Blog  Leading Beyond our Terms

Leading Beyond our Terms

By Austin Zoot, NFTY Religious & Cultural Vice-President

One of my favorite characters in Jewish history is Yitzhak Rabin. In our entire history, we have never gotten closer to peace between Israel and Palestine as we were during his time as Prime Minister. We have never seen hope that was as contagious as it was during his time.

We have also never seen the work replicated. After his assassination, we saw a grinding halt. The peace discussion ended, the hope dissipated, and the future was thrown back into mystery. Rabin left a legacy of great strides toward peace, but also of unfinished business.

As a NFTY leader, I am starting to consider my own legacy. Clearly I am not solving the conflicts in the Middle East (at least not yet), but I do have to consider what it means to leave behind a legacy.

NFTY’s General Board recently elected the new North American board, and is preparing to elect successors all across the country, at regional and temple levels. That being said, we, as leaders, are facing the end of our NFTY leadership as we know it, which is a scary thought, especially to those who have been part of this movement for the best part of four years.

We also may not have accomplished everything that we had intended. We leave projects undone, ideas unfinished. How do we come to terms with the work that we have done, and the work we have yet to do, when we clearly see that we cannot finish it all?

Again, we turn to Rabin for guidance, or rather, for an example not to follow. Rabin saw his work crumble after his death. We, on the other hand, do not want to see the work that we have been doing end just because our time in NFTY does. We as a movement focus so much on generational leadership. We even have a hashtag, which means it must be serious. That being said, we have an obligation to pass down the work that we have been doing, and make the work transcend the nameplate that we give it.

NFTY, as I have come to learn, beats the ego right out of you. We can’t get wrapped up in getting our name the notoriety of success based on our NFTY work because, all too often, we have to either pass down our ideas or, on the other hand, accept the passing down of the ideas of those coming from above.

This means that we have to be comfortable walking away knowing that the work that we have done is in the strong hands of those we elect to succeed us. We have to be willing to be present, to give guidance to those who come after, but yet also have the grace to walk away and allow those who come after to be strong, valid leaders of their own right, and not to be too wrapped up in “getting the credit” for the work we do, but rather in cherishing the changes that we make, no matter who it is that makes them.