The mantra of this Next Generation.
A key plenary took front and center as we were presented with a group of dynamic young leaders who are finding new ways to build community and their version of Tikkun Olam. The common thread among these showcased young leaders and their projects is innovation and commitment. They are helping us enlarge the town square of Jewish life and we must encourage and support them.
Both Esther Kustanowitz and Dan Sieradski were brilliant and on point concerning this demographic, their needs and what is necessary to attract and engage this group in the larger community. Esther spoke passionately about the new uses of technology and online communities being formed:
“There is a lot of concern over the development of this kind of vast online community network, largely because of the generational technology divide. But what’s clear is that Federation professionals, volunteers, donors, and publications that want to stay relevant to “Generation Tech” need to significantly increase their techno-literacy.
Today, the “social” in social action, social entrepreneurship and social networking enables everything else. The power of the collective—not of one organization or charismatic leader– enables change. The collective transforms one idea into something more valuable.”
Esther’s complete speech
Following up, Dan laid out his answer to Charles Bronfman’s challenge on the Next Big Idea:
“Yet it is my belief that the next big Jewish idea will not be hatched inside a board room. It will not be the result of a research study. It will not come from within an institution at all. Rather, the next big Jewish idea will be the work of a young, independently minded individual seeking to address the needs of his or her own self or his or her own immediate community.
But the next big Jewish idea will not meet institutional funding guidelines — or at least, that’s what the rejection letters will say. It will be for any number of reasons: The project is too local; too global; too narrow; too ambitious; the subject too political; the creators too eccentric. Perhaps they’re more creatively-minded than business-minded and are thus bad at writing grants. Maybe they’re too young, or too idealistic.”
A recurring theme of this plenary and a Young Leaders Salon the next morning, he sums up this way:
“And yet we are nonetheless desperate for each other’s attention. Federations want to attract a new generation of donors, and young innovators want support for their projects. Despite our differences, you need us and we need you. There is a way for us to work together.”
Dan’s complete speech
The lesson for all of us sitting in these sessions was quite simple. This generation is not coming; they have arrived. We need to work together. We need to dialogue. We need to nurture. We need to collaborate. We need to partner.