Community center mission: We create a welcoming and inclusive environment, connecting the people of our Jewish community with each other, Israel, and the broader community. We inspire individuals of all ages and backgrounds to enhance their social, physical, intellectual and spiritual well-being through programs of excellence rooted in Jewish values.
The Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, located in Rockville, Maryland, serves a plethora of functions. When I visited, I found myself on a bustling campus of several buildings, surrounded by parents picking up children from activities, young adults sitting in armchairs working on their laptops, people heading toward the indoor pool, and seniors relaxing in a gazebo in the beautiful spring weather. Amidst all this activity, there were exhibits of photographs and artifacts.Because there was so much not-typical-museum-behavior going on around me, I felt a little uncertain about engaging in typical-museum-behavior (like asking permission to take pictures and proceeding to take lots and lots if allowed, or walking down hallways to see what other galleries are open for public viewing). However, the proliferation of not-typical-museum-behavior is a testament to the fact that a building can be a museum but simultaneously serve many other community needs.
In the Goldman Art Gallery, there is currently an exhibit titled 100 Years of Creating Community: A Photographic Retrospective. Primarily a photography exhibit, there is also a video interview component. The photographs show historical examples, from the last century, of activities the JCCGW continues to do now: sports, book festivals, summer camps for children, volunteerism, dances. There are photos of people celebrating Passover, Hanukkah, Purim, Sukkot, and even St. Patrick’s Day.
Outside the gallery, I saw the Sports Hall of Fame (a hallway of plaques honoring individuals who are Jewish, from the DC area, and accomplished in the world of athletics). My favorite exhibit, though, was a series of glass cases holding a variety of artifacts, some of which were very old (BCE or early CE). The exhibit includes many different menorahs, a haggadah, a millennia-old necklace, ancient figurines, and modern Shabbat candles.
Of course, given the age of many of these objects, they are not all originally from greater Washington. But they are nonetheless connected to the locally-focused exhibits, because traditions and meanings are represented by the 1000-year-old artifacts and the 100-year-old photos alike.
I did snap a few photos once I was outdoors, on the grounds of JCCGW. In addition to a few sculptures, there is also a time capsule designated by a plaque. The time capsule holds documents and other media from the Jewish Social Service Agency, was buried in 1993 and will be opened in 2093. Just as the Goldman Art Gallery exhibit commemorates a 100-year period, so will the time capsule, when its contents are brought to light 80 years from now.
April’s blog theme is Local History.