My J Story
My J story actually began back in the early 70’s on the south side of Chicago. We lived down the street from Michael Reese Hospital in a neighborhood called, Lake Meadows but spent most of our time in the Hyde Park area where I attended the Akiba Schechter Jewish Day School, and Congregation Rodfei Zedek (where we attended synagogue), as well as the Hyde Park JCC (where I attended various youth programs such as “after school” and camp)! Following summers at the Hyde Park JCC, I transitioned in to the overnight camp experience at our beloved Camp Chi between 1978 – 1981. What made the experience even more special was that my dad was also camp doctor those summers! Shabbat with my family and friends at Camp Chi—what could have been better?
Fast-forward, I feel proud and fortunate that I have spent my entire professional career thus far working at several of the Jewish agencies in the Chicagoland area. The most excitement, reward, and pride however, has come from working at JCC Chicago for the past decade as the Director of the Jacob Duman Early Childhood Center at the Lake County JCC in Lake Zurich, IL.
They say, “Having somewhere to go is home. Having someone to love is family. And having both is a blessing.” My husband began a new position over one year ago that is continuing to grow and expand at a rapid pace. His job really requires his presence weekly in Tampa. Over the past year, he has been traveling back and forth, and believe it or not, we miss him as much as he misses us! We realized though, while we could continue to tough it out, it is not the way we want to live. Therefore, it is with mixed emotions I share with you that my family and I will be moving to Florida this June 2019.
This was not an easy decision mind you. My 10-year journey with JCC Chicago actually began in the summer of 2009 when I became the Director of the JCC affiliate preschool at Beth Tikvah Congregation in Hoffman Estates. Much to my surprise, the following summer, the director position became available at the Jacob Duman JCC in Buffalo Grove, and I have spent the last 9 years with the Duman ECC family! I feel so fortunate and blessed to have met the wonderful children and families over the years, watched our children grow from the youngest of ages and off to kindergarten, siblings join our program, and then experience reunions each summer as they return for camp at Elaine Frank Apachi!
How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard. Being surrounded by the most amazingly, talented teachers and staff made it even more special. We became and are a family! Reflecting on my years with JCC, especially those at Duman, it occurs to me that I can actually do so through all 7 of the JCCA Sheva lenses. My years were Masa (journey), the work the teachers and staff did is K’dushah (holiness), and Tikkun Olam (repair of the world). As a staff we created a B’rit (covenant) with each other, the children, and their parents to create a strong and respectful partnership. Moving to the Lake County location was Tzelem Elohim (divine image), Hit’orerut (awakening) and D’rash (interpretation), as we found ourselves redefining the way we were teaching, now being able to incorporate nature naturally.
Our now, one-of-a-kind partnership with the Elaine Frank Apachi team really is one filled with rainbows, sunshine, butterflies and unicorns! We certainly have created something unique and special. In reality though, it is a partnership filled with dedicated staff and families existing with a mutual love and respect for Jewish learning. I will truly miss each and every one of my colleagues, children, parents, and families in our Duman ECC community! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this most special experience!
What’s next for me, you ask? I’m proud to announce that I have accepted the newly created position of Program Director for the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee (JFSM) in Sarasota, Florida. The JFSM just celebrated its 60th anniversary in February and is a leader in the community, growing into one of Florida’s most vibrant Jewish communities. As Program Director, I will be responsible for the growth and success of all aspects and areas of programming ranging from all ages, partnering with PJ Library and PJ Our Way, Jewish Film Festival, Lecture Series, Trips and Excursions, Philanthropic Events, Israeli Culture, and Holocaust Awareness, just to name a few. Not only is the JFSM growing at a rapid pace, but its program staff is as well and required a leader. I am humbled to become their first, and feel fortunate to be able to use the experiences I have gained over the years, to now join and help lead another Jewish community. Should you ever come to the Sarasota area, I hope you will look me up and reach out.