JCC weighs changes


Leaders of the Marion & Aaron Gural JCC sent a 25-question survey to 3,500 members to gauge their interest in programs the Jewish Community Center should offer as it acquires the Temple Israel campus in Lawrence.

The JCC, based in Cedarhurst, offers programs and services ranging from camps for children, to groups for seniors and Holocaust survivors. JCC social workers help those with challenges such as traumatic brain injury and Parkinson’s disease.

The JCC which serves about 16,000 people a year at 18 different sites, according to Executive Director Joel Block, who succeeded Rina Shkolnik nearly three years ago.

“In order to serve the community, you need to understand the needs of the community,” Block said. “We wanted a sampling of the people, their needs, what they’re looking for — a wish list. JCCs look and feel different in every community. It is not a franchise. The reality of a JCC is it reflects the needs of the community, not the other way around.”

“We found that the JCC is a unifier in the community,” said Stacey Feldman, JCC director of development. “We meet their needs on a day-to-day schedule.”

The JCC survey found that teen programs and cultural arts topped the wish lists of most respondents. “Parents would like to see more volunteer opportunities and more structured, organized programs for the teenagers,” Block said.

Survey responders indicated that they want more trips to New York City, theater outings and movies, Block said. He noted the Singles Night the JCC sponsored in February, which dew 142 participants to Temple Israel. The JCC had a relationship with the temple for several years — leasing space for its nursery school, several other classes and clubs and events — prior to entering into an agreement to purchase the campus last year. 

To begin the planning process for new teen programs and more cultural arts offerings, Block wants to have discussions with the more engaged people who responded to the survey, as well as his board. “We want to talk about what they really want to see and road-test some ideas,” he said. 

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