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entries tagged with: Jcc On The Palisades

 

Camp celebrates 20 years of helping sick kids have fun

Abigail GaryLocal
Published: 11 September 2009
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Chilling out

Hundreds of small miracles took place at the Kaplen JCC in Tenafly during the last week of August.

Every moment that the 125 children attending Camp Dream Street—The Pearl Seiden Summer Program for Children with Cancer and Other Blood Disorders had fun and were “just kids” was one of those miracles. Every day that they could attend camp like any other children and participate in sports, nature walks, swimming, arts and crafts, baking, weaving, tae kwon do, and other activities meant that they were forgetting about the diseases that dominate their lives the rest of the year.

“This is where they forget they’re sick and just act like kids again,” says Pearl Seiden, the former occupational therapist and nurse who founded the week-long camp, which just celebrated its 20th anniversary. Attendees include siblings of the sick children as well, since those kids often feel neglected in the whirlwind of attention focused on an ill brother or sister. Many of the siblings are accustomed to being caretakers and aren’t used to playing or relaxing.

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“A respite for everyone”

Seiden cited the case of a little girl who got off the bus one year with her brother and announced, “This is my brother and he has cancer. I’m here to take care of him.” The counselors realized that they had to help her let go of that role, at least for the week. “Cancer affects everyone in the family,” says Seiden. “This is a respite for everyone — the parents, the siblings, and the sick kids. It’s an equalizing time. They all have fun here, sick or well.”

Seiden, who serves on the board of the Kaplen JCC and chairs of its capital campaign, had lost a dear friend to cancer the year before she began Camp Dream Street in 1989. “It came to my attention that there were kids out there who couldn’t attend camp because of cancer,” she recalled. “Treatments were different 20 years ago; the side effects were much worse. Parents were not so willing to let kids out for something like this. Today the campers are much higher functioning.”

From the 25 children who attended the first year to this year’s total of 125, Camp Dream Street has grown steadily. Children ages 4 to 14 are referred by Hackensack University Medical Center’s Tomorrows Children Institute; Columbia-Presbyterian Babies and Children’s Hospital; Memorial Sloan-Kettering; and Westchester Medical Center at Vallhalla, N.Y. Doctors or nurses and social workers or child-life specialists supplied by the medical centers are always on hand.

“Many of the children who attend Camp Dream Street come from single-parent families, foster care, or are raised by grandparents,” Seiden said. “The families are so grateful. Some of these families are even on public assistance, and the chance to have their children attend a program of this kind takes on real additional meaning.”

The JCC provides the facility and everything is free to the families, including door-to-door transportation from as far away as the Bronx; breakfast and lunch; recreation, which includes instruction in various sports and a carnival; and Camp Dream Street backpacks and T-shirts. High school and college-age counselors volunteer their time. The camp is financially supported by Tomorrows Children Institute; Children’s Hospital of New York Presbyterian; the Beatman Foundation; RD Legal Funding, LLC; and the Camp Dream Street Foundation, which donates $10,000 annually. The national foundation funds seven residential camps for ill children, but only this day camp.

Work on the camp begins at the end of January. Lisa Robins, a Kaplen JCC staffer who heads the seniors department, reaches out to counselors and begins interviewing. She is responsible for finding the specialists who teach things like tae kwon do, weaving, and pottery. “It’s her organizational skill that brings everything together,” said Seiden. The two women are on hand for every moment of the camp, which runs Monday through Friday, the last week in August, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The week ends with a family barbecue the following Sunday.

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“Just kids”

The week before camp begins, there is a meeting with the organizations that refer the children to get the latest information on each one’s medical condition. Kids need to be well enough to come to camp, although some come with the help of an aide or a wheelchair. There are also issues that are caused by the treatment, not the disease; for instance, treatment for brain tumors often causes emotional problems. It’s also not unusual for some of the siblings to come with medical conditions of their own. Cancer or illness is not discussed at camp unless a child brings it up.

