The Jewish Observer
News from Middle Tennessee's Jewish Community | Sunday, March 3, 2024
The Jewish Observer

Leadership 615 is first program of its kind in Jewish Nashville

On Nov. 12, the Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville debuted Leadership 615, a six-month fellowship program that aims to provide mid-career adults with leadership skills relevant to the local Jewish community. 

The program’s goal is for “outstanding and forward-thinking individuals to become more strategic, knowledgeable and effective community leaders,” according to the Federation’s website. The 12 participants, who are in their 30s and mid-40s, will analyze the changing Jewish communal landscape in the United States and Nashville, meet city leaders, improve their leadership and governance skills and enhance their visions of leadership within the Jewish community.  

Michal Becker, the director of impact and planning for JFGN, co-organized Leadership 615 alongside Carolyn Hyatt, the former campaign director. 

“This is the first of its kind in Nashville,” Becker told The Jewish Observer Nashville. “There are other federations that are doing leadership programs for their communities, but it’s the first time we started something like that here.” 

She said she seeks to make participants feel that their contributions are meaningful through the program. 

“The idea is really to create a pipeline of leaders,” Becker said. “Nashville is not a big community, but we find that many people keep volunteering for the same positions and we know that there are so many other people who care about the community, but they haven’t found a way to contribute, to make the most of their professional skills in their connection to this community. So we thought of creating this channel for them.” 

Future topics of discussion include leadership skills in a changing world, Jewish leadership in Nashville, the basics of nonprofit leadership, national and local contemporary Jewish experience and the history of Jewish community in Nashville, including politics, fundraising and Jewish education. Becker said she found guest speakers through recommendations and from a network of people in Jewish Federations across the country. She soon realized there were many qualified experts right in Nashville, Becker said, including the former mayor of Nashville, city leaders, rabbis and Vanderbilt University professors. 

The program’s first event was an informal meet-and-greet session, where participants said they got to know one another and met the mayor of Nashville. 

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Yuri Livshitz, a programmer who leads a mobile app delivery team for Deloitte and a participant of Leadership 615, said the first meeting was a success. 

“I loved meeting everybody,” Livshitz said. “It seems to me that Michal had very good thought to put together a very diverse group from the Jewish community. I thought that was strong and I got to see that in the first meeting. I love how much this group takes itself seriously.” 

Livshitz, who has served on Congregation Sherith Israel’s executive board for seven years, said he would like to see Nashville’s Jewish community expand over time. 

“I think [it’s] extremely unique that we all really need each other and it feels like, to me at least, that there’s a strong Jewish identity that spans the different congregations,” Livshitz said of Nashville. “The reason for that is because we’re small and we kind of each sit together because we really depend on each other, but we want to grow and I’d love to figure out ways to spread the model to exist even when we’re a large community.” 

Amy Pearl, a Leadership 615 participant, has worked for an asset manager and has worked in finance for over 10 years. She said she joined to ensure that there is more support and community involvement among people who are connected to their Jewish faith like herself. 

“I want to make sure that … the generation that will come after me continues to have a thriving and vibrant Jewish community here in Nashville,” said Pearl, who is a mother of three.  

She added that she prioritizes being involved in nonprofit organizations and hopes to get involved on an executive board for a local Jewish nonprofit. 

Rachel Appelbaum, a Leadership 615 participant who is in her second year of practice as a trauma surgeon, said she wants to volunteer more in her community. She is a founding member of The Future is NOW Nashville, a nonprofit organization that is designed to promote a violence-free future for at-risk youth aged four to 13. Appelbaum’s role is to help teach monthly lessons and lead hands-on activities related to health care, all at no cost to the children. 

“We just had our first session in November and for our next session in December, it’s basically monthly educational sessions that stick close to topics,” Appelbaum said, adding that one such topic is first aid training. “I would say I have a passion for that and my hope is to do more work in that arena.” 

She said Leadership 615 is helping her achieve that goal through collaborative work. 

“I think it’ll help, too, just in terms of holding leadership skills, whether that’s talking to others that may have different opinions or talking through different difficult concepts,” Appelbaum said of the program. “I think it just gives us forums for collaboration and transferring ideas and really sharing in growth over that time period.” 

The leadership program is sponsored by Dr. Mark Goldfarb, a cardiologist in Nashville. 

“I want to really thank Mark for his support,” Becker said. “It helps when you have donors who have this vision of how to make the future of this community more sustainable. I think that he and his wife were [a] great supporting team in this process.” 

If you are interested in learning more about next year’s Leadership 615 application, reach out to Michal Becker at michal@jewishnashville.org. 

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