The Jewish holiday of Passover is upon us. Jews around the globe gather with family, friends and community to retell the story of our people’s historical exodus from slavery in Egypt to freedom. Many who are hosting Passover Seders use this holiday as an opportunity to incorporate modern stories and discussions of freedom, bringing our past to light and ensuring not only that we remember, but that we value and learn from our history.
In 1300 BCE, Moses led the Jewish people out of slavery in Egypt, and into the Holy Land. We are commanded to retell this story year after year, and it is customary to raise questions and contemplate modern slavery and suffering. If we were to design the Exodus story, we might not have cast Moses to be the one we’d have chosen as the top-ranking guide for such an elaborate, harrowing leadership job. But it was Moses’s qualities as a human being – compassionate, modest, and willingness to question – that made him a successful leader and a model for leadership which still holds today.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks once laid out seven principles of leading Jewishly. These include in a nutshell: 1) Taking responsibility, 2) Leading with a team, 3) Leading for the future (having vision), 4) Always learning, 5) Believing in the people you lead, 6) Having a sense of timing and pacing and, 7) Leading with the purpose of doing the work there is to do, helping people in need and righting injustice.
Moses espoused these leadership qualities many times during his time of leading - like when he took responsibility and intervened while an Egyptian was beating an Israelite, and when he likewise intervened to stop shepherds abusing the daughters of Jethro. Like in having a grand vision of moving a people from slavery to freedom in the first place.
Yet there are other times when Moses falters and is shown lessons on leadership which he adopts - like when his father-in-law, Jethro, reminds him that leading alone is not good, and when G-d punishes Moses with leprosy for doubting that the Israelites would follow him.
I have had the privilege to spend time in Kansas and Missouri, and to become part of the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City for several months now. Through my work here I have gotten to experience the dedication of our board and committee leadership, our staff, and other KC agency leaders with whom we partner. It is evident to me through the myriad ways this team works together to enhance and sustain Jewish life, that the positive human qualities of Moses, and Rabbi Sacks’ principles of leading Jewishly, are regularly at play.
The outcomes produced by this leadership are many. Through PJ Library, Federation is bringing young families together around Jewish reading and learning. Not only does this initiative provide social engagement, but it furthers Jewish literacy for the newest generation. Through Sasone, Federation is putting a spotlight on children with special needs and their families, and making sure they have access to Jewish education. In opening our homes and hosting teens from Ramle and Gezer, the Jewish community is creating a shared society and deepening connections among Israel and diaspora Jews.
Through Federation’s local allocations process, there is meaningful support for more than 80 initiatives that change and enhance lives in and around Kansas City. Through Federation’s financial and mission-based support, just last month and soon to come this month with the General Assembly, our leaders will have traveled to Israel, Bulgaria and Romania.
We are partnering with Jewish communities around the world; extending support and bringing back lessons that will inform and enrich our own understanding of Jewish unity and connectedness.
In my role as Interim CEO & President, I have already seen clearly the extensive network of active, caring leadership at Federation and its partners throughout the community. As lay and staff persons leading in the important work of living Jewishly, we are acting upon our shared values of Am Echad (One People), Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World), education, respect, innovation and collaboration. Leadership mattered at the time of the Exodus, and it matters so, so very much today.
The Greater Kansas City Jewish community, like Moses, leads with heart and with purpose.
Wishing everyone a Chag Sameach. Happy Passover!
Hava Leipzig Holzhauer, JD
Interim President & CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City