We are honoring Jewish values.
Name: Melissa Bellows
Connection: Volunteering at Early Childhood School programs allowed her to share her Jewish values.
Melissa Bellows and her husband moved to Cincinnati two years ago while he was a student at Hebrew Union College. They were both looking for a welcoming place to find a sense of belonging after moving.
Working right next door to the J at Wise Temple, Bellows said the combination of convenience and community made it the perfect choice.
“Once I had my son, I did in-home daycare while we were waiting for a spot to open at the Early Childhood School,” Bellows said. “A spot opened in November, and the wait was completely worth it. The teachers are kind and nurturing. I have a Masters in Early Childhood Education, and there’s still so much that I learn from them.”
In March, Melissa took part in the Early Childhood School’s Purim Project, an initiative to spread Mishloach Manot to local organizations. The mitzvah of Mishloach Manot on Purim originates from the accusations of Haman, a man that tried to persecute the Jewish people. Haman claimed that the Jewish people were divided. By sending Mishloach Manot, gifts that are often food and drink, the Jewish people are exhibiting a symbol of unity.
The Early Childhood School partnered with Visions Early Learning Center and delivered supplies for students. Located in downtown Cincinnati, Visions Early Learning Center provides not just quality care for children, but they support entire families by working with parents to receive high school diplomas, GED’s, and job training.
“We got to go in and have a whole morning of being together with the group. We spent time with them and showed them a part of our Jewish values and how we are happy to be partners with them, ” said Melissa.
For all of the things that Melissa and her family are involved in, she said that the inclusive programming is key: “Having everything in one place and knowing that it’s going to be of quality, knowing that I can get a massage at the J Spa, and my son is well taken care of and happy, is a big deal. I’d have to go to ten different places to do all of that.”
We are rooting you on.
Name: Lynn & Rich Moschel
Age: 71, 70
Connection: Working out at the J gave her strength, support, and her mobility.
Looking at Lynn and Rich Moschel, it’s clear that they’re more than a couple – they’re a team. Rich looks lovingly at Lynn as he states, “You’re an impressive person.”
In 2013, one week before their granddaughter’s bat mitzvah, Lynn was prepping their home for the celebration. As she was organizing and cleaning, she fell down a flight of their stairs – backward – headfirst.
Lynn was taken to University Hospital where she and Rich were informed that she had broken her neck. The medical staff told Lynn she was now a quadriplegic – paralyzed from the neck down.
After a stay in intensive care and weeks in in-patient care, Lynn began a regimen of physical therapy and training with Rich, her “forever trainer,” by her side.
Lynn’s physical therapist at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta Georgia suggested Lynn come to the Mayerson JCC for Pilates Training upon her return to Cincinnati.
Once Lynn and Rich joined the J, she started working with JCC Personal Trainers Heather Summer and Donnie Kalb to strengthen the parts of her body that help her support herself.
“Donnie and Heather care about me like family,” Lynn said. “We really can’t say enough about the staff here. All of the other trainers, even the ones that don’t work with me, the custodians, the administration – they’re all helpful and kind.”
“Lynn has redefined the word ‘strength,’ to me,” said Donnie. “Not solely in the physical sense, but in every way. Lynn and Rich are so quick to praise those they’ve worked with, but it’s Lynn’s determination and tenacity and Rich’s love and support that drive her
success in improving.”
Lynn can now walk independently with a walker – something she was told she would never do again. Every morning, Rich leads Lynn through a series of stretches to help her function without stiffness.
“When I see Lynn and Rich, it’s obvious that Rich is her biggest fan,” said Donnie.
“When we went back to the Shepherd Center for our visit, they said that Lynn’s improvement is largely due to the things she’s doing when she’s at the J,” Rich said.
We are where community lives.
Name: Rotem Greniman
Connection: Provided a sense of community and belonging.
Many describe the J as a “home away from home,” but for Rotem and her husband Erez Greniman, that sentiment couldn’t be more true.
The Greniman’s have been members at the Mayerson JCC for seven years. The couple moved here from Israel, and Rotem attributes their lack of homesickness to their involvement at the J.
