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A Mother/Board President, a Daughter/Executive Director, and a Tale of Two Leading Edge Programs

by Seth Chalmer

Two generations of Jewish leadership reflect on their journeys and their generations.

Prof. Hilarie Lieb has taught economics at Northwestern University, and been active in Jewish lay leadership, for many years. She is now the president of the board at Jewish Free Loan Chicago, and in that capacity, she’s currently participating in the Chicago Leadership Seminar, a modified version of a Leading Edge program that improves the partnerships between CEOs and board chairs. Rabbi Megan GoldMarche is executive director of Tribe12, an organization connecting people in their 20s and 30s to Jewish life in Philadelphia. In that capacity, she is participating in Leading Executives, our executive leadership training program.

None of this would be out of the ordinary, except that Prof. Lieb and Rabbi GoldMarche are mother and daughter! I sat down with them (well, “with” them via Zoom, that is) to hear their reflections as representatives of (quite literally) two generations of Jewish leadership.

  • When did the two of you first realize that both of you were participating in a Leading Edge program at the same time?

R’ Megan: Three weeks ago. We were talking and my mom said, “I have to go, I have a call with my Leading Edge coach.” I was like, oh, I have a coach through Leading Edge too!

Prof. Hilarie: I didn’t realize Megan was involved with Leading Edge. I hadn’t heard about it until my executive director, Leah Greenblum, told me about it. She knows the Jewish nonprofit sphere, this is new to me.

R’ Megan: She didn’t realize that her niece, my cousin, Mimi Kravetz, is on the board of Leading Edge!

Prof. Hilarie: Small field. Just too small.

  • What are each of you hoping to get out of the Leading Edge program you’re participating in?

Prof. Hilarie: At Jewish Free Loan Chicago, we’re a startup; we just five months ago gave out our first loans. The way we work is still “all hands-on deck” at this point. With of course Leah doing most of the work as our only staff person. But as we move forward, we need to be intentional about separating out these board and professional roles, even while we’re so new. There are many models of how to do that, and of course we’re creating our own, based on all those possible models, and that’s the area I most hope to work on. In my life and career, I’ve often been the mentor. But earlier in my career, when  I would have been a mentee, this idea of mentorship wasn’t established as it is now. So, I hadn’t participated in a formal mentorship program. And now, it’s a gift to be on able to.

R’ Megan: I started a new job last spring as the executive director of a small nonprofit called Tribe 12, building Jewish community for people in their 20s and 30s in Philadelphia. And I'm trained as a rabbi, so this is my first executive director role. I had heard really positive things about Leading Edge programs and I reached out to Dena [Schoenfeld, Chief Programs Officer at Leading Edge] to see what types of programs might exist. I have so much to learn in this new role, and I've learned a lot even in the last ten, eleven months or so. I think it's just great to be part of a cohort of some folks who are in that same space. My coach has just been amazing as sort of a sounding board. This is my first time not having a supervisor, and it’s so valuable to have someone to ask questions and help me figure out my growing edges.

  • While the two of you are with different organizations, you’re each representing different sides of the partnership between boards and executives that we know is so important for organizations to succeed. Do you think there are any interesting parallels, or interesting differences, between a board-CEO partnership and a parent-child relationship?

R’ Megan: I hope there are differences! Are you buying Leah [Greenblum, executive director of Prof. Hilarie’s organization] clothing? Did you take her shopping yet?

Prof. Hilarie: Not yet! It is interesting, because in our first meeting of the Leading Edge program, they asked us to think of some fictional characters we might think of as being parallels for the board chair and the executive director. And since I have two grandchildren who watch Frozen all the time, I said, Elsa and Anna, but in Frozen II, because that's really when they take on very separate roles. Initially, they're very interdependent, and then they differentiate. And there’s a parallel there to parenthood. As a parent, for me at least, at first I knew very little about being a parent. So, I think you are learning your roles together. And then at some points you feel like you are ready to give more guidance.

R’ Megan: My board chair and I are the same age. We are very much peers; we definitely don’t have a parent-child relationship. I think in an ideal world, you’re each bringing a different expertise to the partnership. We’re in different lanes. And it’s not a straightforward hierarchy. The board is legally the boss, but in a good dynamic, it’s a real partnership between the board chair and the ED, a sense of healthy interdependence. Of course, parenting is also not a boss relationship. My children are the boss of my household most of the time.

  • You represent two generations of leadership in the Jewish nonprofit sector. Is there anything about the field that you see differently from each other in ways that might represent a common generational divergence?

R’ Megan: It’s interesting: my mom, because of her work with college students, has always been in touch with the younger generations. I work now with people in their 20s and 30s, so as I age, I still feel very in touch with young people too. I think I am more in touch with Gen Z than many other older Millennials. But there are differences. I was raised to be a workaholic by my workaholic parents. Maybe Boomers and Millennials have similar work ethics. There’s also a generational divide around Israel, which is very difficult to speak about. That may be the biggest generational divide. And it comes up in our household, like any other. But overall, we’re aligned. Both of us are very committed to justice, what it means to bring non-Jews into our work, People of Color in our work, we’re on the same page.

Prof. Hilarie: People from my generation seem to still be very present in the Jewish nonprofit world.  It is important for us to be supportive, but we also need to make way for the next generation. I think that I'm in a good role right now because I can help mentor someone, but I'm not in it because I see this as something long-term. My goal is to share what I've learned and then step away and see this next generation lead. But my generation needs to think about supporting the next generation emotionally, financially, and intellectually, so they can be successful. And we’re doing that in this Leading Edge program. We're taking two different generations and really getting guidance and making that happen.

R’ Megan: I don’t know about “people need to get out of the way”. But we’re living in a strange time. My generation is, on average, going to be less wealthy than our parents. The older generations, at least from what I am seeing, have more wealth than my peers and I, and are more likely to have worked in the for-profit sector, giving my peers the ability to choose a career we love that might pay less. There’s often an interesting tension between board leadership who have more wealth and worked in the for-profit sector and nonprofit leaders who are making nonprofit salaries and trying to raise competitive salaries to pay young talented people. What does it mean to be generational wealth holders, and to be wealth seekers in the sense of being fundraisers? That’s a conversation we need to have more of.

About the Author
  • Seth Chalmer is Senior Director of Communications at Leading Edge.

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