Strengthening Jewish Communities with Doron Krakow of JCC Association of North America - Conversation with the Rabbi

Episode 4

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Published on:

15th Apr 2021

Strengthening Jewish Communities with Doron Krakow, JCC Association of North America

Rabbi Michael Beyo and Dr. Adrian McIntyre talk with Doron Krakow about the past, present, and future of the JCC Movement and the work of JCC Association of North America.

Doron Krakow is president and CEO of JCC Association of North America, the largest platform of Jewish engagement on the continent. JCC Association partners with JCCs (Jewish Community Centers and Jewish Community Camps), advancing and enriching North American Jewish life. 1.5 million people walking through the doors of JCCs each week, and the JCC Movement includes approximately 53,000 staff members—12,000 full-time skilled professionals, 24,000 part-time staff, and 17,000 seasonal summer staff.

Under Krakow’s leadership, which began in May 2017, JCC Association is forging new partnerships throughout the Jewish community, deepening its relationship to individual and foundation philanthropy, and strengthening the fabric of Jewish life across the U.S. and Canada. Krakow brings more than 25 years of experience with national and international Jewish organizations to JCC Association. He previously served as executive vice president of American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev; senior vice president, Israel and overseas at United Jewish Communities (now the Jewish Federations of North America); and national director of Young Judaea. Doron is also a board member of JPRO and Tzofim: Friends of Israel Scouts.

Connect with JCC Association of North America:

Conversation with the Rabbi is a project of the East Valley Jewish Community Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, neighborhood organization that has served individuals and families inclusive of all races, religions, and cultures since 1972. Visit us online at https://www.evjcc.org

The show is recorded and produced in the studio of PHX.fm, the leading independent B2B online radio station and podcast studio in Phoenix, Arizona. Learn more at https://phx.fm

Transcript
Announcer:

From PHX.fm, this is Conversation with the Rabbi, featuring open, honest dialogue, and sometimes, unconventional perspectives on the world we all share.

Adrian McIntyre:

Welcome to another Conversation with the Rabbi. I'm Adrian McIntyre. Rabbi Michael Beyo, CEO of the East Valley JCC, hosts these conversations, bringing interesting and unexpected perspectives to our contemporary life. Rabbi, how are you today? Good to see you again.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Doing awesome. Doing great. Thank you very much. Good to see you.

Adrian McIntyre:

We're joined for today's conversation by a wonderful guest. Doron Krakow is the President and CEO of the JCC Association of North America. Rabbi Beyo, I know you're passionate about the JCC movement. Doron Krakow, welcome to the show.

Doron Krakow:

Thank you, Adrian. It's great to be here.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Good morning, Doron. Thank you very much for being with us. It's a real honor to have Doron here as the president and CEO of our own umbrella organization, so thank you.

Adrian McIntyre:

Tell us a little bit about your role, about the JCC Association of North America, about who you serve. Get us into the world of what you do.

Doron Krakow:

The JCC movement is the largest platform for Jewish engagement on the continent. We are 172 JCCs across Canada and the United States, and pre-COVID, we had more than 1.5 million people through our doors every single week, a million of them members of the Jewish community of every demographic, age and background, and a half million of our friends and neighbors from beyond the Jewish community who purposefully chose to do things with us that they might as well have done elsewhere but preferred to do under the auspices of a Jewish community center. So we as a movement, in recognition of the fact that we have this largest point of contact, this broadest level of engagement, really are the principal engine to be deployed in pursuit of vision and goals for a greater Jewish community and a more vibrant Jewish life in years to come. This is the instrument for doing more and for doing better.

Adrian McIntyre:

I'll add a personal note here. I'm going to take a side seat in this conversation, but as someone who's not Jewish and has visited a number of JCCs within California and here in Arizona, one thing I want folks of all faiths and backgrounds and persuasions to know is that what we're talking about here are centers in the community that are for the Jewish community, but in many cases, not exclusive to the Jewish community. There are many events and programs and things of that nature that are available to the broader public, and I've certainly been impressed with the facilities at all the places that I attended. So with that side note here, rabbi, I want to turn it over to you. I know you're really passionate about the JCC movement itself. You lead a large organization here in the valley. What's this all about for you?

