Tell us about your leadership journey.

It began in the military, where I learned how important it is to see yourself within a role as part of a team and a larger system, where you need to understand how detrimental your actions could be if you don’t follow orders.  In the civilian world, where people are more independent, I’ve learned that I need to begin by understanding that person individually. Only then can I show them how they can play a role as a member of a team.  In both places though, it helps people to be successful when they can see themselves as part of a team and understand their role in it.

Who were some of your mentors?

I had some of the best mentors in the United States military.   One was James Jordan, who is Michael Jordan’s brother.  He taught me that you can speak motivation into people if you speak it properly.  

Another was Cory Lipford, who taught me the importance of buying into people when and where they need it.  When you start an undertaking, there’s a sense that you may not achieve it.  People will come and encourage you.  But that’s not the same as someone sitting down with you and asking what’s the plan.  When a person asks you how you’re going to get to your goal, they’re way more invested in the goal themselves.  And now, they can present ideas you may not have thought about.  This is important because through talking with them, you get out of your own head and are allowed to see how the world thinks as well. 

How do you set other up for success in your organization?

By asking questions.  Why do they want to do what they want to do?  I may ask up to six times.  This gives me a lens to understand how I can help.

What is a challenge you are currently working on?

I’ve been working on this project,Hip Hop Art for Change, which offers political education for young people.  Soon, I’m going to go into a 2nd grade classroom, taught by a congregant at Bolton Street Synagogue, using Hip Hop to teach local politics.  To help them understand what the mayor does, the city council, the school board, and help them to understand the system.

What leadership strength do you bring to address these challenges?

  • Networking
  • Keeping calm under pressure
  • Community sensibility (what the community feels like and the impact we have on anything)

What are you reading now?

Who’s Black and Why, by Henry Louis Gates, Jr and Andrew S Curran, which is a collection of essays from 1730 on the sources and nature of “blackness” from France, Haiti and the Americas.

Understanding my blackness allows me to understand my Jewishness a lot better.  Blackness looks different for different people.  Specifically, for Black Americans whose ancestors were brought over here it looks vastly different than for those Blacks that immigrated to America.  Similarly, my understanding of my Judaism is that it also looks different for everybody.  But at the same time, everybody makes space (even when they don’t feel like it) to consider what Judaism looks like for other people.

What would you tell your younger self when you first started on your

leadership journey?

Don’t panic!  My uncles used to say it a lot, and I didn’t understand it.  Also, to recognize the Divine in yourself.  Don’t get in the emotion of what’s going on inside, look around and the tools you will need are right there.

What motivates you to wake up in the morning?

Understand that I woke up because the Divine has a purpose for me.