Pozez JCC’s Volunteer Services Launches

We are a community of action. As a community, we are committed to repairing the world — starting here in Northern Virginia. When a need is identified, time and time again, our community has shown that it understands the value of working together to make a lasting impact.

To that end, we are proud to announce the launch of Pozez JCC’s Volunteer Services program—inspired by our community’s commitment to the Jewish values of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) and Gemilut Hasidim (acts of loving kindness). These are two Jewish values that inspire acts of kindness, service, and social responsibility.

When developing the Volunteer Services program, it was important that its foundation lead with Jewish values to create a program that unites our community and serves our neighbors and the wider world. Volunteers have already been in many programs in the JCC — from our popular NV Rides volunteer driver program to the intergenerational force that comes out every year to help us prep for the Challah Bake. The Volunteer Services program will build on our community’s rich tradition of volunteering and unite us in service — both within the JCC and in our broader community.

The goal of the program is to have something that inspires everyone — every age, every stage and every interest — to get involved and to feel connected to our community and to each other. To that end, there are a wide array of options and entry points to make participating easy and inviting.

Ongoing positions in our buildings and programs.

If you are looking for a regular (or semi-regular) opportunity within the JCC, we have roles in our camps, fitness, Israel engagement, membership, and much more. These roles are a great way to get involved with our community and create deep connections with our members and staff.

Flexible, Periodic Involvement

Looking for periodic opportunities to serve the community? Perhaps as a way to meet people and give back as you are available?  The program offers ongoing, impactful volunteer events planned with a variety of interests and abilities in mind. These events allow people to meet, engage and serve with only a one-day commitment.

All volunteer opportunities are live on volunteer.thej.org. There are currently 30 opportunities listed, including a “choose your own adventure” option for those with a particular passion or interest. Your talents and skills are welcome!

Please take a look at the opportunities and sign up to become part of our database. We want to harness our community’s diversity of skills and interests to make a lasting impact and connect us to one another. We treasure your suggestions and feedback. Contact volunteerservices@theJ.org to share ideas and/or opportunities you’re interested in. Volunteer Services is your home for service at the Pozez JCC. We believe in the power of community, the strength of unity, and the transformative impact of giving back. We look forward to serving with you!

Celebrating Diversity at Pozez JCC

Pride has many meanings. It is mainly known to be a feeling of satisfaction from one’s achievements, confidence, and self-admiration. But for the month of June, “Pride” takes on an even deeper meaning as we recognize Pride month, a time of celebration of the LGBTQI+ community. This month empowers those who are socially marginalized and sometimes treated differently by those who are ignorant of things they don’t understand. Pride gives members of the LGBTQI+ community and their allies a chance to celebrate their shared identity and experiences that those in majority groups cannot always understand. 

Pride month also gives an opportunity to uplift and rejoice in our differences. Love whomever we love. And share in a joy and celebration of those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, nonbinary, intersex, asexual, pansexual – however they identify.  

In my 6 months at the Pozez Jewish Community Center, I’ve found that the staff here work hard to uphold values that honor Pride 365 days a year (or in the case of this year, 366). A few of our core values represent exactly what Pride month serves to honor. Our inclusion statement proclaims that “we live in a diverse community which includes Jews who are religiously affiliated and not; who are young, old, single, parents, intermarried, LGBTQI+, who have had a Jewish connection or not. We seek to be inclusive, to welcome all, to extend our tent and reach out to even more people so that we can bring Jewish vibrancy, connection and community to all Jews in Northern Virginia.” We seek to invite anyone to our community, no matter how they identify or whom they love, and we strive to raise the voices of those in our community who are marginalized. How I see it, at the J it is not “despite who you are or whom you love,” but rather “in celebration of who you are and whom you love. 

I have especially seen this compassion of others in my time with Camp Achva. Not only do we work to make those who identify as LGBTQI+ feel welcome, but we are proud to have them representing our Camp. As a member of the community myself, I was immediately filled with a sense of belonging here. I asked in my interview how Camp supports the LGBTQI+ community and was met with overwhelming enthusiasm in the response. It was clear from the beginning that the queer community was celebrated and welcome in the Camp Achva community. Our younger staff members also consist of many LGBTQI+ members which fills me with a sense of pride in and of itself. I am so proud to be a part of an organization that openly encourages representation of LGBTQI+ culture.  

