2024 JCC’s Annual Meeting & Gala Information

By Erin Hart

The Sam Pomeranz Jewish Community Center of Syracuse is excited as they prepare to hold their 161st Annual Meeting and Gala. With a new venue, this year’s celebration promises to bring a fresh look for this annual event. The JCC’s largest fundraiser of the year will be held on Sunday, June 2, 2024, 11am – 2pm at Palladian Hall at the Treasury.

Rich history and sophistication are the undertones for this year’s Annual Meeting & Gala. The new venue for this year, Palladian Hall, is located in the historical Onondaga County Savings Bank which is part of the National Register of Historical Places. The space has been renovated to host large events while still keeping its historical charm. 

“We were concerned this past January when we heard that Owera Vineyards would no longer be holding events,” says JCC Executive Director, Marci Erlebacher. “We heard about a new venue opening in Downtown Syracuse, once we saw the inside of Palladian Hall we fell in love. The beautiful venue will bring an exciting new look to our annual event as we honor another outstanding group of honorees.”

This year’s festivities will begin at 11am with a cocktail hour in the upper mezzanine. At 12pm, guests will be ushered to the main event floor for a delicious deli brunch served by none other than Essen New York Deli. Upon the conclusion of brunch, the meeting and awards portion of the afternoon will begin. The JCC will once again feature a video presentation for all honorees being recognized this year.  

The JCC will present four separate awards at this year’s event. Honorees represent a wide range of dedication and support to the JCC and greater Jewish community in Syracuse.

The Kovod Award, which signifies honor and importance, will be presented to JCC board member and Syracuse native, Kathleen Davis. Kathleen attended Nazareth College in Rochester where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology with a minor in Communications. Kathleen married her husband, I. Stephen Davis in 2006. Since then, she has devoted her time to working within the family business, G&L Davis Meat Company. Kathleen has been a member of the JCC board of directors since 2017 and has served on the Annual Meeting & Gala committee since joining the board. She also serves as a trustee for the Vera House Foundation as well as the Junior League of Syracuse.

Portrait of Kathleen Davis

Chaim & Esa Jaffe

The Kovod Gadol Award, which in Hebrew translates to great honor, will be presented to Cantor Esa & Chaim Jaffe. This husband-and-wife team have been longtime and active supporters of the greater Jewish community in Syracuse. Chaim and Esa met in college at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts where they both received their bachelor’s degrees. Esa went on to receive her master’s degree in Jewish Communal Services from Brandeis University and Voice Performance from Syracuse University. She has held many educational roles within the greater Jewish community. She is the current Director of Education at Temple Adath Yeshurun where she has worked for almost 30 years. 

Since receiving his bachelor’s degree, Chaim went on to receive his master’s degree from Buffalo Law School. He spent the last 25 years as a commercial litigator with Scolaro, Fetter, Grizanti & McGough, P.C. This past January, Chaim was appointed Law Clerk to the Honorable Mitchell J. Katz; Federal Magistrate Judge for the US District Court. Chaim served as President of Temple Adath Yeshurun for 15 years. He has also served as Legal Counsel for the JCC for over 20 years. Chaim and Esa have been married for 30 years and have raised four beautiful children: Ari, Shai, Ilana and Jonah. They look forward to the marriage of their eldest son, Ari to Shaina Kaplan in 2025!

Ellen and Howard Weinstein – two individuals who have made their mark through service to the entire Jewish Community – will be inducted into the JCC Hall of Fame this year. 

Ellen and Howard and have been actively involved with the Jewish Community in Syracuse since they moved here in 1978. Howard attended the New York University School of Medicine where he received his medical degree in Obstetrics and Gynecology. In 2023, he retired from Upstate Medical Center after working for over 40 years. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the JCC where he also served as Vice President for 11 years. Howard has served as President and Co-President for the Board at Temple Adath Yeshurun and President of the Board for the Syracuse Hebrew Day School. In addition to the local Jewish organizations, Howard also served on numerous committees and councils within the medical community throughout his lifelong career as an OB/GYN.

