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BIENNIAL 2012 edition | JCC Maccabi速 turns 30

who we are (And What We Stand For)

New Vision & Statement of Principles for the JCC Movement unveiled


summer 2012 5772 whe


inside SUMMER 2012



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Biennial in Pictures A look at four amazing days in New Orleans


Making a Joyful Noise Family engagement made easy (and fun!) with Shababa, from the 92nd Street Y


Through a Jewish Lens A trove of photographs — and an award-winning documentary — offer windows on Israel, past and present

The Mobile Revolution Welcome to a new era of opportunity for JCCs Who We Are... And What We Stand For The JCC Movement’s Vision & Statement of Principles for the 21st Century

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Giving Back to New Orleans Our JCC Cares! community service project in the Ninth Ward


Lenny Krayzelburg JCC Swim Academy The JCC Movement’s popular (and money-making!) learn-to-swim program expands to Boston and Detroit


30 Years of Fun, Fitness, and Jewish Memories The JCC Maccabi Games® look back... and ahead

Meet the Future of the JCC Movement Esther Leah Ritz Emerging JCC Leaders Institute motivates and inspires

For address correction or Information about JCC Circle contact or call (212) 532-4949. ©2012 Jewish Community Centers Association of North America. All rights reserved. 520 Eighth Avenue | New York, NY 10018 Phone: 212-532-4949 | Fax: 212-481-4174 | e-mail: | web: JCC Association of North America is the leadership network of, and central agency for, 350 Jewish Community Centers, YM-YWHAs and camps in the United States and Canada, that annually serve more than two million users. JCC Association offers a wide range of services and resources to enable its affiliates to provide educational, cultural and recreational programs to enhance the lives of North American Jewry. JCC Association is also a U.S. governmentaccredited agency for serving the religious and social needs of Jewish military personnel, their families and patients in VA hospitals through the JWB Jewish Chaplains Council. JCC Association receives support from the JFNA National Federation/Agency Alliance, local federations and Jewish Community Centers. ISSN 1065-1551

By and about... David Ackerman David Ackerman is the director of JCC Association’s Mandel Center for Jewish Education and has a wide-ranging background in Jewish education and expertise in special education, particularly the social development of children with disabilities, as well as Israel education, and general issues in Jewish identity.

Dori Denelle Dori Denelle, vice-president, Mandel Center for Excellence in Leadership and Management Midwest Office / St. Paul, staffed the Esther Leah Ritz Emerging JCC Leaders Institute at the Biennial. She has over thirty years of experience in JCCs, beginning her career at the JCCs of Greater Boston, and then spending the next 26 years at the St. Paul JCC, 16 as the program and assistant executive director, and the last eight as executive director.

Chris Strom Chris Strom, director, new media and social networking at JCC Association, has worked in a variety of industries, both in the profit and not for profit sectors. A native of the Midwest, Chris relocated to New York City to join JCC Association in 2008. He graduated from Sawyer School of Management at Suffolk University in 2004 and continued his education in graphic arts at Cleveland State University.

Tamar Tal Tamar Tal is a documentary filmmaker and photographer who lives in Tel Aviv. Her film, , has won several awards, including Best Film at DocAviv International Documentary Film Festival, and the “Talent Dove” at Dok Leipzig for Extraordinary Documentary Film Talent.

jcccircle: Sr. Vice-President and Chief Marketing Officer Robin Ballin

Chair Paula L. Sidman

Creative Director Peter Shevenell

Honorary Chairs Edward H. Kaplan Ann P. Kaufman Jerome B. Makowsky Morton L. Mandel Lester Pollack Daniel Rose Alan P. Solow

Communications Manager, JCC Circle Editor Miriam Rinn Design Lisa Kaplan Peter Shevenell Jeremy Kortes

Vice-Chairs Donald Brodsky Ruth Fletcher Brian Kriftcher Noreen Gordon Sablotsky J. Victor Samuels Philip Schatten Stephen Seiden

Secretary David Wax Associate Secretaries Robin Frederick Linda Russin President & CEO Allan Finkelstein

Online Chris Strom


Let the good times roll!


It took two years to plan, and all that hard work paid off in one of our most successful Biennial conventions ever. Brilliant and inspiring plenary speakers, 70 sessions filled with valuable information, a first-time hands-on service project, and of course, a fabulous location, made for an extraordinary meeting. The New Orleans JCC and its community did outstanding work, helping delegates and staff navigate through their city and through the convention. They came to represent the Big Easy, and they did. We presented a new Vision and Statement of Principles for the 21st Century, and a majority of the delegates signed it right there in New Orleans. Affirming our foundational values as it looks forward to exciting changes in the Jewish community, this statement will guide us as a movement to be an even more significant part of people’s lives. Photo Captions: 1

Delegates rock out at a party held by the New Orleans JCC at Tipitina’s.


