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 Ben Falik below!
Ben Falik is the Detroit Director of Repair the World, where he leads a team of eight Fellows, develops diverse partnerships and manages a community space—all in pursuit of Repair the World's mission of making service a defining part of American Jewish life. A metro-Detroit native, Ben founded Summer in the City (summerinthecity.com) in 2002 to make it "fun, flexible and fulfilling" for young volunteers to "paint, plant and play."
Ben has a Bachelors in Urban Studies from Columbia University, where he was the food editor of the Columbia Daily Spectator and the Hooker for Columbia Men's Rugby. He has a JD and a Masters in Public Policy from the University of Michigan. Ben writes the monthly Jewfro Column for the Detroit Jewish News and teaches a service-learning course at Wayne State University. He is married with two small children and a large dog.
1. What are you most excited to gain from the Fellowship? What are you most looking forward to learning?
I'm excited to "get to the balcony." As much as I love working in the Jewish and grassroots communities in Detroit—and I wouldn't trade this for anything—I sometimes have trouble zooming out to get as much context and content as possible to enhance my work.
2. "Leadership" is a popular term these days, used in a variety of contexts. Tell us, what does leadership mean to you?
My favorite leadership quote, of late, is "The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant." I think leadership is all about adapting—to changing settings, to new opportunities, to crises. "Holding space" in which others can have both self-determination and support.
3. What is the greatest piece of leadership advice you have received and do you use it?
Do what you love and the money will follow. I have relished being on the ground as Detroit works to chart a course (or courses) for the future.
4. How does your Jewish identity affect your leadership?
My Jewish identity helps both inform and balance out the extremes of my personality—humor and gravity, cautious optimism and healthy skepticism, the arc of history and the power of reinvention.
5. If you were given a surprise day off, how would you spend it?
I would pick up my kids from school and take them on a "Downtown Adventure," exploring downtown Detroit, all three of us seeing the city for its sparkle and possibilities. We would ride the People Mover (our much maligned but undeniably enjoyable elevated rail line), check out the new GM cars at the Renaissance Center ("so much shinier than yours, daddy") and walk (or rollerblade!) along the Detroit River to the Mt. Elliott Park with its pirate-shipwreck fountains.
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.