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
Last week, we received word of the racially-motivated shooting in a Buffalo supermarket, and our hearts went out to the entire Buffalo community. Yesterday, we heard the horrific news about a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which took the lives of 19 elementary school children and two teachers. Yet again, our hearts are broken.
In the face of immense tragedy, it’s easy to feel helpless. But now is not the time to sit back in fear and sadness. Jewish teachings tell us that it is our responsibility to step in when a situation is unjust. Based on these values, we at the JCC are doing all we can to help prevent future tragedies from happening.
Last Thursday, I joined with community leaders to stand against hate in the wake of the shooting in Buffalo. At the JCC, we stand with our community in solidarity against racism and bigotry every time we see it—and our neighbors do the same for us when Anti-Semitic incidents occur. I am grateful that Staten Islanders are not willing to be silent on this issue. We will continue to join together as one community and speak out against hate of any kind.
We have also been working a new initiative called PATH, in partnership with JCRC, to help combat anti-Semitism and hate crimes. Through this initiative, which was funded by the Mayor’s office, we have been providing educational resources and strengthening relationships among diverse and interfaith communities on Staten Island. We know there is more work to be done in this area, and we are committed to engaging different communities in order to fight hate locally.
We also realize that gun violence is a major issue that needs to be tackled nationally and locally. As part of our youth programming, in partnership with UAU and Central Family Life Center, we have begun offering a program focused on gun violence prevention. The program, which is funded by the Governor’s office, supports positive youth development and provides opportunities to youth and young adults at risk of gun violence. In addition, violence prevention is included in many of our after school and weekend programs for tweens and teens.
These grassroots programs are part of a larger effort by our entire community to put an end to these tragic situations once and for all. By joining together, we can regain a sense of our shared humanity and begin to forge a new path forward.
Together, let us hold the victims of gun violence in our broken hearts and work to create a better world to honor them. May their memories be a blessing.
This weekend marks an important time for people of many faiths as we celebrate Passover, Easter, and Ramadan. These are joyous holidays marked by family celebrations.
As the story of Passover tells us, even in times of great hardship, we are able to join together to overcome adversity. Our ability to be resilient has kept us going, even through the past few difficult years. Passover is a celebration of freedom that inspire us to work towards a world when every person will be free from hatred.
We are seeing resiliency in the Ukrainian refugees who have been forced to leave their homes and families behind while fleeing a war. Our hearts are with them, and the JCC stands ready to help any families who come to Staten Island. We are already providing services to help them acclimate to America and access everything they need, including benefits, health insurance, ESL classes, food, and jobs. We will be here for them as long as they need.
Jewish values tell us that it is our responsibility to help those in need—globally and at home. To help those in need in our own community, this week, we partnered with MetCouncil, the Hate Has No Home Here initiative, and the Notre Dame Club Club of Staten Island’s Bread of Life Food Drive to provide Passover meals for over 300 families at a drive through food distribution. It was heartening to be able to provide a holiday meal for those in need.
None of this would be possible without our dedicated volunteers and staff who worked in the rain to unpack boxes and distribute the food packages. Their hard work brought out the sun in the afternoon. Thank you to our community partners and our volunteers from the JCC Kosher Food Pantry, Amazon, MetroPlus Health, Wagner College, and the Pride Center of Staten Island for being generous with their time! I would also like to thank Council Member Borelli and representatives from DA McMahon and Assemblyman Tannousis' offices for supporting us during the distribution.
In times of joy and hardship, the JCC continues to serve our community. We are here for you—whether you just need a place where you feel connected, to work out and swim, or send your kids to camp and Early Childhood programs. Everyone is welcome and belongs at the JCC.
I hope you all get a chance to spend quality time with your loved ones over the holidays. On behalf of our JCC family, I wish you a happy and healthy holiday season.
-Orit Lender, CEO
This week, we mark the celebration of Purim, which commemorates the story of Queen Esther. Esther was a strong female leader, using her position for the good of her people. In the story of Purim, Esther hid her Jewish faith from her husband, King Ahasuerus. The king’s trusted advisor, Haman, had a plan to kill all the Jewish people in the Persian Empire. Esther had a choice—to stay silent or tell the truth in order to save her people. She acted courageously, risking her life for the good of the Jewish people. During Purim, we celebrate Esther’s heroic actions that saved the lives of so many others.
