An Experiment in Learning Two New Languages: JFNA’s Next Gen Jewish Federation Fellowship

March 4th, 2021

On a sunny morning in January 2020, the 19 participants in The Jewish Federations of North America’s Next Gen Jewish Federation Fellowship sit in a boardroom overlooking Leichtag Ranch just outside San Diego. They’re discussing the power and importance of productive conflict with their guest speaker, Chaya Gilboa. Gilboa deftly guides them through a Torah source to unpack the complexity and challenges of contemporary leadership in the Jewish world. Serendipitously, with the statement above, she illuminates both the ingenuity and complexity of the Next Gen program structure.

The Fellows, hailing from 17 Federations across North America, fill a variety of roles, typically intended to engage young adults like themselves in their local Federation communities. Most Fellows work in the areas of donor cultivation and relationship building. Others serve as direct engagement professionals, stewarding and encouraging their local Jewish community members to find and participate in Jewish experiences that make sense for them. The great majority have been Jewish communal professionals for more than five years and are participating in their first ever intensive cohort-based experience of professional development.

In 2018, JFNA received funding along with nine other educator training programs from the Jim Joseph Foundation to create professional development opportunities. As part of the evaluation work for the initiative, Rosov Consulting is producing a series of case studies of the peak moments–some form of intensive, residential, or retreat component–of each program. This fourth case study explores the Next Gen Fellowship, which was created to jumpstart innovation and leadership in the field of young adult Jewish engagement. The program functions as a kind of grand experiment. It is the first time JFNA has undertaken a professional development initiative of this scope, and its leaders have been ready to make mid-course corrections if needed, especially between one cohort and the next.

An Experiment in Learning Two New Languages: JFNA’s Next Gen Jewish Federation Fellowship,” Rosov Consulting, January 2021