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Thanks to JCC Talent, I Went From a JCC Kid to a JCC Professional

by Devra Silverman

I am a JCC kid at heart! Growing up in this movement I was fortunate to be involved in so many programs and activities. From preschool to day camp to BBYO and beyond, the JCC gave me a place to meet lifelong friends, build memories, hold my first part-time job, and establish the foundation for my Jewish identity. As I began searching for a full-time job after college, it made sense for me to return to the organization that shaped my Jewish journey, so, in turn, I could do the same for others. At the time, I never could have imagined how much the JCC Movement would help me grow as a professional—particularly as I engaged in JCC Talent offerings and experiences.

After landing my first professional role at the Jewish Educational Alliance in Savannah, Ga., I quickly learned what it meant to be a part of a team. As a JCC employee I learned to wear many hats, pitch in wherever help is needed, and support my colleagues in other departments because that is how we function—and is part of what makes our work so special.

Because I wore so many hats in my first role, it was challenging to relate to other Jewish professionals who focused on only one area of programming. Fortunately, JCC Talent cohort offerings connected me with others who also were wearing many hats. My first cohort experience was as a Merrin Teen Fellow, where, for 18 months, our group of JCC professionals who work with teens focused on Jewish literacy, leadership development, and understanding adolescence. The experience was transformative and helped me grow as a Jewish communal professional in multiple ways. In addition, the network I built during that time has been essential: the cohort’s members grew close, and I found colleagues whom I could lean on for professional advice, program ideas, and problem solving, as well as hang out with as friends.

Being a Merrin Fellow had such an impact on me that I craved more opportunities to grow professionally as part of another cohort of Jewish professionals. Within the first year in my current role at the Mayerson JCC in Cincinnati, Ohio, I applied to attend a graduate program at the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership—and discovered that JCC Talent offers a professional development scholarship program. I quickly applied and was fortunate to receive financial support toward my master’s degree.

Without JCC Talent, I could not have earned my degree or met the amazing scholars or professors in my program. As with Merrin, I learned so much in my graduate studies—Jewish history, management, budgeting, Jewish peoplehood, and more—and came away with a larger professional network, better understanding of Jewish nonprofits, confidence in myself as a Jewish leader, and, of course, a diploma!

Looking back on my JCC Talent experiences, I realize how vital they have been in my Jewish journey. Through them, I have grown as a professional, deepened my knowledge of Judaism, connected me to a large network of Jewish professionals in the JCC world and beyond, and shown me the vibrancy of our global Jewish community. I carry these experiences with me each day and bring the skills and lessons I have learned into my work with my own team, programs, and the wider Jewish community.

We are always learning, growing, and finding ways to make our Jewish community thrive, which is one of my favorite parts of Judaism. Actively participating in opportunities that allow us to grow personally and as Jewish leaders is so important, which is why I encourage my own team members to seek out professional development experiences that pique their interests and make them more well-rounded leaders.

If you are curious about whether a JCC Talent program might be a good fit for you, ask questions, speak to others, and consider the impact it could have on you, your JCC, our movement, and Jewish life in North America. If even only one or two of them seems like a place where you can make a difference, do it! You will not regret bettering yourself or your Jewish community.

Devra Silverman is the manager of youth, family, and Jewish life at the Mayerson JCC in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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