By Karina Shedrofsky
Located only 25 minutes away, but almost unheard of to the Jewish students of the University of Maryland, is the Washington, D.C. Jewish Community Center, a real hub for Jewish cultural, educational, and community service offerings.
The Washington JCC just finished hosting the 24th annual Washington Jewish Film Festival, the single largest Jewish cultural event in the Washington area, according to Sara Rostolder Mandell, the JCC’s chief communications officer.
Over the course of two weeks, about 10,000 people gathered to see about 64 films, Rostolder Mandell said.
Though the film festival lasted from February 27 to March 9, the JCC offers year-round film screenings right at the DCJCC, showing mostly Jewish themed films.
“For the University of Maryland students, the DCJCC is a real hug for Jewish cultural offerings like film, music and theater,” Mandell said. “We are probably the best destination for that, that if that’s what they are looking for.”
Theater J, The JCC’s professional theater, presents plays year-round. Until April 6, the theater is currently showing “The Admission,” an Israeli play set in Haifa. It’s the second of eight plays this season, according to Mandell.
The next play in the series, playing April 10 to 27, is “Golda’s Balcony,” a one-woman show portraying Golda Meir, the fourth prime minister of Israel, according to DCJCC’s website.
The star, Tovah Feldshuh is a four-time Tony Award and two-time Emmy Award nominee, according to the website.
“She will be reprising her Broadway role here,” Mandell said.
Despite these cultural offerings, students such as Jessica Brown, a sophomore kinesiology major, have never heard of what the DCJCC has to offer.
Brown, a summer employee at the Rockville JCC, said she would be more attracted to the DCJCC if they had events that “brought a famous Jewish singer like Matisyahu.”
However, this summer, the DCJCC is hosting the Washington Jewish Music Festival from June 1-12, and although the full lineup has not been announced, Mandell said it will be opening with a performance by Matisyahu.
“They should advertise more,” Brown said. “Maybe one of the main problems is we aren’t hearing about their events.”
The DCJCC offers classes to the public as well.
“Year round we have classes,” Mandell said. “You can take Hebrew classes, intro to Judaism classes, and you don’t need to be a member to attend any of our programming.”
You don’t have to be interested in cultural events to benefit from what the DCJCC has to offer. Year round, they offer community service opportunities, according to Mandell.
“We often work with groups of people, including groups of students to create projects,” she said.
Behrend Builders, one of their more prominent programs, was “established to meet the critical needs of Washington’s low-income housing community and to supplement DC’s over extended social service agencies,” according to the DCJCC website.
Mandell compared it to Habitat for Humanity and said volunteers mostly do physical labor like building shelters.
If a group of students wanted to get together and do some sort of community service program, the DCJCC can organize it for them, she said.
Though the DCJCC offers a fitness center for members only, all other activities are open to the public.