I never before thought that saying that was in any way heroic. I’ve been going to JCCs, or the Y as I knew it when I was a Newark kid, for my entire life. I never ever gave it a thought.
The dances were terrific meet markets. Our club, The Filantes, met at the Y on Chancellor Avenue every week for four years of high school. I spent some time at Nah Jee Wah, which is not an item on a Chinese menu but a JCC camp in Milford, Pennsylvania. And we never miss the Jewish Film Festival. Just bought tickets for four films.
There are exhibits. There are concerts. There are programs galore. The JCC is, in short, an amazing asset for any community.
And it’s Jewishly integrated by design. Jews of every denomination are at home and equal. Wear a kippah or a sheitel. Fine. Don’t ever go to shul. Fine. It’s your life and your JCC.
And is it ever busy! Our JCC is a huge building. You really need a map to find your way around. But, no matter when you arrive, for sure there’ll be enormous numbers of others using the facility to its fullest.
And I’m not one of the big users! I have a friend, a retired pediatrician, who swims daily at the local JCC. She’s over 90.
A member of my family goes there several times a week to exercise and shmooze. Both of those are respected JCC activities.
And today we are going to see our granddaughter Sarit in The Wizard of Oz. This is her second performance with the JCC. And what’s really unique about these kids’ performances is that every single kid who tries out for a part gets a part. No hurt feelings. They’re all stars. I’ve seen enough bruised feelings in my career as a mother and grandmother to know how crushing it can be to be rejected for a part in a school play,. That’s not the JCC way. Each kid is validated and made to feel like he counts. That’s the JCC way.
As a matter of fact JCC programs serve early childhood through old age. There is always something going on for everyone. Always!
My husband and I always make a stop at local JCCs throughout America when we travel. It’s a wonderful way to meet locals and figure out a bit of their communities. We’ve been to many many of them. Always different and always the same. Different people but the same vitality.
We’ve been to related organizations in other parts of the world. Last year we went, on a stormy day, to a center in Moscow. It had the same feeling of inclusiveness and dynamism as our West Orange JCC. And we saw the little Russian kids in the nursery school enjoying a beautiful facility. And we saw the ancients, our contemporaries, doing the same, with plenty of room for those in between.
In the Latin American world, particularly Mexico City and San Jose, Costa Rica, centers are known as clubs and they are the true centers of the Jewish communities they serve.
JCCs supplement other Jewish organizations, both those with real estate like shuls, and those without/ organizations such as Hadassah and AJC.
But it’s a symbiotic relationship. In our American communities the volume of Jews in a community is usually related to the number of shuls. The JCC needs these numbers to grow and survive.
Probably not known to those who phone in bomb threats is that a large number of JCC members is not even Jewish. Spread the word! The people you are trying to scare away may be members of your own family!
So why on earth does anyone want to interfere with an organization which is completely apolitical, completely welcoming to a diverse membership, and designed to implement the best in Jewish and American values? This is purely a rhetorical question. Who could possibly have an answer?
Does one have to feel heroic to go to the JCC? Of course the answer to that is a resounding no!
But the JCC response is, of necessity, expensive enhanced security. Money from programming is diverted to guard against evil-doers. Or evil threats. Shameful.
Now it’s up to us to strut our stuff. To support JCC programming so that we can teach the evil ones that they don’t scare us. They can’t scare us. We’ll protect our Jewish institutions but we’ll never be afraid to use them. As a matter of fact, now we’ll go more than ever! I’m off to see the Wizard!