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שַׁבָּת שָׁלוֹם ~ Shabbat Shalom, 24 Adar 5779


On Wednesday afternoon, the largest JCCs of North America Professional Conference (ProCon) in the history of our movement wrapped up in Orlando, Florida as nearly 550 professionals from more than 90 JCCs across 34 states, four provinces and two continents began the journey home. Following four extraordinary days which featured 99 speakers, 66 vendors, 22 sponsors, 19 job tracks (including for the first time, human resources and special needs) and countless conversations, discoveries, and new friendships, they return to their communities aspiring to be and to do more.

Five hundred and fifty professionals who, together with their peers and colleagues back home, bear responsibility for the largest platform for Jewish engagement on this continent—the town squares of Jewish communities in neighborhoods, towns and cities from coast to coast—our network of JCCs. They brought their experience, insight, and perspective to a wide range of conversations, discussions, and deliberations about the present, but more importantly about our future; a future in which we play an active hand with every touch we make at our JCCs each and every day.

Some of the most articulate and important voices in our field challenged us to find ways to become ever better versions of ourselves as community builders.

    • Dynamic philanthropist, social entrepreneur and member of the Metrowest JCC, Archie Gottesman, gave us tools with which to aspire to make every JCC more accessible to those on the margins of our Jewish communities.
    • Chloe Valdary, a writer and rising star in the field of journalism who grew up in a Christian family in New Orleans, helped us to aspire to recognize the good we see in Israel and Israelis and to look for things to love as we strengthen our connection to a Jewish State still in formation after only 70 years of independence.

    • Yotam Polizer, co-CEO of IsraAID, one of the world’s leading disaster response NGOs (non-governmental organization), and our major partner in JResponse moved us to aspire to lend a hand to those in need.
    • Dr. G (Dr. Deborah Gilboa), whose Jewish journey began at JCC Camp Chi, pushed us to aspire to ever greater readiness in anticipation of challenges and crises, both large and small, so that resilience becomes a calling card of every JCC.

    • Jessica Golden Cortes, a proud member and parent at the JCC of Central New Jersey, framed our aspirations to assure that safety, respect, and equity will be the hallmarks of our JCC workplaces.
    • The amazing Hedda Sharapan, a senior fellow at the Fred Rogers Center, together with the voice of Mr. Rogers himself, reminded our community to aspire to find what’s special in each of us and how together we can make a truly wonderful neighborhood.

We were also joined by award-winning documentary filmmaker, Jeremy Newberger, and longtime reporter and broadcaster, Jonathan Mayo, who met in summer camp as children, and who came together last year to make a film about the remarkable run of Team Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Their film portrays a team composed largely of American Jewish baseball players who with newfound pride in representing the Jewish State came to see the name on the front of their jerseys as far more important, and far more meaningful, then the names on the back.

Neither Jeremy nor Jon had ever aspired as celebrated professionals in their respective fields, to produce or create anything Israel-related. They drew upon the seeds that had been planted in them as kids, however, to find inspiration that resulted in a showcase of this beautiful face of the Jewish people and the State of Israel, which has now been seen by literally hundreds of thousands of viewers across the globe. What an extraordinary dividend of the experience given to them more than 30 years ago by summer camp and youth group staff from our field. The ripples that grew from the pebbles those camp staff members dropped into the pond way back whengo on and on and on.

Nearly 550 members of the JCC Movement professional team joined hands in Orlando. We came together to learn. We came together to teach. We came together to laugh. We came together to play. We came together to build. We came together to grow. We came together to link arms with colleagues and friends, both old and new, and to deepen our understanding of road that lies ahead—and of all to which we can aspire if we take that journey together.

Every touch, another pebble in the pond of our future as a Jewish community and a Jewish people. We certainly can and should take pride in the splash, but it’s the ripples on which we should keep a steady gaze. It is through them that our future will unfold.

One-and-half million people pass through our doors each week, each one a chance to begin the process anew. Listen carefully. And make every splash count.

Shabbat Shalom—שבת שלום


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