This article appeared in the Jan. 25, 2007 Jewish Advocate.


Striar JCC keeps pace with times, member needs


By Susie Davidson


While free time in our busy lives may be precious, it need not be idle. That’s why many South Shore residents choose to spend their elective moments at the Striar Jewish Community Center. They know they can explore interests and discover new pursuits in an enjoyable and fulfilling “home away from home” atmosphere.

The Striar, originally the South Area JCC, was created in a 1976 merge of the Brockton Young Men's and Young Women's Hebrew Association and the Quincy JCC. The facility, at 1044 Central St. in Stoughton, operated branches in Brockton, Canton, Quincy, and Sharon. Following the donation of 16 acres of land at 445 Central St. by philanthropist Daniel Striar, who also sponsored the Striar Hebrew Academy in Sharon, the Striar Jewish Community Center opened as an 84,000 square-foot building in 1988, with a Fireman campus named for supporters Phyllis and Paul Fireman.

According to Communications Director Melody Howard Ritt, the nonprofit Striar has grown along with the local Jewish population. The Edward & Sylvia Jaye Outdoor Pool and Splash Park opened in 2000, and in 2001, state-of-the-art fitness equipment and two spacious studios were added in a 10,000 square foot expansion to the fitness facility.

“Over the past 18 months, Striar JCC has worked closely with the JCCs of Greater Boston to position ourselves for growth and service,” said Interim Director Joyce Dwyer, who cited new community partnerships with New England Sinai Hospital and Sharon High School, and the incoming M.L. Carr teen and preteen computer program Warm2Kids. Other affiliates include the B’nai Brith Youth Organization, Boy Scout Troop 54, Jewish Big Brother & Big Sister Association, SEMass Networking group, and area synagogues. Ritt noted recent hirings and new family programs that include Sunday Fundays and monthly Taste of Tradition dinners. “We have expanded offerings, but have also undergone a revitalization,” she said.

Hours have increased as well, including a sensitive and controversial opening for fitness only at 7 a.m. on Saturday mornings and all Jewish holidays except the two days of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Passover. No business is conducted and no money is exchanged at these times.

With a Kosher poolside café, performing arts center, art gallery, visual arts workshop, Special Needs services, sports leagues, fully-accredited preschool and Early Childhood program, afterschool and summer camps, regular events and more, the Striar is a focal point for the community.

Unfortunately, this can make it a target as well. Last March 4, the Striar was defaced by ten large spray-painted swastikas. The Center quickly mobilized for a public clean-up/Interfaith Community Solidarity Gathering of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The event, which appeared to be isolated, has not recurred.

“The jewel in the crown is the JCC Fit Plan,” said Ritt. New equipment includes a Max Rack self-spotting workout system, Arc trainers, presses, and 21 soft-seated, platinum-and-red Spinning bikes. "If you've never tried Spinning before, now is the time to do it," says Fitness Program Director Serah Selmon.

Dale Appel of Stoughton favors the indoor track. “I like it better than the treadmill,” she said. “For an additional fee, you can join the men’s or woman’s health spa, have a private locker and use the sauna and whirlpool," she said. "It’s like having a concierge service.”

Membership includes a personalized Fit Plan, group orientation, four personal training sessions and two fitness classes. “Shape Up and Lose,” with a registered dietitian and exercise physiologist, is offered in partnership with Caritas Good Samaritan Medical Center of Brockton.

“I became a member the day I arrived in Stoughton ten years ago to assume the pulpit at Ahavath Torah Congregation,” said Rabbi Jonathan Hausman, a self-professed “gym rat” who also teaches in the adult program, which offers daily senior events on books, Yiddish conversation, bridge, Mah Jongg, music, bereavement, fitness and aquatics classes, hot lunches, shows, and trips.

Senior Adult Services Director Rani Chadowitz cited an upcoming three-week seminar series, an annual Fashion Show run and modeled by seniors, activities for “younger” Seniors and an annual birthday bash and monthly events with 20-piece oldies band "Olde Kids on the Block." New this year is a Points of View discussion group and a Thursday Coffee and Games afternoon, she said, noting that volunteers help staff these and other JCC programs. “This very warm and welcoming group of people are always happy to help new members find their way and make new friends,” she said.

With the JCC Maccabi Games, skiing, rock climbing and white water rafting trips, a basketball league, sports clinics and the Team Boston Walk For Hunger, kids in grades 7-12 can find their groove at TJCC, regardless of religion or membership status. A talk series discusses gun violence, abortion, the war in Iraq, teen dating and abuse, and the situation in Darfur. Teens for Tzedek, for grades 9-12, offers Community Service programs on homelessness, HIV/AIDS, literacy and elder affairs. “The JCC offers a multitude of options for teens, including a six-week Summer Israel Experience,” said Tzedek director Rachel Hall.

“Striar is working closely to integrate our programs with the JCC agency, and provide superior services to our members and the community,” said Dwyer. “We are standing on the threshhold of a bright and positive future.”