Tzofim Friendship Caravan Forming the Star of DavidChildren & Teens

Tzofim Friendship Caravan Returns to the JCC!

The Tzofim Friendship Caravan is back to celebrate Jewish culture and heritage throughout the U.S. and will stop at the JCC as part of their tour. The visit will include a day spent with campers, plus a chance for the entire Syracuse community to get in on the fun with a special free performance.

“This group brings a piece of Israel here and now it’s more important than ever to provide that connection,” said Pam Ranieri, director of Children’s Programming at the JCC. “The visit is not only educational, but also a great opportunity for the children and the community to immerse themselves in their culture by being in community with these talented young people.” 

Using song, dance, and story, the Tzofim Friendship Caravan is a group of 10 teens from Israel who are selected to share their culture across the U.S. through performance. As a fun and unique way to teach others about Israeli culture, the group visits various locations throughout their national tour including schools, camps, and synagogues. Now in existence for more than 50 years, this year’s tour is dedicated to the theme “Am Yisrael Chai.” 

The Caravan will kick off their visit to the JCC by spending the day with campers and participating in some activities. The highlight of their camp visit will be an engaging performance which includes songs in Hebrew, English, and Yiddish. Later in the day the group will also visit with seniors participating in the JCC’s Senior Dining Program to share a meal.  

The community is encouraged to participate in the festivities by singing and dancing along during the performance at the JCC. The show is free and open to the public. Even if you’ve seen the Caravan before, no two shows are the same which means everyone will enjoy the performance. 

“We are very excited for the Syracuse community to come together and appreciate Israel and all it has to offer,” said Amy Bisnett, associate director of children’s programming at the JCC. For more information about the Tzofim Friendship Caravan’s visit, reach out to the JCC at 315-445-2360 or visit jccsyr.org.

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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

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

Check out the JCC’s New Bus 36!

The JCC of Syracuse is excited to have a brand-new bus for the start of the Before and After School Program. Our new Bus #36 allows us to continue to serve the community by transporting children to school (Moses DeWitt, Tecumseh, and Holy Cross.) The bus also picks up children daily from Ed Smith in the Syracuse City District and all three FM Elementary Schools.

Not only do we use the bus for the Before and After School Program, but our new bus will also be used throughout the year for field trips and all of Summer Camp! If you see us out and about, give our driver Ms. Sandy a wave!

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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

JCC Hosts Challah Baking Class with SHDS Students

Flour, water, oil, and joyful group laughter were part of the recipe for a recent challah baking class at the Jewish Community Center. Roughly a dozen Syracuse Hebrew Day School (SHDS) students from the fourth and fifth grade classes gathered in the auditorium of the JCC in early December to bake bread. Marci Erlebacher, executive director of the JCC, led the class, and Assistant Director Erin Hart and Chef Donna helped organize the event.  

“Baking bread is really very scientific,” Erlebacher said to the group as she asked them to channel their inner scientists. The students were up for the challenge! They mixed the ingredients, kneaded the dough, and covered it to let the dough rise, before shaping the challah. Once the bread came out of the oven, it was clear their hard work paid off!

Each student left with their own challah and received got challah? t-shirts. The challah was enjoyed by the entire school at the School Wide Shabbat program the following day. 

“They did an amazing job,” Erlebacher said following the class. 

Erlebacher’s love for baking challah developed gradually. Growing up she baked with her mother, but avoided bread because it scared her. It wasn’t until her late 20s, when a friend convinced her to give it a try and it stuck. Every Friday night Erlebacher and her family made challah for Shabbat on the table. The words of a Rabbi to “make Shabbat special,” inspired the new tradition. It’s a lesson she hopes to instill on future generations. 

“Baking Challah isn’t just about baking. It is significant for the religious purpose, there’s science to it, and there’s the physical working and kneading of the bread,” she says. “Baking to me is an artform. We covered so many different views of life while baking bread. That’s what we wanted to impart on the kids.”

Try the Recipe!

See the recipe Erlebacher uses below. She’s made some tweaks over the years (she doesn’t use food coloring or saffron) to make it her own. 

