This article appeared in the Jan. 9, 2009 Jewish Advocate.
Striar programming set to continue throughout the South Area
By Susie Davidson
Special to the Advocate
When the Striar JCC announced last month that it was to be sold to the Old Colony YMCA, many South Area residents were saddened, even stunned. However, the Center, which serves approximately 9500 people, is seeing to it that they will not be left without options. In fact, programming plans are so ambitious and comprehensive, members may find they are better and more conveniently served after the transition is completed in March.
The 82,000-square-foot Striar opened its doors in 1988, bringing three older Jewish centers in Quincy and Brockton together under one roof. But demographics and geographics shifted, and today, the area Jewish population is dispersed further south, east, and along the coast. According to a statement on the Striar’s website, memberships will be automatically transferred to the Y, and according to an Old Colony YMCA statement, they will be good at Old Colony branches in Brockton, Easton, East Bridgewater, Middleboro, Taunton and Plymouth. A packet with YMCA membership information is being mailed to members.
Preschool and afterschool programs will remain at the Striar until June. According to Fiona Epstein, Chief Program Officer of the JCCs of Greater Boston, plans are being formulated for new area locations for these and other Striar offerings. “As we continue to meet with community members, Rabbis, educators and area professionals, we will expand our programming and partnerships, with the expertise and skill of the JCC in Family Education and Jewish Life, Arts and Ideas, Wellness and other areas,” she said.
“We are transitioning out of the building and moving into a community model of service,” said Epstein. “We expect our members to enjoy the benefits of health and fitness at the YMCA and join in JCC-sponsored events in the community.”
Plans for welcoming and connecting families with children in the South Area include the opening of a new preschool this summer in Sharon, led by current Striar Preschool Director Lisa Aframe, and another in September at Congregation Sha'aray Shalom in Hingham. “We will continue to reach out to families through ‘PJ Library,“ Epstein said, “which already serves 31 communities in the South Area.” The program distributes Jewish books and learning materials monthly to children under 6 years of age. Other opportunities for playgroups and drop-in participation are being discussed.
At Temple Beth Abraham in Canton, a "Shabbat in a Box" series will begin in February, and the JCC’s Gesher City model for young adults will be a web-based connection based on shared interest and geographic clusters.
Ahavath Torah Congregation, at 1179 Central St. the closest synagogue to the Striar, is well-prepared to welcome any Stoughton residents who might feel a bit adrift without the JCC. “We are looking at a whole range of programs,” said Rabbi Jonathan Hausman, “from Mom and Me groups, to an ATC Little Kids group for ages 2-5, to child-centered permanent programs,” he said, noting that numerous options are also being considered for adults and seniors. The shul is currently fundraising to meet anticipated costs associated with these new ventures. “We are also renovating part of our facility to be more spacious, modern and attractive,” said Hausman. A community Chanukah celebration this past Motzei Shabbat, which drew over 200 people.
Down the road, Shaloh House Stoughton, under the auspices of Rabbi Menachem Gurkow, offers continuous, lively family programming, and other area synagogues are enthused. “I am looking forward to learning about this new service delivery model,“ said Rabbi Randy Kafka of Temple Israel South Shore in South Easton.
“We are ready and prepared to help the Jewish community on the South Shore participate more fully in our programming,” said Rabbi Shira Joseph of Congregation Sha’aray Shalom. The shul already has over 180 children in their religious school; the JCC Early Learning Center will host children from 15 months to 5 years of age (registration is already beginning). “We have new tot and preschool classrooms complete with children's bathrooms, and will have a new state-of-the-art preschool playground with separate facilities appropriate for each age group,” said Joseph. The shul already offers a Friday morning parent and tot playgroup. “With so many Jewish families in the Coastal South Shore, it is a wonderful way for the unaffiliated to get to know other young parents,” she said.
Upcoming JCC-coordinated events and holiday celebrations in the South Area will include a March 22 Model Seder at the Fuller Museum in Brockton, Tu B’Shevat and Purim programs in the South Area, and the Striar’s annual Women’s Seder chaired by Striar Past President Beth Lappen.
Senior events will be held at locations in Sharon, Stoughton and Canton, where Epstein said many of their seniors live. “Our staff person, Harvey Levensohn, will continue to direct our Super Tuesday program, Striar Seniors Club, Friday Oneg and an expanded Thursday program,” she said. Special Needs programs, which include social groups and “Teen Challenge,” will remain at Striar through the spring, and then move to new locations, under the continued leadership of Nancy Present, MSW. “These and other programs will be coordinated by the JCCs of Greater Boston, with JCC staff and community partners.,” said Epstein.
“The JCC’s mission is to serve the Jewish population in Greater Boston by providing a gateway for involvement in the whole Jewish community and by supporting the aspirations of a diverse and pluralistic local Jewish community,“ said a statement posted on the Striar’s site by JCCGB Board Chair Jeffrey Savit and JCCGB President and CEO Mark Sokoll. “We are confident that the commitments to our current members will be met, and are excited about the new opportunities to engage even more people in Jewish life across the South Area.”