Valley Torah Leadership Lunches Inspire

By

Dr. Eliezer Jones (VTHS-Boys General Studies Principal)

Last year, Valley Torah High School – Boys Campus became a FranklinCovey “Leader In Me” school. These schools are committed to building leadership skills among their students. “Leader In Me” schools accomplish this goal by utilizing a leadership framework based on The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Dr. Steven Covey.

For Valley Torah, this was the year the framework was implemented with the students. As part of the implementation, each month, students who illustrate leadership skills and knowledge of the habits are invited to an exclusive “Leadership Lunch.” At the lunch, students are treated to food, drink, and a discussion with a VTHS alumnus who exemplifies strong leadership. Alumni share their stories, secrets of their success, and leadership skills they have learned and applied to their lives.

At the March lunch, Valley Torah was delighted to host a graduate of the class of 1992 and social activist in the field of mental health, Rabbi Guy Avihod. He was in town from Israel, where he lives with his wife and five kids, to speak at the National Council for Behavioral Health conference in Las Vegas. Rabbi Avihod spoke with the students about his journey from Valley Torah to social activism. After graduating Valley Torah, Rabbi Avihod received his BA and Masters in Political Science from California State University, Northridge and his rabbinical accreditation from the Chief Rabbanut in Israel. He is currently working towards his PhD in Social Work at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Avihod is the co-founder of Shaf Yativ, the first rehabilitative yeshiva geared towards people dealing with mental illness. Rabbi Avihod is on the advisory board for the Israeli Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association and has spoken internationally on the subject of mental health. Currently, his newest social venture, Haboydem (http://www.haboydem.org), is a second-hand store which serves as a workplace for people on the road to recovery from mental illness. As their mission states, they exist “to create a self-sustaining second-hand clothing store which is serviced by people with disabilities who are being trained and empowered to maximize their potential and integrate back into the competitive workplace.”

Throughout his presentation, Rabbi Avihod focused on specific leadership habits to which he attributes his success, and on the many ways the habits of living a religious life have provided him with support and guidance. The students found his story inspiring, and they were left with great tips on how to be successful at making a difference in the world. Rabbi Avihod also served them personally as a wonderful role model.

Near the end of Rabbi Avihod’s presentation, one student, 10th grader Michael Stark, raised his hand high. He asked, “How can we get involved?” There could not have been a better outcome to this lunch than a desire for action.

Valley Torah looks forward to future Leadership Lunches, the continued building of student leadership and the continued student exposure to amazing Valley Torah Alumni like Rabbi Guy Avihod.