Danielle V. Minson — Raising the Bar
The Real Test of Leadership
Last week, our Annual Meeting challenged us to ask—What have we accomplished over the past year and what are our priorities for the coming year? This is the “Why” that we wrestle with at every Annual Meeting. But our board’s leaders affect how we answer them: “how” will we be bold, creative, and prepared to sacrifice for a better future?
Since Zoom meetings get more cumbersome the bigger they are, this year only board members participated. And no coffee or lemon squares. But it’s not too late, you can watch it here (our outgoing president Gary Greenberg’s remarks start at 4:16; our incoming president Debbie Brant’s at 42:10).
When I compare notes with nonprofit leaders outside the Jewish community, the thing they often envy most about the Federation is the deep, personal commitment of our volunteer trustees. Our community leaders often spend decades building skills and experience and taking up roles of growing responsibility. And our organizations benefit.
So, last week, we thanked the Federation’s outgoing president, Gary Greenberg. Every two years, I learn different things from the passionate board presidents with whom I have the privilege to “co-pilot.” For example, Gary drew on his previous experience, as president of the Jewish Community Relations Council and as a trustee of Hebrew Union College, as he asked tough questions and helped us crystalize answers. He compared our situations to other challenging times in Jewish history. He made us think. I remember him saying, “The core value of Judaism is that every individual human life is sacred. I make it my business to support the Jewish community, because I want to keep that core value alive.” I am grateful for Gary’s deep commitment to our Federation and our community.
Gary graciously welcomed his successor—Debbie Brant. I got to know Debbie’s soft-spoken smarts when we were both in the Wexner Leadership class for two years, learning for four hours every Monday. She was already serving as President of the Mayerson JCC Board, which she did from 2012 to 2015. Now she is finishing her term as President of the Board of the Cincinnati Ballet. Debbie’s trademark calm, understated wisdom guided both organizations through choppy waters and navigated them to safe and smart destinations. And while she is committed to many causes, none come before our Jewish community.
At the meeting, Debbie said, memorably, “I feel like this moment is the real test—how we treat each other and those in need when they need us most.” She reminded us that during this pandemic we have to be agile, even clearer about our priorities, and even faster in getting help to people in need. We need to provide help with hunger, financial stress and job loss, mental stress/trauma, and organization’s economic difficulties (here’s a reminder of our priorities).
So, we could not be welcoming a more well-suited president during these volatile and challenging times. She is already partnering with our board and professional and volunteer leadership teams to do everything possible to help our community members survive the crisis.
The Jewish holiday Shavout (or Shavous), coming this Friday, is not a go-to holiday for most American Jews. Some celebrate by having ice cream and other dairy treats. Some do late night study—which, this year, will be available by Zoom from many of our congregations. I’ll be leading a session at Adath Israel.
Whether you celebrate or not, know you are in my thoughts, and stay safe.