I try to lead on a personal and intellectual level, providing a compass for thinking about values, vision, and strategies toward setting and accomplishing goals. The teacher in me comes through a lot: I want to hire and work with colleagues who want to learn, who want to think, who want to criticize, and who accept criticism and engage in responsible self-evaluation. A smart person told me a long time ago to learn to hire smart people, smarter than myself. “They’ll make you look good,” he said. Success depends on creating culture and communication that stays open and honest, with information flowing in all directions, working always toward the desired outcomes.

David’s experience with Me’ah and as a senior administrator positions him as a great partner for any institution or business in the field of educational entrepreneurship.”  Saul Singer, Author, Start-Up Nation

Leadership means being a big picture person, pushing people and organizations to focus on purposes. Management, the operational dimension of leadership, grasps the distinct, multiple factors at play in complex situation, and uses insight and analytics to devise and implement productive systems. But the human touch always matters: people remain very much themselves.

I hired a lot of people to teach in Me’ah. Some of them possessed a lot of knowledge and teaching experience, others lacked one or both of those qualifications. I enjoyed much more hiring the latter and tackling the challenge of assessing, coaching, and evaluating them. Mort Mandel likes to say that when hiring for his business he looks for 1) smarts/intelligence; 2) good values (basic integrity, honesty, compassion, a sense of fairness, and the like); 3) real passion on behalf of purposes one genuinely believes in; 4) work ethic – a person who doesn’t just work hard but takes delight in working hard on behalf of his/her guiding purposes; 5) Experience.  I learned that he was right: Experience is in a sense least important because it can be provided through the efforts of the individual or of the organization he/she will be working for; but the others, are not easily established in a person who presents him/herself for a leadership position but lacks these essential characteristics.

My favorite examples were two graduate students and a Ph.D. in anthropology. The graduate students were just working up to take their comprehensive exams; they had plenty of gaps in their knowledge and had little teaching experience But they had “it”: brains, values, passion, commitment. They watched me teach, spent countless hours thinking and preparing, and learning to assess their own successes and failures. They made themselves into great teachers, with some help from me. The anthropologist made herself into a Jewish studies person, at first armed with a stack of books from my library, and she too had all the qualities necessary to grow into the job.

View or download my professional vita.
[David] has a brilliant mind; he is a scholar of great range and depth; he is a deeply devoted father and husband; his outstanding abilities at organization are manifest in the splendid Me'ah Program he created and fostered; he is a forceful and moving orator; he is a man of both compassion and commitment; he is a teacher who fortifies and inspires; he is a natural leader; and his contribution to the Jewish community is legendary.
Sacvan Bercovitch, Powell M. Cabot Research Professor of American Literature, Harvard University

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