Sendy and Ronit organized their community’s first “Mitzvah Day”. Sara has set up a Jewish film club, whilst Vera has started a children’s dance ensemble. Dina has set up a new youth club. Anezka and Karolina have edited their local community magazine. All have made a positive contribution to their Jewish communities – in Istanbul, Warsaw, Mogilev, Barcelona and Prague, to name but a few.
What these young people have in common is that they are graduates of World ORT’s Future Leaders Program – an intensive nine-month leadership scheme for 16-18 year olds, designed to develop a new generation of Jewish community leaders across Europe, Turkey and the former Soviet Union.
The Second Survey of European Jewish Leaders and Opinion Formers, published in April 2012, highlighted the importance for Jewish communities across Europe of developing young entrepreneurial leadership. Asked to prioritize a list of communal priorities for the next 5-10 years, respondents gave the joint highest average ranking to including young leadership in decision making bodies. The fourth highest average ranking was investing in leadership development. In addition, leaders identified creativity and entrepreneurship in the community as an issue in need of urgent attention. These findings underline the pressing need which the Future Leaders Program is meeting.
“We provide participants with a set of tools and experiences which equip them to support Jewish activities and develop new initiatives back in their home communities”, said Daniel Tysman, Head of Education at World ORT.
After meeting for an opening seminar in the UK where they analyse the infrastructure of the London Jewish community, participants complete a series of online seminars and assignments covering both the practical and theoretical aspects of what ‘Jewish community’ means. In addition, they are assigned a mentor from their local community who supports them in identifying and carrying out a local project suited to the community’s needs. Participants meet again – together with the previous year’s cohort – for a summit in Strasbourg, and they round off the year with a summer school in Israel which focuses on leadership through Jewish history and social entrepreneurship in current Israeli society.
“Future Leaders are highly dedicated young people who want to make a difference to the Jewish world around them. The program is an initial springboard to develop their skills and self-confidence and to enthuse them about making a significant contribution to their communities in the long-term”, Mr. Tysman said.
After a highly successful pilot in 2011, the second cycle of the Future Leaders Program is open for applications until 28th September 2012. Please visit futureleaders.ort.org for more information about the program and for details of how to apply.