Yesod Lays the Foundation for Future Leaders

By Sharon M. Hasbani

Young Leadership Chair, Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven Executive Committee

What do an IT professional, a nurse, a lawyer, a robotics Ph.D., and a graphic designer all have in common? They are all local, rising Jewish community lay leaders who recently began the Yesod Leadership Program. On March 7, the men and women above and an additional 14 men and women joined together for their first Yesod class.The word yesod in Hebrew means foundation or basis, which is a fitting name for this new initiative for the Greater New Haven Jewish community. The Yesod program consists of a series of interactive classes that will take place at various Jewish community locations in the area. The curriculum was developed through the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning and was written by Jewish educator Dr. Erica Brown. Our own Sydney Perry, esteemed educator and former CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven is the facilitator for the course, and for all eight classes.

The goal of Yesod is to help our local lay leaders build and develop their personal and organizational leadership through a Jewish perspective. The 2017 Yesod cohort has enjoyed not only the curriculum in their classes thus far, but getting to know one another. They are learning from the texts, from Perry and from one another. Beyond just increasing their leadership skill set, this is an opportunity for them to forge connections with other Jewish lay leaders in our area that will serve our Jewish community for years to come. At a recent feedback session, the members of this cohort reported being pleased that they had a sense of being in a “safe room” in which they could learn not just from Jewish texts but also from one another. They reported feeling appreciative of being given this opportunity. As Perry states:

“In this age of unprecedented change in the world and in our own community, we yearn for enduring wisdom to help us navigate and succeed in this topsy-turvey environment. At work, in leadership roles, at home with family and friends, we search for inspiring role models, a sense of purpose, reliable sources of guidance from the fields of business management and psychology and lessons from the richness of our Jewish tradition, history and text to help us make wise decisions. I feel so very fortunate to be guide, facilitator, educator and participant in Yesod. These are the leaders of tomorrow and their energy, engagement and experience, combined with the excellent curriculum from Melton, will allow them to meet the challenges that lie ahead. I expect great things!”

The members of this cohort come from nine area towns and represent a variety of levels of involvement in Jewish observance. Most importantly, each and every one of them is involved with and committed to his or her Jewish community, and is interested in growing that involvement. Thanks to the Jewish Foundations of North America, the Jewish Foundation of Greater New Haven, and our generous sponsor Andy Eder and the Eder Leader Institute, they will all have the opportunity to acquire new skills and grow in their commitment to their communities.

Sharon M. Hasbani is a board member of the JCC of Greater New Haven, the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven and sits on the Executive Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven. She is a graduate of the Wexner Heritage Program, which led to her position as Young Leadership Program Chair and her involvement in Yesod. She would like to thank Olga Markus for her invaluable work as Yesod Program Consultant.