Investing in People

When I received my Master’s Degree from Brandeis University in 1993, it was in Jewish Communal Service. At the time I began my career, I became a member of the Jewish Communal Service Association.  I “Googled” the definition of the word service and this was the first to appear in my web browser: “the action of helping or doing work for someone”.

I believe that in many ways, my training both in the classroom and in my fieldwork was focused on this area of service. However, there has been a major shift since that time. A few years ago, our Federation and the Agency for Jewish Learning brought a program to Pittsburgh from the Spertus Institute of Chicago that granted about a dozen individuals working for Jewish organizations with a Master’s Degree in Jewish Professional Studies. The program I attended at Brandeis is now called the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program. And that organization I belonged to back in the early 1990’s called the Jewish Communal Service Association is now called JPRO.

This shift is not just one in nomenclature, it is about the role of the professional. We are looked at as a profession, one that has a body of knowledge and practice. Our volunteers do not just look at us to “serve” them, but also to help advise and guide them with our professionalism and knowledge.

This week, 14 of us from multiple Jewish agencies in Pittsburgh attended the JPRO conference in Columbus, OH. We learned together, we grew together and we got to know each other better. We will be debriefing in a few weeks to determine what learnings might have application to Jewish Pittsburgh.

The reason I bring all of this up is to say that we as a community, like any private or public company that wants to grow, need to invest in our most critical and important asset – our Jewish communal professionals. We must give them the time to learn and the time to reflect and we must make sure that we have the financial resources to help them grow. One such way to effectuate this will be the relaunch of our local chapter of JPRO in Pittsburgh over the coming year. Through this vehicle, we will be able to bring serious content to our professionals and create a platform where professionals from different organizations and synagogues will get to know each other. Building these relationships are critical because through them, trust is built and collaborations can form.

Shabbat Shalom. Have a great Memorial Day Weekend. Let’s go Pens!

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