“I feel like everything we had in Israel, I can get at the J,” Rotem said. Whether simply looking for a sense of community, or a safe place for her kids to play sports, Rotem found it here.
Rotem and Erez volunteer regularly at events and celebrations, including one of the largest Jewish Life events that the J organizes, Yom HaAtzmaut (Israel Independence Day).
“By volunteering and helping organize events, I feel like I’m a part of them. I prefer to be here for Yom HaAtzmaut because volunteering makes the celebration even more impactful and fun for me. It shows that even in Cincinnati, people care about Israel’s birthday.”
For Rotem, volunteering and being a part of the J community isn’t an option – it’s a responsibility. “We support programs because we want them to continue. It’s beautiful to volunteer and be a part of the community. I hope my kids learn that they need to volunteer to be a part of the Jewish community, and that they will when they get older. You learn to love volunteering and what it gives back to you.”
Holly Wolfson, Assistant Director of Programming at the J, became friends with Rotem after she joined, and encouraged her and her family to take part.
“Five years ago Rotem and I forged a friendship that quickly grew through our shared passion for the Jewish community. You can always count on Rotem to attend an event or volunteer her time and energy to a project at the J and beyond. We are so fortunate that Rotem and her family are part of our Cincinnati Jewish community,” Holly said.
Through Rotem and her family’s involvement, they have created a home for themselves in Cincinnati, and wove themselves into the fabric of the J.
We are a place to learn and grow.
Name: Chris, Ann Marie, and Bridget Bazeley
Age: 46, 46, and 2
Connection: Provided early childhood education and growth.
Chris and Ann Marie Bazeley were looking for the best childcare for their daughter Bridget.
They toured a few schools around town, but fell in love with the Early Childhood School at the Mayerson JCC because of the secure, creative, and caring environment.
“When I pull up for the day to drop her off, Bridget says, ‘Go to party? Go to party, mom?’ That’s what she calls school – it’s her ‘party.’ But it’s much more than a party – I love seeing how excited she is to be there,” said Ann.
Through Bridget’s learning at the Early Childhood School, she has picked up Hebrew language and songs, often singing them at the Bazeley’s Catholic church. “She’s learning a different culture, and we love it. She sings constantly, and she’s getting socialized so early,” said Chris.
In addition to her daily experiences at the Early Childhood School, Bridget learned how to swim at the J.
“The first day we came here for lessons, people were so nice. They helped me find the locker room, and in a few short weeks at lessons, her comfort in the water changed dramatically. We now use swimming as an incentive for her,” said Ann.
It’s clear that what the Bazeley’s have found at the J can’t be replaced – family, learning, and culture – all things that young Bridget is getting to experience as well.
We are life-changing experiences.
Name: Jacob Spiegel
Connection: Encouraged personal and leadership growth opportunities.
Growing up, both of Jacob Spiegel’s siblings were part of BBYO at the Mayerson JCC.
“It was sort of a rite of passage for me to join,” Jacob said. “Older members reached out to me and got me involved. They gave me rides to the J for different events.’’
After three years in BBYO, Jacob is now the Regional President of BBYO, over Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. He was previously the Chapter President and the VP of Recruitment. He started his senior year at Sycamore in August.
He cites BBYO as the place where he was able to hone his leadership skills and connect to his Jewish identity.
“I learned how to take the things that I’m passionate about and get others to feel that same passion,” Jacob said.
In April, Jacob took part in an Intercultural Day of Service with BBYO. The day brought together students from the Mayerson JCC, the Islamic Center of Cincinnati, and the Mother of Mercy High School in a volunteer-based initiative.
60 students represented the three largest religions in the world: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. The students created a new butterfly garden at Imago Earth Center and shared dinner together.
“I got to meet with kids from other faiths and learned that we’re all pretty similar. We realized that if you work together despite differences, that you can make a big change to yourselves and the community – and the rest of the world,” Jacob said.
While Jacob has been involved in many initiatives through his connections to the Mayerson JCC and BBYO, the Intercultural Day of Service resonated with him:
“All day we had been working and talking about making change, but then at dinner we were able to sit down and become friends and talk about ourselves and what we do; we connected on a personal level.”
We are empowering growth.
