The Value of Jewish Leadership

The Fall issue of CONTACT, a quarterly publication of the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life, delves into the issue of leadership in our Jewish community.

from the editor’s introduction:

In the Jewish community, the concept of leadership often conjures thoughts of professional development, management training, or the relationship between lay leaders and professionals. What is often lost is the larger question of what constitutes genuine leadership, and what attributes the Jewish community needs in its leaders.

What exactly is leadership? Why do Jewish movements, both historically and in contemporary times, often rely on charismatic individuals as agents of change? Are individual leaders necessary to propel movements into motion, and if so, what qualities of leadership are both effective and consistent with Jewish values?

How much is leadership defined solely by management skills, and to what degree does it rely on the ability to articulate and embody a vision that will inspire the community? Finally, does leadership come with negative aspects that are sometimes overlooked in the community’s search for guiding lights? What can we do to safeguard against the kinds of abuse that are frequently linked to leadership abilities?

This issue of CONTACT explores leadership from a wide variety of angles. Throughout, the goal is to identify the attributes that might help the community steer a course of cultural and communal renaissance. From definitions of good and bad leadership to analyses of how the community might recruit leaders from less represented groups, the articles here present a compelling portrait of the needs, challenges and potentials of Jewish leadership today.