A JCC about people, not a building

GREENWICH – What do you give to Jews who have everything? Each other.
That’s the inspiration behind JCC Greenwich, a new effort seeded by UJA Federation of Greenwich and spearheaded by UJA Federation president Ellen Davis. The “JCC without walls” is already up and running, sponsoring programs at various venues throughout the community.
“The new JCC is in the library, in the synagogues, on my iPad, at the Bruce Museum,” says UJA Federation executive director Pam Ehrenkranz. “We’re creating a community without boundaries.”
The new “21st-century community resource” seeks to enhance the spiritual and cultural life of Greenwich  through its year-round slate of author presentations, screenings, concerts, cooking classes, lectures, holiday celebrations, Israel-related programming and Jewish education open to everyone.
JCC Greenwich kicked off in March at the Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich with two live simulcasts from the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan, featuring Arianna Huffington in conversation with Joseph E. Stiglitz, followed by The Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten and Anna Quindlen. In April, photographer Frédéric Brenner presented his latest project at the Bruce Museum and author Dani Shapiro spoke at Garelick and Herbs. Later this month, the JCC will sponsor a private tour of the Guggenheim Museum in New York, led by museum director Richard Armstrong and curator Tracey Bashkoff.
“The Greenwich community hasn’t had a central place to gather,” says Ehrenkranz. “We have institutions and gyms and schools and synagogues, but we’ve never had a place to gather over shared interests, so that’s what we’re hoping to create.”
The idea for a JCC without walls emerged from a strategic plan UJA Federation conducted a few years ago. “Out of that, what we’ve really come to understand, is that people want content, non-affiliated spaces in which to gather, and maybe sometimes they want to sit at home but they’re still interested in the arts and sports and politics and Israel,” Ehrenkranz says.
The founding program director of the new cultural resource is Laura Blum, who comes to the position with more than a decade of cultural-events planning experience. Blum first participated in Jewish Greenwich in 2007, when she spoke at the UJA Federation Greenwich Women’s Division annual education conference. Her presentation, “The Israeli New Wave,” drew from her experience in film, from producer and programmer to writer and lecturer. Blum’s curatorial credits include a retrospective of Czech films presented with the Film Society of Lincoln Center. A regular speaker at national cine-club Talk Cinema and the Ring Family Wesleyan University Israeli Film Festival, among other organizations, Blum has also presented the keynote address at the Jewish Film Festival of Fairfield County.
Before joining JCC Greenwich, Blum served as senior editor with FilmFestivalTraveler.com. Her articles, reviews, and interviews have been published in numerous outlets, including Adweek magazine, where she was media reporter. Blum co-edited author Esther Perel’s global bestseller, “Mating in Captivity” (HarperCollins, 2006) and collaborated on the national bestseller, “The Thanksgiving Celebration” (Crown Publishing, 2003), among other books.
In her early career as political analyst, Blum held positions at The Center for Strategic and International Studies, Harvard University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, and The Hebrew University’s Truman Institute. Blum holds a master’s in Middle Eastern and international affairs from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and a BA in history and art design from Duke University.
In addition to its programming, JCC Greenwich will soon launch a website with “stellar content,” Ehrenkranz says, including videos, podcasts, blogs, and articles, curated not only by JCC staff but by community members.
“Our online platform will be a JCC channel, our own curated equivalent of YouTube,” says Blum. “We will offer worthwhile videos – iconic figures, history, a lot of comedy. Often you receive a link to a video and think, ‘Don’t waste my time,’ but we will have strong content.
Among Blum’s current projects is the JCCinema Film Series, which will bring screenings of Israeli and Jewish-themed films to venues throughout Greenwich, from comedies to documentaries to the first Chinese movie about the Holocaust (and it’s animated).
Both Ehrenkranz and Blum say that with only 40 percent of the Greenwich Jewish community affiliated with a synagogue or UJA Federation, JCC Greenwich has already begun to fulfill its vision of engaging a diverse audience, both affiliated and unaffiliated, from within Greenwich and outside.
“The excitement is to reach out to folks in the community who wouldn’t necessarily want to affiliate,” says Blum, “but who just want to come together with others and have educational, spiritual, and cultural experiences.”

To learn more about the Greenwich JCC contact Laura Blum at (203) 522-1818 or laurablum@jccgreenwich.org.

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