JWB Jewish Chaplains dance as the Preservation Hall Jazz Band entertains at the Convention-wide luncheon.


Karina Zilberman gets everyone involved at her session on bringing Shabbat to the JCC. (See page 13)


Delegates work to rehab houses in the Ninth Ward. (See page 21)


President Scott Cowen of Tulane University inspires delegates at Monday’s plenary.

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Gary Jacobs, chair of the 2012 Biennial committee, welcomes delegates to New Orleans.


Having fun at the Awards Luncheon.


Donniel Hartman, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute, speaks at Tuesday’s plenary.


Delegates networking at the Biennial.

10 The Preservation Hall Jazz Band. 11

Allan Finkelstein shares a laugh with Morton L. Mandel.

12 Erica Brown, scholar-in-residence of Jewish Federation of Washington, speaks to Esther Leah Ritz Emerging JCC Leaders before her keynote presentation. (See page 25) 13 Robin Ballin, Biennial director, speaks to delegates at J’s Stake House, the JCC Association program and services showcase. 14 JCC Association board members Stephen Seiden, Stephen Kaufman, and Alan Sataloff sign the JCC Movement Vision and Statement of Principles.












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Opportunities for Your JCC in the

Mobile Revolution By Chris Strom


Technology Review from MIT published an article in May showing that the smartphone is on pace to be the fastest adopted technology—ever. This shouldn’t come as a surprise.

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Your JCC’s members and users are adopting smartphones faster than the average mobile phone user in the U.S. Last year’s JCC Excellence: Benchmarking data show that 59 percent of respondents are smartphone users, a figure that is surely already out of date. Chances are you have an iPhone, Android or Blackberry within arm’s reach at all times during the day. Calling an iPhone or Android device a phone doesn’t give these amazing gadgets enough credit. These pocket-sized computers have replaced a variety of other devices in our briefcases and purses. In addition to the cellphone, smartphones have displaced personal calendars, digital cameras, media players, and much more. Emerging smartphone features are set to replace our keys, boarding passes, and even our wallets. David Booth, Cardinal Path partner, recently quoted a stat that it takes the average person six to seven hours to realize she has lost her wallet, while it only takes a half-hour before people launch into panic mode over a lost phone. We are literally attached at the hip to our smartphones. We use these devices for so much more than storing personal information and communication. A recent survey shows that 47 percent of smartphone owners use their device to search for information about local businesses. An even more eye-popping figure is that 70 percent of mobile searches result in action within one hour. Statistics from JCC websites prove this trend. Some JCC websites see nearly one quarter of their traffic from mobile devices. The consumer has spoken, and JCCs need to listen: your members want to access information about your JCC on their mobile devices.


Opportunities in Mobile for Your JCC Some of the lowest hanging fruit for JCCs is providing a mobilefriendly experience to members and potential members who are accessing the JCC website through their smartphones. Building a mobile-enabled version of your website is the first step in taking advantage of the mobile revolution. While your JCC’s Web developer can provide more tactical advice on design and layout, it’s important to resist cramming all the content from the desktop version of the website into the mobile version. When assessing all the opportunities in mobile, keep a razor-sharp focus on the JCC member and potential member and remember to keep it simple. Imagine asking Apple’s personal assistant Siri for recommendations on local health and fitness centers or typing in your JCC’s name in the Google Maps app and getting nothing. Or worse—the wrong address and contact information. Building and nurturing a strong presence on sites like Yelp! and Google+ Local that have popular mobile app counterparts is key to serving your mobile users and growing your JCC. Some JCCs have graduated to the next level and have built native apps for iPhones and Android devices. Personal fitness and program schedules, social media sharing and user-feedback forms are a few features these apps boast. Throw in shared photo albums, event registration and detailed maps of your JCC’s campus and you start to see the evolution of the program guide.


This idea of a program guide 2.0 is certainly appealing, but it requires a proper foundation to be built today. Your customer relationship management system, payment software and website all need to be working in harmony and talking to your JCC’s mobile app to be truly effective. In a recent JCC Association survey of JCC marketing directors, 70 percent of respondents report they haven’t budgeted for growing their JCC’s mobile presence in 2012 or 2013. While a native mobile app can cost less than a single print run of a program guide on a yearly basis, other technology improvements may need attention in order for your app to succeed.

Mobile Lingo Mobile enabled website A version of a website that is specially formatted for mobile devices. Visitors using smartphones will be automatically routed to mobile-enabled version of the website. Native app A mobile app built specifically for iPhones, Androids or other smartphone operating systems. These apps are downloaded through the operating systems app marketplaces.