This festive, seed-studded braid with its glossy brown crust and delicate flavor is called challah (sometimes spelled “hallah”). Now a popular deli-catessen item, challah has long-standing religious significance for the Jewish people, who enjoy it at Friday night Sabbath suppers, and sometimes adorn it with a sugar glaze and candied fruit or candies for special holidays. On Rosh Hashanah-the Jewish New Year-a custom is to dip a slice of challah into honey, symbolizing sweetness to be hoped for in the year to come.

  • 1 pkg active dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water (about 110*)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup each sugar and salad oil
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • Pinch of saffron (optional)
  • 5 to 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 Tbsp water
  • About 1 Tbsp sesame seeds or poppy seeds

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Stir in salt, sugar, oil, eggs, and saffron (if used). Gradually beat in about 4 1/2 cups of the flour to make a stiff dough.

Turn dough out onto a floured board and knead until smooth and satiny (5 to 20 minutes), adding flour as needed to prevent sticking. Place dough in a greased bowl; turn over to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled (about 1 1/2 hours). Punch dough down; knead briefly on a lightly floured board to release air. Set aside about 3/4 cup dough and cover it.

Divide remaining dough into 4 equal portions; roll each between your hands to form a strand about 20 inches long. Place the 4 strands length- wise on a large greased baking sheet (at least 14 by 17 inches, or put two sheets together, overlapping ends and wrapping the overlap with foil). Pinch tops together, and braid as follows: pick up strand on right, bring it over next one, under the third, and over the fourth. Repeat, always starting with strand on right, until braid is complete. Pinch ends together and tuck underneath loaf.

Roll reserved dough into a strand about 15 inches long; cut into 3 pieces and make a small 3-strand braid. Lay on top center of large braid. Cover and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled (about 1 hour).

Using a soft brush or your fingers, spread egg yolk mixture evenly over braids; sprinkle with seeds. Bake in a preheated 350* oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until loaf is golden brown. Let cool on a rack. Makes 1 loaf.


November 2023 Baking


December 2022 Baking

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Gym equipmentAdults

What’s New at the JCC?

By Carlett Spike

A new year means new happenings at the JCC. Both regulars and newcomers can explore these programs and upcoming events:

Holocaust Library 

A new library dedicated to Holocaust history and literature has been established at the JCC by Dr. Alan Goldberg. The Holocaust Library will be housed in the Jerome and Phyllis Charney Holocaust Information Resource Center. A professor emeritus of Syracuse University’s School of Education and director of the Holocaust and Genocide Initiative, Goldberg hopes this library will serve as a source of Jewish pride and education.

The collection includes several hundred books on history, biography, essays, fiction and poetry provided by Goldberg. “We are beyond thrilled and honored that Alan has chosen the JCC to house this incredible library of books,” said Marci Erlebacher, executive director of the JCC. “We hope that this can be a resource to many across the Central New York community.”

Last Chance to Sign up For Dollar & A Dream Special 

Commit to your fitness in the new year for just $1. First time members will pay $1 for one month to the day of membership from the date of signup. Offer ends Jan. 31. Those who signed up through the Dollar & a Dream special will receive an exclusive offer for a discounted one-year membership (at the conclusion of their trial). This offer is only available for first time fitness members. Please contact Nick Finlayson at [email protected] to sign up or for more information. 

New After School Clubs

The JCC’s After School Program now offers three new clubs open for children K- 6th grade who are enrolled in the After School program. Parents can sign their children up for: 

  • Art club hosted by Ms. Kim. This club will give children the opportunity to practice various art techniques to create their own masterpieces. 
  • Kindergarten club. A group for kindergarteners to explore and learn with kids their own age, as well as develop new friendships. 
  • Book club. Open to both younger and older children, the group will read age appropriate books (chapter books for older kids/picture books for younger ones) and discuss or participate in a project related to the reading. 

Parents can reach out to Kevin Smith at [email protected] for more information. 

Save the Date: Purim Carnival to be held Sunday, March 17th

Mark your calendars, the annual Purim Carnival is scheduled for March 17, 2024. As one of the biggest events of the year to celebrate the Jewish community, everyone is invited to the JCC for an afternoon of fun. Expect costumes, carnival games, magic shows, and more!

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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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