27 December 2012

Working to Also Develop Employees' Jewish Identities

Since last summer, my approach to working with employees or others working with me was affected by reading a post on eJewish Philanthropy, which has changed my perspective on this matter greatly.  Previously, I thought that the staff/employees of an organization, such as a Hillel (as I work with) were there to serve, work with, and focus on developing & ameliorating the Jewish lives/journeys of the students.  (Of course, this can work in a variety of contexts, I'm just going with the example of a Hillel, since that is what I frequently see.)  However, after reading the piece, I realized that one can strive to help the employees in not only helping them along in their professional journeys (which directors and executive directors (and any other supervisors) should be doing anyways to not only be seeking to professionally ameliorate their employees while in their organization, but also since they want to help develop talent, which ultimately helps everybody in having more developed and aware employees), but also in their Jewish journeys.  
     Although this immediately manifested to me in working with our programming associate at Beach Hillel, I realized that this is true in other contexts, such as when I worked at a BBYO summer leadership program this summer, that the college students who were working there with us were not only fellow staff, but still very much on their own Jewish journeys who could use some shepherding in their own growth.  This is, by the way, totally not obvious.  In the way that the operations work there, all of the staff is focused on the participants. That's not a bad thing - it churns out great results!  However, why not take it a step further and develop those working in the Jewish organization?
      Okay, with all of the above, one thing that has struck me is that I wanted to simply link to the post in question.  However, I realized that my reading of the article (as I wrote above) was my take-away (my דרשה, if you will) of it (thus, why I'm writing this post, so I can explicate it).  The post was written by Jaime Walman, in the aftermath of the [shocking] closing of JDub (as part of a slew of posts on eJewish Philanthropy bemoaning its surprising demise (just search for JDub there)), describing some of her takeaways along the way working for JDub.  The piece, "Former JDub Professional Addresses Real Issues in Closing", includes her very important line, "JDub is an integral part of my own Jewish journey".  That line is important not only for Ms. Walman, but also in considering anybody's working with Jewish organizations, particularly for young adults (I know she brings up other issues, but I'm not getting into them [here]).  It comes at an important time in one's life for young adults, which is all the more true for emerging adults, many of whom - the Hillel world - work as engagement or even programming associates.  
     In sum, it is important for those working in Jewish organizations, especially those focusing on serving particular young people as their target audience/end-users to not lose sight of the bigger picture: developing and ameliorating the talents of the Jewish people.  If one has already hired someone (especially a young/emerging adult), then one is already committed to this person and believes in their talents, skills, and passion, not to mention investing the efforts of their organization in having this person work for them.  Moreover, the director/executive director (or whomever) are hopefully also endeavoring in seeking professional development and training them to be better professionals in their line of work. However, it is also important to invest in seeking to ameliorate that [young] person's Jewish identity in that process, since this person (it is fair to presume) chose to work in a Jewish organization because they appreciate what the Jewish communal world has to offer in ameliorating and helping them and other Jews along in their lives.

---- - On JDub's demise, see the pieces of Tamar Snyder in the Jewish Week, Jacob Berkman in the Forward, and Dan Brown in eJewish Philanthropy.
- Ms. Walman also brings up other issues at the end of her piece which are very important for Jewish communal organizations and Jewish communal professionals to consider.   She brings up "the question of sustainability of this type of work, and the aging-out that seems to inevitably be happening", continuing: "the salary, the hours, the lack of stability and the inability to have any separation between my personal and professional life … was not sustainable for me in the long run. The cost of Jewish living, if one chooses to do so, is astronomical and, at some point, the balance between my love and passion for my job was outweighed by the reality that I wouldn’t be able to support my family or have any time for them."  She pertinently queries: "How do we ensure that professionals working within these innovative organizations can continue to pursue their passions, inspiring other young Jews like themselves while also having sustainable careers?", concluding that "it’s an important point to consider as more and more founders move on from the organizations they started and staff changeover continues to increase."  I do not have the answers, but she raises deeply significant issues for the Jewish community to consider.

1 comment:

Jeff Rivera said...

Proud and Jewish – that’s the way it should always be. One should stay rooted in their culture and community even at work. It makes you who you are and gives you a definitive personality. In fact, culture teaches people so may thing that they can apply in their professional lives. It helps you stay grounded and helps you acquire values. Culture is enriching and rewarding.