Meet the Schusterman Fellows: Gary Samowitz

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Over the course of 18 months, 24 outstanding Jewish professionals will engage in a customized professional development journey as part of the Schusterman Fellowship. The Fellows come from across the U.S., Europe, Israel and Australia, and they work inside and outside of the Jewish sector. As part of this blog series, we'll be bringing you short interviews with each of the Fellows in which they'll share a bit about themselves and their vision for the future. 

Meet Gary Samowitz below!

Gary Samowitz was appointed as Stand Up's first CEO in 2009 and has played a key role in overseeing the explosive growth of its programs and volunteer community. Stand Up is all about helping the Australian Jewish community to pursue social justice and improve the world around us. Their current programs include empowering Sudanese refugees, engaging with remote Aboriginal communities and running innovative education programs for the Jewish community.

Gary was previously the Hillel Director in Sydney where he mentored and trained Jewish university students, and was lucky to staff 12 Israel programs. Gary, born and bred in Johannesburg, South Africa, studied Jewish History and International Relations. He enjoys doing triathlons and crossfit and spending time with his gorgeous twin girls and his son.

1. What are you most excited to gain from the Fellowship? What are you most looking forward to learning?

I love connecting with people, so I'm super excited to get to know the other Fellows and learn from them. I'm keen to learn about what they are doing, their motivations and challenges, and their visions for their respective Jewish communities.

2. "Leadership" is a popular term these days, used in a variety of contexts. Tell us, what does leadership mean to you?

Leadership is about being the best version of yourself, and encouraging others to do the same. A good leader leads by example, and will inspire those around them through their actions and how they treat people. Leadership is a journey of developing, learning and connecting.

3. How does your Jewish identity affect your leadership?

I think that there is a strong culture of "standing up" and being a leader in the Jewish community. Our history demands that we emulate the likes of Moses, Golda Meir, Joe Slovo, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Ron Castan, etc. I am inspired to build a better world and a stronger Jewish community because that is what our ancestors did to create the opportunities we have today. To be Jewish is to be committed to speaking out against injustice and being a leader for change.

4. If you were given a surprise day off, how would you spend it?

I would sleep in, because it's been four years since I last did that. Then I would go on an epic bike ride along the coast for a few hours with some friends. Then I would lie on a beach and read a great book and then head home to hang with my wife and kids. Jump on the trampoline, dress up dolls in the cubby house, bath time. Romantic dinner with my wife, including a bottle of wine. Actually, this sounds awesome, might do it tomorrow...

5. If you could be compensated for your work with something other than money, what would it be?

I'd love to be compensated with more time. The harder I work the more time I would earn to spend with family and friends. Unfortunately life doesn't seem to work like that, so it is often a matter of balancing competing interests. I am lucky that my job doesn't feel like work, but it still takes me away from my loved ones more than I'd like.

The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is proud to empower emerging leaders to explore their values, identity and new ways to strengthen their communities. We believe that as we work together to repair the world, it is important to share our diverse experiences and perspectives along the way. We encourage the expression of personal thoughts and reflections here on the Schusterman blog. Each post reflects solely the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation, its partner organizations or all program participants.