World ORT leadership training looks to the future


World ORT has sent out a call to communities throughout Europe and the Former Soviet Union for enthusiastic and committed teenagers to apply for its Future Leaders Program (

This, the second year of the programme, will build on the success of last year with new features to broaden the mentoring of participants and incorporating the experience of the inaugural alumni. It will be a demanding but exciting year of self-discovery and actualization for the 35 16- to 18-year-olds who will be selected at a time when the need to cultivate new generations of communal leaders is being recognized at the highest levels.

This summer, presidents of European Jewish organisations meeting in Barcelona realized the need to strengthen Jewish life on the continent and committed themselves to nurturing the leaders of tomorrow; and in Jerusalem, the Israeli Presidential Conference: “Facing Tomorrow”? noted that fostering of young leadership was critical to overcoming the new challenges facing the Jewish people and to ensure Jewish continuity.

“There’s often a generation gap between the leadership and the community they serve but few young people have the skills to take up leadership roles,”? said the Head of World ORT’s Education Department, Daniel Tysman. “The situation is particularly difficult in those places where the Jewish population falls below the critical mass necessary to provide the infrastructure for community cohesion and sustainability. An injection of new blood is essential to ensure that communities achieve a dynamism that will enable them to move forward and face the many challenges to survival.”?

But good quality leaders can galvanize communities and help them to overcome many obstacles, including limited resources “モ and World ORT’s programme, which needs funders to supplement the support given by the Israeli Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, the European Jewish Fund and the Stephen Muss Foundation, has already shown that it not only identifies leadership material, it gives those selected the confidence, inspiration and knowledge to realize their potential.

Last year’s intake emerged from the rigorous schedule of on-line distance learning and personal mentoring bookended by intensive seminars in London and Israel with a deeper understanding of and appreciation for their heritage, a more sophisticated appreciation of the symbiotic relationship between the Diaspora and Israel, and an impressive store of practical experience and achievement in communal activities. They met Jewish leaders and social entrepreneurs, learned about Jewish innovation, and discussed their experiences and aspirations through assignments and blogs, forming a strong network in the process.

They will share their knowledge and experience with the new group at a four-day summit in Strasbourg.

“This is a new feature that will develop a sense of continuity for the programme as well as strengthen and expand the network of participants. We want to hand over to our initial group of Future Leaders the responsibility to pass on some of the lessons that they learned as well as to share ideas and to support and enthuse each other in generating creative solutions to the challenges they face in each of their communities,”? Mr Tysman said.

Another new aspect this year is the association with Paideia Project Incubator which trains people aged 20 to 40 to develop innovative social programmes serving European Jewish communities. Alumni from Paideia will mentor World ORT’s younger group, sharing what they have learned from their activities.

“Both new aspects reflect the desirability of young people giving each other practical support. There are a lot of teenagers who are not engaged by what’s on offer from their communities. Here we’re not only ensuring that they benefit from personal mentoring by experienced members of their communities but also by talking things through with people more their own age so that they can develop new programmes which will appeal to their peers,”? Mr Tysman said.

However, an essential component of the programme will continue to be the development of participants’ understanding of the State of Israel and its connection with Diaspora communities.

“If they represent a Jewish community then, whether they like it or not, they will have to be ambassadors for Israel in some sense in the face of often hostile public opinion,”? said Mr Tysman.