Biennial App by the #s



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A Taste of the Mobile Life @ Biennial

At Biennial 2012 in New Orleans, we partnered with mobile app maker Guidebook, Inc. to deliver delegates the most interactive Biennial experience to date. Guidebook specializes in building mobile guides that can be downloaded through their mobile app. The Palo Alto based start-up recently expanded their market to museums, schools and yes, community centers. Our Biennial app, built with the delegate in mind, featured the full schedule of events and seminars including descriptions and room locations. The real utility of the schedule was the ability to customize it and make it your own. Instead of riffling through their printed program book, delegates were able to receive reminders via their smartphones 15 minutes before the next seminar they had added to their custom schedule. We peppered bits of interactivity throughout the Biennial, including a “question of the day.” Every day a new question was presented to delegates via the app. While the questions were thought provoking and relevant to every JCC, the mechanism for choosing and submitting an answer was dead simple. The results from the questions were presented in the following day’s plenary. As the results were read at the Monday Read more about the studies and technologies cited in this article. Scan with your smartphone or visit


downloads of the app


responses to “question of the day”


photos shared

plenary, the crowd erupted into applause. Nearly half of the delegates in the room had answered that day’s question. Other popular features of the app included points of interest around New Orleans, detailed maps of the convention center, a Twitter stream of the hashtag #JCCBiennial and the ability to snap and share photos with the rest of the delegates through a shared album. Biennial delegates could even access and leave commentary on the JCC Vision and Statement of Principles for the 21st Century from within the app. The feedback from the Biennial app has been great. It’s no surprise— every feature was designed with the Biennial delegate in mind. What features and functionalities would an app for your JCC have? This is a question your JCC should be investigating sooner rather than later. Your JCC’s members are ready for the mobile revolution—is your JCC? Interested in learning about opportunities for your JCC in the mobile revolution? Contact Chris Strom, director, new media and social networking at or on Twitter @Marketplicity.


Who We Are and What We Stand for By David Ackerman


he JCC Movement Vision and Statement of Principles for the 21st Century unveiled at the 2012 Biennial in New Orleans is a significant step for JCCs in North America. It presents a vision of the JCC as a dynamic force for Jewish living and learning and offers a set of principles that identify both what binds the JCC Movement together while also identifying what makes it distinct from other movements in Jewish life. It is the first articulation of the JCC Movement’s ideology in over twenty years and recognizes the changes in North American Jewish life that have occurred in that time. The JCC Movement comprises many communities of Jews (and nonJews) spread across North America, with very different approaches to Jewish living and learning. The statement of principles (SOP) provides a vision of what the JCC can be, and a set of principles to guide JCC’s decisions as they work


to achieve that vision. The SOP ties JCCs together as a movement, but doesn’t tie the JCC’s hands as an institution. The SOP serves as a conceptual framework for the JCC’s work, and each JCC retains its freedom to interpret the principles and act upon them in ways that make sense locally. That is because they are statements of principle, not statements of purpose or practice. The SOP asserts the JCC’s mission is to strengthen Jewish life in North America, which it does by building a vibrant Jewish community within the JCC. The JCC does this by encouraging relationships between members. It is the interpersonal connection and not the institutional affiliation that engages and links individuals with Jewish living and learning. Those relationships are the catalyst for exploring institutions beyond the JCC. Whether the relationships remain within the JCC, or serve as a bridge to other institutions, the JCC

The JCC’s primary purpose is to strengthen Jewish life and is built upon these principles: • Creating a Jewish identity is a unique and individual life-long process. • Respecting and supporting diverse Jewish opinions, beliefs, and practices are essential for strong and enduring Jewish communities. • Interaction between diverse groups of Jews is critical for the well-being and future of the Jewish people. • Jewish living and learning sit at the heart of the JCC. • Israel is an eternal birthright of the Jewish people, linking us to our past and to Jews around the world today. • Strong Jewish communities benefit, and benefit from, their larger communities.

serves as a convener, connector and relationship builder. Each of the six principles addresses an important aspect of the JCC Movement’s ideology, including the creation of Jewish identity, the variety of Jewish experience, the hard work of pluralism, the centrality of Jewish living and learning, the eternal role of Israel, and the commitment to both the Jewish, as well as the larger community in which we live. Together, they paint a picture of “the good Jewish life” as envisioned by the JCC Movement, a world in which, “…more than ever, Jewish wisdom is valued; differences are

respected; communities are built; creativity is encouraged, and aspirations are realized in exciting and powerful new ways.” For some JCCs, the SOP merely describes what they’ve long been doing. For others, the SOP will serve as a screen for analyzing strategic decisions. In both cases, the SOP will help the JCC Movement recognize its own strength as an essential resource for strengthening the North American Jewish community in the 21st century. For more information about implementing the SOP at your JCC, contact David Ackerman at


