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
A year ago, our lives changed forever as COVID-19 began taking hold in New York City. On this solemn anniversary, I have been reflecting back on the struggles of the past year.
On March 17, 2020, the JCC’s doors officially closed to the public. But they never actually closed to those who needed us most. While most of our city was forced to shut down, our services were deemed “essential,” forcing us to adapt and find new ways to help those who are struggling.
As the needs of the community doubled, tripled, quadrupled, and even quintupled, the JCC staff was there every step of the way, helping Staten Islanders navigate these uncertain times. Our Kosher Food Pantry and Social Services Department began managing a huge influx of clients. We offered grab-and-go meals and virtual programming to isolated seniors. We began Resource Navigation, connecting individuals with COVID-19 to much-needed services. Our Early Childhood Education had to adapt to ever-changing regulations in order to get kids back in the classroom. We began hosting children at five JCC sites through the City’s Learning Bridges program, which provides a place for students to safely learn virtually on the days they are not physically in school.
Most recently, we’ve helped seniors in our community wade through the confusing and difficult vaccination appointment booking process. We were able to refer seniors and other eligible people to local vaccination sites, and just this week, we were able to partner with the Office of the Staten Island Borough President and VitaCare Pharmacy to vaccinate 650 seniors at our facility. We are also hosting a COVID-19 Vaccine Town Hall with Richmond University Medical Center to help educate the public about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. You can find more information here.
While our staff members have certainly been tested by this pandemic, they have also grown too, rising to the challenge and showing what an extraordinary group of people they are. Having to adapt to this different style of work hasn’t always been easy, but I’ve seen so much creativity from our staff as they find innovative ways to connect with people virtually.
While we celebrate our achievements over the past year, we also must acknowledge the intense sense of loss we feel. Losing over 1,500 of our family, friends and neighbors to this virus has taken its toll on all of us. Our thoughts are also with those who are still recovering from COVID-19, as well as our friends who are struggling financially and emotionally through the pandemic.
To honor those we have lost, we will hold a Virtual Memorial on Monday, March 15th at 3pm. We invite all to join us as we remember our members and participants who were taken from us by COVID-19. We mourn with our community for those we lost, who will never be forgotten.
Jewish teachings tell us it is our duty to heal ourselves and others. At our JCC, we are committed to this principle, guiding those who are hurting in our community to support systems. We will continue to help those who are isolated find meaningful connections. If you need us, don’t hesitate to reach out. You can find our full list of COVID-19 Connect to Recovery Services here. The JCC will always be here for you, no matter what you need, in both good and bad times. We have begun looking towards the light at the end of the tunnel, and with more opening up in our city and state, we eagerly await the day all of our services can be back in-person again.
February marks many celebrations, including Black History Month, Lunar New Year, Purim, and Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance & Inclusion Month. Though the JCC’s history is rooted in Judaism, we serve and employ a diverse group of people, and we are committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all. We see our diversity as a strength that enhances our programs and community.
Several of our departments have been hosting activities and events to recognize Black History Month. We have a curriculum in our Early Childhood Education, Learning Bridges, and Cornerstone programs devoted to highlighting Black History Month, which includes an exploration of Black history, literature, art, music, and culture. For adults, our Beacon program at I.S. 49 will be hosting a virtual speed networking event later in the month for Black-owned businesses. For more information on this programming, click here
Our Cultural Arts Department has joined with the Tucson JCC to present Ritual Intersections in the Music Studio, which is a celebration of what unites the Jewish, Black, and Jewish-Black communities through music. Learn more here.
This month, we are also celebrating Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance & Inclusion Month. The month is dedicated to highlighting and celebrating the work the Jewish community has done to help individuals with disabilities as well as broadening our collective commitment to making our world more accessible to all. In everything we do at our JCC, we aim to create an inclusive environment for people of all abilities. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve increased virtual offerings for people with disabilities, including music and cooking classes. We still offer in-person services to children and young adults with disabilities as well and hope to expand them as things begin to return to normal.
Most of all, we look forward to running Marvin’s Camp and our inclusion program again this summer!
One of our favorite annual events is “Love Around the World,” where our Early Childhood Education students celebrate diverse cultures from across the globe. This year, they celebrated different cultures by reading books, eating food, and making crafts, like these lanterns for Lunar New Year!
It has been amazing to see, even during these difficult times, our staff putting together these creative, fun, and educational activities. I welcome all of you to join us as we celebrate what makes our community a rich melting pot.
The new year brings new leadership for the JCC. After two and half years of exemplary service, Solomon Chemo stepped down as Board President at the end of 2020. We are grateful for his work leading the Board through these difficult times and are also excited to welcome back a familiar face to lead the JCC Board of Directors.
