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
Summer is always a magical time at the JCC, but this year, we are having even more fun. With over two thousand campers enrolled in all our programs, it is also a very busy time of year for us!
This year, we were able to do something special to over a dozen Ukrainian refugee families. For those in need, we were able to offer full scholarships to our day camp—which has allowed children who have been through extreme trauma to embrace the joys of childhood again. We are grateful to the Butler Foundation, A Chance In Life Foundation, and UJA-Federation of New York for allowing us to expand our camp scholarship program and support Ukrainian families in our community.
You may have heard the story of Maria, one of our Ukrainian campers. On her first day of camp she was extremely shy and spoke no English. Thankfully, we had Russian-speaking staff who were able to translate for her. Within a week, Maria was named “Friend of the Week” by her fellow campers—which was truly remarkable, but not out of the ordinary for our camp.
Photos courtesy of the Staten Island Advance
Last year, we saw a similar story play out when we offered scholarships to two foster children from Colombia. They had a blast at camp—making friends even though they did not speak English and were not familiar with American customs. It turns out that summer camp fun is the universal language! This story also has a happy ending, as we recently learned that the children were adopted by their host parent.
Last week, I visited one of our community-based camps at the Gerard Carter Center when we were visited by the Commissioner of the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD). Commissioner Howard and I were so excited to see the kids engaged in STEM activities, dance, and sports—and the commissioner even took part in a game and bowled a spare!
Camp at the Carter Center is one of many summer programs we have throughout the community, including our Cornerstones, Beacons, and Summer Rising sites. In addition to these, we are also running basketball, soccer, and aquatics camps at the Bernikow Building.
Our newest mini-camp is called Summer Strings @ the J, an intensive program for intermediate and advanced young musicians. Our faculty member, Yvette Washington-Wheatley, has a special connection to us, as she was a scholarship recipient at the JCC’s own music school many years ago. We are very happy to welcome her back and to see how much the children are enjoying the program!
As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of our Dorothy Delson Kuhn Music Institute later this year, it is inspiring to see the tradition of excellence continuing on.
No matter which camp program, our children go home at the end of the day with smiles on their faces—and that’s what’s most important to us. It truly warms my heart and reminds me why we do what we do. We know these kids will always remember the wonderful summers they spent with us and the friends they made along the way. The JCC is proud to be a place where magic happens every day!
-Orit Lender, CEO
We are excited to announce that we will be opening two new preschool classrooms for children with special needs this fall. The agency will now be able to serve 16 additional children at our South Shore/Avis location (1297 Arthur Kill Road).
The classrooms are part of our First Foot Forward Program, which is dedicated to assisting children 2.5 to 5 years old with developmental needs. The individualized curriculum allows children to reach their full potential in a warm, nurturing environment. New York City and State fund First Foot Forward programming.
First Foot Forward specializes in helping children with speech/language delays, socialization concerns, developmental delays, poor motor skills, sensory needs, and Autism Spectrum Disorder. The JCC has been offering these services to Staten Island families for over 30 years.
“We are so proud to be able to open these new classrooms,” noted Orit Lender, JCC CEO. “We saw the need for additional services and expanded to be able to offer First Foot Forward to even more families on the South Shore. I can’t wait to meet all our new students and their families this September!”
To receive services, children need to be evaluated at an approved evaluation site. Program eligibility is recommended by the Department of Education’s Committee on Preschool Special Education and is based upon the individual needs of the child.
Children of all faiths and nationalities are welcome. All services (evaluations, transportation, tuition) are at no direct cost to parents.
In addition to First Foot Forward, the JCC partners with the NYC Department of Education to offer free 3-K and Pre-K For All. 3-K & Pre-K For All are offered at four JCC locations, with flexible scheduling and small class sizes. Extended day options for working families are available 7am-6pm.
To learn more, click here.
