Basketball leagues. Preschool. Fitness. Bookfair. Swimming. Kosher meals. Senior outings. There is something for everyone today at the JCC. But for the past 100 years, this hasn’t just been about the variety of programs and services, but the fact that the JCC welcomes everyone—no matter what religion, race, gender, age, or ability—and because of this, the NAACP has chosen to honor the JCC during its Civil Rights Celebration (CRC) on March 21, 2013.
“It is a tremendous honor that the NAACP selected the Jewish Center as this year’s Past Civil Rights Icon. As we celebrate 100 years as an organization in Columbus, one area of great pride is the leadership our agency has shown working toward the civil rights for all,” said JCC Executive Director Carol Folkerth.
Many milestones in the JCC’s first 100 years have been toward the advancement of civil rights. In 1918 the JCC provided support and space to immigrants and women’s groups. The JCC had the first integrated semi-professional theater and bowling lanes in the 1950s. In the 1970s the JCC promoted the rights of Soviet Jews, and today the JCC is proud to offer special needs programming including camping and arts for children and adults. The JCC also provides English as a Second Language classes, Russian acculturation programming, and a place for people to vote.
Noel Williams, President of the Columbus NAACP said, “The Jewish Community Center, being one of the first places in Columbus to integrate, having the first integrated bowling alley, and being noted for having the first integrated cast for a play before the 1960s, is an obvious choice for the Columbus NAACP to recognize for their civil rights work.”
In addition to honoring the JCC itself, the NAACP has selected two individuals—who have worked with the JCC, promoting its tenets—to be honored as 2013 Civil Rights Present Day Icons: Chef Toney Robertson and Raisa Patlashenko.
Robertson, a Methodist and an African American, has been the chef at the JCC for 13 years. He learned how to keep an Orthodox kosher kitchen, where he prepares meals for preschoolers and seniors, as well as catering for special events. Under Robertson, the JCC expanded its catering services; Robertson was honored when a Columbus convention of rabbis from throughout the country requested him as the caterer.
Patlashenko herself fled oppression and came to the United States for religious and civil freedoms. She started working at the JCC in the Russian Acculturation program 22 years ago, helping families with basic things, like finding doctors, helping with schools, translations, and even with celebrating Jewish holidays, Shabbat dinners, and weddings.
As part of the Civil Rights Celebration program, students from across the city will participate in a challenge to research and present what they’ve learned about the JCC and why it was chosen as the NAACP’s Past Civil Rights Icon this year. Williams added, “We involve local schools in the celebration—asking them to research why this entity is being honored—because the NAACP believes it is important for the youth to learn and understand that the fight for Civil Rights was not something that just Dr. King or Rosa Parks did outside of this city and state. …Civil rights is something we all have and many individuals or organizations work to make us free.”
Presentations can include songs, dance, poetry, rap, a play or skit. Pre-judging will take place in early March and the top three schools will present at the Civil Rights Celebration event on Thursday, March 21, from 6-8 p.m. at the JCC.
Tickets are $65, which includes a kosher dinner and the performance, or $15 for the performance only. For more information and to buy tickets, visit www.columbusnaacp.org.