News & Events
We Were Given T-shirts
– My JResponse Experience
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October 25 – 28, 2019
Written by Cheri Szereszewski
Director of the Prosserman JCC Daycare and Preschool in Toronto, Ontario
We were given t-shirts so we could be identified but we were also given name tags with the Pittsburgh JCC logo on it and our name.
When I first heard about JResponse at the JCCA Professional Conference last year I was so interested in finding out more about this amazing initiative. The idea behind the JCCA initiative is that a group of JCC staff from throughout the JCC community could volunteer to go help Jewish communities in need. With permission from their Executive Directors they would be released from their jobs at home. They would be called upon to go wherever there was a crisis to help in any way needed. The difference is that usually JResponders, as we are called, would normally go after all the other social agencies, volunteers and media were gone. To me this was truly demonstrating Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) and Chesed (acts of kindness and compassion).
As the Early Childhood Director at a JCC I have worked diligently to incorporate the principles and lenses of the Sheva Learning framework into our program. The lenses take our Jewish values and help us find concrete ways to teach them to the children. I cannot think of a more concrete way to demonstrate these values than being a part of the JResponse deployment to Pittsburgh.
The Pittsburgh JCC gave all their staff the day off for the one year anniversary of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting. The staff could spend the day in any way they wished. There was a morning of therapeutic activities they could choose to attend or they could spend time with their families. They could attend the commemoration activities in person or by watching on tv. Regardless, they did not have to work- we did that for them.
In addition, aside from all the therapeutic activities being offered at the JCC, the rest of the facilities (fitness, pool, etc) were closed for the day. The 20 JResponders from communities all over North America answered phones, guided people to where they were going, helped at the two blood drives that were going on and did anything else required.
To be honest, I had no idea what to expect. I was assigned to the reception desk with Steve Wendel, the Executive Director of the JCC in Newport News, Virginia, answering phones, granting access to the building and helping people sign in. We were distinctive in our blue t-shirts and people asked who we all were. When they found out that we were 20 JCC professionals who came to help, the response was always the same, "Thank you so much for being here. It means so much." I was so humbled and grateful to be there. My response was "You are welcome; I am honoured to be here to help."
Some people just wanted to talk. I heard so many stories about that terrible day from people who had been there- in the synagogue, in the neighbourhood. Even from a police officer who was helping on Sunday and who had been responsible for the Tree of Life synagogue for 25 years as part of his daily beat. Everyone had a connection and a story. Many just needed to be heard or to get a hug. A local coffee shop sent over coffee and bagels for the police officers who were keeping us safe that day. When people in the Brueggers heard that they were donating the coffee and food, they insisted on giving money to the owner to offset the cost. There were signs that said Strength Not Hate everywhere. From the airport monitors when I arrived, to signs in every store window the support shown was remarkable. This was a community in the truest sense and they were actively showing the Jewish community that they were there for them.
This JCC is a true hub within this community. They have built a resiliency centre which gives people a place to come just to have a space to be (even if they don't want to talk), support staff who can help, and a space for community groups (like AA) to meet. This grew out of the circumstances of the shooting that took place when the JCC became command central for law enforcement, media, and the people in the Squirrel Hill community, whether Jewish or not.
So often we see things on the news and we feel like we wish we knew how to help (other than financially, which is easy). I know that being in Pittsburgh at this time was appreciated but I so appreciated the opportunity to be able to DO something. Being able to work with my JCC colleagues from all different departments and from all over North America in a meaningful and concrete way. During our preliminary Zoom meeting 2 weeks ago and orientation when we arrived, we quickly formed close relationships as we knew we were sharing something special. As we all sat in the large hall at the JCC ago watch the live stream of the Commemoration ceremony we took each other's hands, offered each other kleenexes and truly felt the emotions of this yahrtzeit. We all go home feeling connected to the Pittsburgh community, each other and our JCC community. Through JResponse we made a made a difference and I am so grateful that I could play a small part in that. While the hope is that we will never be needed, Should I be asked to deploy again to another crisis I know I will be part of something special.
A few of the takeaways that I brought back to Toronto with me included how as a JCC we help build connections, we support our community and that it is so important to give to those in need - to those we know and to strangers equally. We were given t-shirts so we could be identified but we were also given name tags with the Pittsburgh JCC logo on it and our name and this truly made me feel like I belonged.
We were supporting the JCC of Greater Pittsburgh and the Jewish Community as they joined to reflect, to remember, and to build resilience as we commemorated one year since the attack at the Tree of Life synagogue.
I would be happy to speak to anyone who is interested in volunteering to be part of JResponse to tell you more about this incredible initiative and my experiences in Pittsburgh.
