And the winner is…


Community venues for the arts have demonstrated that they can connect diverse segments of society to cultural experiences. They provide opportunities for people who are active in social and civic life to experience arts and culture – and they allow those interested in arts and cultural experiences to encounter the diverse institutions that make up the fabric of society. Investments by public agencies and private foundations in arts and cultural activities at community venues can strengthen both the community institutions that host the events and the arts and cultural organizations that produce them.


–Participation in Arts and Culture: The Importance of Community Venues, Chris Walker with Kay Sherwood, Urban Institute

The stunning new Jewish Community Center Arts & Education Building has been completed, and the Grand Opening Celebration comes this weekend, March 6 and 7. And given that it coincides with the Academy Awards, we’d like to name the entire JCC family, led by its President Michael Staenberg (also a Trustee of the Jewish Light), its Board, its President and Chief Executive Officer Lynn Wittels and its staff, and all those who contributed to the project, winners of the Best Community Facility category for the second year running.

As with the JCC Fitness Center which opened last summer, Staenberg blended an overwhelming financial gift with the personal vision and execution to make the dream of a wholly refurbished Arts & Education Building a stunning reality. His leadership in causing these projects to come to fruition, along with the execution and follow through by his volunteer and professional partners at the JCC, cannot be overstated.

When the original Carlyn H. Wohl Building opened back in 1960, it was truly a state of the art facility that became the envy of the nation. That cutting-edge status has once again been realized in 2010.

The facility has everything one could hope for in a major community-oriented cultural and arts venue — the new, bigger and technically advanced Marvin and Harlene Wool Studio Theater for the New Jewish Theatre and other performances, along with Actors Equity-quality dressing rooms; gathering places of various sizes for meetings, receptions and lectures; education spaces for early childhood learning; the Adult Day Center; and wholly revamped administrative space for the staff.

But even a spectacular facility is only as successful as the programs to be implemented within it. Certainly the JCC has strong and myriad Jewish cultural programming, but its leadership recognizes that it’s crucial to have continuing outreach and partnership to cultivate the best programming possible. So last week, community leaders with ties to the local arts and education scene got a preview of the facility at a reception in the Carl and Helene Mirowitz Performing Arts and Banquet Center, where the creation of a new JCC “Culture Club” was announced by co-chairs Diane Gallant and Andi Schankman. The Culture Club will bring together an array of leaders and volunteers to serve as an informal “think tank” for sharing ideas and goals for excellence in the arts and culture.

The new JCC facilities could not have come at a more important time for our Jewish community. Jewish continuity and programs in the realm of arts, culture and education are a major portion of community cohesion. Building upon the great legacy of the late I. E. Millstone, who had the generosity and wisdom to acquire the original land for the complex, and the late Carlyn H. Wohl, who made the original building possible, Staenberg and others have provided a legacy that will serve as a community gathering place for the Jewish community for decades.

He and his JCC colleagues should be proud of these major accomplishments, and we thank and congratulate them with a standing ovation.