Tuesday, September 27

What Do You See?

by Freddie Kelvin

That doyen of American landscape photographyAnsel Adamsonce said: "A photograph is usually looked atseldom looked into." Of course, images of people tend to provoke more questions than those of nature-especially if the viewer is unaware of the context. Here are several photos from recent trips to Israel. I'll tell you what thoughts they arouse in me. What springs into your minds will likely not bear any similarity. Vive la difference!

(Fig. 1 Safed.)
(Fig. 1 Safed.) An Ultra-orthodox Jew walks past an ultramodern shop selling fine art Judaica. Does he approve of this commercialization of his proudly held heritage, or is he disgusted by such an unholy alliance of old and new? The winding lanes of the artists' quarter in Safed are filled with such shops, which seem to be the main tourist attraction. Meanwhile, the venerable synagogues have fallen into variable states of disrepair. A sad state of affairs.

(Fig. 2 Umm El Fahm.) 
(Fig. 2 Umm El Fahm.)  A young Arab girl readily poses for a photograph in Umm El Fahmm, a city of 43,000, nearly all of whose inhabitants are Arab citizens of Israel. This city is often described as a hotbed of Palestinian nationalism. We are a group of American Jews on a Jewish Agency excursion. What does the girl think of our intrusion into her world? Is she being paid to be photographed in order to promote co-operation between Arabs and Jews? I should confess we felt slightly nervous in this city!

(Fig. 3 Jerusalem.)
(Fig. 3 Jerusalem.) An old lady in the soup kitchen of Hazon Yeshaya in Jerusalem. Every time I look at this haunting image, I ask myself why she has stopped eating. Was she too depressed or feeble, or was she lost in a multitude of far-away thoughts? She spoke to no-one, and no-one spoke to her. Close-by, in the nearby dining room, others in hunger clawed at the trays of food being handed out. I doubt the old lady was even aware of the commotion.

(Fig. 4 Sde Boker.)
(Fig. 4 Sde Boker.) An Israeli army induction ceremony takes place in Sde Boker, just in front of the tombstones of David Ben Gurion and his wife, Paula. The high location overlooks desert hills in the far distance. During this solemn occasion, each soldier receives his or her rifle as well as a copy of the Bible. With these at their side, they will defend their country and its right to exist. As I watched, I was almost in tears... for these were innocent kids, forced into a risk-filled, precocious maturity.

As a tourist, one rarely has enough time to reflect before being whisked off to the next site or attraction. Nowhere is this more true than in Israel, where so much is crowded into such a precariously small area. Everywhere you go, you will find unforgettable sights and a warmth that will resonate deeply. But, remember to take your camera, even if only a point and shoot or an iPhone. Some of the pictures you take, whatever your skill level, will capture those fleeting moments destined to become indelible memories.
More About Freddie Kelvin

Friday, September 23

Kids Say/Do The Darndest Things!

Today’s blog introduces you to another one of our wonderful JCC families enrolled in our Early Childhood Education program.
  Erin and Kevin Trisler

Proud parents of:
  Georgia Trisler, Age 7 and Grant Trisler, Age 3

JCC: How long have you been a JCC member?
  Erin: Since 2004-ish...pre-kids.

 JCC: Have you had other children in ECE?
  Erin: Yes, Georgia, who is now in
  the 2nd grade. She enjoyed her
  time in the ECE hall from age 1
  to 5. More recently, in JCC summer
  camp she and her friends loved to
  find the "Muffinhead" brick on the
  walkway outside leading up to the
  east entrance and hop on it for fun! 

JCC: Would you share with us a brief
heartwarming story about the JCC?

  Erin: Grant has become quite the gentleman as he loves to hold all the
  doors for us as he's entering the JCC
for pre-school in the morning. And
  when we pick him up in the afternoon, Kevin and I agree this is one of
  the best moments of our day when he spies us walking into his room
  or onto the playground to pick him up...he drops everything and sprints
  to us with a great big smile...a clear sign he's had a fun day (but still
  missed us enough to greet us in such a magical way).

