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Filling the Communal Black Hole

September 11, 2013 – 8:51 am13 Comments

By Jo Silver:

esther2Is there really a black hole into which all Jewish 24 – 40 year olds disappear? Hasn’t this always been a problem? What happens to young adult leaders who make their way up the ranks in AUJS and Youth Groups? Do they take a 20 year break whilst they establish careers and families?

Yes, there is a black hole around young adult leaders, specifically within Jewish institutions and it is likely to have always been a problem. However, with the ‘Gen 08’ studies identifying Jewish continuity as a real threat to Melbourne Jewry and the very different ways in which younger generations engage and communicate, the lack of youth leadership in organisations is an issue that needs addressing.

A number of groups have been working on this issue and this year has seen an explosion of platforms and young adult engagement points. Groups such as The Australian Jewish Funders provided a space for young adults to collaborate and develop initiatives such as The Eden Project, Moishe House and The Isaiah Scholarship. Other inspired young leaders have created YJP and AICC’s Young Business Network and ZFA has started Dor Atid in an effort to retain young adult leaders.

The Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) has also been hard at work and developed CONNECTS, a unique program designed as a young Jewish leaders networking group, for 20 – 28 yr. olds who are working and volunteering within community organizations.

For what purpose?

Well, the JCCV is the communal roof body, a group charged with representing Jews to Government, other faith groups and the Victorian community, to protect and promote Jewish interests.

The JCCV is also the communal leadership, representing over 2/3 of communal organizations (60 in total). As the communal leadership, the JCCV’s role is to represent, support and coordinate communal organisations to address issues and effect efficiencies such as retaining young adult leadership and Jewish continuity.

Given these two roles, the JCCV approached young adults working within Jewish organizations and put before them a fabulous solution – a youth summit – that they quickly rebuffed! Apart from the concern that one event creates lots of talk but no action, the group wanted to learn from each other, share resources across organizations, address issues of concern, be given support, mentoring and ongoing development.

The group suggested a three-pronged approach: meet and greet; think tank or summit; and ongoing networking and skills development.

This idea became CONNECTS. A program aimed at supporting, engaging and connecting young adults to each other and across organisations.

By creating a network of our community’s future leaders, the implications are many. In the short term, young leaders are more likely to stay involved within organizations and stay connected, develop strong networks and hopefully collaborate and address issues collectively. In the long term, this may translate to reducing duplication across organisations and the silo structure of our organisations. The issues and opportunities discussed at CONNECTS meetings may also filter into Boardrooms to impact on the existing leadership.

As with all projects and initiatives, the challenges will lay in the execution and funds. The first CONNECTS event at Zagames on Thursday 12th September is just the beginning of this journey. Ultimately, CONNECTS will network young adult leaders to each other and eventually to the existing communal leadership. The JCCV already has a networking platform operating amongst the professional and lay leadership and is perfectly suited to building these connections to unify and strengthen the community.

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