More patience or a different point of view?
Toddlers are busy little people. They like to run, explore and have things their way. As an early childhood expert, parents often ask me: ‘how are you so patient?’. The truth is, I do have patience but when you understand the toddler’s perspective you don’t need as much.Read more »
I have trained myself to have a different point of reference when looking at a situation. Here are three examples of natural triggers for even the most saintly of parents and what can be done for a smoother parent-toddler experience.
Going to the mall
The first thing a parent must do is decrease the to-do list. Have a plan for your mall visit with only one to two goals. Browsing with a toddler is impossible so set your own personal expectations in advance with that understanding. Plan your visit to be longer than needed, this way you can give your child more time to explore the environment. Leave time for your child to lead the way, and just follow (no questions asked). Approaching the mall visit form your child’s point of view will make the experience less stress for you. You may even enjoy it, along with some good educational time for I Spy games such as finding colours, shapes, animals, or playing catch. Be creative.
Going to the park
This may be your toddler’s first spring outdoor experience. There is no need to push children to play with ALL the playground structures at once. As adult, we are conditioned to be excited about the ability to try everything. Toddlers, however, need time to learn new environments. It is better for children to use their senses to understand their surroundings than to simply “play” in the playground. Let your child listen to the birds and airplanes in the sky. Encourage touching the grass, sand, rocks (feel free to take off shoes, and yours too if possible). Smell the flowers, examine bugs, ants, bees, and flies (don’t show your dislikes- be brave). Teach your child to be respectful of nature and share your knowledge and curiosity.
Going to the grocery store
We all know toddlers will sit in the shopping cart for less than a minute before asking to be unbuckled. Don’t fight it. Ask your toddler to help with the grocery list and in leading the way. Follow your child through the aisles and load your shopping cart with items on your list (make your shopping list short so the experience can be successful).
Some grocery stores have small shopping carts that can be used by the children such as the Sobeys on Rutherford and Bathurst. Allow your child to keep busy putting items in the mini-cart, just like you. If possible, allow your toddler to also feel the accomplishment of helping to pack the bags with your support.
The bottom line is, toddlers will be toddlers! Be there for them, listen, engage, guide, share, laugh and make memories for a lifetime as they don’t stay this age forever. What does stay the same? Stores at the malls, park play structures the supermarket shopping. You’ll have a lifetime of that.
Naama Yaacov, Director of Early Childhood Education Development at the ProssermanJCC and Schwartz/Reissman Centre
Posted: May 01, 2019|
How To Care For Yourself,
While Caring For Your Family
Being a mother is one of life's biggest gifts, but we would be lying if we said that it didn't come with its challenges. Until the day you have children, you are the top priority in your life, but the second you have your first child, that all changes. It's truly amazing how quickly the change happens, but as the kids get older, we continue to drop further and further to the bottom of the totem pole. One thing we have learned, is that WE are in charge of inching ourselves back up to somewhere near the top, because when we don't, everyone suffers.
As the women of our households and entrepreneurs, it is extremely important that we are organized and make the most of every minute of the day. Running Savvy Sassy Moms, an online parenting magazine that provides helpful parenting advice, is our passion and we do our best to practice what we preach! They say it takes a village, or in this case, a community, to get it all done, and we couldn't agree more. Taking advantage of what our community has to offer is how we manage to care for ourselves while caring for our family.
Self-care in the community
How many parents can say that they are able to fit in a workout while their child is equally attuned to their arts and crafts program or in a swim class? A 30-minute or 1-hour class for your kids doesn't give any parent much time to hop in the car, drive to the gym, get a good workout in and then make it back to pick up their child on time! Over the years, we have always tried to enroll our kids in programs at the same facility and at the same time to try and minimize the burden of arranging carpools and running through the city like a chicken with our heads cut off.
However, over the years, we have learned that not only do we need to enroll our kids in programs at the same time and place, we need to consider ourselves and what we will be doing during that time. Our first choice for programming is at the local community centers. The beautiful facility has incredible programs for the kids and a top of the line gym for us. This gives us the ability to do it all. After a long day of work, working out gives us the time to reflect on what we have accomplished throughout the day and allows us to end the day with a clear head. It's second nature to plan for the kids and not for ourselves. When we are constantly running from A to B, our time for self-care used to get shelved until the weekend. That is no longer the norm and we can see how it affects our families in a positive way.
Work and play at the same place
We are always on the go, meeting people for work. Having a place where we can work and play, helps us maximize our days. We can go from a coffee or lunch meeting, into the pool or to an art class in a matter of steps. Making time to do things that we love is so important for us as parents. Whether it's an art class, a water aerobics class, or a workout class, doing something we love gives us real time to ourselves to enjoy and grow as a people. It allows us to make me-time that keeps us calm and enables us to continue finding ourselves.
