Although we were not able to celebrate in-person this year, we were excited to connect with everyone virtually to share our accomplishments, welcome in our new board members and officers and Shine a Spotlight on our special volunteers.
John Thalenfeld, Incoming President’s Remarks
“Thank you, Barbara and your committee for a job well done. Thank you Rabbi Kaplan for your inspirational opening prayer and remarks, and thank you Fred Levy for putting together this annual meeting in the face of adversity.
I am humbled and honored to have been elected as President for the incoming term. I’d like to express my gratitude, first and foremost; to the Board Nomination Committee as well as my fellow Board Members & Officers for giving me the opportunity to serve the Jewish Community Alliance.
Thank you for your trust in me and my Executive Committee. I hereby accept the obligation, being the next President of the JCA of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Thank you to our current and past leaders for their vision and hard work which has brought us all here today in this beautiful new facility.
I want to thank David Lantz for his mentorship and the Executive Committee for helping to prepare me for this position, and the entire board of directors for the excellent job that they have done during this past year. I also want to thank Gary Bernstein for the leadership and guidance he has given us, and all our staff and volunteers for their tireless and dedicated hard work during an especially trying year. I look forward to working together with the Board and staff during the upcoming year.
We have many opportunities and challenges this coming year. Some of our goals for the upcoming year include increasing our programming, increasing our membership, continuing our drive to balancing our budget and making us much more visible and accessible to the entire community at large. No one knows how far we can go this year. But one thing for sure, that we have many more treasures to be discovered. I have confidence in our capable team of staff and volunteers to continuously strive to fulfil our mission.
Considering all the challenges we’ve had this year and will probably continue to have in the beginning of next year, I’d like to close with a paraphrase of something many of us say at the end of Yom Kippur and Passover “Next year in person at the JCC!”
David Lantz, Outgoing President’s Report
“Good Morning, everyone. Thank you so much for logging in to our virtual annual meeting.
Before I begin, I want to extend a very special thank you to our meeting chair, Fred Levy. Putting together an annual meeting is never simple, but trying to coordinate one during the ever changing landscape that has been 2020 is a lot more than he signed up for. So thank you so much Fred.
My Presidency began what feels like a lifetime ago during the initial opening of our new building. And while we accomplished so much in that first year, 2020 is going to live on in our memories far longer than 2019. Covid-19 forced this organization to reevaluate everything. It required commitment, dedication, and perseverance of every member of our staff, as well as our Board and every volunteer. And while it’s not over yet, I am incredibly proud of the efforts we’ve all put forward.
First and foremost, leadership is critical to keeping everyone working together and towards a common goal during a time of crisis. Gary Bernstein was hired as our CEO this past January. Immediately, he was tasked with the usual fundraising and managing the staff. Soon after, he unexpectedly needed to oversee the organization during lockdown, develop a plan for reopening, ensure we were providing Covid appropriate programming to our members, and make sure we had the financial resources to keep us operating. Gary did all of that and more, all while keeping a cool head and, presumably, a smile under his mask. Without his leadership, I’m honestly not sure how we would’ve survived, let alone escaped it almost entirely on budget.
One of our greatest concerns this year was how to provide meaningful programming to our seniors, who represent a large portion of our community and are the population most at risk. Barbara and Sharon, with the help of their staffs, completely overhauled our senior programming, developing virtual fitness programs, revamping in-person classes to allow for social distancing, and taking our congregate meal program curbside. These efforts helped ensure that even in times of lockdown, our community members were never isolated.
Our athletic department, under the guidance of Kevin, oversaw the reopening of our fitness center and gymnasium, the return of in person classes and programs such as pickleball, and the implementation of a virtual J5k. All of this was done with the health and safety of staff and members placed at the forefront. Bob and the rest of the maintenance staff have made sure every inch of this facility has been sanitized constantly throughout the day. And all of these efforts haven’t gone unnoticed, as members of other facilities throughout the area have started looking at the JCC and joining as members in large part due to the level of safety we have been providing.
Illumination Early Learning Center successfully reopened on June 8, having revamped its procedures to put the safety of its staff and the children attending as its primary focus. On June 29th, international mud day was celebrated, and that was the day my daughter Avery began attending summer Pre-K at Illuminations. For 3 days each week through the end of August, Avery got to learn, make friends, play, and just be a kid again for the first time since her school had closed in March. It was an extraordinary experience for her, and a huge relief to her parents. As an added bonus, we would get reports of what she was learning and pictures of her activities so we knew what she was up to. During her entire time there, not a single student or staff member tested positive for Covid, not a single day needed to be cancelled. Kiera and I couldn’t have felt more comfortable with the job Anne Marie, Mary, and the rest of the staff were doing.
Camp is one of the few places where young people can satisfy their need for physical activity, creative expression, and participation in a community environment. These things were all the more vital for children in a year where school closure deprived them their primary source of interaction. [I am proud to say that] The JCC Day Camp successfully completed a 6 week summer program this year. Thanks to a focus on the safety and security of the staff and children, I am very proud to say that while camps were getting closed all over the country, Doug and the rest of the staff managed to keep us open without a single positive test among staff or campers, or a single day needing to be cancelled. While our number of campers wasn’t what we’re used to, the response from parents and campers couldn’t have been more positive, and the service we provided couldn’t have been more appreciated by those families.
For nearly all businesses, 2020 has been a financially trying time, and we were not spared. Thankfully, Lynn and Tracey in the back office stepped up to help us apply for critical funding and assist the rest of the staff in keeping costs down and managing the HR nightmare that short term closure created.
I want to say thank you to all of our staff members for turning what could have been a nightmare of a year into what we can consider a success. They all deserve praise and appreciation for the hard work they’ve done this year.
Finally, I want to extend a very special thanks to my Board and all the volunteers that help this organization day in and day out. There wasn’t a single person whose personal and professional lives weren’t in turmoil this year. But all of you continued to answer our calls; to participate; to help this organization in any way you could. Thank you so much to all of you for everything you’ve done and continue to do for this organization.”
Gary Bernstein, JCA Annual Meeting Speech
“Good morning! Thank you for joining us today at the Friedman JCC in person and on ZOOM for our 2020 JCA of NEPA Annual Members Meeting. Thank you, David, for your inspiring words, it was a real pleasure working with you this past year. The Friedman JCC has benefited from your time, commitment, and prudent counsel.
Today we can look back on another year that proved exceptionally intensive for our agency, for our employees, our volunteers, and for all our members here today at the Friedman JCC and watching at home on ZOOM. After a year like we just had, it is especially special for me to be able to talk directly with you. In addition, I am in the process of completing my first year as your Chief Executive Officer and I would like to start by looking back on this past year.
To put it rather simplistically – being the CEO of this agency is the full package. It’s exciting and demanding; it’s full of surprises; now and then it’s highly emotional and sometimes also quite interesting. However, at the same time it is also extremely fulfilling and gives me a sense of purpose.
It is this sense of purpose that helps me come to work energized every day: I feel that I am leading an agency that is undoubtedly going through a challenging period. But it is also a special organization that is worth supporting.
Why? Because this agency, our JCA, constantly proves that it possesses remarkable resilience and strength. Resilience and strength that many people may underestimate. Ladies and Gentlemen, it may not seem so at first glance, but we achieved a lot in 2020. And that was despite some strong challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
For example: After 4 months of closure from March –June, we created protocols and guidelines and safely re-opened our facility when many businesses did not. Our staff reached out to our members by phone while providing outstanding virtual programs keeping our members connected. We found creative ways to keep our Kraus-Chaiken Sara’s Table Food Pantry, Congregate Meals program and Kosher Meals Home Delivery open assisting our families in need. Staff developed new outdoor, socially distanced programs like our Outdoor Marketplace while also staging a successful Cornhole Tournament. After many discussions and meetings with our Committees and ultimately our Board, we created a way to safely open our Illumination Early Learning Center and our Summer camping program, to the delight of our students, campers, parents and families. We are projecting a smaller deficit for FYE 2020 than originally budgeted by rigorously controlling our occupancy costs and cutting other expenses. Thanks to our volunteers and staff, we pulled off a financially successful Tribute Gala honoring Attorney Allan Kluger. In addition, our 59th Annual Golf Outing at Huntsville Golf Club attracted over 90 players and 35 sponsors.
We achieved many of our objectives while laying a foundation for a continued positive trajectory for 2021 and beyond. A sampling of some goals moving forward include:
· Serving and assisting more families in need
· Growing our Membership rolls
· Expanding our program offerings both in person and on-line
· Collaborating more with our sister agencies
· After the pandemic, open our doors to the community and be a more engaging community partner
· Work towards establishing a more stable operational financial footing
· Continue raising the necessary funds to complete our capital building campaign
· Working with our current board to identify and recruit a cadre of young leaders and prospective donors
· And finally, our top priority is to add value for you, our members.
For this to happen, we need a true working partnership between our staff and lay leaders and volunteers. We have so much potential in our agency and have much talent within our ranks. We must provide the necessary tools and clear away the obstacles. Besides integrity and teamwork, there is another attribute we must embrace which is to build an entrepreneurial spirit.
In conclusion, I would like to thank our staff and board – for their tireless commitment and hard work. It is this commitment and hard work, which ensure we remain successful during these challenging times.
One popular quote is:
“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” – Mother Teresa
To our volunteers, you may never know the profound effect that you may have made on a person’s life. A kind word, a gentle touch or a listening ear can mean so much to someone. You generously give your gift of time to make contact, provide support and encouragement and perhaps provide humor to make someone’s day a bit more bearable because you have taken the time to care.
