This last week we hosted graduate students from the Hornstein Program at the Foundation for Jewish Camp. They were in New York learning lessons on how Jewish Non-profits work. In my preparation for their coming I gave some thought to what makes organization achieve optimum productivity. I realize that one of these lessons that I have learned at the FJC comes from Terumah, this week’s Torah portion.
In this week’s Torah portion and the next week’s as well we learn many details of the construction of Tabernacle and all of the accoutrement. Where there is a clear plan for what will be built and made, that is not where they start off this large scale project. Rather, they start off with themselves. As we read:
‘Speak to the children of Israel, that they take for Me an offering; of every man whose heart makes him willing you shall take My offering.( Exodus 25:2)
While their gifts are going to fit into a very clear and focused plan, their gifts were from the heart. At the center of our national narrative is a collaborative non-profit project that celebrates the diverse offerings of every individual while working toward a common goal. It is based on unity without forcing uniformity.
And about this project God says:
And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. (Exodus 25:8)
The text does not say “make this building so that I can dwell in it“- the Tabernacle, but rather in “them”. If it were just a random gifts from their hearts that did not fit into a master-plan, it would not amount to anything. It is clear that the purpose of this project is not the material or the construction, but rather the act of their coming together itself.
As a non-profit we at the Foundation for Jewish Camp are not running after making money. We are not even limited to getting more Jewish children to overnight camps with Jewish missions. We see camp as a tool for creating community. Camp is a place that people are moved to share from their hearts. We aspire to model that in our organization itself. While everyone has a role and we have a clear strategic plan, we try to tap into everyone’s individual passions. In speaking with the students from Hornstein I realized that more organizations need to tap into the wellspring of this divine tension. It is here where our personal passions meet a common plan that organizations will achieve greatness.