Making a Joyful Noise By Miriam Rinn


It’s a Shababa Universe Karina Zilberman can’t wait to tell you all about the 92nd Street Y’s Shababa community. Shababa is not a tot-Shabbat program or a class or a program, Zilberman insists, “Shababa is an approach.” The director of Jewish family life and culture at 92Y explains the ethos of the family engagement model that has grown exponentially since she started it in 2007 as an exercise in spiritual play. From a few families in a corner of the lobby, Shababa Saturdays now often see more than three hundred people streaming into the Y for Karina’s signature Shabbat experience. Mother, fathers, grandparents, and children all gather to sing, dance, and giggle with Zilberman and her puppets Coco and Bubbie Bracha. Shababa Shabbat begins on Fridays, when in addition to parents, many nannies bring children to welcome the Sabbath. Zilberman encourages the women holding wiggling toddlers to find their own inner resting place as she and Coco talk to the crowd. There is also Shababa Bang and Shababa Bakery and Shababa Cares and Shababa Day Away and more in the Shababa universe.

Open for Shabbat “We are not open on Shabbat, we are open for Shabbat,” Zilberman says, explaining that she wants Shababa to bring families together with the higher purpose of being better people. The culture in Zilberman’s native Argentina drew entire families to the grounds of Jewish community centers every weekend to spend time together socializing and participating in sports and Jewish life. “The social aspect is huge [there]. That is what I missed the most,” she says, when she moved to the U.S. in 2000 in the midst of Argentina’s financial collapse. When Zilberman arrived in Miami, she was surprised at how much the American Jewish community seemed to be built around synagogue affiliation rather than the social and recreational life she knew in Argentina. For Zilberman, summer camp comes the closest to that Latin American immersive experience. At Shababa, people come to be with their friends, just as they do in Argentina. They don’t come to network nor do parents drop their kids off for some “Jewish time” and pick them up an hour later. They come for the relationships—with their friends, with their kids, with their souls.


A 2012 winner of the prestigious Covenant Award for excellence in Jewish education, Zilberman ran a workshop at the JCCs of North America Biennial. The topic was incorporating Shabbat in JCCs and the response from JCC leaders and staff was almost rapturous. “In a room full of 40 adults, Karina was able to create an atmosphere of joy that I haven’t experienced really since summer camp many moons ago,” wrote Elana MacGilpin, adult director of the Mandell JCC in West Hartford, Connecticut. “Her spirit, creativity and unique enthusiasm had a way of making everyone feel good, and in essence, make everyone feel good about being Jewish. That’s a pretty big and important task.” Zilberman was a singer and performer in Argentina, and she brings some of that theatrical charisma to her current work. With a guitar and a puppet, she connects on a personal level to toddlers as well as adults. She truly believes that people crave emotional connection more than they want information. Her puppet Bubbie Bracha, for instance, is not there to teach the children the brachot but to present the concept of blessings in a social environment. The kids learn the brachot as a byproduct of their love for Bubbie Bracha and for Zilberman. “Karina’s enthusiasm is infectious and she really helps you remember that Shabbat is a day to celebrate and not merely to observe,” said David Ackerman, director of the Mandel Center for Jewish Education, on why he invited her to speak at Biennial. Shababa is a gift to families as Shabbat is a gift to the Jewish people.

For more information, contact Karina Zilberman at


JCC Association’s Early Learning Framework The number seven has extraordinary power in Jewish thought and practice. The seventh day, Shabbat, is crowned with holiness. The seven-branched menorah is the symbol of the Jewish State. The seven laws of Noah extend to the whole world, and the seven species nurtured the ancient Israelites. At a Jewish wedding, we give seven blessings, and to commemorate a loss, we sit in deep mourning for seven days. Because of its deep roots in Jewish tradition, we have chosen this word Sheva, which means seven, as the name of our early childhood education initiative. The seven core elements of this initiative are as deeply rooted in the latest research on child development.

