Incorporating change in a radically different Jewish world

The Going Green Campaign of the Baltimore Jewish Community has been engaged with answering the charge of how to grow numbers, engage more people, and invigorate the masses.

This blog, written by DFI's Executive Director Cindy Goldstein,( The Darrell Friedman Institute for Professional Development at the Weinberg Center ) addresses their approach to implementation of mission and vision in an ever-changing landscape:

For decades, communal professionals have been searching for “best practices” to recruit, train and retain individuals with passion, excellence and vision to lead our Jewish communities into the future.

The Jewish world has radically shifted. No sooner do we begin to implement a new vision for our organizations, when we are asked to revision and set new long-term goals, due to the forever-changing landscape of the world around us. The same is true in professional development. No longer do we rely on the individual who is committed to lifelong service and is exclusively coming in with a “field of knowledge” from the traditional graduate school training in Jewish communal service. We have been challenged to adjust to this moving landscape, to recognize those coming into the field each with a different knowledge base, background or as a second career. The Darrell Friedman Institute for Professional Development at the Weinberg Center has had to consider questions that we never had to before. We need to rely now more than ever on creative ways to ask people to “sing and dance,” allowing them to flourish and utilize new skills that we may not have asked of them in years prior.

Along with leaders of a handful of training programs throughout the country, The Darrell Friedman Institute for Professional Development at the Weinberg Center grapples with ever more relevant questions:

  • Is there a “right” and “common” list of competencies we should all be offering to support our staff?
  • Is there a field of knowledge, skills that everyone working in the Jewish community should have?
  • How do we integrate the Jewish learning or context, the basis for all that we do in our work, toward communal sustainability and enhancement?
  • Should we continue to offer “one-shot” leadership workshops as opposed to a more in-depth management series, which may have greater lasting impact?
  • How is that impact measured?
  • How do we know we are making a difference in someone’s career and in the effectiveness of the organization?
  • How do we address the needs of staff who are at varying levels of experience and at diverse agencies, organizations, synagogues and schools, and bring them together in a meaningful way to network and collaborate?

All of these questions and so many more go into planning a professional development program for a community, particularly in this day and age when “keeping up” with our skills and knowledge should be an expectation. We are fortunate in Baltimore that the community of professionals and lay leaders believes in the importance of professional development, so much so that we have a separate program and staff providing such a service. Although there are cities with such a program, most communities admire that Baltimore professionals are supported by THE ASSOCIATED through DFI. DFI even offers its Friedman Fellowship, pursuant to its goals to recruit, train and retain, for new staff to engage in professional development based on their own and their organization’s particular needs.

No matter what the nature of the change of our Jewish landscape, once in the field, all professionals, even more today, need to feel supported and recognized. A good supervisor, a mentor and encouragement to learn and grow both in one’s professional and Judaic competencies, inspiring leadership and vision in a changing world, makes all the difference in retaining that professional to work in the field and continue to build an even stronger Jewish community.

For an up-to-date listing of DFI’s professional development workshops, visit

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