Prior to moving to Syracuse, Ellen attended the Brooklyn College of the City University of New York where she received her master’s degree in early childhood and Elementary Education with a specialization in reading. She later graduated from the Syracuse University College of Law with her Juris Doctor in 1990. She was a Partner with Pinsky & Skandalis from 1991-2009. In 2009, she was appointed Chief Clerk of the Onondaga County Surrogate’s Court, where she later retired in 2019. She has been a dedicated supporter of many different organizations within the Jewish community in Syracuse, including serving as a member of the board for the Jewish Community Center of Syracuse, Temple Adath Yeshurun and Syracuse Hebrew Day School. She is a past president of the Jewish Federation of CNY and currently serves as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Jewish Federations of North America

Leah Goldberg

This year’s Leslie Award, the sixth to be given since being introduced in 2016, will be presented to Leah Goldberg. “The Leslie” recognizes a younger up-and-coming professional within the local Jewish community for their outstanding commitment and service to the JCC and the local community, qualities which the award’s namesake, Leslie London Neulander, personified through her many volunteer pursuits.

Leah Goldberg was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. She grew up in the halls of the Omaha JCC and was active in USY, BBYO and Camp Herzl. She graduated from the University of Kansas with a bachelor’s degree in communications and history. She moved to Syracuse in 2013 after marrying her husband, Seth Goldberg. She is actively involved with many Jewish organizations in Syracuse, including serving on two Rabbinical search committees, the SHDS Development Committee and is the current co-chair of the ECDP parent committee. She also currently sits on the Jewish Federation of CNY Board and is a member of the National Leadership Cabinet. 

Reservations for the 2024 JCC’s Annual Meeting & Gala can be made below, or by filling out the RSVP card linked here.


FIDF Special Briefing

The Friends of the IDF and the JCC of Syracuse Invite you to a briefing with special guest speaker and a former IDF Spokesperson Lt. Colonel (Res.). An insider view on the operational and strategic situation in Israel, and the challenges and opportunities that Israel is facing. Thursday, March 14th , 7PM at the JCC. Space is limited. Registration is required in advance.
Portrait of former IDF Spokesperson Lt. Colonel (Res.) Jonathan Conricus

Jonathan Conricus is a recently retired IDF Lieutenant Colonel, who served in the IDF for 24 years as a combat commander in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, as a military diplomat, foreign relations expert and international spokesperson. He was the first IDF officer to be seconded to the UN HQ in New York where he provided strategic analysis for UN peacekeeping. He has extensive hands-on experience with international media (hundreds of interviews), think-tanks, NGOs, legislators, militaries, industries and institutions. In his last role in the IDF, he served as the International Spokesperson.


JCC Announces 2024 Annual Meeting and Gala Award Recipients

By Carlett Spike & Erin Hart

The Sam Pomeranz Jewish Community Center of Syracuse is gearing up to hold its 161st Annual Meeting and Gala, presented by naming sponsor, the Wladis Family. The community will come together on Sunday, June 2, 2024 to honor invaluable members of our Syracuse Jewish Community. 

The Annual Meeting and Gala is the JCC’s largest and most important fundraiser of the year. The celebration allows us the opportunity to come together to pay tribute to those who have acted and given so generously. The money raised from this event helps fund the many scholarships awarded each year sending children to the JCC’s summer camp, early childhood development program, after school program and helps mainstream children with special needs. It also benefits those in need to receive discounted fitness classes and meals for senior adults.

A total of four awards will be presented this year as we recognize selfless giving and outstanding service to the JCC and greater Jewish community in Syracuse. 

This year’s honorees represent a wide spectrum of dedication and support. The Kovod Award, which signifies honor and importance, will be presented to JCC board member Kathleen Davis. Kathleen is a Syracuse native and has been involved with the JCC for a number of years. She actively serves on numerous JCC committees including the Annual Meeting & Gala Committee, Super Bowl Raffle fundraiser and Executive Committee.

