An Italian Jew

Risk Taking and Courage

Rabbi Jill Avrin and I have been public with YourJewish for nearly three weeks. It’s going quite well so far and we are humbled by the generosity of our community. While we have built a solid plan and are working it full time, we don’t really know for certain how this will all turn out. Is this risky or foolhardy action in pursuit of a mission?

Some years ago when I facilitated leadership cohorts with the James P. Shannon Leadership Institute at the Wilder Foundation, a core element of our curriculum was Risk Taking and Courage. We examined courageous action through the lens of one’s core purpose, and how to measure the worthiness of taking a risk, as calculated by core values that drive your actions. 

Not a data driven calculation, to be sure, but it helped mid and late career nonprofit leaders take a fresh look at their work. And it does have me thinking again as the stakes start to rise with YourJewish being widely promoted. Those who know me and have followed my career, recognize the risks I am taking now and some even share my anxiety about the risks Jill and I are taking to create a new Jewish organization in the Twin Cities.

As a Shannon Institute participant myself in 2001, I crafted a purpose statement that has been occasionally refined, but has held true through my 40 years as a theatre producer and director, a leadership facilitator, and as somewhat of a disrupter of troubled nonprofits. The purpose of my work is to lead people in finding their true character. My core values of curiosity, creativity, and respect are deeply embedded in this work. I am confident in my alignment with the YourJewish mission and the personal risks taken to get here are well-calculated. 

The risk taken is actually staking my living on the success of our mission. I have no other source of income and have, in fact, been living on savings and some donations made to YourJewish for the past several months. What if we don’t raise the money we need to operate? What if we don’t generate enough interest in our programs and attract people who will pay fees or make program related donations? The bottom line is this: What if Jill and I cannot pay ourselves to pursue our vision and mission? 

Stay tuned. I want people to know what is on the line for me and for Jill. Our circumstances are different, but the level of risk is the same. We need the help of our community to ensure success. Please donate today by clicking here or visit our website to learn about our programs. We need you. 

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