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I Will Be With You

One of Bambi Sheleg's outstanding qualities was that she was incapable of staying silent in the face of injustice. This same was true of Moses, the prototype of leadership in Jewish tradition. However, at the beginning of Moses’s career as leader, we see that this is not an easy position to take ((Exodus 2:13-14)

The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?” The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us?”

Moses does not respond but we see later that he internalizes this question and that it continues to gnaw at him. He asks himself: Who am I? On whose authority do I act? This becomes clear when he stands before the burning bush. God reveals Himself and gives Moses a mission—to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt. Moses’s reply is one of self-doubt (Exodus 3:11):

And Moses said to the Lord, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Children of Israel out of Egypt?”

In other words: Who put me in charge? God’s reply is twofold (Exodus 3:12):

And He said, “I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you.”

The second part of this answer, “this shall be the sign for you,” is clear: Signs and wonders, a staff that becomes a serpent, Aaron who shall speak for you. In our terms: A communications workshop, an impressive presentation, and a spokesperson.

But what does “I will be with you” mean? God is not trying to reassure Moses and pretend that everything is OK. He doesn’t say, “What, you? A clumsy talker? Not at all! You’re a great speaker!” Neither does He promise to remove any obstacle in the way. That is, He doesn’t say, “Listen, I’m God, I’ll give you supernatural powers, you’ll be able to do anything.”

No, God tells Moses, “I will be with you. Yes, you’re just a human being. Yes, you have limitations. Yes, it’s hard to persuade people and to lead them. But you’re not alone. I will be with you.”

The story of how I met Bambi, and how we ended up working together, exemplifies the spirit of “I will be with you.” My colleague, Dr. Daniel Marom came back from a meeting with Bambi and told me that she had been intensely critical ofour work. She said: “You and your leadership programs are part of the problem. You strengthen the strong and ignore the weak; you’re not investing in leadership in the periphery.” I said to Daniel, “Let’s meet with her, I want to hear more.”

So we met. I listened. And I agreed. We started to work harder to recruit the kinds of leader we hadn’t managed to bring in before. Later, I also consulted with Bambi on how to reach certain populations. And Bambi’s response, when she realized that we really meant it, was one of “I will be with you;" if you’re committed to being part of the solution and not part of the problem, then I will be with you.

This same ethos of “I will be with you” underlay the groundbreaking magazine that Bambi founded and led, Eretz Acheret (“Another Israel”). The message Bambi broadcast with Eretz Acheret was: Whoever is serious, and wants things to be different, I’ll give them a platform, and I’ll be with them. If you’re working toward another, better Israel, I will be with you.

The leaders with whom I am privileged to work to today are the “other Israel” of which Bambi dreamed and that she worked hard to create—a caring Israel, devoted to the welfare of all and not just of a particular interest group. Look around you: there’s an opportunity here to learn about and with each other, to develop new partnerships. To each and every one of these leaders: You want to change things? To build a better, more just society? I will be with you.

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