Second City dwelling for Zwellings

Zwellings depart Dayton, May 2010

By Martha Moody Jacobs, Special To The Dayton Jewish Observer

May 2010

Deva and Josh Zwelling

Josh and Deva Zwelling first met in Jerusalem, in a square overlooking the Western Wall plaza. Josh was two years out of high school and Deva just one year out and both were spending a year in Israel.
Five years later, they ran into each other in a supermarket in New York. Deva recognized Josh, Josh didn’t recognize her.

But this second meeting eventually resulted in their November 1995 marriage in New York.
Two months later, they moved to Dayton. Now, 14 and a half years and four children (4 to 13) later, they are moving to Chicago.

When hearing the Zwellings were leaving Dayton, many people’s first reaction was shock. Both have been fixtures in the Jewish community.

Deva is the Jewish Federation’s assistant executive vice president, overseeing multiple programs, including the United Jewish Campaign, senior and social services.

Since 2003, Josh has been the director of Judaic Studies at Hillel Academy and is now the Jewish day school’s principal.

Prior to this, he was program director at Beth Jacob Congregation and taught Judaics at Hillel.

Over the years, he has coached many Bar and Bat Mitzvah students, most recently their oldest boy, Jacob.

Now, regarding their move, Deva says, “People are supportive.”

“They realize it’s a good move for us,” Josh adds.

The Jewish Federation will honor Deva and offer its best wishes to the Zwelling family at its annual meeting on May 12.

Josh’s family is from Dayton and he attended Hillel Academy through eighth grade before going to a Jewish boarding school in Chicago.

His position at Hillel has given him the “feeling of giving back.” Some of his co-workers are his former instructors.

Josh will be the director of recruitment at Camp Moshava Wild Rose, a Modern Orthodox Zionist camp in Wisconsin. He will recruit campers from Florida to California for four- and eight-week summer sessions. Each summer, the camp serves about 350 children in grades four through 12.

The Zwellings’ two oldest children have attended a similar camp.

Josh thinks the search committee was surprised and pleased when, during his job interview, he asked, “Can I be involved with kids at camp in the summer?” He will be.

Josh believes that camp and Jewish day school are two vital experiences that can forge Jewish identity in a child. He also lauds the useful life skills — “living with other people, living with your peers” — developed in those Jewish settings.

Deva also will have a career, as director of development for Chicago’s Ida Crown Jewish Academy, a co-ed high school with 350 students.

A native of New York, Deva says Dayton has been an incredible place to live.

Though Josh grew up in Dayton, his parents now live in Florida. Deva says that without family here, their friends have become like family. Also, their house is near Hillel Academy, and students come over after school and on weekends.

In Chicago, their children will be living in a predominantly Orthodox environment, but Deva is pleased that here, her children have been exposed to different Jewish movements.

Deva also notes that in a small Jewish community like Dayton’s, “we can really make an impact with our jobs. I can honestly say there’s never been a morning when I got up and thought, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go in today.’”

“Sometimes you don’t realize what you have until you don’t have it anymore,” Josh adds.

Deva says the decision to move was very difficult. Housing and life in Chicago will cost more. Still, in Chicago, the family will be part of a much larger Jewish community.

Their children can go to Modern Orthodox schools. There will be kosher markets and restaurants. They’ll live near Josh’s old friends from boarding school. The Zwelling children will see their cousins more; Josh’s sister and her family live in Chicago.

“Our house will always be open,” Deva assures her Dayton friends. A number of Josh’s former Hillel students live in Chicago, and Deva even got a Facebook message saying, “I’ll baby-sit.”

“I wouldn’t change the last 14 years for anything,” Deva says.

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