“We continue to show remarkable improvement in our overall membership, program offerings, and the number of community events compared to the past few years, which is more in line with our pre-pandemic numbers,” JCC President Ronnen Isakov said at the 2022 Mayerson JCC Annual Meeting on September 8. “The optimism we see throughout our campus from our kids, families and seniors that we serve every day, to the hope and excitement among our staff, community members and lay volunteers, is something special.”
This year’s Annual Meeting was the first one held in person since 2019. CEO Marc Fisher spoke about navigating through the challenges of the last few years and emerging in a position of strength. He held up the membership and participation numbers in some of the key J programs as examples.
At the end of 2020, the J had 2,073 membership units. By August of 2022, that number had increased significantly to 2,535. In 2020, limited by COVID restrictions, just 99 children attended Camp at the J. This year, Camp welcomed 242 children, who made summer memories and made friends. The Early Childhood School opened two new classrooms, allowing an additional 20 kids to attend.
Through Meals on Wheel, the J delivered 81,000 meals to seniors. An additional 18,000 meals were served at the J through Senior Meals at the J Café and congregate meals. While that is an accomplishment in itself, the Senior Department also offered more than 1,200 virtual and in-person programs during the year.
The growth the J has experienced in just these two years, in the midst of a global pandemic, is astounding. However, the focus of the meeting was in looking forward to how the J can better meet the needs of the Cincinnati Jewish community and provide more opportunities for connection.
“We want to ensure we are providing access and connectivity to our community, providing the impact required, as well as ensuring we have the organizational capacity to meet these demands,” Isakov said.
Isakov noted that the J serves as the “town square,” and as such, should be a vibrant hub of activity for the Jewish community. He and Fisher outlined the organization’s developing strategic plan, which will launch the next stage of success at the J.
“Back in May, we gathered approximately 100 individuals from across our community in nine separate focus groups with our planning partner, Brian Hayden from Collaborative Strategies,” Fisher said. “From those focus groups, a steering committee of nine board members, lay leaders, and the J’s professional team met in June and early July. That work led to the central themes of our Next Plan:
- Growing our leadership position in our core strengths (Jewish families, wellness, and seniors).
- Better realizing our potential as a true “home” for Jewish families and a “town square” for our Jewish community.
- Increasing our capacity in Amberley while also expanding our connections with more of Cincinnati’s Jewish community.”
At the Annual Meeting, the J recognized staff and volunteer leaders who have made outstanding contributions to the organization. Marc Brafman was awarded this year’s Kovod Award, which recognizes members of the JCC who have distinguished themselves through selfless, committed service to the JCC over a period of years and is a leader in the Jewish community. Brafman is a member of the JCC Men’s Softball Commission and team captain, coaches Blue Jays baseball teams, and is the co-chair of the Oy Vey 5K.
Jim Friedman was awarded the Sigmund M. Cohen Memorial Award, which recognizes someone who has rendered distinguished service to the J in a selfless and quiet manner over the course of their lifetime. It is awarded to a person who has distinguished volunteer service to the JCC and the broader Jewish community. With his late mother’s encouragement, he conceived of the Legacy Flame exhibit in the lobby of the JCC. His proudest achievement is having encouraged Cincinnati to participate in the national Create Your Jewish Legacy community wide endowment building program that has resulted in 2,000 new legacy gifts for 23 organizations and synagogues in Cincinnati.
Fisher concluded his comments by noting the range of options available at the J for people of all ages, and with all interests.
“If you take one thing away tonight, know that while every program, activity or event isn’t for everyone, everyone should be able to see themselves in something we offer at the J,” Fisher said. “This is your J, and you can find your place, your community, your connections at the J.”