Interview with Sam Winer, outgoing NIFC New Gen Board Member

Sam has been in the New Gen seat on NIFC’s board for the last two years . He is leaving Toronto (and the Board) in August to pursue an MBA at Georgetown University. Here, Executive Director Ben Murane interviews Sam about his experience as a board member, and what advice he would give to future New Gen board members. 

Ben: Congratulations on getting into Georgetown University’s MBA program! We’re very excited for you, even though we’re sad that you’re leaving Toronto. What are you hoping to learn and where do you hope to go after graduation?

Sam: Thanks! I chose Georgetown because it is located in the center of politics, society and business. I am hoping to learn about the intersections of social impact, human capital, and innovation within the corporate and non profit worlds. After graduation I am hoping to go into social impact consulting or a leadership role for a purpose driven start-up.

Ben: I met you first when you’d just returned from being a Shatil Fellow in Israel for the year. What made you want to be a Shatil Fellow and what did you get out of the experience? 

Sam (far left) during his year as a Shatil Fellow

Sam: I chose to become a Shatil Fellow while I was doing my undergrad degree at McGill for two main reasons. Firstly, as a Middle Eastern Studies student I began to realize how inadequate my previous experiences in Israel were and how I had only seen one side of Israel. As a Shatil Fellow I had the opportunity to go to places I had never been to, like Nablus in the West Bank, or meet people I never would have met otherwise, such as a Bedouin rights activist in the Negev. The second reason was that I wanted to be on the front lines of making change and take a more active role in fighting for equality. 

Ben: Since joining the Canadian board two years ago, what did you learn that you didn’t already know before? 

Sam: I didn’t know how committed the veteran lay leadership is. The volunteers are deeply ideologically committed and give so much of themselves to the organization and progressive values. 

I also hadn’t understood how important it is for the younger generations to show up. Our mere presence gives energy and hope to people who have given their lives to this cause. We have a vital part to play, even if we are not at the stage yet to take on formal roles or make large donations.  

Ben: On our Board, I’ve especially appreciated your passion for Jewish education and your expertise in the field. You’ve been part of our team that shaped and selected young leaders for the Naomi Chazan Fellowship, as well as advising our new educational programs for teens, pre-teens, and their parents. From your view, what’s important about the way we educate young people of all ages about Israel? 

Sam: I think it all starts with teaching complexity. Learning about Israel from a perspective that Israel has no flaws is not only unhealthy but also limits young people’s ability to become critical thinkers and engaged in the deepest issues facing the Jewish world. As a community we need to foster a mentality of engaging with difficult topics, especially around the issues we are most sensitive towards. 

Peace between Israelis and Palestinians seems even more distant and injustice persists daily. This is horrible on its own, but it also breeds polarization within the Jewish community. I am afraid the political issues will continue to rip Jews apart from each other. We need to find a way to straddle community cohesion, while fighting for social justice and equality. I believe complex education is part of the solution for both. Complex education develops children into leaders with empathy, the capability to understand multiple perspectives, and the skills to unite people in the face of division and injustice 

Ben: Your seat is open on the Board for another young leader in their 20s and 30s. (Interested applicants should inquire within) What would you advise to someone who is young and considering joining their first board of directors?

Sam: Being a board member was an incredible professional skill building experience, as I developed skills such as board governance, community politics, and strategic planning 

As a board member you have the opportunity to make an influence. Every board member brings their passion to the organization, whether it is advocacy, a specific issue, education, etc. You have something special to bring. The organization is open to your perspective and passions. Please join!

Ben: Personally, I’ve really enjoyed your partnership and getting to know you over the past two years. You’ve left big shoes to fill and we know you’re destined for great things. I look forward to staying in touch – and to your continued leadership in the future. Good luck! 

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