As Jewish people, we are connected with a global Jewish peoplehood past and present; as a Jewish Community Center, one way we maintain and deepen that connection is by strengthening our bond with other JCC’s in the JCC Movement. On Sunday, March 26, the Tucson J had the honor and privilege of welcoming over 180 colleagues from 24 JCC’s across the western US and Canada here to Tucson for the three-day JCC Association Western Regional Professional Conference.
Rather than focus on simply sharing tips and best practices, the conference was an opportunity to think much bigger about our collective work, impact, and individual roles each of us play within it. Tucson J President + CEO, Todd Rockoff, with support from a planning committee made up of leaders from the Lawrence Family JCC, the Oshman Family JCC, the Peninsula JCC, and the I.J. & Jeanné Wagner JCC, designed a conference experience that explored the holistic nature of our work as community builders and centers of belonging.
The experience was aligned with our own aspirations as an organization that is actively working to foster a culture of teaching and learning using relational, rather than transactional, models to develop employees as whole people and teams as containers for innovation and collaboration. The Tucson J team is excited to share the valuable lessons learned as we collaborate with professional and lay leadership and community members to strengthen the eco-system of Jewish life across Southern Arizona.
In addition to gathering with department specific cohorts, we had the pleasure of hearing from a variety of industry leaders within the JCC Movement, others whose mission it is to foster wellness in the Jewish community, and local experts in the fields of innovation and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
Carly Coons joined us from the Blue Dove Foundation and engaged us in learning about the connection between Judaism and gratitude. Jackie Zais of Gather Inc, spoke about strengthening our community through Relational-Based Engagement. Rabbi Miriam Klotz of the Institute of Jewish Spirituality offered a new approach to relationship-building through a focus on four dimensions of Sacred Listening. Wendy Verba of Belonging by Design shared how we can create structures and practices to create a systematic culture of belonging that is intentional and inclusive. Joanne Harmon, Chief Marketing Officer of the JCC Association taught us how we can leverage the JCC Movement’s history and story to cultivate meaningful relationships. Joy Brand-Richardson, Vice President of Professional Development at the JCC Association connected with new JCC professionals in a session especially for them. Sara Sless, Assistant Director of the JCC Association Center for Israel Engagement and Director of Israel Seminars, led a conversation about creating authentic connections to Israel. The Tucson J’s own JCulture Changemakers Monica Rosenbaum and Haylee Davis explored the core elements and barriers to creating an equitable, accountable, and care-centered workplace culture applied through a Jewish lens.
We also heard from Eric Smith, Tucson J Board Member and Executive Director of the UA Center for Innovation about innovation as a tool to ease community pain points and deliver more of what our community members want from us. Doron Krakow, President + CEO of JCC Association delivered the keynote address and provided a wide-angle lens to the movement, sharing that JCC’s, as the largest employer in the organized Jewish community, form the Jewish community’s professional backbone.
While the bulk of the conference took place at Westward Look, all 180 attendees had the opportunity to join us at the J for a full tour of the facility, dinner prepared by Asher Amar, and ample time to connect and socialize with one another in the Jill Rosenzweig Memorial Sculpture Garden.
Noting that our region’s conference was one of many that took place across the continent, Doron Krakow summed up our goals for the conference, ” At their core was a shared commitment to teamwork, to creating relationships across geographies, to the interplay between veterans and newcomers—and between communities, both large and small. They were about strengthening the ties that bind colleagues and partners, with a shared commitment to something greater, a reminder that none of us is on our own as we confront the possibilities before us.”