Young Leaders On Boards


I read “Young Leaders Pushing For Seat At The Table” (July 2), which calls the two-day program Pursue, created in 2008, the “first of its kind within the Jewish nonprofit world,” to give nonprofit boardroom experience to 20- and 30-something Jews. I’d like to bring to your attention to the fact that for more than 30 years UJA-Federation of New York’s yearlong Observership Program has successfully trained many emerging young leaders.

The Observership Program provides young leaders and donors with ample opportunity to experience the operations of board governance and strategic planning through one of UJA-Federation’s affiliated agency boards or internal committees. As an Observership participant, I had the powerful experience of learning about board governance, philanthropy, and grant making through my placement on UJA-Federation’s Poverty and Community Development Task Force. Not only was I given the real-world experience of sitting through all meetings, but I also gained substantial leadership training through workshops, one-on-one mentoring, and events. I participated in thoughtful case studies on topics such as the relationship between presidents and CEOs of not-for-profit organizations; I conferred with notable Jewish community-service leaders; and I visited agencies to see the fruits of such labor. 

I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from the wisdom of people involved in a lifetime of proactive philanthropy as well as from the young energy and innovative thinking of my fellow Observers. In my group of 62 Observers, there were 38 young leaders who sat on the boards of 23 local nonprofits; 24 of us observed on UJA-Federation task forces. I feel as though I have been part of a cohort making an impact on the nonprofit world and have been given the tools necessary to play a continued role in Jewish communal leadership.

Upon completion of the Observership program, many of my fellow participants became full board members at several UJA-Federation beneficiary agencies, including Associated Camps — Block & Hexter Vacation Center, YM & YWHA of Washington Heights & Inwood, Jewish Association for Services for the Aged, Selfhelp Community Services and Met Council on Jewish Poverty.