This is a very exciting time for me…I have recently had my one year anniversary at the Jewish Outreach Institute. So I’d like to take this moment to share with you some of my observations and reflections about my work here over the last year.
I have made the journey from student to teacher as I learned and absorbed the methodologies and principles necessary to help create a more open and accessible Jewish community Equally important I now know the many ways in which small changes can inspire significant results, and. I feel confident that by helping the Jewish community enhance the way it reaches out and provides a welcoming environment we support and ensure a vibrant Jewish future.
Much of my time was spent developing teaching tools around themes such as inclusive language. But I also spent a great deal of time helping to develop training methods and program ideas within our Public Space Judaism concept. My work with training development has been particularly fulfilling, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to create activities that help participants develop a greater sensitivity to the experience of those who have little or no Jewish knowledge or literacy. And I look forward to seeing a greater acceptance of these materials so that more professionals can open up to unaffiliated Jews and intermarried families. I believe they will help Jewish professionals understand how the Jewish community is often perceived and assist our institutions in responding to the needs of all of American Jewry.
Participating in Public Space Judaism training sessions, which includes the importance of name collection, relationship building, and follow-up brings those involved to a new level of connecting with our target groups through outreach. Brainstorming sessions engage Jewish communal professionals with each other in the same room and allow them to work together to come up with some innovative ways that their communities can offer accessible and appealing programming.
One of the highlights of the year was the creation, design and implementation of the Color-Me Calendar. This component of Public Space Judaism brought together some of the key foci of JOI: programming in secular locations, using the secular calendar as an outreach tool, community collaboration, Name-Collection and Follow-up. Over this past year, we introduced a number of new training sessions and workshops, many of which have benefited from the introduction of these new tools, and we at JOI look forward to continuing to share these and other new resources.
Not only did this year provide me with the opportunity to advance these principles, strategies, and program ideas, but it also gave me the chance to communicate what I have learned to professionals in the field. In fact, much of the work of this past year reflects JOI’s emphasis on developing professional training as one of our cornerstones. A good deal of my own work involved supporting the efforts of Jewish professionals in order to create more and more effective entry points for unaffiliated Jews and intermarried families. I spent a great deal of time forming relationships with professionals and working with them to discover ways to enhance their programs. In this capacity I responded to their questions, learned about their challenges, and helped to make them more comfortable as they introduced new outreach programs to their individual communities. Through scores of personal conversations, along with our new conference call training, our professionals’ listserve, and our JOPLIN (Jewish Outreach Professionals Login Network) website, this year has been a period of growth for professional training.
And this year has seen the expansion of professional training a slightly different direction - research. As the year moved along much of our work was concentrated on in-depth research of the Jewish institutions in San Francisco, Atlanta, and three new cities. We have refined and dramatically improved our tools and methodologies for assessing Jewish communal institutions and Jewish communities as a whole. Our interview has come to function not simply as an assessment tool, but also as a tool for identifying opportunities for improvement. Having completed scores of interviews, I have often had the pleasure of interviewing a Jewish communal professional who, in the middle of being asked a question about whether her organization keeps track of something, comments, “No, we don’t do that, but what a wonderful, fabulous idea! I’m going to suggest it!” Clearly, these community scans not only helped us to establish relationships with local professionals, but have facilitated learning and understanding among professionals and laypeople.
I am extremely appreciative of my JOI experiences and I look forward to growing together in the future.
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