JCC: What is the funniest thing your child has done?
  Erin: On the way to many places from our home, we pass multiple ponds
  and in or near those ponds are, of course, 
geese. We were trying to be
  creative and educational at the same time by telling Grant "Look, buddy,
  one goose, two geese!" as he was in the
earlier stages of learning animal
  names, etc. Now, he sees a gaggle of geese and simply says "One goose,
  two geese!" He thinks this whole phrase is their official name!

 JCC: What is the funniest thing your child has said?
  Erin: Just after Grant transitioned in June to a new room and thus the
  "big playground," we asked him at home what he did at school that day.
  He exclaimed, "Today, I played on the TATER-totter!"  We never had
  the heart or desire to correct him. This video validates the quote!

JCC: Who is your child's favorite movie star/superhero//personality?
  Erin: It's a toss-up between Mufasa, Simba, Lightening McQueen or
  Rowdy at Victory Field....it all depends on the day. 

Tuesday, September 20


by Susan Gabovitch

You finally find the courage to leave an abusive marriage. You are broken. You have no self-confidence and when you look in the mirror, all you can see is a 220-pound woman who is on unemployment. You are pre-diabetic, on blood pressure medicine and your knees hurt. With money still owed on a student loan and no job, you have to move back home with your parents. Just imagine.

JCC member Victoria Connors doesn’t  have to imagine. She lived this life just two years ago. Instead of this being the end of the road for Victoria, it was the beginning of her new healthier and happier life.

Victoria’s mom, Carolyn Connors, a JCC member, decided to give her daughter the gift of good health, good nutrition and self-esteem. She bought Victoria a membership to the JCC. Victoria began coming to the JCC every day to swim for an hour. The weight began to come off. At home her mom was teaching her how to cook properly and to make healthy food choices. The more pounds she lost, the more confidence she gained.

Then Victoria heard about Spinning. With her new-found confidence, she jumped into a class. That’s when the weight really came off. That was how it all started. It has been two years now and Victoria has lost 100 pounds. She is off her blood pressure medicine, is no longer pre-diabetic and her knees are feeling much better. Imagine that.

Until next time…
More About Susan Gabovitch

Thursday, September 15

Practicing Deliberate Stillness

by Katherine Matutues

Ten years ago I started practicing yoga to reclaim some of the strength and flexibility that I had lost during a pregnancy that demanded 4 months of bed-rest. As with many yoga practitioners, I got involved for the stretch and physical challenge of yoga but I stayed with it for the immense sense of well-being and calm that accompanied my practice. At the end of most yoga classes there is a restful period called "shivasana" or final relaxation. Most classes reserve 10-15 minutes to allow the practitioner to enhance their mind-body connection while trying to keep the mind focused on stillness.

Turns out keeping your mind quiet is not an easy task, but the benefits are immense. Conscious relaxation is a type of meditation, which is now being studied for its vast array of health benefits including altering metabolism, blood pressure, reducing the effects of stress, reducing pain and increasing one’s overall sense of happiness and well-being. When I leave a class I notice my whole body is calmer and more relaxed. My shoulders are not hunched up by my ears, my jaw is not clenched, my mind is quiet and there is softness on my brow. The physical changes translate into behavioral ones as I find greater depths of patience and humor in dealing with my busy life as a working mother of two.

I became so enamored with the transformation that I became a certified instructor myself, in part to expand my own knowledge, but also to be able to share this powerful wellness technique with others. My favorite yoga class at present is Restorative Yoga for Stress Relief, which holds poses for 7-10 minutes using props to aid in tension release and avoids engaging muscles. The best part of the class is the restful stillness in my mind followed by the complete and utter relaxation in my body. Join me on Saturdays 9-10:30 in the Pescovitz Dance studio.  

Drop in:  $15 public /$12 JCC member.

More About Katherine Matutues

Tuesday, September 13

Wassup with All this Great Music?

by Larry Rothenberg

Who would have thought that we would be able to offer the performances that are coming this Autumn? I certainly would not have seen it coming a year ago, but here we have it. Some of the best music you will find in the world! This is what we do and we love it! We sure hope you will too.

