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Podcast – Addie Goodman: JCC Chicago Provides Resources and Support for Community

Thursday, June 2, 2022
Podcast – Addie Goodman: JCC Chicago Provides Resources and Support for Community

This week, at The One Thing Podcast, by The Horton Group, our host Jason Helfert, talks to our guest, Addie Goodman, President and CEO of the Jewish Community Center (JCC) Chicago. They are the largest JCC in the country, welcoming approximately 65,000 people to their programs every year. Their services support children, families, teens, adults and older adults.

Their work has been especially meaningful to their community since 2020, where many people were living in isolation and missing the companionship they once had. When the schools were closed, JCC Chicago created virtual playgrounds for families with young children who weren’t able to socialize in person, and they provided childcare options for parents who couldn’t take time off work. Additionally, they addressed growing mental health concerns by hiring fourth full-time social worker (to their team of three), a full-time inclusion coordinator and several part-time social workers in the summer, ultimately resulting in twice as many social workers as they’ve had in the past.

“We have a lot to offer and we’re very proud of the niche that we created for this community,” Goodman said. “We will continue expanding our work so people can recognize that we are a beautiful place to try new things and find new friends.”

Listen to our podcast above for the full interview with Addie Goodman and learn more about how JCC Chicago fills the needs of their community members, what challenges they’ve had to overcome in the last few years and what they’ll be focusing on in the future.


Well hello and welcome to the one thing podcast brought to you by The Horton Group or at the Horton Group. We specialize in Insurance employee benefits and a risk advisory. And I am your host Jason Helfert and today. We have on the podcast, a friend of mine, president and CEO of JCC Chicago, Addie Goodman. How are you? Ready? I’m good, Jason. So, nice to see you again. Good to see you, too. So, how was your Mother’s Day? Most important question first, that’s right. Well, I will tie so for children that are teens and young adults now, so, you know, their focus on Mother’s Day is not so much about handmade cards. I will say but we also adopted a baby puppy. So I feel like I had my Mother’s Day with our new baby in the house. That’s a member you’re saying that too and it’s funny Doris Day was a very popular actress of her time and she once said that I have found that when you’re deeply troubled there are things you get from the silent devotion devoted companionship of a dog, they can get from no other source. Yeah, and I thought it was pretty timely for things that are going on in the world. And as you know, we have a dog too, and I know what she means to us and our Family, and I could see the way she just calms down myself and, and are for kids as well. And my wife, Laura and a day, you and I have talked about, and I’ve talked about this podcast before how the last two and a half years, have been pretty heavy, and people have been living in, largely isolation, and missing the companionship 

and community that they once had, and a probably, especially the Gen Z. And so those are the Gen Z for people, who know, they know, The people are born after 1997 and they’ve experienced a large large dose of tragedy in their lives. And you look at it for the ones that are older gen Z. Those Coming of Age years. They’ve experienced 911 and Sandy Hook and now the pandemic and so they may be more than two ballasts are probably missing that Community, missing that companionship 


of life. And when I hear stories about the impact, that JCC has to the Unity. The impact that jccc has on companionship. It reminds me of the companionship that a dog can provide to a family. It brings people together. And so while not silent at all, the JCC provides that human need for. So many, people least from my experience. And so, what can you sure Eddie? What the listening audience that the ways in which JCC is helping the community with companionship and community and had you had to change anything you’ve done before pandemic and now coming up. Of it, you know, Jason’s a really interesting segue from the dog to community. And I have to say that, you know, your puppy is in your dogs, and your home are really there for you. When you need them. You want to go outside and go for a walk, their game. You want to sit and cuddle on the couch, their game. So really, they’re they’re not in service to us necessarily, but they really follow our lead and I feel like the jccc has really followed the communities lead during this time, really being there for children families. 

