growing and developing as humankind, maybe we need the other side of the aisle to keep our perspectives in check and for our nation to grow and develop? Maybe this is how it’s supposed to be?
So, as an eternal optimist let’s assume it is supposed to be this way, and let’s embrace our differences and learn from one another. Let’s listen to why our neighbor thinks the way they do. Let’s learn a new way to consider the same situation, even if we think differently and desire a different outcome!
Here at the Jewish Federation we do not support one side of the aisle’s views as any more important or truer than the other. We do not provide any additional resources to one side or the other, and we do not promote one view over another. Here we bring the two sides of the community under one proverbial tent specifically to keep the scales in balance!
So, as always, we encourage you to always remember, the Jewish Federation is:
HERE for you.
HERE for our Community.
HERE for our future.