I just returned from a conference called ThinkTank3 in sunny Santa Monica, CA, sponsored by the Professional Leadership Project (PLP). PLP is a unique organization that identifies and engages “talent”—young Jews in their 20s and 30s that may or may not currently be involved in the organized Jewish community—and deepens their interest and involvement through a variety of programs, including annual conferences like ThinkTank3 but also through fellowships (academic scholarships) in exchange for a commitment to work in the organized Jewish community.
While I have presented at numerous conferences in the past, this was a unique invitation in that I was specifically asked to attend the entire three-day conference, rather than having the option to just show up, give my spiel, and leave—which is standard operating procedure for most presenters at most conferences. In retrospect, it makes a lot of sense. By being there from beginning to (almost) end, I really got to talk to many of the young people in small groups and one-on-one, hopefully imparting some of JOI’s ideas about an inclusive Jewish community and the methodologies it will take to get us there, but also learning from them about the work they do and the challenges they face.
I’m convinced that PLP has identified a strong cohort of future leaders for the Jewish community and that the organization will only grow stronger as they place more and more PLP “graduates” in leadership positions throughout the community. I came away very encouraged by the commitment I saw from these young people. Some I already knew, including ThinkTank3 conference co-chair Julie Tilson Stanley, who is also interning at JOI while she pursues her graduate degrees from New York University through the PLP Fellowship program. Julie has remarkable enthusiasm and I’m sure PLP was as thrilled to have her help put together a terrific conference as we at JOI are to have her helping us out with, well, everything we do. We anticipate great things in the Jewish community from Julie and from the many other attendees at the ThinkTank3 conference!