Catherine Frey wanted to have her bat mitzva ceremony on Oct. 10 “because 10-10-10 was such a cool date,” she said. She also wanted it to be where her brother had his, at the JCC of Central New Jersey in Scotch Plains.
As it turned out, the date was even more auspicious than the family anticipated. Theirs was the first celebration in the JCC’s newly redecorated Weinberg Pavilion. The party, held after a ceremony conducted in the center’s internal courtyard, ended just at crowds flooded in to celebrate the recently completed $1 million renovation of the facility.
Inside and out there were activities showcasing the physical, cultural, and social offerings the center provides its members, from the youngest to the oldest.
As families and a number of potential members were shown a revamped and expanded fitness and wellness center, a few intrepid exercisers did their daily workouts, watching their individual television screens or reading. The visitors could also sample sessions of six different classes, and trainers were on hand to discuss the exercise options.
In the Eisenberg Gym, visitors could join in some Israeli dances, or register as a possible donor with the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation. Ruth Miller, the foundation’s Northeast recruitment coordinator, told them about one waiting recipient — an 18-month-old child with a faulty immune system who desperately needs a transplant from a fellow Ashkenazi Jew.
They could learn all about the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey, how it supports Jewish life here and abroad, and how they can be part of its programs and activities.
There was also a chance to share in the painting of a big silk artwork designed by Nancy Katz, a Massachusetts artist who orchestrates community art projects around the country.
Outside, enjoying the golden sunshine in the center’s Camp Yachad camp grounds, seven area synagogues sponsored a circuit of activities. There was a mini-petting zoo, a pony to ride, a huge inflated slide, and a variety of craft activities, including pumpkins to paint.
Rabbi Mendy Blesofsky was there with his wife, Aidella, and their daughters, two-year-old Chaya and two-month-old Chava. They moved to the area just recently and were urged to come to the JCC by the rabbi’s brother, Rabbi Avrohom Blesofsky, to check out all that the Central NJ region offers. “We have family out here, and there is a Jewish community like this,” Aidella said, beaming at the panorama of activity around them.
The afternoon’s events culminated in a ceremony, held in the fading sunshine outside the main entrance, with the new silk banner as a backdrop. Erica Needle, the JCC’s parliamentarian, served as mistress of ceremonies.
Barak Hermann, the center’s executive director, and its president, Scott Lazar, thanked the major donors, the Wilf family, represented by patriarch Joe and his wife, Suzie, and their son Mark and his wife, Jane, as well as the other members of the center and the wider community and the leadership of the federation, with which the JCC shares the building. Lazar said their goal has been “to enhance and maintain the soul of our community” and that is what has been achieved.
Mark Wilf said, “This was the tremendous vision of my mother and father, and it is so energizing to see their vision realized. It gives us such nachas.”