Are you a good Berrie Fellow?

Are you a good Berrie Fellow?

Federation's leadership program is recruiting a new class

Do you have what it takes to step up to the plate and help lead the Jewish community of northern New Jersey? Are you between the ages of 32 and 52? Are you now a volunteer with a synagogue, school, or other Jewish organization in Bergen County?

The Berrie Fellows Leadership Program is accepting applications for its next set of fellows.

Since its founding by the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey and the Russell Berrie Foundation back in 2004, the program has trained three groups of 20 people. Participants have gone on to head the Jewish federation, area synagogues, and day schools.

Now, there’s one week left to apply to join the fourth cohort.

“We need to continue this stream of leaders into our community to keep it vibrant,” said Laura Freeman, the program’s director.

The Berrie Fellowship is an 18-month commitment. It will start with a three-day retreat, include a trip to Israel next summer, 10 evening sessions, and four further overnights.

It includes leadership training and Jewish study.

Ilana Matteson

Ilana Matteson, president of Temple Sinai in Tenafly, credits the Berrie Fellowship for expanding her perspectives on the Jewish community.

“I became much more familiar with the wider Jewish community,” she said. “I was functioning in my Reform Jewish world. I didn’t have connections with any other denominations of Judaism.”

She became friendly with Lee Lasher, a fellow Berrie participant who is president of Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood, a nearby Orthodox synagogue. Together, the two planned for their synagogues to work together on a project for the federation’s Mitzvah Day.

As part of her fellowship, she created a program modeled after Berrie for Sinai, called Hineini. “One of the sessions I hold close to my heart is where I bring in four other Berrie fellows from different denominations,” she said.

Gil Makleff agreed that the Berrie fellowship “was a great experience. It was a really powerful program.”

Mr. Makleff is now president of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County.

“I definitely would not be in Jewish leadership without Berrie,” he said. “If you feel you would like to apply your leadership skills to Jewish issues, it’s a great environment.”

Ms. Freeman, the Berrie director, said the program “takes three critical components of leadership development in the Jewish community and weaves them together.”

The components are: “leading through a Jewish lens; personal leadership development, focusing on understanding your blind spots, opportunities, and triggers; and tactics such as board management and difficult conversations.”

Participants will also get private coaching from an organizational psychologist, she said.

More information and the nomination form are at

read more: