With a passion for education and Jewish communal involvement, Miriam Szubin has dedicated herself to positively impacting others and helping individuals and families connect to Judaism in a variety of ways. As Director of Children and Family Programming and Preschool Admissions at the Edlavitch DCJCC (EDCJCC), Szubin, a resident of Adams Morgan and a proud and active member of the DC Minyan, spends her time encouraging and engaging families throughout the greater Washington community to take advantage of the incredible resources offered by the EDCJCC, and she infuses a sense of energy and excitement into her work that is contagious.
Can you tell me about the work that you do with children and family programming at the Edlavitch DCJCC?
I’ve been working at the JCC since 2007, and along the way, we’ve been continually adding to the options that we have for children and families. My overall goal is really to make the JCC a go-to destination for anyone raising a family in D.C. We offer child and caregiver classes for the zero to four crowd. We have a wonderful full day preschool. We have camp. We have after school programming. We’re really making a big effort right now to expand the offerings that we have for kids in elementary school. We’re adding programming for middle school and teens. It’s really a wide variety of stuff.
Can you describe some ways in which you and your team have successfully gotten families engaged in the various programs that you offer?
A lot of what I am very animated by is actually the idea of engaging parents, engaging families and really building a community around raising kids. Our programming is fun. Kids will come and have a good time, and almost more importantly, parents have a chance to connect with other parents and to really build relationships and use the JCC as kind of a center to meet other people and form their parenting networks … For the last 15 years, I’ve been trying to make the JCC a place that you can bring your baby, bring your toddler, bring your elementary school aged kid and really find community.
Families are often busy with so many things. Do you find it challenging to attract families to the Edlavitch DCJCC and get them actively involved in the range of programs and services that you provide?
We are very conscious of the fact that parents are both incredibly busy and also incredibly hungry in the moments that they have with their kids when they’re not at work, as few and as far between as they may be, to connect with other parents. And so we try to program for those busy parents in several different ways. We have this amazing full day preschool that is designed to serve the needs of working parents. And at the same time, we also put a lot of emphasis on building a preschool community, even for those very busy parents … It’s about recognizing that parents’ bandwidth is incredibly limited and thinking how we can provide what their kids need and also make their lives better. And it’s about creating a lot of weekend programming … whether it’s gymnastics classes, a magic show, a volunteering opportunity, or a play, to take advantage of the fact that Sunday is a window for parents to be able to do that kind of thing with their kids.
How did you become involved in in the Jewish communal world?
My first career was as a teacher, and I actually moved to D.C. originally to teach at JDS [Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School] in Rockville. And I was a full-time history and Jewish history teacher for several years. When I was pregnant with my oldest son, I wanted something that was a little bit more part time and flexible than classroom teaching. I literally started out at the JCC teaching a once-a-week music class for toddlers there. And then I started building more classes and programs for infants and toddlers and then continued building from there. Starting off at the JCC, it was less about it being Jewish community in that moment, and it was more about being a new parent myself and thinking about what new parents needed and wanted.
What do you find most rewarding about the work that you do?
It’s definitely that theme of connecting people and creating these little, small communities. It’s being able to bring people together. It’s being able to take people in their very busy, very stressed lives of being working people with children and helping them connect to other people.
Jewish education is an integral part of our Jewish community. How do you convey to people from an array of backgrounds the importance of teaching their children about Judaism and Jewish practices?
I would say we are in the business of providing experiences that help people connect to Judaism in different ways … There’s a lot of people who are going to be comfortable coming to our programming, who would not feel comfortable in a variety of other Jewish settings and we’re creating a way for them to connect to Judaism, connect to other families, and to find something in the tradition that speaks to them in a way that they like and hopefully in a way that they’ll continue to build on … It’s building Jewish community in a different way.