In 1967, a time when female entrepreneurship was scarce, Rita Bloom started a business. Creative Parties, her Bethesda-based firm, offered event planning, stationery design and wedding consulting.
“I was in the right place at the right time,” Bloom said. “I began with no plan ahead. But my qualification was that I knew how to smile.”
Creative Parties thrived. Twenty-five years later, Tracy Bloom Schwartz, Rita’s daughter, joined the business, specializing in children’s’ parties and continuing through her mother’s retirement.
“We had a satisfying mother-daughter relationship, and melded very well,” Rita Bloom said.
“We’re very similar and very different, and complemented each other. But our thinking and life values are alike,” added Bloom Schwartz.
The warm relationship and shared values of the two women are captured visually in one of 17 photographs that comprise the current exhibit in the Goldman Art Gallery of the Bender JCC of Greater Washington. Titled “L’Dor V’Dor” (Hebrew for “From Generation to Generation”): Celebrating the Women of Our Community,” the exhibit is photographer Melissa McGowan’s “visual testament to the vibrant women in the community,” said Lisa Del Sesto, the JCC’s assistant director of arts and ideas. “The photographs offer a glimpse into generations of women who share their knowledge, wisdom and experiences with the next generation, thus forever strengthening the bonds and vitality of our community.”
It is only recently, pointed out Del Sesto, that the Bender JCC has been making a “concerted effort” to program around special calendar events, such as International Holocaust Day (Jan. 27) and Women’s History Month (March).
“To commemorate Women’s History Month, we considered different options — among them, an exhibit of local female artists and a tribute to art work by women on a broader scale,” said Del Sesto. In the end, the JCC chose to assemble a photographic exhibit with the theme, “the ties that bind theme, of shared values, what’s passed along from one generation to another,” she said.
Photo Credit: Melissa McGowan
Barbara Winnik with granddaughter, Juliana Yavinsky and daughter, Rachel Yavinsky.
McGowan did photo sessions with all the women featured in the exhibit; one photo was chosen for each family unit. The subjects were asked to submit an essay of up to 100 words to add context about what the photos — and the family relationships they represent — mean to them.
Heidi Hookman Brodsky is board chair of the JCC and a lawyer and community leader who co-created and co-moderates the She Says women’s speaker series co-sponsored by the JCC and Jewish Women’s International. She was invited to participate in the project because her family encompasses four generations of women living in the D.C., area.
The photograph of her family includes herself, her grandmother, Raye Swartz-Keller, who was photographed a few days before her 103rd birthday; her mother, Susan Hookman; one of her sisters, Dr. Wendy Hookman-Vassa; two of her three daughters, Claire, 20, and Jillian Brodsky, 17; and one of her two nieces, Olivia Hookman-Vassa, 12.
“When I look at the photograph, I get goosebumps, “Hookman Brodsky said. “All I can think is how blessed we are to have four generations of women in our family and to have the gift to know, respect and love one another. It is not something any of us takes for granted.”…
Hookman Brodsky’s great-grandmother lived to 103. “She inspired the strength that is our matriarchy,” she chair said. “The legacy continues with my grandmother and my mother, three sisters, three daughters and two nieces.”
McGowan, who started taking pictures in fifth grade, calls herself a “lifestyle photographer,” focusing on family sessions, primarily babies and children but also seniors, rather than events. Women of all ages are represented in the exhibit. “When the JCC asked me in the fall to do this project, it sparked my interest,” she said.
But she was relating to more than the subjects themselves. “Often, the women brought in objects that meant a lot to them,” McGowan said. “Like a wooden spoon their great-grandmother used, when the common interest is cooking. Others brought in candlesticks that had been in the family.
“Everyone had a different story,” McGowan said. “It might have been recipes passed down or some girls close to their bat mitzvah who wore a tallit worn by their mother.”
A few of the subjects looked into the camera, but McGowan said she tried to encourage the women to engage in conversation — with “natural smiles, hand-holding and laughing.” Bringing to life the ties that bind.
“L’Dor V’Dor” will be on view through April 4 at the Bender JCC of Greater Washington, 6125 Montrose Road, Rockville. Admission is free and open to the public. Call 301-348-5751 or www.benderjccgw.org.