The Personal Touch

The winner of a new Jewish leadership award is bringing younger Jews into her aging congregation.

by Gila Drazen

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Dr. Poscover received USCJ’s Shoshana S. Cardin Leadership Award from Rabbi Steven Wernick, United Synagogue’s CEO, and Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin.

In her professional work as an optometrist, Dr. Jessica Katz Poscover asks people to open their eyes. In her volunteer work at Congregation Mishkan Tefila in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, she asks people to open their hearts and their arms.

Now Dr. Poscover has been honored for her dynamism and vision as the inaugural recipient of the Shoshana S. Cardin Award from United Synagogue.

Cardin, a major Jewish activist and philanthropist, has built a legacy of global impact in the areas of human rights, women’s rights, education, strengthening the Jewish people and the State of Israel. She created the award to recognize and celebrate Jewish leaders, and to ensure that there will be strong leaders to inspire the next generation of Conservative Jews.

Much of Dr. Poscover’s work at Mishkan Tefila has centered on building community and relationships. Demographically, Mishkan Tefila is aging, but Dr. Poscover has been a force in welcoming younger people into the congregation. She serves as the co-chair of the Family and Youth Engagement Committee, leading an effort to reach out personally to parents in the preschool, religious schools and local day schools. She contacted many of the unaffiliated families who came to Mishkan Tefila for the High Holidays to welcome them into the community, and encouraged other synagogue leaders to do the same.

As she accepted the award in December 2014, Dr. Poscover said, “Synagogues can run very successful programs, but cultivating relationships, one person at a time, is the key to creating and rebuilding a community. Through this work, I am reaping many personal rewards, as well, by building meaningful friendships while watching our synagogue community grow.”

Poscover’s ability to connect with and inspire those around her is a recurring theme among people who talk about her work. “She connects one-on-one with people, which is very powerful,” said Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin, Shoshana Cardin’s daughter and a member of the award selection committee.

“She inspires me and those in her circles at the synagogue,” said Rabbi Leonard Gordon of Mishkan Tefila, who nominated Poscover for the award. “She uses her warmth and presence to bring in others and encourages them to stay connected and active. Jessica realizes that bringing in young people involves not only welcoming them, but also listening to them.”

As a synagogue volunteer, Poscover has participated in United Synagogue’s Sulam for Emerging Leaders program, designed to help prepare promising members for a seat at their congregation’s leadership table. She is currently a fellow in the OnBoard program, an initiative of the Legacy Heritage Fund to strengthen and develop board members of Jewish non-profits.

“I was raised with the tradition of “Kol Yisrael arevim zeh la-zeh” (all the people of Israel are responsible for one another), and I am blessed to be able to be involved in my synagogue community,” Poscover said. “I grew up in a thriving Conservative synagogue in Albany, New York, and part of my journey is to ensure the same experience for our children. “I am humbled by this recognition,” she added. “Shoshana Cardin has moved mountains in her efforts to build Jewish community, and I am so proud to be associated with her name.”