Thinking about the New Year

Katz JCC Les Cohenby Les Cohen, Jewish Community Center Executive Director

Welcome to 2019! I imagine many of you have made new year resolutions. Well…good luck.  When we make a promise or a resolution to do better it’s up to us to hold ourselves accountable.  Some people make lists and others engage the help of family and friends to monitor their progress.  Dieting is the most popular resolution and matters about family, finance and work follow.  New Year resolutions are not much different than the thoughtful process we go through while in services during the High Holidays.  Have you kept those promises to change?

I wanted to gain some additional information so I went to the wisest people I know at the JCC…our Sari Isdaner Early Childhood students.  We gathered together to discuss and I asked, in the style of Art Linkletter (if you remember him),

“What are the things you’d like to change for this new year?”

Their answers were wonderful, surprising and insightful.

“Ice Cream” was a little girl’s answer. Did she mean more or less this year? “More, of course!” she exclaimed.

“More Imaginarium!” said another. Who could argue with that? Our Indoor two story playground is an adventure all the time.

“I’ll be nicer to my sister” one four year old said. Others jumped in that they would be nicer too.

“ I’m gonna help my Mom more.” A lovely, if not grammatical, answer.

And then something happened. One of the boys asked, “ Do you like my sneakers? They’re new.” As he proudly lifted his foot near my face.  “I have new sneakers too” someone else added. “I have a new shirt” one of the girls added. And on and on it went until we exhausted all of their wardrobes.  Everyone has something to share.

I thought I should get some more input so I went to the baby room.  I explained to them why I was there and asked my question about changes for the new year.  They just looked at me. Some were drooling others babbling but no coherent responses.  I think the only changes they were interested in were for their diapers.

I moved on to visit with the older adults who were having lunch in the social hall.  “Join us” they called out. So I did.

“Tell me Mr. Director – when are you going to have more parking? You know it’s not easy for us older people.”

I explained that we were working diligently on this and in fact we just had a meeting yesterday about this.

“Meetings – Smeeetings….just do it already”. Very Nike, I thought. Then they asked me if I have any influence about getting them doubles.

There is a fascinating challenge that comes with being the Director of the JCC. How do we provide all of the services we genuinely want to, in the face of limited and sometimes diminishing resources?  This has been the predominant question long before I entered the JCC field 44 years ago. It’s present in every community and at every Board meeting.  The role of our Board, as the good stewards of our community, is to wrestle with this on behalf of the local community and to make thoughtful decisions to benefit as many as possible.

How do we please everyone? How do we insure the future for our children and grandchildren? How will we support our Jewish institutions?  These are the questions that keep me up at night. These are the challenges that only together we can solve.  But for now, I’ll settle for more ice cream.

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