Gift-giving can be a psychological land mine. There are therapists who specialize in the meaning of gifts. Some people are essentially paralyzed in selecting gifts, so they simply don’t give any. Their fear of rejection is too great. Is no gift worse than the “wrong” one? Some folks find a gift that resonates and that’s all they give. And we haven’t even touched on the etiquette and emotional impact of how to “appropriately” accept a gift. Yes, this can get complicated—or it can be ever so easy.
Sometimes we get just the gift we want. It feels so right, so absolutely reaffirming that the present is as much the act as the actual gift. Sometimes we have to hint or even ask for the gift we want. I have a friend who cuts pictures out of magazines and starts putting them on the fridge before her birthday. Works for her. I suppose that’s O.K., too. For some years now, I have wanted JPRO to hold a substantial field-wide conference. We were, after all, formerly known as the Conference of Jewish Communal Service. Conferences—bringing colleagues together—is what professional associations do. It is one of the best ways to create a sense of field or profession. It facilitates networking, discussion of best practices and collaboration. People gain a sense of who’s working in the field and it helps to build a pipeline. Conferences help us see a career trajectory and meet role models or find a mentor. A good conference will inspire us and invigorate us with ideas and energy. Conferences are also an opportunity for recognition and reward—and we can all use that.
As I began to think about my retirement from JPRO, I knew that there was one important gift that I wanted: a really substantial, exciting conference for our field. Not exactly like “the old days” where people spent five days at Grossinger’s in the Catskill Mountains schmoozing between meals—although the pickled salmon was something to discuss—but a truly dynamic 21st Century program. There was a lot about the old conferences that was terrific—the informal conversations, the stimulating and inspiring presentations, the opportunity to meet colleagues in all different sectors. Yes, I wanted to keep that and add on layers of new thought, technology, culture and creativity.
Sometimes, we get what we wish for….So, as my parting gift (I will retire from JPRO this summer) the Board agreed to just such a conference. This is no small gift—several of the smartest and most dynamic professionals are hard at work to create this present. Audra Berg, V.P. at Jewish United Fund of Chicago and Jeff Solomon, President of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, are chairing the program with great finesse. In the days ahead, we’ll begin to unwrap the many component pieces that are coming together for what is likely to be the most spectacular conference our field has seen. I’m hoping you’ll be present as it is all revealed. Sharing this gift is what makes it so special.