Leaders of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington paid tribute to their own — past and present —as they formally dedicated the agency’s new headquarters on Executive Boulevard in Rockville.
Coming about a year after the building’s opening, the dedication on Sunday in the Federation’s three-story-high atrium, now named in memory of longtime Federation leader Seymour Abensohn, was a gathering for current and past presidents and executive directors, the heads of area Jewish agencies and elected officials.
Also attending were the families of deceased Federation leaders. “Please know that we are most grateful for your family’s service,” Federation President Bob Zahner told them.
Former Federation president Michael Gelman, a donor to the new building, attached a mezuzah to its entrance. The building, purchased for $15.75 million through gifts from five donor families, replaced a series of older, crowded facilities.
“For those of you who have been involved for many years, I think you’ll agree that the Federation headquarters didn’t always look like this,” said former Federation president David Butler, who was master of ceremonies at the event.
Federation CEO Steven Rakitt said the building is more than the sum of its parts.
“Brick, metal and glass are the physical elements, but kavod — dignity — is the spiritual mortar that binds it together,” he told the gathering.
Also dedicated was a hand-cast resin wall sculpture by local artist Yuriko Yamaguchi, called “Interconnected/Sun & Water, Shemesh oo’Mayim.”
Building donor Susie Gelman, a former Federation president who chaired the art selection committee, said the committee sought a work “that would capture the essence of Federation’s mission yet be subject to interpretation and reinterpretation by the beholder.”
Yamaguchi said her sculpture was inspired by frozen formations she saw on a pond during a winter walk. Cast in blue, orange and yellow, the sculpture suggests sun and water, she said, which are “essential to survival.”
David Butler, Michael Gelman and Susie Gelman are owners of Mid-Atlantic Media, publisher of Washington Jewish Week.