From the people that brought you such innovative programs like Leading Up North and ROI120 comes the Insight Fellowship – a bold and audacious program aimed at getting a select group of young Jewish leaders who have recently graduated college to experience first hand various aspects of the Jewish Community. The chosen eight will receive a nice salary and complete placements in a number of Jewish communal organizations over the course of 22 months. Fellows will also benefit from travel, seminars and ongoing support from CLI and the Schusterman Foundation, the sponsors of this program. Intrigued, I spoke to Yoni Gordis of CLI who, delightful as always, filled me in on the details. Deadline for submissions is February 8th so if you or anyone you know might be interested, apply ASAP! My questions are in bold:
ck: So let me see if I understand Insight. You are going to take young, motivated Jewish student leaders, idealistic recent college grads, and send them into the scary, scary world of the organized Jewish community? When I first read about that I thought of Teach America where I saw idealistic recent Ed. grads get sent to teach at inner city schools only to have all their idealism snuffed out and mercilessly crushed by the daily rigors and realities of their jobs. Is the organized Jewish community in fact the best place for the types of leaders you are looking for to make the most use of their talents?
Yoni Gordis: The Jewish community today offers many amazing opportunities for future (and current) leaders. It is actually the most fertile place for young Jews to take their identities and the visions for the world and manifest them into a reality. Do many Jewish organizations need to evolve? Without question they do, and part of that evolution is built into the Insight Fellowship. Not only will the Insight Fellows learning about the opportunities in the Jewish world, but the host organizations will also grow as they welcome the Insight Fellows into the inner core of their organization’s highest profile projects. Jewish organizations need to learn to listen and take risks. Younger generation folks need to see the complexities of organizational management. The Jewish communal world is more diverse and innovative than it appears to many people and there are places where the vision and voices of young adults are being taken very seriously. The placements at the Insight Fellowship are being selected to make best use of the Fellows’ skills and knowledge. If one actually believes in the power of non-profits and the potential of community that seeks to turn the coals of identity into creative fire, then Insight and the Jewish community itself would be the place for a practical young visionary to spend two years.
Do you have any idea what specific organizations the Insight Fellows will be working for? I mean I’d be impressed if young accomplished innovators were to be allowed access to the highest levels of decision making in any established Jewish organization… I know Ann (Raskin, CLI Program Manager) discussed CLI’s ongoing involvement with the Fellows throughout the course of their Fellowships – will this be enough to offer the Fellows guidance and assist them in dealing with the possibility of the sort of institutional resistance and resentment one would expect in any organization when something different is tried?
We are currently in the midst of the recruitment process of host organizations. It’s an amazingly eclectic list, including small organizations and large organizations as well as organizations in a variety of fields (culture, social justice, campus life, work with youth, community, and more). The organizations themselves will be receiving ongoing support for their supervisors who will be working with the Insight Fellows. Rather than resistance and resentment, we are encountering real enthusiasm from the organizations regarding the chance to tap into the skills and insight [ 🙂 ] of the best and brightest of the next generation of future leaders. Organizations who are resistant simply do not become host organizations for Insight. So the mix of Insight Fellowship staff, coaches and mentors, along with the staff at the host organizations, will offer real engagement – attentiveness and pushback – that will make this an unmatched experience in both the lives of the Insight Fellows and the host organizations.
Well you certainly make it seem enticing! Young idealists riffing off of existing organizations and vice versa. What do you think was the primary motivator behind the institution of these fellowships? Some mean spirited individuals might say you were trying to co-opt Jewish innovation and young Jewish leadership – not me of course! So yeah… motivation and what do you hope to accomplish?
CLI’s motivation behind the creation of the Insight Fellowship was to reduce the gap between young adults and positive exposure to the workings of Jewish communal organizations. Our belief is that younger gen folks, with the opportunity to work deeply in organizations on project based work, would see that this is an engaging career path. This would benefit them and it would benefit the organizations who need some help in attracting folks who often turn elsewhere thinking that they can find a rewarding experience in the Jewish world. Some of us have a different experience that we want to share. While some innovation might happen out of organizational frameworks, a lot does happen within them (CLI is a great example of that). We have a lot of trust in the next generation and in their ability to shape communities whose values and habits resonate with their peers – we believe that the Insight Fellowship is one step in getting this generation’s vision for community out there in the world with traction and cutting edge content.
Any parting thoughts?
We are amazed by the numbers and caliber of people and the strength of questions we are getting about the Insight Fellowship. The deadline for application is February 8 and you can get more information by visiting our Web site.