Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center recently announced the naming of two longstanding centers — the Center for Israel and the Center for Parent Engagement and Education — in honor of board members’ families.
Ariel Magal, the director of the Center for Israel, said it was founded about five years ago to help connect the Long Island Jewish community to roots in Israel.
“We started with one shaliach who came here from Israel and started exploring the different opportunities and possibilities here in the local community,” Magal said. “Today, we are seven shlichim, two adult shlichim working at the JCC with the entire community and five young Israelis between high school and the army.”
The center will officially be named for Randie Waldbaum Malinsky, the sister of 27-year board member Nancy Waldbaum, who died in 2014 after a battle with lung cancer, on May 10 when former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak speaks at the community center about his coming autobiography “My Country, My Life: Fighting for Israel, Searching for Peace.”
The center’s chief operating officer, Joni Cohen, said the family has embraced the mission of the Center for Israel for years and took many trips there before her death.
“What a fitting moment to be able to take something you love and that you’re passionate about, a center your children have grown up in, by dedicating the Center for Israel that means so much to the entire family,” Cohen said. “She was a great woman who died too young.”
Magal said the center works with the Long Island community from Dix Hills to Great Neck down to Merrick and Bellmore with 20 community partners of synagogues, universities, day schools and other Jewish community centers.
“When we began this, we wanted to connect the Long Island Jewish community to Israel outside of what they read in the paper and they see on TV,” Paul Isserles, associate executive director of the center, said. “There is a real piece of the families who are living there, a real connection to the people outside of what they see in terms of the conflict there.”
Next year, Magal said the center is planning to double the number of young Israelis and add more partners to the network that helps children and adults of all ages deepen their connection to Israel from the United States.
“The young Israelis are running activities with kids of all ages about Israel, about their own lives in Israel, about their experiences, about their families and friends and memories,” Magal said.
Israelfest, one of the initiatives of the Center for Israel, will also celebrate the 70th anniversary of the formation of Israel. The festival, set from noon to 4 p.m. on May 6 at North Hempstead Beach Park in Port Washington, drew more than 5,000 people last year, Magal said.
The Center for Parent Engagement and Education, Cohen said, is an expansion of the community center’s programs focused around childcare as well as parental guidance and information in 2016 thanks to the center’s new namesakes, Ron and Irene Cohen.
Joni Cohen, who is not related, said while parenting has become more challenging in recent years, the ages and developmental stages of children have stayed the same.
Cohen said historically, many Jewish community centers began with early childhood and parenting services, and the community center is now focusing on getting information to parents on all platforms, from in-person conversations and lectures to blogs and social media.
“Being a parent in these times is much more difficult than it was years ago, so I think parents need more support and guidance and help to be successful parents,” Isserles said. “What we really try to do is to connect with those families. We know that we have to go beyond the walls of the JCC to do it.”