14th of January 2012 / Serving Oregon & Southwest Washington since 1959

Future leaders of Portland’s Jewish community, agencies and synagogues gathered Dec. 12 at the inaugural meeting of the Portland Jewish Leadership Institute to learn the personal, leadership and analytic skills they will need in the 21st century.

Convened and funded by the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, the PJLI is designed to strengthen the Jewish community’s leadership base for all of the agencies, congregations and organizations. The 30 participants come from across the spectrum of experience, but all are “leaders who show the promise of creating a stronger future for our community,” according to PJLI Chair Susan Abravanel.

PJLI facilitator Dr. David Elcott—an author, lecturer and organizational consultant who developed the curriculum for the program—said that the world is radically different from even one generation ago. He said when he was a child, people believed that their rabbi had the answers.

“Today when we hear a rabbi speak, if we’re interested we go home and Google and see all the alternative views,” he said. “Global connections have transformed us. No Jewish leader has the authority leaders once had—no president does.”

Elcott, who has headed such institutes around the country for nearly 20 years, said that the eight-session PJLI program will deal with many topics all designed to provide deep, meaningful answers to the core question: “What does it mean to be a leader?”

Abravanel said all the work in the program was designed to be educational, meaningful, sacred and fun, because “to be sustained that has to be part of it.”

Elcott said participants in the leadership institute represent the full gamut of Portland’s Jewish community, ranging from those who wake up every morning and wash and pray to those for whom attending a meeting at the JCC is a Jewish commitment. Yet all are bound together by that sense of connection, he said.

The PJLI curriculum draws on equally diverse sources for learning, said Elcott. From contemporary texts on leadership to the Torah and Maimonides, participants will find wisdom to help them become leaders in the community. Especially in today’s world, Elcott said, there is no blueprint with concrete steps to follow as a leader.

“Leadership is not a skill, it is an art form,” said Elcott. “But, I believe one can learn to be an artist.”

Portland Jewish Leadership Institute


Jodi Berris
Steve Bilow
Josh Blank
Rachael Duke
Levia Friedman
Lauren Goldstein
Beth Hamon
Daniel Kaplan
Jason Kaufman
Lee Kurnoff Lazarus
Kim Levy
Liz Lippoff
Ronnie Malka
Rich Meyer
Chayim Mishulovin
Simi Mishulovin
Lisa Morasch
Dani Nierenberg
Polina Olsen
Aaron Pearlman
Laura Rackner
Mary Rait
Debra Rosenthal
Dana Sacks
Elizabeth Schwartz
Rachel Shimshak
Eliana Temkin
Jeffrey Waite
Sharon Weil
Jeffrey Weitz

Task Force: