Jewish community professionals from 20 states, Canada and Israel convened in Columbus, Ohio, for the 2016 JPRO Network Conference, “ Soaring to Success: Creating Our Professional Field of Dreams.” At this 117th gathering, 360 colleagues participated in five plenaries and selected from more than two dozen professional development workshops ranging from topics such as Social Media Skills with expert Tweeter William Daroff to Managing Difficult Conversations with Deborah Grayson Riegel, My Jewish Coach.
Plenary speakers included Ari Shavit, Leslie Wexner, Jonathan Greenblatt, Ruth Messinger and many other leading thinkers, advocates and activists in the Jewish community. Co-chairs Audra Berg and Jeff Solomon encouraged participants to think about how they wanted to create the career and profession of their dreams and were provided ample data and examples on best practices and new trends. Interspersed throughout the conference were Propelit videos in which professionals from across North America described My Best Day at Work.
Many participants expressed that a highlight of the conference was the opportunity to meet and talk with so many other colleagues. As one wrote “I felt part of something much larger than myself and much larger than my community. Being surrounded by so many inspiring colleagues in the field who all seek professional development opportunities was fabulous. I am very thankful that my supervisor/s felt this was a valuable use of my time to be there. I really enjoyed hearing Ari Shavit, talking with Chip Edelsberg and I felt the session on using metrics was incredibly valuable.”
Other colleagues expressed that they felt valued by the attention to detail, particularly citing the elegant reception hosted by the Columbus Jewish Federation and The Wexner Foundation at the Wexner Center for the Arts. Another social highlight was an evening barbeque held outdoors with live music from Naomi Less and a rousing klezmer clarinet played by Alan Sweifach.
Several senior professionals led informal conversations during Breakfast with Champions, an opportunity for field leaders to intimately discuss their careers and insights on the profession. It was an “up close and personal experience we rarely have with such leadership,” one participant commented. John Ruskay, Ruth Messinger, David Edell, Cindy Chazan, Jeff Solomon, Larry Moses and Chip Edelsberg all talked openly over coffee and bagels on Tuesday morning.
JPRO President Jacob Solomon praised the communities that sent delegations, including Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Chicago, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Indianapolis. Colleagues from the Midwest were particularly pleased to have this special professional development opportunity in their region and JAFI professionals took advantage of the opportunity to gather, as well. The Columbus Jewish community was particularly welcoming and even provided a guided tour of the Ohio Capitol and Statehouse. Outgoing JPRO Executive Director Brenda Gevertz was honored for her leadership and devoted career to the Jewish community and responded with a strong charge to the professionals to maintain high standards and to keep JPRO Network accessible to all professionals.
As one participant concluded “ I walked away from this conference feeling incredibly refreshed, even despite my exhaustion. I’m honored to be in a field with such wonderful people…”