By Ashley Stokar
Photo after photo showed smiling faces, old and young, starting in the 1920s and following an unbroken timeline continuing through the present day. With a photo archive spanning more than 85 years, the Mayerson JCC of Cincinnati celebrated the JCC Movement at 100 by honoring the people who have been part of our community throughout the decades.
We started to explore an overwhelming treasure of memories where we found dozens of hidden gems. The active brotherhood of our men’s softball league was captured in a painting of a JCC softball game, commissioned to honor of a beloved past player. We were able to loan the painting to the HUC-JIR Skirball Museum to be displayed during an exhibition celebrating the importance of baseball to American Jews and immigrants, finding their place in the country. We were thrilled to be able to celebrate our history in the city by sharing such a beloved pastime with the wider community.
Then came the deep dive into the photo archives that had been lovingly kept, for generation after generation and from building to building. A lively history of Days of Fun, musicals, day camp, swim lessons, dance classes, and community came to life with each successive photo – nearly 5,000 in all. Each picture told a story and began to form a piece of the puzzle that revealed the story of a community that has grown and changed over the years while remaining strong and faithful from generation to generation.
The exploration continued throughout the summer and culminated during our annual meeting, where we displayed enlarged individual pictures and a large vinyl poster showcasing nearly 250 individually numbered pictures. Below the vinyl, we supplied three custom photo books for community members to write down the names and stories associated with these snapshots in time. Today, those pages are filled with ink; our members continue to share their stories, connecting the living memory to those who have passed, and inspiring a connection to the future. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but in our case, they are also worth 100 years.
Ashley Stokar is director of marketing for the Mayerson JCC of Cincinnati.