The JCC’s Kovod Gadol Award, which in Hebrew translates to great honor, will be presented to Cantor Esa Jaffe and Chaim Jaffe. This award is presented each year to honor a single individual or couple who had demonstrated, usually over a period of years, an extraordinary degree of commitment, energy and loyalty to the JCC and greater community. Esa and Chaim are both longtime supporters of the JCC. They are both active in the Syracuse Jewish community and have served on many different organization boards. They have raised their children in the halls of the JCC and continue to give back to the greater community.

Long Standing supporters of the Syracuse Jewish community; Ellen and Howard Weinstein, will be presented with this year’s Hall of Fame Award. Ellen is a past President of the Jewish Federation of CNY and is currently serving as a board member of the Jewish Federations of North America. Howard is a past Vice President of the JCC board of directors and has served as a member of the board for over 10 years. Howard and Ellen are both past Kovod Gadol recipients. Their years of involvement and selfless giving will be recognized at this year’s event.

This year’s Leslie Award, the sixth to be given since it was launched in 2016, will be presented to Leah Goldberg. The Leslie Award recognizes outstanding commitment and service to the JCC and to the local community – the qualities which the award’s namesake, Leslie London Neulander, personified throughout her many selfless volunteer pursuits. Leah has served on numerous committees throughout the Jewish Community. She is a co-chair of the ECDP parent committee and has helped plan numerous fundraisers and family events for the JCC as well as many other Jewish organizations in Syracuse.

“I am looking forward to another year of honoring members of our community who have dedicated invaluable service to the JCC and the local Jewish community,” said Marci Erlebacher, JCC of Syracuse executive director. “They each deserve recognition for their selfless acts and generosity.”


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].

Children & Teens

Get in the Holiday Spirit by Celebrating with the JCC

Colder weather and the approaching end of the calendar year, means the celebrations of  Thanksgiving and Chanukah are almost here. The community is invited to give thanks and put on their festive attire as they visit the JCC to light the menorah, eat traditional foods, and participate in games. 

The holiday season kicks off with the Early Childhood Development Program (ECDP)’s Preschool and Pre-K Friendsgiving celebrations Tuesday, November 21. The children will enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal in their classrooms with their friends and teachers. Each child will get the chance to show his or her creativity, by creating decorations for the occasion to place on their tables and chairs. Classrooms will discuss the importance of kindness and thankfulness to reflect on the meaning of the holiday, as well as celebrate the friendships they have made in ECDP. 

Returning for its 3rd year, the JCC will host the annual Holiday Shopping Soiree. Join us in the JCC gymnasium for an evening of shopping on Monday, November 6th from 6:30pm to 8:30pm. This is a wonderful fundraiser for our Early Childhood Development Program as all vendors donate a portion of their earnings back to the program. Get all your holiday shopping done in one place while supporting such a wonderful program. We will have a wide assortment of vendors this year and light refreshments will be served. Those interested in being a vendor at this year’s event should contact Amy Bisnett, [email protected]

As we transition to the Chanukah season which takes place Dec. 7 thru Dec. 15, Seniors who attend the JCC Senior Lunch Program, will have their own celebration on Friday, Dec. 8 at noon. With help from the Syracuse Hillel, the festivities will include a Klezmer band and traditional Chanukah foods: Sufganiyot (jelly doughnut), orange glazed chicken, green beans, fresh fruit, and potato latkes are on the menu! “There’s a lot of love, and a lot of festivity,” says Cindy Stein, director of adult and senior programming. Seniors must register in order to participate. 

The highlight of the season is the annual Chanukah Party, which will happen Sunday, Dec. 10 from 12:30pm – 3pm in the JCC’s gymnasium. Families and community members are welcomed to embody the spirit of “dedication” through play and feast. The gymnasium will be transformed with traditional decorations and lots of fun activities for the kids including a bounce house, strolling magic show, and artists to paint their faces. Latkes and other traditional snacks and refreshments will also be provided.