September 20: Yuval Ron Ensemble
  This internationally known group of musicians from the Middle East bring their
  eclectic musical traditions and message of peace and understanding.

October 22 and 23: Joshua Nelson “The Prince of Kosher Gospel”
  THIS IS BIG! The black Jewish Hebrew teacher from New Jersey who mixes his
  Jewish heritage with amazing gospel. Joshua and his 5 person gospel group
  will join us. Seriously, you do not want to miss this. 


The Elegant Partnership: A JCC Series at the Center for the
Performing Arts at the Palladium
Only the JCC has a partnership with the Center for the Performing Arts. Order
  at the JCC and receive
    • discount pricing
    • no handling charges
    • preferred seating

September 24: Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsallis
  Arguably the most famous jazz musician alive and deservedly so.

October 12: Compania Flamenca Jose Porcel
  One of the premier dance ensembles in the world today.
  Exciting and colorful.

Support the arts at the JCC, because the arts are here for you.

More About Larry Rothenberg

Friday, September 9

Upcoming Blogs for September

Week of September 12
Tuesday, Sept 13 Larry – Cultural Arts    

Thursday, Sept 15 Katherine – Fitness and Wellness   

Week of September 19
Tuesday, Sept 20 Susan – Member Spotlight  

Thursday, Sept 22 Esther Fox – Personal Journey  

Week of September 26
Tuesday, Sept 27 Freddie Kelvin – Guest Blog
Thursday, Sept 29 ECE – Family Interview  

Thursday, September 8

The Tip of the Blade

by Mindi Epstein 

If you were to see a blond teen-age girl roll into the JCCholding a long canvas bag stretched across her wheelchair, you likely wouldn’t know what her purpose was in coming to the JCC, as she does diligently most every evening. Nor would you be able to guess what was stashed in her odd-shaped bag. And, for sure you would never recognize that this pretty 15-year-old girl is a rock star on the world-stage of fencing.

Meet Cat Bouwkamp.

Cat is by no means an ordinary teenager. In early August, she won a gold medal in foil at the Wheelchair Pan American Championships in Campinas, Brazil. That win qualified her for the Paralympics in London, 2012. It also made her the youngest member of Team USA and one of only 100 male and female wheelchair fencers from around the world to compete in the Games. Overseas, where fencing is an enormously popular sport, the crowds cheer for our very own Cat Bouwkamp.

Alan Bouwkamp, her father, describes his daughter as a “come from behind fencer.” Just when her opponent is about to “write her off,” he says, “she comes back.” Cat’s a fighter. Always has been. Despite being born with a short leg and scoliosis and enduring numerous surgeries, Cat never hesitated to pursue anything that caught her fancy. “We never limited her,” Alan explains. “Janet and I never told her she couldn’t do it.” Cat,who is ambulatory, learned to horseback ride. She played tennis and soccer. She did gymnastics. Alan and Janet watched their daughter conquer one sport after another, but wheelchair fencing was different. “We were hesitant about it and asked her if wheelchair fencing was really something she wanted to do.” With her sights clearly set on fencing, Cat responded to her father’s expressed concern with, “Dad, that’s your issue.”

Cat took up fencing when she was 9 years old. Early on, her skill caught Val Kizik’s attention, her instructor and president of IndySabre. With more than 25 years of experience, Val has coached numerous young adults to success. He fondly recalls some of his club members who made varsity at Notre Dame, New York University, the Air Force Academy and University of Austin. Coach Kizik knows a winner when he sees one. He invited Cat to train with his fencing club at the JCC and the rest, as they say, is history. At the age of 13, Cat took the Bronze Medal at the Wheelchair Fencing World Cup in
Warsaw, Poland.

Coach works with the athlete so frequently that Alan describes their relationship as that of “an old married couple.” They may bicker, a hair or two may bristle, but Val coaches his protégé to achieve success in a match as much as in life. Cat’s next challenge comes in October when she heads to the World Championship in Catania, Sicily to improve her seeding in the Paralympics.

