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How JCC Talent Is Helping the Tucson JCC Advance Its Workplace Culture

By Rachael Mitchell, Todd Rockoff, Jennifer Selco, and Josh Shenker

At the Tucson JCC in Arizona, we continually strive to advance our workplace culture to support our strategic plan and fulfill our mission to cultivate and enrich Jewish identity, ensure Jewish continuity, foster wellness, and broaden communal harmony. With help in large part from JCC Association of North America’s JCC Talent, one way we do so is by tapping into talent development opportunities rooted in Jewish learning to ensure our professionals develop and grow.

Such work is only feasible when C-suite leaders champion talent development to extend the mission of the agency to its staff and beyond. Here in Tucson, we foster a culture of teaching and learning and, using relational models of learning, seek to develop employees as whole people and teams as containers for innovation and collaboration. As proponents of the JCC Talent strategy, our leaders seek to enhance Jewish learning, foster cultures of inclusion and belonging, and strengthen talent Infrastructure at the Tucson J. It is important to us to provide employees at all levels throughout the agency with meaningful paths for growth while also creating Jewish communal professionals who feel deeply connected to themselves and their work to better serve the entire community.

Our approach also recognizes the importance of developing replicable frameworks to ensure the sustainability of this work. The success of our talent development initiatives is contingent on our ability to measure it, both qualitatively and quantitively. By evaluating the impact these initiatives have within our agency and beyond, we can create sound, sustainable models—often building on the work of JCC Talent—that can be adapted for different leadership levels, contexts, and audiences. To advance this work, our agency participates in JCC Association’s benchmarking project and the annual Leading Edge employee experience survey, making the results of both available to senior-level leaders and outside consultants.

JCC Talent offerings help us intentionally focus on staff mindset, a healthy and inspired work environment, and personal and professional growth. Using the 22 competency areas identified by JCC Association’s Talent Management program, we’ve built “J-ED” (JCC Employee Development), an agency-wide talent development program that provides structured, ongoing learning during departmental meetings, as well as a menu of optional learning opportunities. For example, our JCC was the first to use Mark S. Young’s book, “Bless our Workforce: Changing the Way We Manage Our People“, as a professional development tool in our leadership meetings, helping JCC Talent to create a national Bless Our Workforce Institute and inspiring us to continue group book studies for our leaders. “Passion for a People” by Avraham Infeld and “Why Do Jewish?” by Zack Bodner, CEO of the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto, California, are among the other books our leaders are reading to advance our work related to Jewish Peoplehood.

Tucson JCC professionals at all levels participate in professional development offerings from JCC Talent:

  • Awareness in Action: In this partnership between JCC Association and the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, Josh Shenker, chief program officer, facilitates sessions for JCCs across North America. Thanks to this program, 14 Tucson JCC staff members learned to build their personal resilience and use Jewish values to guide their work.
  • Hineni: Four leaders participated in this JResponse® foundational training. By enhancing their skills in readiness, relief, recovery, and resilience, they are prepared to offer support in JCC communities following man-made and natural disasters.
  • Regional Conferences: In 2017, the Tucson JCC created the Southwest Regional Conference, positioning us as thought leaders and innovators. The conference ran successfully for three years, and we are looking forward to the Western Regional Conference from March 26-28 that will offer Jewish learning opportunities to JCC leaders from the Mountain and Pacific time zones.
  • The Martin Pear Israel Fellowship: This newly launched, year-long, cohort-learning opportunity, including a 10-day seminar in Israel, will empower Pear Fellows to explore their own relationship to Judaism and, inspired by their experience, bring Israel to life in new and purposeful ways. We are proud that Corey Cravens, director of afterschool programming, is among the participants in the inaugural cohort
  • Tzedek: In partnership with Repair the World, Tzedek (Hebrew for “justice”) trains early career JCC professionals to plan and implement Jewish service-learning opportunities. Jennifer Selco, director of Jewish life and learning, and Olivia Diaz, arts and culture engagement manager, are Tzedek participants, and we expect their newfound knowledge will help us draw 18-29-year-olds into service-learning experiences at our J as we continue to create truly innovative, meaningful programming that catalyzes engagement in the southern Arizona and global Jewish communities.

Our professionals also participate in these opportunities that JCC Talent endorses:

  • UpStart Change Accelerator: This fellowship expands the impact Jewish leaders have on their communities by equipping them with skills to be change agents and identify and launch bold initiatives to meet evolving needs. Josh Shenker is an alumnus of this program.
  • Avodah Institute’s Leadership for Social Change: In partnership with the Foundation for Jewish Camp, a new cohort in this program will help year-round Jewish camp leaders support social justice programming and deepen their camps’ and campers’ commitment to social justice. Haylee Davis, inclusion coordinator for Camp J is a member of the cohort.

Through our steadfast investment in growth for our entire staff, we are cultivating Jewish communal professionals who are well positioned to actively drive change and innovation, as well as connect more deeply with the meaning behind Jewish identity. We are immensely grateful to JCC Talent and other Jewish communal partners for the opportunities they provide to professionals in our J and throughout our movement. As we continue to create the exemplary workplace culture we all desire, we are hopeful that our efforts and end result can serve as a beacon for other JCCs and the wider Jewish world.

These leaders from the Tucson JCC in Arizona authored this blog post: Rachael Mitchell, director of marketing, communications and PR; Todd Rockoff, president and CEO; Jennifer Selco, senior director of Jewish living and engagement; and Josh Shenker, chief program officer.

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