Simon Family JCC’s Meeting recognizes accomplishments and sets goals for Simon Family JCC

by | Jun 21, 2012 | Other News

Laura Gross, Lynn Sher Cohen and Terri Sarfan.

Laura Gross, Lynn Sher Cohen and Terri Sarfan.

The 2012 Biennial Meeting of the Simon Family JCC took place on Wednesday, June 13. At the meeting, outstanding accomplishments for the Center were recognized, a president bid her farewell, and another was installed for a two-year-term.

Sandra Porter Leon, outgoing JCC president, gave a state of the Center address following Cantor Wally Schachet-Brisken’s melodic D’var Torah. Porter Leon welcomed past presidents of the JCC, saying she was humbled to join their ranks.

After thanking her executive committee, Porter Leon spoke about the JCC’s accomplishments over the past several years: “We are excellent when it comes to Jewish and cultural programming, illustrated by Israelfest, an event which more than 1,000 people attended.” She also acknowledged a host of other successful JCC programs including the Florence Melton Mini School, which now boasts 156 graduates.

Hugh Cohen, Sandy Sher, Lynn Sher Cohen, Normie Sher and Sadie Cohen.

Hugh Cohen, Sandy Sher, Lynn Sher Cohen, Normie Sher and Sadie Cohen.

In Harry Graber’s address as executive vice president, he noted that the JCC, after its benchmark study last year, has emerged in need of some major changes. “Change must come, and our consumers, staff, and leaders have told us so.”

Noting that change can be “frightening and uncomfortable,” Graber spun the direction the JCC needs to head into a positive light. “We are at the crossroads of opportunity and must take the organizational path that contains change and risk. We must be bold and not afraid because we are not alone in our journey, but are accompanied by a cadre of like minded people who understand the lessons of our people and know what it means to build a wonderful agency and community.”

The awards presentation at the 2012 Biennial included the Ruach Award, a new award bestowed on Normie Sher for his “passionate and continuous spirit’ as an exemplary board member; The David and Sylvia Krug Award for Outstanding Service to the Simon Family JCC, presented to Gloria Siegel; The JCC Center Service Award presented to the staff of the Israel Festival; the Jewish Programming Award, presented to the 2011 Book Festival; the Thomas L. Hofheimer Humanitarian Award presented to Dr. Alan Bartel; The Joseph “Buddy” Strelitz Community Service Award presented to the Virginia Arts Festival; The JCC Center Youth Award presented to Jake Levy; and the Mary and Avalon S. Krukin Award for Senior Adults presented to Harriett Eluto.

Harry Graber gave Sandra Porter Leon a light hearted farewell, ending on a more serious note, stating that Porter Leon has left Terri Sarfan, incoming president, with “…a legacy of dedication, brave and collaborative decision making, and a vow to continue working with Terri in whatever way possible to make sure that the Simon Family JCC is indeed a critical and successful part of a thriving Jewish community.”

After Gene Ross, speaking on behalf of the nominating committee, announced members who are remaining, leaving the board, and new members, Laura Gross, past president, installed her good friend, Terri Sarfan.

As Graber predicted earlier in the evening, Sarfan spoke about a host of new and positive directions in which the JCC will head over the next two years.

“Collaboration and partnerships between departments, members, users and other community organizations are the keys to our successful future,” said Sarfan.

“We all need to actively spread the word about every program the J has to offer, because there is indeed something for everyone, from the very old to the very young,” she said. “It is the responsibility of each of our board members to familiarize themselves with the many programs we run, and the staff running the programs.

“Children can progress from infant care to Beginnings programs, to mommy-and-me classes. Bringing young families into the J and retaining those families is our goal.

“These are just some of the ideas I have,” she concluded. “I know that, with the help of the board, its seven dynamic new members, and our committed staff, we can continue to bring great programming to this community center, sharing the passion to keep the Simon Family JCC thriving and prospering as we move forward.”