Before my time at the J, I lived in Philadelphia for a few years which opened me up to a world of new people. In my time there, I frequented the Philly AIDS Thrift’s Drag Bingo at Congregation Rodeph Shalom. This was my first realization of how welcoming the Jewish community is. In fact, it was one of the things that drew me to the J, because I had had a positive experience with another Jewish community’s inclusive programming.  

I’m honored to write about my appreciation for the J’s inclusivity of the LGBTQI+ community. I know that many of my sentiments on the warmth of the J are shared by others, and I hope this message will help people feel empowered to be true to themselves in the Pozez JCC community.  

To support and help grow the J’s inclusive programming, please donate by clicking here.

Camp Achva celebrates 55 years of Jewish impact

Once an Achva-nik, always an Achva-nik.

There are roughly 5,000 of them. Some are kindergarteners. Others are pushing 70. The common thread: Their summer memories were made at Camp Achva, where Jewish kids go to make friends, gain independence, and of course, have hours of outdoor fun. 

And this year, Achva-nik pride is on full display to celebrate 55 years of impact. The day camp has long been a centerpiece of Jewish culture in Northern Virginia, home to the largest Jewish population in the Washington metropolitan area.

There are 200-some campers who spend three to six weeks on the lush grounds of Gesher Jewish Day School, which transforms into Camp Achva from June through August.

The campus is packed with 5 to 14 year olds trying all sorts of activities — from slingshots to archery to woodworking to arts. Next summer, that list will grow to include weaving, climbing, and possibly racing through a new low-ropes course, an opportunity to be adventurous while building leadership and teamwork skills. 

By doing, kids begin to figure out what they like and who they are, without pressures or expectations. 

This is how Alexi Wirpel, 17, grew into herself. During nine summers at Achva, seven of them as a camper and one as a counselor, she tried new things, sang and danced on Shabbat, and met some of her closest friends. 

“When I started, I was a shy kid who was terrified to talk to people,” Wirpel said. “Camp brought me out of my shell, and I genuinely don’t know what I would have done if that hadn’t happened.”

For Wirpel, Achva is a family tradition. Her uncle, Josh, was the very first registered camper in 1969. Her mother, Andi, was an Achva-nik for several years before becoming a counselor.

“To me, Camp Achva means community,” Andi, 58, said. “I’m thrilled that my kids attended camp, and now my daughter, Alexi, is a counselor.”

A big draw for the Wirpels and other families: Camp makes Judaism fun. Saying hamotzi over bread and singing Hebrew songs can happen on the nature trails, soccer field, or even around the fire pit. All the while, kids are with old and new friends in a casual space, where shorts and sneakers are the norm.

Everything is designed to meet campers where they are physically, emotionally, socially, and above all, Jewishly. 

Jewish summer camps, a product of the late 1800s and early 1900s in America, were largely born out of a need to connect the next generation with their roots. The founding of Camp Achva in 1969 is no exception. 

The story goes: Northern Virginia was a region dotted with Jewish institutions but void of Jewish day camps. Taking note, a mother of three complained to her husband, “There are no Jewish camps here.” He reached into his pocket, handed her a $50 bill, and suggested, “Go start a camp.”

And she did. The woman, Adele Greenspon, opened the very first Jewish day camp in Northern Virginia, with help from fellow moms, Shirley Waxman and Judy Frank. They welcomed 70 campers their first summer.

Ron Hohauser, 55, was one of the original Achva-niks, a camper in the 1970s and a counselor in the 1980s. There, he took to three sports: Gaga, punchball, and ultimate frisbee. He also learned Hebrew songs and Israeli dances.

“Camp Achva gave me a sense of belonging and connections to our local community,” Hohauser said. “I knew what I would be doing every summer, and I knew I’d love it.” 

Stephanie Sanders Levy was another camper during the early days of Achva.

“We were a small camp with big dreams,” Levy said. “That required passion and innovation from the directors, and support from parents and the community to ensure that we would experience a fun program filled with Jewish history, tradition and values through music, drama, art, and dance.”

Years of camp strengthened her connection to the Jewish people and Israel, encouraging her to take on Jewish leadership roles as she grew. Levy has since been on the board of Federations, synagogues, and other Jewish institutions. 

This story is a common one, where Achva-niks grow up to be active Jewish adults. Wanting to be a doer in the Jewish community starts with empowerment, one of the most elemental aspects of Achva. 

Unlike school, kids have input on and ownership of their days. They can choose to create pottery or build a birdhouse or play kickball. The flexibility and informality of camp teaches kids to lean into joy.

Another crucial element to becoming a Jewish doer is inclusion, said Greg Feitel, who serves as director of Camp Achva, his dream job as a child.

Feitel, a former camper and counselor, said Achva has grown to become the most inclusive Jewish day camp in the region. Of 200-some children, approximately 100 have a diagnosis for neurodivergence. 

To ensure all campers can participate to the fullest extent, morning pep rallies are held outdoors to better disperse sound. Extra time is built into daily schedules to help kids transition from one activity to the next. Staff participate in ongoing, comprehensive training to learn how to meet each child where they are.

“We adapt our environment to our campers rather than adapt campers to our environment,” Feitel said.

This summer, hundreds of campers will do activities in line with the 2024 camp theme, “Camp is More Than a Bagel.” Playful and laced with meaning, the theme was inspired by Jewish is More Than a Bagel: Songs for Jewish Children, an album by Achva-nik Shirley Grossman.

For years, Grossman wrote songs about Jewish experiences and traditions that fellow campers would sing and dance to — at all hours. Michelle Pearlstein was one of them. She still remembers the words and moves from her time at camp in the 70s and 80s.

Pearlstein, who now serves as development director of Pozez JCC, hangs on to one of her earliest camp memories, a photo of her showing off a gappy smile and a 1976 T-shirt. She is one of 24 JCC employees who went to Achva, and her children are second-generation Achva-niks.

“Those of us who love it, we just don’t leave,” Pearlstein said. “Camp is a magical experience, where we bring the joy of Jewish living to life.”

“Hot Fun in the Summertime”

Summer arrives on Thursday, and it beckons for some good old-fashioned fun. When I think of summertime as a kid, what comes to mind is freedom from homework and studying, hours spent outdoors — often at the pool (and sometimes at the beach!), special times with friends, vacations with family, and going to camp.

Back then, summer break seemed endless, relaxing, and full of limitless possibilities with a very different kind of routine than the school year had. Camp offered sports, games, crafts, excursions, and making new friends over these activities. I have vivid memories from summer camp in the Catskills (a bungalow colony in Monticello) of morning meetings at the flagpole, winning a contest to list the names of all 7 dwarves from Snow White, my brother being carried (wrapped head to toe in tin foil) as the mascot for Color War! As a day camper and eventually a counselor, I remember spending rainy day indoors, free swim time, making lanyard key chains and doing arts & crafts, and ice cream Fridays where mint chocolate chip was the favorite flavor (though not for me — chocolate was mine).

As an adult, I know that summer break is only a mere 9 or 10 weeks long, and boy does it go by quickly. To evoke the nostalgia and sheer joy of those wonderful, carefree summer days of childhood, the J is offering a mini-camp experience for adults: Camp Gadol (camp for ‘big’ people/grownups) is coming August 5-9. It will be a one-week, half-day program, 9:30am-1:30pm with 3-4 activities each day; lunch will be provided. Enjoy fun themes and activities like color war, sling shot archery, singing & dancing, art, games, Shabbat, and more! See the schedule below. Registration information is coming very soon; save the dates now!


A one-week, half-day camp experience for active adults of all ages!
Monday-Friday, August 5-9, 9:30am-1:30pm

Come experience a bit of nostalgia from that era of carefree days of summer at the J’s Camp for ‘big’ people: Camp Gadol! Each day we will have a different theme and 4 activities; includes lunch.

Day 1: Welcome to Summer Camp!

Enjoy an icebreaker activity and share favorite camp memories with others. Make friendship bracelets, go on a scavenger hunt, and make s’mores over a fire after lunch.

Day 2: The Art of Living

Explore Jewish wisdom about the art of living, make a beautiful mixed media botanical print, play ping pong for prizes, and create a visually pleasing dairy charcuterie board for lunch!

Day 3: Color War

Use color throughout the day: build a Lego creation in your team color, pick up picture-taking skills to enhance your smart phone photos, play sling shot archery, learn about “eating the rainbow” for nutrition and enjoy healthy smoothies!

Day 4: I  Israel

Take a quick trip to Eretz Yisrael and experience Israeli culture with Shaliach Dean Bagdadi. Sip Turkish coffee while acquiring popular Hebrew expressions and cool trivia, learn Yemenite basketweaving, and participate in Israeli Dancing before enjoying a delicious Israeli-style buffet breakfast dish cooked by Dean!

