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].



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….”


From Y to J: A Brief History of Jewish Community Centers

An article from the Jewish Telegraphic Service defines JCCs as “general community centers with a Jewish flavor” which have “catered to both Jewish immigrants and non-Jews as their function has shifted over time.”  It notes that the typical JCC  “acts as a kind of Jewish YMCA, providing anything from preschools to summer camps to day programming for senior citizens regardless of religion. Many also have fitness facilities and swimming pools and offer gym memberships to Jews and non-Jews. Many of these programs will include culturally Jewish content.”  

So, really, how Jewish are Jewish community centers?  Are they supposed to be Jewish?  Are they supposed to be more Jewish?  The JCCA, the umbrella organizations for the 350 JCCs in North America, says that “The JCC Movement comprises many communities of Jews (and non-Jews) spread across North America, with very different approaches to Jewish living and learning.”  It includes JCCs among all Jewish institutions (schools, synagogues, museums, libraries, camps), as both destinations for Jewish engagement and portals to Jewish communal life. It firmly states, however, that “No institution is THE destination, since it is the individual who determines the journey’s path.”  Going further, the JCCA states that “synagogues look at Jewish life mostly through the lens of Judaism, the religion of the Jewish people. JCCs look at Jewish life mostly through the lens of Jewishness, or the more general culture of the Jewish people.”  And reiterates that “it is up to the individual to choose which approach to Jewish life is meaningful to them” because the JCC Movement “doesn’t presume to define what being Jewish should mean to its members.”

Tablet magazine examined the unique position of JCCs, noting that “Jewish community centers had been around since the interwar years, a cross between a settlement house, an urban institution that had once attended to the varied needs of the community’s immigrant population, and a Y….  The Jewish community center served as a cultural clearinghouse where the Jews of the neighborhood could go for a swim, play basketball, attend a lecture, take a drawing class…. It deliberately maintained an open-door policy, a nondenominational perspective, or what one of its supporters called a ‘non-doctrinaire commitment to the universals in the Jewish heritage.’”

A Brandeis University study reported that “The mid-20th century Jewish community center was built on the model of a brick-and-mortar, full-service, membership-based community center,” but noted that “this model is increasingly out of step with today’s reality.”  As society in general became more inclusive in allowing Jews into formerly exclusive entities and as racial and gender barriers to membership were being challenged and dropped everywhere, JCCs also changed, as did their financial model.  Whereas, once they were membership organizations reliant upon dues, they instead developed fee-for-service programs, which today account for 80 percent of their funding.

Today, outside of large metropolitan areas, non-Jews account for the majority of JCC membership.  In cities with relatively small Jewish populations, “in order to ensure that the Jewish community has the best possible facility, or even any facility at all, the JCC must open its doors to all comers,” said Randy Freedman, executive director of the York, PA JCC.  “If we want the privilege of a JCC, it has to be this way,” he added. “There aren’t enough Jews in the community to support these kinds of services.”  John Sandager, an evangelical Christian who is the treasurer of the Albuquerque JCC,  presented the situation from a different angle.  He appreciates the way his JCC brings together different faiths.  “When you work out at the JCC, one of the wonderful values of the JCC is it’s not Christians on these machines and Jews on those machines — it’s a community,” he said.

Still, majority non-Jewish membership has created a balancing act for many JCCs as they work to try to accommodate the needs of both non-Jewish members and less or more observant Jewish members.  Jim Grumbacher, a York area businessman, was one of the primary movers behind the JCC’s decision in the 1980s to build a larger facility and actively welcome non-Jews as members. As a result, membership has expanded, the facility is first class, the center has a steady stream of Jewish programming and, in Grumbacher’s view, relations between Jews and non-Jews in York have improved. But Grumbacher confesses that he sometimes wonders whether the JCC has lost a certain sense of Jewishness that permeated the kibitzing and give-and-take in the old, smaller and mostly Jewish facility. “I’m somewhat conflicted over the results,” he says, “but I think it reflects what’s happening in the larger American society. I don’t know that there was another solution.”