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

The East Valley JCC, even though we are one of the smaller JCC across North America, we are the largest Jewish organization in the East Valley. So it brings with it its own challenges sometimes. On the one hand, you are the small fish in a big pond, and on the other hand, you are the big fish in the East Valley. I'll answer your question about why I'm passionate about the JCC in a roundabout way, just like every rabbi answers any question. And it is I am passionate about the Jewish people and I'm passionate about the friends of the Jewish people. And these two passions, they come together in the best way under a JCC. It's a place where we can really foster Jewish community in an open way, not in a way where I look down at you if you are not as religious as me, or in a way that I look down at you if you don't understand Judaism in the way that I understand Judaism. No, it's open. I want to provide every person who walks into my facility or my program the tools to explore Judaism to the best of their desires. And to our non-Jewish friends, I want to give them the best tools to appreciate the long history of the Jewish people and the strong bonds that connect each and every JCC to their local community. These two passions and these two desires are part and parcel of my JCC, and I can assure you of every JCC of every one of my colleagues across North America. And we take our business very seriously. What is funny for me is that I am very new to the JCC movement. And I always say to my board that I don't work for them, I work for the Jewish people. But let me ask Doron ... Doron, you have had a long career in leading Jewish organizations, what is your passion? Why? You could've been the CEO of a major profit organization, leading maybe revolutionary high tech or real estate, or something else, I don't know, but why did you choose a career in the Jewish world?

Doron Krakow:

Michael, I really appreciate the question, and I'd like to think that I would have had the opportunities to do those kinds of things elsewhere. In fact, that was the kind of path I envisioned when I was working at IBM before I made a move into the Jewish community, into the not-for-profit sector. But I think like you, I'm passionate about the Jewish people and I am something of an amateur historian, and I understand a few things very clearly. We are living at a remarkably fortunate time, relative to the timeline of Jewish history going back 2,000 years. I would make the argument that we're living at the high point of Jewish history since the destruction of the second temple nearly 200 centuries ago. And that the overwhelming majority of our forebears over these 2,000 years would've given anything to live for a few minutes in our time, because of all of the things that we have that they only dreamt of and imagined. We live at a time of a sovereign state of Israel where the Jewish people has in its hands the means of looking after and safeguarding itself and being responsible for itself. We have here in the United States and Canada the most successful, remarkable diaspora community probably in that same 2,000 year period. We have achieved everything that we as a community and the people might've aimed to achieve, materially, politically, socially, culturally, economically, and so forth. We have created an infrastructure of Jewish life that is the envy of virtually every other recognizable ethnic or religious community. We have done remarkably well and we have done so in the aftermath of one of the worst chapters, one of the darkest chapters of Jewish history that took place in the middle of the 20th century. And yet, in the face of all of this prosperity, we're scuffling. The Jewish community is not as cohesive as we'd like it to be, it's not as connected, as accountable as we'd like it to be. We don't enjoy as strong a bond in connection with the state of Israel and with other Jewish communities around the world as we should, given all that's at our disposal. And so I chose this path, this career and this movement to lend a hand because I think if we're going to do better, then you need to go to the place that has the broadest and most comprehensive set of contacts, that has the greatest degree of outreach, that provides the most reasons for people to want to come in, both the members of our own community and those who want to come to our community because we have something that draws them and they feel and embrace in connection by working with us. And I'll complete this long answer to a short question by placing it in one further context. You and I have specific responsibility for a moment of Jewish history in terms of the work that we do. We are the stewards of a link and a chain that goes back 4,000 years. And all of the chain links that come after us are dependent entirely on how strong our link is. And therefore, out of an obligation, out of a sense of responsibility to the future of our community and our people, we're obliged to do as well with our moment as we can to ensure that it is a strong and vital link that will serve the generations that follow ours, our children, our grandchildren and those that will follow them. That's why I'm here.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Thank you. I agree very much with you with the analogy and the allegory of the chain and the link. I have two pictures at home of my great grandparents from Poland, one set, and from Hungary, another set. These two couples, they perished in the Holocaust together with many other members of my family. And often I look at them and I say, "I will not break the chain. I will be part of the chain." So I definitely understand and share that sense of responsibility and commitment. But let me probe you, because sometimes I look at myself as a spectator into American Jewish community, because I was not born in this country. I became American just a few months ago. So often I bring with me a slightly different perspective and with different questions, and maybe sometimes, even different answers to what we see. Yes, in America, the Jewish community has done tremendously well, and we have paid a tremendous price for that. It's a price that so many of our members identify their Judaism with eating brisket, or they identify their Jewishness with being nice to your neighbor. Now, being nice to your neighbor is, yes, it's important, but it's not what makes us Jewish. That is what should make us good people, period. There was a recent study done, a survey done across the Jewish community here in Phoenix, and the overwhelming majority have responded -- over, I believe, 80%, if I remember the data correctly -- when asked what is the most important thing about being Jewish, the answer was the Holocaust. And I cried when I saw that answer because the Holocaust does not define me, does not define my Judaism, does not define my people, does not define anything other than that for a period of time, we were massacred and burned. But that's not what Judaism is about. That's not what makes me a Jew. I am a Jew because I love Judaism and I love our tradition and love our history and I love our Torah and I love our teachings and I love the positive sides. And so could you please address that other side of the coin?

