Jan 31, 2011

Alban: Authority or Leadership?

Authority or Leadership?

by Dan Hotchkiss

In olden times, we like to think, society accorded great authority to clergy. Whether or not this rosy generalization stands up to scrutiny (it does not), we mainstream clergy certainly have lost some of the cachet our counterparts enjoyed from 1945 to 1965 or so. Many people then believed attending and supporting congregations to be just as much a part of being a good person as stopping at stop signs, dressing neatly, and keeping your lawn mowed.

I believe our loss of authority presents clergy with a great opportunity. Authority, appealing as it is, can also be confining. In the days of easy postwar growth, U.S. congregations fell into rigid patterns and became more similar to one another. Like an inbred, highly cultivated strain of livestock, they became vulnerable to common threats. The social changes of the 1960s brought death to many congregations, especially—I would say—those that depended too much on authority.

The opportunity for us lies in developing a new capacity for leadership. Ron Heifetz, in Leadership without Easy Answers, sheds light on the differences between authority and leadership, and suggests how by depending on authority less and learning to lead better, we can redevelop a more varied, robust, and disease-resistant strain of congregations in America.

Authority is the legitimate power to make things happen. Check-signing authority, for instance, is the power to compel the bank to release funds. The right to direct the work of others, to hire and fire, to sign contracts, or to choose sermon topics—all these are examples of the formal authority given by a congregation to designated leaders.

Authority can be informal also: when some people speak, others listen. Jesus "spoke as one with authority," and so do certain long-time, trusted leaders of a congregation, whether they hold office at the moment or not. Formal or informal, authority is always given to us by others

And sure enough, those who give authority expect something in return. Check-signers must sign only the approved and proper checks, congregations must provide expected services, and preachers are expected to give sermons people like. Anyone who has authority and wants to keep it needs to pay attention to the strings attached.

Leadership, as Heifetz defines it, is quite different. Leadership is not a personal trait, but an activity: getting the whole group to address its most important challenges. Leadership is measured not by whether leaders get their way, but by how well the resources of the congregation come to bear on crucial questions.

Authority can be a help to leaders, giving them the right to convene meetings, name issues, and hold the group's attention. But the expectations that accompany authority can be a hindrance. People do not usually give authority in the hope that leaders will distress them by inviting them into hard conversations! Only certain people—call them managers—can use authority, but anyone, from any seat or pew, can lead.

Managers use their authority by making decisions; leaders exceed their authority by making others ponder troubling questions. Managers calm people by resolving ambiguity; leaders often frustrate people by refusing to decide quickly what can only be solved slowly. The most important challenges are too big for individual decision-makers to address alone. That's where leaders come in to bring the whole group's gifts to bear.

Which situations call for authority and which for leadership? One consideration is the nature of the challenge to be faced. If the furnace breaks, it must be repaired. The congregation needs to authorize someone to pick a contractor and spend money pronto. But a once-successful youth program that no longer attracts participation may need a cross-section of good heads to take whatever time they need to cook up a fresh vision of youth ministry.

A second factor in deciding whether to use authority or practice leadership is the amount of courage available. A "broken" youth ministry may be fixable simply by replacing one of the moving parts—for instance, a staff member. That's the easy course. But for a brave congregation, even a broken furnace could become the kind of challenge Heifetz calls "adaptive." Such a congregation might choose to interpret the cold sanctuary as a wakeup call, and ponder whether to install a new, "green" heating system.

The deciding factor often comes down to the fact that even the bravest congregations can deal with only a few adaptive issues at a time. Many congregations have no "bandwidth" for adaptive leadership at all, because their leaders are too busy using their authority. A clergy leader who cannot delegate to staff and volunteers soon has no time to address bigger issues. A governing board that is reluctant to delegate authority to staff ends up in the same position. Without a firm and mandatory plan for delegating authority, the decision-making demands that come with authority quickly overwhelm the people at the top of any organization. It is tempting, when this happens, to interpret every issue as a technical, decision-making matter.

The temptation to quick fixes is nowhere greater than in the fields of money, property, and personnel. A deficit, at one level, is merely a problem in arithmetic: expenses exceed revenues. The problem can be fixed by lowering one, raising the other, or a combination. Looking at a deficit this way leads us to ask questions of authority: Who can cut spending? What fund-raising methods will induce greater giving? When it comes to money, where does the "buck" stop?

