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Finding your network

by Joy Brand-Richardson

If you were to ask me what is the most valuable part of attending JCCs of North America Professional Conference the answer is simple. Nowhere else will your JCC staff be able to learn with, and from, the people who really “get” them, the job they do and the unique challenges and issues that arise each day as they try to make your J the best it can possibly be.

I cannot stress enough how much JCC staff will get out of the sessions we are planning. These will be led by outstanding experts in each of their disciplines, as well as by their accomplished peers. The days will offer intense learning and professional development with leaders in every JCC field. And of course, some of the most important learning takes place when the plenaries and breakout sessions end. What goes on in the halls between sessions, and during the socializing after hours, is just as important. There is no better opportunity for staff to connect to their peers and to learn from them.

It is always a worthwhile and memorable experience and has become a regular part of our expectations for our work together.

If they want to talk about what it means to run an early childhood program in Houston, their counterpart from Atlanta may have advice. Does the marketing department need some strategizing about how to juggle old-fashioned marketing needs in a digital era? There’s going to be someone else tackling that same problem, who might already have some simple hacks for them. And where else can they meet others whose job involves juggling the demands of multiple camps, an early childhood program, a teen center, senior programming and Jewish content?

Professional Conference is the answer. The importance of the relationships that develop at the conference and the learning that goes on there can benefit each JCC as it strives for excellence should not be underestimated.

This year, Professional Conference takes place from March 15-18 at the Rosen Plaza Hotel in Orlando, Florida. There is so much value packed into a few days. Ellen Cole, executive director of the Miles Nadal JCC in Canada, has been sending her programming, fitness and administrative staff for years. Attending is considered a necessary part of professional development and part of the J’s budgeting process.


And the value to staff?

“They practically devour the learning opportunities and the chance to meet with their colleagues from across North America to share ideas and best practices,” writes Ellen. “They always return pumped and full of creative new ideas – and just a little bit tired from the partying and the chance to build our team. It is always a worthwhile and memorable experience and has become a regular part of our expectations for our work together. To us it’s ‘priceless.’”

Some of those priceless opportunities include job track sessions for those who handle arts and culture, camping, financial resource development, fiscal management, Jewish education, youth and after school among others. There are sessions geared specifically for executive directors, assistant executive directors, early childhood educators, marketing professionals and more. There will be J-Talks, a form of plenary we introduced with great success at the 2014 Executive Leadership Seminars and Biennial, offering short vignettes from thought leaders in the Jewish world. J’s Stake House will give participants an overview of the programs and services that JCC Association offers; our preferred vendors will be on hand to describe their services; and of course, there will be dessert, dancing and evening fun.

Les Cohen, executive director at the Katz JCC in Cherry Hill, N.J. writes that the Professional Conference brings “some of the best thinkers in the field to the table. This is in an incredible opportunity to grow professionally, build friendships and create networks of support, as we pursue our careers.”

So you don’t have to take my word for it. Make sure this is in your JCC’s plan for 2015 and then have your staff print more business cards and come ready to learn, to schmooze and to grow.


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