The doors of the Edlavitch Jewish Community Center of Washington, D.C., reopened last Thursday after a nearly year-long, $16 million renovation.
Nearly 300 guests attended the opening ceremony? Entering from Q Street, they stepped onto the newly tiled floor and admired the white columns and redesigned conference rooms.
Signs pointed upstairs to the new childcare center and Goldman Theater, and downstairs to a renovated swimming pool and the new multipurpose arts space, Cafritz Hall, which replaced the basketball court.
Gone are the squash and racquetball courts, and in their place the new three-story Smith Kogod Early Childhood, Youth and Family Wing.
Standing in the Q Street lobby, Edlavitch CEO Carole Zawatsky reminded her guests that the cornerstone for the building was laid in 1926 by President Calvin Coolidge.
“We truly do stand here on the shoulders of remarkable women and men who had the audacity to lay a cornerstone for the Jewish community in the shadow of the White House.”
She said the center upholds the value of b’tselem Elohim, that each individual is made in the image of God.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser praised the center and gave a nod to the Jewish community.
“We know that this community center is going to be offering fantastic programming and bringing people together from across D.C. and from across the region,” Bowser said. “We have a lot to be proud of in this city. But we have accomplished nothing without the support of our communities, and especially our faith communities.”
Russell Carock said he had come to explore the renovated building. He had grown up going to the DCJCC.
“It’s modern without being too showy or anything,” he said after walking around. “It really hit the sweet spot there.”
Barbara Klestick said that before the center closed for renovations, she had traveled from Arlington to take Hebrew classes. She was excited to be able to take them at the center again.
“It’s wonderful,” she said of the renovations. “The gym was as good as any gym I’ve ever seen. I’m very impressed. It’s just lovely.”
Other guests said they were looking forward to the new gym or pool, or were excited to send their children to the new preschool facility. Others were happy to simply use the center’s amenities again.
There were a few complaints. Some people wondered where the basketball court had gone and some were getting lost. Beryl Neurman, who uses a wheelchair, pointed out some of her concerns on a spontaneous accessibility tour.
In a women’s restroom, she pointed out a changing table that had been placed in front of a handicapped stall. She said the stall that can fit her wheelchair had no grab bars, and the toilet was too low for her.
When asked, Zawatsky said the renovated building follows ADA guidelines. She added that the JCC was working to fix the grab bars. She declined to answer further questions.
“What’s required and what’s nice are two different things,” Neurman said. She added she was happy that the renovated theater included removable front-row seating that can accommodate a wheelchair.
D.C. Council member Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1) was exploring Cafritz Hall. She said she was excited about how the space will be used.
“What I love about the space is that it really allows the JCC to better host its world-class programs. They were bursting at the seams before. They already had world class programs, but now they have a world class space.”