But a deficit invariably points beyond itself to deeper issues. Perhaps the congregation has become overly dependent on endowment revenues. Perhaps it is still trying to engage people in outdated concepts of membership. Perhaps it clings to a grand style of congregational life that no longer fits the values or lifestyles of potential members.

Questions like these deserve the sustained attention of a varied group of leaders, information from outside, and time for conversation, prayer, reflection, and decision. Who will do this? Unless the senior clergy and governing board have freed themselves by delegating some of their authority to others, they will never get around to dealing with the most important matters on their plate.

Fortunately, anyone can lead. While it is far from the ideal solution, when official leaders fail, then leadership can still emerge from the periphery: from ad hoc planning teams, from voices crying in the wilderness, even from the mouths of babes.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom  || Bay Area Masorti  ||  ShefaNetwork.org 
Rabbis for Women of the Wall  ||  menachemcreditor.org 
To join Rabbi Creditor's email list, send a blank email to thetisch-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

Jewish Contemplative Day Long Retreat


Experience a comprehensive journey framed in the Jewish tradition to bring more joy, relaxation and fulfillment into your life. During this day-long workshop, we will engage in a carefully composed sequence of activities designed to help you cultivate personal awareness and a sense of well-being. Our practices will include: silent meditation, Hebrew chanting, contemplative davenning, gentle movement and breath-work. During the day we will refrain from casual conversation as a way to deepen our practice. Please join us as we discover the profound gifts the Jewish tradition offers to help us nurture ourselves and community. Please bring your own lunch for an eating meditation session.

Register: Call the Chochmat office (510) 704-9687, or visit www.chochmat.org/at-chochmat.html .

Cost: We will follow a retreat payment model. There will be a nominal mandatory fee to cover administrative costs due upon registration ($20 members/ $28 non-members). At the close of the day participants will be asked to contribute a donation to the teachers within their means of giving. Please bring cash or a blank check with you to fill out at the close of our day. 

Facilitator bios:

Rabbi Carol Caine graduated from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and received the private smicha of Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi. She serves as high holiday rabbi, service leader, instructor and ritual facilitator for a wide variety of congregations and individuals, including leading a monthly meditation minyan at Congregation Netivot Shalom. A former attorney with over fifteen years experience teaching Jewish chant and meditation, Rabbi Carol integrates a keen intellect with a heart of devotion. She has studied extensively with some of the luminaries of Jewish meditation, including Rabbi Shefa Gold, Rabbi David & Shoshanna Cooper, and Sylvia Boorstein.

Dr. Zvi Bellin holds a Ph.D. in Pastoral Counseling and is a nationally certified counselor. Zvi directs intimate retreats for the Jewish community that are both spiritually uplifting and intellectually stimulating. His teaching style follows the tradition of blending Torah study with contemplative Jewish practice. Zvi has studied extensively with teachers spanning various Jewish denominations, including Rabbi David Zeller, Miriam Ribner, Rabbi Zvi Miller, and Rabbi Jeff Roth.

Jan 30, 2011

the struggle for Israel on the Rutgers campus

Shalom Chevreh - 

See the links below from the urgent and emotional struggle for Israel on the Rutgers campus: - this is serious. it is immediate. and it's connected, even if not explicitly, to the work we've been engaging in Berkeley, SF, and beyond. 

Please consider posting the links below on your Facebook account, or just share them with others.  My general message is something short like "Israel is as 'human' as every other country, for good and for bad. But it is our home, with every right to be loved and defended."

Kol HaKavod to the Rutgers Hillel staff, including our colleague and teacher Rabbi Esther Reed (associate director for campus jewish life), on supporting our students and community!  may the work ahead be less, and the support at least as strong.

kol tuv,

Jan 23, 2011

Re: [bamasorti] Rabbi Sunshine's Israel trip

Dear Bay Area Masorti Chevreh.

