With hundreds of boisterous campers trooping through the corridors of the JCC of Central New Jersey in Scotch Plains, its older members get a chance to withdraw to a calmer, quieter venue for the summer: Congregation Beth Israel, the synagogue that is just a few blocks away along Martine Avenue.
But what they are offered there can get pretty boisterous too. Music and magic, belly dancing and singing are all on the program over the next few weeks. And then there are the “away” events — a concert, a baseball game, and a barbecue.
Barbara Weisbart, the director of the JCC’s adult enrichment, said that while her department’s regular programming, from September through June, does feature some entertainment, it focuses more on classes and talks. With the summer line-up, which started on July 5 and runs until Aug. 10, the goal is to give active adults “a chance to have holiday fun without having to go away, kind of the way summer camp compares to the school year.”
The “camp” at CBI is on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, usually from 11 a.m. to noon. Participants can come earlier for an exercise session, and stay on after for a kosher lunch, if they book in advance.
Last summer between 30 and 40 people attended the events. “Each summer we’ve had more,” Weisbart said. This year, she said, she is hoping for as many as 75.
The program is open to JCC members and to people from the community, including those from outside the Central area. People can sign up for any one or all of the events up until the day before each one, as long as there’s space. Transportation to CBI is available — a dollar each way for anyone living in Union County. Day trip transportation departs from CBI, and also from Congregation B’nai Israel in Millburn.
There is no minimum age for participation, “though most people are 65 or older,” Weisbart said. But she stressed that the program is “recreational, not day care” and is designed for active people with the stamina to enjoy the entertainment and socializing.
Evelyn Freuler is just such a person. She has signed up for the whole summer program, as she did for the September-June JCC roster of events.
A former teacher who was in charge of school monitoring for Monmouth County, she moved to Westfield last December and joined the JCC as a way to keep busy. “The people are very delightful, and Barbara Weisbart is wonderful,” she said. In addition to attending talks and taking part in classes, she has given workshops herself, one on awareness and prevention of bullying, and another on vegan eating.
She is planning to conduct a workshop on crossword puzzles in the fall, but for now she is ready to enjoy things as an audience member. “At the first summer event we had a band leader talking about the music of the ’40s and ’50s — which to my mind is the best music there is — and playing it,” she said. “He was terrific.”
The following Monday, three performers presented Have Music Will Travel, a program sponsored by Accredited Health Services, which, before the show, gave an informational presentation, “Homecare: The Transition from Natural Independence to Assisted Independence.”
The first day trip, scheduled for July 14, will be to the New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch to see Just In Time: The Judy Holliday Story. The following Wednesday, July 20, there will be a trip to the Martin and Edith Stein Assisted Living Residence on the Wilf Campus for Senior Living in Somerset, for a barbecue and entertainment. On July 28, participants can go out to the ballgame to watch the Somerset Patriots take on the Road Warriors at the TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater. The last day trip of the summer will be on Wednesday, Aug. 3, to Hunterdon Hills Playhouse in Hampton, to hear a program titled “Music of the 20th Century.”
At Beth Israel, the entertainment continues Monday, July 18, with comedian Brad Zimmerman, who will present “My Son the Waiter, a Jewish Tragedy,” a send-up of his childhood, family, career, and love life. Other performers include vocalist and guitarist Mark Dacey, on Monday, July 25; belly dancer Sigi on Monday, Aug. 1; and Will Fern, a magician and comedian, on Wednesday, Aug. 10.
On Tuesday, July 26, social worker Jen Klotzkin will give the second of her two talks (the first was on July 12) on “getting to know yourself.”
Arthur Rifkin, who also attends the regular program at the JCC, has signed up for the summer program for the third year. “I find it all interesting,” he told NJJN just before the July 11 performance. “But mainly I like the socializing. Barbara is a very good leader, and the people are interesting and open-minded. Even if we have different political or social interests, we can exchange ideas without spoiling the friendship. It keeps me young.”