Thirty-one years ago, Carol Gordon left New York with her husband for the burgeoning Jewish community in Northern Virginia. From her first “Mommy and Me” class at the new JCC, she saw a need for her to get involved in her Jewish community that was more spread out, younger and less affiliated than communities in Maryland and the District.
“It’s not like the Maryland suburbs, where there is a large established Jewish community. We were told there weren’t Jewish neighborhoods and resources,” said Gordon, 69, who has served as board president of what is now the Pozez Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia.
Gordon, who trained to be a public health nurse, and her husband, Steven Rosenthal, chose Fairfax because it was close to his job. Their neighborhood became a focal point of Jewish life in Northern Virginia: the Pozez JCC, Gesher Jewish Day School and the Conservative Congregation Olam Tikvah are nearby.
Since she moved to Fairfax, the Jewish population in Northern Virginia has exploded, surpassing the numbers in Montgomery County and the District. The Pozez JCC has opened satellites in Arlington, Alexandria, Prince William and Loudoun counties.
“It’s how they stay relevant in an area where Jews are so spread out,” Gordon said. “They go out into the community and have programs instead of having it within the four walls of the JCC.”
Her leadership at the JCC led to a board position at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. There, she’s been recognized as a Lion of Judah, the Federation world’s honor for women who give $5,000 or more to the annual campaign.
“I grew up in New York and I didn’t really know that Federation existed,” she said. “I went to a camp supported by Federation. I didn’t realize that the Jewish community had an umbrella organization like the Federation.”
She adds, “I think it’s really important that as a community we support ourselves through the Federation. When I realize what Federation does and who and what it supports, it behooves us as a community that we all support each other and it has to be financially.”
Gordon was raised in a kosher Jewish home in New York. She went to Hebrew school at a Conservative synagogue and became a bat mitzvah. “In high school I was friendly with the rabbi’s daughter and, with just his presence, he had a big influence on my life. Then in college I did Jewish studies. For me, I’ve been studying about Judaism my whole life.”
She keeps a kosher home and sent her two daughters to Gesher Jewish Day School, where she was PTO president and then served on the board.
These days, Gordon continues to serve in volunteer capacities, including coordinating a monthly women’s Torah study group that attracts participants from across greater Washington.
What she wants to impart to her children and others is that Judaism is “a very good value system.
“I think Judaism is a wonderful religion. It’s a good way to live my life,” she said. “I think the Torah is a living document and it teaches us how to live our life. That’s what I’ve learned over the years.”