The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) announced the launch of the Kaplan Leadership Initiative, a new Jewish community professional training program focusing on overseas Jewish communities. The new initiative— created through a founding gift from Carol Kaplan, a JDC board member and President of the Kaplan Foundation, together with her husband Ed—will provide the crucial tools and support needed to cultivate leadership among Jewish community professionals in Europe, the former Soviet Union, and Latin America.

“We are proud and privileged to fund this program and hope that it will leave a lasting imprint on the global Jewish community of the future, as well as provide the opportunity for JDC to continue its remarkable journey and vision for rebuilding self-sustaining Jewish communities,” said Carol and Ed Kaplan.

The Kaplan’s $3.8 million gift ensures a six-year platform with three cohorts of Jewish professionals from 18 countries. The 135 Fellows will be culled from mid-to senior-level managers at a variety of Jewish institutions, including Jewish social service and welfare groups, Jewish community centers, Jewish schools, synagogues, educational programs, and Jewish media.

“We are proud to partner with Carol and Ed Kaplan to strengthen the bench of rising Jewish professionals around the world facing daunting challenges and remarkable opportunities to build Jewish life. Together, we’ll provide the tools and foster networks that will contribute to their success and ensure Jewish communities that are connected, vibrant, and poised for the future,” said JDC CEO David Schizer.

Each training program will be divided into regional seminars – focusing on distinct geographic cultures and narratives – and then the entire cohort will gather for a global seminar at the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership in Chicago. The Kaplan Leadership Initiative focuses on four competencies: Jewish knowledge; community development tools; program management skills; and the crafting of individual leadership styles. The program will also encourage deeper understanding of Jewish life and peoplehood, establish new platforms for Jewish community professional networking, and foster stronger partnerships with local Jewish communities. The Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago is a coordinating partner of this program.

The Kaplan Leadership Initiative will also leverage established infrastructure for Jewish professional leadership training in Europe and Latin America – Yesod and Leatid – and will build this platform in the former Soviet Union where it does not yet exist. Operating as an in-service model, Kaplan Leadership Fellows will hone their skills while also serving their communities, acting as a key resource to their peers.