The Jewish Observer
News from Middle Tennessee's Jewish Community | Monday, Feb. 26, 2024
The Jewish Observer

Spotlight: National Young Leadership Cabinet Creates Unique Opportunities to Strengthen Jewish Identity and Connection

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The Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville’s Young Leadership Cabinet cohort. Pictured l. to r.: Erin Coleman, Alex Brown, Amy Goldstein, Rachel Whitney, and Carolyn Hecklin Hyatt, Federation Campaign Director.

When my family and I first moved to Nashville for my husband Dan’s postdoctoral fellowship in 2015, I worried that it would be hard to find good friends and that I would feel isolated. I worked from home for remote clients which meant there were no in-person work-related opportunities, where I could potentially make new local friends. We also didn’t have any close family in town to help create a feeling of comfort or familiarity.  

 

Enter the amazing Nashville Jewish Community. Whether it was chatting with friendly folks between morning workouts at the GJCC, connecting with parents and teachers during pickups at Micah Children’s Academy and then later the Early Childhood Learning Center, and going through orientation with fellow Kindergarten parents at Akiva School (three of whom were rabbis representing three different congregations), everywhere I turned, there was a smiling face, a warm welcome, and often an invitation to coffee or dinner. My fears of isolation were not only alleviated, but my experience in Nashville was sweeter than I ever could have imagined.  

 

Eight years later, Nashville’s Jewish Community is the gift that keeps on giving - and it’s why I support the Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville. I do so as a donor, a board member of the Federation, and a proud member of Federation’s National Young Leadership Cabinet, which is Federation's young leadership development program that aims to educate and connect the next generation of global Jewish leaders and philanthropists. To participate in Cabinet, I had to apply and, more importantly, commit to five to six years of learning, growth, and meaningful giving to the Federation.  

 

While Cabinet has been around for several decades, I first learned about Cabinet from Lana and Franklin Pargh, who were recruited the previous year by Aron & Batia Karabel. The big selling point for me was that Cabinet would inspire learning and personal growth - and connect me with a network of people from across the country who also want to give back and help strengthen and sustain their Jewish Communities. My 300 new friends range in observance from unaffiliated to Orthodox and range in age from mid-20s to early 50s. Career experiences also greatly vary from doctors and lawyers to professors, entrepreneurs, and sociologists. Some were small business owners like me. (Dan and I ultimately launched a private psychology practice, Nashville Psych, in 2016.) Others ran large corporations and flew on their private jets to attend Cabinet conferences. Despite the vast differences between many of us, the thread that ties us all together is our love of being Jewish, our desire to help others, and our commitment to the Federation. 

 

Last month, I had the distinct privilege of joining hundreds of Cabinet members, including fellow Nashvillians Alex Brown, Erin Coleman and Rachel Whitney, and our Federation staff representative Carolyn Hyatt, for three days of learning, connecting, planning, and innovating at Federation’s National Young Leadership Cabinet Conference, held in Detroit, Michigan. Over the course of the retreat, we shared what is working well and what could be improved in our communities. We heard from various leaders about what they are seeing and experiencing. We also participated in hands-on training on a variety of topics such as effective communication, leading with intention, how to respectfully disagree about Israel without staying silent, and other relevant topics. I attended a session on managing group dynamics and another on creating and maintaining psychological safety in any environment, both of which were directly relevant to my volunteer life as well as my role at Nashville Psych. For me, it was a true win-win. 

 

On the second day of retreat, I led a caucus session, which is a small, intimate gathering connecting with chèvre (Hebrew for “group of friends,” and in this case other cabinet members) to share about our lives back home, more specifically our Jewish lives. We discussed our upbringings, what led us there, what we were most proud of and why, and our hopes and dreams for our families and communities. We also shared why we give to our local Federation and how much we pledged to donate in the next year. Throughout the experience, we confided in each other, we laughed, we (sometimes) cried, we (obviously) ate, and we left feeling moved, understood, hopeful, and connected. I shared that I give to the Federation because our extraordinary Jewish community and several of the organizations that Federation helps to fund (Akiva, GJCC, JMS, JFS, Temple, to name a few), have been there for me, my husband Dan, and our daughters Stephie and Savanna. With our children in mind, I am especially grateful for Federation’s advocacy efforts to secure funding for more security for our schools and congregations. 

 

My life is greatly impacted by the work of the Federation, and I am passionate about paying it forward. If any of this resonates with you and/or you’d like to learn more about Cabinet, please reach out to me, any of the other cabinet members mentioned.  

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