Role Modeling Accountability in 5783

FJC Staff at 2022 Retreat

During this month of Elul leading up to Rosh HaShanah and through the Yamin Noraim, the 10 Days of Awe culminating with Yom Kippur, we are taught to spend time in self-reflection. Each year we work on asking each other and God, did I show up for you? Did I show up when or how I said I would? If not, why not? And, what can I change so that I show up with more intentionality and more accountability in the year to come?

The feel of Elul is in the air—literally and figuratively. The temperatures have started to drop a bit here in New York, the sign of fall and a new season upon us. And, this week we gathered FJC’s professional team together, IRL (in real life) for the first time in three years. We reflected on our strategic initiatives to meet our organizational mission: to lead the field of Jewish camp to significantly grow the number of participants who benefit from joyous Jewish summers.

We opened the retreat with a text from Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Ancestors) 1:6 which says: “Make for yourself a teacher, acquire for yourself a friend, and judge every person on the side of merit.” This theme spoke to me deeply and reminded me—and hopefully our entire team—of how much we can learn from one another, depend on one another, and respect and appreciate one another.

Well-timed for this period of the Jewish calendar, we spent our second day together talking about accountability. We worked through new systems on how our team can be more accountable in our work and how we can be role models for each other. I also began to think about what it means for us to be accountable to the different constituencies we serve—camp professionals, Jewish communal colleagues, lay leaders, and supporters.

As I reflect further about these ideas, my mind has been consumed with memories of a wonderful dear friend of over 40 years who passed away this week at age 104, Harold Smith z”l. As a longtime benefactor of Herzl Camp in Wisconsin, Harold represents a wonderful role model as an active board member, effective ambassador, passionate advocate, and generous funder of Jewish camp. (To learn more about this remarkable human, please see this article, A Role Model To The End, Harold Smith Passes At 104.) We can all learn from the ways in which he showed up as a role model for others and how he always held himself accountable. I truly hope his memory will continue to inspire all of us as we move forward to support individual camps as well as the entire field.

I wish you all a Shana Tova u’Metukah—a New Year blessed with goodness and sweetness. May we all judge each other—and ourselves—on the side of merit, and may we continue to show up as positive role models for each other as we move into 5783.

About the Author
Jeremy J. Fingerman has served as CEO of Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) since 2010. Prior to joining FJC, he had a highly-regarded 20+ year career in Consumer Packaged Goods, beginning at General Mills, Inc, then at Campbell Soup Company, where he served as president of its largest division, US Soup. In 2005, he was recruited to serve as CEO of Manischewitz.
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