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Empowering Leaders: The Mandel Foundation Vision in Action

A new book edited by Professor Daniel Pekarsky tells the story of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation

Empowering Leaders: The Mandel Foundation Vision in Action

​How did a kernel of an idea grow into a vision that was eventually embodied in a large and influential Foundation operating an array of programs in Israel and North America in the fields of leadership education, non-profit management, humanities, Jewish life, and urban engagement?

In the new book he edited, Professor Daniel Pekarsky, a longstanding senior educational consultant to the Mandel Foundation, sets out to tell that story. In his richly detailed introductory chapter, Pekarsky guides the reader through the process by which the Foundation's main areas of activity were created, from inception to implementation. He then invites the reader to encounter some core components of this story – the Foundation’s prodigious activities and achievements on behalf of Israeli and North American Jewry – as told by the key figures involved, each of whom contributes a chapter.

Following Pekarsky’s introduction, the first part of the book describes the design and creation of what became the Foundation's two flagship programs in Israel: The Jerusalem Fellows program and the Mandel School for Educational Leadership.

The second and third parts of the book describe the birth and development of the Foundation’s institutions and programs in Israel and in North America, and the central role that Morton L. Mandel – founder, first chairman, and CEO of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation – played in guiding their development and overseeing their operation. As expressed by Pekarsky, "Without his [Mort's] talent, organizational capacity, quiet charisma, vision, and determination, everything… described in this volume, and all the good that has been brought into the world by virtue of the Foundation's existence, would not have come into being."

This section of the book also highlights the vital role of Professor Seymour (Shlomo) Fox, "the larger-than-life, charismatic, visionary (but also effectively pragmatic) educational leader, whose partnership with Mort Mandel was integral to the emergence and development of the [Mandel] enterprise." The book also points to the significant role played by Annette Hochstein, who served for many years as the president of the Mandel Foundation–Israel, in the emergence and implementation of the Foundation’s Israel agenda.

Throughout the book, the reader is exposed to a wealth of valuable ideas, conversations, and questions on a multitude of important topics, including research dedicated to improving practice; ways to foster individual, social, and educational change; models of philanthropic engagement; the qualities needed for effective leadership, and more. Complementing this array of perspectives and ideas are the book’s concluding chapters, in which three leading educational figures who were actively involved with the Mandel Foundation for many years as trusted advisors present their perceptions of the Mandel Foundation's role, impact, and potential. The three of them – Professor Lee Shulman, Professor Sam Wineburg, and the late Professor David Cohen – present insights and raise concerns well worth careful attention.

It's not by chance that Pekarsky describes Empowering Leaders as a project rather than a book. As a project, it demanded of all the contributors to systematically lay out the meaning and significance of the Mandel Foundation's initiatives and achievements, and to share with readers what Pekarsky describes as "the pioneering ideas and practices that have been developed, refined, and revised in the Mandel world." Scholars, professionals, and leaders seeking to improve education and society will find much to learn from this book.

Empowering Leaders: The Mandel Foundation Vision in Action