A different future for the Jewish Communities of Europe
Few projects in the Jewish World are closer to my heart than Leatid. Leatid, as it name indicates, was about imagining a different future for the Jewish Communities of Europe. Leatid was subversive, in the sense that it tried to change the way in which we understand Jewish Communities. It tried – and did – offer a radical new look at the challenges and dilemmas that Jewish Leaders face at the turn of the 21st century. Leatid recognized that new paradigms of leadership were needed to face a reality that was radically different. It also recognized that only leadership of excellence can strengthen and develop the Jewish Communities of Europe.
Leatid is a training program, but it’s much more. It’s the cauldron where a new culture of leadership gets created; one that understands the complexities of Jewish Communal Life and sees them as a source of richness and opportunities; one that uses modern tools to tackle modern problems; one that challenges its limits instead of limiting its challenges. Leatid curated an international network of leaders before networks became fashionable. We all understood that in today’s world, “collaborate and connect” is more useful than “command and control”. We understood that in times of change and uncertainty, we need to learn from each other and pool our experiences and resources. Leatid developed a culture of “empowered humbleness”, we were humble in that we knew that we didn’t have all the answers, but we also knew that we had the power to change Jewish Life in Europe. And indeed, the Leatid graduates became the first network of Jewish European Leaders and, each in his own way, transformed his community. Together, they created a renaissance in European Jewry.
For me, running Leatid was an honor and a privilege for which I will be forever grateful. The interactions with the Leatid participants were simply priceless and life changing. No two seminars were alike and in each and every Leatid seminar I learned new things. Every workshop touched me and enriched in countless way. In each seminar, participants trusted us – and each other – with their issues and concerns. They were willing to open up and share; they dared being challenging and they didn’t fear challenging others. Leatid pioneered many things, but it also was anchored in a very Jewish tradition of learning in open and pluralistic environment. I remember having sessions in centuries old synagogues in Venice, feeling that we were part of an unbroken chain of learning. We were one with the community leaders that had sat in the same rooms, discussing the issues and the problems of their community.
What was true in the 16th century was true in the 21st: a community is as good as the quality of its leaders. Today, Leatid is more necessary than ever. The world is even more challenging, more unpredictable, and more complex, than 20 years ago. We had massive terrorist attacks; wars and economic crises. We saw our lives transformed by the smartphones and social media; we traded our books for kindles and our walkmans for ipods. We have seen kids starting revolutions with a tweet and we have become more connected – and at the same time lonelier – than ever. We have seen the ugly resurgence of anti-Semitism and we have witnessed Israel economic miracle and also its increase demonization.
The leaders of European Jewry need, more than ever, a framework to wrestle with these issues and reflect on how the new realities are affecting their communities. Leaders of today need to build the community of the future and they need to do it together; learning from and with each other. This brave new world offers unprecedented challenges and incredible opportunities, it can bring our decline or it can usher a new golden age of European Jewry. It will, in great part, depend on us. Leatid will continue to be true to its core values, and it will always continue guiding us towards the future.
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