First This: Thinking About First Moments in the New Year
First Female President/CEO of JCC Chicago. I’ve seen this headline quite a bit in recent weeks. And with the convergence of a new year and new position, I’ve been reflecting on what it means.
Merriam-Webster defines “first” as “preceding all others in time.” JCC Association reports that of the 112 affiliated JCCs in North America, 30 are headed by women. Of the 16 metro-size agencies—the big agencies—only two now have women at the helm. JCC Chicago is the biggest of the big and celebrated its centennial in 2003. In 115 years, there has not been a female CEO before now. In today’s world my appointment is meaningful to our agency and, I hope, to other women looking to make their own impact this year.
I’ve read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. MAKERS is ever-present in my Facebook feed. My 19-year-old daughter and I have dynamic conversations about gender equality. So, I was surprised by the mixed reactions when the announcement of my promotion came out. Many applauded this historic moment for JCC Chicago, myself included. Others questioned the need to mention my gender at all.
At the J, we witness firsts every day. Kids jumping in the pool for the first time, campers climbing to the top for the first time, parents dropping off their children for the first time, staff trying something new for the first time, community members traveling to Israel for the first time, families meeting neighbors for the first time – the list is endless.
Firsts are special and memorable. Firsts shape our character and, sometimes, firsts can change the world. This week, I’m officially embarking on my own monumental first and hoping to model that firsts are within reach—for everyone.
Just a few days from now we will gather with family and friends and say the Shehecheyanu. The blessing originates from a shorter phrase of gratitude that means “Thank you for allowing us to reach this moment.”
As the holiday nears, I hope you will take stock of these moments for yourself and all those in your life. Together, we will look forward to a year of firsts that will define us as individuals and as a community.
L’Shanah Tova from our JCC Chicago family to you and yours,