The JCC of Syracuse is seeking bids for installation of security film and glass replacement. All bids shall include pricing for equipment, accessories, parts, licensing, travel and labor and any misc. expenses. Please email Erin Hart, for RFP information. Proposals are due via email no later than 7/1/2022 at 3:00pm and all questions must be submitted via email as well, no later than 6/29/2022 at 3:00pm. All bidders will be notified via email when a selection is made.Adults & Seniors

End of Year Letter 2023

December 1, 2023

Dear Friends,

Standing in a crowd of some 300,000 jews in Washington DC for the March for Israel was the experience of a lifetime and an affirmation of solidarity like no other ever experienced. We came away from this event with an undeniable pride to be Jewish, a commitment to the State of Israel, and a commitment to Jewish life in our Country and Community. With the rise in antisemitism at an unprecedented rate now is the time for us to come together to support our Jewish Institutions and organizations like never before.

Our Mission Statement has never been more important, nor has it ever been as meaningful as it is at this time in our history.

“The Sam Pomeranz Jewish Community Center (JCC) of Syracuse is the nucleus of the Jewish community built on the foundation of Jewish ethics and values. We provide quality services and programs for all ages serving everyone in the Central New York Region.”

Our JCC is part of the largest Jewish communal movement in North America and as you can see by our Mission Statement, we are resolved to build a strong and vibrant community providing a place for safe communal bonding, gatherings, and activities. Our community has come together at the JCC both in good times and in shattering times. We are after all the Town Square, “the place where everyone belongs;” we must remain a home for all members of our community.

We stand proudly as a symbol for all walks of our Jewish Community, whether it is to care for the very young, youth, adults, or senior citizens. We will always fight proudly to be a beacon for Jewish life in our community.

Please support us now more than ever with your most appreciated donations. Your generosity will allow us to continue in our mission to fight antisemitism, our mere existence serves that very purpose.

Am Yisrael Chai,

Marci Erlebacher
Executive Director

Phillip Rubenstein
Board President

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.

General JCC

A Message from the JCC, October 2023

We are all numbed by these unprecedented times. We are all in shock, the world is in shock. It goes without saying that our hearts are weeping for the horrific loss of life. We also offer our support and prayers to all those who are dealing with loss or the anguish of not knowing about loved ones in Israel.

Our position and focus over the past week has been to secure our institution to the best of our ability. Security of buildings and communities must continually adapt to be successful. In light of the recent events taking place in Israel, we have focused on keeping our building and members secure during these troubling times. Our goal is to remain open and be a safe place for our community to congregate.

The JCC is part of a wider security network called SCN (Secure Community Network). SCN is the official safety and security organization for the Jewish community in North America. We receive daily reports, and have been kept apprised of the situation in not only Israel, but here in America and the entire world. We are given updates on a continual basis as needed, and have followed their recommendations. The authorities have assured us that there is no credible threat to the public in our community related to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. SCN stresses that what we have all seen in the last several days is a lot of misinformation on social media; it is propaganda designed to provoke fear. That being said, it’s absolutely critical that we recognize how dynamic the environment is and that we stay prepared and vigilant.

You should have received the correspondence yesterday regarding the additional level of security for our campus with the added Armed Security Detail Monday-Friday from 7am-6pm. Our job is to protect the JCC campus; it’s staff, members and visitors daily. Safety and security is of the utmost importance.

Now is the time for our community to come together in strength. We owe it to Israel to be united in this effort. This will be a long struggle, but our job is to remain open, safe and thriving as a Jewish Community.

Am Israel Chai

Marci Erlebacher                      

Executive Director    

Phillip Rubenstein

Board President  


Holiday Gift Cards 2023

The JCC is making your holiday shopping easier! Purchase gift cards from the JCC this holiday season and help support the Early Childhood Development Program and Children’s Department.

It’s easy! Simply download the PDF below, fill it out, and drop it off at the JCC front desk! Then pick up your gift cards in time for the holidays! All gift cards available are listed below for your convenience!

