I arrived back in Dayton last night after three days in Houston, where I attended the JFNA Professionals Institute. It was a wonderful conference. I, along with our Campaign Director Juliet Glaser and Foundation Director Janese Sweeny, had the opportunity to hear wonderful speakers, participate in thought-provoking discussions, and learn from some of the best in our field.
As you recall, Houston was devastated last August by Hurricane Harvey. The Jewish community was hit rather hard. Over 2,000 Jewish families were among those whose homes suffered catastrophic damage. The JCC was also damaged. We toured the facility, and were able to see the watermarks left from the 10 feet of debris and waste-filled water that destroyed much of the building. At the time of the damage, the JCC auditorium was quickly renovated, as a program was set to take place there less than one month later. It was a true testament to the hard work involved in the recovery efforts that still continue to this day.
Avital Ingber, CEO of the Houston Jewish Federation, spoke during our visit to the JCC. I found myself in awe of this bright young woman as she continued to speak about the Hurricane recovery. To witness a 30-something CEO (of the Federation in the fourth largest city in the United States) speak with such passion and drive was so inspiring.
It was very evident to me as I observed Ms. Ingber and many of the young professionals at the conference (including our very own Juliet and Janese), that the leaders of the next generation are full of exciting and innovative ideas that will catapult their respective Jewish communities to the next level.
I was so intrigued by the vigor and enthusiasm I had witnessed. I asked Juliet and Janese what about our trip to Houston evoked the most excitement in them. Juliet said, “I am most excited about using new strategies to more effectively engage our community in Jewish life here in Dayton.”
Janese responded, “The JNFA Professional Institute allowed me the space and time to think globally and intentionally about our mission as a Federation. I am excited to walk away from the conference with renewed energy and drive to help make Jewish Dayton the best it can be.”
I am confident with Juliet, Janese and all the other young leaders at the helm here in Dayton, we will have a very bright future.
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