Cultivating young Jewish leadership
In 2008, a small group of entrepreneurial educators in the UK recognised a crucial and concerning gap in Jewish education offerings for ambitious, driven students from leading universities together, with a void in young leadership. In response, The Forum for Jewish Leadership (FJL) was founded to identify and develop the next generation of Jewish leaders, by exposing intellectually curious young Jews to deeply inspiring and thought-provoking Jewish role-models, values and experiences. The late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, whilst serving as Chief Rabbi, joined this initiative as the Founding Honorary President. Under his vision and educational direction, FJL developed expertise at delivering sophisticated programs, deeply rooted in authentic Judaism, core Jewish values and appreciation of the state of Israel. At the centre of this approach is the ‘FJL Internship program’. The first iteration was launched in Washington DC for British students. It combined substantive professional development alongside immersive programming exposing the participants to great Jewish leaders, profound Jewish wisdom, exciting Jewish experiences, as well relevant education in the political, business and Israel advocacy spheres.
Since the founding of FJL, the initiative has been replicated all over the world. The ‘FJL Internship program’ is now also offered in New York, London and Tel Aviva. Participants join from across Europe, America, South America, Canada and Australia. Highlights include exclusive meetings with President Herzog, Israeli Chief Rabbi Lau, Senator Joe Lieberman, Malcolm Hoenline, Ken Weinstein, Anne Neuberger, George Rohr, numerous Israeli Ambassadors, politicians, CEO’s, senior ranking army and security officials.
Upon return from a program, alumni are encouraged to join further opportunities to assist them in continuing their connection to the inspiring and empowering experience they had on the trip. Events and activity in this space have evolved organically and broadly to include: mentoring, networking, Friday night dinners, business speakers, volunteering, leadership initiatives, high level Jewish study and seminars, Jewish festival themed socials, political speakers, finance focus groups, Israel advocacy training and more.
In addition to the outgrowth of programming from FJL alumni looking inwards, there have also been a number of projects looking outwards as alumni recognize their potential to make a difference in the community and beyond. Areas that have been addressed include, political and Israel advocacy, volunteering, women’s and Sefardi leadership, empowering young professionals to host Friday night dinners and professional networking. Central to all of this is a continued exposure to the FJL vision of demonstrating and inspiring an approach to life combining professional success integrated with a passionate engagement with Jewish life and Jewish values. This consistent theme has impacted our alumni to think beyond themselves and access their potential as Jewish leaders.