Retreat unites young leaders
By Deborah Moon Seldner
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While attending the 2003 UJC National Young Leadership Cabinet Retreat in Scottsdale, Ariz., July 23-27, Janice Newmark said she telephoned her 8-year-old daughter Houston and tried to explain how important it was for her to be there.
"I am one of 300 people who are here changing the world so you can grow up to be anything you want, so you can aspire to be president of the United States," Newmark told her daughter. "I'm making your world a better place."
Three hundred men and women on the United Jewish Communities' National Young Leadership Cabinet from 41 communities attended sessions focused on examining critical issues facing the Jewish community, developing their leadership skills and enhancing their connection to Judaism. Speakers included: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.); Arna Poupko Fisher, a professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Cincinnati and a well-known lecturer and educator; Dennis Prager, host of a nationally syndicated radio talk show originating from Los Angeles; and Rabbi Michael Melchior, a former member of the Knesset.
Attending the cabinet retreat from Portland were Jewish Federation of Portland board members Michael Kapiloff and Newmark, who received this year's JFP Jack W. Olds Young Leadership Award. The UJC National Young Leadership Cabinet includes more than 550 men and women from across the country who have demonstrated exemplary Jewish leadership in their home communities, and who are dedicated to the core Jewish value of tikkun olam (repairing the world).
Kapiloff, who was attending his third Young Leadership Retreat, said that being with such a dedicated group of people is the best part of the retreats.
"It's nice to see everyone and be with people who are all incredibly successful," said Kapiloff. "You get to hear the inside story of their lives and why they are involved in federation, and you get to really raise some money."
Kapiloff said that the approximately 140 men who made pledges in the men's caucus pledged more than $2 million.
"To be with 300 people who are raising families, working and are committed to tikkun olam is wonderful," said Newmark. "I don't have to explain what I'm doing or why I'm doing it, because they get it and they are doing it too."
"The people at the retreat are using the strength of their compassion along with the spotlight of their positions to raise awareness about—and funds for—important causes," said Newmark. "I'm honored to be with them in their efforts and to join them in making a difference."
Newmark said her personal drive to heal the world was accelerated by a conversation she had with friends after Sept. 11, 2001. She said the group's horror over the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington soon turned to a discussion of other horrors such as the Holocaust. Newmark said she asked one woman if she would be willing to hide someone in her home if a Holocaust took place in America.
"She said, 'No,'" said Newmark. "I felt it in the pit of my stomach. I could understand her reasons of not wanting to endanger her own family, but it shook me."
Newmark said she decided that she wanted to have a good answer when her daughter asks her in 20 years, "Mommy, what did you do to help?"
"I want to tell her I helped raise $738 million (through the 2003 UJC campaign) for Jews in need. I want to tell her I went and fought. I want to know I did something," said Newmark.
Kapiloff said he also enjoyed the town hall meetings with Wyden and Melchior.
"They were both quite lively and open with their views of where things are going in the Middle East," said Kapiloff. "People were incredibly inspired."
In a small gathering with Melchior on Saturday evening, Kapiloff said the former member of the Knesset told the group that it is important for Israel not to lose sight of domestic issues while it is dealing with international problems. Kapiloff said Melchior was especially concerned with the shambles of Israel's education system.