Cherry Blossoms and Jewish Advocacy

With the Cherry Blossom Festival commencing and the flowers out in full force, it’s no longer doubtful (despite the recent weather) that Spring is officially here. Author Rob Sachs posted an article, “An Afternoon of Cherry Blossoms and Swastikas,” on The Huffington Post about his unique experience at the annual festival this past weekend.

He discusses his weekend jaunt through the Tidal Basin and then, unexpectedly, into the adjacent United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Sachs juxtaposes the joyful nature of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival to the pain and suffering on display within the neighboring museum and draws a comparison to the Jewish tradition of stepping on a glass; he attributes this tradition, as do many, to the call from the Jewish community to remember the pain of the past even in the most joyous moments of our lives.

To that end, springtime – for Jews – is all about celebration and juxtaposition.

During Purim, for example, we are literally commanded to eat, drink, and throw raucous parties, while simultaneously crying out the name of our enemies and exterminators over and over until we’re numb to the sound.

Likewise, Passover, which is right around the corner, requires us to eat and drink like Kings and Queens. However, we still must dip our greens in the tears of our ancestors and spread the bitter pain of the Jews of yesteryear all over our matzot.

While these are the traditions many of us grew up with, maybe it’s time to consider adding some new traditions to our beloved springtime regiment of Food with Reflection. Bad things happened in the past, and it’s important to remember them, nevertheless it’s also important to reflect and act upon the struggles our communities face today.

There’s no better time than Spring – the season of renewal and hope – to get involved.

This April, for example, consider coming out to volunteer with the DCJCC’s Spring into Action program on April 10th (or other new volunteer opportunities). This annual event raises awareness about local environmental issues while providing opportunities for the community to engage with each other and work hand-in-hand towards a solution.

This year, our 2011 theme is around urban agriculture, community gardening, and park restoration. With oil prices, obesity rates, and unemployment all on the rise, it’s important to remember that our food system isn’t just about food; the way we grow our food impacts the environment, our health, and the economic and employment stability of our communities.

Local and sustainable agriculture is a great source of fair employment, healthy food, and community-building throughout the greater Washington DC area – it’s a great chance to meet some local farmers, advocates, and other families in your own neighborhoods. And bring the kids! This year, Spring into Action falls at the same time as Earth Day and Global Youth Action Day, to get all ages involved in sewing some seeds of change.

If you’re looking for a new, conscientious twist on Passover, also consider heading over to the National Rainbow Seder with DCJCC’s GLOE, or the Labor Seder with Jews United for Justice. Both of these seders are fun, meaningful ways to explore some of the most important social issues of our time – this year focusing on the rights and freedoms of the LGBTQ international community, and the struggle to find – and keep – good jobs.

(And there’s nothing like Jewish guilt and copious amounts of food to drive a movement, so don’t wait to jump on board: both of these events tend to sell out every year.)

At the end of Sachs’s article, he pondered that maybe his detour into the museum wasn’t so random after all; as Jews, we are inexplicably tied to a history of people that have sought justice for themselves and their communities for millennia.

No matter what your favorite part of Springtime is – the eating, the socializing, or the reflecting – take a break from the normal routine and make this holiday intentional by exploring not just the issues of the past, but those pertinent to our communities today.

And don’t forget to stop and smell the blossoms! Spring is as fleeting as it is special. Take advantage of it.

By the DCJCC’s Behrend Builders coordinator, Michal Rosenoer. Contact her with comments, concerns, or for more information at behrendbuilders@washingtondcjcc.org.

Carole R. Zawatsky Named Successor to Arna Meyer Mickelson as Chief Executive Officer of Washington DCJCC

Carole R. ZawatskyLast night, the Board of Directors approved Carole R. Zawatsky as the new Chief Executive Officer of the Washington DCJCC succeeding Arna Meyer Mickelson as of July 1. Ms. Zawatsky is currently the Chief Program Officer for Arts, Culture and Jewish Life at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. A native of Washington, she received her BA from the University of Maryland and MA from George Washington University. Ms. Zawatsky is thrilled to be coming home to DC and heading the staff of the Washington DCJCC.

Ms. Zawatsky has worked in the field of informal Jewish learning for more than twenty years where she has helped create partnerships between the community and the institutions she has directed. Her mission-driven approach to her current role at the JCC of San Francisco fully integrates Judaic Heritage into all aspects of Center life and helps to create dialogue between the Center and its community.

“One of my greatest professional strengths is making connections among organizations and communities, and leveraging arts, culture and ideas to bring people together,” Carole said. “I have come to believe that the JCC setting is among the most critical and influential institutions for Jewish life today. It is a model for Jewish life in America and the Washington DCJCC is positioned perfectly for this. I could not be more honored to be returning home to DC to join the Washington DCJCC as the CEO.”

Ms. Zawatsky has lectured in classes at colleges including New York University, Johns Hopkins University and George Washington University, consulted at other JCCs, developed curricular materials for the Library of Congress, participated at seminars and conferences around the world, and published articles about ceramics, cultural reflections, and hidden children and children’s diaries during the Holocaust. Prior to accepting her position at the JCC of San Francisco, Ms. Zawatsky was the Founding Executive Director of the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Cleveland, the Director of Education at the Jewish Museum of New York, the Director of Public Programs at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, and the Museum Educator at the Skirball Museum in Los Angeles.

Ms. Zawatsky will succeed Arna Meyer Mickelson, who spent 24 years at the helm of the Washington DCJCC. In Ms. Mickelson’s tenure the Center has grown from a small staff of five on P St. to its current 60,000 square foot modern facility with a full fitness center and pool, preschool, theater, art gallery, library, classrooms and meeting facilities visited by more than 500,000 people a year.

“The Center is about to enter a new phase in its growth and in its contribution to our community,” Ms. Mickelson said. “I know that Carole will bring the skills and experience necessary to help the Washington DCJCC meet the challenges and to celebrate the accomplishments that lie ahead.”

Mindy Strelitz, president of the Washington DCJCC, noted, “The Washington DCJCC is known nationwide for its unmatched programming.” She continued, “Carole is a wonderful fit for our Center and I look forward to working with her and tapping her endless source of energy and creativity as we continue to engage and connect with Jews in our community and other communities around the world.”

The goals of the Washington DCJCC are to preserve and strengthen Jewish identity, heritage, tradition and values through a wide variety of social, cultural, recreational, and educational programs and services. The Center accomplishes these goals in ways that reflect the unique location and role of the Center in the nation’s Capital and the many contributions of the American Jewish community in the United States.

While the Center is designed primarily to fulfill the needs of the Jewish community and to preserve and enhance the culture, traditions, ethics, and philosophy of Judaism, membership and participation in activities of the Center are open to all residents of the metropolitan area.

The Washington DCJCC is a member of the Jewish Community Center Association (JCCA), a beneficiary agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, and a designated agency of the United Way.

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