Leatid 20 years later
On a late summer day of September 1996, a group of 12 young European Jewish leaders in their late thirties & forties got together nearby Geneva, in a nice yet simple mansion belonging to ORT. They were writing a new chapter in the history of European Jewish life, as participants to the first session of the first Leaders XXI seminar, which, following an introductory Top leaders seminar a few months before, was to signal a new era for community development at the end of last century.
I was privileged to be part of this genesis, both as Director of Leatid and as speaker-trainer on Management issues. I remember these years as buoyant, a period of historical optimism: the USSR had disappeared, the global economy was booming, Jihadism was still unheard of, and people were hopeful the Oslo agreements would bear fruits.
20 years later, there are many sobering factors for Jews in Europe, and as a committed Jew living in Paris; one cannot escape some fundamental & painful questioning.
But among the reasons I find to remain optimistic of Jewish life in Europe, Leatid Europe stands out.
It started with a vision of Alberto Senderey, then JDC Community Development Director, of a place where leaders of Jewish organisations in Europe, lay and professional, would get together to meet, exchange, analyze & question the present, explore the future (Leatid is Hebrew for “to the future”), and develop new thoughts & models relating to their institutions.
The vision developed into a project when Alberto met Michel Calef who was to become Leatid’s first and inspiring President. Both men developed an innovative model combining a curriculum based on Community Development, Management & Jewish Thought, together with a flexible organizational model: a light permanent structure which would expand for seminars and bring in speakers with a diversity of experiences, expertise & views.
20 years on, Leatid Europe is alive and kicking! It has trained hundreds of lay leaders, professionals and activists. It has evolved in its offering and in its curriculum. It has tested several innovative speakers, modules and formats. It has changed and it has grown. For those who have joined Leatid at some stage, seeds were planted that in time have blossomed in many different and beautiful ways, affecting many more people in many communities and organisations throughout Europe. That was the initial purpose. That is happening
I moved on long ago to pursue other professional interests, but my love affair with the organization I helped found and develop remains intact. Singing Shabbat ladino songs with the community of Thessaloniki, redefining the Jewish curriculum with people as inspiring & remarkable as Clive Lawton from London and Rabbi Zalman Kossowsky from Zurich or enduring heated arguments with orthodox Rabbis on the subtleties of managerial feedback & courageous conversations are equally memorable occasions.
20 years on, Leatid continues to serve as a uniquely pluralistic and open space for Jewish leaders who find inspiration, meet with peers, forge new friendships and stir their Jewish organisations towards a defined and desired future: Leatid!
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