The Trust of the Team

You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible.
—Anton Chekhov

Trustthe foundation of friendships, marriages, chavrutot and every other type of relationship. Despite the central role it plays in our social life, trust does not always come easily. With the arbitrariness and vicissitudes of the Covid pandemic, and the uncertainties of war, trust is all the more elusive. But as difficult as it can be to trust, Chekhov, who was born in what is now Ukraine, knew what he was talking about: without trust, one cannot survive.

Trust plays an even more central role in the life of a Jew. We turn to Hashem with our trust, our bitachon. Rabbi Shmuel Huminer in Mitzvat HaBitachon writes that it is actually a commandment to know in our hearts that all is in the hands of Hashem Who can change nature at a moment’s notice and even upset the natural order to save us. It is not only an obligation but a unique opportunity to turn to Hashem, to hope for redemption and to trust Him in any and all circumstances.

Allow me to share with you three seemingly unrelated developments at the Orthodox Union.

1. Before I joined the OU, a team of enthusiastic and conscientious leaders across the organization began to work together on professional development. The need for an investment in our employees, as well as a desire to grow our belief in each other, coalesced further through our organization-wide survey (in which our professionals continue to participate this summer). Quarterbacked by our HR team and in partnership with lay leadership and outside advisors, we have begun to invest in our most cherished resource: our employees. While there is much more to do, we have taken significant steps toward making the OU a paradigm of experiential employee growth and opportunity and establishing a pipeline of leadership for our Jewish future.

2. After decades at 11 Broadway, the OU moved its main headquarters to 40 Rector Street. This move came together through collaboration between cross-departmental teams with diverse skill sets and perspectives, and involved frequent check-ins with lay leadership. Conversations and opinions flowed from cacophonous brainstorming sessions into an organized plan. Together, we developed a strategy, which we frequently adjusted in a flexible and moving pandemic environment. Throughout, our key professional project team drivers cooperated and supported each other and with all of us, lifting us as one resilient and accomplished team to the desired result: our beautiful new headquarters home!

3. The OU’s meaningful campaign for those impacted by the war in Ukraine involved colleagues from across the OU: lay and professional, executive and programmatic, kashrut and klal, all of whom have been striving to ameliorate the lives of those affected by war. In addition, thousands upon thousands of our sisters and brothers donated to our campaign to assist and support the tens of thousands of Jews affected.

These incredible developments came together because of one key ingredient—trust.

In 1965, psychologist Bruce Tuckman formulated the stages of group development, which he captured as: forming, storming, norming and performing (as well as mourning or adjourning at the culmination of a project). In the first stage, we engage with the others in the group and must be careful to own our particular biases while remaining open, even welcoming, to new people and new ideas. In the second stage, the team moves to conversations and the sharing of differing opinions, and thus, potentially, to a “storm.” The team can then move to building supportive and cooperative relationships, thereby lifting each other. And finally, they build a resilient team, able to communicate, coordinate and collaborate. Coursing through these different stages is an openness to one another, which transforms into respect, and ultimately, into a bond and connection, otherwise known as trust.

What allowed us to accomplish the move to Rector Street, despite delays in the supply chain, and what allowed us to reorient our entire operation to direct resources toward the plight of Ukrainian Jewry? Our developed and continually developing sense of trust and connection with one another. When we work together in teams with authenticity and shared goals, we invest in each other and raise the organization and the Jewish world to even grander heights.

The Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett, is quoted as saying: “Trust is like the air we breathe. When it’s present, nobody really notices; when it’s absent, everybody notices.” Let’s appreciate the critical role trust plays in our social and religious life, and let’s continue to deepen it in our relationships. We can all use some more oxygen of trust, today more than ever.

Rabbi Dr. Josh Joseph is OU Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer.

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This article was featured in the Summer 2022 issue of Jewish Action.
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