My Not-So-Traditional Leadership Story

September 19, 2023Jane Taves

How did you wind up on WRJ’s Board?

My journey to WRJ’s Board is different than many, and I hope it can encourage others that there is more than one path to WRJ leadership. I participated in my sisterhood’s activities and WRJ District activities, but I had not served in leadership on either level. I had been serving on the URJ Board for several years and had met WRJ Presidents who also serve on the URJ Board. In 2013, then-WRJ President Lynn Magid Lazar invited me to join the WRJ Board as one of her presidential nominees. Lynn told me that her goal was to create bridges between the URJ and WRJ Boards, and I was happy to be part of that. Little did I know that WRJ leadership would become one of the most rewarding roles of my volunteer life.


What one accomplishment from your time on WRJ’s Board are you most proud of and why?

The opportunity to chair the 2023 WRJ Wilkenfeld Women’s International Leadership Seminar is one of the most impactful roles I have ever had. This seminar, generously funded by WRJ Past President Dolores Wilkenfeld, brings together women from Reform communities around the world. Through the lens of leadership development, we learn about each other’s successes and challenges, and how different it is to be a woman leader in other parts of the world. The participants become a network to support each other for years to come. And we are able to introduce WRJ and our North American goals to a diverse group of women from across the globe. 


Can you share an “aha” moment or meaningful lesson that you learned from one of your co-WRJ Board members? How have you applied this to your own leadership?

Participating in WRJ Board meetings led by Past President Blair Marks was a true “aha” moment for me. Blair’s leadership was a master class in how to run an efficient, productive, and respectful meeting. Everything I know about Robert’s Rules of Order, I learned from watching Blair run a meeting, and I have been able to apply that knowledge in many areas of my volunteer life. And following the correct process was only the beginning of Blair’s skills. I also observed her ability to sort through complex issues while keeping calm and offering each participant the opportunity to express her thoughts. This ability to separate the emotion of an issue from the respectful discussion of it has been an aspiration for me ever since.


What are three characteristics that you believe are important for a leader to possess, and why?

Three characteristics I believe are important are:

1) The ability to consider the big picture for the overall good of the organization, including excellent collaboration skills;
2) The ability to accept responsibility and to follow through well;
3) The ability to both nurture and support other leaders in their journey.

I choose these three characteristics because I believe that leadership is an awesome opportunity as well as an awesome responsibility.  As leaders, we balance the priorities of our own initiatives with the larger lens of the organization, avoiding silos as much as possible.  We work closely with other lay leaders as well as with our staff partners, and these relationships are key to our success. We must be ready to accept responsibilities on our shoulders, knowing that reaching our goals will enhance the success of the organization. And, perhaps most importantly, we must provide the hand up to leaders who will follow in our footsteps and perpetuate the good work of WRJ.

What have you learned from your time on WRJ’s Board that has been most surprising to you about the organization? About yourself?

When I first joined the WRJ Board, the biggest and very exciting surprise to me was learning the details about our philanthropic reach, supporting the Reform Movement and beyond in North America and around the world. I had been aware of WRJ as a funder, but I truly had no idea the extent or the impact of this part of our work. We are definitely the venture capitalists for many of the institutions that we treasure, including camps, NFTY, rabbinic seminaries, and Israeli Reform organizations. About myself, I have learned how much this means to me. I am proud every day to represent WRJ in the larger Reform community.


Are you interested in applying to WRJ's North American Board? Apply now! 

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