By Mimi Kravetz
Shortly after graduating college, I joined a cohort of like-minded, passionate new graduates to be emissaries and implementers of what was, at the time, a radical idea in Jewish life: getting outside of our buildings to create deeply connected relationships with those on the periphery of the Jewish community. Whether tabling while dressed as potato latkes, or running Hookah in the Sukkah events, my fellow Steinhardt Jewish Campus Service Corps (JCSC) colleagues and I joined Hillel to become living embodiments of this new way of working in the Jewish world. The program masterfully created young influencers that grew into many of today’s Jewish leaders. The notion of relationship-based engagement has now become the way we do our work at Hillel and throughout the Jewish community. What once was innovative has thankfully now become the standard practice for most Jewish organizations.
JCSC was a powerful program that creatively and effectively addressed a critical problem facing the Jewish community at the time. Today, we face hurdles of a different nature, and we need to think creatively about what we can do to overcome them. Now that we’ve become better at building deep relationships with these Jews where they’re at, we need to keep thinking creatively about how we build our communities in new ways that will be compelling and give people a reason to join us beyond these initial engagement relationships. Since the time of the JCSC fellowship, many emerging Jewish organizations have taken on efforts to bring innovation and design into our sector. Still, in some respects our communities still lag far behind the thinking and practices of the day. For example, too many Jewish organizations have not built the digital infrastructure and fostered the online communities they need to thrive in the 21st century.
Hillel International is making a bet through our new Springboard Fellowship. We think that we can again bring new ideas to our whole community, and use those new ideas in our special place on college campuses to attract and train the Talent pipeline our sector so desperately needs. At the same time we can utilize the best practices in Jewish education to make them competent and committed Jewish communal professionals.
If we are to build sustainable and dynamic communities, we must educate and train highly qualified talent who are committed to our community and ready to serve.
Through the Springboard Fellowship we’re piloting this year, Hillel International hopes to eventually place hundreds of recent college graduates at local Hillels, training them as cohorts each year with rich Jewish knowledge and the latest, most highly-valued, widely applicable organizational skills. This year we’re beginning with a pilot program at 20 local Hillels, including Hillel 818 in Los Angeles, Beach Hillel in Long Beach and UC San Diego Hillel.
We believe these particular specialty areas will convince some of those ambitious new graduates who might have never considered a career in the Jewish communal world that they can bring and grow their skills with us. And, we believe that training in these areas will help those already inclined to work in the Jewish community, or already working as part of our sector, to become even more successful in our organizations and elsewhere.
The next generation of young professionals in the Jewish world should receive the training and mentorship to become Jewishly knowledgeable innovators, advocates and strategists within our Jewish community. Their careers – as they move in and out of the Jewish professional world – will be stronger for it, and our communities will benefit from their talent and development.
The Jewish world must then come together and ensure that all of our organizations are excellent places to work – those that empower people at all levels, seek and implement new ideas, offer flexibility, and employ top-notch workplace practices to welcome this talent [and for that matter, to keep our existing top talent] and show them that we have opportunities to grow beyond these two years. All of our organizations will be well served if we pursue these goals together.
Hillel International is starting something new with the launch of the Springboard Fellowship, but it’s built on a foundation set by so many other organizations in the Jewish community. We need to think creatively together – no matter our differences in mission, ideology or denomination – about the skills we need and the training we offer. More importantly, this talent pipeline effort will only be truly successful if like-minded organizations expand the opportunities for our next generation of leaders. We’re excited to work with many of you and together we pursue this noble goal.
Mimi Kravetz is Hillel International’s first Chief Talent Officer, prior to that she oversaw Marketing for People Operations at Google. To learn more about the Springboard Fellowship, visit www.hillel.org/springboard.