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Supporting People in Diaspora Jewish Nonprofits During the Crisis in Israel

by Leading Edge

For us at Leading Edge, as for so many people in the Jewish nonprofit sector, our hearts are with the people of Israel as they try to be resilient in the face of recent heartbreaking and terrifying events. The Jewish nonprofit sector in North America is deeply bound up with communities in Israel, and nothing can be "business as usual" as this crisis unfolds.

At the same time, and for that same reason, Leading Edge is proceeding with our work supporting leaders and workplace culture in Jewish nonprofits. Leadership and culture are never more important than when times are hard. It is in that spirit that we share this brief list of thoughts, ideas, and resources for supporting the people who are the Jewish nonprofit sector at this time.

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Supporting Your Team: Ideas for Professional Leaders, Managers, and People Professionals

Ensure your leave policies include emergency leave for those whose loved ones are directly affected.

Communicate to your team and acknowledge things like these:

  • This is a difficult time, emotionally, for the sector and the Jewish community.
  • Express care for the well-being of the team during this time.
  • Depending on the organization, “business as usual” may be suspended and changed. Certainly that is the case for the Jewish nonprofit sector overall.
  • Many people in our field have deep personal, familial, and professional connections to people affected in Israel.
  • Some team members may find it difficult to concentrate on work, and that’s okay.
  • Some team members may want to throw themselves into work and not think about the crisis, and that’s okay.
  • Some team members may not feel affected at all, and that’s okay.
  • People may have a huge variety of responses to what’s happening, and we can all create a supportive environment by holding space for that variety of responses.
  • Depending on how your organizations are responding, sometimes team members who are strongly emotionally affected may also have new and urgent responsibilities involved in responding to the crisis, and this may be particularly difficult.
  • Remind staff about mental health programs and benefits available to them.
  • Managers: Ask direct reports how they’re feeling and listen openly.
  • Keep the immediate, the short-term, and the long-term viewpoints in mind. We are in the onset of this crisis, but we should all keep in mind that the situation and its needs and contours will evolve over time.

Hold space for people to process what they’re feeling

  • Hold a physical or virtual meeting for people to come together
  • As much as is feasible depending on your work, allow extra flexibility with schedules and time off for people to process things in their own ways.

Share actions people can take to help

  • Organization-specific ways to help if your organization is responding
  • Links to relief funds if people are looking for places to give. (Make clear that this is purely optional and personal and will not be monitored or known by the employer.) Just one example, among many, is the Jewish Federations of North America response fund. (JFNA also has this page to sign up for Israel Emergency Updates.)
  • Share information about local communal responses and gatherings (making clear that participation is purely optional and personal, and the employer will not monitor participation).

Jump to: Ideas for boards supporting leaders

Supporting the Leaders: Ideas for Board Chairs and Board Members

Lead with courage and empathy

  • Your leadership teams need to know more than ever that you have their backs.
  • Even though they may not show it, professional leadership teams are holding a lot, personally and professionally, at times like these.
  • Understand that the order of the day may not be “business as usual” — and that’s OK.
  • Over-communicate with your leadership team. You may want to establish short-term regular contact points to check in more frequently. (However, still try to maintain appropriate boundaries.)

Step forward as needed

  • Ask your CEOs what they need and what their teams need.
  • Ask what you can do to help, understanding that might change day to day.
  • While it is critical not to overstep boundaries into operations unasked, depending on your work, this could be an all-hands-on-deck situation and your expertise could be invaluable.
  • Be decisive and responsive. Your leadership teams cannot spend valuable time chasing down answers. Situations are fluid and may require prompt and immediate attention.
  • If feasible, determine whether your organization might need access to additional financial resources to help its team manage personally or professionally.

Step back as needed

  • At the same time as you offer help, let the CEO and their team do the jobs that they were hired to do. They are balancing many considerations and they may need time and the space to focus on ever-changing priorities.


  • One of the roles of the board is to look at things from a long-term, high-level, strategic governance perspective. Take this opportunity to reflect on the nature of your mission and the way this crisis interacts with your organization’s long-term trajectory.
  • If this crisis specifically impacts the mission or work of your organization, form and empower a task force. It will give your leadership team support, thought partnership and quick decision-making. However, keep the board in the loop on decisions through regular communication.
  • Think about what you have learned, and what worked or didn’t work, during other past crises in your organization and/or community.

Jump to: Ideas for leaders, managers, and people professionals supporting their teams

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