Children & Teens

Register for JCC Summer Camp 2024

“We are very excited to get ready for Summer Camp this year,” said Amy Bisnett, associate director of Children’s Programming at the JCC. “It’s always a special time of year, and this summer we have some exciting new camps, weekly themes, activities and field trips.” The entire Camp from early childhood, school age and tween/teen follow the weekly theme with age -appropriate activities for everyone!

New this year for our school-age children: Zoo Explorers Camp and Wizardry School Camp! Wizardry campers will experience the fun and magic of the fictional school brought to life. Students will create their own wands, compete in Wizardry games and learn magical new tricks. Zoo Explorers was made for children who are animal enthusiasts. Campers will deepen their knowledge of animal species, create their own zoo, and visit local ones.

These new camps are offered through the JCC’s School-Age Camp (for children in grades 1-6). For this age group families can choose between traditional Nitzanim Day Camp which follows a weekly theme of activities, and weekly field trips, or Specialty Camps to explore a particular area of interest. From gaming to horseback riding, karate to gymnastics, we truly have a camp for every child. All school age camps include daily Red Cross swim lessons with additional free swim time each day.

The JCC also offers Early Childhood Camp (for children 6 weeks to 5-years old), which runs for eight weeks and offers both indoor and outdoor activities as well as daily Red Cross swim lessons for children 18 months and older. This is a great introduction for young children to what summer camp can offer with special activities, swimming, new friendships and more. This allows our children of all ages to experience the true magic of camp!

We are proud that we are one of the only camps in central New York that offers a day camp for 7 – 10 grades. Our SyraCrusin’ Teen Travel Camp runs for 5 weeks each summer. Campers can choose to attend one week or all 5. The groups form a connection as they travel to different destinations each day, with no two days the same. The types of field trips are endless and can include area parks, bowling, laser tag, swimming, museums, putt putt and more. Each week they will travel to an amusement park as well. One thing that really makes SyraCrusin’ special is that the group spends time volunteering and giving back to the community each week.

Making its highly anticipated return this year will be the Israeli Scouts Shaliach. The Shaliach, also known as Israeli Scouts, are two teen ambassadors from Israel that will come and spend the summer here at the JCC. This is a unique opportunity to connect our children to Israel as the scouts lead many activities throughout the summer. They will offer daily culture-based activities for the entire Nitzanim Camp program. “We are looking forward to hosting the Shaliach once again this summer at the JCC” says Pam Ranieri, director of Children’s Programming. “This will be the first year since 2019 that we have been able to bring them back to the JCC of Syracuse. They bring such energy to the daily camp program, and we can’t wait to meet our scouts for this year!” During their time at the JCC, the Shaliach will spend each week with a different host family. We are currently looking for families for our Scouts, for more information please contact Amy Bisnett, [email protected].

The Israeli Friendship Caravan will also be visiting us again this summer. The Israeli Friendship Caravan is teens from Israel, like the scouts, that travel across the US and Canada visiting many different camps. They put on a full singing and dancing performance for the campers and another in the evening open to the community. This is one of the most anticipated days in camp and all of our campers enjoy the show. The show is expected to be in the beginning of August.

The camp day runs from 9:00am – 4:00pm with both Early and Late Care available, expanding the hours to 7:00am – 6:00pm for those that need the extra time. Camp runs from July 1 – August 23. Camps are open to both members and non-members of the JCC, although members receive a large discount. Depending on the number of children and number of weeks enrolled, the entire membership fee can be saved on camp tuition. It really pays to become a member! For more information on how to become a member and all the benefits included please contact our membership director Nick Finlayson.

To register and learn more about the JCC’s camp offerings, visit www.jccsyr.org/summer-camp/ or reach out to Amy Bisnett at 315-445-2360 or [email protected].

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Adults

Come to the Purim Carnival on March 17, 2024!

Come celebrate with the JCC at this year’s Purim Carnival on Sunday, March 17 from 12-4pm. For Purim, the entire JCC will be transformed into a fun and exciting carnival complete with games, inflatables, face painting, prizes and more.