Our new Board President is Susan Sappin, who previously served as Board President from 2011-2014. Sue is the first person in our 91-year history to ever serve as President twice, and we are thrilled to have her return to the position.
A native of Brooklyn, Sue moved with her husband David to Staten Island almost 40 years ago. The Sappins soon joined Temple Israel Reform Congregation of Staten Island, where she eventually became President of the Congregation. Through her connections at Temple Israel, Sue was introduced to life at the JCC. Over time, Sue joined the Board of the JCC, where she has served as Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary, and President.
During her first term as President, Sue oversaw many positive changes to our JCC. She played a major role when we restructured our mortgage to reduce debt during the recession—a move that helped us keep our doors open and stabilized our agency financially. Her work led to an expansion of our Early Childhood and First Foot Forward programs, as well as the creation of the Center for Life Long Development (CLLD) for seniors. During her tenure, we installed solar panels in the Bernikow Building, which was instrumental in making our agency greener.
When tragedy struck during Hurricane Sandy, Sue’s leadership helped us create a continuum of recovery services for those in need. That version of Connect to Recovery served as the model we continue to use today to help those hurt by the pandemic.
Perhaps Sue’s greatest accomplishment is cultivating and expanding the JCC’s reach. Her kindness, passion, and giving spirit made her a natural fit to attract people to join the Board of Directors and get more involved with our JCC. During her first Presidency, she advocated for expanding the demographics of our Board to include people of different faiths. She is also directly responsible for convincing Gail Castellano, now a Past Board President, to join. In addition to getting local people involved with the JCC, Sue also fostered a global partnership with the Israeli city of Pisgat Ze’ev, which became our Sister City.
Additionally, Sue is active with UJA-Federation, our partner organization. For more than twenty years, Sue has chaired the UJA Community Breakfast, a cause dear to her. She has served as a liaison to UJA, strengthening their connection with our agency and Staten Island as a whole.
Sue has received several awards for her work in the community, including the First Generation Award at our Nancy Avis L’Dor V’Dor Awards Lunch in 2014.
Sue is the mother of three adult children, Elizabeth, Jennifer, and Edward, and the grandmother of ten. She and her husband David were married for nearly 50 years before he passed away four years ago.
Upon being inducted as president, she told us, “I fell in love with the JCC and the important work we continue to do for the Staten Island community. Serving as president for the second time is just as exciting and inspiring, and I hope others will follow me to continue to build our legacy into the future.”
Based on her work the first time around, we knew she was the right person to lead us through these turbulent times. We are lucky and grateful to have Sue step up to the plate once again!
-Orit Lender, CEO
Though the weather has been cold lately, we have our eyes on summer!
Earlier this month, we launched registration for JCC Day Camp and unveiled our brand-new camp website! It has been incredibly exciting to get feedback from parents on how much their kids are looking forward to coming back this summer. To help parents who are struggling financially, we are pleased to announce that we were able to keep rates the same as last year.
In addition, our Early Bird pricing gives a discount, so if you sign your child up before February 15th, you can take advantage of this offer. We also offer scholarships for those in need, and you can click here to request an application. I invite you to check out our new website, and if you’re a new camp parent, to sign up for our Virtual Open House on January 31st to learn more about camp.
Despite having the odds stacked against us, last year was one of the best camp seasons we’ve ever had. Even with smaller groups and new regulations, we were able to have an amazing summer, giving children the sense of normalcy they needed in difficult times. Kids enjoyed nature, made new friends, learned to swim, played sports, tried woodworking and other STEM activities, and most importantly, got a break from their screens. For children who had been isolated for months, camp was exactly what they needed.
With increased safety protocols, we were able to ensure the safety of all our campers and staff. Of over 700 campers at our 9 JCC locations throughout the borough, none tested positive for COVID-19 at any point throughout the summer. I am grateful to our diligent and dedicated staff members, who made it their mission to give our kids a safe and fun experience. We have no doubt we will exceed expectations again this year.
In addition to our Traditional Day Camp, we have opportunities for children of all interests and abilities. Last year, we advocated fiercely for Marvin’s Camp for Children with Special Needs to open alongside our other camps. Halfway through the summer, we were granted permission to open. This year, we are hopeful that we can give these children a full summer experience.
We have already begun registering Marvin’s and inclusion campers in anticipation of having them back at camp and will continue to advocate on their behalf with governmental agencies.
Our Lucille & Jay Chazanoff Sunrise Day Camp-Staten Island serves children with cancer and their siblings. Due to the fragile nature of our campers, we decided to hold a virtual camp last year. Campers were able to do art projects, play games, and do other camp activities from the safety of their homes. While we don’t yet know what this year will bring, we are preparing multiple options for Sunrise Day Camp. As soon as it is safe to do so, we will be back in person with our Sunrise campers once again.
