Feedback is Important

As the CEO of the Federation, I am often the first person to receive feedback for our programs. Usually, critical feedback can be amplified louder than positive feedback. Constructive criticism is useful because, ultimately, it provides us with the opportunity to evaluate what we are doing and modify our programs and services to meet the needs of our community.

However, positive feedback is just as important. It validates our role and bolsters the spirits of our organization and those who work so hard to support our mission and community. This week I was blown away by the overwhelming positive feedback I received relative to three different experiences.

The first piece of positive feedback I received was from one of three Israelis who joined us earlier this week for our Yom H’Atzmaut program. Two of these Israelis are IDF soldiers, and the other is a shaliach (emissary) of the Jewish Agency working at the Hillel at Kent State University. Due to intense security concerns, we were not able to share with the community ahead of time that they would be at the program.

While in conversation with the Hillel shaliach, I asked him about his experience as an Israeli living and working in the U.S. during this difficult time. What will remain indelibly in my mind is his response that “Without the Federation system, he doesn’t see how American Jewry could make it through this trying time.” This young man’s words give me hope and inspiration, two things so important to keep me going during these trying times. I can assure you that the Federation leadership and staff will always work for the betterment of the Jewish community and the right for Israel to exist.

Speaking of Israel, how could we plan for the appropriate Yom HaAtzmaut celebration in the midst of this heartbreaking war in Israel? Obviously, our planning had to start months in advance, without knowing what the future would bring. Our goal was to have a meaningful community celebration that brought us together in solidarity, camaraderie, and hope.

On Tuesday night, we celebrated the 76th anniversary of Israel with a community dinner, prepared by a visiting Israeli chef from our Partnership2Gether community, and a presentation from the two IDF soldiers ~ heroes of the attack on 10/7. One soldier is a Navy Seal and the other is a member of the Delta Force. I heard from so many in attendance that this was one of the best events the Federation has had in recent years. When asked why, people said because of the war in Israel, they need to feel connected with a different experience that embraces our current reality.

People also spoke of how there was a warm sense of community, sharing this special evening with a variety of people from the Dayton Jewish community, representing all ages and synagogues and temples. And yes, the food was amazing! The feedback received from those who attended our Yom Ha’Atzmaut program raised the spirits of the volunteers and staff who worked so hard on this meaningful event.

The third experience happened on Wednesday. Several months ago, I was asked to participate on a panel for Diversity Day at the Miami Valley School. The program started with all panelists at an assembly, discussing our paths to our current jobs. After the panel discussion, we broke into two consecutive sessions where students could choose which panelist with whom they wanted to continue a conversation.

The school shared the panelists’ bios in advance with the students. I knew that speaking at a high school in this tumultuous time was a huge responsibility, especially given that I am Jewish and a leader in the Jewish community. I was concerned about how to respond to potentially hostile or political questions in reference to the war in Israel.

In my second session, it happened. After discussing my personal story and sharing the Federation’s role in addressing diversity, including the Upstander Project information, the room was open for questions. I told the students they could ask me anything. One of the students wanted to know how I can have a dialogue with someone whose perspectives and views are different from mine. What a great question to ask! I responded by saying, “I must listen with an open heart and mind. Listening is the key.” I added that the goal of listening is not to convince someone their views should be different, but to understand why they think the way they do.

As I was leaving the room, this student, who I could tell did not share my views, thanked me. This simple act, a thank you from a student, was that third encounter with positive feedback I experienced this week. I realized that the opportunity to speak with high school students and have a positive impact is such an important responsibility, and I was so honored to have that opportunity.

I’ve often said input is important. Feedback can always help us grow, whether it is a pat on the back or something to consider. 



To receive Cathy’s WHIM in your inbox each week, click here.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This