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  • 21 Dec 2020 by Tricia Ginis

    It’s the story behind the story...

    I had the privilege of participating in the National Association of Temple Administrators (NATA) annual conference in December. The schedule was filled with amazing speakers, breakout sessions, social gatherings, and opportunities to connect in small groups or one-on-one. To be honest, I was worried about the amount of time I’d be on Zoom over a period of 4 days. Fortunately, I did not let that concern keep me from attending a workshop that has stuck with me.

    Abby Fifer-Mandell, the Executive Director of the Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab at USC Marshall School of Business, lead a 3-part session on Human Centered Design, which I have to say was amazing. At the core of human centered design is relationship building and listening, extreme empathy and learning from the act of listening. And by listening, I mean really listening, paying attention to what is said AND what is not said and focusing on the why behind it.

    As I watched and listened to Abby share information on how congregations can think about applying human centered design, I was also aware of how she navigated leading a webinar, responding to the chat, and keeping her audience engaged while also juggling a young son who very much wanted her attention. She was dealing with the same factors that most of us are encountering during this pandemic – the blurred lines between our professional and personal lives. She had to navigate her own space, privacy and family, all while on Zoom!

    This pandemic has made us all pivot, change, and adapt, and we are all doing the best that we can with what we have. Perhaps using human centered design, which places the user and extreme empathy at its core, is exactly what we all need right now.  And this empathy should extend past our professional lives and into our personal lives, and past what we can see to what is going on “behind the screen,” literally and figuratively.

    Let’s make extreme empathy a priority. Let’s make it a part of how we interact with one another. Let’s take a look at the story behind the story. Let’s commit to looking past the surface so we can appreciate and truly understand where people are coming from. Let’s remember to consider not only what we see on the Zoom screen, but also what we don’t see in the rest of the room.

     

    Tricia

     

  • 21 Dec 2020 by Fern Katz

    Dear Friends,

    In 2012, when I began as Director of Early Childhood Education at a URJ congregation, I had never heard of Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism. I had been a director at a JCC and knew JCCA, a director at a University and knew NAEYC and Head Start, and I had taught religious school at both Reform and Conservative Congregations and was very familiar with the National Association of Temple Educators (now Association of Reform Jewish Educators – ARJE), the URJ, USCJ, and CCAR. Nevertheless, I did not know that there was such a thing as ECE-RJ.

    I had not been on the job long when I received a phone call from Cathy Rolland. (I imagine right now there are ECE-RJ members around the country saying, “I did too!”).  I do not remember much of the conversation except for thinking “What is ECE-RJ? Who is this person? How did she know about me? and, “When can I meet her because she sounds amazing?” Cathy convinced a very skeptical me to join ECE-RJ and register for the next conference. I signed up, not knowing what I was getting myself into, yet knowing I wanted to meet Cathy. I was not disappointed. Everyone at the Morristown conference knew Cathy and Cathy knew everyone. How could one person know so much about early childhood Jewish education in the Reform movement across North America? How is one person able to have such a positive impact, directly and indirectly, on so many educators, families, and young children?

    I quickly learned that Cathy, along with a few other directors of early childhood centers in Reform congregations, had created ECE-RJ as a way to bring together early education professionals to collaborate in new ways in the field of early childhood Jewish education. Cathy and her cohort designed an organization in which early childhood Jewish education as a profession would be recognized and elevated. An organization where ideas could be shared, support would be provided, important issues could be discussed, and high-quality professional development would be offered. We, ECE-RJ, are Cathy’s baby.

    A very fast eight and half years later, Cathy has continued to have an incredible impact on me, on ECE-RJ, on our members, and the centers, congregations, and schools in which we work. This, in turn, affects our educators, children, and families, and the future of early childhood Jewish education and Jewish life. Each family and each child that walks through our programs leaves with a little bit of Cathy in them. Cathy has pushed me, guided me, co-constructed with me, taught me, laughed with me, and cried with me. She has become a dear friend.

    The URJ, in their good sense, has moved Cathy to a new position (Senior Director, Emerging Networks/Families with Young Children) where her reach will be even broader and her influence will go beyond ECE-RJ and families with young children. Cathy has done an amazing job raising her baby, ECE-RJ, and we will continue to grow with our new liaison, Rachel Margolis (more on Rachel in January). However, I am not letting Cathy off the hook so easily. She is still my friend and teacher, and a friend and teacher to all of ECE-RJ. And I have her phone number!

    On behalf of all of ECE-RJ, I want to thank Cathy Rolland for all that she has done for us and for early childhood Jewish education. Cathy, your work has been immeasurable. Hazak hazak v’nitchazek, be strong, be strong and we will be strengthened.

     

    Fern

    • See 2 more comments...
    • Edye Disner I remember welcoming you, Fern, to our newcomers' breakfast and saying - we have to get her involved, she's amazing! Cathy Rolland is one of a kind - a true professional who makes dear friends... see more I remember welcoming you, Fern, to our newcomers' breakfast and saying - we have to get her involved, she's amazing! Cathy Rolland is one of a kind - a true professional who makes dear friends across the nation. We are a fortunate bunch!
      10 months ago
    • Dale Cooperman like you fern, i am part of ece-rj because of Cathy,. How fortunate i feel to have basked in the glow of her leadership and friendship for the past 12 years! Cathy's ability to mentor so many of... see more like you fern, i am part of ece-rj because of Cathy,. How fortunate i feel to have basked in the glow of her leadership and friendship for the past 12 years! Cathy's ability to mentor so many of us has led to a strong early childhood "arm" of URJ, and her continued support of early childhood will continue to strengthen all of us. may you go from strength to strength, dear cathy!
      10 months ago
    • Jennie Rubin Cathy has been a trusted colleague, mentor and friend since I started in my position 16 years ago. Her vision and tenacity had lifted this organization and our field to incredible heights. Wishing... see more Cathy has been a trusted colleague, mentor and friend since I started in my position 16 years ago. Her vision and tenacity had lifted this organization and our field to incredible heights. Wishing you lots of love and luck as you blaze new pathways of engagement for a larger part of our community, Cathy! You are truly the best. xoxo
      10 months ago