Doron Krakow:

Listen. The Holocaust was a horrific reminder of how precarious our existence can be. That has powerfully informed a lot of things that have happened since then, but it is not the essence of anything other than risk, the existential threat and danger. And as you've pointed out, while it may have been the worst instance of that, it was nothing new for a Jewish people that was wandering and exclusively dependent on the goodwill of others for its survival, which is why this moment is such a different moment for us. My grandparents were refugees that fled Europe in the face of what was happening there. And I remember, though I lost him young, my mother's father, who had been a very successful businessman in Latvia and Lithuania before, thanks to business, he found himself in New York when things went bad, and summoned my grandmother and the three children to come here. But I remember him saying that America is the greatest country in the world because the freedoms that it provided, the welcome that it provided to a beleaguered community from Europe, where it was under such terrible threat, was a beacon to the world of righteousness. And I think that the American dream has in part compromised our ability to remain focused and devoted to the things that are unique about us as a people and as a community, if you will, to the tribal side of what it means to be part of an identifiable people. And since so many of the values to which ascribe as Jews are evident in the freedoms and the opportunities of a Democratic America, being successful in achievement could be viewed through the lenses of fulfilling our ambitions as Jews from the standpoint of righteousness rooted in our tradition while concurrently drawing us away from the things that uniquely bind us together as a Jewish community. So as we prospered, prosperity brought us closer to being more integrated into the wider society around us. And the Jewish community's leadership and organization had to try to balance the things it wanted to achieve by and for itself as a community and the perceived interest and wishes of its constituency. And so we have this peculiar dichotomy where Jewish leaders -- institutions like the ones for which we bear responsibility, in the congregational world, in the Jewish federation world, in the alphabet soup of organizations -- straddle the line between wanting to provide our constituents with what they think they want or what they claim they want, and having to provide them with guidance and leadership that provides them with insight and perspective into things they weren't necessarily as clear about. It's the difference between trying to be the perfect reflection of your constituents and giving them what they claim they want or being a shepherd of your constituents, which means showing them things that they didn't know that they want but that are critical ultimately for the way we evolve as a cohesive and coherent community. And I think that's the balancing act that we are in as a Jewish community. I think it's how you look at American Jewry and you say, here at these moments of enormous achievement and opportunity and capacity and resources, we're diminishing in numbers and in coherence and in strength, and I think that is the responsibility of leaders. We can have this and that. We can have great prosperity and achievement here and be imbued with the sense of critical commitment to who we are, to our link of the chain, not you and I being responsible for the link but all of us here, sharing responsibility as stakeholders in this moment, a stake on which all future moments will depend. And so if we have to provide wisdom or vision or guidance or stewardship to help our community recognize the importance of engagement with itself and understanding of the roots of why we are who we are, and that's significant responsibility, but we have every possible tool and resource at our disposal to do it. We simply have to be... this moment requires us to be better than we've been.

