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An Opportunity to Strengthen Our Leaders

By Mark Pinsley
​Board Member

As a board member at Jewish Family Service, I will have the unique opportunity to strengthen my skills in Jewish community leadership over the next two years. Along with my fellow board member Brian Ford, I am participating in Legacy Heritage’s OnBoard program, a leadership development program for new leaders in the Jewish community. I will be mentored by Rabbi Allen Juda, a long-time community leader.

OnBoard focuses on the development and strengthening of board members. The goal of the program is to help the participants become effective leaders of Jewish organizations, but ultimately it helps us learn how our individual actions and efforts can be enhanced to become more meaningful to others. Although the program focuses on Jewish community service, it ultimately helps us in any setting. The program culminates in a trip to Israel.

I recently attended an orientation for the program, which is funded by a grant from the Legacy Heritage Fund. When I first arrived, we had an opportunity to become acquainted with the other members of the group. As we introduced ourselves, I realized how diverse the group was in both our sect of the faith and the organizations we serve. The group contained people who are affiliated with Reconstructionist, Reform, Conservative and Orthodox movements. Organizations involved varied from Federations to synagogues, camps and communal service agencies. Our common goal was an interest in how to better serve our communities. 

The program started by having all of the participants post the mission statement of the organization they represented. This was a real opportunity to learn about the other organizations in the room, and also to help each other hone the mission statement so that it is clear and easily understood by anyone outside of our own organizations. 

As the day progressed, we spent time discussing the elements of a board meeting, including the process and procedures, the types of decisions that are made and the unique rituals of individual boards. In addition, we also discussed fiduciary responsibility and the role of community building. Part of the goal of the program is to help you understand your own strengths and how you can best use those attributes to contribute to your organization. 

By the close of the day I felt like I had a better understanding of my role as a Jewish leader and some sense of comradery in knowing that I was not the only one struggling with some basic knowledge. My hope is to continue to learn and grow as an individual Jewish board member so that I can enrich my community. I look forward to the next session.


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I know that a good leader needs discipline. Developing discipline in your professional and personal life is a must in order to be an effective leader. Communication skills are critical to being an effective leader, whether it's presenting in front of the team, creating and writing a business strategy. Interestingly enough, volunteering is a powerful way to boost your leadership skills.