Wednesday, March 29, 2023

(Courtesy of OU) Nearly 100 OU-JLIC directors, national staff, OU staff and families from across the U.S., Israel and Canada gathered in Tarrytown, New York in January for a weekend of training and networking at WinterCon 2023.

Participants, many of whom were meeting each other for the first time in person, celebrated OU-JLIC’s success with an extensive schedule of events. Highlights included a networking reception, challah bake, and a series of sessions devoted to professional development.

Dorit Cohen, OU-JLIC director at Brandeis, felt inspired “amongst such a diverse, talented and driven group of people who are all working with the same population, under the same mission.”

WinterCon Shabbat festivities were kicked off by OU-JLIC Director Rabbi Joshua “Shuki” Klein of UPenn, who led a soulful Kabbalat Shabbat to the tune of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” followed by spontaneous dancing.

Orthodox Union (OU) President Mitchel Aeder and Executive Vice President and COO Rabbi Dr. Josh Joseph led an engaging and interactive fireside chat. Moderated by OU-JLIC Director at UCLA and Executive Coach Sharona Kaplan, MSW, the conversation provided a unique opportunity to hear the speakers’ personal perspectives and insights.

Reflecting on the significance of the weekend, Kaplan noted how “WinterCon strengthened the power of OU-JLIC’s professional network. It provided a valuable injection of energy as we collectively celebrated the achievements of the first semester and powered up for our return to campus.”

Kaplan herself was lauded by her colleagues over the course of the weekend for serving as a mentor and role model. Both she and her husband, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, executive director of OU-JLIC West Coast, were also among those recognized for their “optimal” successes in development.

As the first in-person reunion since COVID, WinterCon set the stage for staff bonding through shared stories, shiurim, educational collaboration and nostalgia.

“My highlight was connecting with each director on a personal level,” said Development Associate Adi Raviv. “After a year and a half limited to phone conversations, it was meaningful to form real relationships.”

Another staff member seemed to speak for everyone when she asked, “When are we getting together next?”

OU-JLIC helps young men and women thrive and observe key aspects of Jewish life on secular campus environments and in young professional communities across the United States, Canada and Israel. For more info visit www.oujlic.org 

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