From the desk of Scott Braswell... Grateful

Published Friday, May 8, 2020


As our community wrestles with the many challenges that come with COVID-19, our Executive Director, Scott Braswell, reminds us that gratefulness is a part of resiliency and that we will get through this together. 

May 8: Gratefulness     May 15: Gratefulness

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May 15, 2020

Dear Friends:

Today marks eight months since I stepped into the role as the Executive Director. Nothing could have prepared me for these past few months, but I continue to be grateful to have the support and dedication of our fantastic Board.

Today is also the 70th day since we closed, and while my son, Noah, can’t yet count to 70, I am grateful today for children. My child, your children, grandchildren, nephews, and nieces, and all of our children in our camp, preschool, aquatics, and youth sports programs.

Children are the future, and we can all learn a lot from them. Children are resilient, and if you think about it, we are asking pretty impossible things from them right now. We, as adults, can comprehend why we are staying home now (whether or not we like it). From a child development perspective, children do not develop the ability to understand complex thoughts until they are in their teens (when as any of you who have teenagers or who have worked with teenagers know, come with even more challenges). Think how challenging that is: to adapt to something you can’t comprehend. Yet our children and children around the world just do it. There is a great lesson here for all us about adapting to this current reality and being resilient through it all as we can simply look to our children as guides.

As you may know, I keep changing how I refer to this time that we are in. I first started by saying it was the "new normal", yet, none of this is normal. I then changed to calling it our "current reality", yet current means that there is a future reality, one that many of us are having a hard time wrapping our heads around. Today I read something that changed my thinking and understanding that we are living in an infinite present. No future plans, no anticipation of travel or shows or events or celebrations. Its an endless today and never tomorrow. Children, though (and all of us really), need structure and schedule. It is with children in mind that we started this week planning for that tomorrow, which has remained elusive. We sent out communication this week to our Camp Haverim families, and will be communicating with our preschool families, our intention to reopen our doors next month for summer camp. We will only do this if it is safe to do so and if we can operate both programs under the guidelines of our state and the CDC.

We are not going to reopen because we need the revenue from these programs (although we do) or because we are antsy to return to work (although we are), we are going to reopen because of the NEEDS of our children and families. The term child care is not some luxury, but it is the most critical service we offer because we are caring for the most important things in the world to the people who entrust us to do so. Our families need us, and that is why we are moving forward carefully to ensure that we do everything we possibly can to keep their most prized assets safe and keep everyone healthy. We will need everyone to help us accomplish this service to our families. Our world and our JCC will look very different when we finally move out of this infinite present, but one thing we know is that people will need us to care for the blessings, their children, in their lives.

Rest up and recharge this Shabbat as our children need us all.

Zay Gezund/Be healthy, and Shabbat Shalom,



May 8, 2020



Below you will find my weekly Shabbat gratitude remarks that I shared with the staff on our weekly All-Staff Shabbat call. We had a beautiful Shabbat call today with over 83 people, highlighted by Joel and Chelsea Block (plus their beautiful children, minus Elliot who was napping) leading us in the Shabbat blessings and members of the Block and Matros families joining us as well.

Today I am grateful for blood… I know another strange thing to be grateful for but stick with me on this.

Many of us know that earlier this week, the Merage JCC was filled for the first time in 8 weeks. There were many cars in the parking lot, and it felt eerily "normal." Everyone was there for a purpose, and while they were practicing physical distancing and safely moving into our theater, they were using their blood to save lives. Many of you were among the 52 people who donated life-saving blood on Wednesday that will help save the lives of 138 people. Thank you to all of you who gave and a big thank you to Heather Zucker, Nancy Chase, Adrienne Matros, and the JCC Cares committee for going above and beyond by organizing a flawless event in the middle of a pandemic.

Blood can also be negative in terms of a wound or even a plague. Blood, dam, as we learn, was a plague in Egypt and has been an unfortunate part of human existence and the history of the Jewish people. It is easy to become distracted with the deadly nature of this pandemic, worried about the future of your families, our loved ones, and even our Merage JCC. Unfortunately, I can only offer hope as none of us know what the future holds. What we can celebrate and be grateful for is blood or, in this case, life.

Each one of you should feel proud of being the blood, the life of our organization, and continuing to see that our Merage JCC lives through this global crisis. Almost half of those on this call and who give our organization life our preschool teachers, and this week is teacher appreciation week.

Today I am also especially grateful for our teachers. The ones who take families with young children into the loving embrace of our Jewish community.

Teachers, whose success depends on creativity and collaboration.

Teachers, whose dedication to our children transcends the outsized, invaluable role they play in the lives of us all.

Teachers, who provide our kids with a safe space and who fill their minds and hearts with ideas and ideals.

Teachers, who are there for our children—and for us—in good times and in times of crisis. They honor us with their service, and especially amidst this crisis, we were incredibly proud to honor them.

I encourage all of you to celebrate and be grateful for blood or, in this case, life. Choose hope over uncertainty and fear. Focus on what you can control and know that I see you and understand how scary and unnerving this time might be for you. Earlier this week, as part of teacher appreciation week, Linda Thompkins, a teacher at the JCC in Newport, Virginia, shared these 15 words with JCCA: "We're scared of going back. We're afraid of not going back. But we're not quitting." Fifteen words. Fifteen words that beautifully capture both our fears and our determination. We're not quitting. We'll be back.

Zay Gezund - Be healthy, and a very happy Mother's Day to all of you who are mothers. I am grateful for the mothers in my life, and I hope all of the mothers have a great weekend and a great day on Sunday.

Shabbat Shalom,