Irv Chase has deep affection for JWB Jewish Chaplains Council because of the work it does supporting Jews who serve the United States military. He tells a moving account of his father, a Holocaust survivor, when he first encountered American liberators entering the Buchenwald concentration camp.
Carolyn Lindner doesn’t know the word “impossible.” After developing an illness that led to the amputation of both her legs, she wanted to regain her old life as much as possible. The Rose & Max Rady JCC in Winnipeg played a big role in her recovery, as she looked forward to the day she could get back to the gym.
Story c/o Rady JCC
Anke Spitzer was a young newlywed when the unthinkable happened—her husband Andrei, the fencing coach for Israel’s 1972 Olympic delegation, was murdered by Palestinian terrorists, along with 10 of his teammates. Ankie has spoken at the JCC Maccabi Games about her ordeal in Munich and her quest for justice since. She shares her story, and how JCCs have helped her and the surviving family members pursue recognition of the murdered Israelis at the Olympic games.
Update: During the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the International Olympic Committee held a memorial service in honor of the Munich 11 in the Olympic Village for the first time. They also installed a permanent, memorial that will travel to each Olympic Village going forward. Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano attended, and credit the JCC Movement with helping them have their loved ones commemorated.
By Stephanie Dworkin
Katz JCC, Cherry Hill Marketing Director
For some that meaningful JCC moment comes when they find the love of your life at camp, or discover they really can act after a successful tryout for the J’s theater group. Or it might be meeting a lifelong best friend in JCC preschool, or mastering a new fitness goal or art technique in a class. For Beverly Hersh, that moment came when the JCC helped her get back on her feet after her husband Stephen died.
Whatever that moment is, we want to know. Tell us your JCC story here and we’ll feature it during our Centennial Celebration throughout this year and into 2017. Let us know what your JCC means to you, and how it made a difference. Need some help telling it? Contact our editor.
Beverly Hersh recalls fond memories of meeting her husband Stephen when she was a 19-year-old student at Harcum Junior College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. “I fell in love with his brain and his intellect. He was kind, a gentleman, very humble and very funny. When I met him, I was at the market and I walked right into him, and that was that. I gave him my number right on the spot.”
Beverly and Stephen were married for 46 years and raised three sons in Cherry Hill, New Jersey who all still live in South Jersey and are now raising their own families. She enjoys playing an active role as Grandma to her eight grandchildren, who range in age as young as five months to 16 years old and all live less than 10 minutes away.
When Stephen died in October 2012, it was a very difficult time for Beverly. But with the help of the Katz JCC in Cherry Hill, where she’d built a lifetime of connections, she was able to work through that loss.
Hersh has been a member of the JCC in Cherry Hill since the beginning, and she vividly remembers being a member of the old JCC in Pennsauken from the time she was in middle school. Growing up in Camden, N. J., she regularly spent her days at the JCC from the day that it opened. She attended Camp Hilltop in Camden (before it became the present day JCC Camps at Medford) and loved being at the social functions and dances at the JCC with her friends. “I never missed one dance- it was always a big group of friends,” she recalls.
Beverly’s connection to the JCC continued into her adult life, when she taught at the JCC’s pre-school, followed by a stint advocating for special needs children in the public schools. When the JCC opened its current location in 1997, she was quick to join the teaching staff again as a pre-school teacher until she retired in 2001.
Coming to the JCC for more than work was part of her day—early mornings were dedicated to working out in the Health & Wellness Center. And her schedule also included weekend workouts at the JCC with Stephen, who despite a busy work schedule, always made time for the JCC.
After Stephen’s death, Beverly knew she owed it to herself to get back to her routine.
“When I came back to the gym, I wore my sunglasses because if I teared up because I didn’t want to infringe on anyone’s day,” she says humbly. “But the JCC’s health and wellness staff—Gene, Frank, Don and all ‘the girls’—have helped me tremendously. Gradually as the weeks went on, the layers started to come off.”
In the almost four years that have passed since Stephen’s death, staying active is a vital piece of Hersh’s daily routine, which means spending time at the JCC every day. Spinning and yoga are her favorite group wellness classes, but she also enjoys working out on a cardio machine or lifting dumbbells in the weight room. “I love new classes—I’m going to try boxing in the fall!” she says.
Hersh knows just as well as any JCC fan, “There’s something here for everybody! I’ve taken theater classes, bridge and mah jongg, and love coming to the Festival of ABC and the Film Festival. I also love going the Broadway show trips with the adult department.”
No matter where life takes Beverly, she always reflects on fond memories of the life she built with Stephen. “It’s because of the love that I had with my husband that I have been able to open my heart again. “If I had to prioritize the important things in my life, of course first I would put my children and grandchildren first, and then I would say the JCC. Open your heart to the JCC, and it will help you open up to new opportunities. You are here for a reason, and the JCC can help you find love in your life.
“When I’m here, I’m home.”
Story c/o Katz JCC
Raquel J. Lilly was depressed, overweight and questioned daily if her life was worth living. A kind therapist and the York JCC convinced her otherwise. And we’re so glad that she shared her story with us. Raquel is our second place winner in our “Tell Your JCC Story” contest. It’s a story of grit and determination on Raquel’s part, and the warm welcome and support she received at the York JCC as it helped her overcome her obstacles. The J lives by the enormous banner that hangs on the front of the building, “Everyone is welcome at the JCC.”
Raquel J. Lilly
It is because of the York JCC I can attest to the old adage:
“If you want something you have never had, you must be willing to do something you have never done.” This is my story of the “Race to Redemption.”
In 2014 I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. I found that out after doing something that I would have never done: I went to a psychologist. You are probably wondering what’s the big deal; everyone does this. Well, as an African-American woman, I can tell you that wasn’t how we did it in our culture.
Well, this leads me to something else I would have never done. I had been raised a Southern-Baptist Christian all of my life. Entering a distinctly Jewish facility, or any organization representing other faiths—especially within a suburban, primarily Caucasian community—wasn’t something that I did growing up. But my family joined the York JCC.
My therapist, suggested that I get back to doing something that was important to me. Something that I loved. She told me to get back to doing “me.” I couldn’t even remember the last time that I enjoyed something. Anything. I could not even remember the last time I felt like “myself.” I weighed 175 pounds. I had gained 58 of those pounds within the three years prior to my diagnosis. I was considered obese. I was pre-diabetic. I had high blood pressure. I was tired all of the time. I had lost interest in basically everything. I was an emotional wreck and struggled with this severe mental illness that made me question my life daily.
We can just assume that, I had not been “me” for a very long time. I didn’t even know where to start. All I knew is that I had been instructed by my therapist to begin a journey of finding “me” again. That journey began on a treadmill at the York JCC.
Now, almost everyday you can find me in our JCC running on a treadmill. I often average 20-30 miles a week. I started by trying to complete at least one mile a week. If I could do just one mile a week, I could do anything. This came with a lot of heavy breathing, a tremendous amount of doubt, and a horrific amount of crying.
But I didn’t stop. Each week became easier. I found myself running to lose weight. I ran to better my health,to release the emotional pain that had secretly plagued me through my battle with depression. But most of all I ran to remind myself that each time one foot hits the belt of the treadmill, I’m still alive. I’m still able. I’m still here. I’m still running this thing we call life. Doing “me” is continuing to run every leg of this race until I am not able to run anymore.
The JCC was the place where I learned to keep running.
Running for my family. Running for my health. Running for my spirit. Running for my life.
I met myself for the first time at the York JCC.