Name: Marjorie & Ella Rentz
Age: 45, 11
Connection: Gave a safe-space for athletic challenges and open conversations.
In May of 2016, Ella Rentz took part in her third Girls on the Run 5k with the Mayerson JCC.
Ella became involved in the community chapter after her family joined the J. “We had more of a sedentary lifestyle without a routine before we were members,” said her mother Marjorie Rentz.“Since Ella’s been in Girls on the Run, she now identifies as a runner. I’m so proud of her – I have to train to keep up with her when she runs.”
According to Marjorie, Girls on the Run gave Ella a place to grow and find her identity. When Ella became involved in Girls on the Run, she found a safe place to explore her interests, and her self-esteem increased.
“Girls on the Run is all about confidence and anti-bullying. GOTR has made a huge impression on me through self body image. I used to worry that I didn’t look good enough, but now I know true beauty is within me,” said Ella.
Marjorie added that the staff at the J make their experience in GOTR even better. After Ella being a part of the program for three years, Marjorie appreciates the role models, consistency, and structure that GOTR has provided for her daughter.
“It’s a tool for stress relief, and it’s helped Ella not worry about what people think of her,” Marjorie said.
Through a structured environment, and helpful staff, Mayerson JCC is helping Ella grow into a strong, capable athlete that is flourishing.
We are where inspiration lives.
Name: Rachel Sollofe
Connection: Provided activities, sports, and life-changing experiences.
“My family is Jewish Orthodox, and the JCC has gone above and beyond to help me – to get my kids an experience they would never have otherwise,” said Rachel. “We wouldn’t belong to a health club or sports leagues if it weren’t for the J, because leagues often have games on the Sabbath.”
Rachel Sollofe and her family have been J members for over 10 years. During that time, Rachel’s children participated in JCC sports and Camp at the J.
“Playing basketball with the J was an experience of a lifetime for them because they could play against other girls teams and wear their skirts and what they needed to wear,” said Rachel.
At Camp at the J’s Horseback Riding Camp, her daughter spent time grooming, handling, and riding horses. From this experience, she decided to pursue a position as a veterinarian’s apprentice and now aspires to be a veterinarian.
Rachel also reached her goals at the J.
“Because the trainers at the J helped me and continue to help me, I was able to continue with my health goals, weight loss, and exercise. I released some of my past issues with working out. Three years ago, I won the Commit to Be Fit challenge, and it changed my life.”
Rachel and her family have left an indelible mark on the J as well – her children’s names are on a mosaic installed in the J.
“I’m just amazed, seeing it at the groundbreaking to what it is now. It is astonishing to see what the community can do. I feel like we’re blessed to have this building, the programming, and to have a board that believes in keeping people Jewish and keeping Israel in their lives. It’s a beautiful thing.”
We are your support.
Name: Margo Rose
Connection: Working out at the J brought her back to life.
Just over a year ago, Margo Rose was 85 pounds heavier and unhappy with her health, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Simple tasks such as walking up the stairs to her apartment had become near insurmountable obstacles.
Margo reflected and resolved to make the change to eat healthier and become active once again. Armed with financial aid that covers part of her membership fees, she started coming to the Mayerson JCC’s fitness center five days a week. From the very beginning, Margo found a community of constant encouragement, both from her fellow members and the J staff. “There were so many supportive men and women who actually saw me lose the weight,” she remembers. “There were people who said, ‘Keep going, You can do it!’ And that’s the remarkable part about the J. 94-year-old Florence goes to water aerobics three times a week, and she inspires me. The people who work at the J inspire me. There’s a woman who works at the fitness desk who cheers for me. That’s not something you can buy and sell.”
The fitness staff and trainers helped her work through progressively more challenging Group Ex classes. She started with water aerobics and light weight training and has worked her way up to spinning, knock out, and barre classes. On her own, Margo rides the stationary bike and works with weights to build bone density and combat osteopenia.
She has also found a group of women at the J who serve as a network of friendship and inspiration as she continues her fitness journey. Just over a year in, Margo no longer suffers form high cholesterol, and her heart function and blood sugar are normal.
“I am a changed woman. My transformation isn’t over yet, but the J is behind me, and I owe my life to the J.”
We are your community neighborhood.
