Sometimes I sit back and wonder what’s going to move our community forward. I think about our partnership programs in Israel and around the world and wonder how to maximize our resources and serve more people. One would think the answer is money. Just raise more money.
But that’s not entirely the case. As important as money is to our Jewish communal enterprise, that is only a piece of how we operate, and operate effectively.
A prominent businessman, philanthropist and Jewish communal leader, Cleveland’s Mort Mandel, wrote a book in which he describes the key element of his civic, charitable and business success: “It’s All About Who.” Not who you are, but who you hire. That concept became the title of the book.
Mort is a self-made billionaire, entrepreneur and philanthropist. With his brothers, he cofounded a company in 1940 that grew in value to over $3 billion dollars. Mort’s volunteer and philanthropic activities are legendary, certainly because of his grandiose generosity, but largely because he translated what he knew created success in business to his volunteer, non-profit world. It’s All About Who You Hire.
His premise is simple: Hire and keep extraordinary people. When you have the best people in the right seats on the bus something magical happens. Smart strategy, strong culture and excelling execution tend to follow. It’s so simple, but not always implemented. But that’s what we do at our Jewish Federation and in the myriad of organizations we support through our Annual Campaign.
We have a tremendous cadre of “A” list (Mandel’s highest category of hires) Jewish communal professionals in the Lehigh Valley: rabbis; cantors; supplementary school teachers; synagogue administrators; program directors; Jewish family life educators; office and administrative staff; day care staff; day camp staff; day school teachers; counselors and therapists; case managers; principals and executive directors; graphic designers, newspaper editors and marketing staff; bookkeepers and CFOs; cafeteria staff; facility maintenance staff; health and fitness professionals; fundraisers; programmers; and caring and patient professionals who work with our emotionally challenged children, our skeptical teens, our precious preschoolers and our elderly.
Jewish communal professionals chose this profession for a myriad of reasons: passion, drive, a calling, a job, a career. Most – I, for one -- stay in this profession for one reason: to make a difference. We seek to improve the quality of Jewish life, to strengthen our communities, to impact change, working long hours in a challenging profession with rules that constantly change in communities and organizations that sometimes do and sometimes don’t. We work days and evenings, weekdays and weekends, targeting our efforts to strengthen Jewish life. We work for a constituency that demands nothing short of excellence.
I have not worked outside of the Jewish community since I was a team leader at Baskin Robbins during my high school 10th grade year. I transitioned to an after-school job at the Nashville Jewish Community Center and have never looked back. And I have had no regrets. I am immensely proud of my profession, a feeling reinforced daily as I observe and interact with Jewish communal professionals in the Lehigh Valley. The employees of our agencies and synagogues are immensely competent and caring. Those of us who lead understand Mandel’s principle. It is all about who you hire.
We are in the middle of our Annual Campaign and in the throes of a 60 Day Challenge to complete much of our campaign by Thanksgiving. We take seriously the challenge to grow and enrich our community. And we do that through the intersection of human capital and financial capital. It is an awesome combination. It can be used to enrich lives, change lives and comfort souls.
And it does.