“To the world you may be one person but to one person you may be the world.” You give of yourself and bring with you your life experiences, skills, abilities, compassion, intellect, and humor and in return you hopefully receive friendship, appreciation and satisfaction. Please know that we all genuinely appreciate and value your commitment of time to volunteering with us and for this we say thank you.
Our volunteers selflessly give their time and talents to help others in need, to strengthen and lift up our community, to make someone’s day brighter, to lessen the load, and to improve people’s lives for the better. On behalf of our Board and our staff, I would like to say thank you for your unwavering support, for your kindness, compassion, and caring.
These gift mugs filled with chocolate kisses are a small token of our appreciation to you all.”
Fred Levy, JCA Annual Meeting Speech
“Good Morning Everyone. I want to welcome you to our 1st Virtual JCA Annual Meeting! I am Fred Levy and I currently serve as a member of the Friedman Jewish Community Center Board of Directors and I am proud to take an active role in Chairing today’s Annual Meeting. I have served as Chair of the Illumination Early Learning Center since its inception, and I am currently on the Nominating and Finance Committees as well.
It is my pleasure to welcome all of you to this November 2020 Friedman JCC Annual Meeting. This has been a most interesting and challenging year due to COVID-19. Our leadership and staff have worked very hard developing protocols and guidelines to keep our members safe, in order to re-open our building this past June. We have implemented many virtual on-line programs this year in order to stay connected to you, our valued members.
I would like to thank all of our staff, our Board of Directors, and our OUTSTANDING VOLUNTEERS for the part you have played in helping us reach this day. Your participation and support is valued and appreciated. This journey would not be possible without the love, support, and encouragement of each one of you here this morning. THANK YOU!!
To me, it is very special conducting now the 2nd Annual Meeting in our brand new Friedman JCC building. During the tearing down of the old building about one year ago, artifacts were uncovered from a time capsule located in the cornerstone which was put in place exactly 70 years ago. A newspaper article from the Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader in 1950 articulated how the visionaries at that time, had the same hopes, dreams, and goals that we now have in 2020 for the Friedman JCC.
I found it fascinating to read about the 1950 Groundbreaking Ceremony. One of the principals said “ Just as we look back at the events of a century or more ago, so will those who follow us generations hence recall January 17, 1950 with gratitude. In an expanding community and country like ours, pioneering never ceases, for new opportunities arise and they are grasped by unselfish individuals who want to leave the world a better place than they found it.”
Then in October 1950 as the cornerstone was laid, ceremonies took place before several hundred people. The October 21, 1950 Wilkes-Barre Record quoted Aaron Weiss, president of the Jewish Community Center—and grandfather of Susan Weiss Shoval—who said he hoped the building “will stimulate wholesome activities” and that it “will create an inspiration for better living” not only for the Jews but for the citizens of the community.
One of the highlights of the ceremony was placing a sealed box, containing historic documents, into a receptacle, over which the cornerstone was laid. Hyman Landau, Chairman of the 1944 building fund campaign placed the box into the receptacle. Wielding trowels and mortar at the ceremony were Ben Cohen, Morris Weiss, Joseph Kellner, and Attorney Louis Shaffer. Attorney Shaffer is the father of Ruth Shaffer Chariton and the uncle of John Thalenfeld. A short address was given by Reuben H. Levy, Chairman of the building committee. Reuben H. Levy is my grandfather; he is Sidney Friedman’s uncle, Rob Friedman’s great uncle, and a cousin to all of the Yelen family.
I will paraphrase remarks by my grandfather. “ We must stay focused on our mission to serve both our Jewish community and the greater community, to stay relevant to today’s generation and its needs, while at the same time building an institution that will serve future generations.” And I will add that we have a deep heritage in this community from which to leverage. Opportunities abound. We have much work to do!
On the platform below me are displayed some of the items that were placed in the Time Capsule from 1950. Feel free to review these extraordinary pieces of our history. I now have the pleasure to introduce Rabbi Larry Kaplan of Temple Israel who will bless us with the Opening Prayer.
We have much to be proud of, yet we still have a way to go to finish off our capital campaign, grow our membership and further develop our programming. We need you help!
If you are a JCC member, thank you for your support, if you haven’t joined the JCC yet, please grab a membership application and consider joining us today!
If you are a Capital Campaign contributor, thank you. If you haven’t yet supported the capital campaign, please see Gary Bernstein our CEO.
If you are a supporter of our Annual Campaign, thank you. If you haven’t yet given but are interested in supporting Sara’s Food Pantry, our Summer Camp Scholarship program or wherever the greatest need exists, please see our Annual Campaign Chair, Steve Davidowitz.
If you are currently a Volunteer in our JCC, thank you. If you are looking for an opportunity to strengthen our programs and make an impact, please see any of our board or staff members.
Thank you once again for your participation today.”