We have many strong women in our community, like Queen Esther, who have used their power and standing to help others who are less fortunate. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, it is important to acknowledge their contributions to our JCC and the community at large.
One of the most inspirational stories in the JCC’s history belongs to Nancy Avis. Nancy was a barrier-breaking woman who cared deeply about Staten Island. Like many other women interested in making a difference in their community, Nancy began volunteering her time for JCC initiatives close to her heart—namely children’s causes. She became involved with our Camp Committee and took a lead role in the formation of the JCC Nursery School in 1961. As the Women’s Division President, she encouraged and inspired other women to get involved as well. In 1986, Nancy made history as the JCC’s first woman Board President and led the agency through significant expansions. While Nancy is no longer with us, her legacy lives on through the generations of women leaders at the JCC—including our strong female Board Members and Presidents.
Every year, we present the Nancy Avis L’Dor V’Dor Awards to honor women who have made an impact on our community. L’Dor V’Dor, which means “from generation to generation,” recognizes women who have carried on the legacy of those who came before them, while also inspiring the next generation to make the world a better place.
This year is particularly special, as we are honoring Nancy’s granddaughters Sydney, Samantha, and Morgan Avis with the “Nancy Avis Legacy Award.” These three young women are continuing the legacy of their grandmother Nancy through their community service and advocacy of social justice issues. It is so beautiful to see the next generation getting involved and giving back.
Alongside them, we are so excited to be able to recognize other female leaders in our community. The “First Generation Award” will be presented to Allison Romeo, a Speech/Language Pathologist in our Early Childhood Education program, and Stephanie Mizrahi, a CLLD board member. Just as we honor women whose years of service have benefited our community, we will also honor an up-and-coming leader in our community, nine-year-old Maddie French, with the “Next Generation Award.” The “Bridge to the Community Award” will be presented to Dr. Ginny Mantello for her work advocating for health and wellness throughout Staten Island. Each of these special women have made their mark on Staten Island, and we are so proud of everything they have done to improve life in our community.
You can learn more about the L’Dor V’Dor honorees and register to watch the virtual ceremony on April 3rd here.
We are so proud to have a history of strong female leadership at our Jewish Community Center and in the larger Staten Island community. Women like Nancy Avis inspired me in my journey to becoming the first female CEO of the JCC. I am blessed to be surrounded by these strong women leaders, on our board, throughout our organization, and in our local community. I hope that women continue to feel empowered to raise their voices and make an impact. We honor them not just during Women’s History Month, but throughout the whole year.
-Orit Lender, CEO
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.
Last week, we were excited to join with several community leaders to announce a partnership that will offer workforce development opportunities in the Staten Island community. Through this partnership, we will join with the Clean Energy Academy to offer a free 70-hour energy efficiency technical training, combined with professional development career advancement support services. The program, which will be delivered virtually, focuses on energy efficiency, outreach, education, and implementation assistance initiatives for small commercial properties.
This training will be beneficial for people looking to begin their career in this field and will help make our community greener and more energy efficient. The JCC has always been ahead of the curve with our commitment to green energy, from putting solar panels on the roof of the Bernikow Building to making energy efficient upgrades to our buildings with ConEd. We are proud to lead the way on Staten Island when it comes to energy efficiency, so this partnership is a natural fit for our agency. We are proud to make an impact on both our borough’s workforce and our environment through this program.
This initiative is just one piece of JCC Career Connections, which we launched last fall. Career Connections offers comprehensive assessments and wraparound social services that guide individuals looking for career help to the appropriate trainings, workshops, job fairs, mentorships, and internships. We are now consolidating all of our social service programs under the umbrella of JCC Connections, helping anyone in need access crucial services.
We know that people looking for help often need more than one service and don’t know how to access it easily. Our one-stop-shop method helps link people to community resources, benefits, legal and financial counseling, our Kosher Food Pantry, and so much more.
Not only does every person who comes through the doors of this program access the training they need to take their career to the next level, we also help them overcome any barriers they may have to finding success in their careers. Whether that’s learning soft skills or finding health insurance, our holistic approach helps meet a wide variety of needs.
We are grateful to our community partners for this project, the Clean Energy Academy, NYSERDA, ConEdison’s Small-Medium Business Program, Energy EDC, Soulful Synergy, GreenTech LEADers, and Life3. I would also like to thank Assembly Member Cusick, Borough President Fossella, and the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce for the support they have given the project.
I want to send a special thank you our staff members who have worked tirelessly on this initiative. Without their crucial work, we would not have been able to get this program off the ground.
We are thrilled to be able to offer this opportunity to Staten Islanders and hope it is the beginning of a larger shift to embracing green energy on Staten Island. For those interested, the program is open to everyone aged 18+ with a high school diploma or equivalency, regardless of background. All applicants will undergo interviews, evaluations, and a screening/selection process. For more information, contact Kathi Indelicato at firstname.lastname@example.org or 718.475.5236.
-Orit Lender, CEO
Over the past few weeks, we have been shocked and saddened by the news of anti-Semitism in our community. We know that Jews are the most common victim of hate crimes, with anti-Semitic hate crimes accounting for more than half of all religious bias crimes.
Recently, just over the bridge in Brooklyn, a young College of Staten Island Hillel student was beaten up for wearing an Israel Defense Forces hoodie. Over the weekend, the news out of Colleysville, Texas horrified our nation. We are grateful that the hostages were released, but every incident like this continues to shake the Jewish community.
In response to these anti-Semitic acts, we are taking additional precautions to ensure the safety of our members, participants, and staff. We are following our security protocols, which include working with NYPD, UJA, and JCRC’s Community Security Initiative, which connects us to many law enforcement agencies. We are also grateful for COJO’s effort to mobilize NYPD to places of worship.
Earlier this week, I attended a gathering of elected officials, clergy, and community leaders to push back on the anti-Semitism and hatred we have seen locally and nationally. It was fitting that we came together on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to talk about the importance of tolerance and understanding each other.
At the JCC, we are open and welcoming to people of all walks of life. At the core of our mission are the Jewish values of caring for our neighbors and Tikkun Olam—repairing the world. We believe in unity and inclusion, and we condemn hate and bigotry of any kind. It was heartening to see this message echoed by our community and elected leaders on Monday.
Sadly, this was not the first time we have joined together as a community to deliver this message, and it will likely it will not be the last. We are fortunate that the Staten Island community is not willing to be silent on this issue. Every time we see anti-Semitism and bigotry, we will be loud in voicing that it is not acceptable.
We continue to work with organizations like the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee to educate our community on these issues. We are also beginning to work on a new initiative called PATH, in partnership with JCRC, to help combat anti-Semitism and hate crimes. We look forward to sharing more about this in the near future.
I am grateful to our local leaders for confronting the issue of anti-Semitism head on and encourage everyone to join us as we stand up against hate in our borough.
-Orit Lender, CEO
As the year comes to a close, I am writing to wish each of you a happy and safe holiday season and to express my gratitude for all that you continue to do during this most difficult time.
With your unending support, we have been able to persevere and continue to bring you the programs and services you want and need. The core mission of our agency has kept us grounded and allowed us to keep moving forward, even when we were thrown curveball after curveball. We know that even with the emergence of this new variant, we will continue to meet all the challenges that arise and adapt to serve the needs of our community. Since the pandemic began, our JCC has exemplified the Jewish value of caring for others, reaching out a helping hand to anyone in need. Although we weren’t always all in the same place at the same time, we showed that we are stronger when we’re working together.
Over the past year, we’ve been able to bring back old programs and start new ones, and we are so proud of all we have accomplished. Just a few of the highlights of the past year include:
These are just a few of the many things we’ve accomplished this year, and I couldn’t be prouder of the work we’ve done. We look forward to all we will do together in 2022!
On behalf of the Board and Staff of the JCC, we are grateful for your continued care and patience as we continue to navigate the next phase of the pandemic. Thank you to all our donors, members, participants, volunteers, and partner organizations for sticking with us through good times and more difficult ones. We are only able to succeed because of your tireless support, and we are so proud to have you as part of our JCC family.
I wish you and your loved ones a happy and peaceful holiday season, as well as a healthy, safe, and joyous new year!
