What can we learn about leadership from our in-laws? If we’re Moshe Rabbeinu—Moses, our most famous biblical leader—it turns out, quite a lot. On November 13, acclaimed teacher and spiritual leader Rabbi Sarah Hronsky, senior rabbi of Temple Beth Hillel in Valley Village, “introduced” a group of Jewish Federation staff and her fellow rabbis to Jethro—the Torah’s most famous father-in-law.
“He’s best known as Moses’ father-in-law, and he’s such a significant leader that he has an entire Torah portion in the Book of Exodus (Yitro) named after him,” said Hronsky, an officer on the Executive Committee of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California/The Jewish Federation. “Jethro has a lot of advice to give.”
Hronsky taught the lunchtime learning session, “Jethro: a Lesser-Known but Great Leader,” as part of an ongoing Jewish Federation/Board of Rabbis/ series, Leaders on Leadership. She led the group in studying texts about Jethro from Shemot (Exodus), which describe this famous non-Jewish leader as an open, welcoming holy man who believes in Moses and his mission. The priest of Midian “rejoices” over the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt, and he participates in the Jewish rituals of thanksgiving, led by Moses’ brother, Aaron.
“Jethro the outsider brings something so valuable to the table, but he doesn’t start by lecturing,” Hronsky said. “He observes before he teaches Moses. He advises Moses to delegate and appoint other leaders (chieftains) over the Israelites. We all know what it’s like to try to lead on our own—it doesn’t work!”
The rabbi was a hit with the staff, who joined in enthusiastic discussion of Jethro’s leadership qualities and how we may apply these lessons today. Moses’ father-in-law demonstrated that “great ideas can come from anyone, regardless of their title,” observed Lori Tessel, the Federation’s Senior Development Director for Campaign.
Rabbi Hronsky has served Temple Beth Hillel since 2003, and her rabbinate is filled with teaching, counseling and liturgical exploration. She also has served on the board of the Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis. A native of St. Louis, she graduated from the University of Missouri, Columbia, with a bachelor of science in secondary education. She received rabbinic ordination from Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC) in Los Angeles. While at HUC, she earned master’s degrees in Hebrew Letters and Jewish Communal Service. She is married to Yuri Hronsky, Head of Ilan Ramon Day School, and they are the proud parents of three daughters.
“We truly enjoy working with Rabbi Hronsky as a leader with the Board of Rabbis, and it’s a pleasure to have her as our teacher today,” said Jonathan Freund, Interim Executive Director of the Board of Rabbis/Jewish Federation.
Up next in the Leaders on Leadership series: Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky of B’nai David Judea Congregation in Los Angeles, December 11 at the Jewish Federation.