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Overview: What is the Community Leadership Initiative?

The Community Leadership Initiative is a five-month certificate program designed to help communities identify and energize new and aspiring lay leaders.  The program is developed with the busy young professional in mind. It is comprised of a dynamic cohort of  16 men and women from across the country between the ages of 25-38, who are relatively new to board leadership.  The program meets twice at Yeshiva University (on a Sunday and Monday) and meets regularly online. By combining the top talent, technology and resources of Yeshiva University, we can help train, inspire and empower our leaders with the tools they will need to demonstrate and drive positive change within their own organizations and communities.  Participants will be led through a journey of personal self-discovery regarding their own leadership style, while being taught the practical and necessary skills for long-term leadership. 

What Kind of a Time Commitment Does the Program Require?

  • Participants will meet twice at YU, once at the beginning of the program and again towards the end.  Each visit will be for a two-day (Sunday and Monday) hands-on intensive seminar
  • Due to the busy schedules of the participants, as well as the geographic distances between one community and the next, the program will be comprised of 13 total sessions, a synthesis of live classes, peer to peer learning and online collaboration
  • Therefore, participants will be part of a virtual community, where they will have the opportunity to interact via conference call, live video chat and through interactive problem-based learning scenarios.  These meetings will take place every 2-3 weeks for one hour in the evening
  • To reinforce the lessons, participants will be offered articles, podcasts and readings and will be able to contribute their own ideas to an online discussion forum
  • The CLI program would not be complete without the input of the organizational leadership, whose participation and guidance will be welcomed and incorporated throughout the program
  • As a follow up to the program, participants will continue to remain in touch with other members of the cohort to provide support to each other, as well as receive ongoing leadership and communal support from Yeshiva University



    What are the Goals of the Program?

    The Community Leadership Initiative aims to create and empower a national network of community pillars by investing in today’s emerging Orthodox lay leaders.  The program will:

    • Expose participants to the top thinkers and key opinion leaders in the field of leadership 
    • Familiarize participants with the challenges, trends, and opportunities that arise in steering Jewish organizations and communities  
    • Deepen their commitment to playing the critical role of lay leader in their community 
    • Teach the theories and best practices of successful community leadership through exploration of case studies, role playing and strategic analysis, couched within the    framework of Jewish thought 
    The Curriculum:

      This program aims to inspire growth within the personal lives of lay leaders, and teach them how to develop into a successful life-long leader, striking the appropriate balance between work, family and community, so that their tenure in lay-leadership will be long and fruitful.   The benefits of this program are designed to spill over into one’s professional and personal lives, so as to maximize and ensure long-term effective leadership:  Some of the topics will include:

      • Successful board governance 
      • Fundraising, endowments & bequests  
      • Forming ideal committee structures 
      • Building consensus & support 
      • New members, singles & young professionals 
      • Creating innovative programming 
      • Developing & implementing a shared vision 
      • Transparency, financial and legal issues 
      • Ethical dilemmas in governance & Halacha 
      • Hiring and keeping the best rabbis 
      • Strategic planning & mission development 
      • Recruiting & maintaining volunteers 
      • Forming communal partnerships 
      • Politics, conflict resolution and negotiation 
      • Dealing with diversity and dissention  
      • Succession and long-range planning  
      • Working peacefully with paid professionals 
      • Work/Life/Community balance 
      • Marketing & promoting your organization 
      • Recruiting and energizing volunteers  
      • Developing & maximizing the annual budget 
      • Preventing and responding to crises  
      • Making your Shul into a community magnet 

      What is the Organizational Benefit? 

      The Community Leadership Initiative aims to groom the next generation of lay leaders and stimulate local conversations regarding succession planning.  Many Jewish agencies struggle to find talented young lay leaders, while many busy young professionals are hesitant to accept the added responsibility of volunteering and give up the limited free-time they have available.

      The CLI program is designed to take the natural passion and energy of younger adults and to nurture and channel it towards maximizing their involvement and playing a more active leadership role in the organization, while serving as role models for others to follow.  Participants will gain the practical knowledge, skills and vocabulary to meaningfully participate in the governance of the organization.  A particular emphasis will be placed on empowering participants with the skills to effectively execute fundraising initiatives and help steer organizations towards a model of long term financial sustainability.  Upon completion of the program, the organization will receive a framed certificate to recognize their commitment to building their future through leadership development.  Additionally, all participants will receive a certificate of completion, issued on  behalf of Yeshiva University

      What Costs are Involved in the Program? 

      • While the program is heavily subsidized, each participating organization is asked to contribute $500 toward the sponsorship of each of their lay leaders 
      • Travel costs and arrangements are the responsibility of the participant and sponsoring organization to arrange

      Background: The Washington Fellows Program


      In 2009 and 2010 The Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future successfully cultivated cohorts of young leaders in the Washington, D.C. community as a test pilot for this program.  Presently, 100% of the participants are actively involved in leadership positions throughout their communities.  After financial investments in excess of $350,000 the program has been continually adapted and improved, and is now being scaled to reach a national audience.   This will enable CLI to have a reach that is both far and wide and impact positive change in communities nationwide.  In 2012-2013, the first cohort of the Community Leadership Initiative was successfully launched in South/Central New Jersey and Philadelphia.  The following year, a dynamic cohort was formed from numerous Midwestern communities, who are now poised to bring their experiences and passion back to their respective organizations.

      What is the Recruitment/Application Process?

      • For the first time, Yeshiva University will open the application process nationwide
      • Any Jewish organizations which would like to be a part of the program are invited to nominate up to three of their emerging communal lay leaders (men and women 25-38 years old, particularly, those with less board experience)
      • Names and email addresses of the nominees can be sent to Rabbi Ari Sytner, Director of Community Initiatives at:
      • All nominees will be contacted by YU and congratulated for being recognized by their community
      • They will then be invited to formally apply to the program through the CLI website, with an interview to follow
      • In order to maximize the impact of the CLI program, there should ideally be two representatives attending the program per organization

       Click here to read more about the Community Leadership Initiative.


      If you are interested in participating or having your organization nominate lay leaders to join the program,

      please email Rabbi Ari Sytner, Director of Community Initiatives: