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JCC State of Mind – March 29, 2024

Posted by Admin on March 29, 2024
Written by guest authors:
Abbey Plumb, Squirrel Hill Children, Youth and Family Department Director
Emma Litwak, South Hills Children, Youth and Family Department Director, Director of South Hills Day Camp

Celebrating Jewish holidays is one of the many ways that our community comes together. While Purim is not one of the most holy days on the Jewish calendar, it has certainly become one of the biggest Jewish holiday gatherings of the year. As the Jewish organization that engages the most diverse segments of the Jewish community across Pittsburgh, we work very intentionally to create inclusive holiday experiences that incorporate shared traditions and customs from different Jewish perspectives. Our celebration of Purim last weekend was just that – various organizations, groups and members, young and old from across the community gathering to enjoy and connect with the holiday, all happening in and through the JCC.


Strengthening community through innovative holiday experiences is not exclusive to Purim – it’s central to our work and is ongoing. The South Hills Purim Palooza, planned by Beth El CongregationTemple Emanuel and the South Hills JCC, is a shining example. Over 400 people in two shifts spent Sunday morning fulfilling the four mitzvot of Purim, playing carnival games and writing letters for the Jewish Soldiers Project.  In a collaborative, ongoing partnership with the two congregations, we’ve amplified our ability to engage a boarder audience in the South Hills through meaningful Jewish programming. Beyond the Purim festivities, our work together has resulted in more robust holiday programming, including Rosh Hashanah and Chanukah, intentionally designed to engage not only our members, but anyone looking to connect to Jewish community.


The celebration continued in Squirrel Hill for our annual Snyder Family Purim Carnival, which was a demonstration of community in the truest sense. Activities and carnival games were led by staff and volunteers from Tree of LifeRepair the WorldThe Beacon and The Friendship Circle and 20 middle school student ambassadors from Community Day School. The result was our “town square” packed with hundreds of children, parents, grandparents and community members embracing the spirit of Purim. And the celebration kept going well into the evening with our partners at The Friendship Circle and Kesser Torah hosting individual gatherings at the JCC.

This is the essence of community that we envision at the JCC, where through partnerships with a purpose, we are stronger than the sum of our individual parts. The JCC is uniquely positioned to be a galvanizing force for individuals and families to come together and celebrate holidays as a community, despite the different institutions we belong to or the different ways in which we practice our Judaism.

While we need Purim every year, we certainly did need it this year more than others. We needed the collaboration across Am Yisrael. We needed the fun of the holiday. The Book of Esther teaches us that back in the day, the Jewish People of Persia enjoyed light and joy, and just as our ancestors enjoyed it more than 2,000 years ago, so did we this year throughout Pittsburgh.

Wishing you and your families a Shabbat shalom filled with light and joy,

Emma Litwak and Abbey Plumb

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