More than that, we absolutely love seeing the friendly faces of our community members. Many have become friends from our times spent at the community center or through our children. We look forward to community celebrations and events where we can all come together as a group.
Come join us
In a big city or small, we all need our mom tribe. For us, we have found that tribe at the place where we spend most of our time. We feel a strong sense of community that allows us to feel supported as parents and business owners.
Posted: December 06, 2018
Last night, the Prosserman JCC and Schwartz/Reisman Centre Board of Directors announced its new Chair, Michael Sherman. Michael is well known to our community but we thought we would take a few minutes to help you get to know him even better. Use any of the following as jumping off points to start a conversation with Michael the next time you see him at an event, class or meeting (of course other conversation topics are welcome!).
- When not at the J, he works as head of Behavioural Economics at RBC Royal Bank, introducing new ways to bring about exceptional client experiences.
- His connection to the JCC began when he first entered law school in the ‘80s and working out a the “J” became part of his daily routine.
- Where you may have seen Michael at the J: Weight training, playing basketball, taking art classes, swimming in the pool and attending community and holiday events.
- His lay leadership with the JCC started in 2013 and has included serving on the Marketing, Budget and Finance, and Executive Committees.
- Personal mantra: It’s all about relationships. Care. Compassion. Connect.
Insight into two of the city’s fast growing Supplementary Hebrew Schools
We reached out to two JCC educational leaders, Galya Sarner, Director of Kachol Lavan, and Tova Hovich, J.Roots Educational Director to find out the secret to creating two of the most successful supplementary Hebrew schools in the city.Read more »
What is the secret to creating an excellent supplementary Hebrew school?
Sarner: The secret code of the Jewish people is the Hebrew language — parents intuitively understand that and are looking for that for their children. As with any successful community initiative, the primary element in creating an excellent supplementary Hebrew school is working with passionate lay leaders and staff who believe in the school’s vision.
Hovich: There are many components in creating an excellent supplementary Hebrew school. First is to create a unique school culture tailored to the requests and desires of the Jewish clientele that you serve. Second is the implementation of the best educational practices from the field of supplementary education. The pedagogy and the teaching philosophy must be high-level, innovative, attractive and engaging with a multi-level Hebrew and Judaic content approach.
What should parents look for in a supplementary Hebrew school?
Sarner: Parents should try to find a school that matches their educational vision for their children. Do you want a diverse community within the school? What age range does the school cover? On what does the curriculum focus? Since Kachol Lavan began in 2006, we have focused on one main thing: a love for the Hebrew language and connection to Israel. This value proposition is what we feel has made us one of the leading Israeli supplementary schools outside Israel, especially for native Hebrew speakers.
Hovich: Parents should check the mission, the teaching philosophy and the educational contents — whether it’s Judaic, Hebrew, etc. — of the schools. Each supplementary Hebrew school differs in these aspects, and parents should do their research in order to ensure that their school aligns with their expectations. Book a tour of the school, meet school management, tour the classes and pay attention to student-teacher ratio in the classrooms. Parents might also want to ask what other educational opportunities are offered within the school, such as art, workshops, events, trips and music.
What are some of your greatest successes?
Sarner: One of my personal highlights was the expansion and integration of Kachol Lavan into the JCC community. The incredible spirit of Kachol Lavan overwhelms me and is definitely a huge part of our success. Hearing our students speaking and singing in Hebrew, celebrating Jewish holidays, talking part in community-wide events and seeing our alumni take an active role as new leaders in our community are all huge sources of pride for us as a school.
Hovich: I think having the highest possible student and staff retention rate in the supplementary education industry is our biggest marker of success. Over 90 percent of students and staff return year after year to continue their J.Roots journey. We have car pools of families coming from all across the GTA — as far as Bolton, Caledon, Newmarket and Barrie. Our student and faculty grow each year and now encompass 372 students and 27 weekly classes at two JCC locations, all delivered by 60 personnel and JVolunteers. Our alumni are another mark of success. We already have a pool of a few hundred of our own alumni who continue to stay connected to UJA and JCC in many ways, whether through volunteering or participating in events and trips.
How do you come up with innovative and cutting-edge curriculum?
Sarner: We surveyed families in order to help us set direction for the future. From that information, and discussions with staff, we set certain priorities, including enhanced Hebrew-language instruction and development of a new proficiency model; new enrichment opportunities; enhanced learning experience through a new approach to curriculum and evaluation; an increased opportunity for teacher engagement; and an increased opportunity for parent involvement.
