Home July 2012 Profound Journey

Profound Journey

Given the current job economy, Jewish college grads are facing more problems then they’ve had to before.  Whether it’s trouble finding a real job after graduation, uncertainty about how to move forward with their career, or just a desire to reengage with their local Jewish community, these former students are finding out firsthand just how unforgiving life after college can be.
Young Jewish college grads and professionals will be interested to know that the Jewish Federation & Family Services (JFFS) of Orange County has set up a division designed specifically to help them.  The Young Leadership Division (YLD) is an arm of the JFFS that organizes programs for Jewish college grads and young Jewish professionals between the ages of 21 and 35.
“The YLD organizes social events, volunteer and leadership development opportunities, and a variety of other programs to get people in their 20s, 30s and early 40s involved and engaged in Jewish life,” said Lisa Greenberg, vice chair and campaign chair of YLD. “If you are 21 to 25, JewGlue has events for you.  If you have young family members, the YLD also has programs like Shalom Baby and the PJ Library.”
Greenberg’s history with YLD is a testament to how helpful it can be with Jewish college grads struggling to adapt to life after graduation.  Through her involvement with YLD, Greenberg was asked to serve on the planning and funding council of the JFFS.  She is not the youngest member of the committee, which decides how the funds JFFS has raised will be distributed and spent throughout the local Jewish community.  Considering that JFFS annually raises more than $5 million and uses the money to support Jewish organizations like day schools, the Jewish Community Center and the Bureau of Jewish Education, this is an enormous responsibility.
“If you are interested in philanthropy or leadership, there are fundraising events and a national leadership program called Cabinet,” said Greenberg, who is a member of Cabinet.  “Cabinet is the premier leadership and philanthropic program within The Jewish Federations of North America and throughout the Jewish world.  It’s composed of approximately 300 men and women, ages 30 to 45, from across the United States and Canada who are deeply committed to shaping a bright future for the Jewish people in North America, Israel and around the globe.”
Cabinet is meant to help members develop and cultivate leadership skills and educate them on Israel advocacy.  Members embark on missions to faraway locales like Ethiopia, Budapest, Berlin, Argentina and Israel in order to experience firsthand the needs of the local Jewish communities there, which differ greatly from country to country.  It’s important, Greenberg explained, that potential members don’t view Cabinet as just an organization to build leadership skills.  It’s a profound, six-year social and spiritual journey that creates lifelong friendships.
“Cabinet members aren’t just members,” Greenberg said. “They become chevre.”
The JFNA also organizes an annual National Young Leadership Summer Trip to Israel, a 10-day trip that takes participants all throughout the Jewish state.  Recruitment is through all of the Young Leadership programs of the Jewish Federations across America (such as YLD).  Every year, the trip gathers 200 young professionals from across North America between the ages of 25 and 45.  They start in Tel Aviv and visit places like Tzfat, the Dead Sea, Masada and Jerusalem.  After experiencing the trip a couple of years ago, Greenberg was inspired to join Cabinet and eventually lead the Summer Trip to Israel.
“It’s more than a sightseeing trip where we see everything from the bus window,” Greenberg says.  “We climb Masada at sunrise, float in the Dead Sea, hike through the Negev, kayak the headwaters of the Jordan River, meet IDF soldiers, experience the mystical city of Tzfat and, of course, celebrate Shabbat in Jerusalem.  We meet with Israelis, learn about our local Jewish community’s partnership cities in Israel and see firsthand how a portion of the dollars we donate to our local Jewish Federations are used to help Israelis in our sister cities.”
Greenberg mentioned that each participant is asked to donate at least $500 to his or her local Federation.  Traveling to Israel is not cheap, she said, and is a major investment that is well worth it.  JFFS helps interested young professionals cover the costs of the trip by providing subsidies.
“The impact of an Israel experience is lifelong,” Greenberg said.  “Many people who come back are motivated to get more involved in their community locally to give back or take on a leadership position… There is nothing like visiting Israel to help reconnect us to our Judaism and spirituality.  Also, for those young adults who, for whatever reason, were unable to go on Birthright, this is a great opportunity to go with people of the same age and similar interests.”
Readers interested in further information about Cabinet can find it at www.jewishfederations.org/cabinet.aspx.  Readers interested about the NYL Summer Trip to Israel may find it at www.nextgenjews.org/summer-trip.aspx.

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