We are rooting you on
Name: Florence Zaret
Member of the J since: 1934
Connection: Belonging to the J has given her a second home.
Longtime J member Florence Zaret has truly lived her life through the J. Having first attended Camp Livingston in 1931 at the age of 10, Florence joined the J when she was 13. Located in an old school, that JCC’s physical appearance differed significantly from the present facility in Amberley. There was no fitness center; members had to go to the building on Blair and Hartford in Avondale if they wanted to work out.
When the JCC moved to a new facility on Summit Road, Florence and her family were very active at the J. Florence was a dancer in the old shows at the J, and enjoyed the plays that the J used to present through Stagecrafters. Her husband, Mitch, was a member of the honor society, and played on the golf team and baseball team.
“When the J location on Summit closed for a few years, I had to go somewhere else – it was terrible!” Florence said. “Our facilities at the current J are so wonderful, like a country club. The attendants take such wonderful care of the locker rooms and facilities – you feel like you’re in paradise here.”
Florence raised both of her children at the J – they both attended Camp at the J and her daughter was a lifeguard. Her son and daughter-in-law are still active at the J today, where Florence has taken on a new role, as an advocate for the Senior Center.
“The J Café is the best thing in Cincinnati,” Florence said. “The J has opened up a new life for [Cincinnati seniors].” For many seniors who are not able to cook or live alone, the J Café’s Senior Lunches provide a good lunch and an opportunity for socializing. A social outing for the seniors could include a trip to Louisville’s Art District or a behind-the-scenes tour at the Aronoff Center for the Arts. There’s never a shortage of weekly activities, from Mahjong to Torah Study.
Florence comes to the J about three days per week, for several hours per day. “I feel so lucky to have such a facility; everyone is so nice and so friendly, it’s a pleasure to be here,” Florence said. “I can’t think of anything the J doesn’t have. One of the most wonderful things that happened to me in my life was being a member of the J; I would feel a void if I didn’t come. It’s my second home.”
“The J has opened up a new life for Cincinnati seniors.”
We are a place to learn and grow.
Name: Anna, Craig, Eva, Kaleb, & Oliver Sarembock
Member of the J since: 2012
Connection: Provided early childhood education and growth.
Anna Sarembock grew up in Cincinnati; her extended family has always been a part of the J. When she moved back to the area with her husband Craig, the J was one of the first places where they became involved – for them, it was an essential place to build their sense of community.
Now, the Sarembocks – Anna, Craig, and their children Eva, Kaleb, and Oliver – are all active members of the JCC community. After moving back to Cincinnati with young children, enrolling in the Early Childhood School was a priority. “When we first came back to Cincinnati, the Early Childhood School was the first stop we made,” Anna said. “The school connected me back to friends that I had in the past, and helped in meeting new families. It’s beyond who you think the J is for: agewise, and with people of all different cultures and ethnicities.”
For Craig, the kids’ involvement in the Early Childhood School and other activities at the J has helped him form connections with others. “We never had a community like this in any other city we lived in. It’s been a great way to be introduced to the community, having not grown up here,” he said.
The Sarembocks credit the Early Childhood School and Camp at the J as being amongst their biggest support systems. For them, the J is a place where activities and opportunities for each member of the family come together: “The J really serves as a meeting place,” Anna said. “I’ll often meet someone in the J Café after dropping the kids off downstairs. The J is really the hub for us, the center. Our family has changed and grown, and the J plays a part in all our lives.”
Both Anna and Craig have gotten involved with the annual Adams Classic fundraiser. The kids each have their favorite activities, too:
Eva: “Camp at the J and swimming.”
Kaleb: “Swimming and playing gaga. And T-ball, I play on the Blue Jays.”
Oliver: “Monkey bars – and I hit a home run in baseball!”
“The J has become a second home for us – we can walk in with no specific plans, and the kids always find friends here and fun things to do,” Anna said. The family is looking forward to many more years at the J, as the kids continue to grow and build their own community here.
“It was our welcome home, and it felt really good. And we know that as our kids graduate from the Early Childhood School, they’ll keep having reasons to come back.”
“The J plays a part in all of our lives.”
We are where community lives.
Name: Josh Davidson
Member of the J since: 2012
Connection: Provided a sense of community and belonging.
Young adults who frequently move to new cities to further their careers often have trouble establishing a strong group of friends. Josh Davidson found this community through the J and its active group of young adults. “I didn’t know a single soul here, but knew immediately I’d join the J,” Josh said.
