by Robyn Teplitzky
Senior Director Mandel Center for Leadership Excellence
The Jewish Federations of North America
No one expected that when the planning began for the 2018 JFNA Professional Institute to take place in Houston, that there would be a catastrophic hurricane that would have a lasting impact.
On Feb. 12, 280 Jewish Federation professionals from 90 communities across the country and Canada united in Houston for three days of learning, sharing, and networking with colleagues from across all disciplines. Professionals in the areas of campaign, marketing, young leadership and next gen engagement, Jewish education and engagement, along with the Small and Intermediate Federation Executives, participated in engaging and thoughtful conversation to enhance their professional roles.
The Mandel Center for Leadership Excellence is charged with providing learning opportunities for Federation professionals. The learning sessions, facilitated by experts in their respective fields, provide the platform to think, plan, and share ideas. This year, the conference included over 60 different presentations.
During the time together, participants had the opportunity to participate in a Repair the World hands-on experience at the Houston Food Bank, witness the devastation of Hurricane Harvey and the revitalization at the local JCC, and provide support to local Jewish families by hearing their stories and sharing a meal.
Each affinity department had a significant number of sessions, offering new and innovative ways of engagement. Marketing professionals heard about the branding and story of Chobani yogurt and young leadership professionals interacted with Rabbi Aaron Potek from GatherDC. Rabbi Daniel Smokler and Erica Frankel from Hillel International worked with the Jewish Education and Engagement professionals on new innovative ideas to bring home.
The Financial Resource Development professionals learned the most up-to date tax laws and consultants shared their fundraising knowledge.
The take-away for me from the Professional Institute is that, as a collective field, we are continuing to evolve and learn about all different aspects of our work from a variety of disciplines. The highlight for me is meeting new colleagues and reconnecting with those I have developed strong relationships with from missions and past conferences.