Things look different at the EVJCC this year

This time last year, the East Valley JCC team launched its new season, excited to see familiar and new faces return to the center for programs after a summer hiatus. We introduced several new programs, including a revamped Terrific Tuesdays, an Interfaith series featuring local clergy, Conversations with the Rabbi and a painting class. We gathered on Mondays for mah-jongg and on Thursdays for a morning of Open Beit Midrash learning followed by a communal kosher lunch. Descendants of Holocaust survivors met monthly for educational and social programs. One Sunday a month, volunteers prepared meals for seniors and families in need and film buffs met to watch Israeli movies.

Obviously, in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic, this year looks quite different. For now, it is no longer safe for us to come together in person and many of us remain mainly in our homes.

We are happy that we can provide a safe space for children in our Early Childhood Learning Center, although we miss greeting their parents and grandparents in the lobby, as drop-offs and pick-ups are done outside for safety purposes.

It’s definitely quieter in the building these days, but we have been busy planning some great virtual programs that we hope you will participate in. Here is some of the adult programming starting this month.

  • Films: Our Israeli film series launches this weekend with the film “Unsettling,” about life at an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. The film is available to watch for free from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 23,  and anyone who donates $10 or more is invited to attend a discussion about the film and current events in Israel with Jake Bennett, a former lone soldier who is now the director of state legislative affairs for the Israeli-American Council. Next month’s film, on Sept. 6 is “The Syrian Patient,” followed by a discussion with Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, the son of Syrian immigrants and the president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. Register here.

  • Jewish learning: The next session of Open Beit Midrash starts next week and is now offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Learn about King David on Tuesdays and Rambam on Thursdays. Register here

  • Travel and art: Nobody is travelling much these days, but we’ve partnered with the Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot, located in Tel Aviv for private live virtual tours by docents at the museum. The first one is Aug. 26. Register here. We’ve also partnered with the Osher Marin JCC in San Rafael, California, for a number of arts and travel programs. Learn more about upcoming arts programs here.
  • Cooking: In between making delicious challah, as well as other treats, for Shabbat and holidays and preparing lunches for the ECLC students, Chef Melinda is filming cooking demonstration videos. We introduced “In the Kitchen with Chef Melinda,” a monthly cooking video, this month. We’re also introducing an “Ask Chef Melinda” column, where she’ll answer your baking and cooking questions. Learn more here.

But that’s not all! Stay tuned for more details about other upcoming programming, like a Sephardic adaptation of “The Merchant of Venice” on Sept. 13, a Jewish genealogy class beginning Sept. 9, concerts by Yale Strom, a presentation on Jewish communities around the world and a Kristallnacht program.

New family programs include Little Chefs at the J, where Chef Melinda will present recipes that children can make with an adult; and Bedtime Stories at the J, which are virtual story times with ECLC teachers. Pam Morris, ECLC director, also started a new video series called “WOW, Words of Wisdom With Pam.”

Additionally, we’ve made some adjustments to our Ladles of Love program, which is being developed into a new program called JBox. We’ll announce more details soon, along with how the Lone Soldier Project Hanukkah greeting campaign and J in the Community events will work this year.

Until we can meet again in person, we hope to see you online!