Reprinted from The Times Leader
by Mary Therese Biebel
One Big Family
From hip-hop to prayer-shawl classes, JCC has it all. The senior citizens sat and on one foot to improve their balance and, yes, they can hold onto a chair if they want. Downstairs in the gym, energetic tweens gyrate like made in hip-hop class. Upstairs in the weaving room, people craft prayer shawls for their loved ones. And at mid-day, the auditoirum is filled with folks chatting over a Kosher lunch.
Visit the JCC in downtown Wilkes-Barre and you'll find all those ongoing activiites-and more-as well as plenty of people who will tell you they're happy to be part of the center's "big happy family." Perhamps most grateful for the opportunity are the parents of autistic young people who bring their children to the JCC on Friday afternoons for a swim-and-gym activity session. "The JCC, they're angels," Scott Rieder of West PIttston said as his 18-year-old son, Michael, shot a basket twoard a hoop. :I credit this place with giving him a life," said Kathy Flaherty, whose 24-year-old son Robbie, "wouldn't even get out of the car for ice cream" before he attended the JCC's summer camp. "My son can be free here," Kathy MIneo said as 18-year-old Alex ran back and forth in the gym. "There's no place else. If it wasn't for the JCC, I would have to leave the area."
The young people likely were in structured classroom environments all day, session supervisor Joan Kleinman said, so it's good for them to have a chance to move around, play and relax-and work on their socialization skills, which is a challenge for people with autism. "Hey, what do you say?" Kleinman said, greeting a new arrival and urging him to say "hello."
Without a doubt, the JCC is a place for many people, Jewish and non-Jewish, to socialize. "We are available to everyone," director Rick Evans said.
It's also an opportunty to sdtretch their minds and bodies in all sorts of ways. "This is great for your rotator cuffs," instructor Bill Buzza of Swoyersville said as he guided a group of senior citizens through shoulder rolls and stretches, marches around the room and even standing up and sitting down again 15 times. "We're working on flexiblity, some range of motion and trying to (strengthen) the hip area," Buzza explained, in between entertaining the seniors with stories aobut how his 2-year-olddaughter, Abigail, drank some bath water. "I love this place," said exerciser Jeanette Garber, 85 of Wilkes-Barre. "It keeps us moving," said Charltte Cutler, 89 of Kingston. "It's not Zumba," said Shirley Cohen, 89 of E dwardsville.
"Oh, but we do have Zumba," said Barbara Sugarman, who handles public relations for the JCC. Zumba is a workout of igher intensity, as was the hip-hop program during which Melissa Reynolds recently taught a dance routine to the tuna of a Justin Bieber song.
"Pretend you're looking for her," Reynolds told a boy who appeared to be 8 or 9, indicating he was supposed to to seach for "somebody to love," pick her from the gyrating group and skip offstage with her, hand in hand. The only problem was, 9-year-old Natalie Zard did not want to hold the boy's hand.
"You can hold wrists then," Reynolds said. Why didn't Natalie want to hold hands with the boy? A reporter asked, and before Natalie could answer, 12-year-old Lily Drak explained: "He's her neighbor and they have quite a history."
Last month, another kind of history-musical history-actually was one of several topics addressed in a weekly series of Adult Education classes. During a morning lecture, big-band expert John McKeown of Wilkes-Barre regaled a group of mostly senior citizens with stories about area band leader Russ Morgan, who first started to play trombone because his father believed it would rebuild his lungs after a bout with pneumonia. As McKeown played some recordings, listeners joined in on such lyrics as 'Cruising Down the River on a Sunday Afternoon." Later, attendees Cindy and Matt Kruger of Shavertown said they love coming the JCC to learn new things, discuss books and just spend time with friends. "it's like an extended family," Matt Kruger said.
"We moved here from Long Island," his wife added. "They didn't have anything like this there."
The sentiment that there's no place like the JCC of Wyoming Valley is strong in the tallis-making room, where Stephen Nachlis shows people how to weave traditional prayer shawls which are often given as bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah gifts when a young person is about 13 years old. "People come from all across the country to do this," Nachlis said, and they're often eager to reserve a spot. "One grandmother literally called from the hospital the day her grandchild was born and asked to be put on the list.".
High National Honor Goes to JCC
By Joe Dolinsky
Reprinted from The Times Leader
Monday, May 7, 2012
Excellence is a term used to describe things that surpass ordinary standards. At a worldwide vent this weekend, the mark of excellence will be awarded to a local organization.
Chosen from more than 250 programs submitted from Jewish community enter around the country, the Jewish Community Center of Wyoming Valley will be receiving two national “Excellence in Programming” awards at the JCCs of North America Biennial, which runs through Wednesday in New Orleans.
Area JCC President Gary Greenberg and Executive Director Richard Evan will join nearly 1,000 JCC leaders and volunteers from the United States, Canada, Israel and countries in Latin America and Europe at the biennial , which is held in a different U.S. city every two years.
‘Large JCCs in large cities like Philadelphia and Los Angeles are there, and for us to be recognized—now we’re known around the country as well,” Evans said.
Greenberg credits the dedication of JCC Members and volunteers for the recognition.
“We have so many people that give up their time and help us,” he said.
