Posted by Ira Schor
Having recently returned from the annual AJFCA (Association of Jewish Family and Children’s Agencies) conference, I have a renewed awareness of the value of gathering with one’s colleagues from other agencies. In the short space of several days, we became a community of professionals learning from one another and sharing our strikingly similar challenges in our efforts to make our world a better place. With our differing logos and acronyms, our varying sizes and geographic locations, it was the commonality of our purpose and the good intent of our missions and services that was most inspiring.
Montreal, bi-lingual, cosmopolitan, and charming, was a terrific setting in which to meet. Stunningly beautiful, bordered by Mont Royal to the north and the St. Lawrence to the south, Montreal is populated by grand, impressive, and intricate 19th century public buildings. This walkable city provided the occasional break from the rich assortment of plenaries and workshops.
I was accompanied by our CEO, Rimma Zelfand and Marjie Sokoll, Director of Jewish Healing Connections. For Rimma, it was a return to a beloved city to which she emigrated from St. Petersburg, Russia. For Marjie, it was the opportunity to share her expertise and her gift in bringing spirituality to the workplace and to her work with older adults. Marjie’s workshop, titled “Standing on Sacred Ground: Cultivating Spirituality in our Agencies,” was hugely well received, prompting many to seek her guidance on bringing healing circles to their agencies.
Personally, I had the opportunity to present on our Talent Management program, sharing a panel on “Developing Agency Leadership” with several colleagues from JF&CS Atlanta. The essence of our workshop was this: (1) each agency is only as good and only as successful as its staff, (2) it is the responsibility of management to find, train, nourish, and appreciate those individuals who we engage to serve our clients, and (3) to thrive, any organization must truly be a “learning organization,” one with the courage to reflect, be curious, ask why, and learn from our successes, failures, and each other.
Two special moments remain with me. The first occurred when approached by a colleague from JFS Seattle who said: “I must tell you how pleased and thankful my family is with the geriatric care management services my grandmother has received from the Your Elder Experts program. The services are excellent and a tremendous comfort to us.” A second memorable moment came as Marjie Sokoll and I walked in the lovely Old Montreal section of the city on a break from the workshops. Pausing only briefly to look at our map, an elderly Asian gentleman stopped and asked “Are you lost. May I help?” As I reflected on his kindness I realized that this was, in fact, what all of our agencies are about: to help people find our way when lost, recognizing that lost is a place we will all find ourselves at times.
Ira Schor, now in his twenty-fifth year with JF&CS, is currently the Senior VP of Operations. A licensed clinical social worker, Ira earned his MSW from Syracuse University. Prior to JF&CS, he was the director of out-patient and emergency services at a community mental health center in central Massachusetts. When not at work, Ira enjoys reading history and non-fiction, travel, and outdoor activities.