2023 ORDER DEADLINE: Wednesday, December 7th.

Gift cards will be available for pick up on December 18th.

Apparel & Accessories

Aerie $25
Aeropostale $25
American Eagle Outifitters $25
Banana Republic $25
Burlington $25
Champs Sports $25
Children’s Place $25
Claire’s $10
Disney $25
Disney $100
Express $25
Finish Line $25
Foot Locker $25
Gap $25
Gap $100
Gymboree $25
J. Crew $25
Journeys $25
L.L. Bean $25
L.L. Bean $100
Lands’ End $25
Lands’ End $100
Lane Bryant $25
Men’s Warehouse $25
Old Navy $25
Talbots $25
Under Armour $25

Books, Music & Entertainment

Barnes & Noble $10
Barnes & Noble $25
Barnes & Noble $100
Best Buy $25
Best Buy $100
Game Stop $25
iTunes $15
iTunes $25

Department & Discount Stores

JCPenney $25
JCPenney $100
Kohl’s $25
Kohl’s $100
Macy’s $25
Macy’s $100
Marshalls/Homegoods $25
Marshalls/Homegoods $100
Sears $25
Sears $100
Target $25
Target $100
TJ Maxx $25
TJ Maxx $100
Walmart $25
Walmart $100


Applebee’s $25
Applebee’s $50
Bonefish Grill $25
Buffalo Wild Wings $25
Carrabba’s Italian Grill $25
Cheesecake Factory $25
Chili’s $25
Cracker Barrel $10
Dave & Busters $25
Denny’s $10
Olive Garden $25
Outback $25
Red Lobster $25
Red Robin $25
Texas Roadhouse $25
TGI Friday’s $25
Uno Pizzeria & Grill $25

Gas & Auto

Advance Auto Parts $25
Auto Zone $25
Exxon $50
Gulf Oil $25
Jiffy Lube $30
Mobil $50
Shell $25
Speedway $25
Sunoco $50


Visa $50
Visa $100
Visa $250

Grab & Go Eateries

Arby’s $10
Blaze Pizza $25
Bruegger’s Bagels $10
Burger King $10
Chipotle $10
Cold Stone Creamery $10
Domino’s Pizzas $10
Dunkin’ Donuts $10
Dunkin’ Donuts $25
Little Ceasars Pizza $20
Moe’s Southwest Grill $25
Panera $10
Panera $25
Papa John’s Pizza $10
Pizza Hut $10
Starbucks $10
Starbucks $25
Subway $10
Taco Bell $10
Wendy’s $10

Health & Beauty

Bath & Body Works $10
Bath & Body Works $25
CVS Pharmacy $25
Regis Salon $25
Rite Aid $25
Sally Beauty Salon $25
Sephora $25
Supercuts $25
Ulta Beauty $25
Walgreens $25


Ace Hardware $25
Ace Hardware $100
Bed Bath & Beyond $25
Crate and Barrel $25
Crate and Barrel $100
Home Depot $25
Home Depot $100
Jo-Ann Fabrics $25
Lowes $25
Lowes $100
Pottery Barn $25
Pottery Barn $100
West Elm $25
Williams Sonoma $25
Williams Sonoma $100

Mail Order & Online

CARD AMOUNT $10 $25 $100
Cabela’s $25
Cabela’s $100 $25
Omaha Steaks $50 $25
REI $25
Shutterfly $25
Wayfair $100 $25
1-800-FLOWERS $50

Specialty Stores

Bass Pro Shops $25
Bass Pro Shops $100
Build-A-Bear Workshops $25
Christmas Tree Shops $25
Dick’s Sporting Goods $25
Dick’s Sporting Goods $100
Guitar Center $25
Michaels $25
Office Max $25
Petsmart $25
Staples $25


Best Western $25
Best Western $100
Budget Car Rental $50
Clarion Hotels $50
Clarion Hotels $100
Carnival Cruises $100
Delta Airlines $250
Disney $25
Disney $100
Disney $1000 $100