By Marci Mayer Eisen
Who could have imagined that one of the most dynamic community programs of the year would be an event to honor professionals in the Jewish community? As I previously described, “When Recognizing Professionals Creates Community Unity” (January, 2014), the JProStl (Jewish Pro of St. Louis) annual recognition luncheon continues to grow in meaning, size and scope and we encourage other communities to consider developing or expanding their own recognition programs. In the St. Louis Jewish community, under the auspices of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, the impact has been significant.
This year attendance surpassed 400 professionals, lay leaders – representing over forty different organizations – along with family and friends of the honorees. This annual event directly helps professionals feel valued for their work by how the overall theme of Honoring Professional and Growing Community is woven throughout the entire program. Beautiful professional videos tell the stories of each honoree. The videos highlight the honorees’ contributions, educate about their organizations, and describe the impact of their work. The awards also show appreciation for significant contributions to the Jewish professional community from staff of other faiths, a core value of JProStl.
Unique to all JPros, affiliated nationally with JPRO Network, is that the professionals are the lay leaders. Through the creative planning of the luncheon and the extensive awards selection process, over thirty staff, from organizations across the community, worked together to plan all aspects of the luncheon. New for 2016 was the presentation of the first JProStl Partnership award to a lay leader who has served on multiple boards and was chosen by staff to highlight the importance of the lay-staff relationship, through the lens of staff. Direct individual fundraising, most as tributes to the honorees, was increased to $10,000, in addition to a corporate sponsor.
The overall atmosphere of the JPro luncheon creates energy and excitement throughout the room. A rolling slide show of photos and testimonials highlights JPro’s programs. A “Years of Service” Ceremony also recognizes all in attendance by their years of employment, recognizing the diversity in the room. As a result of the planning process and the event itself, there is the best of professional relationship building, facilitating trust and respect between staff who might not otherwise meet. New connections and conversations started at the luncheon provide impact that goes beyond the one day providing value to the professionals, their organizations and our Jewish community as a whole.
Marci Mayer Eisen is Director of the Millstone Institute, an initiative of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis. JProStl is a professional association for staff who work in agencies, organizations, congregations and schools throughout the St. Louis Jewish community. To learn more about JPros in the other communities visit JPRO Network.