Name: Randi Buergenthal
Position, Organization: First Vice Chair, Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore; Immediate Past President, Beth Israel Congregation
Affiliation with ACHARAI: Alumna of Class V, volunteer
What did you like best about being an ACHARAI Fellow? The knowledge, insight and clarity that each faculty member brought to every class, as well as the opportunity to learn and share ideas with my classmates, who are passionate, caring and so willing to share their perspectives and expertise.
What is the most valuable skill you took away from the ACHARAI Fellows Program? I think that the most important concept I learned is that when our leadership is sincere and rooted in our shared Jewish values, it is much easier to build trust and consensus. I think that the most valuable skill I learned was the importance of developing relationships in order to be adaptive. It is hard to take on the challenges of an organization, but it becomes less daunting when you focus not only on the change that is needed, but acknowledge and respect the mental models of those you are charged to lead.
How has your leadership style changed/improved since completing the ACHARAI Fellows Program? I think that I am more open and more intentional. I also think that I think of issues and actions through more of a Jewish lens and a communal perspective.
Please comment on the networking component of the ACHARAI Fellows Program. Being an ACHARAI Fellow provides you with an opportunity to get to know 19 other passionate leaders in our community. The relationships that I have developed and the friendships I made are critical in my leadership journey. We still rely on each other and it is always a highlight when we see each other. ACHARAI alumni events give us the opportunity to come together to discuss challenges and opportunities in our community—and enable us to connect with others who want to keep the conversations going.
What inspires you to facilitate positive change in our community? I feel that we are very fortunate. The Baltimore Jewish community is vibrant, unique and innovative and played a tremendous role in my family when I grew up, and now in my family’s life. I feel an obligation to give back to ensure that it will continue and be just as strong and vibrant for the next generation.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to future leaders? Lead with your heart and don’t be afraid to take risks. I have a paperweight on my desk that says, “What would you attempt to do if you know you could not fail?” It is my daily reminder.
What are the challenges you currently face as a leader in our community? The ability to adapt and pivot to meet the needs of our changing communal narrative and demographics. It is critical to not just study and analyze the trends, but to embrace them in an inclusive, low barrier way. And we must do this quickly, which contradicts the adage that change takes time. This will have an impact on what we look like as a community as well as membership models, organizational structures, programmatic offerings, board dynamics and more.
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you? I once owned a gallery where we sold beautiful handcrafted jewelry, art, pottery and glassworks made by artists from all over the country. We also had an art studio in the shop for demonstrations and classes. I taught art to kids and mosaic classes, and was commissioned to make several mosaic pieces for private homes and businesses.
If you had to choose another profession than your current one, what would you do/be? I would be an artist. I love the concept of creating something beautiful and meaningful that evokes feelings in whomever sees it.