Whether you want to learn about civil rights, cuddle up to a family movie or laugh at Tiffany Haddish’s routines, the JCC of Greater Baltimore has you covered. Its Peggy and Yale Gordon Center for Performing Arts is launching myriad new programs this season to spread education and keep you entertained as you sip that pumpkin spice latte.
“It’s a moment pregnant with possibility,” said Sara Shalva, JCC chief arts officer. “I feel excited and grateful to be on this team.”
Though there is no reopening date yet, The Gordon Center has several new projects lined up.
One of those is The Wisdom Studio. This program, which began Oct. 5, offers spaces to explore Jewish creativity. This program is made up of different series that each hone in on a topic, though together, they make up a larger picture. Each series spans four weeks, but each conversation is only one hour. “It’s not too much commitment,” Shalva said. “I think people are preferring to learn in depth in shorter spurts.”
The Wisdom Studio came out of an interest in engaging older adults with intellectual program. As Shalva is charged with rethinking adult enrichment, she took note of a study by The Associated: Jewish Federation that found that older adults prefers sophisticated content. However, the Wisdom Studio has been a hit with all ages.
The first series-within-the-series, “Are American Jews and Israel Heading for Divorce?” is nearing its third discussion Oct. 19. The next Wisdom Studio series will be “Short Story, Long Life” with writer Mark Oppenheimer, starting Nov. 4.
She hopes The Wisdom Studio as a whole can offer an appreciation for the complexity and richness of Jewish culture.
A second new project for The Gordon Center is Amplifying Voices. This is a teshuva program to initiate conversations across different identities.
The first event in this project will take place Oct. 18, when author Marc Dollinger will discuss his book, “Black Power, Jewish Politics.”
The JCC held some internal diversity reflection programs last January, according to Shalva, so it was more prepared when the death of George Floyd sparked yet another wave of reckoning around systemic racism.
The JCC is partnering with other JCCs and Hillels for this series, which will also include film, a panel, storytelling, a tour and a musical.
The second event of Amplifying Voices will be “Behind the Screen – Chicago as a Microcosm” on Nov. 8.
“There’s a lot of racial justice programming around Baltimore, but what makes ours unique, and what I’m proud about, is ours fits at the intersection of Jews of color and justice and the arts,” Shalva said. “We’re bringing this series for the arts to be a platform of social justice work.”
Similarly, she noted, the JCC frequently injects education about Israel and anti-Semitism into their arts programs.
“I hope that people will come to the realization that dismantling oppression and systemic racism will take continued effort, and that the Jewish community, even though we have been oppressed and felt a minority status and faced anti-Semitism, because we are privileged by the nature of our skin tone and some of the economic success in the community, we have a responsibility to hold fast to the notion that nobody is free until we’re all free,” she said. “It is built into our Jewish tradition to be at the forefront of fighting for justice.”
To ensure that cost is not a barrier to participating in this program, sessions are priced on a sliding scale. Community members interested in participating can sign up at tucsonjcc.org/amplifying-voices-series or by calling 520-299-3000. Looking ahead, the Gordon Center will also have a virtual fall film series. This will include a movie called “Crescendo” (2019) about a Palestinian and Israeli orchestra. Guest speaker Micah Hendler, who founded the orchestra, will join. “He’s a very sweet guy and old friend, so he’s going to come and speak about building this choir,” Shalva said.
On Dec. 24, The Gordon Center will show “Shalom Taiwan.” Shalva hopes to partner with a local Pikesville eatery as an homage to the American Jewish experience of eating Chinese food on Christmas.