“Purim is a day of fun and excitement for the community,” says Marci Erlebacher, executive director of the JCC. “It is our way to say thank you to the community that has supported us all year long. Come join us for the most anticipated family event of the year!”

Esther’s café will also be open to serve up a kosher menu including corned beef, knishes and hamantaschen as well as a concession stand with popcorn, cotton candy and warm pretzels. Each year we also host information tables for invited local community organizations. To enhance the experience this year, we will be providing “Passports” for all participants to be stamped at each table. Once individuals fill in their “Passport” they can take it to the prize room for a free prize!

For more information about the Purim Carnival please reach out to Alana Raphael at [email protected].

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Adults

Generations

By Barbara Davis

We moved to Syracuse in 1969.  I was working at OCC and my husband was a graduate student at SU.  I was pregnant with our first child and was worried about childcare.  “You have to go to the JCC,” insisted my colleague, Professor Nancy McCarty.  “It’s the best.”  One did not argue with Nancy McCarty, and she was correct.  It was the best, and my daughter thrived in an excellent program that seemed to do everything right.  Naturally, my second child went to the JCC (on Genesee Street then) as did my third.  They learned to swim in the indoor pool and went to Camp Friendly in the summer, as did most of their friends.  

When, a generation later, my daughters established their own families in Central New York, there was no doubt where they would send their children for preschool.  By then, the JCC had moved to DeWitt.  By the time my youngest grandchild was born, the JCC even had an infant care program.  So six more young members of my family enjoyed the benefits of the JCC’s outstanding preschool.

Mine is not an exceptional story.  There are many families who have enrolled several generations of children in the JCC, drawn by a program that for decades has been at the forefront of quality, child-focused, reliable and accessible care for infants, toddlers and preschoolers.  The indoor pool is a memory, but now there are playgrounds and a gym and gymnastics, sports,  music, dance and karate.

The JCC’s executive director, Marci Erlebacher, recently held a meeting of the Center’s board of directors and, looking around the room, realized that three of her board members had attended the Center’s Early Childhood Development Program when they were small.  Now they were serving in a leadership capacity for the organization and enrolling their own children in ECDP. 

Federation board chair Neil Rosenbaum’s daughter recently had a baby.  Returning to work when her daughter was 6 months old was made much easier by the fact that quality care was available for her at the JCC on a schedule that accommodated her workday.  Selecting the JCC’s Early Childhood Development Program was a no-brainer.  Not only was it the best program, but it was the same one she and her three siblings had attended when they were little.  It was like coming home.

These are just a few of the examples of the generational impact of Syracuse’s Jewish Community Center.  In addition to providing quality childcare, the Center is home to three of the community’s most important Jewish institutions: the Jewish Federation, the Jewish Community Foundation and the Syracuse Hebrew Day School.  It also offers the only kosher senior lunch program in upstate New York and administers the PJ Library Program.  At various times in the past, the J has also housed the Jewish War Veterans, the Epstein School, the Syracuse Community Hebrew School, a Sephardic high holiday congregation and the nascent Shaarei Torah congregation.  

The Center also hosts many communal Jewish celebrations, including KlezFest, a community sukkah, a Chanukah party, a decades-old Purim carnival, the Matzo Bakery and the Israeli Scouts.   Each week at ECDP, children celebrate Shabbat and learn to recite the appropriate blessings for kiddush and hamotzi.  They enjoy apples and honey for Rosh HaShanah, latkes and sufganiyot for Chanukah and hold model seders in their classrooms for Passover.  Even though a significant percentage of the children enrolled in the program are not Jewish, they all learn about Jewish celebrations.  This has led to some interesting results.  A friend of mine named Jim Doherty told me that while he had been very happy with the ECDP program, he was somewhat relieved that his daughter was going to public school  kindergarten “because she wants to light Shabbas candles every Friday.”  Another cute story involves a little boy whose family held weekly Sunday dinners.  At one, the parents asked, “Who wants to say grace?”  The 4-year-old ECDP child raised his hand eagerly.  His parents were a bit skeptical.  “Do you really know how to say grace?” they asked.  “Yes,” he said and began “Baruch atah Adonai….”

