Janelle Eagle is a board member of JQ International, an organization that creates visibility and opportunity for LGBTQ Jews and allies. She lives in Los Angeles where she works in the television industry.
Part I: The Community Leadership Institute
I was extremely humbled when I was invited to apply for the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’s inaugural Community Leadership Institute. This program boasts years of professional planning by JFed staff in order to create an experiential curriculum focused on competing in today's world by gaining top skills, meaningful connections and professional guidance.
I was lucky enough to be accepted after a competitive application process to the “Entertainment Track,” where I am joined by incredible young leaders and leaders-to-be that live in Los Angeles and like me, have committed to this 15 month journey.
Components of this dynamic program include leadership skills workshops covering multiple aspects of how to create and manage groups, become a lay leader, and inspire a community. Each session is led by an exemplary leader within the Los Angeles Jewish community who is paired with members of our cohort in building each session.
One of the other incredible opportunities this program provides is being matched with an individual mentor in the Entertainment industry. I was lucky enough to be paired with Rick Kurtzman, an extraordinarily successful agent at CAA. Through this partnership, I'll learn not only from his personal life and career experience, but he’ll also share his wisdom about leadership in the Jewish community.
In June, I'll be traveling to Israel with my cohort members, leaders from the Jewish Federation, and members of the Real Estate, Russian, and Universal tracks as well. We’ll take meetings with our contemporaries in Israel, learn from one another, and recommit ourselves to serving as Jewish leaders in the Diaspora after being exposed to the Holy Land.
I couldn’t be more grateful to have been accepted to this program, to have received an ROI Micro Grant to assist in covering the participation cost, and to be so supported in my leadership journey by the Jewish community. As the CLI fellowship states: When the skills that benefit your career also strengthen the future we share, everybody wins!
Part II: Traveling to Israel as a Young Jewish Leader
I’ve traveled to Israel on multiple organized trips with the Jewish community. I’ve lead trips for Birthright Israel / LA Way, traveled with our very own ROI Community, and most recently, traveled to the Holy Land again with the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ Community Leadership Institute. This innovative program gives participants a chance to be part of a network of young professionals, aged 25-40, to connect with a life-changing mentor, sharpen business skills and become prepared to lead the Jewish community.
I was honored to be selected as a member of the inaugural class this past December and have since been serving as a proud delegate on the “Entertainment Leadership Track.” Together with my peers, I’ve experienced leadership skills trainings, mentorship, and community engagement opportunities throughout Los Angeles. This past June, we had the opportunity to travel to Israel together, which I subsidized in part with an ROI Go Travel! Micro Grant. Our itinerary, as so often happens on Israel missions, was packed full of meetings, events, conferences, and educational tours. We visited Jerusalem and Tel Aviv predominantly, meeting with profound leaders along each step of the way. As an “out” Jewish lesbian, I was also supremely grateful that the trip was timed to coincide with Tel Aviv Pride: so many of my fellow participants served as amazing straight allies, and danced down the streets with me and numerous out and proud Israeli LGBTQ community members.
Our celebration turned to focused fear as the timing of our trip coincided with the kidnapping of the three young boys from Gush Etzion. In fact, we visited one of the boys' communities the very day after their disappearance. Despite the fear, desperation and hope in the air, we discussed women’s leadership in this growing Orthodox community as the surrounding country prayed for the safe return of their boys. We were all devastated when we returned from the trip and very shortly thereafter learned that these three beautiful souls had been killed by terrorists. As the news unfolded that rockets were flying into Israel and that the violence on both sides was escalating, I was shaken to the core.
The very next week, my own sweet cousins traveled to Israel on their Birthright experience, having much of their itinerary re-routed mid-trip as the rockets continued to fly. When they safely landed back in the states, they were alive with love for their newfound homeland, and viscerally aware of the stakes of the battle unfolding before our eyes on news stations.
The purpose of my trip with the Community Leadership Institute was to further delve into my personal leadership journey. We were asked to explore what Jewish leadership looks like in the diaspora. How does Israel fit into our journey? Little did we know that our trip would occur at the beginning of one of the most heightened conflicts any of us had been engaged enough to witness. Since the trip, we’ve held multiple conference calls to stay abreast of current developments in Israel, to learn talking points that we can use to advocate for Israel (especially on social media), and to stay to connected to one another as young leaders who have borne witness to the beauty that is Israel and to the hope and struggle our homeland has to obtain peace. I will continue to travel to Israel. I will continue to bear witness to its beauty and to return home with stories to share of its vibrant and inspiring people. AM YISRAEL CHAI!