This series was created to offer insight on the theses, values, and practice of Jewish leadership with the help of structured questions, and to guide educators towards the development of the modern leadership culture, in the Jewish world and Israel.
This is not intended simply as an academic exercise. As educators, parents, and communities, we aspire to educate our young people and children so that they will have the appropriate knowledge, skills and character to take their place in life. We look to their integration in Israel, or within the Jewish community, as well as into the wider world. As we explore within these circles – some of them concentric, others overlapping, adjacent, or disjunctive – as part of this process, we also seach the collective memory for role models in Jewish leaders.
Rarely has history, and particularly Jewish history, been a world of calm and placid waters: in fact, it has been an epic of flourishing intellectual activity in numerous havens, but fraught with the perils of persecution. The accepted wisdom is that throughout the generations, the Jewish People and its communities in the Diaspora have turned with respect and hope to its leadership for the best possible guidance, whatever protection it can offer from the threats of any one environment, or a feasible alternative to enable that survival.
We will learn here what principles and frameworks moved these leaders and ask questions about them, in both historical and contemporary settings. We are particularly interested in the process leading to the modern era and how these values and questions might shed light on the direction of Jewish leadership today. Educators and students will acquire the tools to explore the imperatives of leadership, as well as their contemporary implications.
A major focus is on Israel, Israeli society - with its amazing achievements and potential in its wonderful young generation – and its leadership. We will examine aspects of Israel's emergent leadership at the end of this survey, and particularly its political leadership. Israel has been buffeted by many political and existential crises that have shaped its young history. These crises have impacted deeply on the political culture: its developmental patterns, viability, competence, economy and society. They are once more in the headlines – only now, in the age of Media on Demand, ripples and waves rapidly turn into social tsunamis.
It is important not only to question, but that the right questions be asked and that answers be sought. We believe that many of them lie deep within the Jewish People's collective memory.
This unit on Jewish Leadership is presented in the format of a three-part essay with discussion questions – Points to Ponder. We recommend the essay be read in one sitting.
There are many aspects to leadership and we hope that this unit will afford a range of insights into the nature of leadership as addressed in the Jewish sources. Our journey will take us through the ages to explore the many faces of Jewish leadership, its questions and interpretations, from ancient times through the contemporary period. This historical route is more than a narrative – it is intended to guide educators, students, and leadership groups to relevant Jewish sources and enable them to explore their messages and application – contextually, critically, and developmentally.
Our Reflections naturally address numerous general aspects of leadership, too. However, our goal is to show how a range of specifically significant Jewish texts have been instrumental in shaping the tenor and role of leadership in the Jewish community in a manner distinct from any of the common theories of leadership extant today – and to facilitate the use of this knowledge in order to address issues of leadership, in both Israel and the Diaspora Jewish world.