Hillel professionals enjoy the Baltimore Aquarium at PSC 2006.
Recently described as a "family reunion," this year's Professional Staff Conference (PSC) will convene in Washington, D.C. on December 17. Over four days, more than 730 Hillel professionals, partner agencies and industry experts from all over the world will come together to teach, learn, schmooze and dance (yes, dance!) at the Renaissance Hotel in the nation's captial.
For many, PSC is a once-a-year opportunity to connect face-to-face with colleagues across the country and the Atlantic Ocean. For others, like the 139 Hillel professionals hired since January 2007, it is their first experience at PSC.
"For first-timers, PSC is a lot like a family reunion with your new in-laws," says Graham Hoffman, Director of Implementation and Innovation at the Schusterman International Center (SIC). "You won't necessarily recognize everyone at first, but the more interactions you have, the more you feel a part of the family."
PSC Co-chairs Arlene Miller (UCLA) and Jay Lewis (University of Kansas) created the theme "Good to Great" for this year's conference. Carefully selected to convey the message that Hillel is well on its way to achieving "great" things, the theme also points to the recent success of Hillel's Strategic Plan.
"We have already done our research and begun to implement practices that are growing Hillel's success," says Wayne L. Firestone, president of Hillel. "We are 'good' and we're well on our way to being 'great.'"
Lewis echoes Firestone's remarks and adds "The conference theme recognizes where we are in the Hillel timeline and also challenges us to think strategically about how we can do our jobs better."
Hillel professionals will have the opportunity to meet that challenge through a number of professional networking and "Think Tank" sessions which combine best practices training and strategic-thinking.
This year's PSC schedule is currently available online and features an entertaining and impressive list of speakers and performers including Jewish comedians, film directors, published authors and civil rights leaders.
Hillel participants will also be invited on an evening bus tour of Washington's monuments, a late-night movie screening, stand-up comedy, an Israel @ 60 dessert reception and an elaborate gala dinner-dance. Professionals from the SIC encourage their colleagues to explore the District including local art galleries and nearby Chinatown.
"My co-chair [Arlene Miller] and I wanted to convey a sense of celebration," explains Lewis. "Often, at this time of year, we are all so overwhelmed. PSC should really be like the 'Shabbat' in our year. It's not exactly a time of rest, but it is a chance to reflect and re-energize ourselves."
In particular, Lewis is looking forward to the "Why Be Jewish?" sessions which are a new spin on Jewish Learning sessions of previous PSCs. According to Lewis, those sessions were highly rated but saw low attendance. This year, "Why Be Jewish?" was designed to be more accesible to Hillel staffers.
Another one of the "great" things that Hillel has decided to do differently this year is to create an environmentally and socially friendly conference. For the first time ever, PSC will be carbon neutral. This means that the more than 200 tons of CO2 emissions created by Hillel's hotel stay, energy use and travel will be offset by an investment from Hillel to NativeEnergy, a Native American energy company. Hillel's contribution will help build a Farm Methane Digester in Minnesota.
Additionally, fair trade coffee will be served throughout the conference and attendees will be encouraged to bring their own coffee mugs and water bottles. The conference will use recycled-paper for all printed materials, donate leftover food to a local shelter and has selected an energy-friendly hotel to play host.
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