By: Les Cohen, Executive Director
Last year I traveled to Israel and was part of a group of 25 JCC’s from around the world. And recently I traveled with a group of JCC leaders to Baltimore to collaborate with 600 JCC professionals and leaders to discuss the business of JCC’s.
We spent four days filled with spectacular learning, sharing and camaraderie, but perhaps the most important thing we learned was that we are part of a global community. We met the Executive Director from the JCC in the Czech Republic, attended a session with the executive from Krakow Poland, shared ideas with heads of Matnasim (JCC’s) in Israel and engaged in valuable discussions with JCC leaders from all over North America. Why is this important? Because the way we used to describe the JCC universe has grown. And just like the Beatles said over 30 years ago, “life goes on within and without you.”
There are thousands of Jewish people in our tri-county area who are unconnected by any definition. They live here but are not part of any synagogue, the JCC or Jewish communal group. Yet according to the Pew Study, they feel Jewish and may even want to connect somehow, but the perceived barriers of joining are too high for them and as a consequence, they remain unattached.
The JCC is working on a series of projects to reach out and connect with these Jewish families and individuals, including intermarried families, members of the LGBTQ community, specific Jewish ethnic groups, interest groups or other cohorts.
Our philosophy is that there is something for everybody at the JCC and we are committed to making that invitation real and welcoming. This is Big Tent thinking and new world definitions of belonging.
All are welcome here at the JCC and we must prove it every day. It’s fascinating that the priorities of the JCCs in Poland the Balkans and in Mexico City all share a commonality. The universality of the Jewish Community and the common thread has not been broken in 5000 years. Our role is to create more opportunities to join with us and continue the bond. What we do here, whether it’s sports, fitness, the arts or education has the same goals: enrichment, connection and fostering a stronger Jewish Community.
No matter where in the world you are, we are united. One global JCC family, one goal of Jewish peoplehood and one dream of a thriving, safe and strong community. If you have plans to travel in the coming months for the holidays, try to drop into the local JCC, then drop me a line about what it’s like there. I can’t wait to hear about your experience.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and don’t forget to say hi when you are at the JCC.