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Children & Teens

Register Now for The JCC’s Back to School Offerings

As the end of summer nears, it signifies the start of another school year. It’s a time when families settle into new routines, children meet their new teachers, and the JCC provides a variety of programs and activities for the fall. 

Children ages 6-weeks to 5-years-old, can embark on their first year of pre-school or enter a new classroom through the Early Childhood Development Program (ECDP). In addition to meeting new teachers and friends, children are given the opportunity to explore their interests while they learn new skills — allowing them a safe and supportive environment to flourish. 

Each classroom caters to the needs of the group to develop hands-on and interactive activities to support each child’s development. At the start of each year, the teachers get to know their students and their interests to create engaging units of study and help expand on their learning. All children 18-months and older attend physical education class each week to continue to develop their gross motor skills.

“September is one of our favorite times of year when children are all starting new adventures in their new classrooms,” said Pam Ranieri, director of Children’s Programming at the JCC. “ We spend time in the beginning of the school year getting to know the new children in our classrooms and helping them to learn routines and rules and make new friends.”

For children older than 5 who are enrolled in kindergarten through 6th grade, the JCC also offers Before and After care, which begins Sept. 6. Children enrolled in Jamesville-DeWitt elementary schools can be dropped off as early as 7 a.m. for Before School Care.

The JCC primarily serves children from the Syracuse Hebrew Day School, Jamesville-DeWitt and Fayetteville-Manlius school districts for After School , but is also looking into adding other schools. The After School program runs from 3pm to 6pm Monday through Friday. The JCC’s bus provides transportation for all Fayetteville-Manlius students, while Jamesville-DeWitt buses bring After School participants directly to the JCC from each elementary school.

Snacks will be provided and children are offered choices for afternoon activities. There are activity areas for all ages and interests, including the gym, playground, lounge for games, the children’s room for crafts and a homework room for those eager to complete homework assignments or who may need some extra help. Both programs offer a great opportunity for children to learn new skills and socialize with others in the community.

Enrichment classes will also be available for children ages 3-14, beginning Sept. 11. The goal is for children to get active, meet new people, and get all the benefits sports have to offer. Classes include gymnastics, dance, rookie sports, and school age karate. 

For more information and to register visit the JCC’s website jccsyr.org or reach out to Pam Ranieri at 315-445-2360 or [email protected]

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Children & Teens

Purim Carnival 2023

Celebrate Purim at the JCC!

Purim is right around the corner and the Sam Pomeranz Jewish Community Center of Syracuse is ready to celebrate. This year, the Jewish holiday begins at sundown on March 6 and ends the following nightfall on March 7. The JCC celebrations will include food, lots of activities for the children, and the annual Purim Carnival. 

As you know, Purim commemorates the survival of the Jews of Persia from Haman, thanks to the bravery of Queen Esther. The joyous occasion focuses on four mitzvot (commandments): Megillah (hearing the story of Purim), Mishloach manot (giving food gifts), Matanot l’evyonim (giving to the poor), and Seudat Purim (enjoying a festive meal). 

During Purim, the JCC is transformed to bring the tale to life with colorful decorations and balloons. The Early Childhood Development Program hosts a parade and party to celebrate. Children embrace the spirit by dressing up in a variety of costumes from Esther and Haman to superheroes and princesses. They will have a chance to show off their creativity to parents in a parade around the gym. The festivities continue in the classroom, where the story of Purim is read and a traditional snack of hamentashen is served. 

Children who participate in the After School Program will also snack on hamentashen. The fun will continue with a “paper chain” race to see who can construct the longest chain. Whoever does will win tickets to the JCC’s annual Purim Carnival! During the week, seniors will be able to partake in a special holiday lunch as well.