Soon we will also begin registering children for our sports and performing arts camps, as well as the camp programs run through our Beacon and Cornerstone sites throughout the borough.
While the days ahead seem cloudy, we can see the bright light of camp shining through. We are counting down the days until summer, when we can see hundreds of happy faces back at camp!
-Orit Lender, CEO
We share the shock and outrage that so many have expressed about the events that occurred in Washington, DC yesterday. Our country’s democracy is based upon a peaceful transition of power, and any attack on that process is an affront to everything we hold dear as Americans. I am grateful that our elected officials, their staff, law enforcement, and members of the press were kept safe during this ordeal.
Now is the time for us to come together as a community to condemn the violence and hatred we have seen. Hate speech and violence have no place on Capitol Hill or anyplace else in our country.
At our JCC, we believe in unity and inclusion, welcoming people of all walks of life. We serve our community in over 31 locations around the Island, which means we meet and work with people from different backgrounds. At every single location, we are committed to providing an inclusive environment for every person who walks through our doors. When we see imagery of people who proudly display hate symbols and racist slogans attacking our government, it is incredibly hurtful.
Despite all of this, history has shown us that we can persevere through these difficult times. I know that we, as a community and a country, will get through this if we work together.
As we navigate the next few days, we want everyone who enters our doors to feel safe and secure. Though there are no specific threats to our JCC, we are prioritizing keeping our facilities safe. Through our partnership with UJA, we are a part of the Community Security Initiative at the Jewish Community Relations Council. Their representative, Terence Byrne, Staten Island Regional Security Manager, has been in regular contact with the NYPD Intelligence Bureau on our behalf and is keeping us apprised of any updates that impact us.
Let us all hope for peace and healing in our country.
-Orit Lender, CEO
There’s no question that we are in difficult times right now. Though we work every day to navigate the uncertainty around us, as we celebrate a new year, we are looking towards the future. The JCC has been an important part of our community for over 90 years, and we will continue to be there for you and meet your needs for years to come.
That’s why I’ve unveiled my plan for what I’m calling the JCC’s Centers of Excellence, which was created through listening sessions with our board, staff, and community members. The plan reconfigures the way our agency operates, grouping similar departments into new teams and assigning each Center equal importance. These eight Centers of Excellence will strengthen our structure by creating a stronger foundation of which to build off.
The Centers of Excellence are:
We feel that these new Centers of Excellence will allow us to be more user-friendly while also pushing the agency to grow and evolve. Operating in a team approach will help us ensure collaboration and that we’re engaging community members as we develop programs. It will also allow us to create a vision for the future of the JCC that will sustain us long after we have passed the current moment of crisis.
We also want to help our staff, who have been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic, find easier ways to share resources and solve problems through teamwork. Additionally, you can support the JCC by joining a committee, volunteering your time teaching classes, or sharing your thoughts and ideas with us. We believe you play a vital role on our team and are partners in our success. With your assistance, our agency will grow and change as we continue to move through this unprecedented era.
My overall goal is to give you, our members and participants, the best experience possible and meet your needs. We hope this new layout will allow you to more easily connect to our services and programs, whether it’s on the phone, virtually, or in person. We love hearing from you, and it helps us understand your wants and needs as we move forward. Together, our agency will grow to be stronger into the future.
As 2020 comes to an end, I am writing to wish each of you a happy and safe holiday season and to express my gratitude for all that you have done in this most difficult time.
Though this year has been one of great pain and loss, I’m so proud of the work we’ve done to come together as a community. We had to change the way we operated, with protocols taking over our lives—from social distancing to contactless pickups to new reservation systems. For many of us, we got more acquainted with technology and learned the most important lesson of 2020: how to hit the mute button on Zoom. We wore masks, washed our hands, and navigated ever-changing rules. But through it all, we’ve been able to persevere. We’ve worked hard to continue to provide our community with vital services, meaningful connections, and heartfelt care. This is, truly, something to be thankful for this holiday season.
I ask that, as we continue celebrating joyous moments over the holiday season, you continue to do your part to stop the spread of COVID-19. We know that small gatherings have been a major source of transmission, and we are seeing higher rates on Staten Island than in the rest of the City. In order to help keep our JCC family safe, please do not enter any of our facilities if you’re not feeling well, have been exposed, or are living with someone who is experiencing symptoms. Though we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel, until the vaccine is readily available, we still need to be vigilant about protecting our community.
