By Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz
Less than ten years ago, the area of Marine Park had a small, tight-knit Jewish population. As more people moved into the neighborhood, the area began to thrive, and there was a clear need to address the needs of the rapidly growing population of young, frum, families here.
In 2008, an organization was founded for this purpose. Called the Jewish Community Council of Marine Park, its leadership was a determined group of individuals who wanted to make a difference for themselves and their neighbors.
Whenever a need arose, and there was a way to address that need, the JCC incorporated it under its umbrella. It found ways to offer services and benefits to its constituency, those who live within the borders of Marine Park, Mill Basin, and even beyond. Many people from throughout Brooklyn utilize the JCC’s services and today, the JCC offers residents numerous and various programs to better their lives.
With the understanding that many of our families are younger and have young children, we’ve implemented youth programs including a community-wide Avos U’banim initiative and Sunday programs for girls in which they can find creative outlets in a friendly, neighborhood atmosphere.
We know that being a community requires strong communication, so we’ve made strides to link our various kehillos and provide news and connections to all our residents regardless of where they daven or live. To that end, we produce The Jewish Echo, a full-color monthly magazine with not only local events and announcements, but quality content from world-renowned experts and writers. The Jewish Echo is a popular addition to the Jewish homes in our area, providing Shabbos reading material and food for thought. We also serve as a conduit for getting information out through our various e-mails and flyers.
One program we’ve begun is the “Scholar-in-Residence Program,” in which we bring a noted speaker into the community who lectures in several different venues over the course of a Shabbos. It has been well-received thus-far and we plan to do more of them. It’s another way of underscoring the unity of our community by sharing experiences and opportunities.
As we all know, financial hardships can tear apart families and communities. We at the JCC have been at the forefront of providing assistance to families hit by unemployment and the economic downturn we’ve witnessed in recent years.
Project Machal, the flagship program of the JCC of Marine Park, helps families with their most basic physical need, food, while preserving their most basic emotional need — their dignity. While other programs drop off boxes of food, the team at the JCC, in discussion with local Rabbanim, came up with a concept that avoids the potentially embarrassing deliveries.
Families on the program are given credit at local supermarkets, enabling them to make their own purchases and no one has to know they’re getting help. The business stays within the community, and donations are solicited from local residents in small increments so their charity really does begin at home.
During Pesach time, the JCC distributes hundreds of cases of staples including matzah, grape juice, fresh produce, and other staples to provide for over 150 local families who would be without if not for these packages. They also get a credit at local supermarkets to buy perishables like milk and eggs. Bringing volunteers together to help the less fortunate in our community is one way we keep an “out-of-town” feel in a community with 15 shuls and over a thousand families.
We also offer social programs designed to help people improve their life situations. We run a camp scholarship fund because we know how important a summer experience is for children and we help make it easier for people who qualify. Many people are eligible for various government programs or grants and are overwhelmed with the enrollment process; we are here to help them apply. Even better, though, are our employment initiatives.
We are constantly posting job openings on our website and we have monthly business networking events. We can help people write their resumes, conduct mock interviews, and perform other job preparation tasks, so they can get back on their feet and not need our help. We are looking forward to introducing software classes as well, where residents can gain valuable, marketable skills without having to pay for expensive training courses.
Another big part of what we do is interacting with politicians on behalf of our residents. We know that our neighbors have very specific interests when it comes to such things as zoning, shul and yeshivah security, and other issues that affect the welfare of our city. JCC informs these local politicians on what matters to our community and they get the message in a clear, succinct way.
A number of these politicians, such as NY Public Advocate Letitia James, Assemblymembers Roxanne Peraud and Rodneyse Bichotte, City Councilmembers Jumaane Williams, Matheiu Eugene, Allan Maisel, Pinny Hikind from the Comptroller’s office and Pinny Ringel from the Mayor’s office joined with prominent local Rabbis Elisha Weiss and Baruch Pesach Mendelson at the latest celebration of our ability to serve our neighborhoods.