The annual Purim Carnival will take place on March 5 from 12-4pm. We are excited to invite the entire community back to the JCC after hosting a socially distant “Car”nival the past few years due to the pandemic. It just wasn’t the same, so we look forward to resuming the full experience that is unlike any other, and to reconnect and make new memories as a community during the most joyous Jewish holiday!

The fun-filled event will include carnival games, bounce houses, magic shows, and story time for the children. Make sure the kids hold on to their tickets after each game, so they can exchange them for cool prizes. Parents can also get in on the fun by dressing up.

Esther’s café will also be open in the auditorium and feature a kosher menu. Menu items will include corned beef, knishes, and hamantaschen cookies. Community organizations are invited to host an information table. Reach out to Amy Bisnett at 315-445-2360 or abisnett@jccsyr.org to learn more.

“It’s always happy to see families coming together to enjoy a holiday with the community,” said Cindy Stein, director of Senior and Adult Programs at the JCC. “Honestly, the kids need this. They need to come back to be able to have special times with their families and to enjoy Jewish traditions.” 

Our menu will be provided by Esters Café in the auditorium! Filled with delicious kosher food for all!

See you there!

2023 Parade

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2023 Purim Carnival

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Children & Teens

Summer Camp Registration Now Open 2023

Summer is right around the corner, and summer camp registration is now open at the JCC. Camp begins June 26 through August 18, 2023, Mondays-Fridays from 9am to 4pm. Camps are open to both members and non-members of the JCC, and registration is ongoing until all spots are filled. Early registration is encouraged. 

“The whole camp is transformed for a huge summer camp experience,” said Amy Bisnett, associate director of Children’s Programming at the JCC. “We see kids who come year after year, and watch them grow. It’s a really special place and rewarding time for the kids, the staff, and everyone.” 

Camp groups are split into three different age groups:

  • Early Childhood Camp (for kids 6 weeks to 5-years old), which runs for eight weeks and offers both indoor and outdoor activities as well as daily Red Cross swim lessons.
  • School-Aged Camp (for children in grades 1-6) which also runs for eight weeks. For this age group families can choose between traditional Nitzanim Day Camp which follows a weekly theme of activities, and weekly field trips, or Specialty Camps to explore a particular area of interest. Some of this year’s Specialty Camps include various sports camps (CrossFit, circus, horseback riding, pickleball, lacrosse, fencing, etc.), art camps, and science camps.
  • The SyraCruisin’ Teen Travel Camp (for children in grades 7-10) runs for five weeks beginning July 5. Teens go on daily field trips including going fishing, apple picking, visiting amusement parks, and more.

Last summer was a record-breaking year of attendance, and JCC staff is hopeful for similar success this year. “It’s always wonderful to see the kids interact with each other on a social level where they can have fun, gain skills, and new experiences in a variety of different interest areas,” said Pam Ranieri, director of Children’s Programming at the JCC. 

Children in grades 1-6 who are intermediate and advanced swimmers can also join the J-Rays Swim Club for the summer. The team practices three mornings each week before summer camp, and participates in an inner squad meet at the end of the season. Swim lessons are also available outside of camp hours. 

The JCC is also hiring for a handful of summer positions. Teens who are ages 14 and 15 can apply for Teen Camp Aid and Counselors in Training (CIT) positions. Camp counselors and lifeguards are also needed. Lifeguard training/certification can be provided. 

To register and learn more about the JCC’s camp offerings, visit jccsyr.org/summer-camp/ or reach out to Amy Bisnett at 315-445-2360 or [email protected].  

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Children & Teens

ECDP: The Pandemic And The JCC

The new normal hasn’t been easy for anybody. The risk of contracting the virus led to extreme precautions. Many of these precautions necessitated social distancing and the use of masks. Many adults themselves would tell you that the isolation made the pandemic a traumatic time to live through. Grown-ups were left longing for what once was. Children on the other hand are enduring the pandemic during their formative years, and do not have memories of a time before Covid to long for. For many kids, the pandemic is normal.