Adrian McIntyre:

As the anthropologist in the corner listening to the conversation, one of the things that strikes me, Doron, is the inherent paradox, which is not unique to your community, to your organizations, to your commitment, but is shared with others who lead communities that are diverse and multifaceted, heading in 87 directions at the same time. The paradox between unity and unification and the recognition that in the contemporary world, there is plurality and difference and things going in many different directions, which could imply disunity, I suppose, at some level, or it could just be an expression of how things are happening in the current context. What's your view on that link of the chain? Is it a single link? You describe an organization -- a relatively well organized, relatively well-resourced, worldwide community, and yet at the same time, you're speaking to the concern that it is fragmenting and/or losing some of its focus. How do you balance those two sides of the same phenomenon?

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

It's called the Jewish paradox. Two Jews, four opinions. No, but that's just ... I'm sorry.

Doron Krakow:

Look, I think, Adrian, that if we are attuned to the timeline of Jewish history, we recognize that as a community, we have had moments of prosperity before and we have had moments of challenge and tragedy, and we know that from one moment to the next, our greatest asset is our cohesiveness, is our ability to acknowledge where we've been and where we are and where we might go and the importance of our responsibilities to one another. And so in past moments of Jewish prosperity, we've heard some of the very same things that are the dynamics that we have here. In other words, if America is the great light upon the hill and it stays in a linear way from where it is to ever greater places, our presence here will be defined by a different trajectory of history. And yet we know that history is not a straight line. It's never a straight line. And if there's anything, we're having this conversation in the midst of a strikingly aberrant period in my lifetime here, and I'm born and raised in the New York area. We've seen social upheaval, we certainly have political upheaval and now, we're dealing with a pandemic. There are X factors that cause linear progression to cease being linear. What's certain is that linear or not, we have something to contribute as a community and we have some responsibilities and obligations to ourselves to be a community. And the stronger our community, the better we will contribute to the society in which we've chosen to make our home. But since we never know for sure what direction history is going to take, we know that irrespective of the direction, the stronger our commitment to one another, the firmer our rootedness in who we are, the more capable we will be of engaging with whatever history may bring, or the future may bring. And therefore, we should never reach a point where we concede the need to be strong together because there's a new way to be strong without that, because we know that nothing is guaranteed other than who we are and where we've been and the fact that our future will be disproportionately bound up in our ability to not just sustain that recognition, but to revel and celebrate in the ways that we as a community and we as a people can contribute to life around us wherever we choose to make our homes and lives.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Doron, let me continue on this line. We are now in the midst of a world pandemic and we're all struggling with the day to day life of making sure that our organizations are safe and our communities are safe, we're struggling with financial setbacks, but what's going to be the day after? What is the day after going to look like? What should we be doing today to make sure that the day after, we are in a better position than if we don't do anything? That's one part of the question. And the second part of the question is since so many JCCs, and for those audiences that don't know, the JCC movement is about 100 years old and it was created in order to provide a club for Jews to go, because we were not accepted in the YMCA, we were not accepted in the local clubs, therefore, Jews created their own club to play basketball, to be together, to get together. That's how it started. So the JCC started as an anti-Antisemitism, anti-racism, cry in the community. And so many JCCs have built their business around the gym, the paid services. And what you are talking about, the heart and soul, what I call the J part of the CC is, unfortunately, for business reasons, often relegated to a second, third, fourth place. How do we actually achieve what you are so eloquently hoping to achieve when so many of our colleagues are dealing with the problems of the dumbbell?

