Friends, for this week's Shabbat message I have asked Heather Fiedler, Director of the Greater Hartford Jewish Leadership Academy, to share her thoughts on what we can learn about leadership from Jacob's journey. Shabbat Shalom. - Howard
What happens when we are searching for our path? How do we know where to go, who to contact or how to negotiate our new relationships? In this week's Torah portion, Vayetzei, Jacob is on such a journey. He has fled from his home in Beersheva after tricking his father and brother. His journey is eventful, with revelatory dreams and a clearer understanding of his emerging role as a leader. But it's not until he reaches his destination in Haran that he is challenged to understand where "his people" are and how to negotiate his way to fit in. Jacob goes to the most public of places in the ancient world, the well, the gathering place for both social interaction and sustenance. It is there that he meets Rachel, whom he later marries. He strikes a deal with Lavan for her hand in marriage and, because he does not understand local custom, he is tricked into marrying her older sister Leah.
Jacob's experiences teach us an important lesson in leadership. In order to progress in your own leadership journey, you need to know how you fit in to the larger picture and how to meet people where they are - understanding their customs, values and language. Each of us takes on leadership roles in our own lives, and our success as leaders relies on those same factors.
Our community will have the opportunity to delve into these lessons further on December 6th when the Greater Hartford Jewish Leadership Academy holds its official kickoff event, "Civil Discourse at Home, in the Office, and Out in the Community: A Jewish Conversation." Our facilitator, Rabbi Shira Stutman, Senior Rabbi at Sixth & I Synagogue in Washington, D.C., will lead us through a process of how to be more conscious and considerate of others in our community, acknowledging our potential differences of both opinion and culture. In this hands-on presentation, we will practice the important leadership skills of listening, engaging in respectful debate, and meeting people where they are, while learning how these skills relate to Jewish values. The program is free and open to the public, but reservations are required; we ask that you RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org by November 29. I hope you will join us.
As with Jacob, our paths ahead will not always be clear. We'll stumble along the way as we traverse new territory as leaders. But every journey begins with the excitement of running toward new experiences, new places and a new appreciation of others. When our exciting journeys converge and we treat each other with dignity and forgiveness, together we build the rich, deep well of our Jewish community.
Greater Hartford Jewish Leadership Academy