For those who didn't know in advance, Rabbi Elon Sunshine, spiritual leader of Congregation Bnai Shalom in Walnut Creek (http://www.bshalom.org/) is participating in an amazing unity mission for Bay Area rabbis, organized by the Consul General of Israel in San Francisco.  Bay Area Masorti is a network of Masorti (Conservative) communities in the Bay Area, and Rabbi Sunshine has graciously offered to blog his reflections on this trip through bamasorti.  

If you know of anyone who would like to receive these emails, and others from Bay Area Masorti, please have them send a blank email to  bamasorti-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.  There are Israel trips happening through Masorti shuls in our area (I'm leading one this July), and we are hopeful that this email listserve and the network being built by members of our communities and our rabbis will be a source of strength for our local Jewish community, as well as an online network for awareness-raising and activism for the sake of the Israel of our dreams.

May Rabbi Sunshine bring our passion with him, and return with even more.

Kol Tuv,
Rabbi Creditor

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom  || Bay Area Masorti  ||  ShefaNetwork.org 
Rabbis for Women of the Wall  ||  menachemcreditor.org 
To join Rabbi Creditor's email list, send a blank email to thetisch-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

On Sun, Jan 23, 2011 at 1:02 PM, Rabbi Elon Sunshine <rabbi@bshalom.org> wrote:

At this moment I am sitting in the International Terminal at LAX awaiting our El Al flight to Israel. We went through security (which was very smooth and easy) and it was just a thrill to explain the purpose of our trip to the El Al agents. This anticipated journey, which has seemed surreal is finally becoming a reality. Twelve of us are traveling together -- Consul General to Israel for the Pacific Northwest Akiva Tor and eleven rabbis. In Israel, we will meet up with another 16 rabbis and Dan Pine, editor of the j. weekly. Over the course of the coming week, we will have the opportunity to hear from government officials, explore questions of religious pluralism in Israel, and to study Torah as an eclectic group of rabbis, each with unique perspective and experience, able to bring new perspective to one another as we explore the wisdom that has shaped the Jewish people for thousands of years.

Off now to El Al. More when we arrive in Jerusalem.

Recent Activity:


Jan 22, 2011

Response to Six Feet Under (3:4)

Response to Six Feet Under (3:4)
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

It is in the absences that the soul emerges.
It is precisely that gap that pulls me out.

When the rhythm breaks,
when the air quivers,
the eye widens

How to cultivate this rupture,
this ritual pause,

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom  || Bay Area Masorti  ||  ShefaNetwork.org 
Rabbis for Women of the Wall  ||  menachemcreditor.org 
To join Rabbi Creditor's email list, send a blank email to thetisch-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

Jan 21, 2011

My Big Fat Jewish Learning
Audio and Handout from Session One
with Rabbi Menachem Creditor and Josh Kornbluth!

"The Prophet's Wife" and the Book of Hosea:
For more information,
Sign up for the series with Rachel at office@netivotshalom.org!

Shma.com: "GenXers and Boomers: Humility and Tzimtzum"

Shma.com: "GenXers and Boomers: Humility and Tzimtzum"

At a conference earlier this year, I heard a denominational leader now close to retirement ask whether the young leaders who are going outside of traditional institutional frameworks understand "who published the siddurim that they are using, and who gave them their training and credentials." This comment echoes the findings of a recent study by the AVI CHAI Foundation examining the impact of Jewish leaders in their 20s and 30s. In that study, American Jewish history scholar Jack Wertheimer writes, "For their part, younger Jewish leaders would do well to reexamine their views of the establishment. For all its weaknesses, it played a major role in educating them." In both of these comments, I detect a hint of resentment toward young leaders, and an accusation that they/we (I'm a 34 year-old rabbi who started a new community in Seattle) are acting without appropriate humility.

On the other hand, when I started the Kavana Cooperative five years ago, I heard something altogether different: My generation did not want to align with the "establishment" and so we made calculated decisions neither to adopt a synagogue model nor to affiliate with any denomination. This desire to acknowledge generational differences by forging new paths has been reinforced by the world of Jewish philanthropy, which in recent years has supported a number of innovative projects that aim to change the Jewish world.