Doron Krakow:

Well, look, first of all, I think that the pandemic and the other circumstances in which we're currently working require us to be conscious of and attentive to near-term challenges. But we have to be attentive to them against the backdrop of timeless responsibilities. We are the principal platform and therefore, in my view, engine for the future of Jewish community. And so as we contend with the immediate things that have drawn our attention away from the strategic horizon for now, we have to be conscious of the fact that whatever we do for now is going to be a component part of what it is that we continue to be responsible for, for the future of our communities, the families and the anticipated families, the generation or two that's going to follow us. So contextualizing it is critically important. You describe a basic building block of the JCC movement, which is we are largely driven as a fee-for-service enterprise. Prior to the pandemic, we as a field were a $1.6 billion annual business, and 80% of that $1.6 billion was generated by people paying to use the JCC, either to be a member or to pay tuition for camp or to pay tuition for early childhood education or program fees, which makes us probably the most efficient investment in organized Jewish life. Only $0.20 of every dollar that we need comes from contributions, comes from philanthropy, or from Jewish Community Federation coffers. And on the back of that $0.20 on the dollar, we provide a million Jewish touches a week, and we welcome a half a million friends and neighbors to the Jewish center every single week as an embassy of the Jewish community, as an ombudsman for values and traditions and programs. And yet, because we have become so reliant on ourselves, the folks in your position, the CEOs have to make sure that they can meet their budget. And therefore, the things that people are willing to pay for become critically important relative to our abilities to carry on our agenda. And so it would be easy to be drawn into a place where fitness has outsized importance, as an example, because people are willing to pay for fitness membership, but we need to look at fitness not as the goal or the end of our business, but as the storefront means of bringing in revenue that enable us to do the things that are so central to the J part of JCC world. And if we remain focused on the fact that the means to our doing the primary work for which we bear responsibility is precisely that, then it allows us to assure that we're deploying ourselves accordingly. But I think, and what drew me here, and I'm newer to this field than you are, I think, Michael, what drew me to this field is the belief that because our platform is so compelling relative to its potential impact, that we can bring tens of millions of dollars from the world of mega philanthropy to be invested across our platform so that we don't end up relying exclusively on this 80-20 mechanism. But that over the course of time, because of what we offer in the way of opportunity for the expression of the strategic interests of Jewish leadership and philanthropy, that we may tilt that balance so that it's not going to be 80% our responsibility to pay the bills for everything. But rather we harness this medium to do things that while it does well in some places, and in some places, remarkably well, it can do better everywhere and that we can raise all boats by reducing the pressure to be worried about paying the bills by fee-for-service every single day. We are an underutilized instrument for greater impact. That's the draw. And it's interesting that in a moment of crisis, like the one that we're in, the easiest thing to fall into is the belief that what we have to do is get back to how it was before. This is just about restoring March 1 of 2020. And the answer, in my opinion, is not that we're trying to get back there as the end, we're trying to restore our balance so that we can get much further, much higher, much better than that. And crisis offers opportunities that normal times rarely do. This crisis has confronted us with the need to link elbows with peer institutions, not just in the JCC Movement, but with congregations and with federations and with day schools and with private agencies, all of which are going to scuffle because of the pressures that have been created by COVID. But there's a recognition now that rather than worrying only about our narrow self-interest as an institution, we're confronted with the need to say what is it that our communities require and what do we have to contribute to the interests of the community and what does the synagogue down the road have to contribute and the day school and what does Hadassah have to contribute? And PJ Library? What do these other players have to contribute and how do we harness what we each have to contribute in order to achieve something greater than we had before. And it's my hope that, that will be one of the preeminent outgrowths of the crisis. This linking of elbows and a commitment, a determination to thoughtfully work together, will allow us to imagine raising the bar far more effectively than if we were back on March 1 with everybody feeling sufficiently comfortable to be worried about their interests first.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Let me shift a little bit and try to approach some of our challenges of our movement from some other perspective. The first time that I became aware of a JCC was when I moved to Atlanta about 15 years ago, because in Israel, there are no JCCs per se in the way that we understand them here, nor do they exist in Italy, where I was born and raised. So in those two major countries where I've lived before coming to the States, I was not aware of what is a JCC. I was first made aware when I moved to Atlanta. And as you know, the Atlanta JCC is a wonderful, wonderful institution. It's led also today by a great friend. And my question is when I came to Atlanta and I was living in the Orthodox community of Atlanta, there was a big, big schism between the JCC and the Orthodox community and very few Orthodox Jews would be members of the JCC. And I remember, even the rabbi of the synagogue that we attended wanted to do a mini protest because the JCC decided to open on Shabbat. When I look across... when we are together as JCCs, I am one of one or two people that are Orthodox, and I am the only Orthodox rabbi that leads a JCC, and I now wear this patch with pride. But my question is it's undeniable that there is a schism between Orthodox communities and the non-Orthodox communities in America. The fault, in my opinion, lies in both communities. They're both at fault because they don't want to recognize that they're looking at themselves in the mirror rather than at somebody else. And we can talk a lot about that issue, but the Orthodox community is one of the largest growing sub-communities of the Jewish people. What can we do to make the JCCs a place where also, Orthodox communities feel welcome? And where we are not only an open tent between our Conservative and Reform and secular Jewish communities and our non-Jewish friends, but also, with our Jewish brothers and sisters that are Orthodox? This is something that is one of those issues that I am most passionate about is how do we build a strong community that is across us and not only with our gentile friends and supporters. That is maybe because I come from an ultra-Orthodox background and I am in my religious journey transition from being one way and now, maybe I'm transitioning in a different direction, but this is what is, in my opinion, is if we don't answer this question, we might face a problem.

