Within the work environments I have inhabited, I have often struggled to find a balance between productivity and fulfillment. While I have learned many valuable office skills, my work days have usually consisted of assuming administrative tasks that do not provide much excitement, which I understand is a given for most entry-level positions. While I have accepted the less enjoyable tasks that have accompanied my positions, I have always aspired to find a job that teaches me useful skills and supports my own interests.
Luckily, I seem to have found a healthy balance between these two items with my job at the Jewish Community Project (JCP) Downtown. As JCP’s Development and Program Associate, I have spent the past six months largely supporting JCP’s administrative processes involving fundraising and programs, including gift recognition, donor research and event registration. However, I have also had the opportunity to witness JCP’s mission in person by checking in attendees to the events I have helped coordinate. In this regard, I have gained much satisfaction by not only securing JCP’s development and programming success on the back end, but also getting exposed to JCP’s members and programs as more than just lines on a spreadsheet.
This feeling has been especially apparent through my participation in JCP’s Adult Salon Series, hosted with the Shalom Hartman Institute. During this adults-only series of informative lectures in which educators provide insight on complex topics related to Israel’s history, I have been able to witness the JCP community in an entirely new light. Observing our community members’ thoughtful contributions to discussions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Israel’s role in one’s Jewish identity has allowed me to see that JCP constituents, and by extension JCP at large, represent a strong and cohesive unit in which individuals can freely express their ideas with the confidence of knowing they will be heard and appreciated. The Hartman session I attended recently about Israel’s changed conditions following the 1967 Six Day War specifically showed that while our attendees had some significant disagreements, they were able to argue their ideas while simultaneously listening to and building off from points that other group members had made. As a JCP employee who mostly observed the discussion while facilitating check-in and handing out name tags, I was delighted to see this admirable aspect of our community in action.
I also enjoyed gaining a better understanding of JCP’s constituents by getting to have casual but deep conversations with individuals who attended the event. Since this event was held in an intimate setting with a dozen or so people in attendance, I felt very comfortable talking to board members and community members and building more robust connections with people I support on a daily basis. It was natural for me, for example, to meet guests and instantly think of the various ways they supported the organization and the programs they have attended, since these details were fresh in my mind from the database I routinely update. I realized, however, that the personal interactions I had with these individuals would make my job far more meaningful and enjoyable. During my conversations, I was able to learn about similar interests and life backgrounds I have with our donors that I could never have comprehended merely through my office work. Now that I have established deeper relationships and understandings of our community, I am more motivated and well-equipped to fully perform my administrative duties.
While exploring different professional settings, I have come to know that it is hard to find a job that perfectly matches one’s interests, especially in the early stages in one’s professional development. However, it is possible to find ways to enhance job responsibilities through other avenues in the organization, which is what I have managed to do with JCP. Though I am not a part of JCP’s target audience of families with children or other individuals living in or near Tribeca, events like the Hartman Salon Series have showed me the connections I have to the JCP community and the profound relevance of JCP’s activities. After visualizing JCP’s activities and constituents up close, I know that we not only have a common commitment to Israel, but also to building a sustainable Jewish community that enriches the Jewish identities of all our members. I am very grateful to have been offered the opportunity to work at this event, and I hope to receive many more opportunities to contribute to JCP’s efforts in meaningful ways.
Daniel Hammerman is JCP’s Development and Program Associate.