Responding to a need for revitalization

Editor’s Note: Harriet Rosen and Rabbi Elana Kanter co-authored this article. They both appeared on the June 15, 2018 Seekers of Meaning podcast here on You can listen to the podcast here.

How do you respond to a community in need of revitalization?

Develop young leadership through an approach that’s value-added. Because change is constant, the old leadership approaches needed rethinking.  The Women’s Leadership Institute’s success shows how the “old old” can become the “new new” through innovation and creativity.

The WLI draws on two components to make that happen: providing meaning through skill development and text study, and asking participants to commit their time and to develop a community program. In return, the Women’s Jewish Learning Center’s WLI offers extensive support, excellence in materials and teaching, wide collaboration opportunities and access to networks with diversity in age, backgrounds and affiliation.

The results to date: the critical and much sought target population, 25-45, is willing to make the commitment to community with this positive approach.

The first three cohorts, (2015-2018), of 30 young women developed 27 successful community projects in the Greater Phoenix area. Each mentor has created support, advice, access, direction and information for the mentee. Each, mentor and mentee, contributes and invests in her community as the monthly learning of skills and text, the one-on-one mentor/mentee sessions and the mentee’s project develop. Relationships and networks form; ideas pop; and, new collaborations evolve.

Now entering the program’s fourth year with its fourth local cohort, there will be three pilot projects beginning in other communities. Based on the project’s solid track record, it has “legs.”  The curriculum, approach and process are being shared and supported so this program can help other communities reach the same results. Young, educated leadership with practical experience are moving onto boards and committees, bringing their skills and knowledge, their enthusiasm and respect for Jewish values to their participation.

Women, often the underused population in decision making and in key leadership roles, are now moving onto this community’s boards. Study after study says that women’s presence adds to the growth and well-being of organizations. Future leadership needs to be skilled, knowledgeable about Jewish values and enthusiastic about the potential for continued growth.

This program gives participants experience with the realities of making projects work. They have the skills and the network to make collaboration natural in community work and to bring their talents forward for the next generation. When the old is revitalized and the new is embraced, the entire community thrives.

For more information, visit the Women’s Jewish Learning Center website.


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