Name: Scott & Freddie Wolf
Age: 57 and 24
Connection: Provided lifelong family enrichment.
Freddie Wolf’s connection to the Mayerson JCC was forged long before he started working as the Teen and Tween Program Assistant, before he served on the BBYO board in high school, before he played for the Blue Jays and even before his mother, Natalie, attended Mommy and Me classes at the J. His father, Scott, has been a familiar face at the J since childhood and credits it for providing a strong support system for him after he list his own father at an early age. “The J has always been like a second home to me and, fortunately, for my kids, too.” Scott affirms.
To list all of the ways in which Scott, Natalie, Freddie, his brother Adam, and his sister Sarah have been involved with their second home would be a vast undertaking. Freddie and his siblings attended the preschool, took youth classes, and went to summer day camp at the J. Later, Freddie played Blue Jay basketball, with Scott coaching his team. Freddie went on to compete in the Maccabi Games in Austin, TX and won a silver medal with several of his best friends by his side. “The J is the first place where I was on teams with people; where I was able to work together with others towards a goal,” he recalls.
As Freddie and his brother and sister grew up at the J, Scott stayed deeply involved in the future direction of the organization. After gaining experience serving on the board, Scott stepped up as president for three transformative years as the J moved to its current building. During that time, he worked hard to ensure that the J would continue to be a place that truly serves its community.
These days, Freddie is putting his father’s vision into action, running the J’s middle school program, teaching youth classes along his former instructor, Mike Creemer, serving as the BBYO boy’s chapter advisor, and overseeing the Counselor-in-Training program at Camp at the J. On Wednesday nights, he and his father participate in the J softball league, an activity Scott has enjoyed for over three decades and can now share with his oldest son.
Through all of the programs and leadership positions, it is the human factor that keeps Scott and Freddie Wolf so tied to the Mayerson JCC. “Something that has really enriched my life is having people who are looking out for you and put your interests ahead of their own,” Freddie attests. “That is something the J provides.”
We are where age is only a number.
Name: Evelyn Kabakoff
Connection: Provided transportation and socialization opportunities allowing her to stay active and connected.
Evelyn Kabakoff, 85, is a part of the Senior Center here at the J. “I’ve been a part of it for years and years, it’s been wonderful,” she says. “I started coming way back when it was in Roselawn, then Montgomery road, and now in the big new building.”
There isn’t much Evelyn hasn’t done here with the Senior Center. “I took a beginner computer course once, did yoga which was excellent, and volunteered in the kitchen for many years. There are monthly birthday parties, nice Shabbat lunches every Friday, and day trips that I go on when I can.” One year Evelyn was even awarded Volunteer of the Year and remembers going to a special award ceremony with recipients from all over the city.
On top of the activities, Evelyn enjoys the logistics of the program. “The bus transportation is wonderful. They can even take you grocery shopping if you need it,” she says. “Once the bus drops me off it’s just nice to sit and have coffee and talk with other people.”
“It’s just great knowing that you can get out and be safe and have transportation. You get home and feel so good.”
Including Fridays, Evelyn is here two or three times a week. She tries to coordinate with her two best friends she’s known since 1976 on which days to come catch up at the J. Clearly her ties to the Cincinnati Jewish community run deep. “I went to Camp Livingston when I was a youngster,” she says. In fact, in 1952, Evelyn met her husband, Abe, while both attended a young adult weekend at Livingston.
We are life changing experiences.
Name: Jeff Silverstein
Connection: Created the experiences and training that paved his career.
Not many people would choose to visit their workplace on their day off, but this past summer, Camp at the J Unit Head, Jeff Silverstein, made a point to workout at the Mayerson JCC each weekend. “I like being around the people here,” Jeff explains. “The J is a place where I feel comfortable and at home.”
A Cincinnati native and University of Colorado senior, Jeff has been coming to the J since childhood and became especially involved when he was in high school. Already active in BBYO, he worked as a junior counselor at Camp at the J the summer after his sophomore year. Once school started up, Jeff worked at Club J on Sundays providing child care while parents worked out, a job he kept throughout the rest of high school.
