Stacking the Bench

The signs in the field of Jewish camp echo the trends of all Jewish institutions and nonprofit organizations — the need for talented and passionate leadership. With an ever increasing turnover of executives, the retirement of long-standing camp directors and creation of new camps has created an influx to develop the next generation of Jewish camp leaders.

Our Foundation has made leadership development one of our core strategic goals. We seek to address the inherent challenges often faced by new professionals who assume executive roles without preparation or proper support. We want to foster promising talent and invigorate existing leaders. Without new opportunities and an investment in retaining top talent, camps cannot meet their maximum potential. Our Yitro Fellowship Program is a prime example of how FJC is investing in talent.

With generous support from The AVI CHAI Foundation, Yitro is the only field-wide professional development opportunity for assistant and associate camp directors, and the premier outlet for this group to develop their abilities to influence camp culture from their positions as middle managers at Jewish camp.

This month, the third Yitro cohort with 20 fellows will kick off their 18-month journey of values-based Jewish learning, cohort experience, skills workshops, and individual coaching. Beyond the obvious skills that are built, participants are provided with a community of similar professionals to learn with and from. The cohort acts as a sounding board to discuss issues unique to Assistant Directors or to professionals at a similar career stage. For all of the fellows, Yitro has provided a safe space to be challenged, frustrated, inspired, exhausted, comfortable, and uncomfortable and, ultimately grow into passionate and visionary leaders.

There have been 35 graduates of the Fellowship since its launch in 2009. Of those graduates, 90% of them still work in the Jewish community and 75% are still in the field of Jewish camping. The majority of Yitro graduates have already been promoted to more senior roles in Jewish camp; 15 of them are now camp directors. There are two Fellows leading our specialty camps and FJC has two graduates on staff. The Yitro Fellowship is proving to be the bench for talented camp professionals.

My corporate experience has taught me the importance of investing in future talent; I can’t wait to watch the personal and professional growth of these new fellows and the results they will generate for our field.

About the Author
Jeremy J. Fingerman has served as CEO of Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) since 2010. Prior to joining FJC, he had a highly-regarded 20+ year career in Consumer Packaged Goods, beginning at General Mills, Inc, then at Campbell Soup Company, where he served as president of its largest division, US Soup. In 2005, he was recruited to serve as CEO of Manischewitz.