Tag Archives: Conferences

Hillel Institute 2013 [Throwback Thursday]

With Rabbi Daniel Levitt, a fellow YCT alumnus
With Rabbi Daniel Levitt, a fellow YCT alumnus

With the current Summer Hillel Institute taking place at the moment, I figured this would be a good opportunity to share some of how I was enriched from taking part in this professional development gathering.*

Rabbi Daniel Smokler leading a lunch and learn discussion at Hillel Institute 2013
Rabbi Daniel Smokler leading a lunch and learn discussion at Hillel Institute 2013

The clear highlights for me were attending Rabbi Daniel Smokler’s sessions.  He did one with a bunch of Jewish educators, rabbis, etc., which was amazing as we were flying through ideas, tools, and methodologies – it was very impressive.  I was greatly enriched by it, especially getting a perspective on how different Jews (especially generations of Jews) conceive of their Jewish identities differently.  An important tool that he shared with us was his description of a Conversation Arc, which is very helpful, especially to move beyond simply schmoozing. Another key takeaway from it for me was – in his describing primary elements for us to share with our students – the importance of community for students.  His presentation is worthy of a lot of time, writing, etc.  However, Rabbi Smokler permitted me to record his excellent session, so you can listen for yourself, which is available here (I have listened to it multiple times, despite having been in the room).  Another opportunity I had to hear Rabbi Smokler was at a lunch & learn session – to which I chose to go – and also enjoyed.

Another major session I attended was about fundraising. I was hoping it would be about making asks, conversing with donors – skill sets for raising money. Unfortunately, that had been going on during the sessions I was with other Jewish educators.  So, since mine was for development professionals  about thinking about time spent on development and coming up with a development plan etc., I departed in the midst of it.

Rabbi Julie Roth of Princeton Hillel speaking while Rabbi Adam Naftalin-Kelman  of Berkeley Hillel looks on in their session on qualitative data for Hillels
Rabbi Julie Roth of Princeton Hillel speaking while Rabbi Adam Naftalin-Kelman of Berkeley Hillel looks on in their session on qualitative data for Hillels

A two-part session I attended was incredible.  The executive directors of Berkeley Hillel and Princeton Hillel for presented on not only coming up with qualitative metrics (which is, apparently, rare amongst Hillels) but also skillfully weaving it with their vision, goals, mission and strategies. Afterwards, it dawned on me that the phenomenal material and ideas shared would be amazing for ALL Hillel staffs to be considering.  I was fortunate in that I was able to convince the executive director of Berkeley Hillel to share some of this incredible work at the west coast Hillel staff conference in the winter (which I co-chaired).

I also want to give sincere appreciation to my alma mater, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, for sponsoring the handful of alumni to get together for some beers, which was a nice way not only for us to re-connect, but also to share ideas, materials, etc.

Awards Ceremony at Hillel Engagement 2013
Awards Ceremony at Hillel Engagement 2013

Finally, I thought the award presentations were done phenomenally – I have consistently been impressed at how well-run these award presentations are done, year-in and year-out – it is a good model for the rest of the Jewish world.

A couple of realizations I had while attending the conference:

  • Since many of our students are not particularly keen on looking at printed texts and discussing them, I thought to move towards a discussion model, less focus on printed texts in front of us.  That doesn’t mean necessarily getting rid of them altogether, just not always having to rely upon them.
  • Not bothering to put together a monthly pdf and print newsletter anymore.  I had been doing them for most of my time in the position (3.5 years to be exact). However, the amount of people actually  reading them is too few to justify the time and energy I spend on them. Better to just post stuff on Facebook.

Every time I have attended Hillel Institute, it has been greatly enriching professionally and encouraging in our line of work, as well, especially to give us an energy boost moving into the new school year.  (And, yes, I am sad that it moved.)

* Also, this blog was not present at the time, coming into existence only a few weeks later.

Young Adult Jewish Communal Professionals Conference?

A session at TribeFest on spirituality led to a lot of comments from young adults, that was the genesis of this post
A session at TribeFest on spirituality led to a lot of comments from young adults, that was the genesis of this post

One of my takeaways from having attended TribeFest last month is that many young adult Jewish communal professionals are really looking for something [that is not yet being offered to them] (when speaking about young adults, for the context of the organized Jewish community these days are 20s-30s (for some, it also includes early 40s)).  

Yes, they want to serve the Jewish community in a full-time capacity – perhaps they dedicate their lifework/career to working at it – and, many times, are not getting financially remunerated to what they should be for their talents and efforts.  In many cases (most?all?), they are also looking to grow and to stretch with their Jewish identities, as well as to wrestle with it.  Yet, how many opportunities are given to them to do so?  I think many young adult Jewish communal professionals (henceforth, YAJCPs) were attracted to TribeFest for a variety of reasons – perhaps for professional development, for professional networking, for a great time, sure – but also to struggle and to think and to be inspired in their own Jewish identities.  This became evident at one particular session in which several of the participants – who also happened to be YAJCPs – voiced their struggles and desires to be Jewishly enriched, while also working as a part of the organized Jewish community.

Lest one think that YAJCPs’ quest in their Jewish identity is a selfish reaason to come and to spend time on, one of the special aspects of TribeFest is the energy and inspiration to refuel one’s Jewish life.  This then feeds into one’s professional life and into the communities they are serving.  clearly, a worthwhile communal investment that should be returned manifold.

It would be great if such a thing were to come to reality.  However, such a national (or North American) event would most likely need to gradually build up and develop interest.  If such a conference were to be held, it would need to start small.  Maybe it could be a regional gathering, which expands each year.  Alternatively, it could be something that has multiple regional gatherings that build up to (and perhaps even continue into) a national/continental conference.

I don’t know either who/which organization would want to convene it (JFNA?) or, more importantly, who would want to fund it.  Who knows?  Maybe it could be a grassroots thing and get crowd-funding, perhaps through Jewcer.

Also, it will have to develop not only interest, but also buy-in from the YAJCP’s supervisors, since the money would come from their organizations (unless it is crowd-funded).

Of course, one question that inevitably pops up with such a huge endeavor as this is why expend the resources – be they mental, emotional, chronological, intellectual, financial, social, etc. – when there are other burning issues for the Jews, especially when it comes to money for young adults?  Maybe even having that money going into using these YAJCPs to tap into their peer networks, perhaps even those who are not that involved with the organized Jewish community.  But the most important reason is that YAJCPs are not only the future of the Jewish community, but they’re also very much involved in the present.  Furthermore, by energizing them and helping them become better Jews and Jewish communal professionals, they will be better at their current and future jobs, and the Jewish community will stand to benefit.  Moreover, the types of conversations and ideas that emerge will be incredibly fruitful, as the types of people who come will contribute to a great atmosphere.

Here are some further elements, ideas, etc.:

Who: 20s-30s working in Jewish organizations
When: Monday-Wednesday or Tuesday-Thursday conference

Where: Big enough city that is easily reachable by all
What: Some Potential Topics:

  • dealing with older people {managing up. dealing with donors, etc.}
  • dating as a YAJCP
  • raising kids as a YAJCP
  • developing one’s jewish identity as a YAJCP
  • problems…
  • working as young people in a culture that is not thinking in current ways
  • getting our peers involved in the organized jewish community