The seven core elements are: • Children as Constructivist Learners • Early Childhood Directors as Visionaries • Early Childhood Educators as Professionals • Families as Engaged Partners • Environments as Inspiration for Inquiry • Discover CATCH as Sh’mirat HaGuf (taking care of our bodies) • Israel as the Story of the Jewish People Early childhood education has been a centerpiece of JCCs for almost a century, and historically it has been a gateway into JCC programming for families with young children. Just as the early years are a critical time for children’s individual development, the time spent in early childhood centers is also a critical time in a family’s identity formation and connection to their local JCC. Sheva outlines a new, dynamic vision of excellence in Jewish early childhood education, allowing JCCs to capitalize on their leadership in the field. It will serve as a guidepost to position JCC early childhood centers as THE centers of excellence in their communities, binding them together across the continent. This new framework employs the core principle of An Ethical Start®— studying and discussing ancient and contemporary texts and stories, using a Jewish lens to reveal universal values. The adults in children’s lives form learning communities, which gather to reflect on these values, and, acting as role models, ensure that they and the children will be equipped to lead meaningful and successful lives in the twenty-first century. For more information about Sheva, contact Mark Horowitz, vice president, early childhood and family engagement at


Through a Jewish Lens Israel past and present came to life at the Biennial, through the lenses of Israeli photographer Rudi Weissenstein and filmmaker Tamar Tal. A screening of Tal’s moving documentary, , was followed by a conversation between Tal, JCC Association president & CEO Allan Finkelstein, and a star of the film, Ben Peter. A stirring exhibit of Weissenstein’s photos accompanied the Biennial; a selection of the images are reproduced here.


Rudi Weissenstein was the official state photographer at many seminal moments in Israeli history, including the signing of Israel’s Declaration of Independence (below). He established the Pri-Or Photo House, a photography studio and store on Allenby Street in Tel Aviv. After Rudi’s death, his widow, Miriam, ran the Photo House with her grandson, Ben Peter.


Life in Stills (vhbnkmv) has won multiple documentary film awards. It follows Miriam and Ben as they fight the Tel Aviv municipality’s redevelopment plan, and attempt to preserve their family business in its original location.


The private story of the Weissenstein family is set against the public backdrop of Tel Aviv’s struggle to balance a sense of history with a desire to remain progressive on the occasion of its centennial celebration.

Life in Stills embeds a family’s story in Israeli history and presents some important themes through a Jewish lens: communication across generations, memory versus history, the conflict between history and progress, and tragedy and its aftermath. For any screening, the director, Tamar Tal, the producer, Barak Heymann and/or one of the main characters of the film, Ben Peter, (grandson) may be available for your JCC/Y/ camp for discussion and Q&A after the showings. TO SCHEDULE A SCREENING Please contact either of the producers, Tamar Tal at or Barak Heymann at

Photography © copyright Pri-Or Photo House, Tel Aviv

Bring Life in Stills to your JCC


Giving Back



New Orleans JCC Cares! community service project at Biennial By Miriam Rinn


earing paint-spattered work clothes and a big smile, Marshall greeted a group of JCC volunteers as they got off the bus in the Ninth Ward in New Orleans. Standing on the porch of a half-finished new house, he told them that he had grown up on a farm in Mississippi, graduated from Dartmouth with a degree in unemployment, and decided to come to New Orleans to spend some time helping out. Marshall assigned the group to various chores—priming, painting, scraping, sanding, hanging doors, and cutting baseboards. The volunteers came from different communities, spanned a wide range of ages and skill levels, but everyone found something useful to do. Soon, the sound of a jigsaw filled the hot New Orleans air. For the first time, the 2012 JCCs of North America Biennial included an afternoon of hands-on service. Working with the St. Bernard Opportunity Housing Project and Beacon of Hope, four busloads of volunteers tackled different building projects to help people who had been affected by Hurricane Katrina. Marshall’s volunteers worked with the St. Bernard Project, which is building unpretentious new homes for New Orleans residents who were previously renters. With the help of grants, the Project buys empty lots from the city, clears them, and builds new homes, which are then sold to people of modest means who have lived locally for at least four years. Even six years after the storm, signs of the devastation are all over certain neighborhoods in New Orleans. In the Ninth Ward, which was among the most damaged areas, rebuilt, well maintained homes with neatly trimmed lawns stand next


to abandoned lots covered with knee-high weeds. Nancy Chase worked on a house with her children and her husband Irv Chase, who serves as president of the Merage JCC of Orange County in California. “Experiencing this with my immediate family and my JCC family—that moment will last forever for me. Working side by side with my kids was amazing,” Chase said. “There is still so much that needs to be done. You can’t help but feel for these people. Hearing those firsthand accounts makes you want to do what you can for this community.” Chase is the chair of the JCC Cares event at the JCC Maccabi Games/ArtsFest in Orange County in 2013, and she hopes to find a similar hands-on service project for those teens. The bus filled with JCC Association graduate scholarship recipients, Merrin Fellows, and participants in the Jewish Educational Leadership Institute worked on repainting the outside of a resident’s house in the Gentilly section of the city. Terri Travers, sports, fitness & recreation director at the Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg, an alumnus of the Merrin Teen Fellowship program, said, “As professionals, we often encourage our teens to get involved and supervise them in projects, but to be able to work on a service project with my peers demonstrated how important giving back can be and how those doing the work often get as much if not more out of the experience than the recipients.” Another participant, Samara Preisler of the Columbus JCC, said, “We often talk about what we can do to improve our communities and the world as a whole. This service project allowed us to have an impact on a community that still needs help.” Laura Fendrick, BBYO and teen department associate director at the Marcus JCC of Atlanta, added, “There is still so much damage from Hurricane Katrina and to know I helped out a little bit was a great feeling.”


JCCs as Caring Communities While caring for those in need is part of the heritage of the JCC Movement and is embedded in the view JCCs have of themselves, there is wide variation in the kinds of services that JCCs provide. To better understand how JCCs care for their communities, the JCCs as Caring Communities Task Force, chaired by Arlene Fickler of Philadelphia, presented its findings on the last day of the Biennial. The survey that the task force undertook found that almost all JCCs: • Respond to natural disasters in their communities • Provide programs that assist the elderly and people with special needs • Run food and blood drives regularly JCCs don’t work alone when helping; in those communities with a Jewish family service agency, JCCs depend on that agency’s expertise, particularly for specialized populations. The task force found that a clearer definition of what it means to be a caring community and a more formalized approach, with data collection and baselines, might help JCCs be more effective in their outreach to their own members and to the larger community as well.

Delegates Barbara (Bobbi) Samuels (top) and Elizabeth Cohen-Toubin and Kenneth Katz of the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC in Houston work hard to get a house ready for someone to move into.

“A Jewish Caring Community knows its individual members, anticipates their needs (social, emotional, economic, etc.) and mobilizes its resources in response in good times and bad. A Jewish Caring Community is defined by strong inter-connections between its members and an inclusive and attentive ethos. A Jewish Caring Community is grounded in Jewish perspectives on dignity and humanity.” To receive a copy of the Task Force report, please contact David Ackerman at


Meet the

Future Leaders of the JCC


Esther Leah Ritz Emerging JCC Leaders Institute Cultivates Jewish Leaders By Dori Denelle


The Esther Leah Ritz Emerging Leaders class of 2012 brought together 61 JCC leaders from across North America.


otivating and inspiring others, leading through collaborative art, biblical models and modern-day competencies – all of that plus 61 diverse leaders from around the continent and some New Orleans revelry, and you have the ingredients for another successful cohort of JCC Association’s Esther Leah Ritz Emerging JCC Leaders Institute. This JCC Association continental program has been in existence for over thirty years, and past Esther Leah Ritz Emerging JCC Leaders have gone on to serve their communities in a variety of ways. Many have become presidents of their JCCs. A large number have gone on to serve on our continental board. The program has evolved over time to continue to be relevant to the leaders and leadership issues of the present day. While one can emerge as a leader at any stage of life, ELR is targeted to newer JCC leaders in their late twenties to forties. The typical participant is involved in his local JCC and is seen by her JCC president and executive director as


“This program was wonderful and I feel very privileged to have been a part of it.”

someone with the potential to become more involved, especially on the board and officer level.

Nominated for this prestigious leadership award by their JCC’s executive director prior to each Biennial, participants come together at the JCC Association Biennial convention for one and a half days of learning together, with the theme of “JCCs Build Excellent Leaders, Leaders Build Strong Communities.” Following the Institute, they join their local delegations and continue to learn and grow at the general Biennial sessions. The Institute balances learning about leadership in the Jewish communal world with an additional focus on enhancing individual leadership skills. It is built on the need for strong leaders to build strong communities; on the belief that leadership competencies can be learned and developed with practice and opportunity; and on the knowledge that our own Jewish tradition has much to teach us about leadership for our communities. The award and institute is named for Esther Leah Ritz, an exceptional Jewish communal leader from Milwaukee who passed away in 2003. She was the first woman president of the Samson Family Jewish Community Center and the Milwaukee Jewish Federation. Esther Leah was one of the first Jewish women to rise to national prominence, holding numerous elected positions in the U.S. and international Jewish communities, among them chair of our own Jewish Community Centers Association (then called JWB), vicepresident of the Council of Jewish Federations and vice-chair of Wurzweiler School of Social Work at Yeshiva University. It is so fitting that generations of new leaders learn under her name the leadership skills she held so dear and fiercely practiced. Meryl Ainsman, chair of the 2012 ELR Emerging JCC Leaders Institute, said it was a privilege to spend time with these bright, engaging young leaders. It gave Ainsman a window into how this next generation thinks about leadership and about the value of the JCC in their communities, and that, she believes, will serve her well in her own leadership roles in her home community of Pittsburgh and as a JCC Association board member. As part of this year’s institute, JCC emerging leaders learned about motivating and inspiring others from Dr. Erica Brown, writer, educator and scholar-in-residence for the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, who later in the day went on to keynote the opening plenary of the Biennial. They got an up to the minute look at the state of the JCC Movement from JCC Association’s president and CEO Allan Finkelstein. With artist Jay Wolf Schlossberg-Cohen, they worked collaboratively to create a community mural, a process that taught them about setting priorities, leadership style and creating a shared vision. Rounding out a full morning of

