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Building a New Generation of Leaders

America’s large Jewish organizations are facing a challenge. In the next decade, most of their senior leaders will retire, and no one is sure where the next generation will come from. That’s where Gali Cooks, the head of Leading Edge, has stepped into the breach.

Leading Edge’s mission is to ensure the talent pipeline in the Jewish not-for-profit sector. To that end, it has created programs to recruit and train people in the field, such as its chief executive onboarding initiative, which helps new organization heads develop as new leaders, and a “Lay Leadership Commission” which will engage donors, develop best practices and develop recommendations to ensure vibrant non-clergy leadership in the Jewish not-for-profit sector. It also advocates progressive workplace policies, including paid family leave and flexible hours, to make Jewish not-for-profits more attractive places to work.

Cooks, 38, has the resume for the task. A graduate of NYU’s Stern Business School, she’s made the grand tour of the Jewish not-for-profit world, putting in time as a speechwriter for the Israeli embassy, executive director of a family foundation, and the director of business operations at the Union for Reform Judaism.

She also serves on the boards of Keshet, an advocacy organization for queer Jews, and the Joshua Venture Group, which backs Jewish entrepreneurs seeking to advance the common good.

A passionate advocate of her work, she wrote in a recent blog post, “We need more outstanding young leaders… who choose to build their careers in our sector because they view Jewish organizations in a positive light — filled with opportunity and support.”

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