Going pro

Going pro

New Berrie leadership program targets a cadre of communal professionals

Laura Freeman is looking for a few good middle managers.

Managers of area Jewish agencies, to be specific.

Ms. Freeman is director of the Berrie Fellows Leadership Program at the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, which has provided leadership training to 60 local community activists.

Now Ms. Freeman, who graduated from the Berrie program before joining the federation in a professional capacity, wants to bring leadership training to other Jewish professionals.

“We’re looking for people who are in the middle to upper level of management in their organizations, who have some supervisory capacity, and are involved in creating initiatives in their area,” she said.

Laura Freeman

Ms. Freeman hopes to recruit a cadre of 20 to 25 such executives from federation-affiliated organizations, including JCCs, social agencies, day schools, and the federation itself, for what’s being called the Berrie Professional Excellence Program.

The professionals will take part in 11 sessions and receive one-on-one coaching.

The program will begin reviewing nominations for participants in January.

Another parallel track will train the senior executives at the agencies.

The program is being funded by the Russell Berrie Foundation.

“Professional leadership is one of the most underinvested areas in the Jewish communal world,” said Angelica Berrie, the foundation’s president.

When the federation came with its proposal for the leadership training, “it made total sense,” she said. “In any career, it’s so easy to lose your creative juice. The gift we hope to give the professionals is to replenish the spring from which they draw inspiration, so they can give back to the community at a higher level.”

One of Ms. Freeman’s goals for the program is to bring the professionals working in different corners of the community into a more cohesive, unified group.

“It will be great for people with similar jobs to learn together and to realize that they’re colleagues,” she said. “We suffer in the community from a lot of ‘silo-ism’ – everybody is in their own little world and doesn’t necessarily have a sense of the larger community. Hopefully this will lead to more collegiality and a reduction in duplicative services.”

The program won’t be all lectures. Participants will have to design and begin a project and apply their learning. For the CEOs, that means creating a vision for the North Jersey Jewish community and figuring out how their organization fits into that community vision.

For the management group, it will mean working on a specific problem or issue.

“We will help them work through the process of figuring out an action plan,” Ms. Freeman said.

While Jewish communal professionals long have had opportunities for professional development, Ms. Freeman believes that the group effort will have a big impact. “They will suddenly form a network of collegiality with their colleagues within their organization and in other organizations,” she said. “The capacity of the individuals and the organizations should increase exponentially because everyone will be doing it together.”

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