Northern Virginia JCC looks outward

The 2016 groundbreaking of the JCC of Northern Virginia’s “white house.” File photo.

As construction continues at the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia in Fairfax, its leaders are starting to turn their focus to Jewish life beyond its walls.

The center is hoping that its last round of construction will be finished in 2019, according to Executive Director Jeff Dannick. After that, no capital spending is planned.

Instead, the building will serve as the hub in what Dannick called the JCC’s hub and spoke plan. The center will increase its emphasis on holding programs outside the Fairfax building.

Dannick said what the spokes will look like is still unclear. One idea is a bus or van that could bring wellness instruction, children’s programming and other activities to Jewish sites far from the JCC building.

Another is to develop partnerships with synagogues, art galleries, or even coffee shops in Northern Virginia, he said.

A recent demographic study of the greater Washington Jewish community found that Northern Virginia surpassed Maryland and Washington as the largest Jewish area. And with heavy traffic a constant issue and the Jewish population growing, many people simply won’t go to the Fairfax JCC, Dannick said.

“We want to use the facility as a launch pad for what we could do outside. That could be partnerships with other Jewish organizations or the potential for other satellite locations,” Dannick said. “But to be effective in Arlington or Ashburn or Gainesville or Alexandria, we first have to be effective in Fairfax.”

The $6.5 million plan to renovate the center’s entire 20,000-square-foot property began in 2016. Much of the work has been completed. Security features and other improvements inside the main building’s entrance and lounge area are finished, and construction on the outside of its entryway is nearly done.

When it is, security bollards will be protecting the doorway, with a new canopy hanging overhead. The “art gallery” space has been renovated, along with men’s and women’s bathrooms. The building’s locker rooms are also under construction.

Dannick said that some of the funding for the security improvements came through a Department of Homeland Security grant which has been used largely by synagogues. Money for the other projects has been donated as a part of the center’s $8.5 million capital campaign. When all the construction is finished, the JCC’s fitness center will have been expanded and refurbished as well.

The highlight of the work, according to Dannick, is on the standalone building that the center calls the white house. At a 2016 groundbreaking, the center announced that by the end of 2017, the first floor of would feature a catering kitchen and rehearsal/dance studio space. The second floor would include an auditorium. That hasn’t happened.

This week Dannick said that plans for the white house are still being developed.

So are ways to measure the hub-and-spoke approach’s success.

“The opportunities and the challenges in Northern Virginia are daunting, and we have no illusions that we as the JCC are going to solve this on our own,” Dannick said. “We view this as a communal challenge.”

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