You might recall the refrain of Auguste Gusteau, the renowned chef of the animated film “Ratatouille”: “Anyone can cook.”
As one who learned his way around the kitchen after tiring of stir-fry and rice pilaf, I believe Gusteau was right.
But in this season in which we celebrate Moses’ ascent from speech-impaired shepherd of Midian to the leader of the Hebrew nation, I find myself pondering a more important question: Can anyone lead?
Sent down the Nile River in a basket to cheat death at the hands of the Egyptians, Moses was raised (perhaps) in the palace of Pharaoh, and was later a murderer and fugitive; it’s hard to imagine he was destined for greatness. What’s more, when God spoke to Moses from the burning bush, he rejected the responsibility of leading the Hebrews out of Egypt.
But if the Bible teaches anything, it’s that leaders can, quite literally, come from anywhere. From younger siblings (Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Ephraim), from children of otherwise unexceptional parents (Samuel, David, Samson) and even from people who try to reject the responsibility of leadership (Moses, Jonah). You just never know.
Similarly, in looking at the stories of Prozdor students, there’s a compelling case to be made that as long as a student latches on to something he is passionate about and is given the tools and the space to be creative, he can become a leader.
Ben Gladstone came to Prozdor from Temple Emeth and became very interested in Israel after his Prozdor trip there in winter 2010. He used this experience as a springboard into more intense studies of Hebrew language and Israel, attending the AIPAC Teen Summit the following year. Believing that Israel advocacy is too often rooted in conservative politics, Ben founded his own organization, Liberals for Israel. Over the past three years, Ben has emerged as a strong leader in his school community not just in Israel advocacy, but in literacy awareness and other social issues as well, thanks to his growth and development at Prozdor.
Yarden Gavish has spent her years at Prozdor focusing on three things: Hebrew language, volunteering at Gateways and the Nilhav dance troupe. Now in 12th grade, Yarden chose to continue her involvement with Prozdor after graduation. She still spends her Sunday mornings volunteering at Gateways and remains an integral part of Nilhav, not just as a performer, but as a teaching assistant as well. She is a strong co-facilitator of the group and has really embraced her leadership role.
Jacob Fischer, Jessica Hoffman and Eli Lord are three other seniors who have taken on the challenge of designing schoolwide programming for Prozdor students on Sundays. Their combined 12-plus years of Prozdor experience has given them unique insight into how the school can better meet the needs of its students, and we are thrilled to have them on the front lines, building experiences for our current students to make them feel better connected to Prozdor.
Count me among those who believe anybody can lead. How else to explain an awkward kid from Belmont going on to become director of Prozdor? But it’s up to us (Prozdor parents, friends, mentors and teachers, to name a few) to make sure that we provide our students with pathways to leadership that they will take advantage of, and the encouragement to take the journey. This is our most important job.
Chag kasher v’sameach,