Some Things Happen For A Reason
Sometimes I forget I am gay. I have only been out for 7 years, yet in ways, it’s been a lifetime. I have been so fortunate trailblazers have paved the way before me, fighting for their rights to work, live and succeed in life, being their true selves.
I am fortunate to have a kind, understanding man for my daughter’s father.
I am fortunate to have found a wickedly funny, bright, beautiful woman to call my wife, whom I met 6 weeks after coming out at 40 years ‘young’.
I am fortunate to have a daughter who accepts and loves me for me, and two ‘new’ daughters who love that I love their Ema.
I am fortunate that I have family and friends who support me unconditionally and love my wife as much, if not, more than me :).
I am fortunate that I work for JCC Chicago, which is an agency who included me into their fold immediately, with open arms.
I will never forget two pivotal times at the J–my first interview with our previous CEO, and our first agency participation in the Chicago Pride parade, June of 2019.
When I came for my initial interview for the position at JCC Chicago, after some small talk, my previous boss first asked me “what would your friends and family say about you, if I asked them?” I paused, wondering how honest I should be. I decided to take a leap of faith and be my true self, answering “my wife would say…” I figured if the J was not comfortable hiring a Chief Human Resources Officer who was gay, then at least I would know sooner than later. He did not flinch and kept the questions coming.
Since being with the J, now 3 1/2 years, I have found that he was not the only one accepting of me. Everyone I have encountered at the J has been warm and welcoming of me and my family. I’ve begun to think that some things happen for a reason.
At the Chicago Pride Parade last summer, JCC Chicago had a float for the first time. While riding on this float, I got an overwhelming feeling, and realized that my worlds collided personally and professionally for the first time—beyond kismet, more like synchronicity, right?! As I stood proudly on the float with my arms around my wife and daughter, seeing my colleagues, and all of us cheering, waving and supporting LGBTQ rights. The sense of gratitude I felt was immeasurable. It was a moment I will cherish and never forget for the rest of my life.
In my time at the J, I am immensely proud of the diversity and inclusion initiatives we have rolled out. Most recently, I have begun working with colleagues on a safety, equity and respect task force, and with Keshet for LGTBQ equality in Jewish life to conduct awareness training. We have edited our intake and policy forms to reflect preferred pronoun usage and gender identification and I’m working with our team to create timely lunch and learns and training sessions for employees and management.
So, you may wonder how I could “forget” something as significant as being gay, but it’s quite simple. When someone is a professional, a colleague, a manager, a mother, a daughter, a friend, a Jew, there are many parts to them. Being gay is only one piece of who I am. Because JCC Chicago embraces me for me, I am my true self and all those parts of me are accepted. Being able to live and work in such an environment each day is what makes me excited to be at work, strategically planning our future, saying good morning to my colleagues walking through the building, and catching up on how people spent their weekends. We are all the same, living our lives to see the children’s smiles as they enter out building, jump in the pool, run at camp. To see the groups of adults play pickle ball, cards, participate in a talk back after a film, or during community Wednesdays, we thrive off of the energy our sites generate.
JCC Chicago is a special place, and every day I am grateful I get to call it my home away from home.
– Johanna G. Fine
Chief Human Resources Officer, JCC Chicago