One counselor who returned for her third year was Emily Golden, 23, of Paramus. In 2006, when she was 19, she was diagnosed with cancer and attended another camp run by the Dream Street Foundation. Last year she worked as a counselor in the Tenafly camp while on crutches, but today she is in remission.

“I know myself that you get a lot of attention when you’re sick, but it’s not fun attention,” says Golden. “You spend a lot of time in the hospital with doctors. So this is a fun place to be for these kids. They just get to be kids.” Golden cited the matter-of-fact ways that some of the campers deal with their illnesses. She worked with a blind child last year who longed to play checkers. “He finally engineered a way to mark the red pieces with masking tape so that he could tell them apart by feel. He ended up beating me!”

Counselors get a special orientation before camp starts. They are not told the diagnoses for any of the children, only the issues that require special care, such as problems with balance, the need to stay hydrated, the need to avoid sudden temperature changes, and the like. Many return year after year and find that their careers are shaped by the experience. “We’ve had kids become doctors and nurses and child-life specialists as a result of this experience,” Seiden said.

“I don’t think I can speak highly enough of this place,” said Golden. “Having had my own experience, I can’t believe that there are all these people willing to help. I’ve been blessed to be part of the Dream Street family.”

Seiden said she is overjoyed that Camp Dream Street is celebrating its 20th anniversary. “For me personally, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. I love being able to see the campers from year to year. Sometimes a kid comes one year and he’s so sick he can hardly get here each day. The next year he comes back and he’s so much better. It’s wonderful to see.” Kids can attend up to five years post-treatment. Sometimes siblings will attend even if a sister or brother is too ill to come or has died.

Seiden said that the camp on average loses one child a year to death. “It’s very sad. I wish there were no need for this camp,” she said, shaking her head. “But until then, we’re here for this population. Hopefully during this one week [each year] we can provide a lot of sunshine.”

 
 

Sexuality and the special-needs child

Workshops at the JCC on the Palisades

It’s not easy for parents to speak with children of any age about sexuality. But when the children have special needs, it may be even more challenging, says Shelley Levy, director of the Guttenberg Center for Special Services at the JCC on the Palisades.

To help parents face this challenge, on Nov. 15 the center will offer two workshops presented by Mary Greenfield, sexuality trainer for the New York-based Adults and Children with Learning and Developmental Disabilities.

The Guttenberg Center is “based on the premise that individuals of all ages should be provided with programming geared to meet their needs,” said Levy, adding that the center serves more than 500 participants, at least 100 of whom are teens.

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The JCC on the Palisades’ Guttenberg Center provides respite and recreational programs for more than 500 people, including about 100 teens.

The facility meets a wide range of specific needs, including autism spectrum disorder; Asperger’s syndrome; communication and learning differences; moderate cognitive, intellectual, and neurological challenges; and developmental disabilities.

Levy pointed out that center programs are considered “recreational and respite programs. There’s always a strong focus on communication and social skills, but we’re not a school,” she said, noting that the staff recently determined that sexuality training would be a valuable skill to add to existing offerings, “to go along with self-grooming and health” modules. The staff itself has already participated in training classes with Greenfield.

The parent workshops will be split into two sessions: one for parents of younger children, ages 5 to 15, and one for those with children between the ages of 16 and 20.

For those with younger children, “it will help build the foundation for healthy sexuality and helping children deal with sexuality issues,” said Levy.

“Parents go through many things as they see their teens entering young adulthood. We’re trying to help them find a way to communicate with their kids to keep them safe, but also to help [their children] recognize that what they’re going through is very typical.”

For some special-needs children, she said, “there is a disconnect between their behaviors and their ability to express themselves in an age-appropriate way.”

The workshops are “extremely important because they come at a juncture in time where we have to look at [the youngsters] as young men and women first, [dealing] with the reality of them transitioning into adulthood. We need to prepare them as best we can.”

The morning session, she said, “will explore proactive ways to address sexual education with children with special needs. The goal will be to help parents provide a foundation for their child’s later experiences.”

The afternoon session will focus on helping teens 16 and above “deal with their developing sexual interests, safety, and relationships,” covering how to approach the topic with the teen, sexual hygiene, understanding privacy, and sexual safety.

According to Greenfield, “an important part [of this effort] is to translate the information into ways that can be understood” by the teenagers.

“Parents of special-needs children have to be much clearer about the message they want to give” regarding issues such as boundaries and privacy, she said. They must try to do some “future thinking — thinking about their children as adults and about how they want them to act as adults.”

She noted that the parents of younger children may be called upon to explain issues such as puberty. When that occurs, she said, they should “start with what is going on inside the body, not with the sperm and egg piece.”

Parents must also spell out what many consider the “unwritten rules” of social behavior, such as “who can you touch, and where.” With older children, the need for such discussions may arise when the children talk about dating or are beginning to flirt, she said, noting that she is called most often by the parents of teenagers.

The question is, “Where is my child right now? What information is useful? Be specific.”

At the Nov. 15 session, Greenfield will answer parents’ questions and talk about resources available to them, such as a recent book geared to the parents of children with Down syndrome.

For further information about the workshops, call Levy at (201) 408-1489.

 
 

Community mourns Sidney Schonfeld

Philanthropist called ‘a very caring individual’

Sidney Schonfeld, who died Sept. 15 at the age of 87, is being remembered by many in the same choice words: “mensch,” “friend,” “gentleman”; “kind,” “caring,” “principled.”

The Tenafly resident left Nazi Germany with his family at the age of 12, knowing no English. But as he told The Jewish Standard in 2006, on the occasion of his receiving the Shem Tov (good name) award of Temple Emanu-El of Closter, he quickly taught himself the language, eventually attended City College at night, and started a successful food-importing business. This gave him the means and the time to be generous to worthy causes.

In his eulogy at Schonfeld’s funeral at Temple Emanu-El last Friday, Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner said, “Sid was a giver. He always had his hands in his pockets and was helping out someone or some group in need. He would confide in me, ‘Rabbi this person came to me. They are in trouble. They need help. They are getting divorced, paying for day school. It is hard for them to make ends meet.’”

Kirshner said he would reply, “‘Sid, you are a tzaddik. You give to any and every organization that has the letter J in its initials. UJA, JNF, UJC, JTS JFS, USCJ, JCC, JCRC, and many more. Sometimes you can say no, Sid.’

“It was like I was speaking a language he had never heard,” Kirshner continued. “He said to me, ‘Rabbi, he needs help. I can. I will.’”

Ed Ruzinsky “knew Sidney through his caring affiliation with JFS” — Jewish Family Service, one of those J-initial organizations. Ruzinsky, a JFS board member for more than 30 years, said that “from the day he got involved he was committed to the mission of JFS and he lived it…. Until his health began to deteriorate he would be at board meetings. Sid was a trustee to the end of his life.”

He was also, Ruzinsky said, “as close to the perfect gentleman as you can find — a mensch, unequivocally devoted to our community, a very caring individual and a great human being.”

Sandra Gold, the president of the Jewish Home at Rockleigh, worked with Schonfeld on the boards of the JHR, the Jewish Association for Developmental Disabilities, and the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, and in other ways.

“When he undertook to resolve a need in our community he was tenacious,” she recalled. “He took it upon himself to create a scholarship fund at the JCC for students who could not [afford to] go to college without some help. He was relentless in his pursuit of raising enough funds to make a difference.”

Also, she said, Schonfeld “knew how to be a good friend…. I do not know a kinder soul. He was an elegant, old-world, sensitive human being who resonated with the people around him…. You just have to look at the causes that he undertook. He just couldn’t look the other way. He felt compelled to reach out his hand and help.”

Gold and her husband, for whom the Arnold P. Gold Foundation is named, promote “humanism in medicine,” the tradition of compassionate care, and she was touched by the fact that Schonfeld “never failed to go out without a ‘Humanism in Medicine’ pin on his jacket.”

And like Ruzinsky, she was struck by the fact that Schonfeld did not let age and illness keep him from communal work.

“As Sid grew more frail,” she recalled, “he still managed to come to allocations meetings at UJA and board meetings at the Jewish Home. He put himself second. He continued to work on behalf of those in need.”

Gold called him “a terrific role model,” adding, “he could have put his feet up and watched television and leave [communal work] to others, but he continued to advocate for those in need….

“When I think about Sid,” Gold said, “I think about 1. what a good soul he was, and how kind, and 2. how much he loved his wife Hilde.”

That love was legendary. Hildegard Schonfeld died 10 years ago, and those who knew him say that he missed her every day.

Emanu-El’s Kirshner noted that Schonfeld had donated a Torah to the shul in her memory, and “each week, as we would march the Torah around, a smile would go from ear to ear, not only because it was a reminder of his tradition but also because it was a reminder of his wife.”

At Schonfeld’s funeral, which was attended by some 500 people, Kirshner said, “We can be consoled that, after 10 years, Sidney is in Hilde’s embrace.”

Schonfeld is survived by his son Gary and his wife Elisabeth; his daughter Victoria and her husband Victor Friedman; and five grandchildren, Jared, Remi, Zachary, Matthew, and Sam.

Contributions in his memory may be made to the Sidney Schonfeld Fund at Temple Emanu-El or the Schonfeld College Scholarship Fund at the JCC on the Palisades.

Arrangements were by Gutterman-Musicant Funeral Directors in Hackensack.

 
 

JCC concert raises funds for Japan

_JStandardLocal | World
Published: 08 April 2011
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Pictured above: The Young People’s Chorus at Thurnauer, led by Director Emma Brondolo courtesy jcc on the palisades

Some 200 people attended a concert at the JCC on the Palisades on Sunday that raised about $3,500 for earthquake relief in Japan.

The concert featured the Young People’s Chorus at the JCC’s Thurnauer Music School, directed by Emma Brondolo, an a capella group from Tenafly, “Nothing but Treble,” and violinist Ray Iwazumi.

Avi Lewinson, executive director, said: “Our Jewish tradition tells us, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ And so we gather here tonight for a ‘Concert for Japan’ in order to express our concern and solidarity.”

 
 

JCC audience argues over ‘My so-called Enemy’

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A scene from the film

In 2002, 22 Palestinian and Israeli teenage girls were brought to Bridgeton for a 10-day women’s leadership program. “My So-Called Enemy” is an award-winning documentary that chronicles the program and follows the lives of six of the girls over the next seven years.

“Enemy,” which won a Spring 2011 CINE Golden Eagle Award, its fifth prize since its release, was shown Sunday, July 10, at the Kaplen Jewish Community Center on the Palisades, followed by a discussion.

There are quite a few programs like the “Building Bridges for Peace” one shown in the movie, said Jonathan Golden, an anthropology professor and associate director of Drew University’s Center on Religion, Culture, and Conflict. During the JCC discussion, Golden said these programs are “necessary but not sufficient.”

The sponsors are usually Jewish, and Golden feels more participation by Christians and Muslims is needed. The purpose is to train leaders who then go back to their communities.

Nearly all of the JCC audience was older and Jewish, and some openly scoffed at the Arab girls in the film.

The Palestinians “will never change,” said one woman after the showing. “From the time they are born, they are taught to hate.”

Golden, the brother of JCC staffer Rabbi Steven Golden, disagreed.

“In 10 years you might actually see an impact” from these programs, he said.

“If we left it to the kids, maybe we’d have a better world,” the woman replied.

“Then why are you so pessimistic?” Golden asked.

About 80 percent of the participants in these programs are women, he said. “Men on both sides … tend to be harder” and not as open to programs like this. Also, Golden added, the women of the Middle East, particularly Arabs, need more empowerment, also a goal of these programs.

Asked how program participants are chosen, Golden said that because the opportunities are so rare, the groups are very selective. As “My So-Called Enemy” shows, he said, most of the participants come from progressive families.

A man in the audience noted that none of the girls in the film were from Jewish settlements or Palestinian refugee camps.

Nearly all the 2002 discussions at the private home in Bridgeton were in English, as were all of the interviews with the girls and most of the interviews with their parents.