Marvin’s Camp for Children with Special Needs is set to open for a full summer of fun in the sun! This summer, the JCC is pleased to resume two of its services for Marvin’s campers—transportation and trips—that were placed on hold during the height of the pandemic. Camp families will have the option to have their child transported to and from camp via bus for free each day.
Marvin’s Camp, located at the Henry Kaufmann Campgrounds, provides an educational, creative, social, and safe environment for kids and teens with developmental disabilities. Led by highly experienced staff with degrees in special education, social work, and school psychology, Marvin’s campers participate in a wide array of fun and enriching activities. Campers enjoy swimming, boating, and playing sports, along with hands-on activities like crafts and woodworking. Low staff-to-camper ratios ensure that each child receives excellent care and attention.
JCC CEO Orit Lender noted, “The Joan & Alan Bernikow JCC of Staten Island is committed to the idea that all children—regardless of ability—should have the same opportunity to have an unforgettable summer camp experience. That’s why the JCC is planning another amazing summer for campers in Marvin’s Camp for Children with Special Needs.”
Additionally, the camp will resume offering its Marvin’s M.O.R.E. division for campers ages 15 and up. Marvin’s M.O.R.E. campers will have the opportunity to go on trips to exciting destinations twice a week, with transportation provided. When they aren’t going on trips, campers will enjoy fun activities on the campgrounds.
Ms. Lender said, “We can’t wait to welcome our Marvin’s campers back for another incredible summer! We’re especially thrilled to be able to bring back trips, as we know our Marvin’s M.O.R.E. campers look forward to going on fun, enriching adventures with their friends each year.”
The JCC is currently accepting registrations for Marvin’s Camp for Children with Special Needs. You can learn more about the camp here. To register, contact Laura Irizarry at LIrizarry@SIJCC.com or 718-475-5268. The JCC also offers an inclusion program in its traditional camp for those who would benefit from it. An interview is required for all new Marvin’s and inclusion campers.
February is Jewish Disabilities Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month. Our JCC welcomes individuals of all abilities, rooted in the shared Jewish values of dignity and justice.
Serving people with disabilities is a core part of our agency’s mission, and we strive to provide inclusive programming that everyone can enjoy. One example of this is our collaborative Girl Scout troop. The troop is unique—the JCC’s Troop 5772 and its sister Troop 5312 are the only troops in New York City that serve girls with disabilities alongside their traditional peers.
Troop 5772 functions like any other troop—the girls work together on projects, participate in fun activities, and even sell cookies! You can purchase cookies here to support the troop.
The girls and their families were so excited to be profiled by PIX11 at their February meeting. You can see the whole story here.
As one of our Girl Scout moms, Kathreen Torres, told reporters, “Having a special needs daughter, it tends to be more difficult for her to make friends, so this is a safe place for her.”
Kathreen is the mother of six, and our Girl Scout troop allows four of her daughters to all be in the same group at once. Within the troop, the girls have made friends and love being together.
Our Girl Scout troop is just one of many programs we run for children with disabilities. During the school year, we offer our First Foot Forward special needs preschool, Dr. and Mrs. Megna Kids Club for Special Kids, Teens After School Program, and an inclusion program in our Explorers After School Program.
In the summertime, Marvin’s Camp for Children with Special Needs provides an educational, creative, social, and safe environment. Marvin’s Camp is a unique recreational summer program customized for children with disabilities. With a wide array of both social and developmental activities, children are engaged by professionally-supported trained staff to create some of the best memories of their summer. This year, we are excited to bring back transportation and trips for our Marvin’s Campers! You can learn more about Marvin’s Camp here.
For young adults, we offer our Day Habilitation Without Walls program. The program, which continues to grow, offers social, recreational, and vocational activities at the JCC as well as in collaboration with our partner organizations. Young adults take part in activities such as delivering meals to the homebound, music and aquatics classes, and working with various departments in the JCC. We engage our participants in opportunities to be healthy, social, and active members of the community with a maximum degree of independence.