Doron Krakow:

First of all, it's a point of pride for me and I think for our movement that we have an Orthodox rabbi in the position of executive leadership. That you are in the East Valley in Arizona is notable as well. And I want to paint a broader picture. When I came to the movement three and a half years ago and was asking how I could make the most effective move up the learning curve, as somebody who certainly was familiar with JCCs but really didn't know them, I was told, go visit a few JCCs and you'll get the idea. And I can tell you, sitting here three and a half years later, that until you've seen every JCC, you can't get the complete idea because every JCC is a unique reflection of the community in which it sits, of the circumstances in which it operates, of the leadership of which it avails itself. So, we have JCCs, we have a JCC at least that's 100% ultra-Orthodox. The Boro Park Y in Brooklyn is 100% ultra-Orthodox. It is a Haredi JCC. We have JCCs...

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

But I don't remember seeing their executive director with us in Miami Beach.

Doron Krakow:

She was not with us in Miami Beach. And by the way, that that JCC is run by a remarkable woman from that community is noteworthy in its own right.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

I'm sure. I'm sure. But as wonderful as she is, and I'm sure that she is, she was not with us at Mifgash.

Doron Krakow:

So let me make two points on ... several points on this topic, and I'll come back to the latter one. Don't let me forget that I need to come back to that latter point. So we've got communities that are disproportionately Russian because that's the context in which they operate. We've got communities that are in places where the demographics of the community are changing. And as a result, the demographics of the JCC are changing. So if we talk about the Rockland County JCC here in New York, you're talking about a community that has gradually become increasingly Orthodox. And therefore, what you see in the JCC is an increasingly Orthodox demographic. I think the big question, the broad question that you're asking in communities that are just proportionately not Orthodox and where there may be some hesitancy on the part of that sector to come in, we have to create a level of understanding and sensitivity that creates a JCC that doesn't give reasons for people not to want to come. We don't want to be managing our shops in such a way that it leaves people not feeling like they're going to be welcome there. There also has to be a recognition that the highest common denominator is rarely going to be sufficient to enable everybody to feel that way. So there is a balance between what will make somebody from the Orthodox community feel less inclined and somebody who's from a more secular side of the community to feel less inclined. And it's incumbent upon you, us and all of our colleagues to figure out how to strike that balance. But if we're going to be an effective community building, then we have to be reflective of the mosaic of Jewish life and our community. There is something to this idea that we are an open tent. I think you've heard me say several times that I view the JCC as the town square of Jewish life. What that means is that by way of the JCC, you can find everything the Jewish life has to offer. And I can tell you a lovely anecdote. I was in Wilmington, Delaware yesterday making a JCC visit. I can't get on planes these days, but if I can drive there, I'll go. And that's a relatively small community, a wonderful JCC, but all of the rabbis of the different denominations come to the JCC every Friday morning to celebrate Shabbat with the early childhood education program. Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Orthodox, every week, they come together. So, the type of home, the type of reality that we create that will enable people to feel welcome and at home and to have an opportunity to contribute to the community will define whether or not we make people feel welcome. And I think that's the challenge in a divided or polarized reality, and we're not immune from that in our community, leadership has to help people to see the bigger picture in order to get them to be comfortable. And, just because I want to finish and I know we're short on time, Ellie Kastel, the CEO of the Boro Park Y, hasn't been at Mifgash for many years because we paid very little attention to that Y for a long time, but we are increasingly and deeply engaged with the Y. And I'm actually quite optimistic that we'll have the benefit of her presence and contributions. We as a movement are diminished by the absence of any representative, style or variation on the JCC theme. We are enriched by our diversity. And we look forward to strengthening our commitment to giving expression to that.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Thank you, Doron. Thank you.

Adrian McIntyre:

Among the tensions that every community faces, we've touched on the counter pull, if you will, between unity and plurality, and of course, another one is that balance between the past of the community and its future. By way of closing this conversation, Doron, I'd love to get your thoughts on the biggest one or two most pressing things you see need to get addressed to lead boldly into the future that you've eloquently spoken to. What needs to happen?

Doron Krakow:

Simply put, on the presumption that we can secure resources, and resources are in enormous supply, so I expect that we can, we need to assure that our JCCs have a firm and ambitious commitment to more. It's not sufficient to be as good as we are. It's not sufficient to be as big as we are. It's incredibly important that we aspire to something better and greater, and in every instance, it means more Jewish families with young children in early childhood education getting on the path of engagement with community and Jewish life, more kids in camp, more cultural programs, more dynamic speakers, more family engagement opportunities. The only way we move the needle is by refusing to accept anything less than being more than what we are in the places where we have the most room to grow and in the places where we have the least room to grow. It's about more. And if more requires resources and grease to get there, then let's go out and get that. But making sure that in every case, we have an expectation that we can and we'll be better than what we are, that's going to stoke the flames and enable us to pursue a path to take us there.

Adrian McIntyre:

Rabbi Beyo, what are your thoughts? What are the one or two most pressing things to create and actualize this future for your community?

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

I agree with Doron very much that we need to do more. I am always overworking because we always... I always push my staff and myself first to do more, more programs, more activity, more engagement, more out there. I think that we cannot lose sight of the passion that we started with. And as much as Doron has that passion and I have that passion, we need to make sure that also, our staff have that passion. And also, we need to recognize that not everything is about money. Money will come from donors, from programs, if we are genuine in what we do and how we do it. Just to give an example, when I came here to the J, I started many, many programs for free. My staff, they were going crazy. They said, we can't afford that. And I said, we can't afford not to. And then, the money came and the donations came and the grants came. We cannot afford not to do. And I think that this would be the message that I tell myself and tell my board and I will tell my colleagues. Sometimes it's good to be a rabbi and not only a businessman. And it's good to say, the numbers are important but we need to be entrepreneurial. And Jewish entrepreneurial means that we have to ... if somebody wakes you up in the middle of the night, you have to say "Jewish engagement!" That has to be your first thought, right? That I would say is my hope for me and for my staff, that we're passionate about everything that we do and we cannot afford not to do more.

