By Gennady Favel
From March 26 to 28, 2023, I had the pleasure of attending the Southeast JCC Professionals Conference, hosted by the Bryan Glazer Family JCC in Tampa, Florida. I was there to present on the power and promise of the JCC Movement and to hear from about 100 of my colleagues, who represented 12 JCCs in the southeastern U.S.
On the first day of the conference, my plan for exploring the neighborhood around the JCC was thwarted by high heat and humidity. I arrived at the JCC more than an hour before the scheduled start time, so instead of exploring the neighborhood, I explored the JCC itself.
In the lobby, I saw beautiful art with themes of Israeli independence and aliyah, the return of Jews to Israel. I was also glad to see a banner for upcoming Israel-themed programs, sponsored by the Israel Engagement Fund, a JCC Association of North America program accelerator.
The conference kicked off with introductions from chief development officer Alissa Fischell and CEO Gary Gould from the Tampa JCCs and Federation. As I would learn from Gary and other professionals in Tampa, entrepreneurship plays a big part in the organization and its vision for the future of the community. One example is their partnership with the Florida-Israel Business Accelerator (FIBA), which is located inside the JCC. Gary discussed the benefits and energy that such partnerships bring, mentioning that FIBA has raised more than $915 million for Israeli startups.
For the breakout sessions, I joined the marketing cohort. The JCC Movement has many stories to tell, and these folks do an amazing job of sharing them with the community. For example, one of my colleagues shared a moving story about a Ukrainian refugee who attended a JCC day camp and loved her experience so much that she couldn’t wait to come back.
One of the more playful activities was the Teambuilders Escape Adventure, where teams solved puzzles to find buried treasure. By pure chance and with great luck, I ended up on the same team as my colleague Jen Mamlet, executive vice president at JCC Association of North America, who led the development professionals’ breakout sessions. I say “with great luck” because our team won the challenge, and we have the medals to prove it.
In my own presentation, I discussed the enormous resources and expertise available through the 170-plus JCCs and more than 55,000 JCC professionals that are part of the JCC Movement, and how JCC professionals can tap into this wealth of shared information through the JCC Resource Center. After my presentation, Leigh Evans, arts and culture manager at the Mandel JCC of the Palm Beaches, said: “The JCC Resource Center is going to be extremely helpful in making meaningful connections with other JCC professionals and finding helpful program info. I will definitely have the site bookmarked.”
I hope the resources and opportunities I shared will encourage my colleagues to make new connections and explore useful tools. I can certainly say that they inspired and impressed me with their passion and commitment to their JCCs.
If the mission of the conferences was to showcase the great strength of the JCC Movement, then it was a resounding success. Even though most of the attendees were from the same geographic region, they represented a vastly diverse group both in their personal backgrounds and professional paths, yet all were committed to building a greater Jewish community.
Gennady Favel is the Director of Resources and Communication for JCC Association.
The Southeast JCC Professional Conference included participants from:
Galbut (Miami Beach)
Jewish Community Alliance (Jacksonville)
Jewish For Good (Durham)
Levis (Boca Raton)
Mandel (Palm Beach)
Russell (North Miami Beach)
Tampa JCCs & Federation