Starting with Tomorrow’s Leaders Today: Building Jewish Leaders

leadershipBy Rabbi Adam Grossman

The University of Florida, the highest ranked school in Florida, is one of the top four public schools south of the Mason-Dixon line and east of the Mississippi River. Located at the gateway of the campus, UF Hillel sees some of the most intelligent and driven students in the country each day. The students at UF will ultimately become the next CEOs, entrepreneurs, politicians, doctors, and board presidents that will lead cities around the state of Florida and across the globe. Our role is to give these developing leaders the tools necessary to build and to transform communities following their graduation.

Leadership Development, in many instances, is synonymous with seminars and workshops. Yet, more than classroom training, leadership development is about finding the skills to become more self-aware and in turn, understand personal potential. Embedded in Judaism’s rich tradition is a pathway to better appreciate the self in order to more fully impact others and the world.

In explaining Judaism (or for that matter any religion), many define it for themselves or for others in relation to the following two questions:

  1. Do you believe or not believe (fill in the blank)?
  2. Do you observe or not observe (fill in the blank)?

Based on the answers to these questions, individuals will determine their own and other people’s Judaism as either “good” or “bad.” Yet, these questions personify the myth of Judaism. They define only one aspect – faith – of an individual’s commitment to Jewish living.

Living Jewishly is much more multi-dimensional than a definition based solely on belief and observance. Judaism is a holistic pursuit with betterment in multiple avenues necessary to find shleimut (wholeness and completeness). Each component is instrumental. Yet, none of the aspects are more important than another and working exclusively with one at the expense of the others is detrimental to one’s Jewish life. These components include:

  • Education: Nourish the need for intellectual stimulation
  • Emotional: Be aware of your emotions and deal with stress
  • Faith: Build a relationship with God, others and traditions
  • Health: Manage your physical health and seek the necessary medical care
  • Kinetic: Find ways to appreciate physical activity
  • Love: Share experiences and support with those closest to you
  • Nosh: Develop healthy eating habits and make positive food choices
  • Rest: Recognize the weekly need to take down time
  • Righteousness: Donate a portion of your earnings to those less fortunate
  • Service: Make an impact in the world by performing acts of loving-kindness
  • Work: Appreciate your strengths and those found within others

These pursuits form a circle of well-being. Living Jewishly is the constant drive towards balancing these various components – filling up that which is empty and sustaining that which is full. The first century Jewish philosopher, Philo expressed, “The body is the soul’s house. Shouldn’t we therefore take care of our house so that it doesn’t fall into ruin?” With daily work, patience and practice, our purpose is to complete the circle and with it find shleimut, wholeness in every aspect of life.

UF Hillel’s leadership development initiative seeks to incorporate a sense of balance into the entire spectrum of activities in one’s life, so that each person can become a leader, enjoy individual success and inspire others by example. Therefore, by becoming self aware and tending to personal health, an individual is able to more fully connect to one’s Jewish self and with it helps to foster positive change in the world.

Rabbi Adam Grossman, who is a past Slingshot Guide Award recipient and member of Clal’s Rabbis Without Borders network, is the CEO of the University of Florida Hillel. Please feel free to connect with him on Facebook (rabbiadamgrossman) or Twitter (rabbiadam).