New Board Members 2012-2013
• Patricia Ashkenazi
• Traci Corcoran
• Jay Klebanoff
• Anne Kramer
• Stephanie Peck
• Shana Prohofsky
• Lawrence Steingold

Two new board members

Patricia Ashkenazi
“I’m at the point in my life where my family doesn’t need me as much,” says Patricia Ashkenazi, a grandmother of four and active community member. “The JCC seems like a good fit—a place where I can apply some energy.”

Ashkenazi works with her husband Avraham Ashkenazi running IAT International, a company that sells railroad equipment worldwide, but also finds time to be a part of many cultural arts events in the community, including the JCC’s film festival. A Norfolk native, she married her husband in 1989 and converted to Judaism. “Something about the Jewish community really appealed to me,” says Ashkenazi. “I have always felt it fully embraced me and took me in.”

This year, the Ashkenazis are sponsoring the opening night party for the 20th Anniversary of the Virginia Festival of Jewish Film, presented by Alma* and Howard Laderberg. They have been regulars at the festival for years.

Ashkenazi also looks forward to being an active board member of the Simon Family JCC. “I want to see the JCC grow as a place that embraces everyone, the way I was welcomed as a Christian coming into a Jewish world. The JCC is a nurturing place, a good place for everyone to be spiritually, mentally and physically, no matter where you come from or what you believe in.”

Lawrence Steingold
The JCC has been part of Lawrence Steingold’s life since his teenage days in Norfolk. An active member of BBYO, Steingold moved back to the area in 1977 and served on the JCC board in the 1980s. He enjoyed working on numerous committees while at the JCC’s Newport Avenue location.

Steingold’s commitment to the Jewish community takes up most of his free time. His recent civic volunteer work includes the positions of vice president of Jewish Family Service, treasurer of Ohef Sholom Temple, chair of the audit and finance committee of Tidewater Jewish Foundation, board member of the Sandler Family Campus, United Jewish Federation of Tidewater finance committee member, and vice chair of the new hospice agency formed as a joint venture between Jewish Family Service and Beth Sholom.

Why add the JCC to his extracurricular list? “I couldn’t say no to my good friend Terri Sarfan,” he jokes. “But seriously, I see this as a great opportunity to work with a close friend who is extremely devoted to carrying on the great work the JCC has already accomplished, and I see an opportunity to accomplish many great things for the center in the next few years.”

Excerpts from Sandra Porter Leon’s remarks on her two years serving as president of the Simon Family JCC:
“During these past two years, I have had the opportunity to work with an accomplished array of lay leaders and professionals whose common goal has been to make our Simon Family JCC the best that it can be…

“How gratifying it has been to participate in every aspect of “J-life.” I have been fortunate to meet internationally-renowned musicians like Itzhak Perlman, view fascinating films, watch my nieces Hayden, Emily, and Isabella flourish in Beginnings and Strelitz, buy fresh flowers and challah on Fridays at the Farmers Market, watch Ilana Tall shoot a mean lay-up at the very competitive Larry Ward basketball league, sing Shabbat songs with the Israeli Scouts at camp, swim laps, and watch sociallyconscious teens come together on Recycling Day.

“During these past two years, I have had the opportunity to work with an accomplished array of lay leaders and professionals whose common goal has been to make our Simon Family JCC the best that it can be.”

Excerpts from Terri Sarfan’s speech as incoming president
“While loyal Jewish members, donors and patrons, along with generous corporate sponsors support our cultural art and Jewish education programs….this support alone does not and cannot, pay all of the bills….

“The Simon Family JCC is the central address of the Jewish community…yet the J is so much more than just a center for Jewish culture. A recent benchmarking study has highlighted some of our current weaknesses, and we will implement changes over the next two years designed to make the J more robust, financially sound, and customer service oriented.

“The programs offered at the J can be profitable. Our fitness center and pools are state-of-the-art. The trick has always been, and will continue to be, how to generate new members and program users, both Jewish and non-Jewish.”

by Leslie Shroyer