Hanhagah L’dorot, Generational Leadership, became a part of NFTY’s lexicon when introduced as a cornerstone of the URJ Kutz Camp NFTY Regional Board Leadership Track in 2004. Since then, we have integrated this into our work on the North American level of NFTY, with regional leaders, and continue to use it as a foundation of much of the holy work we do.
Predicated on a fundamental belief that in order to find balance in our immediate work as a NFTY leader, our focus can not solely be on our time in office, this one special year with a well-earned title attached to our name. Rather it must be a panoramic view of leadership, learning from those who came before us, and making choices to ensure the existence of the next generation. An example can be found in this text about the covenant between the Jewish people and God:
You stand this day, all of you, before God...as God promised you and swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and your mothers, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, I make this covenant, with its sanctions, not with you alone, but with those who came before you, with those who are standing here with us this day before our God and with those of you who are not yet with us here this day.
We inherit our leadership positions.
From our immediate and distant predecessors we look to maintain traditions and ideas we know were positive influences while we learn from the challenges of generations past, and make good decisions based on the learning curve of others. We all come into our positions with ideas and platforms and goals which are fundamental to our work and our vision. There will be work that we do that is memorable, some not so glamorous - but necessary, and of course, some things we’d prefer to forget. Irregardless of how many great things we accomplish, the most important legacy we will leave behind is a vibrant future for the next generation. It is incumbent upon us to seek out and raise our successors, both immediate and more distant. We hold the future of NFTY in our hands. It’s an awesome responsibility.
Balance is best achieved not when we position ourselves solely in our immediate tenure, but when we find a sense of steadiness somewhere between our past and our future. When aligned on the borders of the center, not just the center alone, we can control the see-saw motion of going too far into one of the extremes. Jewish tradition supports this theory in biblical, philosophical and modern texts. It is incumbent upon each of us to find this balance and have a real sense of kavod for those who came before us, and ensure that our work is integral in perpetuating generations to come.