After leaving for six years to take the top spot at the Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg, Jennifer Ross said she is happy to be back at Homeland Center and again be “a strong, supportive presence for our residents and their families.”
“I love the care and attention given here to each resident,” she said. “It’s a joyful place to come to work. This is a community here. That’s what is important to me: really doing something meaningful and impactful, enjoying the people I work with, and enjoying being with the residents.”
Since late May 2022, Jenn has been Homeland Center’s manager of strategy and IT, but in her first job with Homeland, she was assistant director of development.
Jenn is a native of Long Island, New York, who came to central Pennsylvania via Dickinson College in Carlisle. There, she studied French and sociology with a minor in fine arts history. Spending her junior year in France made her “incredibly fluent” in French, although she admits now, she could only have rudimentary conversations if a Francophone resident came to Homeland.
She credits her Dickinson liberal arts education with the ability to carve experience in various fields and return to Homeland in a different role. She calls it “the focus on being a citizen leader, on being able to apply yourself anywhere. If something has my interest or it’s something I have to focus on, I’ve learned to dive in and learn about it and be able to apply it.”
Jenn started her career in Harrisburg’s political and policy arena, working for the campaign and government relations firm of former Lieutenant Governor and Acting Governor Mark Singel. Then, for 16 years, she served as chief information officer and public policy for the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations.
She first encountered Homeland and its top-quality care when her husband’s grandmother was a resident. A good acquaintance of Jenn’s, Morton Spector, the late Homeland board chair, encouraged her to apply for her first Homeland post.
She stayed for almost two years and left “with regrets,” but at the time, she also chaired the Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg board and felt called to step in as CEO when her predecessor announced an unexpected retirement.
In her six years there, she counts accomplishments and partnerships that included leading the federation through COVID, confronting anti-Semitism by expanding ties to the interfaith community, and strengthening emergency management at a time when Jewish institutions were threatened.
Jenn now brings all that experience back to Homeland, filling the post held by Alice Kirchner before her retirement. Immediately, Jenn continued a project to implement an electronic medical records program, one of many initiatives to leverage modern technology to maintain Homeland’s standards of excellence.
“Especially in a time when for-profits are purchasing a lot of nonprofit homes, I want to do everything in my power to ensure we stay secure and continue our strong passion and mission to provide quality care for the residents,” she said. “This is their home, and we want to make sure it’s a place they love living in.”
In December, Jenn joined Homeland Chaplain Dann Caldwell in leading a menorah lighting and Hannukah service, complete with latkes – a nostalgic treat for Jewish residents and an enlightening event for non-Jews.
“Judaism is clearly a central part of my life,” Jenn said. “I like to enrich the lives of our Jewish residents when I can.”
Outside of work, Jenn and her husband, software programmer Michael Ross, enjoy traveling, including a long-awaited, once-postponed Caribbean cruise they took this year. She chairs Beth El Temple’s social action committee and is chairing Harrisburg’s annual Freedom Seder, an interfaith celebration of Passover that this year is themed “United Against Hate.”
“One thing I value and appreciate at Homeland Center is the great diversity,” she said. “We have numerous African American females in leadership positions, and it makes me proud to work here.”
Jenn loves Homeland’s Board of Directors and unique Board of Managers, the all-women group dedicated to maintaining a homelike atmosphere for the residents. All contribute to “so many amazing things we do at Homeland Center that make us unique and special and allow us to be the strong organization we are,” she said.
She also continues to marvel at the Homeland team.
“Everyone keeps incredibly busy from every department,’’ she said. “We wouldn’t be as successful as we are if people weren’t bringing their passion and best selves to Homeland every day. It’s an honor to work with everyone here.”