We are grateful for your continued care and patience as we continue to navigate the next phase of this crisis. Thank you to all our donors, members, participants, volunteers, and partner organizations for sticking with us throughout the past year. We were only able to succeed because of your unending support, and that is a tribute to how much it means to have you as part of our JCC family.
I wish you and your loved ones a happy and peaceful holiday, as well as a healthy and joyous new year!
As the holidays and New Year approach, we reflect back on the unprecedented events of this year. There is no doubt that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will be etched into our collective memories forever. Through it all, the Joan & Alan Bernikow JCC has been here for our community, through our in-person and virtual programs, as well as through our work helping those hit hardest by the pandemic.
While we know that this has been a hard year for everyone, for seniors who have been isolated for months, it has been even harder. We were proud to be able to bring back grab and go meals to help seniors access healthy food options in a safe way.
Thanks to the generous donations we received from our Virtual Food Drive, we will be able to provide these meals through the holiday season, and we hope to secure enough funding to continue them throughout the winter. Learn more about our Virtual Food Drive here.
We’ve also hosted virtual social events for Holocaust survivors through our Café Europa social club. In the fall, we held a Sukkot celebration where we celebrated the 100th birthday of one of our survivors, Margot Capell. Her family and friends from all over the country were able to join us virtually for this special evening.
To celebrate Chanukah, we’re hosting another special event for our Holocaust Survivors this Monday at 6:30pm. The event will include a candle lighting ceremony, music, art, and more. All are invited to join us at this Zoom celebration.
This Chanukah, we compelled more than ever to do good for others as we face these tough times. This week, on our social media accounts, we will be highlighting eight values for each night of Chanukah. Though these values are based in Jewish tradition, they are universal to the human experience:
This year, more than ever, we can see the importance of these values in everything we do, from wearing masks to protect those around us to checking in on those who are isolated. We at the JCC will continue to follow these values as part of our core mission, and I hope you will continue to include them in your own daily life.
While this season naturally leads us to care for others, I also want to remind everyone that, now more than ever, it’s important to take a moment for self-care. Whether it takes the form of meditation, exercise, watching a movie, or even just taking a long breath at the end of the day, it’s crucial to take some time for yourself this holiday season. For me, spending time with my husband and kids reenergizes and rejuvenates me on my days off. I hope you can experience the same joyful time with family, either in-person or virtually, this holiday season.
On behalf of the JCC family, I wish you a happy and safe holiday season.
This year has taught us to be even more grateful, not just for what we have individually, but for the community around us. We’ve seen essential workers step up to the plate and take care of our community. I want to say a special thank you to our staff members, who have been doing this essential work day and night over the past few months. Without them, the JCC would not have been able to weather the storms and continue to serve our community.
Through this work, we can see that so many of our friends and neighbors are still hurting. Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen an uptick in cases through our Resource Navigator program, which links those who test positive with needed services. The need for our Kosher Food Pantry has quadrupled over the past few months. Our other social services, including navigation for health insurance, benefits, and legal services, have also been in high demand.
For anyone in need, the JCC is here for you. Our COVID-19 Connect to Recovery services are free and available remotely to anyone who has been negatively impacted by the pandemic. We are excited that we were able to restart our Grab & Go meal distribution for seniors this week, and we are prepared to provide additional services as needs arise throughout this next wave of the pandemic.
While we work together to heal the wounds caused by the crisis, my hope is for all of us to continue to do our part to help keep our community safe. Our individual actions can help keep others—even those we’ve never met—healthy, and I hope you will continue to stay vigilant during the holidays.
As this is the season of thanks, I could not end this letter without thanking you, our members and participants, for sticking with us over the past year. Our board and staff are so thankful to all of you for continuing to support us throughout these difficult times. Your commitment to our mission is a major part of what makes the JCC so special.
Wishing you and your families a safe and happy Thanksgiving!
In a year that has already made history in so many ways, the upcoming elections on Tuesday, November 3 are set to be historic. As we approach Election Day, it is more important than ever to be informed and prepared to vote.
Making our voices heard with our votes is not only our right, but also a responsibility that connects past, present, and future generations of Americans. It is our duty to be informed voters. While the presidency and Congress are certainly important, we also need to be engaged in state and local elections that have significant impacts on our day-to-day lives. Sample ballot tools, like this one from Ballotpedia, are a great way to stay informed on all the elections you can expect to see on your ballot.
In an unpredictable year like this one, it is just as important how you plan to cast your vote as it is who you choose to vote for. I encourage you all to make a voting plan, as you may be submitting your ballot in a different way this year.
For more information, check out this guide created by our friends at the Marlene Meyerson JCC on your voting options and make your voting plan as soon as possible!
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