At the ripe old age of 40, we are only just getting started. (Read more)
March 1, 2022
In my experience, there’s a logic to the universe, a certain symbiosis.
We are currently celebrating Pesach, or Passover, a holiday (my favorite) during which Jews around the world tell the thousands-years-old story of the exodus from Egypt and our wandering in the desert 40 years.
This year, we also celebrate the 40 year birthday of the organization once known as…
Wait. Not yet. Keep reading.
In Jewish numerology, 40 has a special significance. Among other things, Pirkei Avot 5:26, offers that at age 40 “a man attains understanding.” (Although my substantially better half, Sheila, might have a little something to say about it, at the age of nearly-57, I’m delighted to be just about 17 years into my age of wisdom!) Moses was on Mount Sinai 40 days and 40 nights.
Turns out, 40 has great significance in all the world’s great religious traditions. In Christianity, 40 appears in the Bible 146 times. Forty generally symbolizes a period of testing, trial and then, finally, triumph. In Islam, the number 40 is mentioned in the Quran four times, and, similar to Judaism, 40 is the age when a person reaches their intellectual perfection and attains an understanding of life.
Forty years ago this year, Jewish Foundation for Group Homes (JFGH) was born. Conceptualized just one year earlier, articles of incorporation were filed in 1982 and in less than a year, the very first home to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) supported by JFGH would represent the birth of an agency. Not quite as substantial as the world’s great religious traditions, but profoundly significant nonetheless.
As JFGH has grown over these 40 years, from the early years of a handful of people supported and a shoestring budget to the organization we are today, we hope that we’ve attained understanding as well. We’ve learned a fair few things over four decades—that it’s the person who we support and their aspirations that guide our work. That self-determination, inviolate for all, is the only framework for supports that matters. That our role is not, in fact, so paternal as to focus on health and safety alone, but is instead as partner to the people we support. We walk alongside as they pursue a quality of life they determine. That all people have a place in the world community, and that ALL means ALL.
In the months just before the COVID-19 pandemic, JFGH undertook a massive and unprecedented strategic planning process. Stalled because of the pandemic, we re-engaged the process in November 2020, and adopted the current strategic plan in July 2021. Among its imperatives was a comprehensive examination of the brand with an eye to a new name, a new logo, a new and fresh beginning that embraces the legacy of our past while turning us intentionally to our envisioned future. We spoke to hundreds of people across our community, from people we support to their families, from our philanthropic investors to our government partners, from our staff to members of our Board of Directors, from thought leaders in our field to our partners from similar organizations in the local region and nationally, and many others.
As we celebrate our 40 year birthday, we proudly announce that in April this year, we become—drum roll………
In Hebrew (מָקוֹם), makom means place. For us, ‘place’ isn’t a home or a location or a spot on the map. For us, place is where each of us and all of us belong. It is our role in the world community, our part in a constellation within which we are a natural and expected part. It represents the notion that the world is incomplete without everyone having their place in it.
And, most importantly for us, it is our sacrosanct commitment—our obligation, in fact—to demanding that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have their place in the world community fully acknowledged, and that without them, we are imperfect and incomplete.
To accompany our new name, we add this simple, elegant but profound tagline: Supporting self-determined lives.
Everyone has their place in the human gestalt. If anyone is missing, we are less than our whole. And each and every one of us determine the course of our lives. For most of us, our ability has never been prerequisite to expressing our individual free will. We get to choose. All of us get to choose. All means all.
And so it is, on the occasion of our 40th birthday, that we become Makom.
At the ripe old age of 40, we are only just getting started. Beyond our new name and all that it represents, we have an ambitious agenda that focuses on health advocacy, career development and support, and the fullest expressions of community living to name just a few. We embrace our roll in walking alongside people as they doggedly pursue their aspirations and their life’s dreams. With a nod to our past and laser focus on our future, we look forward to our next 40 years.
Gam zu l’tovah.