Last month, the Jews of Color Initiative had the honor of hosting our 2023 Leaders Convening in Berkeley, California. This four-day event brought together 22 executive Jewish leaders of Color, all of whom are past or current JoCI grantees. Crafted and carried out almost exclusively by, for, and with Jews of Color and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) organizers, educators, and facilitators, the Convening was a groundbreaking and inspiring event. It marked a significant moment in the field, and created unprecedented opportunity for connection, collaboration, and celebration among executive-level JoC leaders.
The Convening, which took place May 8, 2023–May 11, 2023, inaugurates a new era of community and opportunity for JoC professionals. At the time of the JoCI’s founding in 2016, there were only four JoC-led and -focused organizations. As of 2022, there are 35 JoC-led and -focused organizations, and institutional support for the JoC community has more than doubled. The significant increase in JoC led organizations has also meant that there are far more JoC who hold executive leadership roles, and, for many, the convening was the first time this monumental progress was made visible. For the first time ever, executive and senior-level JoC leaders formed a substantial cohort, and were able to gather to celebrate the present, and envision an even brighter future.
“After 7 years of organizational activity, we were thrilled about this first opportunity to bring together so many executive and senior-level leaders,” said Arya Marvazy, Senior Director of Programs. Aside from bringing JoC together, the Leaders Convening also had larger goals: deepening relationships, partnerships, and collaboration; supporting personal and professional development; and inviting space for rest and renewal to empower leaders’ ongoing efforts in service to Jews of Color and the broader Jewish community.
These goals were reflected in the themes and sessions that comprised the Convening. One day’s theme was rest, renewal, and connection, and the agenda included a session on Recovering from Grind Culture, with JoC guest facilitator Heather Archer, a certified workplace wellness coach. Another day focused on BIPOC leadership experiences, and Ilana Kaufman, CEO, shared her observations from her many years in the field. The program also focused on mutual support, and included a session with the JoCI Grants Team to guide and support participants who were interested in applying for our leadership development grants.
In line with the invitation to apply for grants, the Convening offered other supplementary forms of leadership support, including professional headshot photo sessions, and providing attendees with a list of recommended certifications and executive trainings: examples include Nonprofit Management and Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School, Finance and Accounting for Nonfinancial Executives at Columbia Business School, as well as Jewish leadership opportunities at institutions like HUC Zelikow School of Nonprofit Management and the Spertus Institute.
One primary goal of the Convening was for participants to feel rejuvenated and ready to go back to work with a renewed sense of energy and direction. As such, we strategically designed the program to balance professional development with opportunities for rest and replenishment.
“It’s not often we create space, opportunities, and capacity for the people who are fueling the work to replenish themselves–refill their own cups–to balance the tremendous amount of communal service they are contributing by spending so much time, energy, and bandwidth serving others. We wanted leaders to be able to take a breather, spend some quality time in community, and intentionally rest,” said Marvazy. “Philanthropy almost always favors new ideas and innovations. We developed the Convening with the understanding that moments of pause and rest are just as valuable to the Jewish community as the next innovative idea. Deeply investing in our leaders’ wellbeing and resilience is equally valuable, and actually directly translates to their capacity to contribute wonderful impact to the larger field.”
Given that this was the very first year of the Leaders Convening, we were also eager to obtain feedback from participants. In an anonymous survey given after the conclusion of the Convening, one participant shared, “I thought this was so successful! I felt well taken care of and the programming was a great mix of social, rest, and intentional thinking and planning.”
Indeed, the surveys conveyed that one of the most impactful elements of the program was the authentic emergence of a collective connection–a cohort–among leaders who were previously atomized in their specific organizations. One leader anonymously shared that “the most valuable takeaway was the advice, ideas and nurture I got from the other leaders around me. Also feels exciting to think of us as a coalition group that can be in larger solidarity going forward together.”
Marvazy is proud to say that participants have maintained their newfound connection beyond the conclusion of the program. “It was incredible to see a cohort emerge among the group. Since the Convening, we are seeing leaders communicating on Whatsapp, sharing resources with each other, and continuing to offer that personal and professional support.”
An interconnected network of executive leaders creates a support system with unbounded impacts for current and future JoC leaders. One benefit of the diversity among Convening participants is that young and emerging executive leaders are able to build relationships with seasoned leaders who have decades of experience under their belts. The JoCI team is enthusiastic that this cross-generational network has the potential to foster greater collaboration, creativity, and success across the Jewish communal ecosystem.