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Meet the Schusterman Fellows: Suzanne Feinspan

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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.

Meet Suzanne Feinspan below!

Suzanne Feinspan is an independent consultant specializing in facilitation, organizational development, program design and trainings on race, gender and sexual identity, especially within the Jewish community. Previously, she served as Deputy Director and Acting Executive Director at AVODAH, an organization which develops and engages a network of over 700 Jewish leaders fighting poverty and promoting social justice in the United States. Also, an alumna of the program, Suzanne returned to AVODAH as a staff member in 2007, initially running the DC Jewish Service Corps, then serving in a variety of national programmatic and managerial roles.

Suzanne drove the organization’s most recent strategic planning process in 2013 which led to the development of AVODAH’s newest program - the AVODAH Fellowship - which is a non-residential community-building and leadership development opportunity for young professionals already working in the antipoverty field. Over the last few years, she also oversaw the strengthening and expansion of the organization's alumni and community engagement work. Suzanne has a Masters degree in Jewish Studies from the University of Maryland - College Park and lives in Silver Spring, MD. 

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

Having recently had the opportunity to lead an organization during a transitional moment, I'm excited to explore more deeply the insights about myself and my leadership that I gained from that experience and to gain more clarity on what all of that means for my leadership moving forward. I'm also looking forward to cultivating another network of thoughtful, committed Jewish professionals to connect with around questions, challenges and successes.

2. What is the greatest piece of leadership advice you have received and do you use it?

The greatest piece of leadership advice that I have received is that leaders are most effective—and most fulfilled—when their work and leadership are aligned with their understanding of their greater purpose in life. This piece of advice is definitely a frame that I use when thinking about where I am in my professional and leadership journeys and to measure where I am against where I want to be.

3. How does your Jewish identity affect your leadership?

My leadership is deeply connected to my Jewish identity. The community that I feel most able and motivated to lead is the Jewish community. I think that a piece of inspirational leadership is being able to draw on values and ethics to make a case for the change that you want to see in the world and my connection to and understanding of Jewish history, text and prophetic tradition make me most effective to lead in this community.

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

Working full-time and having two small children, I'd probably spend it sleeping and nourishing myself in others ways—exercising, reading, watching a movie, getting a massage—all the things that there's usually little time for.

5. Who is a leader, living or dead, who you admire most and why?

I really admire Stosh Cotler, CEO of Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice. She is someone who has succeeded at being an incredibly strong, outspoken and effective visionary and she has done so in a way that remains true to her authentic self and her beliefs.

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.