Children in the Middle East tend to grow up faster, so “I’m not shocked when the kids are so articulate,” Golden said.

He estimates there are 700 similar programs inside Israel, and the number is increasing. He calls this kind of programming “a very important initiative” that isn’t getting enough attention.

The film’s website is http://mysocalledenemy.com.

A sample reel for the film can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kKOLI4t2XE&feature=player_embedded.

 
 

Community is at the center

Kaplen JCC celebrates its first 60 years

Larry YudelsonLocal
Published: 18 November 2011
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The Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, as viewed from above.

Charles Klatskin had lived in Bergen County seven years when he got involved with the Jewish Community Center, then located on Tenafly Road in Englewood.

The year was 1968, and what was then known as the Jewish Community Center of Englewood was not quite 18 years old. “They put their arms around me and said, ‘You’re our new building chairman and we have to move,’” Klatskin recalled this week.

Klatskin and his wife, Lynne, will receive the JCC Lifetime Achievement Award Saturday night, as what is now known as the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades celebrates its 60th anniversary.

Klatskin said he was brought into the JCC by Norman Seiden, his partner in the building business.

“He introduced me to the other players and we went on from there. I first said no, then said no again, finally I got tired of saying no,” recalled Klatskin.

There were 50 members when the JCC first opened in 1950, and dues were $35. Already by 1960, nearly 700 families had joined, and the JCC served as a gathering space for cultural programs, dinner dances, and roller skating parties. In the decade that followed, the JCC continued to grow and brought in guest speakers such as former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey, who was vice president from 1965 to 1969. The JCC’s nursery school was booming and its summer camp served more than 350 campers.

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Charles and Lynne Klatskin

The center needed more space. The parking situation was dismal. Besides, the 30-year-old building was already “falling apart,” said Klatskin.

At first, Klatskin looked to build on property the JCC already owned in Englewood on Summit Street. The town of Englewood was not eager for them to build there, however, he said.
Instead, he found the East Hill property in Tenafly, where the town was resisting efforts to build a 6,000-unit apartment complex.

“The site was all rock,” said Klatskin. One of the biggest challenges he faced was getting a machine to blast it at a reasonable price. “I didn’t know anything about blasting.”

The ground-breaking ceremony was held in December 1977.

In the early 1980s, membership quickly grew to 1,200 families and the JCC entered a new era, with major expansions in programming and service. Programs for children with special needs expanded to include year-round classes and day camp; a thriving program for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia was established; Camp Dream Street was launched for children with cancer and other blood disorders; the music school opened and was teaching more than 300 students by the end of the decade; and more than 350 senior adults were actively participating in JCC programs.

Membership grew to 2,500 families, with an additional 1,000 senior adults and singles. Space once again became an issue and, in 1988, the JCC initiated a major facility expansion that included a new camp facility, two additional pools, tennis courts, a second gym, and a health club expansion. A new wing for early childhood, a new home for the Thurnauer School of Music, a new space for performing and cultural arts, and a professional theater also were added.

By the turn of the 21st century, in its 50th year, the JCC employed more than 100 full-time professionals and an additional 400 part-time staff.

In June 2006, the JCC’s board approved a multimillion-dollar renovation project and the Gift of Community Capital and Endowment Campaign was launched. Maggie and Bill Kaplen made the lead gift, and the institution was renamed in their honor. The Russell Berrie Foundation offered additional support in the form of a challenge grant.

In September 2008, the JCC held the ceremonial ground-breaking for the new facility and named it the Leonard Rubin Building. Construction began in December of that year and, after a three-year renovation, the JCC now boasts new health and recreation facilities, a new early childhood wing with 12 classrooms, library, and teaching kitchen; a youth fitness wing; renovated suites for special services and senior adults; a new main entrance, complete with atrium and lobby; a state-of-the-art teaching kitchen; and a new café.

The JCC now has its largest-ever membership, with more than 3,500 families.

