My time in Israel has been flying by! Having this time to settle a bit and allow myself a somewhat more “regular” schedule has been a bit of a deep breath compared to the consistent travel of the prior few months. I realized that from March through July I had not spent more than a week or so in any one place. Crazy, right? But was it amazing? Yes. Tiring? Yes. Fascinating? Yes. Overwhelming? Yes. Incredibly inspiring? Absolutely. With all that travel, I continue to be in a constant state of processing and thinking and really trying to continue to write – which if you’ve been following closely, doesn’t always happen.
While I prepare for the next few months, I thought I’d share a bit about the work that I’ve been doing as I’ve traveled and while I’ve been in Israel. In the background to all my travel here are some of the projects that have been a focus of my year.
Europe Leadership Task-force
Working with a board committee and staff from the Europe department, I have been profiling and working on a report about Leadership programs in Europe. This means deep thinking about how to define what terms like leadership, development, capacity building and training actually mean. Practically speaking, it means I’ve been spending time interviewing various program directors of JDC’s programs in Europe and having long conversations around how and what it means to build leadership. This information will be utilized by a committee in order to make decisions for the region in the future.
For me, this project has provided an inside look at many of JDC’s programs within European communities – and connect with board members and staff about a specific topic, leadership. Something that continually crosses over into many elements of work I currently and would hope to do, so overall it’s been really enriching to my experience.
Internal Human Resources Project
Given my background in HR and interest in culture, coaching, and skill sets, I had the opportunity to do a project with Global Human Resources. While a bit harder to explain, I’ve been working to better understand from departments across all of JDC, what types of skills employees use to do their jobs. The outcome of this project will be part of an internal platform that will allow employees to better understand different departments within JDC and potentially show employees the various opportunities that exist throughout the organization.
This project has provided the benefit of talking to over 30 different people within the organization, from finance to resource development, program managers, HR, and interaction with folks in many countries. It’s given me a true inside look into the organization itself, to consider unique and not so unique challenges that exist at a global organization. A “lightbulb” moment was in a meeting with the finance manager in Poland, who reminded me that they not only need to balance the books for JDC’s work in Poland, but also for other countries and then deal with exchange rates, and varying currencies! While in some ways obvious, in other ways a reminder that the little things – like local currency, make a difference.
Tikkun in Action Grants – GRID
(Global Response and International Development) This project came together pretty quickly in July. GRID is the part of JDC that often works doing relief after natural disasters and has some really interesting programs, like irrigation in Africa amongst other things. A newer initiative, is Tikkun in Action Grants. A first round of grants provided to young adults who are involved in projects helping their local communities and finding connection through the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam. Here is a great article here to read more about the work.
Because I was headed to Budapest, I was given the opportunity to interview a few of the grantees, and assist in some follow up reporting, measurement, and evaluation. It was a great way for me to look at JDC’s global impact differently.
Within JDC, Entwine is the department that connects to young adults. They provide leadership programs and offer Insider trips to locations around the world to learn about global Jewish community. The Ralph Goldman Fellowship falls under Entwine. Being so directly connected to Entwine has also allowed me a few opportunities to connect with the work they do as well.
In India – which you heard a bit about here, I facilitated the orientation for the Global Seminar program, a group of young adults volunteering. A participant wrote this article about her experience if you want to read more about India and Jewish community.
I was able to participate on the Insider Trip to Azerbaijan and Georgia, and while I was partially a participant, I was also offered the opportunity to lead a reflection session.
In November, I’ll be staffing an Israel Insider trip which will be in partnership with The Well (from Detroit). Convenient, given that I’ve been involved with The Well since its founding! It was a bit unintentional but exciting that I’ll have the unique opportunity to lead a trip of Detroiters, while also understanding all that goes into creating and executing these trips.
Part of my “work” this year is also just pure learning. Often this is me meeting with various people around JDC and thinking critically or curiously about the work the organization and its programs do. When I talk about my travels and talk about the work, there sometimes isn’t an actual outcome or thing I’m leaving behind…just yet. The way I look at (and I think JDC as well) is that I am a sponge, and I am learning and thinking and growing and considering and processing the various issues and projects that exist in global Jewish community. I’ve thought about how organizations work, how Jews find their identity, how communities grow, shrink, are resilient, and are challenged. I’ve thought about a lot more, some of which you’ve read previously and that I hope you will continue to read in the future, there is no doubt that all this thinking and sharing will continue for a long time.
What else have I been up to in Israel? I’m taking an Ulpan – Hebrew classes, and doing ok – let’s just say I’ve always been much better at reading comprehension than speaking! I started running again, or building up to running – thanks to the Couch to 5k app. As always celebrating Shabbat in various ways with various people. Catching up with old friends and new friends. I went indoor rock climbing. I discovered a blended chai drink. You know, usual life stuff. So in all just living.
My year is not over yet by any means. I still have a few more months and I think they will continue to be as interesting and exciting as it has been thus far. I have another project in a new place and have a more traditional placement as I travel to work with a newer and small Jewish community. All this is to say, this year continues to be fulfilling in ways I could not ever have imagined, challenging as I learn more and more about myself, and surprising as there is always something new around the next corner!
Stay tuned for more!