By Dan Brosgol
Two Jews, three opinions.
Jewish history is nothing if not countless spats and fights over ideology, practice, observance, and interpretation. It’s hard to develop consensus about much, and the history, tradition, and diversity of Jewish argument is well-documented. Just look at the Talmud.
Ask a group of Jews what “influence” means, or what four things you have to do to be a leader, and you’ll get a multitude of answers. But despite the universality of Jewish disagreement, this year the Jewish community of Boston nominated and selected the Chai in the Hub, the 18 most influential young Jews in Greater Boston. It’s an impressive list of absolutely legit young Jews—innovators, volunteers, politicians, activists, and leaders—and the relatively surprising inclusion of Dan Brosgol.
I will say that my selection is ironic and surprising, and fairly amusing, since I spend most of my time lamenting the fact that I can’t get things to happen the way that I want them to. My one two three four kids are alternately amazing and frustrating, my work is both rewarding and challenging, and I never have enough time to take care of things that I really feel like doing. It takes a lot of work to delegate, balance, and effectively get things done in a way that won’t drive me crazy. I generally feel as UN-influential as can be.
But this acknowledgement has led me to ask myself who I think is influential, and why. The obvious answers are organizational leaders, famous tweeters, people with Klout scores in the 70s and above, newsmakers and celebrities, designers and idea-makers, and more. Spokespeople. Talking heads on TV. Baseball analysts. People who I stop and listen to, or watch on TV, or read about online, who help shape my perspective on the world.
But in the context of my work in the Jewish community, or the work that really amazing young people are doing, there’s a more important factor that is at play in describing influence and attempting to measure it. It’s one that distinguishes the kind of influence and Q score that the Kardashians flaunt from the kind of influence that is going to shape and change the landscape of the Jewish community in the coming years.
The ability to look into the future and develop a compelling vision and strategy for it is what’s really going on when we talk about influence and leadership. In today’s Jewish community, it’s never enough to sit back and rest on one’s laurels. Today’s influencers and leaders have to always be thinking about the next step, the next iteration, or the next market.
In a Jewish America, and a Jewish Boston, that is seeing dramatic changes in demographics, affiliation patterns, participation, and strategies for engagement, influence means being at the forefront of meeting those challenges head-on. Whether you are a Jewish professional, lay leader, entrepreneur, politician, or someone who is just proud to be Jewish (94 percent of us, according to the Pew Study), we all have a shared interest in shaping the future.
At the end of the day, the work that I’m engaging in is the same work that the other Chai in the Hub winners are doing, and it’s also the same work that we should all be focusing on—shaping a vision for the future of Judaism and the future of Jewish Boston that will meet the needs of the coming generation.
Because what I’m primarily concerned with is not about what the community we live in looks like now; it’s about what it’s going to look like in the future.
See you on November 16 at the Chai Society Mega-Event!
Dan Brosgol is the director of Prozdor at Hebrew College and one of the 2013 Chai in the Hub winners.
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