By Doron Krakow
A Glimpse Back at 5782
Over the past few weeks, JCC Association of North America has made several announcements about departures and pending departures of members of our professional team. Valued colleagues who have played integral roles in supporting the field, among them are a long-time veteran and more recent arrivals, program leaders, and members of the senior staff. It is never entirely comfortable to bid farewell to key partners and allies or to see rising stars move onto notable opportunities elsewhere, but this has always been the way of things. New additions will not long remain in the offing, and our team—like so many others—will find both possibility and opportunity amidst the winds of change, confident that our greatest days lie ahead.
We’re in good company.
Across our movement, colleagues lament similar challenges at JCCs and JCC camps as staff turnover has increased markedly in the past year. These current dynamics follow the difficult, early months of the pandemic when the sudden disruption of our longstanding revenue model led to lay-offs or furloughs of more than 20% of our then-37,000-strong workforce.
Having entered the Hebrew month of Elul, we are in the final days of 5782. It is a time to look back before turning our gaze forward, and a time to reflect on where we’ve been and how we came to be where we are now.
Though the business side of JCCs has recovered substantially since those trying, early days, a persistent concern remains: Staffing is a major problem. It has proven difficult to attract enough qualified people to fill needed roles and functions, and consistent with trends in the broader labor market, there has been an uptick in those who are reflecting on life and work, with many rethinking where they want to be and what they want to be doing. As a result, “The Great Resignation” has ushered in a whole new set of issues.
At the core of the JCC Movement is our commitment to community building. JCCs create spaces in which diverse and disparate members find, in the company of one another, what they can’t experience alone. With opportunities and choices that make it possible for JCCs to offer something for everyone, they are the Jewish community’s town square in more than 170 neighborhoods, towns, and cities from coast to coast. While society grapples with growing divisions and political polarization, JCCs are ramping up efforts to increase accessibility and finding ways to welcome and include more community members than ever before. In the face of increasingly fierce headwinds, our movement has remained steadfast in its commitment to a powerful Jewish ideal: The things we share are far more important than those that set us apart.
It is an odd juxtaposition. As even more is required of us, the challenges of recruiting and retaining talented staff continue to grow. The upshot? Though the intensity of the pandemic has lessened, this past year has demanded more from those at every level of our professional community.
One of the joys of my job is the routine interactions I have with my colleagues, the professional leaders of our JCCs. These interactions remind me of my place in another extraordinary community—that of senior executives on whom so much of our work depends. We’re a little tired these days, a little under-staffed, a little over-worked, and acutely aware of the fatigue among those in our professional ranks. We know that if we and our movement’s institutions are going to rise to the challenges before us, we’ll need to redouble our efforts to ensure that staff members can draw daily inspiration not only from being part of a team uniquely committed to building Jewish community, but also from the support, kinship, and appreciation that come from being part of a great professional community.
It takes a community to build community, and each of us has a unique and significant part to play—adding our talents, skills, and character to something greater than ourselves.
President and CEO
JCC Association of North America