Degel Menashe Leadership Training Project is Launched

(April 28) The Degel Menashe leadership training project, a program designed to develop a new generation of leaders for the B’nei Menashe community of Israel, held its first workshop in Tel Aviv this week. The eleven young candidates selected to participate met with the program’s director Dr. Reuven Gal, a Degel Menashe board member, noted psychologist and author, and co-founder of Israel’s highly successful Institute for Quality Leadership, which he headed in its first years.


The purpose of the workshop, the first of a planned series, was, as Dr. Gal told our Newsletter, “to explore the concept of leadership and the potential for it in each of the participants.” Not everyone who thinks he or she has leadership abilities, he said, turns out to have them – and conversely, there may be those who discover abilities they never knew they had. “Once we identify the potential leaders in a group,” he explains, “it is possible to foster in them the skills and awareness that will enable them to assume leadership roles.”


Although he has conducted many such training programs in the past, the Degel Menashe project is a new experience for Dr. Gal. “Until now,” he told us, “I’ve worked with older populations that already had proven themselves, mostly junior executives and lower-echelon managers in organizations and businesses who were sent by their workplaces to improve their performance and prepare for higher levels of responsibility. This time, we’re starting from scratch. The young people in this program have not occupied positions of leadership before. Working together will be a challenge for both them and me.”


Responses to the workshop were enthusiastic. “I felt that it stirred up sleeping powers in me,” said Yitzhak Lhungdim, a social work student from Kiryat Arba. “It helped me to understand better what I want from my life and what creative forces I can bring to it.”


Alon Haokip from Nitzan, who is studying architecture, said that the workshop “made me think whether I have it in me to be a leader or not. I came without really knowing what I was coming to. I came away understanding myself better and with a clearer sense of what I can and can’t to influence and change.” Yosef Ngaihte of Kiryat Arba, a carpenter by trade, also thought that the workshop “taught me a great deal about myself, about what my strengths are, and about where I need to improve.” And Bat El Rently, a resident of Bet-El currently getting an M.A. in early education, was struck by “the interaction between Dr. Gal and the participants. The workshop was a moving experience,” she added. “It made me curious to get to know better what I’m capable of.”


Dr. Gal felt as positively about the group as it felt about him. “I, too, didn’t know what to expect,” he told us. “I was very impressed by those who took part. They were a highly responsive and articulate group.”

Hillel Halkin speaking to the workshop group

Before the workshop began, Degel Menashe chairman Hillel Halkin spoke briefly. Observing that the B’nei Menashe community in Israel lacked leadership, he said there were two reasons for his. One was common to all immigrant communities, in which the generation of parents and grandparents, in a new country whose language it does not speak and where it finds it difficult to function, quickly loses its authority. The second reason was the way the B’nei Menashe have been settled in Israel, in which everything has been decided for them by governmental and private organizations without consulting them. “This has led,” Halkin said, “to a community that has lost its sense of initiative and faith in itself. You,” he told the workshop, “can become the leaders who change this.”


At the four-hour workshop’s end, a buffet dinner was served. Asked whether they wished to continue in the program, the participants unanimously said that they did. “I think we all feel that we want to go on as a cohesive group that can make changes and break the cycle of unfulfilled potential that our community is trapped in,” said Bracha Haokip of Kiryat Arba, who is about to begin her studies for a degree in interior design. Ruby Gin, also from Kiryat Arba, agreed. “This meeting was gripping for us all,” she said. “It’s precisely what the young people of our community are in need of – a supportive environment that will help us to grow and develop. I hope there will be more workshops.”

Dinner at the workshop’s end

Reuven Gal promises that there will be. “We have to think of how to proceed from here,” he told us. “But we’ve started something that isn’t going to stop.”