Hovich: A few experiences have shaped how I develop our curriculum: my Israeli educational background in Jewish history and educational management, my professional experience teaching Jewish history and Hebrew as a second language, and participation in Diaspora curriculum with the Jewish Agency and the Israeli Ministry of Education. The JRoots curriculum is created in teams made up from our school’s Educational Leadership Board. Each year, we evaluate success criteria for each grade level, see what worked and what didn’t and update our multi-grade curriculum accordingly, adding new components, features and pilot projects. At J.Roots, we have created a lot of generic and consistent material that can be used in different classrooms, creating one big picture of the school’s teaching and philosophy. Having this approach sustains the J.Roots pedagogy and allows us to build on and enhance the curriculum as needed from year to year.
How do you select your teachers?
Sarner: We are always looking for staff with the vision, integrity, knowledge and, most importantly, passion for the mission of Kachol Lavan. Our educational staff is composed of university-graduated certified teachers who are fluent in English and Hebrew. They have community experience and involvement and are creative thinkers. Mostly, they are strong leaders with an ability to provide an authentic love of Israeli culture.
Hovich: Aside from looking at the professional background of our teachers, which includes qualifications and teaching experience, we want each faculty member to be an ambassador of the JCC and JRoots. We look for teachers who are engaging and creative and foster a positive learning experience by being role models for our students. Our teachers must have a passion for making the connection between our students’ Canadian roots and their Jewish roots.
The JCC supplementary Hebrew schools are growing year over year. Why do you think that is?
Sarner: The success of Kachol Lavan is a major priority for the Schwartz/Reisman Centre and the Prosserman JCC, and a significant number of resources have been set aside for its continued growth. I think we also fill a significant void in our community by enhancing the teaching of Hebrew, creating a rich connection to Israel, and building a new community within the broader Jewish community.
Hovich: There are many reasons why I believe JCC supplementary Hebrew schools are growing each year. I believe the supplementary Hebrew school sector offers a high standard of education. It provides both informal and formal education, which is helping students and families build and live their Jewish identity. Students are developing their Judaic knowledge and basic Hebrew literacy skills while being able to take part in other learning opportunities, such as workshops, events and activities. It is an easy, convenient and comfortable way to serve the needs of the families and the students, especially families with multiple children.
What do you think is next for Kachol Lavan and J. Roots?
Sarner: We have to keep up our efforts in promoting a modern supplementary Jewish education model and to unite Jewish community members from different cultural backgrounds. Ensuring the accommodation of diverse educational needs within the Jewish community will remain important, as will be helping students retain their connections to their respective cultural roots and heritage.
Hovich: I think the JCC supplementary Hebrew schools are going to continue to grow and will remain strong. As a community, we need to continue to enhance educational components by adding different models of informal education to the formal education. This will continue to build and foster the Jewish identity for the generations to come.
Click here to register for Kachol Lavan or JRoots
Posted: August 31, 2018|
Ron and Myra Greenberg make the drive to the Prosserman JCC every week to play bridge. Their love for the game started after the couple took lessons at the Schwartz/Reisman Centre. Once the lessons were completed the couple were asked to play a more advanced level of the game at Prosserman, where they now come every Thursday to meet with friends and share their love for cards.Read more »
However, their affiliation with the JCC started much earlier their lives – as it was the place they first met! Both Bobby and Myra had mutual friends through the JCC who thought they would be a great match and were they ever right! “We went out for coffee – and the rest is history,” says Bobby as he recalls the details of their first date which led to their 21-year marriage and counting.
Throughout the years, the JCC has been as place for the couple to meet friends and like-minded individuals. The couple continues to come back to the Centre because of the atmosphere, and because no matter where they are in life there are always programs and events that have allowed them to find couples and individuals with the same interests. “We are pretty close with a few people, we go out to dates and it’s a lot of fun!” Said Bobby of the friends they have made through Bridge.
The couple continues to come back to the Centre because no matter what stage of life they are in, there are always programs and events that lead to meeting great people.
Seems like it isn't just their hand of bridge that makes Ron and Myra our winning players
Posted: March 15, 2018
We are now in our 9th week of construction at the Prosserman JCC. It is completely amazing to see the large steps that have been accomplished in such little time.Read more »
The large machinery has been brought in and the foundation is in the process of being laid down. The contractors have begun the backfilling and compaction for the new roadway. Additionally, the excavation for the pool and lower level foundation walls has started and the pouring of concrete for the foundation footings commenced last week.
Whether you grew up with the Flintstones or Bob The Builder – it’s exciting to watch!