Doron Krakow:

I think we're incredibly fortunate to be engaged in such an opportunistic and vitally important endeavor. We've got all the tools at our disposal that we need, we simply need both will and determination and fortitude to go from where we are to where we aspire to be, and to assure that our link in this chain is sufficiently strong to provide the anchor that's going to be required for the links that follow.

Adrian McIntyre:

Doron Krakow is President and CEO of the JCC Association of North America. Rabbi Michael Beyo is CEO of the East Valley JCC. Thank you both for an incredibly informative and passionate conversation.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Doron, I just wanted to thank you once again for being with us, and I always enjoy listening to you and I always learn from you. Thank you.

Doron Krakow:

The pleasure is mine.

Adrian McIntyre:

If you enjoyed today's show, please subscribe to Conversation with the Rabbi on your favorite podcast app. You can also find the latest episodes online at ConversationWithTheRabbi.com. For all of us here at PHX.fm, I'm Adrian McIntyre. Thanks for listening, and please join us for the next Conversation with the Rabbi.

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About the Podcast

Conversation with the Rabbi
Rabbi Michael Beyo, CEO of the East Valley Jewish Community Center, talks with an eclectic mix of faith-based and secular leaders from around the world.
In an era of political division and polarized debate, we are losing our ability to hear each other. The volume of our disagreements is at an all-time high, while our ability to communicate with kindness and empathy is at an all-time low. This podcast seeks to change that by engaging people from different backgrounds and beliefs in good old-fashioned conversation.

Listen in as Rabbi Michael Beyo and anthropologist Dr. Adrian McIntyre spend time listening, sharing, and discovering common ground in an effort to understand and appreciate the wondrous diversity of our human family. From interfaith dialogues to discussions with business and nonprofit leaders, this podcast shines a spotlight on the different ways we can learn to live, work, and worship together in a contentious and conflicted world.

We invite you to use these conversations as a lens to open up new understandings of self and the other, to develop empathy for diverse viewpoints, and to explore what is possible when we listen to others with respect.

Conversation with the Rabbi is a project of the East Valley Jewish Community Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, neighborhood organization that has served individuals and families inclusive of all races, religions, and cultures since 1972. Visit us online at https://www.evjcc.org

The show is recorded and produced in the studio of PHX.fm, the leading independent B2B online radio station and podcast studio in Phoenix, Arizona. Learn more at https://phx.fm

About your hosts

Rabbi Michael Beyo

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Rabbi Michael Beyo is CEO of the East Valley Jewish Community Center in Chandler, Arizona. He was born in Milan, Italy and has lived in Italy, England, France, Israel, and the United States. An Orthodox Jewish scholar with a successful career providing religious guidance to all the Jewish denominations, he was ordained as a rabbi in Israel, where he earned three Rabbinical Ordinations of the highest honor. In 2015 Rabbi Beyo moved to Arizona from Atlanta, where he had served as the Chief Development Officer for Hillel of Georgia, overseeing 12 colleges and universities. Prior to that he served as the Executive Director and Rabbi of Boston University Hillel, as well as the Jewish Chaplain for Boston University. Rabbi Beyo brings over 25 years of professional, entrepreneurial and non-profit experience in education, cultural, humanitarian, social and religious sectors. He successfully ran several start-ups in Israel before dedicating his career to the nonprofit world.

Adrian McIntyre, PhD

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Dr. Adrian McIntyre is a social scientist, storytelling strategist, and internationally recognized authority on effective communication. His on-air experience began in 1978 at the age of five as a co-host of "The Happy Day Express," the longest-running children's radio program in California history. Adrian earned his PhD in cultural anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was a Fulbright scholar and National Science Foundation research fellow. He spent nearly a decade in the Middle East and Africa as a researcher, journalist, and media spokesperson for two of the largest humanitarian relief agencies in the world. Today he advises and trains entrepreneurs, executives, and corporate teams on high-performance communication, the power of storytelling, and how to leverage digital media to build a personal leadership brand.