By Rachel Landman
In this week’s Torah portion, Pinchas, Moses passes his leadership of the Israelites to Joshua. When Moses found out he would not be leading the Israelites anymore, he says, “Let the Eternal One, Source of the breath of all flesh, appoint an envoy to the community who shall go out before them and come in before them, and who shall take them out and bring them in, so that the Eternal’s community may not be like sheep that have no shepherd.” This highlights the importance that the leader always be in front of the community and able to stay with them through all times, whether leading them out or leading them in. On Sci-Tech Israel, we have learned about many historic and modern leaders and their various leadership styles.
This week, we visited Sde Boker, the home of Ben Gurion, one of the great leaders of Israel. Ben Gurion famously said, “I do not know what the people want, but I know what they need, and I shall fight for that all my life.” His philosophy of leadership, guided his many decisions that led to the creation of the State of Israel. While in Jerusalem, we walked through Har Hezl, and heard the diverse stories of many leaders, both young soldiers who were killed during their military service, and Israel’s famous presidents and prime ministers, such as Yitzhak Rabin. As we heard each story, we learned that some of them led through action, physically guiding their followers and others led through ideas, challenging their followers to make changes that make the world a better place.
Throughout this trip, we have also met modern day leaders whose research and start-ups are pushing limits and challenging the status quo. During our first Shabbat we learned from entrepreneurs who are using their Reform Jewish values to improve people’s lives with their innovations. We tested artificial vision technology at OrCam, and heard about their leadership to improve the lives of individuals who are blind, visually impaired, or have a reading disability.
At the Galilee Medical Center, we learned of their acts of leadership to ensure all people are given the same medical treatment regardless of race, religion or ethnicity. While tasting delicious ice cream at Bouza, we saw that two people, just like ourselves, were able to lead their communities on the path toward coexistence with the lick of a cone.
Yesterday at Shabbat services, we asked participants what qualities of leadership they have seen throughout our adventure. One that stuck out among the group is something that has been highlighted by many of innovators and researchers we have met. “Never be afraid to fail. If you have an idea, go for it! Listen to those around you, but also push limits and expectations.”
Our teens have shown leadership in numerous ways. The members of our Shabbat committee have taken ownership of all Shabbat and prayer experiences, guiding their peers in beautiful and thought provoking services. Our current events committee keeps the group informed with their daily news updates. The group activities committee has provided opportunities for community bonding through fun, interactive, and always entertaining evening programs. Sci-Tech Israel participants also demonstrate their leadership ability with the questions that have asked at each visit and workshop. They challenge entrepreneurs and researchers, bringing up concerns or ideas they had not previously considered. At the end of almost every visit, our presenter says that they have never had a group with such knowledge, interest and most importantly, great questions.
I could not be more inspired by the leadership that has blossomed in our group, during the past two and a half weeks together. Each member has grown as an individual and therefore, strengthened the community. I know that when we depart Israel in just a few days, 28 new Jewish leaders will be returning to the United States. Ready to use their different leadership styles, whether it be, acting as a role model in their community, sharing new ideas, challenging the status quo, or asking thought-provoking questions.