“It’s very fulfilling to be give these awards.”
The awards, presented for the Tallis Weaving Program and Children's Holocaust Programs, are in the group of “Outstanding Visionary Initiatives” in the categories of Jewish Impact and Programmatic Excellence and User Engagement.
For the Tallis Weaving Program, Wyoming Valley JCC members spent more than 24 hours weaving a tallis approximately 36 inches wide by 72 inches long.
Often worn over the outer clothes during prayers, a tallis is a prayer shawl usually made of wool.
Program Director Steve Nachlis believes it to be the only program of its kind in the country. “It’s just a terrific honor,” he said.
Through the “Remembering the Holocaust” program titled “Putting the Pieces Back Together,” the Wyoming Valley JCC community was part of a nationwide project to create a 12-by-12 window made up of 600 pieces of glass to commemorate Kristallnacht, a wave of violence attacks against Jews throughout Nazi Germany in 1948.
In addition to the wards ceremony, the three-day biennial event includes learning workshops, speakers, the sharing of new trends and ideas, and meet-and-greets.
“It might just be bricks and mortar, but we all came through the programming here at the JCC,” Greenberg said.
“We’re very pleased to be recognized.
SGA President Answers Call
SGA president answers call
Senior Scott Nachlis balances multiple responsibilities
Patrick Duprey — Online Editor Thursday, April 5th, 2012
A lot has been asked of Scott Nachlis. On campus, the senior applied psychology major serves as president of the Student Government Association in a time where administrators, faculty members and students finalize and prepare IC 20/20, Ithaca College’s vision plan for the next decade, for implementation.
NachlisRachel Orlow/The IthacanScott Nachlis, president of the student body for the Student Government Association, said his on-campus experiences have pushed him toward a desired career in student affairs.
Such a task would be a difficult undertaking for many, but Nachlis is no stranger to responsibility. Back home in Kingston, Pa., about 15 minutes outside Scranton, Nachlis had no choice but to grow up quickly. His father, Steven Nachlis, has struggled with the blood and blood-clotting chronic pain disease anticardio lipid antibody, meaning his blood can clot at any given moment.
Nachlis called an ambulance for his father at the age of 8, according to Steven, and sometimes even had to give his father shots. His father’s medical problems reached a point where Nachlis said he “knew the hospital like the back of [his] hand.”
Nachlis said others might see Steven, who’s considered disabled, as overweight. His father walks with a cane and doesn’t always have a lot of energy. But to Scott, he’s a best friend and a motivator.
“He serves as a huge inspiration to me,” Nachlis said. “If I complain about writing a paper, I just think he’s dealing with physical pain day after day — what he goes through every day and how optimistic he is.”
In November 2010, Steven underwent heart surgery, and, regardless of what was happening on campus, he said he never doubted that his son would be there with him in the operating room — just like any other time.
“Scott is tremendous by my side,” Steven said. “He’s one I can always depend upon, rely upon.”
It’s this unselfish, others-first attitude that, according to SGA adviser Sarah Schupp, has allowed Nachlis to excel as a leader of the student body.
“During your senior year, you’re supposed to be self-absorbed because it’s your last time in college and your last time you can leave your mark somewhere,” Schupp said. “But I really think that he thought about others during his senior year.”
Nachlis has presided over SGA in a year where, in addition to soliciting student feedback and working with the administration on facets of IC 20/20, the body has created an international student senator position, endorsed an Asian-American studies program and a hydraulic fracturing ban on campus, grew the off-campus medical amnesty policy and established a new bill system within SGA.
“In terms of personality, if I see something that I think should be changed, I’ll go out and do it,” Nachlis said. “I’m not the type of person to necessarily be shy.”
But Nachlis has not always been this outgoing — he said he didn’t have the courage to run for SGA his freshman year. His sophomore year, he served as a class of 2012 senator, and the following year, he occupied the position now referred to as vice president of Senate affairs.
Nachlis formed the Constructionists to run for the SGA’s e-board about a year ago with the simple goal of “construct[ing] a better IC.” When asked why he ran for the presidency, he acknowledged a cliché in citing Mohandas Gandhi’s famous quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” garnering a laugh from junior Rob Flaherty, SGA’s vice president of communications, who’d heard the answer before.
All joking aside, despite all the changes, Nachlis said the accomplishment he’s most proud of within SGA may not be felt until after he’s left — that he believes he’s better positioned student government moving forward. It’s a skill that Flaherty attributes to Nachlis’s “big picture” and “long-term” thinking.
Nachlis’s involvement with the Office of Student Engagement and Multicultural Affairs through SGA and as an orientation leader and student leadership consultant even led him to change his career plans. He originally planned to enter the field of sports psychology but now seeks to enter higher education, specifically student affairs. Here, Nachlis said, he can use the leadership, motivation and team-building elements he’s learned in his psychology classes and applied through SGA.
Despite a long list of responsibilities, his friends, family members and co-workers are quick to point out Nachlis’s sense of humor, which they say draws others in.
“Even if we’ll be having a very heated, intense discussion about a policy issue on campus, five minutes later, he’ll be joking or laughing about something else,” Flaherty said. “He’s very good at keeping his work life and his life life separate.”