Walking The Walk: CJE’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiative

As CJE approaches its 50th anniversary, we like to recognize our history of progress and accomplishments. But we also want to look to the future and challenge ourselves to progress by asking questions such as: “Who do we serve?” “What sets us apart?” “What do we stand for?” One example of our evolution as an organization is our heightened emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Historically, CJE has not discriminated in our programs and services or in our recruitment. Our global diversity statement states “CJE strives to enhance the lives of older adults regardless of religion, sex, race, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin.” We are proud of our successful record on diversity and consider it a sincere privilege to enable clients and employees alike to thrive within the rich multiculturalism, ethnic diversity, and pluralism that defines CJE. Stimulated by a push from President and CEO Dan Fagin, CJE’s original Diversity Committee was reactivated with the words “equity” and “inclusion” added to its name.

Waslking The Walk: CJE’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiative

CJE is a mission-driven organization deeply committed to a set of Jewish values that have social justice at their core. It follows that we would compassionately and sensitively provide the most optimal programs and services for older adults, particularly from under-represented groups. In addition, we hold our employees in the highest esteem and consider them assets to CJE. Their wide range of educational backgrounds, life experiences, and different approaches to their work better equips us to understand the many people we serve. This amalgam of many different minds with a variety of experiences and backgrounds creates a productive work environment that sparks innovation and creativity and generates positive outcomes. It has been shown that organizations that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace experience increases in creativity, employee engagement, positive reputation, range of skills, and cultural insights. Plus, a reduction in turnover is likely.

Fagin sums things up: “We do not judge our commitment to diversity a success just because we have so many talented people on board with such differing backgrounds. Everyone must also feel they can succeed at CJE SeniorLife and that their unique backgrounds and perspectives are truly valued. Cultivating an environment of diversity, equity, and inclusion is essential to delivering superior results for our workplace and community.

Diversity defines us, but equity and inclusion make us stronger as both a thriving agency and a community. Our differences are not just tolerated or accepted but valued and embraced.”

CJE’s Diversity Evolution. According to Ron Roman, Vice President, Human Resources and Learning, CJE SeniorLife formed its first Diversity Committee about 10 years ago. Composed of a mixed group of staff, it was fairly active and tackled issues such as kosher and non-kosher food in the workplace, recognition of holidays and remembrance days, and harassment training. The Committee also sponsored a new Respect in the Workplace training program and partnered with the existing Fun Committee to make sure all organized activities were inclusive. Over time, the Committee eventually became more of an ad hoc committee and met only as needed.

Roman suggests that the time was ripe for a revival of the Committee, because, as he said, “Times indeed have changed. Movements such as Black Lives Matter and Me Too arose, drawing attention to racial inequities and sexual harassment.” An obvious increase in attention to and amplification of some basic truths had occurred. “It was determined that CJE needed to regroup in order to expand, refine, and elevate the mission and purpose of our original Diversity Committee to the next level,” he explains.

Waslking The Walk: CJE’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiative

As part of CJE’s initiative toward becoming an “Employer of Choice,” the new Committee formed in fall 2020 with Roman and Fagin designated as leadership sponsors. More than a dozen staff nominated themselves for the Committee. Two members came forward and were selected as Co-Chairs—Michele Mangrum, Manager of Outreach & Customer Service and Robbin Johnson-Carter, Manager of Learning & Development. “All of CJE is excited about this new, active, and involved Committee. We look forward to seeing the impact it makes,” Roman concludes.   


About the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee

All seats of the DEI Committee have been filled with a diverse mix of staff, and it convenes monthly. The Committee has an extensive Charter that guides members with its mission and purpose and includes a scope of activities with directives for assisting and providing resources for staff including the following:

  • Monitoring the development, implementation, and evaluation of standards for cultural competence for staff.
  • Informing and consulting with staff and administration regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.
  • Serving as a resource for guidance and consultation regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion issues for staff.
  • Disseminating information about ongoing professional development training around diversity, equity, and inclusion for staff.
  • Seeking regular feedback from employees to inform decision-making and understand opportunities for improvement.

 

Staff are encouraged to consider the DEI Committee as a valuable resource to help enrich and broaden CJE’s diversity initiative. Feel free to contact the Co-Chairs at michele.mangrum@cje.net or robbin.johnson-carter@cje.net to discuss DEI issues. Visit cje.net/DiversityEquityInclusion to learn more.