Investing in Our Professionals: The Value of JPRO Local Groups
By Marci Mayer Eisen
Jewish community professionals, like the rest of the country, are facing much uncertainty as we work to reimagine what our work will look like in the coming weeks, months, and dare we say years. Here in St. Louis, I continue to see first-hand the importance of a local JPRO Group. When local communities invest in the JPRO model in partnership with JPRO Network, as highlighted here, there are both immediate and long-term benefits to our workforce, the organizations they serve, and the community as a whole.
- Priority of Professional Development – The most obvious role for a JPro is professional development. Yet we’re in a time where all learning is virtual and to invite colleagues to join in on a training when so many options are available nationally and for free, we must provide opportunities to learn and feel inspired in a way unique to our own local community. Our affinity groups continue with topics specific to marketing professionals, volunteer managers, and development professionals through both a local and national lens.
- Relevant and Timely Learning – Our heads are spinning as we ground ourselves in the here and now. What felt relevant in April was no longer as relatable a few months later. We focus our planning to what our professionals need right now and work to deliver as quickly as possible. Tabari Coleman, Director of Professional Development for the ADL, a former JProStl board member, led an important conversation about race in early July and a well-received 2019 workshop from Professor Tim Bono of Washington University in St. Louis on the Science of Happiness, was brought back online as Can We Be Happy During a Pandemic?
- Building Trusting and Deep Relationships – We recognize that when we feel vulnerable it is easy to judge others and focus on our own priorities. A foundation of JProStl has always been to provide spaces to go beyond traditional networking to deeper relationship building. While we can’t meet in person, we still want to make sure every new staff person feels part of a dynamic and collaborative professional community. Each new staff person receives a welcome gift and an online reception is taking place to recognize and show appreciation to new staff.
- Cultivating Leadership – Through an active 16-member board and dozens on program committees, JPro provides a path to take responsibility for the community beyond one’s own work and organization. Just as we value when we as staff work with volunteer lay leaders, we strive for the JPro board to help build leadership skills, confidence, and open up possibilities to new ideas that none of us would have thought about on our own. This year our annual board appreciation program shifted online with photos of pros at work set to music and video tributes from across the country.
- Sharing Support and Information – Colleagues have lost their jobs and been furloughed. There is fear and sadness. Whether working from home or appropriately socially distant in person, these are trying times. Through JProStl we’ve offered small-group support and personal outreach, including to parents juggling their many roles and to young adults living alone.
- Keeping It Light and Fun – Our brains need to rest and refocus. We also need to learn new skills to ensure that Zoom is effective, engaging, and yes, fun. We’ve held two programs, Virtual Lunchroom (name borrowed from Pittsburgh JPro) and Zoom In. … For Networking, experiences that are interactive and provide ideas for staff to elevate how they use Zoom for their own programs and meetings.
- Recognition and Appreciation – JProStl’s major event of the year is a recognition luncheon honoring professionals with traditionally nearly 500 staff and community members crowding into the gymnasium of the St. Louis JCC each January. Now in its 16th year, we are committed to reimaging this event online. As JProStl President Erin Schreiber shared, “when it comes to recognizing people, this is the time to do more, not less.” The 16th Annual JProStl Recognition Event will take place online on Thursday, January 28, from 1 to 2 pm and everyone is invited.
There is so much we don’t know these days. One thing we do know is this: our professionals and their well-being are vital to the well-being of our field. Local JPRO groups can provide the framework to advance how professionals contribute beyond their own organizations to the vitality of their communities, support career growth, and serve as the local resources for professional development. When staff throughout our local Jewish communities know each other, care about each other, and have the skills to create new collaborations, the impact is far-reaching.
To learn more about JPRO St. Louis, contact Marci at MEisen@JFedSTL.org. If you are interested in starting or continuing to advance the work of an established local group, please contact Erica Goldman, Director of Program and Operations at JPRO Network, Erica@JPRO.org.
Marci Mayer Eisen, MSW, ACC is Director of the Millstone Institute and the staff for JProStl, community-wide initiatives of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis.