By Pamela Dubin
Apart from the eulogies, I didn’t watch any media after the savagery at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church.
Starting from the time I became executive director of the Rabin Alliance after the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, I no longer allow myself to succumb to the passive routine of watching endless TV coverage of tragedies. Instead, I practice what I preach and speak up, speak out, and take direct action to comfort, support and build.
The day after Charleston, I picked up the phone and called Big Bethel, Atlanta’s oldest AME church. I asked Senior Pastor John Foster, “What can I do that is meaningful to you?” and he gave me the details to join the church’s community service. The songs and sermons comforted the bereaved and the numb. The psalms and prayers stirred the soul of our complacent world.
A stranger in Big Bethel’s midst, I became part of a community based on shared values and proved that when good people take productive action, we reclaim power from those wielding weapons and words focused on killing us. We become pillars of fire.
As we observe the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Rabin on Nov. 4, I think back to Noa, Rabin’s teenage granddaughter, standing in front of global dignitaries and calling her grandpa a “pillar of fire in front of the camp.” Her description struck me as a red line, a call to action, and a reminder that when we are silent or lazy or acquiesce to intimidation, fear or political correctness, our good intentions aren’t enough to protect ourselves and our families.
To become a pillar of fire is disruptive and uncomfortable to those who mean well but haven’t excelled. It eliminates the meaningless and ineffective and gives breath to more complex solutions in a technology-driven world.
In the challenging years after the assassination, I led a powerful board in support of collaborative solutions addressing the challenges of mass immigration and weak institutions hungry for innovative leadership. We focused our efforts on increasing leadership capacity. We avoided silo fixes in favor of ecosystem-driven solutions; we listened and leveraged. We imagined, scaled and identified winners who would be pillars of fire, and we adapted as often as necessary to stay relevant and meaningful and provide exponential solutions.
We invested in pillars of fire like Sari Revkin, the CEO of Yedid: The Association for Community Empowerment, which is celebrating its 18th anniversary this month. Revkin’s leadership not only makes her organization a model for governments and global institutions, but also demonstrates the infinite and irrefutable value of each pillar of fire in repairing communities, weak states and a fraying world.
A few years ago, when I relocated to Atlanta to advise and create innovative leadership experiences for corporate and community leaders, their embrace and welcome of the pillar-of-fire mindset was uplifting. It has been inspiring to be involved with organizations that so enthusiastically share my worldview of the Southeast as a global powerhouse. Such exponential opportunity, brought into global focus with Mayor Kasim Reed and Conexx’s cybersecurity mission to Israel last spring, confirms the value of that mindset in a world in search of better.
To inspire more pillars of fire in every community and organization, I routinely turn to Viktor Frankl’s book “The Meaning of Life.” He wrote: “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
With an abundance of innovation and human capital, I look forward to focusing on developing and extending the impact of winning pillars of fire as I rededicate myself to developing the people and organizations that disrupt the flailing or corrupt and empower the accountable.
Let us join together to develop and support the pillars of fire of our silicon age and gain more wins in the name of community, democracy, civilization and our world. It would be a meaningful tribute to Yitzhak Rabin, z”l. May his memory be a blessing.
Based in Atlanta, Pamela Dubin (www.pameladubin.com) helps people and organizations through curated and confidential innovative leadership experiences.