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Canadian rabbi offers lessons on leadership
Toledo Blade
Posted Monday, Feb 8th, 2010

Wise decisions made thousands of years ago can help people make the right choices today, according to Rabbi Lazer Gurkow.

A prolific author and spiritual leader of a London, Ontario, synagogue, Rabbi Gurkow will speak in Toledo Thursday night on "The Soul of Leadership."

The rabbi's new book, Portraits in Leadership: Timeless Tales for Inspired Living, also will be used as the text for a course starting tomorrow at 300 Jewish Learning Institute sites worldwide, including Toledo's Chabad House-Lubavitch.

In a recent interview, Rabbi Gurkow said he picked six people in Jewish history who represent different facets of leadership.

"Each leader has a particular style they bring to their leadership, and they use their traits to meet the challenges of their time," he said. "What we're trying to do is to study their character."

The first lesson is on Hillel, a 1st-century sage who moved from Babylonia to Palestine. One major trait Hillel demonstrated was humility, the rabbi said.

"Humility is often misunderstood," Rabbi Gurkow said. "It's seen as a weakness, as meekness or softness. But humility can be the essence of strength. It's not putting yourself down, but setting yourself aside and seeing what others need."

When people get in disagreements, ego and pride often get in the way. Studying Hillel and humility helps people learn to focus on the issues rather than on their own pride, he said.

Other lessons in the series include studies of Moses, Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai, Rabbi Akiva, and Judah the Prince.

The Jewish Learning Institute course on leadership begins tomorrow at Chabad House-Lubavitch, 4020 Nantucket Dr., where Rabbi Gurkow will speak at 7 p.m. Thursday. Admission to the lecture is $8. Information: 419-843-9393.

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