By Marc Fisher
It’s common for Jewish organizations to construct a sukkah leading up to the holiday of Sukkot.
Here at the Mayerson JCC, we’re lucky to have a large – and thriving – community that doesn’t end at our walls. Cincinnati has been booming with invigorating businesses, tighter-knit neighborhoods, and renowned cultural offerings over the last decade.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t engage our Cincinnati community and create social connections to and throughout, our Jewish community.
In 2013, the idea of our Under One Roof Sukkah Art Exhibit came to fruition. That year, and every year since, we’ve had no less than 40 community organizations – Jewish and non – contributing and representing their group through art. The exhibit doesn’t allow individual organizations to use their name or identifier in their art. This is in an effort to make the exhibit an opportunity for expression through art.
Each year has brought a new theme to the exhibit. During the inaugural 2013 exhibit, the theme was “Community.” In 2014, it was “What Is a Hero?” In 2015, it was “Food For the Body, Food For the Soul.” By changing the overarching theme each year, we’re able to tell different stories. Stories of uplifting hope, of community change, and progress.
For 2016, our theme is “Home,” and some of our participating members have beautiful stories to tell about what defines the idea of “home,” for them.
Participants and artists are allowed to use virtually any material that will adhere to our canvas sukkah panels. This means that these panels truly come alive. We’ve seen everything from “puffy paint,” to glass, to found objects that are reimagined.
This year, participants include our fellow Jewish organizations such as temples, synagogues and our Federation. To represent our larger community, Cincinnati Museum Center, the Cincinnati Ballet, and Cincinnati Shakespeare Company are also taking part.
These partnerships extend far past the art exhibit. We have worked with the Cincinnati Museum Center to bring lessons to our Camp at the J campers, and we’re currently planning a collaboration with the Cincinnati Ballet centered on Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin.
These efforts only help to cement our relationship with not only our Jewish audiences, but beyond. Through concerted outreach efforts, Cincinnati organizations and individuals are coming to know our J as a place of acceptance, gathering, and learning.
Events held in the sukkah bring in hundreds of children and students from schools of all faiths, our Camp at the J families, fitness classes, and BBYO. These groups are able to explore and make social connections through the programming offered in the sukkah.
As a Jewish organization, we always do our best to focus on why we do what we do. This leads us to understand that in order to engage our community, we have to realistically know them and what motivates them to engage with us. By creating art together, and uplifting other organizations to tell their story, the Mayerson JCC is embodying our goal of engaging the community as a whole – Jewish or otherwise.
Marc Fisher is the CEO of the Mayerson JCC, and a strong supporter of the Jewish community in Cincinnati and beyond.