The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh is establishing a new leadership development institute to usher in the next generation of the region’s Jewish volunteers.
The institute, whose name is still undetermined, stems from research the Federation conducted in creating its new strategic plan, which the nonprofit adopted in 2021. One of the key goals of that plan is leadership development in local Jewish organizations.
“This is about people with real skills being able to build a program like this,” said Jeffrey Finkelstein, the Federation’s president and CEO. “It’s really true that our organizations are only as good as the people leading them.”
Due to the creation of the new institute, the Federation is closing its Volunteer Center. “Strategic realignment and funding changes external to the Jewish Federation” led to that change, Federation officials said in a statement. The nonprofit obtained “multiyear financial support” to create the new institute.
In addition to providing leadership development, the institute will be a force in evolving volunteerism in general, according to Federation officials. Leadership development, in broader terms, also might be explored by the institute.
No staffing decisions have been made for the new institute, Finkelstein said. The next step is hiring a director whose vision can help shape the program and its direction.
“That director needs to put a plan in place, and then we’ll be determining what the staff needs will be,” he said.
The Federation will continue to coordinate Mitzvah Day, the annual program that has run for more than two decades. Before the pandemic forced the event to become virtual, Mitzvah Day sent more than 1,000 volunteers to locations throughout the region.
Finkelstein said some of the drive to form the new institute came, in part, through his reading the work of Morton Mandel, a CEO of a billion-dollar company who never forgot his working-class Cleveland roots. The businessman and philanthropist died in 2019.
“He taught that, ‘It’s all about who you have, and how they lead,’” Finkelstein said. PJC
Justin Vellucci is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh.