The JCC’s Bulletin dates back to the 1930s, when it was a premier source of news for the local Jewish community. We are proud to continue this tradition of keeping our JCC community informed via our virtual Bulletin.
The bulletin circa 1974
As we come to the season of giving thanks, I want to share an experience I am extremely grateful to have taken part in. Earlier this month, I was proud to join UJA-Federation on a rabbinical and community leadership solidarity mission to Israel.
While in Israel, our group had the opportunity to visit with evacuees and staff and volunteers from UJA-funded agencies who are doing life-saving work on the ground. We also met with families of hostages and attended the funeral for fallen IDF Staff Sgt. Lavi Lipsgitz.
The country never felt so heavy. Heavy with grief and in mourning, Israel was quiet. And for those who have been to Israel, you know Israel is always bustling. This time the country felt somber.
At the same time, everyone we encountered expressed their gratitude for our presence.
“Thank you so much for all you are doing. We could not get through this time without you. You have done so much for Israel and the Jewish people.”
Imagine… Thanking us just for being there, when they are hurting so much. Yet, the expression of how much we need each other during these difficult times was so profound as we shared hugs and cried together.
For me, I had a very personal experience while our plans were changing on the fly due to ongoing security concerns. When we were told that we would not be able to go to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon as planned, we quickly regrouped to visit the Dead Sea where about 3000 displaced families are staying.
To give some context, between the survivors of the Gaza envelope that have been relocated from the region, to the communities in the north evacuated because of attacks from Hezbollah, more than 250,000 people have been relocated. Everyone left their homes like refugees and left everything behind. For those surviving the attack, many had nothing remaining to move. Entire villages were completely destroyed.
When we arrived at the Dead Sea, we entered into the David hotel and it became clear that Kibbutz Be’eri was being housed there. A community of just 1,100 people, Kibbutz Be’eri had 130 members killed and 40 kidnapped into Gaza—including men, women, and children.
My uncle Gili Molcho is the manager of Kibbutz Be’eri, so when we finished the tour, I asked our guide if he was there. He quickly got on the phone and called him to see me. I had never expected to see my uncle during the trip, and honestly, when I saw him, we just ran to each other and I cried like a baby. It was a moment that I will never forget in my life.
This community of Be’eri felt betrayed and abandoned. Everything they believed to be true about their safety, security, and the infrastructure to protect them failed. However, what they do have is complete faith in the Israeli people.
Hearing from my uncle that despite the devastation, the focus now is the effort to provide emotional support, housing, and basic necessities was a moment of pride for me. For he knows what needs to be done to support these families that need him.
During our trip, we witnessed the resilience and unity of Israelis in the face of this darkness, and it has been truly inspiring. Thousands of volunteers are showing up to support families, provide essential supplies, feed the soldiers, and pick crops, ensuring food does not go bad. Everyone, and I mean everyone – is doing something.
This spirit of resolve that we are in this together permeates. There is a collective unity of purpose that we the Jewish people, not only Israelis, feel all around the world. We have a shared understanding that together we are stronger!
There was also recognition and concern about our communities back home. Even while they are fighting for their lives and their homes, the Israelis we met were well aware of the war we are fighting on our front on college campuses, in schools, in the media, and on our streets. They are as concerned for us as we are for them. The phrase “we are one” never felt so strong and perfect.
Needless to say, it was a short, but emotional trip overloaded with anguish, anger, and grief. At the same time, we also witnessed the best of Israeli society. With love and compassion, everyone offered support, healing, and comfort during the most challenging of circumstances, during the worst of times.
I am so honored and grateful to have been able to represent the Joan and Alan Bernikow JCC of Staten Island community. I hugged, cried, smiled, supported, and offered words of love and condolence, on your behalf, and on behalf of all whose hearts are with Israel. As we share in this season of gratitude, I am grateful for the work our community is doing here to support our family in Israel.
On behalf of our family here at the JCC, I want to wish you a happy and safe Thanksgiving. May the coming holiday season be a brighter one for all of us!
-Orit Lender, Chief Executive Officer
In memory of Sharon Simchayoff:
This donation is being made in memory of Sharon Simchayoff. The JCC was a very important part of his life.
-Carol and Len Lebowitz
In honor of Angela Olsen:
-Rick & Ann
On Tuesday, July 25, the Joan & Alan Bernikow JCC of Staten Island, alongside its partners from Met Council, UJA-Federation of New York, and Jewish Communal Fund announced the upcoming launch of online ordering at its Kosher Food Pantry.
As the home of the borough’s first food pantry supporting online ordering, the JCC looks forward to offering more convenient access to nutritious food for Staten Islanders in need.
Powered by Market by Met Council, online ordering is the JCC’s latest innovative effort to better serve its clients. During the pandemic, the JCC joined an app that gave clients the option to book their appointments online, reducing wait times and food pantry lines.
The new, fully digitized system, which launches on August 1, will offer greater convenience and confidentiality while empowering users to “shop” for their food, similar to grocery pickup services like Instacart.
Orit Lender, CEO of the JCC, said, “One of our priorities across the social services we offer is to ensure that our clients not only get the help they need, but experience the dignity and compassionate care they deserve. We are excited to launch our digital pantry, which will allow us to deliver an even higher level of service to more Staten Islanders in need, while empowering those we serve to make healthy choices for their families.”
The JCC’s Kosher Food Pantry serves an average of 2,000 individuals monthly, with a rising number of individuals seeking assistance with food insecurity.
“The JCC runs a top-notch food pantry and we hope that by joining our Market by Met Council platform for online ordering, the impact of the food pantry will reach many more Staten Islanders,” offered Jessica Chait, Managing Director of Met Council Food Programs.
“UJA-Federation seeks to make food accessible to those who need it in a dignified and efficient way, ensuring that we uphold our clients’ humanity during difficult moments in their lives,” says Alexandra Roth-Kahn, Managing Director of UJA’s Caring Department. “Market by Met Council promotes choice and autonomy, which is why we are delighted to be working with our partners at Met Council and the JCC of Staten Island to bring this resource to the community.”
The agency plans to migrate their existing clients into the new digital system—custom-built on the Salesforce platform—before it launches on August 1. New clients who enroll in the system will also have the opportunity to assess their needs and connect with other valuable resources including benefits assistance, career training, and more.
Click here to register! Individuals without access to a smartphone can call 718-475-5242 for assistance enrolling.
On Monday, July 24th, the Joan & Alan Bernikow JCC of Staten Island will host its 43rd Annual Golf & Tennis Classic at the Richmond County Country Club. At the event, the Amerosi Family, Rocco Berardi, Rev. Dr. Demetrius Carolina, Sr., and Laura and Mark Lauria will be recognized for their work in the Staten Island community.
The JCC’s Golf and Tennis Classic benefits the Isador Aberlin-Ed Rovner Memorial Scholarship Fund. This fund provides scholarships for the JCC’s day care and summer camp programs to families experiencing financial hardship. This summer and last, many of the scholarships benefitted Ukrainian refugees.
Orit Lender, CEO of the JCC, said, “Thanks to the generosity of those attending our Golf & Tennis Outing, we were able to provide several full scholarships to Ukrainian campers to allow them to attend camp free of charge. Our programs offer children nurturing environments in which to grow and play—something that truly benefits our Ukrainian campers who have been through so much. We could see how much they changed throughout the summer and acclimated to living in America. We hope the camp experience has helped them on their journeys, and we will continue to be there for them to provide support year-round.”
This year, the number of Ukrainian campers has increased so greatly that the JCC hired a Ukrainian music specialist at camp.
Lender noted, “We are grateful for the support of our golfers and tennis players that helps us send children to camp every summer. We look forward to another great event honoring several remarkable community leaders.”
The Golf and Tennis Classic, presented by longtime sponsor IDB Bank, will also include dinner, a live auction, and a raffle drawing for a $10,000 prize.
To purchase tickets, sponsorships, and journal ads, please visit https://www.sijcc.org/golf.
In memory of Judith DeBaise:
With our deepest condolences....
-The Reiter Family - Jackie, Bari, Gabriel & Jared
In memory of Blanche Weinberg:
In memory of Blanche and her years of service to the Staten Island JCC.
This June, the Joan & Alan Bernikow JCC of Staten Island will host the Beatrice Victor Senior Olympics (BVSO).
The annual event, which brings together hundreds of Staten Island seniors, will take place from June 11 through June 15 at various locations across the borough.
In addition to traditional Senior Olympics events like pickleball, Predict-A-Pace, basketball shooting competitions, tennis, swimming, bowling, cornhole, horseshoes, and croquet, the BVSO also features unique events designed to appeal to a wide array of seniors. These events include challenges like darts, canasta, Mah-Jongg, pinochle, pocket pool, and more. The JCC is also excited to add new events to the lineup, such as ballroom dancing.
The BVSO will conclude with a closing ceremony and brunch on June 16 at 11am at the Bernikow JCC, located at 1466 Manor Road.
After taking place virtually during the height of the pandemic, the BVSO resumed in-person operations last year.
Orit Lender, CEO of the JCC, said, “One of our priorities here at the JCC is empowering seniors to stay active and engaged—physically, mentally, and socially. The Senior Olympics is one of our favorite traditions because it gives us a special opportunity carry on Bea Victor’s legacy by celebrating our older adults.”
The BVSO is named for Beatrice Victor, a community leader who founded the Senior Olympics in 1987. Victor continued to direct the program for 20 years and was involved with the event until her passing.
On Sunday, June 4, the Joan & Alan Bernikow JCC of Staten Island hosted its annual SunriseWALKS fundraiser benefiting the Lucille & Jay Chazanoff Sunrise Day Camp-Staten Island, a free camp for children with cancer and their siblings.
SunriseWALKS took place at Staten Island University Hospital “Community Park,” home of the Staten Island FerryHawks.
Before walking the bases in support of Sunrise campers, families enjoyed a fun-filled morning with carnival games, face painting, music, and more.
There were special performances by LA Dance, the SI Dance and Arts Center, and the JCC’s Cornerstone Hip Hop Crew and Royal Rebels step team. Students from Staten Island Academy, Susan E. Wagner High School, and Tottenville High School also participated.
SunriseWALKS is the JCC’s largest fundraiser for the Lucille & Jay Chazanoff Sunrise Day Camp-Staten Island. The walk is the culmination of a months-long fundraising campaign that also includes community outreach and several “Li’l SunriseWALKS” conducted at schools including the JCC’s preschool locations and Staten Island Hebrew Public Charter School.
Operated by the JCC, Sunrise Day Camp-Staten Island is the only day camp of its kind in New York City. The camp welcomes over 140 children from Staten Island, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and nearby New Jersey to its location on the campus of Staten Island Academy each summer.
Sunrise Day Camp-Staten Island is a proud member of the Sunrise Association, whose mission is to bring back the joys of childhood to children with cancer and their siblings worldwide.
Orit Lender, CEO of the JCC, said, “Our Sunrise campers have been through so much, but from the moment they step off the bus at Sunrise Day Camp, they are smiling, laughing, playing games, and singing songs together. When you walk with us at SunriseWALKS, you are making an incredible impact on the lives of children with cancer and their families right here in our community.”
Recognizing the extraordinary financial demands that a child’s chronic illness can have on a family, Sunrise Day Camp is offered completely free of charge.
On Sunday, May 7, the Joan & Alan Bernikow JCC of Staten Island hosted its second THRIVE Expo: Women Empowered event.
The free women’s professional development expo aims to empower women along their career trajectories, while also providing a forum to connect local businesses with prospective employees and clients.
Attendees chose one of two dynamic information sessions:
“Starting and Growing Your Business” featured keynote speaker Darlene Blanco, Head of Workforce & Talent Development at the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce. A panel discussion featured Tatiana Arguello (Nonprofit Staten Island), Bridget Lorenzo (Bee Forever Events), Jaclyn Tacoronte (JMT Media), and Lauren Giordanella (NYC Business Solutions).
“Starting and Advancing in Your Career” featured keynote speaker Kristine Garlisi, Chief Operating Officer at The Nicotra Group, and panelists Aarti Ivanic (Wagner College, Nicolais School of Business), Pam Kulnis (Bottomless Closet), Amelia Winter (JCC of Staten Island), and Patricia Walton (Metro Plus Health).
Following the breakout sessions, participants attended a networking expo where they had the opportunity to meet prospective employers and learn about services designed to uplift women in the workforce.
During the expo, attendees were also able to take free professional headshots and enter to win a laptop. Swag bags and refreshments were provided.
Recognizing the importance of supporting working mothers, the JCC was pleased to offer free childcare during the expo.
Orit Lender, the JCC’s first female CEO, said, “Our THRIVE Expo is an amazing opportunity for female professionals, whether they’re just starting out in their careers or looking to make a change. We’re excited for a day of mentorship and building meaningful connections between women in our community.”
Last fall, the JCC hosted its first THRIVE Expo, which was hailed by one attendee as “the most productive day I've had in the many months of my employment search.” Another attendee remarked, “What I learned gave me the encouragement to move forward and be confident in myself!"
On Thursday, April 27, the Joan & Alan Bernikow JCC of Staten Island hosted a free family festival to celebrate Israel’s 75th anniversary.
