Reflections on a Visit to Amsterdam’s Jewish Community

When we think of the Jews of Europe and their present struggle against anti-Semitic and anti-Israel attitudes, we have to appreciate the richness of the lives they have and their desire to continue to live in their communities. By Stephen G. Donshik Last week I had the opportunity to spend some time in Amsterdam, most of which I spent in the neighborhoods where a significant number of Jews live. The initial reason for my visit was to see several very special museum exhibits: one at the Rijks Museum of Rembrandt’s late years, an exhibit of large portraits of groups and individuals at the Amsterdam Hermitage, and two fascinating exhibits at the Jewish Historical Museum on the Jews of the Caribbean and of Indonesia. However, my mother died six weeks ago, which meant I had to plan the visit around … [Read more...]

The New Immigrant and the Israeli Nonprofit Organization


I meet with four to six new olim (immigrants) from North America each month as they seek my counsel and advice during their search for meaningful work in Israel’s voluntary sector. Most of the time olim are referred to me by people who know me or have heard of my work in the third sector in Israel. I have been on the new immigrant networking list for many years, and I am happy to share my suggestions, expertise, and experience with them. I am always struck by the experiences they have had learning to negotiate the Israeli nonprofit sector. It is not unusual for bright, talented, experienced, creative, and personable professionals from a variety of backgrounds to feel a great sense of frustration as they meet with their Israeli colleagues working for various voluntary organizations. Often they are … [Read more...]

Knowing How to Say Goodbye: The Process of Letting Someone Go

you're fired

Terminating employees is a part of our professional lives in the Jewish community, and we should strive to handle what needs to be done in the most professional and sensitive manner. By Stephen G. Donshik There is no question that it is easier to hire someone than it is to fire someone. Similarly it is more comfortable to be hired than to be fired. However, the firing process is less painful and more responsive to the sensitivities of the laid-off individual if it follows principles of appropriate professional practice informed by Jewish ethics. In terms of Jewish ethics, denying someone employment is something that should be done only in the most extreme circumstances. However, a reality of our world is that sometimes people find themselves in the wrong job, one that is suited neither to … [Read more...]

The Limits of Multi-Tasking: Living and Working in the Present

Making a commitment to the here and now requires focused concentration and dedication to the human interaction going on in any activity - whether it is a class, a staff or board meeting, or a gathering of community leaders. By Stephen G. Donshik Most of us who work within the Jewish nonprofit sector find ourselves spending most of our professional careers multi-tasking. Often we juggle as many as ten different tasks at the same time. For example, we might be responsible for handling our own assignments, working with other staff on special projects, supervising staff members and/or student interns, working with volunteer leadership on board committees, and even reaching out to the community as a liaison with other agencies. If we have been able to be successful in working this way, we have … [Read more...]

Investing in Professional Development of Agency Staff Members


Assisting a staff member who wants to pursue further education and training is not only a benefit to the individual professional but also has added value for the nonprofit organization. By Stephen G. Donshik I often receive phone calls from professionals in the nonprofit sector who are interested in pursuing advanced degrees and applying to Hebrew University’s MA Program in Nonprofit Management and Leadership. I have been struck by how many of them tell me that their employers will neither provide any tuition assistance nor give them release time so they could earn a related advance degree. Let me tell you about a call I received just this week. It was from one of my colleagues who works for the Israel office of a major American Jewish institution of higher learning and wants to continue … [Read more...]

Knowing the Meaning of Community

Often we take the concept of Jewish community for granted and just assume that certain services and support systems will be in place when we need them. Last week, when I was sitting shiva for my mother, Pearl Donshik, z"l, I had the opportunity to learn about the real meaning of community. I would like to share a few recollections of the emotional rollercoaster that I experienced over the last week and how the supportive response of the people around my mother and me helped ease the pain and put me on the road to mending. About ten days ago, my mother fell out of bed around 3:00 AM, and I called the community’s emergency medical service. As I walked up to the front door of my mother’s apartment, the x-ray technician who works at the local medical clinic and is also a volunteer with Magen David … [Read more...]

Dotting the “I’s” and Crossing the “T’s” When You Are in Negotiation for Possible Employment

check box

Organizations that are hiring new staff need to be very careful about the circumstances under which the employment discussions and negotiations are taking place. Let me illustrate this with the recent experience of a colleague of mine, Bob, who had been offered a position by a known and established nonprofit organization that has an excellent reputation. He was shocked when the professional position he was offered was withdrawn because of what the organization referred to as a technical problem. Here is some background. Bob was contacted by a colleague who suggested he contact Gimmel (not the real name), an organization serving the elderly at risk, because it was looking for additional staff in its department of marketing and communications (M and C). Bob immediately called the contact person at … [Read more...]

Transitions Are Challenging To Senior Staff Members

Transitions are usually very anxiety producing both for the new person who is coming into the organization and also for the senior professional staff that has been employed by the nonprofit organization. Many articles focus on the impact on the CEO who is leaving the position and on the new CEO who is coming into the organization. However, the key senior professional staff that may have been employed by the organization for a long time are not the primary concern when there is a change in the top leadership of the agency. It is generally assumed that people who have been engaged in their work for a considerable amount of time will aclimate themselves to the new CEO and the CEO will be wise enough to bring the present staff along as the change in leadership takes place. The process of changing … [Read more...]