The daycare kids are mesmerized with their front row seats watching as their future JCC comes to life right in front of their eyes. One of the construction workers even showed them some of the equipment and see how it works. They loved it!
Despite all the excitement, we wanted to take this opportunity to remind members and visitor that the trucks and heavy equipment traffic will be sharing the access road. Please use extra caution. When necessary, there will be flagmen in place to direct traffic. For safety purposes, all pedestrian access should be through the Bathurst Street entrance. The potential relocation of the southbound TTC stop has been delayed due to some technical considerations so we will update you once the situation has been resolved. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us at anytime.
If you haven’t already, check out this time lapse which will be updated each month, here.
Posted: December 12, 2017
This year I am celebrating my 20-year anniversary with the Prosserman JCC Stroke Recovery and Parkinson’s Support and Fitness Group. (Twenty years translates to over 1000 hours!) Of course back then the centre had a different name and in fact we were located in a different building. When I first began facilitating this inspiring group my children (now adult Millennial) attended the Centre Camp on campus and I was happy to be on site. My kids have since grown and flown, however I continue the routine drive up Bathurst Street on Monday mornings to the Prosserman JCC – my home-away-from-home.
Read more »
It’s well-known in our community that Ben and Jerry are much more than just ice-cream. This quasi-autonomous group is spearheaded by Ben Swartz and Jerry Weinper, two longtime and exemplary members and volunteers at the Prosserman JCC. They were on the scene when I arrived way back and they share a friendship longer than my lifetime (I think). When they are not volunteering they can be found on the treadmill downstairs in the gym. These two guys are incredible role models for all of us. Thank you Ben and Jerry for your constant enthusiasm longtime commitment to this wonderful group. The world needs more Ben and Jerrys!
Over the years this group has benefited from many dedicated volunteers including former Y members, members of the community and compassionate caregivers (too numerous to list). Maurice Rabinovitch and Joe Steinberg are longtime volunteers from before my time. This incredible group of people including, participants, spouses, volunteers and caregivers is a tremendous source of inspiration and pride to the staff, and members of the community at large.
The group meets on Wednesday and Fridays too, but that’s Elv’s story to tell.
Several members of this group are contributing authors to Brain Attack - The Journey Back - A Collection of Inspirational Personal Narratives about Stroke Recovery (PK Press, 2005, 2016). Lynne, and Alma thank you for sharing your heartfelt stories with us.
We look forward to our Monday mornings together filled with music of many genres: Classical, contemporary, golden-oldies, ballroom dancing and of course sing-along favourites. Music is magical: it resonates deep in our brains and prompts our bodies to “Shake, Rattle, Rock and Roll”! We all love to sing and dance, in any way we can.
But most of all, we look forward to schmoozing and sharing updates and celebrations. What’s our favourite part of the program? No question: coffee and fresh bagels. Sometimes we enjoy freshly brewed coffee with bagels, lox and cream cheese―what a great start to the week. On special occasions… we enjoy homemade sweets and treats. Mmm.
The Prosserman JCC Stroke Recovery and Parkinson’s Support and Fitness Group is a hidden gem in the community. We are dedicated to the wellness of our participants; we are a caring and compassionate network.
My very best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season! I look forward to many more Monday mornings together in 2018.
Until 120! Ad Meah V’Esrim! Biz a Hoondred oon Tzvuntzig!
Posted: November 09, 2017
Artist Suzanne Metz is celebrating a career milestone. The Thornhill, Ont.-based artist has a one-woman art show now running at the SLATE Atrium Gallery in Vaughan City Hall.
Suzanne regularly teaches at both the Schwartz/ Reisman Centre and the Prosserman JCC.
Born in South Africa, Suzanne Metz graduated with an Honours BA (fine arts) degree in 1980 from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. She emigrated to Canada in 1986. She has been teaching art and painting professionally for over 25years. Suzanne is the recipient of numerous accolades and awards, her work having been featured in solo and group art exhibitions, including Toronto and New York art expos and the Artist Project Toronto. Her work is housed in private and corporate collections in Canada and internationally.
Learn more about her upcoming show here: http://www.cjnews.com/culture/artists-urban-graffiti-welcomed-inside-vaughan-city-hallRead more »
Posted: October 04, 2017
An exhibition of work by Tilya HelfieldRead more »
Tilya was a prolific artist who worked in Montreal most of her career as a printmaker, papermaker, sculptor and painter. She exhibited widely and her works are included in Canadian and international collections. Canadian artist and educator, Sadko Hadzihasanovic, has curated this exhibition of paintings produced during the last stage of Tilya’s career in Toronto from 2005 to 2017.
The exhibition will run October 15 to December 4, 2017 at the Prosserman JCC, 2nd floor.