-Orit Lender, CEO
Last Thursday, I got to go to Brooklyn to the Per Scholas headquarters for a very special announcement. We joined with leaders from government, including Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and our community partners to celebrate an expanded effort to train more New Yorkers for thriving careers in technology. We are teaming up Per Scholas, a national educational non-profit, as a Satellite partner to offer free IT training courses for Staten Islanders. The classes, which begin November 1st, will be live streamed by Per Scholas from their Bronx and Brooklyn Campuses to our Bernikow Building.
Throughout the different stages of the pandemic, we have had to shift gears constantly to help those in our community who were struggling. The latest need we see is a nationwide one—the issue of employment. At the JCC, we feel strongly that in order to allow Staten Islanders to have an equitable recovery from the pandemic, we need to help them get back to work. That’s why we are so incredibly excited about this partnership with Per Scholas. We could not be prouder to be the Community-Based Organization from Staten Island chosen to work on this project, and we feel honored to be here along with so many other community leaders.
During the pandemic, growth in the technology sector has been exponential. Unfortunately, Staten Island has mostly been left out of that growth. Our partnership with Per Scholas aims to change that and help get Staten Islanders the proper training and connections they need to get jobs in the tech sector.
For local residents, providing training and linking them with employers in tech will allow them to have a better chance at accessing good paying jobs with upward mobility. This will be a benefit not only to the newly employed, but also to the general economy in our borough. Working with Per Scholas, we will help bridge the gap for those looking for tech jobs and create a stronger future for Staten Island.
This partnership is just the first piece of our new programming, called JCC Career Connections. This new program, which has been in the works for many years, will provide career training along with wraparound social services to help all Staten Islanders access employment opportunities. By linking Career Connections to our already robust social services offerings, we will be able to accommodate Staten Islanders with a wide variety of needs and help them get good paying jobs. We know this is just the first step in creating programming that will majorly benefit Staten Island.
Providing social services has always been our strength at the JCC, so this partnership with Per Scholas gives us the opportunity to expand services and successfully launch this much-needed program. I want to thank Borough President James Oddo, the Chamber of Commerce, the Staten Island Foundation, UJA-Federation of NY, Amazon, and all of our community partners for their crucial work on this initiative. Without their support, this partnership would not have been possible.
We look forward to launching our first class, along with a press event celebrating this new program, next week. For more information on all of our Career Connections programming, click here.
I’m personally so excited to see where this partnership takes us, and we look forward to all we can do together!
-Orit Lender, CEO
I hope you were able to take some time during the fall holidays to relax with your family. As we’ve learned over the past year and a half, family is truly something to be cherished. At the JCC, we feel especially strongly about the importance of providing programs for the entire family to enjoy.
A few weeks ago, we welcomed hundreds of families back to the JCC at our Fall Harvest Festival. It was wonderful to see familiar faces as well as many new ones. Our staff and I really enjoyed seeing kids play, sing, dance, and have fun outside with their families and friends.
The festival kicked off a season of fall programming that is designed with children of all ages, interests, and abilities in mind. From sports to aquatics to School’s Out and Sunday Funday activities, we have something for everyone. We are also offering programs that the whole family can enjoy, like our parent/child music classes, self defense classes, and Pet ‘n Play event with Wild Side Zoo. For more information on all of our fall offerings, check out our Program Guide here.
In a few weeks, we will host Kids Front & Center, a virtual event honoring the work done on behalf of children throughout the pandemic. At the event, we will honor three local leaders, Lt. Rafet Awad, Rose Kerr, and Miriam Prat-Jerez, for their transformative work with children. Their tireless efforts have improved the quality of life for so many kids and families in our community.
We will also recognize all the work our own JCC staff has done for kids throughout the pandemic. While many others were forced to close their doors, we were able to serve hundreds of children with in-person programs throughout the past year and a half. Our programs were a lifeline for families of essential workers struggling to find childcare options. Kids Front & Center will benefit our programs for kids and will make sure we can keep them running throughout the rest of the pandemic and beyond. You can learn more about the event here.
I hope to see you, either in-person or virtually, at one of our many fall kids events!
-Orit Lender, CEO
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