All of this leaves me in a bit of a quandary. I am keenly aware that I am who I am today by virtue of my upbringing during the '70s, '80s, and '90s in a small, southern Jewish community, where I was shaped by all of the major Jewish institutional forces of the 20th century: a synagogue (which happened to be both Conservative and conservative), an afternoon Hebrew school, a Jewish Community Center, a Jewish federation, summer camps, and more. But the Jewish world has changed rapidly and dramatically over the past decades. And today, I am nurtured Jewishly by a loosely connected national network of Jewish "start-up" communities, funders, and umbrella organizations — groups brought together by a common vocabulary centering around "innovation," "social entrepreneurship," "meaning," and "empowerment."

While I acknowledge that my success is due to the individual mentors and to the many institutions — both old and young — that have taught me, supported me, and enabled me to arrive at this point, I am also aware of a deep tension — a behind-the-scenes tug of war, a generation gap — between "old school" and "new school" leaders.

I wonder what is going on. How might we probe the generational divide that exists among Jewish leaders today? Can we learn to talk across the multigenerational divide in ways that are productive and mutually respectful? Is this a matter of not acknowledging one's years, of not wanting to hand over the power to make changes to a rising youthful leadership that works in ways different from the established ways? Are young leaders not acknowledging or paying tribute to their formative years, their own stories of emergence, the precedents upon which they built their lives and "innovative" communities?

I ask my older colleagues: Can your generation of Jewish leaders take pride in the legacy you are leaving, even if younger leaders carve out new paths rather than follow directly in your footsteps? Can you accept that we might not want to assume the mantle of your existing institutions — even if you were willing to hand over the reins? And, without being presumptuous, we know that some existing organizations may falter without a new, rising leadership. Can you demonstrate the principle of tzimtzum, contraction, in order to make space for new ways of organizing and new forms of leadership? Can I convince you that preserving Judaism is more about the values and ideals we share than any particular institutional framework or established model?

I ask my peers: How might we express our gratitude to those who have paved the way for us and demonstrate appropriate humility? How can we absorb the depth of wisdom from people who have served the field over time, have lived with an innovative spirit and created their own communities in their day — even without making their choices our choices? Can we build bridges between the tendency to reject mainstream Judaism as outdated and the reality that, for the majority of American Jews, these institutions are and will remain at the heart of Jewish life for the near future?

A multigenerational mix of Jewish leaders might challenge the unhelpful dichotomy between innovators and establishment, enduring institutions and inchoate new ventures, "insiders" and "outsiders." In our own ways, we might focus on the shared task of making Judaism relevant and meaningful in the future.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom  || Bay Area Masorti  ||  ShefaNetwork.org 
Rabbis for Women of the Wall  ||  menachemcreditor.org 
To join Rabbi Creditor's email list, send a blank email to thetisch-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

Jan 20, 2011

More than 70 College Students Attend National Ramah January Staff Training Programs

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More than 70 College Students Attend
National Ramah January Staff Training Programs
 20 January 2011
 15 Shevat 5771
Tu B'Shevat Newsletter from Ramah
:: Bert B. Weinstein Institute for Counselor Training Held at Ramah California, January 3-6, 2011
:: Ramah Staff Members Attend Jewish Leadership Programs During Winter Break
:: Ramah Outdoor Adventure in the News on Tu B'Shevat
:: Ramah and JNF Sponsor Alternative Winter Break Service Trip to Israel, January 2-10, 2011
:: Plant a Tree in Israel and Support Ramah In Honor of Tu B'Shevat
:: Ramah Galil Ride to Raise Funds for Ramah's Special Needs Programs
:: Donate to Ramah Camps and Israel Programs

Bert B. Weinstein Institute
for Counselor Training
Held at Ramah California,
January 3-6, 2011 

  Weinstein 2011

More than 50 staff members and a dozen senior leaders, representing Ramah's overnight camps and the Nyack day camp, joined together for this year's Bert B. Weinstein Institute for Counselor Training. This four-day professional development seminar, sponsored and run annually by the National Ramah Commission, is a powerful educational experience, building counselors' skills and excitement for the upcoming summer.


Each year, Weinstein brings together the finest madrichim from across the Ramah Camping Movement. During the course of their four days together, they create a dynamic, spirited and meaningful learning community. In the process, they energize and inspire one another to remain engaged and committed to their Ramah work.


