April 22, 2024
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YJCC Develops ‘JCC Without Walls’ Concept

The YJCC of Washington Township has ambitious plans that it now has the means to implement.

The organization, which was originally formed 100 years ago in 1917, sold its building at 605 Pascack Road in Washington Township on June 20. The proceeds will be used to expand its services and, as Abby Leipsner, its CEO, explained, “make good on its mission of bringing the community together.”

Here’s the background that led to this latest development. The property had been bought in the early 1980s, with the building constructed in 1987. There its status remained until August of 2015, when the YJCC board decided that the organization was better off not having a building. Shuttering its physical headquarters would allow it to refocus its energies and increase the scale of activities, concentrating on those most needed by the community. Since that decision, activities and events have been conducted in public spaces, such as parks, community rooms of municipalities and popular retail outlets such as Dunkin’ Donuts. Synagogues in various towns have also served as meeting places. The concept is essentially a JCC without walls. Leipsner explained that the “Y” in YJCC represents a “Young Men’s, Young Women’s Association of Bergen County.” Among the advantages of morphing into a mobile institution is that there’s no need to be concerned that the Washington Township location is too far away for some.

Leipsner detailed the scope of plans aimed at various age groups that will be put into play. What she doesn’t want is to duplicate services already available locally. For example, they had a fitness center but realized that with several other such centers available in the area, it no longer made sense. What they plan to move forward with is wide-ranging and inclusive. Services will involve “early childhood education, teen engagement, young family engagement, senior nutrition and other programming for older adults, social and learning groups for empty nesters, and programs for the special needs population,” said Leipsner.

Geographically, the YJCC will cover a good portion of Bergen County but plans to expand its reach. “We cover from Franklin Lakes to Oradell, from Hackensack to Mahwah,” noted Leipsner. Although currently there is a modest staff of just five employees, Leipsner said it will be expanded to accommodate the anticipated needs. She added, “We have a very active board and a group of volunteers numbering around 100.”

When asked by The Jewish Link how the YJCC differs from the JCC on the Palisades and the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, Leipsner offered some revealing comments. “On paper, we are like the JCC on the Palisades, but there is a big difference. They have 125,000 Jews in their service area covering 18 zip codes. We have 25,000 in 48 zip codes. We hit areas that are not as concentrated. The scale is different.” In keeping with the idea of avoiding duplication, the YJCC will be serving Jewish communities that are outside the reach of the Palisades JCC. She spoke of the Federation as an umbrella organization, with the YJCC “focusing on building community through social, recreational and cultural activities.”

Leipsner concluded by explaining the overarching purpose of such organizations, saying that “all JCCs play a role in creating Jewish memories and building Jewish friendships and relationships.”

By Robert Isler

 Robert Isler is a marketing researcher and a senior content writer who lives in Fair Lawn. He can be reached at [email protected].

 

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