by Aaron Rosenfeld, Executive Director, Jewish Community Center of OmahSourceURL:file://localhost/Volumes/server/Website%206.20.12.doc
Last month, JCC President John Glazer and I attended the JCCs of North America Biennial conference in New Orleans. The Biennial, a meeting of JCC leaders and volunteers, was attended by nearly 1000 people from the U.S., Canada, Israel, and countries in Latin America and Europe representing 94 JCCs. JWB Jewish Chaplains Council, a division of JCC Association, held its meeting simultaneously with the Biennial, and military chaplains led some workshops for the first time. The World Confederation of JCCs also sent delegates to the Biennial from nine different countries around the world.
The four-day conference was filled with many great learning opportunities. We learned much about the latest trends in all of the areas in which the JCC specializes (Fitness & Membership, Early Childhood Education, Youth & Camp). We heard from scholars and experts in Jewish leadership such as Dr. Erica Brown and Tulane University President Scott S. Cowen. Rabbi Donniel Hartman spoke about the changing relationship between Israel and American Jewry. He emphasized the need for the JCC to be a place that welcomes open and respectful dialogue.
The JCCs of North America Biennial is the largest gathering of JCC volunteer leaders. It provides both lay leaders and executives with a full schedule of keynote speeches, smaller group sessions, theme tracks, special sessions where JCCs of similar size can share experiences, and many networking opportunities. The JCC of Omaha is considered a large-intermediate JCC. John and I met other large-intermediate JCC executives and leaders and discussed the very bright future of the JCC movement and its role in shaping the future of the Jewish community. We shared ideas and experiences and formed new relationships that are sure to benefit our community. As John Glazer put it, “the event was inspirational and informative, and extremely well organized. Omaha’s affiliation with the JCC Association is extremely beneficial. I would definitely encourage future JCC leadership to attend the Biennial.”
I am particularly excited by the newly unveiled JCC Movement’s Statement of Principles for the 21st Century. Most significantly “The vision of the JCC Movement is to create a vibrant and welcoming Jewish environment that encourages people to lead engaged lives of meaning and purpose. We believe the JCC is a primary destination of Jewish engagement.”
In the area of fitness and wellness, we heard from some famous celebrities who grew up at a JCC and are now working closely with the JCC movement. Olympic Gold Medal Swimmer Lenny Krayzelburg presented a swim program that has been successfully implemented at several JCCs; Subway spokesman, Jared Fogle, promoted the Discover: CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health), an Early Childhood program. This program nurtures a love for physical activity and encourages the development of life-long healthy eating habits.
We learned about the new Sheva-Jewish Early Child-hood Learning Framework developed by the JCC Association. It utilizes ancient and contemporary texts and stories with a Jewish lens to reveal universal values. It is a holistic approach to learning and is intended to engage the entire family in the process.
I hope to begin implementation of a few of these innovative programs at the Omaha JCC.
In the spirit of community, John and I, along with over 100 volunteers, also participated in a community service project, building new homes for residents in the Ninth Ward whose homes were destroyed by hurricane Katrina. While this doesn’t solve all the problems in this part of New Orleans, it did give the JCC community a chance to assist and learn more about what remains to be done.
The Biennial was a true expression of everything a JCC stands for: Creating community through Jewish learning, dialogue, engagement, fun and community service. John and I returned to Omaha invigorated and ready to lead the JCC of Omaha to a bright future… and to Eat Fresh!