CEO Letter 11.20.2020

By Jenn Ross

This is a particularly important time to reflect on sources of gratitude.  As challenging as most of 2020 has been, I’m happy to report that numerous items come to mind and my column is just taking note of what I was grateful for during the week of October 25.

Having the ability to connect and learn regularly from colleagues and experts across the country has been invaluable. JFNA’s General Assembly (GA) in October was one of the highlights of this year with its exciting and engaging plenaries, informative workshops, and the deep dive into important topics during its FedLab.  We invited community members and staff to attend sessions about leadership pipelines, engaging families, bringing Israel to our community, and building community action plans to address poverty. My track was Owning the Center in Polarized Times, and it helped me reinforce my work representing the diverse viewpoints of our community and adopt some additional ideas regarding our community relations work. Thank you to all of our staff and community members who participated in the exciting opportunity to attend.

This year’s Albert Hursh Leadership Award recipient Alyce Spector has written an intriguing article featured in this edition about her GA experience and she provided historical context to the earlier days of this annual conference.  Jewish Family Service (JFS) Executive Director Steven Schauder recruited a team to attend a session of FedLab focused on poverty, which included Jewish Community Foundation (JCF) Executive Director Paulette Keifer. Their team has brought back action items for us to address as a community.  Likewise, staff and community participants will be incorporating new resources which will help enrich life in our region.

Another successful event was this year’s virtual Joint Agency Annual Meeting (JAAM).  Although, it would be lovely to celebrate together in person, everyone’s safety and abiding by the state laws are a priority. I am proud of the way we came together over Zoom to honor our awardees and staff and update the community of our achievements. Thank you to colleagues Steven, Paulette, Samara Sofian (The Silver Academy), and Allen Geckle (Campus of the Jewish Home), and our board leaders Abby Smith, Bob Wolff, Michael Doctrow and Maggie Grotzinger, Emily Halper, and Richard Spiegelman for their hard work on the JAAM, and of course, throughout the past year.

The next evening was yet another collaborative initiative between the Federation, Community Responders Network, and numerous other local civic organizations to hold an informative “State of Hate” featuring experts from ADL, the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Enforcement Section, and the PA Human Relations Commission. Although I attend numerous security workshops each year, I learned a lot of new information that evening.  If you missed the JAAM or this program and would like to see the recording, just send me an email at so I can share it with you.

Each Sunday, I enjoy volunteering to directly serve our community at the Kosher Meal Grab and Go at the JCC.  Talking with the other volunteers and family is lovely and I’m glad we can help families through this wonderful initiative.  I’ve also enjoyed seeing the families come for their children’s swim lessons and also reconnecting with other members coming for a weekend workout.  It gets a little busy at times at the entrance, but people have been safe and respectful wearing their masks.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to connect with people far away and reconnect directly and safely with our community.  I wish you a safe and fulfilling Thanksgiving and hope that you are able to feel gratitude daily.  I am grateful for your being part of our community and the J.  I look forward to seeing you or hearing from you soon. Be well!