Josh moved from Detroit, where he had been a part of a large, active Jewish community; once he made the move to Cincinnati, seeking out a similar experience at the J seemed like the obvious choice. As a result, Josh has made many connections, both personally and professionally. He’s an active member of our young adults group, and attends other J events, including the annual Jewish and Israeli Film Festival.
Last year, Josh signed up to participate in the Israel Bike and Hike trip for Jewish young adults, an opportunity that would allow him to get to know other young adults from Cincinnati while also meeting peers in Cincinnati’s Israeli sister city, Netanya. “I only knew one other person who was going on the trip. I took spinning classes beforehand to train, and got to know some of the other participants more through training. We shared Shabbat meals together, we went out downtown – we had already become friends before the trip, which made the trip that much better.”
Thanks to that experience, Josh has gotten into spinning, and comes to the J between 3 – 5 times per week to use the fitness center and volunteer in the community. His experience at the J has made him a more active citizen; he’s joined a non-profit board and volunteers at the Jewish Family Service Heldman Family Food Pantry in Clifton. “It’s great to get out and do something outside of just work, work, work,” he said. “Being able to donate to the J’s Annual Campaign was huge. I use the facilities here, so it was great to be on the other side of that and to give back.”
“Everyone wants to meet someone like them, and I’ve found that here,” he said. “Every time I come here, I always run into people I know. It’s great to have that sense of community and belonging.”
“Everyone wants to meet someone like them, and I’ve found that here.”
We are Generational.
Name: Zac Hiudt
Member of the J since: life-long member
Connection: Provided activities, sports, and life-changing experiences.
Zac Hiudt grew up at the J. He spent his childhood summers at Camp at the J, before attending Camp Livingston. Now grown with a family of his own, the Hiudts’ frequently come to the J to take advantage of the programs available for every member of the family.
It has been especially meaningful for Zac to see his children benefit from the same kinds of experiences he loved when he was growing up: “Seeing my kid go to Camp at the J was great – he had an amazing summer and loved his counselors. With the experience I had at camp, and now seeing my kid go through that, it’s a beautiful thing.”
Zac continues to stay active in programs at the J. He has played in the J’s popular softball league for 10 years, and has been a captain for the past three years. He served on the golf committee for the Adams Classic this year, and has stayed active through the J’s fitness challenges.
As a two-time winner of Commit to Be Fit, Zac has benefited from the program’s focus on small group training, which offers a more personal relationship with a trainer as well as the support of a small group dynamic.
Zac’s Commit to be Fit trainer, Alice Boothe, saw firsthand how his energy and competitive nature helped push him to achieve his goals.
“It’s so satisfying for me to be able to see a change in my clients, even from week to week,” she said. “Zac was willing to try anything. It was incredible to see him lose so much weight in his first challenge, only to come back and lose more his second time around.”
At the J, these personal relationships extend beyond the fitness center. “People at the J are very open and warm,” Zac said. “The connections I’ve made with other people at the J, and other entities related to the J, have been a big part of my life. They’ve been lifelong relationships.”
“Now seeing my kid go through that, it’s a beautiful thing.”
We are life-changing experiences.
Name: Reily Boss
Member of the J since: life-long member
Connection: Encouraged personal and leadership growth opportunities.
The J prides itself on being a place of community and connection. Our Jewish heritage and related programming can also help connect people to a part of themselves they may have lost touch with – that’s what Reily Boss discovered through Camp at the J and the March of the Living.
Raised by her Jewish mother and her Christian father, Reily grew up with different traditions. Though she has been involved with the J for her entire life, she’s never felt especially connected to the Jewish community.
“I don’t really celebrate Jewish holidays or belong to a temple, so the J helps me feel connected to the Jewish community,” Reily said.
Having grown up at Camp at the J, eventually serving as a counselor, Reily hadn’t planned on returning to Camp this summer – until she experienced the March of the Living this year.
March of the Living brings Jewish teens from all over the world together to honor the millions who suffered and died during the Holocaust and stand as a symbol of resilience and vitality; the trip starts in Poland with a march from Auschwitz to Birkenau, the largest concentration camp complex built during the Holocaust. The trip then travels to Israel, where they observe Israel Memorial Day and celebrate Israel Independence Day. “I went in to March of the Living not knowing a single person, and came out with friends that I talk to every day. The March made a huge impact on my life.” Reily said.
After returning from this life-changing experience this past spring, Reily was moved to work with Camp at the J again as a way to maintain this deeper connection with the community. “If I hadn’t returned to Camp at the J this summer, I wouldn’t have anything to hold on to,” she said. As a camp counselor, she helped pass along to dozens of other children some of the same great memories that she had experienced as a child.
