JCC opening: What youll find there

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The Taube Center for Jewish Life

Promoting Jewish literacy, learning, exploration and innovation through classes, workshops, lectures and public forums are the goals of the Taube Center for Jewish Life at the JCCSF. The Taube Center’s diverse opportunities for learning and celebration are open to all and address adults at every level of Jewish education.

Like so many other young men, David Phillips had a bar mitzvah at age 13, but that was the extent of his Jewish education for many years. His first JCCSF program, a social and current events forum called Talking Tuesdays, set Phillips on a rewarding course of exploration and learning.

In his nearly four years attending JCCSF programs, Phillips has found that Jewish teaching holds powerful relevance to his everyday life. His favorite instructor, Rabbi Aaron Hecht of the Richmond Torah Center, has a particular gift for encouraging debate and critical thinking.

Meeting other interested learners is another benefit of JCCSF classes. Phillips enjoys being in a community of Bay Area Jews that is respectful of wide-ranging opinions. He has even volunteered to help do outreach for Jewish education programs.

“Community building is very real in these programs,” he says. “The more people who see the quality and vitality of these programs, the stronger our community will become.”

The Center for Adult Living & Learning

The Center for Adult Living & Learning features programs for adults of all ages, enabling them to grow and develop as individuals as well as to make friends and build community. Programs address the needs of adults in different life stages and diverse relationships, promoting intellectual enrichment, creative expression, personal growth, social connections and the development of new skills.

Edna Eichelbaum knows that firsthand. Eichelbaum moved from New Jersey to San Francisco 10 years ago, as a widow at the age of 67. She joined the JCCSF on her sister’s recommendation. Yet Eichelbaum has gone far beyond just membership; she’s made many friends and has added tremendous personality to those around her.

In those early days, Eichelbaum decided to eat lunch at the JCCSF every day. Her secret for making friends was to sit at a new table every day. It worked like a charm. All her local friends are those she met at the JCCSF, Eichelbaum says. The opportunity provided at the center, combined with her ability to make friends, has created a number of warm connections.

The Kritzer/Ross Emigre Program

The Kritzer/Ross Emigre Program welcomes Russian-speaking emigres, fostering a sense of community and connecting them with American and Jewish life. While encouraging emigres to take part in other JCCSF and Jewish community programs, the program creates educational, social and cultural offerings that honor and preserve emigres’ traditions, connection to Russian language and culture, and the desire for communal activities with Russian-speaking friends.

Svetlana Leykin immigrated to the United States with her husband, 5-year-old son Dmitry and her parents in 1989. Fifteen years later she and her family — now including 10-year-old Robert — are thriving, thanks in part to their involvement with the JCCSF.

Soon after coming to San Francisco, Leykin enrolled Dmitry at the Havurah Youth Center, the JCC’s licensed after-school program. Dmitry's best friend to this day is one he made at HYC. Robert is active in day camps and anticipates his summer adventures throughout the year. Both boys have also taken Russian language, music and art classes at the center.

Leykin's parents also benefited from JCCSF programs, learning English in classes taught by the emigre department. Her father, now 84, has gained tremendous independence through his newly acquired communication skills. For her own part, Leykin has become a leader in the community. In 2000-2001 Leykin sat on the emigre advisory board, a group that shaped the program vision for the success now enjoyed by the department.

“The JCC helped my family settle in San Francisco and learn this culture,” Leykin says. “After all the JCC has done for our family, I am happy now to have the chance to give back.”

The Center for Youth & Family

The Center for Youth & Family strives to enrich the lives of youth and their families by providing a variety of opportunities for learning, growth and friendship in a Jewish context. The program seeks to build community among parents as well as children through an array of parent-child programs, and Jewish holiday celebrations.

Matt Mitchell, 10, and his sister Annie, 8, have been involved in JCCSF youth sports for more than 10 years combined. Matt’s intensity in the gym and on the baseball field earned him the nickname “Fireball” from his coaches. Many of those same coaches helped teach Annie to play soccer beginning in kindergarten. “Fireball” continues to play basketball and flag-football at the JCCSF.

Says athletic director Craig Salgado, “It wouldn’t be the same without them.”

The Koret Center for Health, Fitness & Sport

The goal of the Koret Center for Health, Fitness & Sport at the JCCSF is to promote health and wellness by providing fitness, aquatics, sports and education programs for people of all ages. The program seeks to build community by engaging people in classes, sports and recreational activities in which they can meet and have fun with others who share their interests.

One who has done just that is Sara Levin.

Levin always walked from her Cow Hollow apartment to work at UCSF’s Laurel Heights campus. Now she finds herself making a stop along the way. The 25-year-old Seattle native is excited about the convenience of exercising at the JCCSF, and learning about the range of other programs inside the new building at 3200 California St.

Levin spends her exercise time swimming, playing basketball and doing yoga. With so many things to complement her lifestyle, Levin’s only concern is spending so much time at the JCCSF that “people start to wonder what I’m always doing there.”

Claude & Louise Rosenberg Early Childhood Education Program

Enriching the lives of young children and their families by enabling learning, growth and exploration in a Jewish setting is what the Claude & Louise Rosenberg Early Childhood Education Program aims for. The program supports and enriches family life and Jewish community life through parent/baby/toddler groups, parent education, family education, social programs and holiday celebrations.

“The kids certainly benefit from the continuity, so a real sense of community develops for them and the families,” says Christine Chessen, who has her hands full. With 5-year-old Samantha, 2-year-old Oliver and a third child a few months away, Chessen’s family draws tremendous benefit from the center. Chessen and her husband, Kevin, first looked at the early childhood education program when comparing preschools for Samantha. They’ve been thrilled with the quality of care and education she receives.

Beyond the ECE program, Chessen enjoys the sense of community fostered by the variety of JCCSF programs. At the conclusion of the preschool day, the children can go straight to swimming or gymnastics class, all supervised by JCCSF staff. Samantha often attends both preschool and additional classes with the same friends, and the parents come to know each other as well.

Currently president of the ECE’s parent council, Chessen finds herself benefiting directly from center programs. She and Kevin recently attended Danny Hoch’s solo theatre piece, as well as a lecture on parenting strategies by Dr. Michael Thompson. Through these experiences, Chessen is seeing first-hand how the JCCSF builds community.

“You see the same people doing many different things, and you also see different people whenever you attend a new program. The community is just coming together in so many positive ways.”

The Eugene & Elinor Friend Center for the Arts

Want to see a show, hear a writer, watch a film? The Eugene & Elinor Friend Center for the Arts presents emerging and established performers, artists, writers and thinkers, all coming together to explore the far reaches of the Jewish imagination. Friend Center programs encompass a broad spectrum of the arts, including music, dance, film, art exhibitions, lectures, family programs and more.

Enjoying a variety of arts programs in the new JCCSF is an exciting proposition for Ingrid Tauber and her husband, Frank Taforo. The couple has already enjoyed an afternoon concert by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, in what will be a series of monthly chamber music concerts at the center. Tauber found the acoustics to be “outstanding” at that first concert. She looks forward to an array of experiences, including films, lectures, literary events, Jewish folk music and, of course, additional Conservatory of Music concerts.