During the spring of his senior year of high school, Jeff went on the March of the Living trip with 24 of his peers. The group visited concentration camps in Poland, participating in a march from Auschwitz to Birkenau on Holocaust Remembrance Day, and then traveled to Israel to celebrate Israeli Independence Day. “It was really this amazing experience to be there with a lot of my close friends, people with whom I had grown up with in the community,” Jeff recalls.
Upon returning, Jeff and fellow traveler, Brandon Sosna, started Project 6 Million, a platform for people to share statements after learning about the Holocaust and other acts of genocide. “If people can write what they’re inspired to do in the future to really fulfill the promise of ‘never again,’ we thought that would be a way we could make an impact,” he reflects.
Jeff continues to impact the lives of others as a counselor and then as the Trailblazers Unit Head at Camp at the J each summer. He plans to attend rabbinical school after graduating from college next spring, a decision that was influenced by his time at the Mayerson JCC. “Working here has helped me see ways that I can do all the things I love and not just have it be an extracurricular activity. It can really be my life and career.”
We are children laughing and learning.
Name: Tricia Wahl
Connection: Provided family support and childhood education.
“I love that everyone at the front desk knows and welcomes me. I come in for spinning at 5:45am and I am always greeted with a ‘Good morning!’ It makes me think, okay, I’m part of this community. There are lots of little experiences like that,” Tricia Wahl explains. Tricia found herself at the J five years ago, enrolling her oldest daughter Elizabeth in After Crew, the J’s after school program. After loving After Crew so much, Tricia decided to take a tour of the Early Childhood School at the J. At the time, her younger daughter, Paige, was at a preschool elsewhere. “We took a tour and met Denise, the director of the school. We couldn’t have been more impressed and transferred immediately.” Tricia recalls. “Both girls were here and it just felt right.”
“Paige took one of the ballet classes here when she was four. They had a little recital at the end of the class, which was adorable. Denise, multiple teachers, and other kids stayed until 7:30 at night just to support her. They truly cared and wanted to come see her.”
Now both girls go to Camp at the J every summer and After Crew during the school year. “It’s really cool to see how excited the counselors are to see the Wahl girls every year,” Tricia says. She also has enjoyed seeing how After Crew has evolved. “Teeny has done an amazing job with the program. I gave some feedback once and she listened and really tried to accommodate my suggestions.”
The more Tricia and her family do at the J, the more they feel like it is one big community. “I feel so comfortable now at the J, I’m doing things I normally wouldn’t. I’ve tried some new classes; things I’ve never done before like Commit to be Fit,” she says.
“The more I do at the J, the more people I know – it’s truly become a neighborhood facility.”
We are culture and tradition.
Name: Fran Coleman
Connection: Provided cultural arts events that enriched and inspired her life.
Fran Coleman has always enjoyed movies, and when it comes to the Mayerson JCC Jewish and Israeli Film Festival, she tries not to miss a single film. This year she made it to 9 out of the 10 films. “All the films are informative and open your eyes to see what’s going on in Israel,” says Fran. “I love the diverse perspectives that the films offer.”
“I look forward to the festival every year and am excited with how much this festival has grown over the years,” Fran explains. “Seeing all the types of people that come out is fun, too. We usually end up talking about the film after and exchanging reactions.”
Fran has also enjoyed other programming and talent brought in by the J. “I saw the Israeli guitar player, David Broza, perform here a few years ago,” Fran recalls. “I enjoyed it so much that I followed his music for a long time.”
While the J’s cultural arts programming is certainly a highlight for Fran, the J is a place that she and her family are all involved. “We use it together and independently in different ways,” she says. Fran has participated in many volunteer committees. Fran’s husband, Craig, frequently works out at the J. Fran’s teenage sun, Will, participates in BBYO and plays pick-up basketball. Her daughter, Dana, went on the March of the Living trip in 2014. Both Will and Dana chose to have their Bar and Bat Mitzvah parties in the Amberley Room at the J.
“The J really is the ‘glue’ of the community. We didn’t have that for a long time. It’s truly a connecting point for many people, and gives a very different feel from a congregation. The campus itself being home to other organizations demonstrates that it is a community center in every sense,” Fran explains. “We describe it to people who aren’t in Cincinnati and they’re so jealous.”
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