Donald Sylvan on the Hiring Side of the Desk

Getting by With Job Loss

By Karen Loew

Published May 21, 2013, issue of May 31, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Donald Sylvan, 64

Courtesy of JESNA

Job: Executive Director, Hillel Ontario

Previously: President and CEO of JESNA, the Jewish Education Society of North America

Early this year, Sylvan moved to Canada to direct the umbrella organization that oversees Hillels at colleges in Ontario. He’d recently left the helm of JESNA, which he led for over seven years, and had planned to pursue a new Israel-education effort. But, having made the transition to institutional executive — the JESNA job came after three decades as a political science professor at Ohio State University — Sylvan accepted a new Jewish communal role, albeit in another country.

Why change? “I realized that what would be needed from the CEO of JESNA going forward would be different — I could do it, but was it what I wanted to spend the next phase of my life doing? We worked out a transition. I rebuffed some other opportunities. Then the folks from Toronto called. It was exciting, with really good people, and a mission I cared about, and the opportunity to start something from scratch.”

Financial effects: “JESNA was very generous to me financially.”

Advice for jobseekers: “The density of incredible resumes I received [for openings at JESNA] was astounding. We got people who were hypertalented at so many things. When we were hiring an administrator for 30 hours a week and $30,000, the quality of those applicants was astounding. This to me destigmatized people who were out of work for a while, or had been laid off. I hired someone who had been laid off twice, over other people. I thought, I’m going to get someone who’s going to put their all into it. I’m hoping I’m not atypical.”

Breaking through: “Your cover letter needs to directly and articulately express who you are, not just what’s on your resume. Why do the skill sets that you have fit with this position? Think about what you’ve really done — the tasks, not the title. There are a lot of us looking for out-of-the-box candidates. The burden is on the person looking for the job to make the link.”

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.