Dear J Family and Friends,
Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) will begin at sundown on Monday, September 6 and end at sundown on Wednesday, September 8, ushering in the Hebrew year of 5782. As with most New Year holidays, it is a natural time to reflect on the eventful past year and set goals and aspirations for the year ahead. The Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which comes a few weeks later, celebrates the harvest but again forces us to confront the fragility and uncertainty of life. Since last Rosh Hashanah, we have had successive waves of COVID-19, a Presidential election, an attack on the Capitol, the introduction of several vaccines against COVID-19, a conflict in Gaza, the trial and sentencing of George Floyd’s murderer, and now the heart-breaking emergency in Afghanistan. It seems like more than one year has elapsed.
I recently read an interesting commentary about Noah's ark by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks z"l called “The Courage to Live with Uncertainty.” When the rain stopped at the end of the flood, the obedient Noah had to be invited by God to come out of the ark. According to a midrash, one ancient sage said, “If I had been there, I would have broken the doors down.” I think the two impulses, caution and the desire for freedom, exist within all of us.
Over the past year, we have at times been like the Biblical Noah, floating in our own rudderless arks during a global disaster, each finding private pleasures, but craving freedom and connection with the outside world. Now that it is almost time to tiptoe or burst out of isolation, what will the world be like? Will we have the confidence and imagination to adjust to new patterns of life even while keeping the best aspects of the past?
As we look forward with hope and caution, we can also reflect with pride on the past year at the Pozez JCC. It is impossible to overstate the dedication and hard work of our professional staff. Making decisions in uncertainty, with a challenging budget, they have had the courage to explore new ways of connecting our membership and supporting those in need.
To highlight a few of these initiatives that have engaged the commUNITY and enriched lives over the past year:
To serve our members and the broader community, online programming in broad areas of interest via the Virtual J were quickly developed, curated, and presented for all to access with a computer, mobile phone, or tablet.
Member Check-In Committee
The Pozez JCC Board created a telephone network, including community volunteers, to make periodic phone calls, primarily to those members who are isolated at home, to check-in on their welfare and offer assistance and resources when able.
To improve our air quality, we installed a new technology called needlepoint bipolar ionization that kills the viral particles in the air. This technology complements our recently installed HVAC system, providing maximum energy efficiency and making the Pozez JCC one of the safest buildings, with regard to air quality, in Fairfax County.
Volunteer Transportation Network
Our volunteer transportation network, NV Rides, continued to coordinate a network of local partner organizations to help our older, home-bound community members throughout Northern Virginia with their transportation needs. During the pandemic, our own volunteer ride program, J Rides, adapted to the community’s needs by mobilizing volunteers to deliver food and medicine to those in need.
To meet the critical demand for blood supplies in the County driven higher by the medical crisis caused by the pandemic, the Pozez JCC partnered with the American Red Cross to hold four blood drives this past year, potentially helping to save hundreds of lives.
Women’s Social Impact Group
As social justice, social equity, and climate change continue to weigh heavy on the hearts and minds of our commUNITY, a new Women’s Social Impact Group (WSIC) was formed. Although still in its infancy, this group’s efforts to engage the community has helped FACETS provide food and toiletries to those in need, contributed a trolley of pantry items to a local food bank, and donated home goods to an organization that furnishes apartments for families transitioning from homelessness.
The Pozez JCC’s Camp Achva ran its summer program for the 52nd season! Moving our campsite to Gesher Jewish Day School enriched the program by allowing for safe activities outdoors on the 28-acre wooded campus with large playing fields, nature trails, and playgrounds. Campers experienced the unmatched ruach (spirit) of Camp Achva while making memories and friends that will last a lifetime.
Engaging Young Families Raising Jewish Children
Through our Growing Jewish Families and Community Engagement department, we had great success connecting and engaging families raising young, Jewish children in Northern Virginia through Bim Bom Bag programs (Jewish holiday activities to complete at home as a family and then share on a Zoom call with other families in our area), small playgroups, and entertaining programs with Jewish themes presented by special guests. Our J-Family Ambassadors maintained connectivity with families throughout Northern Virginia, and thanks to continued support from The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, we didn’t miss a beat in building community during this potentially isolating pandemic.
Children’s Educational Programs
Our Early Childhood Learning Centers pivoted to operate as J-Care during the first year of the pandemic. With robust safety protocols in place, the program ran with few disruptions due to Covid. This fall, we have introduced Chai 5, an after-school program for K-4th graders,and have relaunched the Early Childhood Learning Centers in Fairfax and Alexandria.
Looking forward to the new year…
… the Board of Directors and staff will continue to explore how we further this important work of reaching both within and far beyond the walls of the Pozez JCC as a force for good in our commUNITY. We will persist in having the courage to pioneer in the spirit of resilience, innovation, relevance, and sustainability. We are not simply waiting for the time when we can return to our pre-Covid J, but rather are seeking to emerge from this pandemic better equipped to serve the changing needs of our community.
Projects and initiatives for the coming year include:
I want to personally thank you, the commUNITY, on behalf of the Board of Directors and professional staff for your support of our pushing the boundaries in order to thrive as we serve the community who depends on us.
With best wishes for a safe, healthy, and happy New Year.
L’shana tovah tikateyvu.
May you be inscribed in the book of life for a good year,