The Show Must Go On
The true measure of success lies in the impact we have on others.
When Erica Rabinovitch (now Smith-Rappaport) was introduced to the Mandell JCC at 5-years old through the Campareenah program, she could never have imagined how that summer spent with Ms. Pam [Powell] (retired ECC Co-Director), like an orange octopus, green grape, and red balloon, would influence her and how she would pay it forward for years to come.
During her time as a youth at the JCC, Erica participated in myriad programs, including ballet, Camp Shalom, swim team, and vacation programs. Despite being so involved in the JCC, Erica was painfully shy. That is until her mother ‘forced’ her to join the theater program, believing it would be a great fit for her daughter. It was.
“I found my voice,” says Erica. “The environment changes you, leaving you comfortable in your skin. The impact this program had on my life was significant.”
During her first show, “Once Upon A Mattress”, Erica went to extraordinary lengths to memorize everyone’s lines. If someone was absent, Erica would raise her hand to fill in, and as the Director noted, “the show went on.” Her presence was so valued that the director gave her a special award on closing night.
That recognition was the first of many accolades which Erica would receive during her years at the JCC. Whether she was working at Camp Shalom, answering the phones at the front desk, teaching swim lessons, or hosting birthday parties, Executive Director David Jacobs noted that “Erica was the hardest working teenager you’ll ever meet!”
It was this work ethic and commitment to the JCC that led to Erica being chosen for the Professor Joseph Davidson college scholarship through the JCC teen program in 1989.
“For 45 years, I have been a member, program participant, staff member, counselor, parent volunteer, and youth mentor. All of the milestones in my life happened at 335 Bloomfield Ave,” including the phone call she received offering Erica her first college admittance to Lesley College. That moment happened when she was a counselor in the Kids Korner after-school program. The children she was responsible for shared this moment with Erica.
As milestones go, the biggest of them all happened while leading the Let’s go Israel trip in 1998. “My husband Avi proposed to me at the Kotel during our one day off that week.”
As Erica worked on her undergraduate degree, Master’s degree, became a wife and a mother, the JCC remained an important place in her life. She worked full time in the youth, teen, and camp programs and most recently as the J Center Stage Program Director, a program in which her children, Samm and Maxx, would participate as actors and production assistants for many years.
“For two generations the JCC Theater program has been a family affair and has had such a profound impact on all of us,” says Erica
Samm and Maxx were just two of the hundreds of young people who vied for Erica’s support, mentorship, and love as a youth and teen theater participant.
Veronia Saffron, 16-years old, spent many years under Erica’s tutelage. “Erica Smith-Rappaport has been a constant mother figure and friend in the JCC theatre community. She was there for you if you were physically sick, mentally frustrated, as well as being a champion and cheerleader for your accomplishments. She is creative, resourceful, insightful, and full of energy. Erica brings such light and love to the theatre. I have been honored to work with her and hope to continue to do so in the future.”
While Erica recognizes the many benefits that our families receive from this program, she is also grateful for the impact the parents can make on their children and the entire JCC show through their volunteer work at the JCC. “Our parent volunteers are the most incredible people who share their time, talent, and treasures with us in their own way.”
As the “show goes on” in the era of COVID-19, Erica continues to find ways to keep the JCC theater program in the hearts and minds of her JCC kids as we plan for the time when we can once again be together in person.
Until that time, we thank Erica, her husband Avi, Samm, and Maxx for their many contributions to the Mandell JCC over the years.
Erica and son Samm during the production of Addams Family in 2018.