He’s older adults in ways. They need and want, especially in light of those needs and wants being different during the period of the pandemic and ongoing now. So, in terms of like what we’ve changed, of course, we changed in some ways of the logistical operations as we all did with covid protocol, but that’s not really I think where the anchor of change for our organization comes from. We welcome 60,000 people to our organizations programs every year. It’s a lot of people who come to rely on GCC Chicago, one way or another. We are not in Clinical space, we are not in Mental Health Organization, but mental health is very much on the minds of people today, and very much a real part of their current lives and they’re coming to us. So, we really found a significant increase need for us to be able to welcome them where they are and provide supports that are appropriate from the community center perspective. So for young families, it means that you’ve just had a baby and you can’t do the things that, you know, would normally do and go out and about and go to the park and have a play. A date. And so we had virtual playgroups online for families when school was closed, of course, we pivoted to online stuff, but we opened super quick, really understanding that families still need a childcare. They’re working from home. Childcare doesn’t go away as a need for working parents and that the kids really Thrive with routine and community and socialization and all the good things that comes from a communal setting like that in 2020. We ran Camp Day Camp when hardly anybody did we found a way and a Guiding Light? Organization during this time. As if it is possible, we can do it and if you found a way technically to do all of the stuff, but we’ve really behind the scenes boosted, our ability to support individuals as they are in ways that they need. So I think a point of Pride for us is certainly the double and triple down of licensed, social workers that are present for our preschools. We 17 preschools in the Chicagoland area, nine day camps, all have dedicated licensed local social. Workers all summer. It’s a very different look at what community center your local J or local. Why might be focused on. But for us it’s definitely been a significant focus and we’re really proud of the progress we’ve made in that space. Yeah, think about that. So, the social worker aspect alone. I am assuming those do had services like that pre-pandemic. And so was the doubling down if you will. Was that in response to the pandemic? Or did you have parents like drastically saying Daddy? We need we need more help. Need more services. So traditionally We are the only JCC in the country with an internal social services team. So it’s always been a differentiator for us. We’ve always had three people. Almost three ftes that we’re focused primarily on Early Childhood. So we focus on things like early intervention and helping parents recognize that speech is delayed or you might benefit from a referral to here or they’re helping parents struggle with whatever the realities are of having children, zero to five. We’ve added to that team, a fourth full. I’m social worker, a full-time inclusion coordinator and twice as many social workers in the summer, that we would normally have. And I think one of the, the fourth full-time social worker position is really focused on our day, camp Community, which is 3500 plus kids, strong plus the, you know, 7 800 counselors, that support them all summer and our teen community. So we talked a lot to our teens and like I said, I have a hint of teens and young adults myself and there’s a lot of lost their and We talk to our teens, what they said they wanted were they wanted some place where they felt very comfortable coming to or it wasn’t foreign to them. They really knew the the rules of the road. So to speak and could easily be part of that space. They wanted to be with her friends and have fun and the third thing they highlighted was a need to recognize and themselves and their peers mental health concerns. Okay, what’s a warning sign in myself. If my friend says a b or c. What is that warning? Sign? Should I tell someone? One, who is it? Okay to tell. What do I say? Without betraying confidence, and my friend shared with me? So those Dynamics really led us to adding this fourth full-time role. And like I said, it is that sort of frame to that supporting our day camp and overnight camp communities where we are so Adolescent and teen heavy. Well, that’s that’s a, that’s a lesson that any Organization for profit. Nonprofit. Could take take a lesson from because adults struggle with talking about Mental Health, Challenges and we’re adults, right? We’re supposed to be aware of these things and have a platform to speak and talk to each other on. But I think a lot of people feel hit, there’s still a stigma about it. Sometimes some I think some work environments either intentionally or not intentionally, don’t provide a safe harbor to talk about those things and just to make it okay, for these coming-of-age teens. Hey, this is, this is okay. This is real life and let’s talk about it. Yeah, we even have a new platform, ask an expert in animus lie, so that teen? Who’s concerned? Earned it and it’s not just, you know, isolation and separation that has come to the Forefront. But there’s a lot of self exploration, which is kind of what your teen years are for. Anyway, like who Am I, who do I want to be? And when you have those thoughts and conversations internally only, and you don’t really have a chance to unpack with friends and see who your friend is becoming and what choices. They’re making it makes a lot of those feelings seem much much heavier than they would in a normal environment. So we’ve really been proud to do that work. And See us really? Probably leading an even more deeply moving forward. I think that’s one of those I have, you know, kids a minor a little younger, but still, we have the junior high age. And that’s a weird age for anybody and as we all remember, but they get at some of these kiddos get, a lot of their education from what online and and so, I think the services, the JC provides for those individuals. So, important as a parent, I’m thinking, hey, what else, what better thing to have for our children and a It’s like this. So I applaud you on those efforts, and you mentioned before, we talked about a little bit, Eddie you have about over what 3,500 kids in camps. They have over 200 teachers and quite a big organization. And I think, at least maybe this is my traditional brain speaking is, I think that’s what most people think about JCC. Right the camps in the school aid programs, but you mentioned a couple of new services and opportunities. Providing to the community. Anything new. What’s the one thing if you can? One thing new One thing excited or one thing that maybe you’ll learn to the pandemic that you’re doing differently now. So much were differently. Now, that’s really benefiting the organization and if you already talked about it, is that a lot. So that’s okay. What about stuff? So I’ll share with you something that I’ve been spending a lot of my own personal time working on. So again, JCC Chicago were the largest J cesium on the continent. We’re big in a lot of ways and that number of people that we serve in the scope of our, you know, fiscal position and also the geography See that we expand across, we’re also a system. So we’re kind of like a lot of JCC’s under one umbrella. So we’re big and therein lies. Our structure of seven Early Childhood centers nine day camps and overnight camp and Retreat Center in Wisconsin and on and on and on being big. I think also comes with a responsibility and for us is the largest provider of Jewish Early Childhood in the country and one of the largest providers of Early Childhood in Illinois, Soup To Nuts. I think we really have a responsibility. The to advocate for that field. So you may not know. But today is May 9th, and it is something that is newly dubbed, you know, one something about like what if one day there was no child care. It’s an online activist, you know, Focus which is really shining a light on the crisis. That is Early Childhood. The structure of high cost for families and low pay for educators is broken and I’ve been spending quite a bit of time engaged in conversation with our elected officials and enjoy the, our Jewish federations lobbying work through their government. Affairs Division. And really pushing the needle on what is the structural correction for the field of Early Childhood childcare is not unnecessary. It’s not going away. It will continue to be something. That is mandatory for many families and our society as a whole. So what can we do to really move the needle on making sure that those who are caring for our youngest children? Providing all that. That we talked about Community early intervention, referral? All connection tip, here’s personal growth. Those individuals who are stewarding our young minds like that. How can we make sure that their pay is strong and that families can fight affordable? Child care? That is also high quality. So while not kind of part of what we present to the community, it is very much behind the scenes work that is essential to making sure that we are a strong Community partner, not only for our own organization, but for the many organizations that provide child care, Air throughout Chicago, Illinois, the country at large. Hmm. And what’s the, what have you found with all the efforts? There is the not, maybe not the one challenge but it’s a huge challenge is trying to with that undertake a put it that way. Listen, there’s been countless conversations and and articles and news stories on the crisis. That is The Edge is education. The Exodus of teachers from the field, the dearth of a pie. Line for incoming Educators. So I’m really looking to think outside the box. Okay, and I’m having conversations that may not have been had before to the effect that I raised my hand so much so many times so high and waved it around the please. Let’s pay attention to this. And we’ve been very successful to secure a dedicated lobbying session on June 2nd. So that are Illinois. Elected officials can focus on only Early Childhood, whereas in traditional lobbying sessions, you know, you might have of three, four, five priority items that you’re kind of running down for the officials who join you, these days on screen previously in Springfield and DC. But now we’re able to spend the entire period of time only on early childhood and that’s the form that you want to start with. We can get our feet wet and really anchored with individuals who really have the ability to create and pass legislation. Then, I think that we’re onto something for the course of the pandemic. The cares act funding childcare restoration grants is how that He came through. Illinois was essential for us and many others in keeping our doors open and ensuring that our parents didn’t pick up the burden of school closure costs and other things like that. So we want to see what we can do now in the next phase, which is again, highlighted by that pandemic, but it’s not a new story. It’s just an exacerbated story at this point. Sure. Is there any call out to the the community? And how can we help? So I should go to jccc Chicago dot-org today. You will find on our Facebook page and in our Instagram accounts. And on our website, a whole bunch of things that you can do on this day May 9 and moving forward. So that’s always a good source to see what little piece of the pie that you can have. But we were looking for people to sign on with a commitment to Equitable affordable Early Childhood care for those. You listen, that’s JC Go on there and find out ways you get help and I’m sure they’re looking for also Financial ways to help to get involved. Volunteer be part of the solution here and In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart. So that was made famous by Anne Frank. So, in spite of everything, I still be. The people are really good at heart, and I like to believe that. And I also acknowledge that, I think it’s easy to romanticize that idea. And I think it’s harder to embrace that idea when you hear continued stories of intolerance and one thing that comes to mind, one thing is certain the Conscious bias, but a lack of Education, or a lack of appreciation for diversity, amongst many people. And I know this topic is very important to you and JCC. And Eddie one thing I’ve come to learn all through you, and looking on your website. Jason is learning more about violins of Hope and it’s a really kind of goose moisture, a really cool Mission story, it just it kind of warms our heart and again, I got who’s once again, it makes me feel really good. Would you mind sharing? The group size or the group or the audience. I think they’d like to hear about it. What is violins of Hope and how are those efforts meant to address intolerance? So, violins of Hope is a beautiful Global project. The violence themselves is a group of 60 musical instruments that have been rescued from the Holocaust and restored, every violent has a story every violin was played and can be played again, and they have literally traveled the globe. So JCC Chicago is bringing Violins of Hope to the Chicago and Illinois Community for the first time. Beginning in April of 2023. 