Day 5: Shabbat Happens

Get in the mood for Shabbat! Make Havdalah candles from beeswax, participate in a hands-on service project to help repair the world (Tikkun Olam), sing traditional songs with song leader Shy Ashkenazi, while enjoying bagels and lox with “two cents plain” (seltzer)!

Attend the full week or individual days:
Early Bird Pricing until July 14: Weekly Rate: $180 | Daily Rate: $40                   
Regular Pricing after July 15: Weekly Rate: $220 | Daily Rate: $55
(Registration link to come.)

We hope you’ll spend all or part of the first week in August at Camp Gadol and enjoy some hot fun in the summertime in the airconditioned Pozez JCC!

Celebrating Shavuot: Tradition, Dairy Delights, and Family Fun

Shavuot, a significant festival holiday in the Jewish calendar, often gets overlooked amidst the more widely recognized celebrations like Passover and Chanukah.

Jewish tradition teaches that all Jewish souls that ever existed and will exist in this world were standing under the mount Sinai receiving Torah from Moses. Let’s explore what Shavuot is all about, why dairy plays a starring role in its celebration, and how you can make it memorable with delicious recipes and fun family traditions.

What is Shavuot?

Shavuot, also known as the Feast of Weeks, commemorates Moses receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai. This event, occurring seven weeks after Passover (at the end of the Omer), is considered a cornerstone of Jewish faith, symbolizing the covenant between God and the Israelites, the moment, when a group of people who up to this point were just a huge extended family (all descendants of Jacob) became a nation with its own language, laws and governing structure. Shavuot is a time to celebrate the giving of the Torah, engage in study, and reflect on its teachings… an excellent opportunity for the community to connect with each other.

Dairy – Why?

One of the most distinctive aspects of Shavuot is the tradition of consuming dairy products. Several explanations exist for this custom, here are a couple:

  • One popular interpretation is that upon receiving the Torah, including its dietary laws, the Israelites could not prepare kosher meat with the utensils they had, leading them to eat dairy instead.
  • Another explanation is the association of the Torah with the “land flowing with milk and honey,” signifying abundance and prosperity.
  • As a mom, I like this one most of all: Like a mother’s milk is a source of love and safety, Torah is the source of life, structure and the greatest joy of learning!

Favorite Dairy Recipes

To honor this tradition, many families prepare and enjoy an array of dairy dishes. Here are a couple of my family’s favorite recipes that can make your Shavuot celebration delicious:

My Favorite Cheesecakehttps://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/the-ultimate-cheesecake-recipe-1914053

My daughter brought this idea home from summer camp, try it out!:

Rhubarb and Fennel Ice Cream

2 cups chopped rhubarb
1 cup sugar
1 fennel top, (the green!) finely chopped
2 cups half and half
1 cup whole milk
4 egg yolks


In a saucepan, combine rhubarb, fennel, and 1/2 cup sugar. Cook over medium heat until soft, then puree in food processor or blender and set aside.

In another saucepan, heat cream and milk until simmering.

Whisk egg yolks with the remaining sugar until pale. Slowly pour in the hot cream mixture, whisking constantly.

Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over low heat until thickened.

Stir in the rhubarb-fennel puree and let cool. Churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Family Tradition of Trying New Ice Cream

Our family has a tradition of exploring new ice cream shops each Shavuot. It adds an element of fun and anticipation to the holiday, making it a favorite for both kids and adults. Here are some memorable spots we’ve visited over the years:

Casa Rosada: Argentinian ice cream, known for its artisanal flavors and fresh ingredients.
The Yard: Famous for its extravagant milkshakes.
Battlefield Country Store: Crazy milkshakes in a fun country store.
Jeni’s: Renowned for its unique and gourmet flavor combinations, we like the sample plate.
Ice Cream Jubilee: A local favorite with creative and seasonal options.
Peterson’s: A classic spot offering a nostalgic ice cream experience, order at the window and pretend you are at the beach.
Moo Thru: Celebrated for its farm-fresh ice cream made from local dairy, we love the dark chocolate, available at their Remington location.

Do you have recipe or ice cream suggestions to share? We are ready for our new ice cream spot! Email Amy.Lummer@theJ.org.

This Shavuot, embrace the holiday’s traditions, indulge in delightful dairy treats, and create lasting memories with your family. Whether you’re making a classic cheesecake, experimenting with homemade ice cream, or visiting a new ice cream shop, let the spirit of Shavuot fill your home with joy and sweetness.

Chag Shavuot Sameach!