It has become clear that social distancing has affected the population’s socialization in general. Many took a long time to get reacclimated as friendly members of society. Children of this era are being thrown back into normal life without a chance to get acclimated, to begin with. 

“A lot of kids don’t want to take their masks off,” said Amy Bisnett, Associate Director of the JCC’s Children’s Programming. “It’s not that they’re all worried about getting sick, a lot of them just don’t want to show their face”. The pandemic allowed many kids to stay in their comfort zone, making it easy to hide or remain unseen.

“Communication isn’t just verbal, it’s visual. They have to learn to read facial expressions”, said Pamela Ranieri, Assistant Director of the JCC. She regretfully shared that many children are behind in picking up cues. Bisnett proudly shared that to expedite the learning process without endangering the kids, the JCC gave the kids transparent masks to wear during the height of the pandemic. 

Technology brought great convenience during these times, but that convenience proved to be a double-edged sword. Many kids found themselves working behind a computer instead of working with people.

While technological skills flourished, many teachers found themselves playing catch up in developing students’  interpersonal skills. On top of that, they’ve seen more speech delays in kids than ever before.

 The JCC is lucky to have excellent teachers who understand kids and what it takes to help them succeed. In response to their lack of experience with other people, teachers at the JCC prioritized group work and let the children lead the way. Teachers assigned tasks that promoted socialization. They wanted to teach children to speak for themselves and communicate with their peers, even when it might not be easy for them. 

With all that said, there is only so much making up that can be done for lost time. Children repeatedly find themselves in unfamiliar territory that was supposed to be discovered years ago. “A lot of them had never even been on a field trip”, shared Bisnett. “They didn’t know how to sit on a bus, a lot of them were terrified to get on and others spent the whole time crying on the way there,” she expanded.

The pandemic brought adults back into their cocoons. Many were left longing for the life that they knew outside of their shelter. Kids on the other hand do not know the outside world. The JCC is doing its best to show kids that it’s ok to break out of their shells.

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Adults

Chanukah at the JCC

Chanukah is closer than you think. The passing of Rosh Hashanah brings a new year with new opportunities. In the spirit of the new year, the JCC is looking forward to providing a sense of normalcy that has been missing these last few years. The pandemic gave everyone an appreciation for the feeling of fellowship and strengthened the bond within the community. Now that people are beginning to feel a semblance of safety, the JCC hopes to bring a party that is warm and familiar through ritual and celebration.

The JCC’s annual Community Chanukah Party is making its return. The event will be held on Sunday, December 18th from 12:30pm – 3:00pm and is being sponsored by the Jewish Federation of CNY. Families will be invited and welcomed to join for a fun-filled afternoon. The eyes of the children will brighten as soon as they walk through the doors and see inflatables, crafts, face painting, balloon twisters, a photo booth and more. Refreshments will be provided and delicious food will be offered including latkes, bagels, fruit, and everyone’s favorite sufganiyot (jelly donuts). 

The After School Program will be hosting their Chanukah Party Tuesday, December 20th during the program. Children will get to play dreidel, pin the fork on the latke, eat sufganiyot and more. Each child will get a Chanukah goody bag to take home.

As usual, the Early Childhood Development Program will be celebrating Chanukah.  All classrooms will celebrate the holiday at their own developmental level within the classroom. The wings of the classroom will be decorated for the holiday and will have special materials for the occasion. On Wednesday, December 21 the classrooms will have their own Chanukah Celebration all day with special activities, crafts, latkes and sufganiyot.

Chanukah for the Senior Department will be celebrated on Friday, Dec 16th. A special lunch and sufganiyot will be served. We will have entertainment for this celebration. Reservations are required.

Finally, the whole community is invited to join us for nightly menorah lightings at the JCC. Children from Early Childhood and School Age programs come together to sing the blessings and watch as the lights are lit. Those without family to bring can find family within the comfort of the community. We will light the menorah at 4:30pm each weeknight during Chanukah. 

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