They are designed to be a tool for Meaningful. Relatable Holocaust Education really with the undertone, themes of anti-hate, acceptance and tolerance, hope in a way that really brings humanity. And the human story to an experience that at this point is Generations removed from our young people. Today’s young people. Of, you know, we did you just said Jason, you know, they’re online a lot to make a lot of their information on a screen, and a lot of times that information is really anchored in bias and anti acceptance, right? Anything other than really wrapping your arms around your neighbor. Through this experience. JCC will tour the violins from through public and private schools. Middle High School University level. Fun fact, you might not know the viewers listeners might not Know that Illinois is the first state in the country to have mandated Holocaust Education from middle and high school. Students and there are only 20 states that mandate Holocaust Education today, three of which signed on just last year. So we see this as an opportunity to really lift the story of the human story of the Holocaust, off the page and provided to students in a way that is something that they can really understand the people behind the words in the text book. I think that there’s a lot of opportunity here and a great Ally. I meant for Jace’s to Chicago and that one of our catchphrases that we love to say is that we’re about growing good kids and growing good. Kids means that you really grow people with heart and an open heart and open mind. And this is part of what the initiative is a designed to do. One thing that we’re really excited about is because it is a it’s an Endeavor to bring the violence or their Priceless instruments, and they require a lot of care. They will be in Residence at the Illinois. Holocaust Museum from July to September. So we actually have a six month period of time here. In Chicagoland, but we are developing an interactive virtual platform such that the opportunity to learn through and be educated through the story of the violins will be available to literally every and any teacher in the country. No charge in a way that we think is really beautiful and connects people today to stories of the past through music and something that is so simple, but certainly has an incredible story to tell. I think that’s beautiful. It really is it really is there? I mean, it’s just it’s a different way to connect with people through storytelling and I love that. I think people generally not all learners, but can learn through stories and grasp that better. And I think that’s really, really impactful and I’m excited to see it. I love to bring my kids up there to see it as well. And so I think maybe one final question for you is you is you sit as president and CEO of JCC and as you lead your leadership team there, if you look through your lens out. Into the future. What do you? What do you see? What do you most excited about? 


