David Teutsch, Ph.D., is a man in motion, a multi-tasker with many interests. Trained as a rabbi, he earned his doctorate from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania; is past president of RRC; and currently leads RRC's Center for Jewish Ethics.
Teutsch has spearheaded several projects devoted to Jewish leadership and its ethical basis in Jewish texts. His 2009 book, Making a Difference: A Guide to Jewish Leadership and Not-for-Profit Management, was based on a 15-month training program he led in Baltimore for future Jewish organizational presidents; the program, called Acharai!, combined course material on nonprofit management with lessons from Jewish texts on leadership and values.
"To be a Jewish leader (as opposed to just a leader in a Jewish organization or a leader who just so happens to be Jewish) means to act like a mensch," Teutsch says. "It means you must guide by Jewish virtues and values, including integrity, courage, humility, gentleness and empathy.
"Especially in these tough economic times, congregational and organizational leaders--whether staff or volunteer--should ask themselves: If everyone acted as I do, would the organization be a success? Would it help to build relationships and community? Would the Jewish community's commitments to Jewish learning, spirituality and social justice be what I would like them to be?"
Looking back on Acharai!, Teutsch recalls a class in which he discussed the nuances of exercising power, authenticity and leadership. To make the discussion accessible to participants, he described the implications of the biblical story of Gideon, who, against all odds, succeeded as a military leader and then decided not to become king. The lesson: Good leadership is different from self-aggrandizement.
"Ultimately, the goal is to integrate Jewish values and text with a sophisticated approach to leadership in the nonprofit environment," Teutsch says.