created at: 2011-11-02When I grow up, I want to be an architect.

Oh yeah, well I want to be a doctor.

No way…. I want to be RICH.

Yeah, well I’m going to be a stock broker.

Remember those days, conversations held on bus rides and over lunch in the middle school cafeteria?  In those days, anything was possible, and your life lay ahead of you.

Not many people, though, would have said something like “I want to be a Jewish communal professional.”  In fact, if you asked the average elementary school kid if they could even define “Jewish communal professional” you’d be served with a quizzical look.  Ummm… what’s that?

People arrive in this field for various reasons.  My journey was perhaps typical.  Upon my return from a year in Israel in 2001 after Project Otzma I had three interviews over the course of two days- at a bank, at a law firm, and at a Jewish day school.  The short story is that I got one of those jobs, and ten years later I am fortunate to have cobbled together a decent career and to now be serving as the Director of Prozdor, the largest supplementary high school in the country. 

To be a youth director, a Hebrew school principal, a federation worker, a day school teacher, a fundraiser for a Jewish non-profit, or any other job in the Jewish community requires an interesting combination of qualities and desires.  Maybe you really loved camp.  Perhaps it was because you did Birthright and came back fired up about Judaism.  Maybe it was that you wanted to teach and got a job in Jewish Education, or that you got a masters in social work and ended up a communal agency.  No matter how you became a Jewish professional, I’m sure many of you were like me, a Jewish professional who never really planned on becoming one, who was never taught any kind of basic business skills or principles of innovation.

Into this world, enter CJP’s PresenTense Boston Fellowship.  The Fellowship, a five-month program based in Boston, enables young Jewish social innovators to turn their envisioned projects into reality.  PresenTense fellows are committed to pursuing an idea that will engage, leverage, and inspire Boston’s Jewish community, or to advancing a local Jewish non-profit by incubating a new program/initiative. 

Last year, I was fortunate to be selected to be a member of the 2011 cohort, along with twelve other young adults committed to fostering innovation within the Jewish community.  My hybrid scholarly career that featured a Politics major, Hebrew language, a masters degree in Jewish Education, and a doctorate-in-progress Education never included things like budgeting, visioning, business planning, market scans, social media applications in marketing, talking to prospective donors, or developing promotional materials.  All of these things are nothing short of critical in today’s world of business, commerce, and, yes, Jewish communal work.  Who amongst us doesn’t use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or blog on JewishBoston to increase the buzz about our organizations?

Therein lies the true value of PresenTense for the Jewish professional- top-notch professional development for the people who are running Jewish communal life but never really learned about best practices.  While PresenTense is designed to be a crash course in how to launch ventures in the 21st century, it also does an incredible job of giving you easily-implemented techniques to make you a better worker, leader, colleague, and innovator where you work right now.  While you can use PresenTense to develop a new entrepreneurial venture for the community, it’s equally applicable to uses within existing organizations to innovate and enact meaningful change.

So if you’re like me, a Jewish professional who was looking for the tools to become a leaner, meaner, savvier, more productive member of your organization, consider applying for CJP’s 2012 PresenTense Boston cohort. 


For more information on this year’s CJP PresenTense Fellowship, click here.  Applications are now being accepted and the deadline to apply is Monday, November 21 at midnight.