This year marks the centennial of the YM & YWHA of Washington Heights and Inwood, the Jewish Community Center that I used as my primary case study in my dissertation. The Y created the video above to showcase their history at a 100th Anniversary Gala. The Executive Director kindly thought to send it to me, and I confess that the first time I watched it I cried. The video highlights the Y's diverse membership and the many recreational programs and social services that the agency provides to its community. Watching it was an poignant reminder of why the topic of JCCs attracted my interest in the first place. I wanted to answer the question, "why and how did JCCs become a space used by so many non-Jews, despite the institution's conspicuously Jewish identity?"
The answer to that question is a complicated story--indeed, it took me three years and 250 pages to do so--but I think this stanza of poetry from the video sums it up pretty well. When the leaders of a Jewish institution prioritize giving, service, caring, inclusion, and diversity, they create a community that knows, understands, and supports Jews in turn. And that's how a Jewish Community Center achieves a 100 year legacy.