In The Last Word, we sit down with an industry expert to share their wealth of knowledge. In the 2021 November/December issue, the conversation features Jonah Geller, the CEO of the York JCC in York, Pennsylvania.
1. How did you get started in the community recreation industry?
As a child, the Pittsburgh JCC was my second home. My siblings and I were very involved — from camps to sports to music and more. I learned about the incredible power of a strong community very early on in my life and I have been driven to help build strong communities ever since.
2. What’s been a key to your organization’s success? What are you most proud of?
While still fairly new as CEO of the York JCC, I am most proud of being part of creating strong teams of professionals rooted in valuable leadership skills and a culture of positivity.
3. What has been one of the biggest accomplishments of your career?
Raising money for less-fortunate children to enjoy experiences just like any other child.
4. What has been one of the biggest challenges you have faced in your career?
As CEO of a year-round camp and conference center approximately 15 years ago, one of our summer staff members was tragically killed while on a camping trip with his campers. Among the countless challenges related to that incident — especially in a very close-knit community of families — being the one to inform his parents of what happened was extremely difficult.
5. What is one lesson you have learned that other community recreation professionals can learn from?
The opportunity to bring a group together and witness their growth, development and success as one cohesive entity — a cabin group at camp, a sports team, participants in an ongoing fitness class, etc. — is priceless.
6. Tell us one fact about yourself others may not know.
I once played a game of one-on-one basketball with Julius Erving, also known as Dr. J.