Today I had the pleasure of attending a luncheon in honor of Joshua Venture Group‘s most recent cohort of talented social entrepreneurs setting out to the change the world through Jewish values and teachings. What an impressive group! What stood out most to me was the way that the two year experience they had with Joshua Venture Group has given them the support — and the tools — to turn their respective bold visions into clear, impactful actions. The degreee to which this group had learned to care for and bring out the best in each other was palpable. As I sat among these inspiring young visionaries, my thoughts turned to my more established colleagues in blue chip Jewish organizations we all know and sometimes love.
lish. There is a risk in being too hard on the old guard, of course. It is no easy task to remain sustainable and relevant in the face of financial pressures, changing circumstances, a tough labor market and immutable forces of diminishing returns. Twenty years ago I was outraged at what I have come to call “organizational entropy,” the tendency of established nonprofit organizations to slide into an impotent state of self preservation as primary mission, with lofty visions deployed only as fundraising rhetoric and anti-accountability tactics. Today I am no less saddened by the tendency, but I no longer blame individuals. No one goes into this line of work because they yearn for mediocrity. Rather, organizational entropy is a natural condition that necessarily accompanies nonprofit efforts just as greed accompanies commercial enterprise and corruption accompanies government. The trick is not to get angry about the tendency or blame individual actors, but rather to productively seek ways to mitigate the negative forces in order to keep positive efforts on track. I think many nonprofits — large and small — recognize this trend. Some are trying hard to confront it. A few are succeeding.
What lessons could this newly minted group of Jewish social entrepreneurs teach old time professionals at established Jewish communal organizations that play such important roles in the fabric of American Jewish life? How could the support JVG taught them to give each other be applied to BigOrga? Are there ways we can take care of each others’ neshamas (souls) to keep individuals and organizations vibrant and impactful, even in the face of organizational entropy? Success happens when inspiration coexists with environments of structure, support and accountability. This is what Lisa Lepson and her Joshua Venture Group colleagues have taught today’s young leaders to strive toward. It is time we stop looking at these innovative young leaders with kind eyes that say “awww, isn’t that nice,” and start opening our eyes widely to their wisdom, learning from them as we mentor them — allowing them to show us how to repair what is broken, how to take care of our most precious commodity, each other.
Here’s a beautiful meditation that was shared with me…
This morning I reach gently for the cup
The container in which Your spirit is carried
Carried to me and to all humankind
I drink from the precious cup
And know that the cup is treasured only for its role
It is but a container of Your Joy, Your Treasure, Your Essence
The cup is flawed, but is precious nonetheless
It will never be a perfect or true conduit
But it is good enough
And it is essential
I cannot apprehend you
I cannot approach you
Your approach to me is through this vessel
I treasure it, I reject it
You I seek
You I require
You have chosen me
You have chosen us
You have created something I will never understand
But you have placed me here now
Here I stand
Here I walk
Walk with you now
About you on my best days
May today be such a day
I drink from the cup and invite you inside
To fill me with your holy spirit
Please guide me to act and not act in accordance with what matters
Today we held the final review session for Letters of Inquiry to the Jewish Education Innovation Challenge (JEIC). In this, our third, year of the Challenge we saw a collection of applicants that was the very best yet. Those advancing to Round Two will be notified this weekend. Congratulations to all applicants — this year’s was the best group of LOIs we’ve seen yet — you made our job very difficult. I wish we could fund and work with all of you. Please check your email in the coming days to see whether your LOI has been accepted to the next round. For those advancing, we look forward to seeing your full proposals and meeting you in your interviews. To those who did not, please keep trying. You are on the right track and we see you all as our partners in building a bright future for our children and our children’s children. Yasher Koach and Shabbat Shalom to all.