Be Fearless

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of visiting with Imam Syed Ali of the Iqra Darul Ehsan Mesgid in Suffern. We had a long and wide ranging discussion, discovering many commonalities not only within our cultural and religious experiences, but also in how we perceive the need for growth and cooperation among Rockland’s diverse ethnic, religious and minority communities.

One thing that struck a chord with me was the Imam’s response when I talked about some of the things we hope to see or inspire among those individuals who take leadership positions. He agreed with several of my thoughts on leadership, and then he added that he believed that another key element of good leadership was fearlessness.

I found this fascinating. Why? Because fear is an inhibitor without compare among human emotions. Fear can paralyze, holding back action or reaction because of concern that the action will be or will be perceived to be wrong or weak; fear can poison and anger, directing action in unhealthy ways, and causing long term damage to relationships and reputations; fear can bury talent and knowledge, as one who is afraid to speak up or speak out loses an opportunity to bring their unique experience to bear on challenges that everyone shares.

Now, we cannot deny that fear exists, and we ignore it at our peril. But we do not need to be controlled by it. We can take steps to confront it, whether through building alliances that strengthen everyone, or by bringing ideas and innovation to the table even though they may be terrifyingly difficult to explain. We at the Federation want to hear from those of you who are interested in doing things that benefit our community in new, effective ways, and we hope to bring important ideas to fruition.

Last summer, Rabbi Sharff and Rabbi Drill approached both myself and David Kirschtel from JCC Rockland with the thought that we as a community would be well served by creating and hosting a celebration of Israel’s 75th birthday. We were joined by two amazing co-chairs, Stephanie Hausner and Evan Karzhevsky, and by over 20 local community organizations. The event came together beautifully, and even though it rained on the day of our festival, we hosted seven to eight hundred participants through the day, and we’ve received amazingly positive feedback.

So, along with our thanks to our staff, partners, sponsors and volunteers, we owe a great deal of gratitude to our community leaders who had an idea and prompted us to build it into a successful community wide event. We are glad we had the opportunity to bring this idea to fruition.

I urge all of you with a good idea, perhaps still an embryonic one, to share it with us, and let’s see if we can be fearless together, making great things happen.