The festival featured performances by the Israeli Dance Institute and by students from local schools including Staten Island Hebrew Public Charter School and Staten Island Hebrew Academy. Families had the opportunity to participate in interactive Krav Maga, Hebrew calligraphy, and crafts workshops.
The JCC also brought a taste of Israel to Staten Island as it transformed its social hall into a shuk, or food market, where families sampled Israeli cuisine.
The festival was co-sponsored by Hillel of CSI, Staten Island Hebrew Public Charter School, and Temple Israel Reform Congregation of Staten Island.
Orit Lender, CEO of the JCC, said, “We’re excited to celebrate this special milestone not only for Israel, but for the global Jewish community, by bringing Israeli culture to the forefront. Whether you have a connection to Israel, or just want to learn more about the culture, we hope to see you at our family festival!”
The festival was just one part of the agency’s yearlong celebration of Israel’s anniversary. The celebration also includes a comedy show, live music performances, film screenings, and art exhibits, with more to come throughout the year.
Coinciding with Israel’s 75th anniversary, the JCC of Staten Island is proud to announce new global partnerships with Jewish community centers in Moldova and Binyamina, Israel. During the festival, the JCC of Staten Island community was greeted with special video messages from their counterparts abroad.
On May 9, the JCC also presented "Am Israel Chai”: A Celebration of Israel in Song. This National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene performance featured Israeli-American singer Magda Fishman and Greek-born legend Avram Pengas, led by Artistic Director Zalmen Mlotek.
This summer, the JCC will send a delegation of high school students for a trip to Israel, where they will immerse themselves in the country’s history and culture.
On Sunday, April 23 at 11am, the Joan & Alan Bernikow JCC of Staten Island hosted the 14th Annual Nancy Avis L’Dor V’Dor Awards. The event honored five local women for their accomplishments within the JCC as well as in the Staten Island community. The award is named in memory of Nancy Avis, the first female president of the JCC’s Board of Directors.
During the event, Fern Aaron Zagor, Rosalind (Roz) Kurland, and Susan Klein-Perel received the First Generation Award. Felicia Holtzman Otto received the Next Generation Award. Carol Bullock received the Bridge to the Community Award.
“My mother-in-law, Nancy Avis, changed my world and the world of those around her. We are so proud to honor Nancy’s memory by celebrating these amazing women,” said Kim Avis, Event Chair.
“Through her efforts, first as a dedicated volunteer and later as the first female president of the JCC’s Board of Directors, Nancy Avis provided a tremendous example of leadership,” said Orit Lender, CEO of the JCC. “Although she is no longer with us, Nancy’s legacy lives on through this year’s L’Dor V’Dor honorees, who not only make a difference in our Staten Island community, but inspire other women to do the same.”
Funds raised at the event benefit the JCC’s programs and services.
Bios of the honorees are below:
Fern Aaron Zagor
Fern Aaron Zagor exemplifies a deep commitment to social justice and Holocaust remembrance. She has been involved in many initiatives that focus on combating anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred and racial injustice, including at schools such as I.S.2. She has co-chaired the ambitious effort to establish the first permanent Holocaust Center on Staten Island, the WCHC Holocaust Education and Action Gallery, which opened in early April 2022.
Rosalind (Roz) Kurland
Roz Kurland has been involved with the JCC’s Center for Lifelong Development since its inception in 2012. She presently serves on their Advisory Board and is a member of the Arts & Culture, Education and Nominating Committees. She is also very involved at the JCC as a committee member of the Dr. Esther Grushkin Center for Arts + Culture. She feels strongly that the JCC and these two important programs provide the best of everything for the community.
Susan Klein-Perel has worked in clinical practice, and has done consulting and supervisory work on Staten Island as a social worker for many years. Susan has also been involved with the JCC of Staten Island for over 20 years. She has been a member of the board, as well as several committees including the Camp and Youth committee and the committee for People with Disabilities.
Felicia Holtzman Otto
Felicia Holtzman Otto is a co-President of Temple Israel Reform Congregation of Staten Island, where her mission is to ensure that all congregants find peace and joy within the congregation as their spiritual home. Recently, she has been working in collaboration with the JCC on how the JCC and Temple Israel can best partner together to serve the needs of Jewish families on Staten Island.
Carol Bullock, the Executive Director of the Pride Center, focuses on relationship building and development, as she leads the staff in living up to the values of the Pride Center – Community, Brave Space, Inclusion and Allyship. She has been instrumental in creating visibility and community support for the Center, as well as advocating federally, state-wide and locally for equality and inclusion for LGBTQ people and families.
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