As we begin a new year, I find myself looking back in an extraordinarily different way on the one that just ended. Twelve months ago the Mandell JCC had exciting plans and high hopes for what we were going to accomplish together in 2020. Who could have ever imagined that we would soon be facing the greatest crisis in our generation? But in the midst of this dark crisis, there were many bright lights and shining moments that we would like to share with you.
The year began like most others, the JCC bustling with activities and events. Teens came together for the annual “Cooking for a Cause,” and with Chef Lindsay Perkins they prepared meals for a local community meals service; the JCC, with funding partner CIGNA, announced that 600 adults have been trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid; a panel of three rabbis discussed “At Home In America” in the first ALEPH program of the year; a record number of kids (and parent coaches) played in the Maccabi Basketball League; and the youth theater production of “Seussical” played to sold out audiences.
The Mandell JCC’s commitment to serving the community has never wavered in over 100+ years. Our mission was put to the test like never before at the onset of COVID-19 in March. When we found ourselves without a “playbook” for how to respond and operate, we created one and rose to meet the challenge in extraordinary ways.
We were all yearning for connection, so the JCC transformed our programs and services to a virtual platform that provided new ways to stay together, work out together, learn together and create together. We intend to continue our virtual offerings as we resume our in-person programs in order to allow our members to choose how they experience the JCC.
Thanks to a gift from the Mandell-Braunstein Family, the renovation to the JCC’s entrance was completed providing new security and access control; our Annual Jewish Film Festival opened to record ticket sales and was suspended with 9 films remaining; in response to COVID-19, the JCC transitioned from in-person programs to a virtual platform, and by the end of April we were offering classes and programs for people of all ages; all of us were heartened by our members and ECC families who “stayed with us” and donated their dues and tuition; in March we quickly mounted two major food drives to benefit local food pantries.
As we begin 2021, we continue to be faced with the profound impact of this pandemic and its rippling effects. But at the same time, we are feeling so hopeful and looking forward to our JCC's reimagined future as we begin to implement our Strategic Plan – “2020 and Beyond.”
We can’t wait for the day when we can all come together at the JCC for some of our favorite group gatherings: a game of basketball, lighting Shabbat candles in the Family Room, rehearsing a musical in the theater, or connecting with old and new friends at the senior luncheons. And those are just some of the long-time favorites. There is so much more to come as we introduce new and innovative offerings.
Giving Gratitude Day and Teacher Appreciation Week recognized our amazing JCC professionals; Virtual J began as a new continental platform of JCC programs including some of our events with (l to r) Talia Pollack, Lauren Kaplan, and Chef Lindsay Perkins; JCC summer camps and The Swim & Tennis Club opened to great relief and excitement.
Some well-deserved words of thanks…
None of our work would be possible without the wonderful JCC staff. I could not be prouder of our colleagues for their determination, ingenuity, and dedication to the J and our community. What they have accomplished will be remembered for years to come.
We are so thankful for the lay leaders of the J who serve on our Board of Directors. They are there for us in so many ways; providing support, sharing expertise, and serving as our ambassadors in the community. We are so fortunate.
Under carefully designed guidelines, the JCC and the Early Childhood Center were back in business; thanks to gifts from the Mandell-Braunstein Family, Renee & Bob Samuels, the Temkin-Weiner Family, and the Zachs Family – and from past presidents we completed the President’s Courtyard, a new outdoor program space; the Crisis Fund was launched to help counter the JCCs dramatic loss of revenue.
We are sustained by the generous JCC Community Donor Circle. To those of you who are Pillars Society members, Pacesetters and Crisis Fund supporters: our heartfelt gratitude to you. You have made a tremendous impact and we are very grateful.
Our friends and long-time partners at the Jewish Federation and the Jewish Community Foundation provide steadfast support to the community and the JCC as they distribute much-needed funding.
And of course, our members. So many of you stepped forward with your generous gifts and encouraging messages. Where would we be without you? Our JCC is strengthened by your dedication to the JCC community.
The JCC’s 106th Annual Meeting was virtual and celebrated Lia Wald’s retirement after 35 years at the J; the JCC Book Festival in Your Living Room opened with the first of 50 author events; we welcomed Holistic Health Options to the JCC; the new childcare remote learning program – J All Day – was established; the Jonathans Dream playground opened with supervised play; the Annual Golf Tournament, postponed until September, was conducted under COVID restrictions and netted $250,000 for the JCC.
I remember being six years old in the back seat of my dad’s Chevy station wagon, impatiently asking “are we there yet?” I know all of us are wondering when we will get “there.” The vaccine is here. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
All of us at the JCC are focused on you. Over the next few months we promise to engage you in our programs, help you stay healthy, provide you with enriching activities, and sustain the deep connections we all value.
“Community” is not only in our name – it is who we are. It is the very foundation of our mission. The Mandell Jewish Community Center has been building community for over 100 years. We are incredibly proud of this community that we have built together and grateful to all of you for investing in us and believing in us.
The JCC was voted #1 in the best of WeHa Awards by our members and friends; the Board of Directors adopted the Strategic Plan – 2020 & Beyond; the year ended with virtual Chanukah candle lightings from community leaders and a return of the creative staff menorahs.
I send you, your families, and those you love my heartfelt best wishes for a New Year that is bright, healthy, and happy.
David Jacobs | Executive Director, Mandell JCC