Northern Virginia JCC kicks off campaign, renovating ‘white house’

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Breaking ground on Sunday are, from left, Michelle Pearlstein, JCCNV development associate; BJ Shiff, campaign co-chair; Al Pesachowitz, campaign co-chair; Connie Pesachowitz, campaign co-chair; Jeff Dannick, JCCNV executive director; and Scott Brown, president and campaign co-chair. Photo by Justin Katz
Breaking ground on Sunday are, from left, Michelle Pearlstein, JCCNV development associate; BJ Shiff, campaign co-chair; Al Pesachowitz, campaign co-chair; Connie Pesachowitz, campaign co-chair; Jeff Dannick, JCCNV executive director; and Scott Brown, president and campaign co-chair.
Photo by Justin Katz

The decrepit white house next to the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia was the center of attention Sunday, as dozens gathered for a groundbreaking that begins the building’s transformation into a cultural center.

By the end of 2017, the first floor of what the JCC refers to as the “white house” will feature a catering kitchen and rehearsal/dance studio space. The second floor will have an auditorium similar in size to the JCC’s Eva and Albert Chaiken Auditorium. The projected cost of renovating the cultural center is $1.25 million to $1.5 million.


The cultural center is part of a $6.5 million plan to renovate its entire 20,000-square-foot property, with $1 million of that to be invested in outreach across Northern Virginia from its home in Fairfax.

Steve Rakitt, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, called the Northern Virginia center’s plan “one of the most thoughtful documents I’ve seen in my career. It aims to fundamentally shift the paradigm of what a JCC can and should be with the emphasis on relationships and the acknowledgement that many in Northern Virginia may not be able to come to this building frequently, or at all,” he said during the groundbreaking ceremony.

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Sunday also marked the launch of the public phase of the JCC’s capital campaign. So far, it has $5.5 million pledged from a private phase.

A seven-foot tall transparent container decorated with the organization’s logo, a “J”, with hundreds of green balls inside it sat in the lobby. Each ball had a name written on it representing a campaign donor.


The newly designated cultural center served as the JCC from 1980 to 1990, when the JCC’s current building was constructed. After that, the white house was used as storage space, but deteriorated over the years. Most of what was stored became trash itself.

Although agreements with Fairfax County prevent the JCC from building a new structure to replace the white house, it may renovate, preserve or destroy the building, according to the JCC.

After the cultural center is completed, the fitness center will undergo a $1 million, 3,800-square-foot expansion to double its current size. New equipment, locker rooms and a coed sauna will be installed.

The JCC’s auditorium will be updated with retractable seating and new film projection equipment. The auditorium’s estimated cost is $500,000, with work scheduled to be finished by the end of 2019.
Improvements will also be made to the playground, classrooms, restrooms and offices, all of which are scheduled to be completed by 2020.

“I’m thrilled with the response from the community in the [private] phase [of the campaign] to get to $5.5 million, which many of us didn’t dream we’d get to at the end of the campaign,” said Jeff Dannick, executive director of the JCC.

Scott Brown, president of the JCC said: “There was a gulp and a moment of: ‘Can we do it?’ and obviously we’ve learned we can do it.”

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