With little less than a year under his belt as president of the national JPRO Network, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s own Jeffrey Finkelstein wants to expand the work of the 160 affiliates across the United States, Canada and England to collaborate with as many Jewish communal professionals as possible.
Originally founded in 1899 as the National Conference of Jewish Charities, today the 4,000-member group aims to “inspire, educate, connect and empower Jewish communal professionals,” said Finkelstein, the local Federation’s president and CEO. “All of our organizations are only as good as the people who work in them.”
Whether it is connecting employees with coaches to provide advice on salary negotiations and creating a work-life balance, or pairing JPRO members with a management center that provides supervision training, Finkelstein is serious about bettering the Jewish professional corps. “I’m passionate about the field of Jewish professional work,” he said.
It is a shared sentiment. Here in Pittsburgh, Joshua Donner chairs the local chapter. He said that the group is made up of like-minded individuals from among the various agencies and organizations who “care about more Jews doing Jewish.”
“People are the lifeblood of our organizations, and if we want more people doing Jewish then we need great people to want to work at these organizations,” he said.
Donner credited Ateret Cope, a Federation employee and JPRO Pittsburgh’s administrator, with providing a slew of opportunities for Jewish professionals to connect and further each other’s abilities.
All of our organizations are only as good as the people who work in them.
Through monthly events, which have included a leadership, teamwork and community building workshop with Federation COO Deborah Baron and a happy hour at Cafe 18 in Squirrel Hill, more than 180 people have connected and strategized on best practices and organizational improvements, said Cope. “The idea is that as Jewish professionals get together [and] do professional development we can further the Jewish professional community and further the services that we provide to the Pittsburgh Jewish community.”
To better achieve excellence, said Finkelstein, individual agencies need to “break down our organizational silos. … If we get to know each other by learning together it could be the beginning of building collaboration between and among institutions.”
Cope pointed to the recent session analyzing the 2017 Greater Pittsburgh Jewish Community Study in which local professionals met with the Brandeis University researchers responsible for the report and collectively parsed out particular trends and information relevant to the various participants.
“The employees of our organizations were excited to have a one on one with the researchers,” said Cope. It was helpful in showing “what can we as professionals in the community glean from the information to better help our professions.”
While JPRO provides the seeds for Jewish professionals to network, partner and grow, the events are not intended as local career fairs, explained Cope. “It could be utilized that way, but the goal is to strengthen our abilities as professionals and strengthen and enrich the communities that we serve.”
Although historically JPRO may have been a mechanism for Jewish professionals to acquire retirement plans or life insurance, the group’s function has evolved, said Finkelstein. Ensuring the best training and opportunities for Jewish professionals “is something that is critical,” as the investments in staffs will pay dividends for years to come.
It is a similar message that Finkelstein and Ilana Aisen, executive director of the JPRO Network, shared in a January 2018 letter to ejewishphilanthropy.com: “We believe that what an organization does on the inside shapes its impact in the world,” they wrote. PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.