JCC executive director chosen for prestigious local fellowship

By Stephanie Bolmer
HAKOL Editor

Jewish Community Center Executive Director Eric Lightman has been chosen as one of 12 members of this year’s cohort for the Collective Impact Fellowship run by the Rider-Pool Foundation.

The Rider-Pool Foundation was set up by Leonard Parker Pool, founder of Air Products, and his wife, Dorothy Rider Pool, in 1957. Consistent with Dorothy Rider Pool’s wishes and in keeping with the interests of Leonard Parker Pool and Dorothy Rider Pool in their lifetimes, the Rider-Pool Foundation’s intent is to serve as a means to improve the quality of life in the Lehigh Valley community, to build on the community’s strengths and add to its vitality, and to increase the capacity of the community to serve the needs of all its citizens.

One of the ways they labor to achieve these goals is through the Collective Impact Fellowship, a nine-month program which fosters the development of and collaboration between leaders of nonprofits in the Lehigh Valley. 

“The idea is to bring together leaders from the nonprofit sector across the Lehigh Valley, with the goal of education and mentorship,” explained Lightman. “But also to create connections so that we can work together to solve community problems, with the thought being that to solve a problem, whether it’s education or housing or healthcare, no one organization can do it alone. We have to work together.”

Lightman said that the fellowship sees organizations working together in two different ways. They define “collaboration” as two organizations working together directly. “Collective impact” is when two organizations work in parallel toward the same goal with a shared understanding of where they are going and what they are doing to solve those problems.

And there will be plenty of chances to make both of those happen in the future thanks to the structure of the fellowship. Now in its sixth year, the members of this year’s class will have the opportunity to get to know not only each other, but also meet the 62 others who have completed the program over the past five years.

“They’re bringing everyone to the table, getting us to know each other on both professional and personal levels, so we know who to reach out to when there is a problem,” said Lightman.

The things he is most looking forward to getting from the experience are twofold.

“One is just getting to know my colleagues across the sector and getting exposure to what other organizations are doing and the challenges they face. And two, gaining an understanding of the role that the JCC can play in creating a stronger, greater Lehigh Valley community. I think having a strong greater community also creates a strong Jewish community, making this a better place for everyone to live, including those inside the Jewish community.”

When it comes to specific issues to tackle, Lightman said that education is a big one that he feels like the JCC can help with. 

“As a JCC with an Early Childhood Education department, we have something to say about that, and we think we can be part of the solution,” Lightman said.

Ron Dendas, program officer for the Rider-Pool Foundation, is equally enthusiastic about Lightman’s particpation in the fellowship.

“If we want to break down silos [of education, housing, healthcare, etc.], the first thing that needs to happen is we need connectivity between them,” said Dendas. 

“We're really thrilled to have Eric as a part of this. This is going to be a fabulous class,” he added.