Early on Cat had set her sights on making the Olympic team and she did it. She has marked this achievement with a beautifully designed tattoo of the Olympic rings and fencing sabres proudly sported on her left calf. Her parents may not be crazy about their young daughter bearing a tattoo, but they understand Cat’s excitement and are enormously proud of her. "Anyway," Alan admits, "it's a really nice looking tattoo." 

For Cat to have achieved so much before her sweet 16, one has to wonder what else she has in mind. I “aim big,” says Cat. Clearly, qualifying for the 2012 Paralympics is just the tip of the blade. Cat is already thinking about making the U.S. team for the Paralympics in 2016, and has begun exploring colleges where she can continue fencing. Whether it’s Notre Dame, Brown or Duke she eventually selects, she sees medical school in her future. So, the next time you see Cat roll through the doors of the JCC, give her a high five. This young athlete is at the top of her game, and that’s only the beginning.

More About Mindi Epstein

Tuesday, September 6

Can A Personal Trainer Help Me Be Fab at 40?

by Kelly Young
At 40 I’ve decided I’m worth the extra money for a personal trainer–or at least I’m entertaining the idea. Maybe a personal trainer will give me that extra push, the personal attention and the motivation to get my fitness level to where I really want it to be (the best that it’s been).
I’ve been thinking about it for a while. So, I do what I always do when contemplating something important–I ask my Facebook friends for advice. Have you worked with one? Would you work with one? How much would you spend for one?
The responses were interesting. Several friends have paid for personal trainers in the past and use the knowledge they gained from their personal sessions to stay fit. A few of my friends are actually personal trainers themselves and offered to help–unfortunately, none live nearby or I’d take them up on that offer. Some said it was absolutely worth the money, and have paid as much as $80 per session. One friend even paid $700 for an assessment fee just to get started. A few were honest and said they can’t commit to a regular schedule of training because busy lifestyle wouldn’t allow them to keep up with it.  
So now it’s back to me. Now I’m finding myself asking: Am I worth it? Will I stick with it? How do I know for sure if this is the right thing for me?
I guess I won’t really know unless I try, right? So I think in order to truly be Fab at 40 I’m going to invest in me! As it turns out, the JCC is running a special on personal trainers through September 16, so I lucked out. At the very least, I think it’s worth taking advantage of a good deal.
More About Kelly Young

Friday, September 2

A Torrid Love Affair

by Barb Bailie

I confess I am wildly, passionately in love! It’s not an infatuation but a deep, abiding love that started more 40 years ago when I was halfway around the world. Anyone out there interested in hearing more about this love affair? Well, I’m not going to wait for your answer—I’m going to just dive right in.

The object of my affection is the State of Israel....its people, its vitality, its diversity, its physical beauty, its layers upon layers of history that keep revealing its secrets, its struggle to survive and thrive, the way it inspires my passion and sets my heart afire. How did this all start?

I was raised in a community with a small Jewish population. I always felt somewhat embarrassed about being different from most of the people around me in those conforming 50’s.  But when my husband and I went on a Young Leadership mission to Israel in the late 60’s, I felt transformed the minute I stepped off the plane onto the tarmac at Lod Airport in Tel Aviv and looked around me. EVERYONE was Jewish! In the ten days we were there, I kept pinching myself—I didn’t have to quietly conceal who I was.  I could truly be me!

I carried two books with me on that trip: Exodus by Leon Uris and The Source by James Michener. I was spellbound when I saw with my own eyes places that were described in those books. The prison in Akko and the terrace at the King David Hotel (Exodus), the zigzag gate and the tunnel leading to the well at Tel Megiddo (The Source). Seeing these sights drove home the fact that these books were not totally fiction—they were based on history, MY history. The history of all those around me. 

Since that time, I’ve come down from Cloud 9. My love is tempered with realism and sometimes frustration and irritation. I know that Israel has many challenges and problems. I know that it’s far from perfect. But what love doesn’t have its downside? The fact is that Israel is committed to overcoming those challenges and it needs my help. And, it needs your help to continue to grow and flourish as the spiritual and historical homeland of our Jewish people.

More About Barb Bailie