Ramah Staff Members Attend
Jewish Leadership Programs
During Winter Break

Kol Ha'Kavod to Ramah staff members who took part in a variety of Jewish leadership programs during the winter break. In addition to the Ramah Weinstein and JNF trips, Ramahniks participated in the AIPAC's Saban Leadership Seminar; the Maimonides Leadership Fellowship program to Spain, Morocco and Gibraltar; the Wexner Institute; the Hagshama Young Zionist Leadership Conference; Taglit Birthright; Drisha Institute for Jewish Education's Winter Week of Learning, and the Uri L'Tzedek Food Justice Leadership conference, to name a few.

We are proud that Ramahniks continue to be at the forefront of Jewish leadership in numerous and diverse ways.

Ramah Outdoor Adventure
in the News on Tu B'Shevat

An article by Rabbi Eliav Bock, director of Ramah Outdoor Adventure, was featured in eJewish Philanthropy this week:


... we can take the lessons of Tu B'shevat and apply them to our summer camp lives. At Ramah Outdoor Adventure, we have created a program with the specific goal of reconnecting our youth with the natural world around them. ... From waking up with the sun, to living in a technology free zone with limited electricity, to eating sustainable food at meals, our goal at camp is to spend a few weeks living intentionally in the natural world.


Read entire article  

Ramah and JNF Sponsor
Alternative Winter Break
Service Trip to Israel,
January 2-10, 2011

Ramah-JNF Alternative Winter Break Trip

Earlier this month, the National Ramah Commission partnered with the Jewish National Fund for our third annual Alternative Winter Break service trip to Israel. A group of 22 retunring staff members from Ramah overnight camps and Ramah Day Camp in Nyack participated in this inspiring week of  social action and community building.

The social action projects that framed each day included painting apartments in Mitzpe Ramon, assisting swim instructors in the theraputic pool at Aleh Negev, beautifying a park in the Ein Kerem neighborhood of Jerusalem, and spending time with soldiers on the Ramon Army Base.

Plant a Tree in Israel

and Support Ramah

In Honor of Tu B'Shevat


Just in time for the birthday of the trees, you can plant a tree in Israel through the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and support Ramah camping at the same time.

JNF and the National Ramah Commission have a strategic partnership to support environmental projects in Israel and environmental education at Ramah camps in North America. By purchasing trees from JNF through this special link, a portion of all proceeds will benefit Ramah.

Plant a Tree in Israel with Ramah

Ramah Galil Ride
to Raise Funds for Ramah's

Special Needs Programs

Click here to donate to Ramah's special needs programs or to get more information
about the Ramah Galil Ride 2011.

Ramah Galil Ride logo

Donate to Ramah Camps
and Israel Programs

Click here to make a donation to the National Ramah Commission, or to any of the Ramah camps and Israel programs.

Donate to Ramah


Rabbi Donniel Hartman: "To My Dear Granddaughter "

To My Dear Granddaughter   (17/01/2011)

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom  || Bay Area Masorti  ||  ShefaNetwork.org 
Rabbis for Women of the Wall  ||  menachemcreditor.org 
To join Rabbi Creditor's email list, send a blank email to thetisch-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

Jan 19, 2011

Josh Kornbluth comes to The Ashby Stage! (Discount for CNS Chevreh on Feb 9th!)



Written & Performed by
Josh Kornbluth



Rabbi Menachem Creditor

will be at The Ashby Stage in conversation with Josh Kornbluth on Wednesday, February 9th after the performance.


Friends of Congregation Netivot Shalom can get $3 off their tickets on that night by using the discount code: Netivot


Tickets can be purchased online at


or by giving our Box Office a call at


"Hilarity segues into serious reflections... Kornbluth continues to grow as an artist, both in his uncanny comic timing and the ambition of what he takes on."    - SF Chronicle






Shotgun brings the Bay Area's favorite intellectual comedian Josh Kornbluth to the Ashby Stage in an East Bay remount of his highly successful new show. He's funny, he's outrageously smart, and his ideas are challenging even to a liberal Berkeley audience. Kornbluth's latest investigation centers on the pop art icon Andy Warhol, and his one man show on the subject makes for a fiercely entertaining night at the theatre.




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