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Meet Stephen

SHAbioI have already met quite of few of you as I have begun to get acquainted with the vast network of programs JCC Association supports: JCCs, YM-YWHAs, camps, and JWB Jewish Chaplains Council, which provides for the spiritual and cultural needs of Jewish military personnel, their families, and veterans. Representing 350 sites in North America, we are the Jewish public square, convening so many in expressions of celebration, learning, service, creativity, and togetherness. It’s an incredible honor to serve the largest network of Jewish meaning and engagement anywhere outside of the state of Israel.

If we have not met yet, you can visit JCC Association’s new blog, Sounding Board ( for an introduction. That’s where I share thoughts on the world of JCCs and Jewish community every other Wednesday. Sounding Board is a nice way to get to know me, but it’s also a good opportunity to get to know you. At the start of my tenure as chief executive officer and president of JCC Association in February, I asked our community to share songs that capture the spirit and aspirations of the JCC Movement. We have been listening to and talking about those songs ever since.

Listening is core to my approach as a leader, and Sounding Board is just one element of a listening tour I have undertaken to help me understand our people, our agencies and our work. From Boston to the Bay Area, St. Louis to Baltimore, New York City, Chicago, Ft. Lauderdale, San Diego, Dallas and Milwaukee and a whole bunch of places in between, I am visiting your communities and listening to the questions, ideas and concerns that you offer about the JCC Movement. I am learning about our successes and challenges—and how we can include them in the story of our work that we want and need to tell.

Even in the early stages of this listening tour it is abundantly clear that great opportunities await us. Having built a foundation of institutions touching the lives of some two million people every year we have so much to invest in and to sustain. Our programs are often core experiences in the day-to-day lives of our stakeholders. This has been true for generations. And yet today, our stakeholders are asking what needs to change in the JCC landscape. On the cusp of celebrating 100 years as a movement, have we begun to imagine fully and boldly the role of JCCs and related agencies 10, 20, 50 or even another 100 years from now? What do we need to understand about technology, diversity, Jewish identity and communal infrastructures to prepare ourselves for providing meaningful, authentic, excellent services in the Jewish public square for many more generations to come?

Our listening tour includes a wide variety of stations to ask these questions. We are convening stakeholders around many themes—from the future of our beloved JCC Maccabi Games to Jewish and Israel engagement in Innovation Lab: Jerusalem to our role as a leader in early childhood education through our nearly 100 Sheva communities, to camp, the ever-changing world of fitness, and so much more.

This issue of JCC Circle reflects a set of voices from the powerful chorus of the JCC Movement. I encourage you to listen to the voices, but even more, I encourage you to add your voice to the song we are singing. You can connect with us at

We at JCC Association are listening.

Dr. Stephen Hazan Arnoff
President and CEO, JCC Association

This article originally appeared in the JCC Circle Print Edition, Summer 2015.

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