“I picked up ideas and techniques that I will use in our own board training.”


Adrienne Matros, from the Merage JCC of Orange County, knows that leaders who get their hands dirty, or in this case colorful, can make a lasting impact. learning and activity, the group looked at biblical models of leadership over lunch with Dr. David Ackerman, director of the Mandel Center for Jewish Education at JCC Association. On Monday morning, participants went from the “big picture� to the personal, looking at their own leadership skills. Noa Peri-Jensch, founder of The Global Momentum, worked with a selected group of JCC Association board members to develop Ten Competencies for JCC Leaders. ELR participants used this tool to look at their own leadership skills and created individual development plans for their specific growth. This year, for the first time, participants are required to work on a project back in their home JCCs, designed in concert with their JCC executive directors, which will both benefit the JCC and allow the emerging leader an opportunity to enhance her own leadership skills. The final session of the Esther Leah Ritz Emerging JCC Leaders Institute paired participants with their executive directors to work on this venture. Projects are far-reaching, ranging from creating a culture of giving among board members, preschool families and other JCC constituencies; taking on the responsibility to chair a board retreat or a strategic planning process; developing a board mentorship program, or a more effective committee system. As you can see, participants are poised to make a significant impact in their home communities. The Esther Leah Ritz Emerging JCC Leaders program will now take on a year-round focus, with quarterly webinars, online discussions and consultation on individual projects. The goal is to lead to more advanced sessions at the next Biennial as well as participants taking on meaningful leadership roles in their local JCCs. ELR emerging leaders are set to lead the JCC Movement into the future. For more information about the ELR Awards and Institute, contact Dori Denelle at


Everyone into the



Two More JCCs Embrace Lenny K JCC Swim Academy

By Miriam Rinn


honda Brodsky, aquatics director for the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit, can’t wait until her JCC changes to the learn-to-swim model offered by the Lenny K JCC Swim Academy. Although Detroit has been using the Red Cross program for ages, she’s eager to try something new, especially since she flew to Los Angeles to see the Lenny K method in action at the Westside JCC. “Everything he does in this program makes sense,” Brodsky says. Many learnto-swim programs focus on covering yards of water, but her first concern is safety, just as it is for the Lenny K SwimRight method. “Once you’re safe, then we’ll work on other issues.” The JCC of Metropolitan Detroit and the JCCs of Greater Boston are the most recent adopters of the Lenny K JCC Swim Academy aquatics program. That brings to eight the number of JCCs and camps in California, New Jersey, Kentucky, New York, Michigan, and Massachusetts that have signed up for the program, which offers a brand-new approach to swim instruction and to turning a JCC pool into a profit center. Beginning with children as young as a few months, focusing on survival skills, and motivating young learners with colorful awards, the Lenny K program inspires loyalty from parents and enthusiasm from kids. That leads to a busier pool and more revenue.


Brodsky isn’t shy about her goal to put other swim clubs out of business. “I think this will be a huge advantage for our program because we’ll be the only one in the area doing this,” she says. Aquatics directors at JCCs already using the Lenny K program told Brodsky that their revenues have doubled. “I’m just as happy as Lenny is that we’re starting in October.” Her swim instructors are looking forward to the change, too. Lenny K’s approach is more personal and more hands-on than many, and that keeps instructors engaged. “We have a very precise teaching style,” founder Lenny Krayzelburg, a four-time Olympic gold medal winner, says. “We follow a clear progression, beginning with getting a child comfortable in the water, floating on their back, and getting a good sense of their surroundings in the water. We’re very hands-on—every instructor is required to be in the pool with the kids, and we have a four-to-one ratio of students to instructors, so kids get more individual attention.” Water safety is critical to JCCs as well as to parents. Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States, and children between 1 and 4 have the highest drowning rates. JCC Association is partnering with eight other organizations and the National Swimming Pool Foundation in the Step