Besides honoring the Klatskins, the JCC’s Saturday night gala will pay tribute to JCC President Pearl Seiden for her work as campaign chair, and Vice President JoJo Rubach, the building chair. Rubach followed Klatskin’s footsteps, overseeing the day-to-day construction during the renovation.

Past presidents Nancy I. Brown, Daniel Rubin, and Robin Miller will be recognized, as well.

The building, the pool, and the facilities are not what people should think of when they think of the JCC, said Klatskin.

“When you think of the JCC, you should think of a community center,” he said. “It’s for the community. That’s the way we built it.”

 
 

Emphasizing the J in JCC

With Taub challenge met, the ‘important work’ begins

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There was good reason for celebration in the board room of the Kaplen Jewish Community Center on the Palisades on Tuesday night. Two weeks before, the JCC had received a check for $1.5 million from the Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation — marking the successful conclusion to six years of fundraising and construction that renovated the JCC’s 40-year-old building and brought in $32 million in donations from the community.

The board members had reason to drink champagne. They had succeeded in an audacious fundraising campaign — one whose scope had sparked heated discussions over the years. And they had reached into their own pockets to grow the institution they loved, that many of them had grown up in, giving to the original capital and endowment campaign and then, this past year, to what was called the Taub Community Challenge. That, in fact, had been a condition of Henry Taub, when he agreed, on his hospital bed shortly before his death last March, to donate $1.5 million: The JCC had to come up with $3 million from other donors, and within a year. “Henry wanted the community to step up and take ownership,” recalls Pearl Seiden, president of the JCC.

And those donors had to include all of the members of the JCC board.

In the end, more than 700 contributors stepped forward.

Tuesday’s meeting, however, was not just about congratulation and looking backward. The members that night began what they expect to be a series of discussions on how to make the JCC as relevant for the next generation as it has been for them.

“We always said that we are going to renovate and revitalize, not only our building but all of our programs,” says Seiden. “We’re in the process of doing that. We are looking at everything we do and saying, should we continue doing it, should we not, how can we do it better, how can we make it more relevant.”

When it opened in 1950, the heart of the JCC was “its athletic program,” recalls George Hantgan, the JCC’s founding executive director.

It stood in contrast to the nearby “shul with a pool” Jewish centers — in Teaneck and Fair Lawn. Now, Seiden sees the JCC’s mission as it moves forward as “infusing Judaism throughout the center. I want people to see it in every department. I want them to smell it when they walk in the building. I want them to hear Jewish music. I want them to learn about Jewish cooking. I want them to see Jewish artwork. I really want to stimulate all their senses in a very Jewish way, to create a real Jewish ambiance.

“You may be walking in the center to the gym to exercise, but along the way you’re picking up this Jewishness.”

How this would work is still being worked out. “We’re in the process of talking about it. The executive committee has been talking about it. The Judaic department has been talking about it.”

Ultimately, says the JCC executive director, Avi Lewinson, “We’re really looking at how Jewish values will become a part of every department.” He cites as an example the JCC’s Teen Adventures program of summer day trips for teens. “Now tzedakah programs are part of the schedule. Every week they volunteer in the community.”

A heightened focus on Jewishness at the JCC will mark a sharp contrast to the direction being taken by one of the region’s two other Jewish community centers. Last year, the YM-YWHA of North Jersey in Wayne came under the operational control of a regional chain of YMCAs and was rebranded the Wayne Y. This came in response to declining membership, and with the stated goal of appealing to a wider, non-Jewish audience.

Meanwhile, the YJCC of Bergen County, in Washington Township, is undergoing a self-evaluation as it considers new directions, including program cutbacks (although it has ruled out the sort of non-Jewish collaboration taking place in Wayne)

Up on the Palisades, Seiden says that a process of information gathering coupled with self-evaluation has been under way for a couple of years.

“We started having casual conversations. I would meet with different groups of people in the community, members and non-members. I would go with Robert Fried, director of the membership department, to talk to people, to find out why they join the JCC, what they like about it, why they retain their membership, why they don’t,” she says.

