Union Y offers ‘JOY’ in new outreach program

Union Y offers ‘JOY’ in new outreach program

The Y’s new program, “Join Ohel Yisrael” or JOY, invites people to join “the big tent” of the Jewish community.
The Y’s new program, “Join Ohel Yisrael” or JOY, invites people to join “the big tent” of the Jewish community.

Even as new members come on board, the leaders of the YM-YWHA of Union County complain that too many people in the community are unaware of the resource they have right around the corner.

To change that, next month they will launch a year-long program happily dubbed JOY. That stands for “Join Ohel Yisrael” — or “Come Under our Tent.” Nonmembers — and Y members — are invited to a “JOY Launch Party” on Sunday, Jan. 16, from 4 to 7 p.m. to find out what it’s all about.

In addition to hearing about the JOY lineup, the party — which is free — will include a kosher Chinese buffet dinner and entertainment. For the adults, singer Yoel Sharabi will perform, and magician John Carlson will do his act for children.

Financing for JOY has been provided by the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey as part of its Outreach and Engagement Initiative to connect with those who are unaffiliated or under-affiliated, and to strengthen the bonds within the Jewish community.

As Y executive director Bryan Fox said, “Members are welcome to take part, but we wanted to come up with a way to encourage people — particularly in Elizabeth, Hillside, and Linden — who haven’t been to the Y to come and see what we have to offer.

“It’s also a chance for newcomers to the area to meet people and connect with the community.”

The program will include a series of events covering a range of activities. Some are for the whole family; others will be geared to “mid-age or empty-nesters” or to “mature adults and retirees.” Still others will be just for children. Some will be cultural and educational — starting with a series on the Holocaust cohosted with Kean University — while others will be pure fun — like attending a NJ Devils hockey game, or participating in a spa night.

The cost for year-long JOY membership is $18 for singles, $36 for couples and families. There is a $10 discount for Y members.

While some events will be open to the whole community, people who have signed up for JOY will have special privileges and discounts. For example, at the Purim event, Meet the Animals, the JOY kids will get to feed the animals. And adult JOY members will have a chance to meet and talk at a pre-concert dinner with Israeli musician Sandy Shmuely when he performs at the Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration in May.

Y program director Jani Jonas said they wanted to convey the idea of the Jewish community “as a big tent under which everyone can find their place.”

To RSVP for the JOY launch party, contact janikj@uniony.org or debbiee@uniony.org or 908-289-8112 by Jan. 12. In January, the Y will also launch a website, www.joyatunionY.org, to provide information on the JOY program.

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