Austinites Connect With JFNA, World Jewry Through National Young Leadership Cabinet
By Tonyia Cone
In an effort to deepen their engagement with the Jewish community and philanthropy, local community members Amy Kline, David Kline and Jewel Sud have connected with other North American young leaders and traveled to communities around the world with the Jewish Federations of North America’s National Young Leadership Cabinet.
Cabinet is JFNA’s elite leadership training program for young business and philanthropic-minded Jewish professionals. Cabinet’s goal is to create a community of aspiring young philanthropists and volunteer leaders for the Jewish Federation movement through education, skill development and programming designed to deepen the understanding of local, national and global community needs.
According to JFNA’s website, the program is the primary pipeline for leadership across major Jewish organizations. Members often go on to long-term senior level leadership at local and national levels, within Federation and throughout the Jewish world.
The Cabinet program includes a summertime retreat for training, networking and leadership development; a study mission intended to help participants better understand needs and challenges of worldwide Jewish communities; and activities at the General Assembly, JFNA’s annual conference for Federation lay and professional leaders and Federation partners.
After a local Federation professional nominates a prospective Cabinet member, the application and interview processes begin each November and run through early May. Candidates must be between the ages of 30 and 40 the year they apply to Cabinet, contribute a minimum of $5,000 annually to their local Federation, demonstrate leadership in their local community and be eager for future growth.
David Kline was the first person to join Cabinet out of Austin. Kline first became engaged in Austin’s Jewish community through Shalom Austin’s Young Adult Division around 2005. His involvement quickly snowballed; after serving on YAD’s board, going on a Birthright Israel trip and leading YAD as its chair, he “pretty much served on every committee and board in the Austin [Jewish] community.”
Now an AIPAC Club Member, part of the Schusterman Foundation ROI community and co-chair of Shalom Austin’s IGNITE! event, Kline was on the JFNA NYL Cabinet for six years, starting in 2011.
He explained that the biggest benefits of being on Cabinet were meeting people, traveling the world and seeing JFNA’s work firsthand.
“It was the first time I felt I was in a group of peers who were like-minded, and really engaged in Jewish community and philanthropy,” he said. “Not only was it exciting to be in that same room with people who had the same mindset about Jewish philanthropy, it was a great group of people.”
Study missions to Greece, Russia, Sweden, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Romania, Hungary, Germany, Israel and India gave Kline an interesting perspective on global Jewish life and how Federation dollars are spent overseas.
“It gives you more knowledge and information to bring back home and tell people why the money they are giving is so important, to explain how it is being spent and used,” Kline said, adding that the trips included a focus on the Joint Distrubution Committee and Jewish Agency for Israel.
While on study missions, Kline heard stories from government officials, went to day schools in communities that had one, attended home visits and always did Shabbat.
"There is something very special about being in a country where you don't speak the language but doing Shabbat and everybody chanting the same prayers in Hebrew,” he said.
Amy Kline, David’s sister, became involved with Austin’s Jewish community almost immediately when she moved to Austin in 2012. Shalom Austin staff members reached out to her and she began volunteering with local events and committees. Now on Shalom Austin’s Women’s Philanthropy Cabinet and the JFNA board of trustees, she joined the NYL Cabinet in 2014.
She explained Cabinet has enabled her to connect with about 275 other North Americans who are passionate about better understanding the needs and challenges of Jewish communities on local, national and global levels.
“We’re learning to be better leaders, not only through the sessions we attend but also through one another. We’re talking to each other, we’re learning about what works for other communities, and we’re bringing that to our local communities and sharing that in hopes that it will help where we live,” Amy Kline said.
In addition to retreats and study missions to Romania, Hungary, Germany, Israel and India, in November she attended the JFNA General Assembly in Los Angeles, California.
She attended sessions where she learned more about the work partner agencies the JDC, Ethiopian National Project and JAFI do to help improve Jewish life and help those in need.
Hearing Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky was very inspiring, she explained.
“I’m just trying to do my small part in making the world a better place,” Amy Kline said. “Being on National Young Leadership Cabinet, and going to these retreats and on these missions and going to the General Assembly, every time I go I get to learn about challenges, and I’m just inspired to do my part in helping with these challenges.”
A member of Shalom Austin’s YAD board, Jewel Sud joined Cabinet in summer 2017. Her parents have always been heavily involved with Federation and her mother, who had been on Cabinet, had told her about why it was important to understand the Federation system and help Jews around the world, the work she did through Cabinet and the people she met through the program.
“I truly believe in the work of Federation. I want to develop myself as a leader and make meaningful Jewish connections with people who understand Jewish philanthropy,” Sud explained.
So far through Cabinet, she has gone to Houston after Hurricane Harvey to help those who contacted the Federation for help when their homes were flooded. She also attended a Cabinet retreat, where she learned about leadership and understanding and navigating the local and national Federation system, got to know the 67 others in her year of the program, participated in a service activity that helped women and children who are abuse victims and attended a Shabbat dinner, where they announced the total amount raised through the group’s gifts to Federation, more than $2 million.
“I felt incredibly humbled to be amongst this amazing group of young leaders who all understand the importance and make it a priority to give back, and the power of a collective and what you can do together,” said Sud, who plans on traveling to Morocco and Madrid, Spain, on next year’s study mission.
Most recently, she attended GA and a Shabbat Leadership Experience, held the weekend before GA for young leaders. She explained that the speakers and sessions were inspiring and thought provoking.
“The problems I find that are hard to tackle in our own Jewish community, whether it’s engagement or giving, these problems really exist across all communities. When we come together and we share best practices of what’s working, we can find solutions,” Sud said. “I left feeling very optimistic and hopeful.” ■