Friday, July 11, 2008

Jewish Communal Certificate Students Explore the Kehillah Partnership at The Bergen County JCC

Dr. Harold Benus, Executive Director of the Bergen County YJCC, in New Jersey, had an idea. Why not create a network of synagogue congregants who pay one fee for membership at a synagogue of their choice, and automatically gain access to programming at the Bergen County Y. Strengthen the Jewish community and save money at the same time. The Kehillah Partnership, he decided to call it.

When Dr. Saul Andron, director of the Certificate in Jewish Communal Service program heard about it, he decided it would be a perfect field trip for certificate students who were attending the summer Block program.

After a tour of the newly renovated facility, Dr. Benus and his staff (including Steven Mark, WSSW ‘08/Certificate in Jewish Communal Service), and the immediate past president of the agency described how they had developed the Kehillah Partnership and the experience during the pilot phase. Students learned firsthand about the challenges and complexities of this new collaborative model.

Dr. Benus acknowledged that the JCC movement is “not well” and that many JCCs haven’t adapted successfully to the changing needs and interests of individual Jews and families. He explained that there is fierce competition in the marketplace to attract members for leisure-time activities and that the entire Jewish communal system is experiencing cutbacks due to declining philanthropic support. With synagogues being the primary portal for many Jewish families and the one fee for multiple services model as the driving strategy, Dr. Benus hopes that community members will find the Kehillah Partnership an affordable way to participate in Jewish communal life.

Thanks to Rachel Neuman, our guest editor.