I recently spent a week with five hundred young Jews who are committed to improving the global Jewish community. From Tikkun Olam
, I was joined by Nate Kemphues, Lisa Tankanow and Jodie Suckle at the Building Future Leadership conference
in Jerusalem. We participated in workshops ranging from public speaking, tikkun olam, Israel advocacy, team building skills, social entrepreneurship, to Jewish leadership during the Holocaust.
While the workshops were well put together and interesting, I found that the people around me were the most fascinating and motivating aspects of the conference. In the small group that we participated in for the entire week, we heard from young Jews who wanted to revitalize the Conservative movement, radically change the way North American Jewish education works, bring young Jewish communal professionals to Israel, and build stronger ties between Jews and non-Jews across the globe.
Although the conference participants were a highlight, an evening event called “Open Space” provided an amazing example of how to start paradigm changing conversations. All 500 of the conference attendees were crammed into a large room with large pieces of paper filling the center of the space. A large box of markers was dumped onto the pile of paper and we were told to write down any topic about any issue.
Topics were all over the place, from “Who is a Jew?” to “Do Jewish Federations still matter?” to “Post Modernism and Zionism.” We were then told to pick a group, engage in the conversation and to move on to a different topic if we weren’t contributing to the conversation. It was a truly impressive evening that we developed for ourselves and that led to a variety of exchanges dealing with Judaism in the Diaspora over the remainder of the week.
Discussing the challenges facing the Diaspora over meals and during free time allowed me to finally commit to what I want to be doing for the next five years of my life: professional Jewish communal work with young adults and college students. I spent the last evening of the conference discussing my resume and working on interviewing skills with a conference attendee who used to be an HR manager at a Fortune 500 company. Friday morning I sent off an application to a position that I never would have applied for if I hadn’t received encouragement and advice at the Building Future Leaders conference. While I’m a long shot for the job, the conference was the motivation I needed to commit to a serious job search so that I can help build the Jewish community I want to raise my children in.
Katie Vogel is a native of Detroit, Michigan and attended graduate school for urban planning at the University of Cincinnati. She plans on returning to Chicago, Illinois after riding her bicycle from Moscow to Berlin with her husband, Nate Kemphues. A participant in the 10 month Coexistence Track, Katie splits her time between grant writing and research, pretending to be a dinosaur while chasing kindergartners, tutoring English to high school students and researching and developing bicycle legislation and policy for Israel.