Connecting to the Heart:

A Leadership Tool for Engaging the Unengaged



How do you motivate people?  In the Jewish-environmental movement, it seems that we share fact after fact about the environmental challenges we face, and list after list of things that people can do to make a difference.

We’ve also gotten good at telling people what Jewish values should motivate them, and bringing them outdoors to grow food or see the beauty of nature.

While we’ve made some headway as a movement, we certainly have not mastered environmental motivation in the Jewish community.  

The key to understanding motivation is that it comes from the heart, not from the head.  We touch people at the level of values not by sharing sources and facts and actions, but by sharing stories.

With the support of the ROI Community of Young Jewish Innovators, Jewcology (a project of Canfei Nesharim) hosted three leadership trainings in 2011, utilizing the Public Narrative Methodology developed by Harvard professor Marshall Ganz.  The trainings took place at the Kayam Beit Midrash (March 14), the Teva Learning Center (June 2), and the Hazon Food Conference (August 21).  Utilizing the “leadership story” techniques developed by Professor Ganz , participants learned how to identify and tell powerful stories that can express our purpose, unite our community and inspire meaningful shared action.


About the Training

The training is based on the famous Hillel dictum:

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?  But if I am only for myself, who am I?  And if not now, when?” (Pirkei Avot 1:14)


The training is organized around three different “stories” which one defines for oneself and the group: the story of self, the story of us, and the story of now.  The three stories answer fundamental questions about oneself and the community one is engaging, based on a foundation of shared values.

Self: Why have I been called to this work?

Us: Who is here with me and what common experiences and values do we share?

Now: What do we need to do together, now?


Meaningful Results

“I enjoyed it very much and found the narrative format very powerful and the process even therapeutic.” – Jewcology Leadership Training Participant

“…I felt empowered to tell my story… and I felt the intense writing sessions forced me to focus in on the most important aspects of my story.   I fully intend to use what I’ve learned in ‘the real world’!”  – Jewcology Leadership Training Participant

 “It taught me to articulate my motivations, and the importance of doing so to engage others in change.” – Jewcology Leadership Training Participant


A total of 48 Jewish environmental and social justice leaders were trained in the course of the three sessions.  75% of attendees filled out evaluation surveys within 2 weeks of each training.  The results of the training are as follows:

  • 91.7% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that as a result of this session, they were more empowered to speak to their target engagement audiences.
  • 75% agreed or strongly agreed that as a result of this session, they were more empowered to speak to people who do not share the same Jewish or environmental values.
  • 88.9% agreed or strongly agreed that they planned to use this model in speaking to one or more of their primary engagement audiences.
  • 88.9% agreed or strongly agreed that what they learned would enable them to be more effective in their community engagement efforts.
  • 97% would recommend this session or methodology to a friend or colleague with similar commitments.

Participants indicated that they intended to use this tool with a wide range of audiences.  The most mentioned were synagogue members, educators, and potential funders.  In our third training, evaluations also asked how likely people were to change their actions as a result of this training.

  • 90% of respondents were more likely or much more likely to speak publicly about their passion for the environment and social justice;
  • 90% were more likely or much more likely to overcome a fear of public speaking;
  • 90% were likely or much more likely to understand and express their motivations for environmental and social justice change;
  • 80% were likely or more likely to ask others to take actions that make a difference in their cause; and
  • 70% were more likely or much more likely to build partnerships and teams to educate their Jewish community about the environment and social justice.

Upcoming Trainings

Jewcology has trained prior participants to be small group coaches of this training, so that we can internalize this expertise in the Jewish-environmental movement and replicate it.