Friends and leaders that Reily has met through the J have helped cement her feeling that the J is home. “People here really care about how you feel and that everything is OK in your life,”
Reily said. “They’ve had a huge impact on my life – they make me feel very loved.”
“The March of Living made a huge impact on my life.”
We are where wellness lives.
Name: Jan Shuller & Beth Magner
Connection: Provided personalized care and supportive friendship.
J Member Jan Shuller didn’t understand why it hurt to touch her legs, especially for a massage. “It feels like marbles under my skin; when I was first touched during a massage, it would feel like an electrical impulse.”
Jan researched her symptoms and discovered that she had lipedema, a condition that causes an accumulation of fat, primarily in the legs. A relatively unknown condition, there is no consensus on treatment. In her research, Jan came across quadrivas therapy, a type of massage practiced in the Netherlands, but widely unknown in the U.S.
Jan described her pain to her personal trainer in the fitness center, who recommended massage therapist Beth Magner at the J Spa. Though she was unfamiliar with quadrivas therapy, Beth studied the technique online and combined it with her own extensive education to create a custom treatment plan for Jan that would provide relief for Jan’s lipedema, while minimizing the pain from her touch.
“By the end of that first session, there was already improvement,” Beth said. “Now we’ve improved enough that she can have a regular friction massage without pain.”
Though it has taken time to develop this custom treatment plan, its impact has been substantial. “Lessening the pain in my body is huge,” Jan said. “I volunteer at a preschool and like to get down on the floor with the kids. Having kids try to sit on my lap before would have been unimaginable.”
The time both women have invested in working together to try to overcome the effects of lipedema has also created a lasting friendship. “I’m so grateful that she trusts me and was willing to dive in to this journey with me.” Beth said.
“I definitely feel supported, by both Beth and the J,” Jan said. “The fact that this is a progressive condition, it is such a comfort to know that I can do something about it at the J. Our J Spa has the most miraculous, knowledgeable, and compassionate massage therapists, who are so in tune with their clients and ease their pain.”
“I feel supported, by both Beth and the J.”
We care for & connect with one another.
Name: Mark Mayer & Barbara Greenberg
Connection: Volunteer their time to deliver Meals on Wheels.
For more than 30 years, the J’s Meals on Wheels program has contributed to the welfare of homebound adults by providing regular nutrition and daily contact with caring volunteers. For seniors who have difficulty shopping or cooking, this program offers an essential and convenient support system. The J is one of the only agencies in Cincinnati that is able to provide Kosher meals to those seniors who are Kosher observant.
Meals on Wheels is dependent upon its volunteers to deliver meals to its homebound clients. Nine years ago, childhood friends turned business associates Mark Mayer and Barbara Greenberg heeded the call for volunteers and never looked back. “We looked at each other and said, ‘This is a really nice thing to do,’” Barbara said.
Mark has have been involved with the J for several years; in addition to having chaired the J’s annual Jewish and Israeli Film Festival for 12 years, Mark sits on the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati allocations committee. “I’ve been a part of site visits and doling out money to programs at the J. In my opinion, the Meals on Wheels program is the most important recipient of funds,” he said.
“We probably get more out of it than the clients do,” Barbara said. Both Mark and Barbara have experienced loss in their personal lives over the past few years; for them, the connections they are able to make through Meals on Wheels are a way of channeling that loss. “There is a sensitivity,” Barbara said, “Whatever you can do in the 5 – 8 minutes you’re there, dropping the meal off and socializing with the client, makes a huge difference in their lives.”
Programs that care specifically for older adults are often in precarious positions, with uncertain levels of funding, or resources being redistributed. With life expectancies growing, it’s not uncommon for older adults to outlive the savings they have. These concerns highlight the importance of programs like Meals on Wheels. “This is the only meal they eat sometimes – this is it for the day.” Barbara said. “No one should have to wait to eat.”
Even so, Mark and Barbara agree that it’s the personal connections that make the experience, for themselves and their clients. “I have formed some really nice connections.” Mark said. “Some of our clients have no family in town. They have people that care, but not that care specifically for them. We’re like their children in that way.”
“Sometimes they’re waiting outside for us, or buzz us into the building immediately. They’re very interested in us and want to get to know us and our families, or how our days are going.” Barbara said. “When you’re in there, they’re happy – the food is often secondary.”
“No one should have to wait to eat.”