Into Swim campaign, which asks private and public sectors to sponsor or donate to organizations that teach people to swim. “This is a great opportunity to raise money for water safety programs at JCCs such as the Lenny K JCC Swim Academy,” says Steven Becker, JCC Association vice-president of health and wellness services. The water safety aspect sealed the deal for Korrinn Lubarsky, aquatics director at the Leventhal-Sidman JCC in Newton, Massachusetts. “Safety is such a huge factor in swim classes,” Lubarsky says. “Parents want to know that what they pay will pay off. Being around water is dangerous.” Lubarsky was also excited that the Lenny K program would enable the JCC to enroll babies. With the Red Cross program they were using, “We didn’t have survival skills for kids that young,” she says, and that’s the best time to teach children to be safe in the water. Will Winer, assistant VP, health, fitness and membership, at the Leventhal-Sidman JCC, adds that not only do baby classes expand the JCC’s

market, but parents will be able to sign up all year round. “The way this system is set up, it’s continuous; people can come and go as they want. The software is allowing us to charge in a different way,” he adds. “It allows people to come at any time, and [so] it will help our cash flow.” In the end, though, it was the excitement and enthusiasm of the kids that convinced them to switch. Lubarsky went to three different sites using the program to see how it worked and she was amazed at how eager the children were to advance. “It was truly incredible to see the kids holding their progress books,” she says. “I didn’t see one child without a book or a Lenny K cap.” For more information about the Lenny K JCC Swim Academy, contact Steven Becker at

After immigrating to the United States from Ukraine, Lenny quickly found an aquatic home at the Westside JCC in Los Angeles. As a teen, he competed in the JCC Maccabi Games® in Detroit (1990) and Baltimore (1992). Lenny participated in the 16th Maccabiah Games in Israel, carrying the U.S. flag at opening ceremonies.


JCC Maccabi Games Turn 速


By Miriam Rinn

It was all about the pool, says Barrie Weiser, executive director of the Memphis JCC. Weiser had just taken over the job of exec in 1982 when the very first JCC Maccabi Games were held at the Memphis JCC. They were called the North American Youth Maccabi Games then, and the U.S. Maccabi organization insisted that the facility have a standard Olympic-size pool. When several other communities passed on the opportunity to host this sports event for teens, the Israeli shaliach at the Memphis JCC volunteered, noting that they had the right size pool. That clinched the deal for the Memphis JCC to be the inaugural site for what would become an annual Jewish event. Memphis is hosting the largest gathering of Jewish teenagers once more this summer to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of JCC Maccabi Games. Those early Games, regional events for a while, went on for 10 days, including Shabbat, Weiser recalls. “It enabled us to put Yiddishkeit into the Games. All of the shuls were involved. Every shul either sponsored an oneg Shabbat, a kiddush, a Shabbat lunch for the kids and the host families.” The athletes ate dinner with their host families every evening, except for one night when they all ate at the JCC. “It’s the biggest Jewish communal party ever held,” Weiser says, and he believes that the most meaningful part of the Games is that the whole week becomes a celebration for the larger community as well as the JCC.


While this year’s Opening Ceremonies will be held at FedEx Stadium, the original 1982 ceremonies were on the JCC ball field. “We lined the grass path with tiny Israeli flags,” Weiser recalls. “I had two or three board members out there with rulers, sticking flags into the grass.” About 1500 spectators came out, and Weiser worried that if the ceremony did not end before nightfall they’d all be plunged into darkness since the field had no lights. Athletes were escorted in by a phalanx of Memphis motorcycle police. “For the time, it was unreal,” Weiser says. Because there were a relatively small number of athletes—300—and they stayed for a long time, those first Games felt almost like a camp experience to Weiser. Close friendships developed between the visiting athletes and their host families, and between parents of visitors. “The last night was bittersweet because the friendships had gotten so tight,” Weiser says. A native New Yorker, Weiser came to Memphis after stints at the YMYWHA of Washington Heights and Inwood and the JCC in Springfield, Massachusetts. “You lose the ability to get together with your colleagues for lunch” in a smaller, more isolated community, Weiser says, but Memphis is a great place to bring up your family and takes a lot of pride in Jewish communal life. “My concern for the future is [the JCC Maccabi Games] has become very expensive, for the kids, for JCCs,” Weiser says, “and I’m concerned what will happen to a wonderful program unless we find some way to reign in those expenses.” He believes that communities should share information about successful sponsorships and the cost of flights in/out of communities. He notes that Memphis is one of the most expensive flight destinations. “I don’t know how you get over that hump.” The JCC Maccabi Games is part of the Jewish communal quilt, Weiser says, and that quilt must be preserved. For information about hosting the JCC Maccabi Games contact Dan Deutsch, vice-president, JCC Maccabi Experience® at “Like” us at


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