Brandeis Launches Leadership Incubator for Russian-speaking Jewish Communal Professionals

Brandeis Jewish Leadership Incubator (BJLI), a pilot 12-month professional development fellowship for Russian-speaking Jewish (RSJ) communal professionals, is off to a strong start after a four-day opening seminar at Brandeis in January 2015. BJLI, a project of the Brandeis-Genesis Institute for Russian Jewry in partnership with Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program, strives to nurture a cadre of effective Russian-speaking Jewish communal professionals, fortified by superior management skills, Jewish knowledge, systematic understanding of the Russian-speaking and American Jewish communities, and commitment to the future of the Jewish people. The fellowship exists with support from Genesis Philanthropy Group and the Jim Joseph Foundation.

Fourteen outstanding RSJ professionals, each with up to five years of professional experience, were selected to become BJLI Fellows after a rigorous application process. They represent a broad range of Jewish communal organizations from all over the United States – Jewish Federations, foundations, social services agencies, JCCs and museums.

“This yearlong fellowship provides a unique opportunity for personal and professional growth,” said Victor Vitkin, Executive Director of the Brandeis-Genesis Institute for Russian Jewry. “Through exploring their Jewish identity and enhancing their knowledge of Russian Jewish heritage, BJLI Fellows grow as individuals, while the immediate applicability of managerial skills and strategic vision they acquire as part of the program helps them grow as professionals and galvanize their work.”

The opening seminar tackled important questions of identity and ethics, organizational strategy and Jewish history, management and communication in a fully immersive and thought provoking environment. The Fellows grappled with dilemmas facing the contemporary Jewish community while strengthening their managerial skills and Jewish knowledge. Fellows are expected to utilize the newly acquired knowledge and skills to respond to challenges and opportunities at their respective organizations and communities.

“There is no better way to drive the next generation of Jewish engagement for the Russian Jewish community in the United States than to support and encourage the best of those already working as professionals in the Russian Jewish world,” said Marina Yudborovsky, Regional Director of Genesis Philanthropy Group in North America, which is supporting the program financially. “The Brandeis Jewish Leadership Incubator is a one-of-a-kind opportunity for these professionals to gain skills, knowledge – and perhaps most importantly – a network to share success stories, challenges and opportunities, learn from each other, and build stronger programs and projects that benefit and engage the Russian Jewish community, in all of it’s variety, across the country.”

The Fellows are already seeing the benefits of participating in the new program.

“Our first seminar connected our shared Russian Jewish heritage and unique visions for the American Jewish community with established professional practices, standards and skills necessary to succeed and be effective leaders in our community,” said Ilya Bratman, BJLI Fellow and the Executive Director of Hillel at Baruch College.

“This opportunity couldn’t be more fitting for my professional aspirations and my personal commitment to the community I belong to and serve,” added Juliya Sheynman, Annual Campaign Manager at The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.