Carole Zawatsky, CEO of the Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center since 2011, will step down when her contract ends on July 1.
Zawatsky, who spent most of her career directing Jewish museums and promoting the arts, said she had completed everything she wanted to do at the center.
“It was good timing to step away and say, ‘What is it that I want to do next and how do I bring my passion for my work in the Jewish community and arts and culture to the next place my career?” Zawatsky, 61, told WJW in a phone interview.
She said a high point of her tenure was a $16 million renovation of the center, included a new arts facility and an early childhood youth and family wing. The building, on 16th Street in Washington, was closed for 11 months, and activities were held in nearby facilities.
“That renovation speaks volumes to the commitment to the the Jewish community in the heart of D.C.,” she said.
The center has formed a search committee to find a successor for Zawatsky, who informed the board of her plans to leave last month, said Jill Granader, the board president.
The search committee will look for “a strong programmer, to build upon what we have,” Granader said. “We are looking for someone to reach out to the community and expand our base and programs.”
Grenader noted Zawatsky’s “creativity and openness to try different things and programs, and to really think outside the box.”
Michael Feinstein, the CEO of the Bender Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, in Rockville, said Zawatsky has improved the Edlavitch JCC’s arts programmong.
Theater J, a unit of the Edlavitch center, “is doing remarkable work, and the renovation is a nice legacy,” said Feinstein, who plans to leave the Bender JCC at the end of 2020. “She’s done a nice job of recognizing the change in demographics [in the District]. Many young families are moving to town and through this renovation she’s been able to create a new preschool,” he said. “She always has a thoughtful perpsective on the issues of the day.”
In 2014, Zawatsky was involved in a controversy over her firing of Theater J artistic director Ari Roth. The episode reportedly divided both the center and theater boards and outraged the arts community. Critics charged that Roth had been ousted for staging plays that some thought were critical of Israel.
But in an email to “members of the Israel arts community,” Zawatsky said Roth was fired for “insubordination, unprofessionalism and actions that no employer would ever sanction.”
Roth went on to found Mosaic Theater Company in Washington. In 2018, the two shared the stage at a discussion at the Atlas Performing Arts Center. Zawatsky talked about setting an example in reconciliation.
“Today is the measure of my work,” she said. “To model civil dialogue is the measure of my work.”