2018-05-09 / Columns

What I learned from the Israel 70 Celebration

Katz JCC Executive Director

Our community came together on Sunday, Apr. 22, when over 3,000 people participated in South Jersey’s celebration in honor of Israel’s 70th Anniversary. Every day over 2,000 people visit the JCC and yet we didn’t recognize half of the participants at the Celebration. I consider this a sign of the vitality and diversity of this community. We tend to think of ourselves as a small Jewish community where everybody knows everybody else. This is part of our charm and specialness. Yet, in fact, we are a large, growing and diverse Jewish community.

More Jewish families are moving into the area and waiting to be invited into the “Big Tent” that our system puts out for all to join in. The Federation uses a term, “The Power of a Community,” and we saw this in action at the Israel Celebration. It makes one wonder what else can we do to bring out even more people and welcome them into the family. Imagine if the JCC or other Jewish organizations did more large community centric events. I look forward to the day when we can all greet one another as friends. Together, we can accomplish this.

I am proud that the JCC is particularly well suited for organizing large community programs. In fact, we have one of our biggest to date coming up on Wednesday, June 6, when Jason Alexander comes to town to help us celebrate the Community Campus’ 20th birthday. Alexander, best known as George from “Seinfeld,” will sing, dance and tell stories about his friends and co-stars over the years. This will be an evening you won’t want to miss, and all proceeds go to support the good and invaluable work the JCC does. And although we do incredible large community events, there is also magic in the smaller ones.

Classes for older adults and activities for individuals with special needs are particular opportunities to make friends and build relationships. The smiling faces of the children in our early childhood center will warm you on the coldest day, even when having a complimentary cup of coffee in the lobby during the early hours. We add life to your years and years to your life by offering enriching daily activities that make everything all so much more enjoyable. You will gain a sense of wellbeing by coming here and being a part of the J. We are here for you. That is why we get up every morning and come to the Center of the Jewish Community…to see you. We have embraced a philosophy of Broadening the Base and Improving Engagement. This builds Community. And this is not only a mantra to live up to; it is also part of the business plan. By having more people participate, join, spread the word and support us, we increase our strength and insure the future.

As we look to the rest of the year, we look forward to our new parking lot, an exciting dedicated STEM Lab, a new café, and expanded programs. Even as we broaden the base, the challenges to fund these programs and projects increase. The JCC Board is actively reviewing plans to insure a vibrant and strong future that will continue to welcome all members of our community.

With your help, we plan to be here for your grandchildren.

If you’d like to learn more or be a part of the future of the JCC, please contact me. I’ll see you around the J. s lcohen@jfedsnj.org

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