The Rabbis of the Talmud teach us that when we pray, we are to pray in a minyan (a group of ten worshippers), that we ought not to be alone. When we study, we are advised to study in chavruta, (study partners), that we ought not to be alone. And, when we are in a time of need or challenge, Perkei Avot (Ethics of our Ancestors,) teaches us to find ourselves a teacher, mentor or friend, or to make ourselves one, to not try to navigate our challenges, needs or even our dreams and aspirations alone.

To me, professional growth is not about the workshop I attend, the skill sets I learn or the experiences I ought and want to have to become a more productive, enriched and successful Jewish community professional. It is the who I engage with in these workshops, who I get to know while mastering these skills and who I develop meaningful, deep relationships with during these experiences.

This may sound familiar. This is the Wexner community, after all, and we are all about cohorts. You may agree that while we gain from the wonderful technical aspects of a Wexner Fellowship (the workshops, the Jewish education, etc.,) we really grow when we get to know deeply the individuals in our cohort (shout out to WFF Class 1), and the other Fellows, Alumni, faculty, coaches and Jewish educators that are a part of this wonderful community. By getting to know each other deeply, we get to know ourselves more deeply, what we care about, are inspired by and where we feel challenged. All that helps us crystalize our dreams, aspirations, skills and abilities.

Speaking of actualizing our dreams, I recently published my first book, Bless Our Workforce, which takes a deep dive into the career narratives of 13 Jewish community professionals, identifying big ideas, or “blessings,” for how we can motivate and value all Jewish community professionals. It identifies strategies supported by management best-practice and by the wisdom of our Jewish tradition. Interestingly, in examining each professional’s narrative, getting to know them deeply and what motivates each of them, I realized I got to know myself more clearly and what motivates and inspires me. As a result, I experienced my own tremendous professional growth.

In fact, writing a book has been the ultimate professional growth experience. I had to grow in many different skills in order to bring this project to life – strengthening professional research, writing and editing skills, learning how to build a website and market a product, strengthening my teaching skills so I can share these ideas in many forums, and perhaps most importantly, the skills of perseverance, time management and believing in myself that I can complete a project this massive and complex.

I only grew in all of these skills while being in relationship and receiving support from colleagues, teachers and friends. It’s not the what, it’s the who. So, as you read this and consider how you want to grow professionally, consider not only the conference, workshop or skill-building program that sparks your interest or fills a skill-area in need of growth. Consider and focus on the relationships you want to build and the people you wish to engage and learn more about for your own curiosity. Think about how you desire to support them as much as they want to support you.

If we prioritize getting to know each other deeply and be in meaningful relationship with each other, we can better support, motivate and value each other. We can get to know ourselves more deeply in the process, achieving tremendous and valuable professional growth. We will discover so much more about ourselves, our potential and ability to thrive in our professional and personal lives, for the benefit of all those around us. Then, as a workforce, and as individual Jewish community professionals – we will truly be and feel blessed.

Get To Know The Author

WFF Alum Mark S. Young (Class 1) is the director of JResponse and an integral member of the program and talent team at JCC Association of North America. Mark recently published his first book, Bless Our Workforce: Changing the Way We Manage Our People.