Friends Spotlight: Maxwell Davison

by Beth Zaleon

For as long as the Honorable Maxwell Davison can remember, Judaism, and specifically the Jewish Community Center, was the focal point of his life.  Despite his hometown of Shenandoah’s small size and even smaller Jewish community, Max fondly remembers its JCC and synagogue (of which his father served as president).  Being an active member and leader in the Jewish community is something that came naturally to Max.  After he and his wife Barbara, a native Allentonian, moved to the Lehigh Valley, they sought out the JCC and quickly became active members.  They were excited to be part of the community and take part in its activities, particularly the pool. Both loved to swim and even once swam a simulated 20-mile journey across the English Channel, right here at the JCC.

When Max and Barbara began to grow their family, the JCC became a place for their sons to learn, grow Jewishly, and find their own passion for the pool.  Over the years, the Davison family took advantage of all the JCC had to offer – Barbara was involved in the shows, worked at the school, and became the “Nature Lady” at Camp JCC; Max served as JCC’s president in the 1980s; and their children joined the swim team and youth group.  Max fondly remembers Sunday afternoon swim competitions at the JCC, which brought together Jewish youth from various communities across Pennsylvania for competition and socialization.

Max and Barbara’s son Ricky, in particular, spent a great amount of time in the pool.  Following Ricky’s untimely death at age twelve following a battle with cancer, his parents knew the JCC pool is where he would want to be remembered.  They established the Ricky Davison Memorial Award, which is presented annually to an outstanding swimmer at the JCC Sports Banquet to honor Ricky’s memory.

Since first coming to the area in the 1960s, Max has seen the Jewish community in Allentown evolve, but the JCC has been a constant in his and his family’s life. You can still catch him swimming laps from time to time.  Max notes that, “like the Jewish people of Israel once needed a Temple, the Jewish people of Allentown need a physical structure” and that place has always been the JCC.  He thinks of the JCC as the hub for Jewish activities and as the glue that keeps the Jewish community together.  In today’s world, he believes it is more important than ever to “maintain our identity and ensure it is preserved.”  He is proud to give back to the JCC so that it can continue to be the center of Jewish life for the community, as it has been for his family for so many years.

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