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We’re trying to come up with a top ten books list that all modern Jewish leaders should read.
Please add your suggestions in the comment section.
(In chronological order)
1. The Tanach (Bible) – complete read!!!
2. History of the Jews (Sachar or Graetz))
3. Guide to the Perplexed (Maimonides)
4. Jewish Literacy (Telushkin)
5. Night (Elie Wiesel) &/or Diary of Anne Frank
6. Mesilat Yesharim – THe path of the just (Ramchal)
7. Alteneuland (Herzl)
8. Leadership (Giuliani)
9. Exodus (Leon Uris)
10. Man’s Search for Meaning (Frankl)
Love this idea.
Not specifically Jewish, but definites for all leaders in general are Lean In and Getting things Done by David Allen
I would add to my good friend David’s list the third volume of the new Winston Churchill biography – The Last Lion. Churchill was a true leader, and it is incumbent upon us to have a broader understanding of World War II than just through the lens of the Shoah. That War continues to shape geo politics today.
Second, I would add the Prime Ministers by Ambassador Yehuda Avner, an incredibly engrossing look at the early leadership of israel and the decisions they faced. The entire book is great, but I particularly recommend the sections on the six day war and on Menachem Begin’s years in office.
Last, I would read Warren Buffet’s biography, which is appropriately named Snowball. The world is not just about politics. Money makes the world go around.
“To Heal a Fractured World: The Ethics of Responsibility” by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks is the best book on Tikkun Olam and the need for philanthropy ever written.
This is a great idea. The initial list of 10 provided by David Ya’ari is excellent. I would suggest it is a top ten for all Jews, not just Jewish leaders. They certainly should all be in any serious Jewish library. There are plenty of terrific business leadership books that apply to Jewish organizational leadership. In fact, I believe the community needs to take advantage of this insight and apply it to Jewish communal challenges – that what leaders do. Some titles include:
1. Leading Change by John Kotter
2. In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman
3. Good to Great by Jin Collins
4. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
5. First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
Green Eggs and Ham – Okay… so I know what you’re thinking — who would recommend a silly children’s book (with a such blatantly non-kosher title to boot!) as a must read for today’s Jewish leaders?
As the Director of Innovation and Engagement for The Manuel D. and Rhoda Mayerson Foundation for the past 13 years, I beleive that if more Jewish leaders took a second to read between the lines of this simple, yet brilliant piece of literature, they would uncover an important secret to leadership effectiveness.
In a nutshell, Sam refuses time and again to try something he thinks he won’t like. However, once he finally gives in and tries it… he discovers he actually DOES like it! I have seen Jewish leaders come and go. Over time, the ones who refuse to look at things through a different lens, shift the paradigm, or simply try something new or a little risky, are the ones who don’t end up making it, or at a minimum, don’t end up making any real impact — which in my opinion is just as bad!
More and more each day, Jewish young adults, both lay and professional, are being encouraged to try new approahces, put innovative ideas on the table and re-imagine what’s possible. All great stuff! However, who’s out there encouraging the older people (the ones who are in the very leadership positions to actually make these ideas happen) to give these things a try? From my vantage point there are a whole lot of “Sam I Am’s” out there in leadership positions who refuse to even take a taste of what some of these smart, creative and capable young people are dishing out. They’re so busy doing the same thing in the same way they’ve always done it, that they end up sucking all the energy and passion right out of the very people the Jewish world is charging with making change.
It’s a lot harder to “be the change” if you keep encountering sticks in the mud who’ve adopted the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” attitude, or who don’t see the value in listening to a bunch of “entitled know it alls who just want everything for free!”
Of course there are many leaders out there who ARE open to new ideas and who are making amazing things happen. However, there are many more who are so set in their ways, or who are so bound by their boards of directors that there’s not room at the table for any kind of progressive or innovative thinking.
So even if these young people can get the attention of the professional leadership, who’s out there encouraging the boards of directors of these organizations to give new things a try? Even the most well intentioned professional leaders are going to have trouble making things happen if they run into unbending board members, some of whom make our friend Sam look like a bigger risk taker than Evil Knievel.
So in the end… I stongly suggest that Jewish leaders try Green Eggs and Ham (the book, of course!) It’s the perfect pick for busy leaders who want to walk away with an easy to remember message that can help inform all they do. It’s a quick read based on the most basic premise… but if taken to heart, I believe it has the power to turn gatekeepers into game changers, and give the very young people we are asking to hear from an actual voice that doesn’t just go in one ear and out the other!
Pamela Richards Saeks
Director of Innovation and Engagement
The Manuel D. and Rhoda Mayerson Foundation
My goodness, no one has mentioned any books by Gershom Gorenberg or “My Promised Land”, by Ari Shavit. They are startling, painful and essential.
Great list David!
I would add Out of the Depths by Rabbi Yisrael Lau
Fear no Eveil by Natan Sharansky
TOP 10 FOR THE SYNAGOGUE SECTOR:
Jewish Megatrends, by Sid Schwarz
The Synagogue in America: A Short History, by Marc Lee Raphael
Rethinking Synagogues: A New Vocabulary for Congregational Life, by Lawrence Hoffman
Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today: Creating Vibrant Centers of Jewish Life, by Hayim Herring
The Spirituality of Welcoming: How to Transform Your Congregation into a Sacred Community, by Ron Wolfson
Sacred Strategies: Transforming Synagogues from Functional to Visionary, by Isa Aron, Steven M. Cohen, Lawrence A. Hoffman, and Ari Y. Kelman
This House We Build: Lessons for Healthy Synagogues and the People Who Dwell There, by Terry Bookman and William Kahn
Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue, by Edwin Friedman
Personality Type and Religious Leadership, by Roy M. Oswald and Otto Kroeger
Governance and Ministry: Rethinking Board Leadership, by Dan Hotchkiss
BONUS #11 (just published):
Playlist Judaism: Making Choices for a Vital Future, by Kerry Olitzky
Great conversation — I’d add:
1. Gidi Grinstein’s new Flexigity
2. Rabbi David Wolpe’s Why Be Jewish
3. The Pew Report
The Chronicle of Philanthropy has put together a snapshot of books released this year that examine what donors want from fundraisers, new economic research on giving behavior, what’s wrong with America’s charity system and more.
To paraphrase, “from all my books I have learned. “There are no “bad” titles. And yes, beginning with the Bible should be on everyone’s list and not necessarily as a religious tomb. One of the most important traits of successful leadership is staying informed, continuing to be a learner. In addition to the many wonderful books mentioned, Drs. Misha Galperin’s and Erica Brown’s works are especially good on Jewish leadership. Clay Shirky, Beth Kanter, and others are writing valuable books related to technology and are important for the nonprofit sector. Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From is invaluable for innovation and The Starfish and the Spider opened my thinking, as well. Other Dr. Seuss books to recommend include If I Ran the Zoo and Horton Hatches the Egg. I am deeply engrossed in Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land, which is a new must read…. Narrowing the list to 10 will be hard!
1. Jonathan Sarna – American Judaism: A History
2. Amos Oz – A Tale of Love and Darkness
3. Philip Roth – A Plot Against America and Operation Shylock
4. Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most -
Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen.
5. Daniel Elazar – Community and Polity
6. Hasia Diner – The Jews of the United States
7. Shmuel Rosner – Shtetl, Bagel and Baseball
8. Daf Yomi
9. Slingshot Annual Resource Guide for Jewish Innovation
10. Yosef Haim Yerushalmi – Zachor
Recanati Kaplan Foundation
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