Bagel lunches, lectures and a fitness center to burn calories — and time. Those are some of the free activities on offer for federal workers at Jewish institutions around the Washington area.
With an estimated 400,000 furloughed federal workers, and an additional 400,000 working without pay nationwide, many of the area’s Jewish institutions want workers to know they’re welcome, whether they can pay or not.
At the Bender Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington in Rockville, federal workers who aren’t already members are invited to pick up a gym pass and work out free of charge. On Fridays, there are free bagel and coffee lunches. And if your kid is enrolled in the early childhood program, you can defer full payment of the fee.
For now, said Bender Executive Director Michael Feinstein, the giveaways and leniency aren’t affecting the center’s bottom line. If the shutdown stretches on, though, and it winds up having an impact, Feinstein said the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington will step in and advance funding from next year’s allotment.
“Everybody’s paying it forward,” Feinstein said. “I’ve stopped prognosticating. For us, those who we’ve adjusted payment schedules for, we’re moving them far enough in advance that hopefully we won’t have to move them again.”
Sixth & I Historic Synagogue is making some of its cultural programming — typically in the $18 range — free with a government ID on a case-by-case basis. Last week, it offered free entry to see Case Foundation CEO and NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell.
In addition, federal workers can get free Shabbat dinners that Sixth & I provides. And if a good laugh is what you need to get your mind off of Capitol Hill, Sixth & I will offer free tickets to the first 50 people in line with a government ID for the Upright Citizens Brigade improv comedy show Jan. 26.
Other cultural venues are not offering discounts for government workers. They include the Har Shalom Players, the Washington Jewish Film Festival and the Mosaic Theater Company. Theater J, which is operated by the Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center, doesn’t have a performance until March.
“I hope it will be a bad memory by the time our next show happens, but I’m sure if the government is still partially shut down, we will want to do something for workers,” said Theater J Director of Marketing Laurie Levy-Page.
Jeff Dannick, executive director of the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia, said his agency isn’t able to offer free programs because of limited parking due to construction.