As an avid Israel and leadership-trip taker, I have become increasingly picky (and admittedly skeptical) when it comes to leadership programs. Somehow, something about Olami’s Leadership Convention - JLF - looked, sounded, and felt like an opportunity to prove me wrong. And it certainly was, in so many ways.
Speaking to the Olami Director of Leadership Development, Jackie Engel about the programming & unique angle of the journey awakened a hope that I could actually get to my next level of leadership and personal growth on JLF. The trip itself delivered beyond expectation — 10 magical days spent with incredible Jewish powerhouses, alongside a bus load of peers who made an equal impact on my experience. Words are really falling short here. How do I put into a limited expression an everlasting impact made by the incredible warmth, hospitality, wisdom, and empowerment gifted to me by some of the Jewish world’s most acclaimed (and busy) men and women? My JLF group was made to feel like royalty, which was incredibly overwhelming. I couldn’t believe that a trip existed that poured such intentional daily activities into our lives, with special programming that was unlike any other trip I’d ever been on.
Prior to going on JLF, I had only heard of Olami but never had much experience with its leaders. The JLF experience started out at 100mph with a visit to the home of one of its largest supporters, where we sat down to a panel inviting us each to step into our leadership. WOW. From the get-go, I felt like I was a top-notch executive sitting at the boarding room of the world’s next big startup. And looking around at the faces of my fellow holy brothers & sisters, I just couldn’t get over how incredibly special this program already was. That evening, Olami’s Night of Gold filled with 800+ Olami students from around the world added to the powerful context of just what I was involved in. Fellow Jewish leaders from all corners of the globe were gathered in the Holy Land, taking time away from their homes, families, lives to gather and grow in Judaism and leadership. How was this real?! Looking back now, it almost seems like a fantastical dream, how did I get so lucky?
As we transitioned into working on developing strong and poignant pitches to Olami on how we would each implement change in our local areas, I was surprised. Surprised beyond belief. I had gone through years of developing content & pitching to major Hollywood networks, yet I had never received the sort of mentorship and keen insights that I was gifted with during my JLF trip. It was like an MBA in a week. (OK, I actually don’t know what an MBA entails, would hate to minimize such a degree, but the program was a true crash course comparable to an entire college semester on developing and pitching a practical solution to a current problem). The skills and tools I honed are invaluable, I can’t believe I walked away with so much knowledge, confidence, and community!
The short of the long is that JLF truly changed my life and added to my love for leadership in the Jewish world. I’ve always been strong in my Israeliness, but as an immigrant grappling with my Jewish identity in America, JLF helped me contextualize my Jewishness in an international sense. To see how my ideas translated across borders, boundaries, languages, and affiliations was inspiring. And the cherry on top? I now have new of family & open doors in several countries on my to-visit list! Onwards & upwards.