Ki tov … It is good: A Message From Our President & CEO

Ki tov … It is good. Two simple words from Exodus 2.2 that sum up Jewish leadership.

I’ve been reflecting a lot this week on optimism and hope and how challenging it can be to keep this mindset, especially during these times of increased stress. There is so much turmoil, unrest, fear, and death and it is sometimes difficult to focus on the positive, on ki tov.

At times like this, I reflect on Jewish teachings and always find scholarly writings that challenge my assumptions and ground me in my Jewish beliefs and values. This week, the book Inspired Jewish Leadership by Dr. Erica Brown was my solace. She stated: “To be a Jewish leader means to believe that whatever circumstances befall us, we will endure and as a result grow stronger." I was reminded that Hatikva, the Israeli Jewish anthem, means “The Hope.” Our underlying strength of Jewish leadership is hope.

In the book Resonant Leadership, Richard Boyatzis states: “Hope enables us to believe that the future we envision is attainable, and to move toward our visions and goals while inspiring others toward those goals as well.” Right now, under these circumstances, it is not easy, so it is even more essential that we are optimistic and focus on the future. I’m sure some of you may be thinking, "That’s all well and good but it’s a bit Pollyanna-ish." I contend that at times like these, we must focus on what is good and reach out to others with compassion.

Personally, this is not always easy. In my position as CEO of the Jewish Federation, I listen to many criticisms as well as positives. Everyone has their idea of what the Federation should be and do. Much of what I hear is valuable feedback and I appreciate it very much. It's that feedback that gives us hope for the future.

I strive to continue to grow and lead this organization to be the best it can be and fulfill it’s mission of sustaining and enhancing Jewish life here and around the world. It is a noble calling and I am proud to have this opportunity. Together, we make incredible things happen!

However, I have noticed that with the pressure and confinement we are all under, being optimistic may not come naturally. It is much easier to focus on what is wrong.

During my doctoral studies I happened to research the field of positive reinforcement. Behavior modification was "the way" to educate, so I studied the ratio of positive feedback to negative feedback and found that it takes 1 positive to every 1 negative to maintain behavior, and 4 positives to 1 negative to change behavior. I also found that the average ratio is 17 negative/corrective comments to 1 positive. Quite shocking results.

I have tried to live my life by disciplining myself to utilize a one to one ratio in all my relationships - raising my kids, leading staff and organizations, and professional development. It takes increased focus and attention, especially during trying times when we are stressed and fearful.

Be the model for others. Say yasher koach, thank you or use our new Zoom lingo and give a "thumbs up." Go out of your way to "catch someone doing something good." It will come back to you tenfold. And more importantly, you will make someone else smile. Optimism and hope are in our DNA as Jews. Thanks for your commitment in helping to make this a better world. Each one of you are valued and appreciated.

As it is said, ki tov. It is good and will be good. Use this as a guiding principle. Fill others with hope and optimism. Be the difference in the world.