What I’m most excited about is the opportunity for a community center, like ours to really be a catalyst for connection, of course, community, that comes from connection. And also change the world today is very different than it was just a handful of years ago. And it’s very different from when Jay-Z Chicago was established almost 120 years ago, you know, we were an organization that was created to welcome immigrants and ensure that they had a safe place to be Get access to Medical Care. Be able to recreate at a time when Jews were not invited openly to every place. That’s not our story. Today. We’re living in a very different world where that’s not, our core competency and our primary Mission but much more. So we are about especially these days finding avenues for people to join together. We love it. When people come and meet at the J and will say like they’ll say, oh I came to camp and I had a great experience, but then we went to an overnight camp that JCC. But it, with my day, camp, friends. Great your JCC story. Should continue, well beyond the programs that you engage with specific to our agency. So our hope is that we’re really a launching pad for again, children families, teens older adults, but there’s really any age you are. There’s a thing that we have for you at the J. And if it’s not of interest to you, there’s going to be another thing that we can connect you to. That’s just as beautiful and we really see ourselves as an anchor in the collective. Of that is a network of agencies serving Chicagoland. We all have a lot to offer and we’re very proud for the niche that we have in the community. And also our continued expanding work so that people can recognize that we are a beautiful place to try new things and find new friends and really feel that full heart that we all do when we come together in a community. Well, Addie, I certainly feel the heart the passion that that comes through you and your when you talk about JCC. And so I’m sure that Please and the kiddos and everybody. The community-at-large feels that as well. And so thank you for all that you do. I want to say thank you for joining me today on the podcast. I really appreciate your friendship. And so that’s going to wrap it up for today. And so until next time, I’m back for the horde of group. I’m Jason Helfer saying, thank you for listening to the one thing podcast. Thank you Jason. Thank you for having me today. Very welcome.

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