Celebrate KlezFest 2023 on September 10

For over two decades, KlezFest has been Central New York’s annual celebration of Jewish music, culture and community.  Performers, kosher food and dancing create a family-friendly festival. It started out in Armory Square and then moved “home” to the JCC front lawn, where it has been a fixture of early fall fun for many years.

Klezmer is a Hebrew word, a combination of the words “kley” (vessel) and “zemer” (melody) that referred to musical instruments in ancient times. It became colloquially attached to Jewish folk musicians sometime in the Middle Ages.  Jewish musicians (klezmorim) developed their own unique style out of a variety of local musical styles, including Russian dances, Chassidic drinking songs and Hungarian Roma bravado.   Because of this, a klezmer concert is a true variety show.

KlezFest 2023 will be held on September 10 from noon to 4 pm at the Sam Pomeranz Jewish Community Center of Syracuse.  Open to the public at no charge, it will feature three sterling acts.  Opening will be the Keyna Hora Klezmer Band, Central New York’s own klezmorim.  The band has been in existence for over a quarter of a century, and most of its current members have played together for a decade.  They love what they do, they love klezmer music and they love KlezFest.  That love shines through every performance.

Second on the program is Joanie Leeds.  Leeds won first place in the USA Songwriting Competition, an Independent Music Award, a GOLD Parents’ Choice Award, NAPPA GOLD Award, Family Choice Award and is a John Lennon Songwriting Competition finalist and International Songwriting Competition finalist. She has performed at venues nationwide including Lollapalooza, Clearwater Festival, The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Wolftrap and Levitt Pavilion. She has been featured in The New York Times, People Magazine, Parents Magazine, Billboard and The Washington Post. 

Leeds is an SU graduate and is delighted to be returning to Central New York.  Her music has been played on many radio stations and rose to #1 on Sirius XM’s Kids Place Live.  Her album, “All the Ladies,” was a Grammy®️ award winner. The songs that Leeds performs reflect the sense that life is a joyful adventure. Joanie believes that when she performs for children, they transform themselves into amazing creatures of joy, forgetting how to hold back. Seeing the kids get in touch with their true selves gives Joanie a sense of fulfillment that far surpasses playing for adults on the club circuit. 

Third on the program is Brooklyn clarinetist Michael Winograd who has been called the top klezmer clarinetist of his generation.  Winograd has recorded and performed with SoCalled, Budowitz, Frank London, and the Klezmer Conservatory Band. He has led workshops and performed near and far, with highlighted performances in Reunion Island, the Dawson City Music Festival (Yukon), the Winnipeg and Calgary Folk Festivals, the Klezmore Festival in Vienna and Carnegie Hall in New York City. He has taught klezmer music at the Paris Klezmer Week, KlezKanada and Living Traditions KlezKamp. In his spare time ,he produces records, composes music and plays synthesizer in the Brooklyn-based metal band Yiddish Princess.

While it’s mostly about the music, KlezFest is also a celebration of the Jewish community.  All of Central New York’s Jewish organizations will have booths at the event to share their offerings.  There will be artist and artisan vendor booths and a Kids Tent with arts and crafts.  Dancing is certain to erupt spontaneously.  And, of course, there is the food.  Kosher corned beef sandwiches and knishes are the big draw.

KlezFest is a collaboration between the Jewish Federation of Central New York, the Sam Pomeranz Jewish Community Center and CNY Arts.  Additional support comes from Price Chopper, the Pomeranz, Shankman, Martin Charitable Trust and the Slutzger Foundation.  But it would not be possible without the additional support of dozens of Very Important Program Sponsors (VIPS) whose donations keep the festival solvent.  Anyone who wishes to be one of the VIPS is welcome to make a donation of at least $118 on the Federation website, (VIPS get a free sandwich, and drinks and dessert in the VIPS tent.)

Thank you to everyone who joined us for KlezFest 2023!