In all of our programs, we emphasize the importance of creating a space where everyone feels welcome. The JCC is proud to be a place where people of all abilities can feel at home, make friends, and have fun.
Two unique local Girl Scouts troops have begun their annual cookie sales. Troops 5227 and 5312, which meet at the JCC of Staten Island and P37R, are inclusive troops open to girls of all abilities.
Proceeds from the sales will help cut participation costs for the troops, which are comprised of girls with disabilities. The programs’ inclusivity enriches the experience for all troop members, regardless of ability.
“Girl Scouts allows our girls with special needs to have a chance to just be children and interact with their typically developing peers,” said troop leader Lisa Rosenfeld. “In turn, by being part of a collaborative troop, our typically developing girls grow up with girls who have special needs as their friends and peers. They don’t look at them any differently.”
These programs offer unique opportunities that children might not have elsewhere. Several members of the troop travel to Staten Island from the Bronx, Manhattan, and Brooklyn to participate. In addition, the troops allow children with disabilities to participate and make memories with their siblings. Rosenfeld said, “Without our Girl Scout troops, many of these sisters would not have the chance to participate in an extracurricular activity together.”
Selling cookies is one of the hallmarks of the Girl Scout experience. For all members of Troops 5227 and 5312, this is an opportunity not only to raise money for their troops but also to develop valuable communication, social, and life skills.
Many girls in these troops are non-verbal and rely on AAC devices to communicate. After hearing their devices repeatedly say the phrase, “Buy cookies please,” some have even said their first unprompted words while selling cookies and have gone on to help their troops sell thousands of boxes.
Orit Lender, CEO of the JCC of Staten Island—home to Troop 5227—said, “We are so proud of our Girl Scout troop for being a safe space for girls of all abilities to grow and have fun together. We hope you’ll support our hardworking Girl Scouts by buying a box of cookies!”
Cookies can be purchased from Troop 5227 here and from Troop 5312 here. Free shipping is available through January 23 when you buy a minimum of five packages.
This year, we’re celebrating the Joan & Alan Bernikow JCC of Staten Island’s 90th birthday. As the JCC turns 90, we reflect back on the milestones the organization has achieved over the years.
February is Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month, a worldwide effort to raise awareness and advocate for people with disabilities. At the JCC, we believe that providing services to people with disabilities is a core component to everything we do, and we have a long history of creating programs to support their needs.
We continued to expand our offerings for people with disabilities to help during at all stages of life. In 1989, under the direction of Early Childhood Education Director Beth Howard, the JCC developed the First Foot Forward Program, an educational program for young children with speech delays, sensory needs, and motor issues. The program started out small and continued to grow under the guidance of Jayne Smith, our Chief Program Director for Early Childhood and Disability Services. The current program, which is offered at three sites, includes individualized instruction with different types of therapy for children’s various needs.
In the summers, children of all abilities are able to create wonderful memories and make new friends at summer camp. Marvin’s Camp for Children with Special Needs, named in memory of Marvin Weissglass, is a unique recreational summer program customized for children with disabilities. Campers are able to enjoy the great outdoors, go on trips, and socialize in a safe and inclusive environment.
We engage our participants in opportunities to be healthy, social, and active members of the community with a maximum degree of independence.
Watch this video from UJA Federation of New York of our Day Hab participants enjoying their music class.
Acceptance and inclusion are key components to all of our programming at the JCC. We offer inclusion opportunities in many of our traditional programs, including sports, camp, and after school programs, so that children and young adults with disabilities are able to take part in a wide array of activities.
In every one of our sites, we emphasize the importance of creating a space where everyone feels welcome. The JCC is proud to be a place where people of all abilities can feel safe and included, and most importantly, where they can learn and have fun.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
1466 Manor Road
Staten Island, NY 10314
485 Victory Blvd
Staten Island, NY 10301
1297 Arthur Kill Road
Staten Island, NY 10312
BERMAN EARLY CHILDHOOD CENTER
2221 Richmond Ave.
Staten Island, NY 10314