Sara Shalva, 41, is the new chief arts officer at the JCC of Greater Baltimore.
Though consistently drawn to the performing arts, she has a thorough background in leadership roles. Born in Nicaragua, Sara grew up in Northern Virginia. She studied political science at Mary Washington College, later becoming a Taub Fellow at New York University, where she earned graduate degrees in nonprofit management and Judaic studies. Her stateside career experience includes serving as director of enrollment management at Hebrew College, executive director of Limmud New York, program officer for Jewish life and learning at the Edlavitch DCJCC in Washington, D.C., and assistant director at the Pearlstone Center.
Sara lives in Pikesville with her husband Benjamin and their two children, who attend Krieger Schechter Day School. The family belongs to Chizuk Amuno Congregation, and Sara is also active at Beth El Congregation’s Soul Center.
Tell me about your new role with the JCC of Greater Baltimore.
I started on September 1st. My job is to figure out how to we meet the needs of the lifelong learning needs of the Baltimore adult community. I oversee the Gordon Center, which has around 50 events in a season. In addition, we oversee classes ranging from tap dancing to memoir writing, as well as trips. October 29, we are running to the National Museum of Jewish American History in Philadelphia.
What is your impression of the Baltimore Jewish community?
There is a long history of philanthropy and engagement in the Jewish community which I think is unique. There are generations of families that are very tied to the history, but also welcoming to newcomers.
What goals do you have for your new role?
I’m excited to bring strategic partnerships with academic institutions. I am thrilled for the upcoming Gordon season to have a platform to celebrate art and culture of Israel. It would be nice in the future to have, say, an Israeli choreographer that could plug in our early childhood programs. People have been [at the JCC] for 30, 40 years. Collecting their stories is also extraordinary. My goal is to intersect art with the Jewish calendar.
What is your favorite genre of performance art, and why?
Oh my gosh. Growing up I loved “The Nutcracker,” “Swan Lake,” “Romeo and Juliet,” the classics. But then if I think about Jewish art, I think singer Matisyahu, the jazz band Yemen Blues. One of my favorite authors, Etgar Keret, published “The Seven Good Years,” which has biblical alliteration. I love when art is in dialogue with the world. There’s this quote that “All Torah is commentary on the world, and all the world is commentary on Torah.” Art and culture can be deeply Jewish even if the content is not Jewish. When hearts and souls are opened, we connect to something deeper than ourselves.