2016-01-20 / Columns

Proud to be a part of an innovative and collaborative community

Katz JCC Executive Director

I recently participated in an invigorating and engaging gathering of leaders and thinkers from different local Jewish organizations brought together by the Jewish Federation. The event was a planning session for the ultimate Shark Tank, based on the popular TV show. The goal was to inspire creativity and collaboration. And it worked. The room was full of thought leaders from synagogues, the JCC, Federation agencies, and local day schools. Each came with collaborative ideas to transform our Jewish community while at the same time pooling resources.

At a time when resources are scarce, politicians spin the same old tired rhetoric, and people seem busier than ever, our communal leaders came together to THINK CREATIVELY. What a concept. It is so easy to get immersed in the daily grind of life that we often fail to take the moments to just talk to one another about building a better community.

I don’t know what ideas will eventually emerge and be presented to the Shark Tank judges. But I do know that our communal fabric has been broadened and strengthened just by this group of bright, dedicated volunteers all working together to improve our Jewish community.

You may wonder why I am so impressed by this. Every day, I attend meetings where we talk, plan and problem solve. But rarely do we take the deep breath necessary to separate the mundane business from the potentially transformational ideas.

At the JCC, we are taking this to heart. I mentioned in my last article about my participation in a Thinkathon in Israel, where for five days we explored new ways of doing things that were beneficial, sustainable and would have a lasting impact on our communities. When we returned, I applied this philosophy with our staff during an Innovation Workshop where we came up with incredibly creative projects that will have real impact. We then had our JCC Board of Directors engage in a similar activity at a board meeting that birthed over 20 new ideas, some of which were presented to the Shark Tank. Those that did not will be revisited to see if there are elements that can be made actionable without the special funding.

The importance of these three recent events with the JCC staff, the JCC board, and the greater Jewish community is that they inspire innovation, creative thinking, collaboration and an attitude of working toward benefitting our entire community.

There are ways for each of you to help innovate and shape the future. At the JCC, join a club, or a committee. The JCC has just begun four new special committees: Membership/Belonging, Facilities, Teens 365 and Evolving Jewish Role. The Membership/Belonging committee is focused on fostering a sense of belonging to the JCC for the entire Jewish community. The facilities group is addressing parking as well as improving the facilities, right sizing for the right services and accommodating all of the divergent building needs that seem to increase each year. Teens 365 is committed to finding new ways to encourage teens to see the JCC as a second home. This can be for sports, recreation, theater and music, leadership development, and job training. The Evolving Jewish Role committee is shaping the practices and policies of the JCC through a Jewish lens.

On the community level, join a synagogue, get involved with a Federation agency, and participate in Super Sunday, the Federation’s largest day of fundraising. Come volunteer, make phone calls, and donate when your phone rings on Super Sunday.

This is the beginning of a new year. Let’s all work together, be open to new things, commit to the betterment of our community and take pride in all our efforts.

This is what I think and I’m proud to be a part of it. . lcohen@jfedsnj.org

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