“The real purpose is to come back with ideas. We’ve had many ideas we’ve put into place to be more accommodating to our members, to serve them in a better way, to give them the programs that they want.”

Such discussions have already had an impact on an important measurement of the JCC’s health: membership figures.

“Last year, we finished the year with over 3,500 membership units,” says Avi Lewinson, the executive director. “That’s a thousand more than before we started our capital campaign.”

“We’ve made it easier to join. We’ve removed some barriers to entry,” such as the building fund.

Lewinson also attributes the increase to the JCC’s renovations, “the fact we’ve renovated the health and fitness facilities.”

Health and wellness continue to be a strong focus of the JCC. In fact, just as the JCC wants every department to be infused with Judaism, it is looking to make wellness a principle throughout all of its programs — not just the fitness center.

“In terms of obesity being an issue in today’s world, a healthy lifestyle is becoming more important. We’ve dedicated substantial staff time in looking at how we can build a focus on a healthy lifecycle through all age groups. It starts in early childhood, teaching children to respect their body, to the teen fitness center, to programs for seniors. Promoting wellness, healthy lifestyles, is a priority,” he says.

Lewinson says that he is also looking to increase the JCC’s work with “families in distress, populations at risk.”

“We’re trying to do more programming for adults and children with special needs. We’re really looking at all the populations — like single parent families — to welcome them, to serve them, to make them part of our larger Jewish community,” he says.

The JCC has also increased the availability of scholarships, to make membership available to those who would not otherwise afford it.

“Some of the people who are now our largest donors,” says Lewinson, “are people who couldn’t afford JCC membership when they were growing up. One shared with me that membership at the time was five dollars a year and his father couldn’t afford it. They provided a scholarship and that made a difference. He’s given a lot more to help us than the the three dollars he needed to make up membership.”

The JCC, however, is not only hoping to expand the populations that it serves; it is looking to expand its impact on the community through developing collaborations and relationships with other Jewish organizations.

Currently, it provides music education programming to the Moriah School in Englewood, and it is discussing a relationship with the Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County. “We’re looking to build those collaborations,” says Lewinson.

This comes as collaboration between Jewish organizations has become a priority for the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey. The federation is planning to shift from providing block grants to the JCC and similar agencies to funding specific programming proposals — and agency collaboration will be a plus as proposals are evaluated.

In short, with the construction no longer disrupting the JCC’s daily activities and with the six years of the capital and endowment campaigns coming to a conclusion, the JCC does not want to settle down into mission complacency.

“We are reorganizing staff,” says Lewinson. “We have created new positions. We’ve looked at the staff that we have and how best to use them to do some of the things we want to do. We’ve brought on some new staff with new expertise. We’re looking at how we can be on the cutting edge of serving the community and better serve our members with the programs we’ve always had.”

Lewinson recalls his conversation with Taub, in which the philanthropist explained why he wanted to donate the money in a time-limited challenge grant, only payable if $3 million was raised within a year.

“I want this to be finished so you can go on with the more important work of running the center,” Taub told him.

“This” is finished. Now the work begins.

From generation to generation

For Pearl Seiden, its president, the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades is clearly a multigenerational endeavor.

“As a child,” she says. “I attended the Englewood JCC and my parents were considered among the founders of it. I watched them go through the process of building this JCC,” the Tenafly campus where the JCC relocated in 1982, after being founded in Englewood in 1950. “They were envisioning it, talking about it, looking at the blueprints.”

When she moved back to town after leaving for college, a mother of young children, she joined the JCC “right away. I got involved in the early childhood program, where my four children attended nursery school. That’s where I made my friends. It’s a very typical JCC journey story.”

Now, her children are grown (and too far from Tenafly to be members), and it is her granddaughter who attends summer camp at the JCC and often accompanies her there during the year.

“It is not unusual that I might have my granddaughter with me and see my mother in the hall coming from the gym,” says Seiden. “My mother does a lot of rehab in our fitness facility.”

Yet despite being a link in a four-generation chain of JCC involvement, Seiden believes the JCC must constantly be changing. Anything less is a threat to that generational link.

 
 
 
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