By Marci Mayer Eisen and Emily Bornstein
What might the impact be if every local Jewish community had a professional association to bring together professionals in order to create a stronger sense
of shared community?
It’s clear from national conversations and numerous articles here on the pages of eJewishPhilanthropy that there has been a shift away from “Jewish communal work” or even “Jewish Nonprofit work” as a long-term career path. Some sadly reflect on this trend as the loss of a profession while others celebrate new opportunities for redefining work in the Jewish community, including the recent announcement of the Hillel Talent Grants.
Jewish Federation of St. Louis made a major commitment in 2004 to start JProStl, a local Jewish professional association as one part of a comprehensive 10+ year plan for Professional Excellence*. Over the following years, JProStl in St. Louis took on an increased role to enhance relationships and impact the community in ways previously not even imagined, and we were guided by JPRO Network (formerly JCSA*). Through an expanded JProStl board, composed of professionals from diverse backgrounds, staff were empowered to create new professional development programs and expand the annual recognition program. This process facilitated camaraderie and mutual respect between professionals, many of whom previously had little or no contact with one another. As more pros became engaged, there was collective passion for the mission of JProStl.
To evaluate the effectiveness of JProStl and recognizing the importance of data to improve our work, we conducted initial interviews and then three assessments over the past 7 years. An effort was made to reach a cross-section of staff employed at least 15 hours per week, not just those currently connected to JProStl.
In the recent 2016 survey, all respondents, who had participated in at least one JProStl program in the last two years (including staff of all faiths and support staff), rated impact statements, “Because of my participation in a JProStl program I…”
JProStl builds relationships and collaborations.
Every JProStl program or meeting is structured for staff to get to know each other and share aspects of their work both formally and informally. This commitment to facilitate relationships within the context of professional work is evident with nearly 90% of those responding noting enhanced relationships and collaborations as a benefit to JProStl participation.
JProStl contributes to overall job satisfaction for those most actively involved.
Staff report highest satisfaction with their job when they feel appreciated and supported and believe they are doing important work. Many of the JPro programs, especially our annual recognition luncheon, are aimed at making sure the Jewish professionals in our community are recognized and feel appreciated. JProStl enables a diverse professional community to see their work as bigger than their individual jobs.
JProStl reinforced Jewish community commitments.
Results show that 38% of staff have worked for two or more Jewish organizations and over 55% of staff have also volunteered in the Jewish community. Through numerous personal testimonials, regardless of age, career path or Jewish background, we hear “JProStl has significantly impacted the culture of our community” and “JProStl is one of the best parts about working in the St. Louis Jewish community.”
JProStl creates a welcoming community to professionals of all faiths in the field.
Approximately one-third of the staff who work in the St. Louis Jewish community are not Jewish. It is critical to the success of a local JPro to include staff of all faiths on the JPro board, on committees and as honorees at the annual luncheon. This core value of an inclusive professional community is also demonstrated through new staff welcome bags and announcements in the staff newsletter.
The JPRO model provides support for collaborative lay leadership development programs and board training.
The endurance of JProStl and the development of our six year old Millstone Institute was built on relationships with senior managers, clergy, and JProStl core leadership. Millstone Initiatives include the Millstone Fellows leadership program, Presidents’ Circle receptions, board consulting, and Deborah Grayson Riegel’s annual Jewish Coaching Academy. Most of the Millstone Institute’s programs currently integrate staff and lay leaders to learn together and create a synergy between JProStl and programs targeted to community volunteers.
When a community invests in professionals, there is impact on the staff themselves, the organizations and the community as a whole. The JPRO model raises the value of working in a Jewish community and leads to increased understanding, respect and trust. As we prepare to celebrate the 12th Annual JProStl Luncheon on February 2, 2017, we continue to see first-hand the energy created through JProStl and the importance of collaborative support. We are proud of Jewish Federation of St. Louis leadership who have seen the value resulting from JProStl and long-term investment in the professional community.
For more information about JProStl contact Marci Mayer Eisen at MEisen@JFedSTL.org and for information on the JProStl survey contact Emily Bornstein at EBornstein@JFedSTL.org . Ilana Aisen is the new Executive Director of JPRO NETWORK, Ilana@JPRO.org and Alisha Goodman is co-chair of JPRO NETWORK Local Groups, AGoodman@SchechterNetwork.org.
*The 2004 Professional Excellence Project was established by former Jewish Federation of St. Louis President & CEO Barry Rosenberg and supported by the Lubin-Green Foundation, a supporting foundation of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis. Brenda Gevertz, former Executive Director of JPRO NETWORK, worked closely with St. Louis staff to guide JProStl in the early years.
Marci Mayer Eisen is Director of the Millstone Institute.
Emily Bornstein is a Planning & Allocations Associate at Jewish Federation of St. Louis.