Due to the JCC’s tremendous growth, in line with the growth of our community, we began work on a new building in July, 2014. Now operating out of three locations, with help from dedicated local people, we turned a dream into a reality as we opened the doors of the new JCC building located at 3415 Quentin Road.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new building was celebrated on September 6th, 2015 with over 1500 people in attendance. Highlighting the family-oriented nature of our organization, there were rides, cotton candy, snow cones, and gifts for all the kids who attended. People were able to visit the beautiful new Simcha Hall, which is available for the community(and beyond), so now you can rent out a modern, local hall for your upcoming vort, bar mitzvah, sheva brachos, bris, upsherin, or any other occasion you want to celebrate.
From the beginning, our mission has been the same: to be there for our friends and neighbors like family would be, and to help enrich the lives of everyone living here. With our new building, we hope to offer even more classes, events, and chances to benefit the members of our local family. It’s a place to bring people together and fulfill our mission of being there for the needs of people in and around Marine Park. It gives us a space to meet with people and advise them, guide them, and help them however we can. It simply gives the community another place to call home.
If you have an idea or initiative you’d like to see taken up by the JCC, or if you’d like to volunteer your expertise, knowledge, or services for the tzibur, call us. We invite anyone who has an idea that can benefit the Klal to reach out to our offices and see how we can make it work.
We are very blessed to be living in one of the largest cities in the world, yet to retain that strong, small-town connection with our neighbors. Every one of us in Marine Park, Mill Basin and environs can and should be proud of what we have here. Everyone should feel welcome, important, and like you matter. Because, at the end of the day, you matter very much, and that’s why the JCC is here.
Chaskel Bennett, Member of Board of Trustees, Agudath Israel of America
Community engagement is one of the most important components to effectively advocating for our political needs. The MPJCC has established a professional organization that effectively represents the Marine Park Jewish community at the highest levels of local government. I wish my friend Shea Rubinsteon and the MPJCC continued strength and success as we take on new challenges facing our community together.
Dr. Israel Zyskind, Community Askan
The JCCMP’s extraordinary growth over the past few years is the direct result of the tremendous amount of effort, energy and love that many of our own members, Rabbonim, and specifically Shea Rubenstein has instilled into it. “The person who says it is impossible should not interrupt the person doing it!!!”
Rabbi Mordy Plotsker,
Congratulations to the JCC of Marine Park upon its recent ribbon-cutting event that drew young and old together to celebrate the completion of its new building situated in the heart of Marine Park. Shea Rubinstein and his team are selflessly devoted to building a cohesive community, one that unites the more than dozen synagogues, as well as promoting social advocacy and community services. In recognition of creating countless acts of Kiddush Hashem, may Shea and his tireless staff and respective families, be blessed with continued success, this year, and always.
Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte
The Jewish Community Council of Marine Park (JCC-MP) is a leading community-based organization that has an impressive commitment to serving the needs of a wide range of residents over the course of their lives — from childhood through adulthood. Their commitment to meet and heal the needs of community residents today will result in better outcomes overall. I feel fortunate to have such a resource in my district.
Mendy Rinkoff, Chief Financial Officer, JCCMP
For myself JCCMP started as a part-time stop-gap, almost a hobby about three and half years ago. But gradually one began living through a vision, seeing how a relatively small group of people can fashion a whole community into one of care and unity. Personally, I became part of a metamorphosis representing growth from a desk and a phone into a young dynamic organization which, through continued team-work shows, and has proven, its intent to effect positive additions, whether social or educational, to the local community of Marine Park and neighboring district. Our growth is an exponential of our efforts. You could you say our team motto could be “good to better and better to best.” JCCMP is not only ‘we try harder’, but ‘we must do better’ since that, it would seem, is the only way to grow in an ever-accelerating society. And I am one of that team.
Rabbi Baruch Pesach Mendelson, Rav of Khillah Marine Park
JCCMP creates an opportunity for achdus in a multiple kehilla community.
Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein
I have been amazed by the growth Marine Park has seen in the past decade, with hundreds of young families joining the thousands who already call this beautiful and quiet neighborhood home. During the economic recession Shea Rubenstein and the JCC of Marine Park stepped up to the challenge with a variety of programs for families who had found themselves in dire straits. In no time at all, the JCCMP established itself as a true “one-stop-shop” and an indispensable source of assistance, programming, and advocacy. The JCC of Marine Park new headquarters, central to the community and people it serves, will allow them to continue to grow and do great work. I applaud them and wish them much success in the years to come.