Steps to Leadership



“An extraordinary experience”

“An insider’s view of Federation’s work in Israel”

For those interested in understanding the innermost workings of the Detroit Jewish community, its focus on future planning, budgeting and allocating funds to Jewish agencies and services, there’s “Pathways.”

An initiative of the Jewish Federation, chaired by Ron Sollish and Stacy Brodsky, Pathways to Community Leadership is a high level leadership development program focusing on community priorities and needs with the goal of developing future members of a Federation Planning Division or an Agency Board.

The program is demanding and rewarding. As Ron Sollish observes, “The program attracts an engaged and committed group of individuals who will make outstanding community leaders.” Participants attend a ten-part high level course over a period of a year and a half. Focusing on issues of interest rather than individual agencies, sessions cover the topics of safety net services, formal and informal Jewish education, budgeting and allocations for older adult services, Campus Hillels, NEXTGen Detroit and Israel and Overseas programs.

The program began in September 2010, with the first cohort ending in May 2011 with the placement of the participants on Planning Divisions and Agency Boards. Pathways’ second cohort of 12 individuals began work in October 2012 and included a mission from November 5-13 to the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) General Assembly (GA) in Jerusalem and Federation’s Partnership 2Gether Region. The program culminates in December with an allocation exercise and Pathways members, based on their interests, choosing to serve on one of the Planning Divisions, other Federation committees or an Agency Board.

Pathways Mission to Israel

A major highlight of the Pathways program this year was participation in the National GA Mission along with 100 people from 16 other Federations. This year, through the national mission, the group had the opportunity to network and to learn about the issues facing other Federation communities and what solutions and innovations they’ve put in place to address their challenges.

As the group traveled together, they were able to see some of the results of Federation in action in Israel through projects supported by the JFNA through JAFI and JDC. There also were visits to some important Israeli historical sites and even a climb through a steep tunnel from the City of David to the Southern Wall Excavations in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. One of the best things that being on the National Mission afforded was time for the group to bond and get to know each other better.

Viewing messages on the walls: on a graffiti tour in Jerusalem
Viewing messages on the walls: on a Graffiti Tour in Tel Aviv.

A day in the Central Galilee

The Pathways members also spent a day together with Federation’s Partnership 2Gether Steering Committee in the Partnership region of the Central Galilee, which includes Nazareth Illit, Migdal Ha’Emek and the Jezreel Valley. Through site visits to programs in which Jewish Detroit is involved, the Pathways group could see firsthand the work that Federation funding supports in Israel, along with its partner agencies, JDC and JAFI. A highlight of the visit to the region was sharing and cooking dinner with Israeli Partnership 2Gether volunteers and young adults from the region.

Joining forces with volunteers in the Partnership @Gether Region, cooking dinner together
Joining forces with volunteers in the Partnership @Gether Region, cooking dinner together

Following the National Mission, the group participated in the GA with its packed agenda of thought provoking sessions on issues in Israel society, featuring a roster of illustrious speakers, including Prime Minister Netanyahu and Minister of Finance, Yair Lapid.

The final day of the GA was devoted to site visits to programs supported by JFNA around Jerusalem, highlighting some of the positive impact that Federation dollars have on providing services to populations at-risk in Israel and on fostering Jewish identity and continuity.  The GA culminated with a solidarity walk through Jerusalem to the Kotel.

For Pathways participants the mission was an opportunity to see, understand and experience firsthand the centrality and importance of Israel to the Jewish people and the impact of our Israel and overseas allocations on addressing the needs of vulnerable populations in Israel, on bolstering Israel’s safety and security, and strengthening Israeli society. It was also a time to renew and make new friendships with our Israeli Partnership 2Gether families and among ourselves.

Our English library grows: collecting books for school children in the Partnership Region
How our English library grows: collecting books for school children in the Partnership Region

Remarking on the impact of the Mission, Sollish observed, “As a leadership experience, Pathways program participants had an opportunity to meet and interact with leaders from the Detroit Jewish community who were present at the General Assembly. Numerous relationships were created and cemented during attendance at the GA. Additionally, participants had an opportunity to meet leaders from communities throughout the United States and exchange ideas, impressions and experiences.”

Sollish additionally commented that, “Participants had an opportunity to meet and reconnect with lay leader and professionals who had worked and/or volunteered in the Detroit Jewish community and were now associated with other North American Jewish communities. Overall, the experience was an extraordinary introduction to leadership on a local, national and international level.”

–  by Linda Blumberg,  Director, Planning and Agency Relations, Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit