On a sunny Sunday afternoon in Northwest Washington D.C., the typically quiet F Street was filled with vendors and music as part of a continuing celebration of the Capital Jewish Museum’s (CJM) recent opening and the start of the High Holiday season. ￼
The September 10th block party event was organized by the museum, which opened its doors in June, as part of a series of community events celebrating its opening and as a means of engaging the community during the fall Jewish holidays.
The idea to have a block party styled event emanated from collaborative conversations the museum staff had during the winter about potential opening events, according to CJM Communications Director Maura Scanlon.
“There was a real concern that a lot of people would be gone in June. So, this [block party] seemed like a really great way to sort of extend it and just call it New Year, New Museum, and that way we would just have the happy opening celebrations to be continued through the summer and pick up in the fall to tie into the holidays,” Scanlon said.
Having this event was also important for the museum to establish its identity as it becomes one of a large collection of D.C. museums. The museum was pleased to provide the community with a fun, street festival styled event, which is a big part of D.C. culture, according to Lisa Del Sesto, CJM’s Education Manager for Programs.
Sesto said it was wonderful having the event be a part of people’s weekend plans, which the museum was able to do by making the party free to attend and convenient for all.
“No one was stressed, and people were having a good time. Some people checked out the music, some people just sat and had a beer and talked to friends, and it was just really everything we wanted. It was a community space and we’re just really enjoying it,” said Sesto.
In addition to hosting the block party, the museum gave attendees the opportunity to mark the High Holidays by giving back to the community through packing hygiene kits full of items like soap, shampoos, and shaving cream for people in need.
Attendees packed over 50 kits during the event that will be donated to a local charity organization, Thrive DC, according to Scanlon.
“When I think about the High Holidays, I also think about how we give back to the community, and it’s a moment of reflection and teshuvah, repentance, by wanting to be a better person in the new year,” Sesto said. “You see people thinking about how they want to show up for their communities and what values they have, and how they put those into practice.”
Scanlon said the museum hopes to have more outdoor engagement events throughout the year.