Learning to Lead: Lessons from Dad On Father’s Day

I learned my fierce appreciation for the Jewish community and Jewish values from both my parents. But my dad, Andrew, was really doing twice the work: representing himself and my grandfather David Kassman, who had passed away before I was born. For my dad, it was essential that his father’s Jewish values and family stories were central to my growth as a person. With Father’s Day approaching, I find myself reflecting on the lessons he taught me, and how they have influenced me.

  1. How you treat people matters. Dad treats all people with respect and is always humble, and as I have stepped into leadership positions in my young adult life, I have carried this lesson with me. He taught me that a good leader is respectful of others’ ideas and listens to the people they lead. As a rising senior at The University of Alabama and president of its AEPi chapter, I have been successful in my role largely because of this insight. And when I met Mike Leven, AEPi alum and co-founder of the Jewish Future Pledge, at last year’s AEPi international convention, he echoed that familiar value in a speech he gave to me and my brothers — that how you treat others matters, no matter who they are. This resonated with what my father had taught me: We’re here on Earth not only to fulfill our dreams but also to help each other.
  2. The Jewish community is small, but Jewish values and connection can make a big impact. My father instilled in me how vital it is to support the Jewish community because, in times of trouble, few others will. He models his commitment through his (and our family’s) ongoing relationship with our Temple in Tucson, Congregation Or Chadash. Our community is small–much like the global Jewish community is–but it is strong because of the dedication of local community members like us. From him, I also learned how to be a Jew in the secular world; my father emphasized that I should be bold and really own my Jewish identity, even if I encounter people who do not accept me. I understand that I have inner strength and can use it in support of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.
  3. There’s more than one way to donate to important causes. The drive to help others is at the forefront of who my dad is as a person and has helped me understand that donations not only aid the recipient organizations but also transform the people who give. Being generous was something my father learned from his; while my father never wanted for anything growing up, his parents always made an effort to take care of anyone in need – be it friends, family, strangers, or the Jewish community. Hearing stories about my grandfather growing up, I always wanted to emulate him and carry on his legacy of giving. In fact, it is one of the main reasons I joined AEPi. I’m proud to say that we work collaboratively with Chabad and Hillel on campus to welcome incoming students and show them our school is a place with a strong, beating Jewish heart. We add Jewish flair to Greek Life on campus, holding Israeli Fests with Chabad and marking Jewish holidays with fun, charitable events that help students continue their exploration of what it means to be Jewish. We work with the University to help them promote AEPi and its values, to let students know that it’s cool to be Jewish.

While someday I hope to make significant financial contributions to the Jewish community and to other causes, as a college student, my role is different right now: by serving my AEPi chapter, and supporting and promoting Jewish causes through Tikkun Olam, AEPi’s Repair The World Fund, and the AEPi Foundation, I know I’m making a difference in other important ways. This is also why my family and I have signed the Jewish Future Pledge.

Being Jewish is who I am. This Father’s Day is a chance to thank my dad for all the lessons he has taught me—about Jewish values, generosity, and commitment to fair leadership—to stand with him in shared responsibility in supporting the Jewish future. And it is my first serious step in ensuring that my generation is actively writing the next chapter of the Jewish story and ensuring our connection to the generations of dads that came before us.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

About the Author
Dylan Kassman is a rising senior at The University of Alabama and President of the university’s AEPi Fraternity chapter.
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