Board Stories

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Our Members Write In

JCP Downtown is lucky to have a wonderful, dedicated Board that not only guides the community, but finds life and love inside of it. Read their personal stories below to find out how JCP has been a part of their lives and why they continue to support JCP.

Ben’s Story

I recently came up with a mission statement for my life which included the following phrase: To be a steward of my tradition.

In 2001, the events of 9/11 happened not ten blocks from our home.  Ground Zero smoldered for months but when the acrid smoke cleared, it was easy to see the need for love, kindness, hope, and, yes, community. A few families could view with clear eyes what was needed. In the aftermath of the attack, JCP was founded, basically in our living room. A few things were and remain particularly important to me. 

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First, JCP is pluralistic. It doesn’t matter what your background was. If you have a colorable claim to being part of the Jewish community, you’re in. And you are genuinely welcome.  For someone like me, raised in a sectarian Jewish culture, that’s a breath of fresh air.  

Second, the community is connected.  I believe that in many ways–large, small, and infinitesimal–we are all interconnected in an array of dimensions.  Over the years, the few early families of JCP have formed a bond that goes well beyond being neighbors or parents of kids going to the same school. We support each other and confide in each other. Some of my closest friends are the people who have built the Jewish community in Tribeca. Our children have a special connection even though they have long ago dispersed to various schools.

Third, the community is transcendent. One of Judaism’s powerful teachings is Tikkun Olam, literally meaning the repairing of the world. Since we are all part of an interconnected world, we all have an obligation to fix it when it is broken. We have to delve in. Tikkun Olam is a concept of optimism. We can’t afford to be pessimistic about changing the world; if we only believe the world can get worse, we absolve ourselves of responsibility for doing something about it. Being hopeful and optimistic about the world is a core value that leads us to being bold and courageous in our dealings with the world. 

This community is Tikkun Olam. It was borne out of a desire to heal the deep wound of 9/11. It is a monument of repair, support, and hope. Through our community, I see and care for a universe that is much larger than myself. I am connected to a larger whole in a way that does not feel like a burden even if it requires accepting a level of responsibility. 

Today, our community of families and individuals remains a profound expression of pluralism, connectedness, and Jewish virtue. It is an awareness that we–as children, parents and, even grandparents–are deeply involved with one another in an intricate web of relationships. We have taken responsibility for one another. Far from being a burden, that responsibility sets free and gives expression to core Jewish values.  

So the purpose statement works not just for me alone. Through this community, we are each and all of us stewards of our tradition.

Ben Feder, JCP Board Member

Laurel’s Story

I moved to New York about four and a half years ago as a single mom. My husband had passed away a little less than two years before, and Jude—who was two at the time—and I came here looking for something like a fresh start.

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After a friend suggested JCP, I enrolled Jude and moved to TriBeCa. I could never have foreseen how Jude and I would be embraced by the community. The school was such a warm and nurturing environment for Jude. I could not have imagined more caring, hands-on and empathetic teachers and administrators (led by Rachel Mintz) who all helped to transform Jude from the shy two year old he was to the fun, loving, and incredibly outgoing six-and-a-half year old he is today—and made me feel at home from day one.

We have been so lucky to form such deep bonds with so many parents and kids from his JCP class—continuing to spend Shabbats together and all getting together to cheer the kids on playing soccer and baseball on the weekends.

Not long after moving to New York, Jude and I met my now-husband, Josh. Josh and I were all set to get married in April 2020, when the pandemic hit and forced us to cancel the wedding. Determined to find a way to get married one way or the other, Josh and I thought about who might be able to officiate a small ceremony in the backyard of my parents’ house in Sag Harbor and immediately thought of Rabbi Deena.

At the time, neither of us really knew Rabbi Deena, but we certainly knew of her and felt that she would be perfect. And she was. She spent the time getting to know us, learning about our story, and she made our wedding a beautiful and memorable occasion for us and our immediate families.

Rabbi Deena has continued to play such a special and important role in our family ever since. A year later, with the pandemic subsiding but not yet over, Rabbi Deena returned to my parents’ backyard in Sag Harbor to perform the baby-naming for Rosie.

These are just a few examples of what JCP has given to me over the last couple of years. I joined the JCP board, was one of the organizer’s of last year’s benefit, and have tried to play a role in making sure JCP will always be part of the downtown Jewish community and be in a position to provide others what it has provided me.

Laurel Weiner, JCP Board Member

Rachel’s Story

This is my first year on the Board but I have been a part of JCP for the past 7 years. Our JCP journey began in September of 2015. My son, Cole, was 20 months old and in JCPlay. The following fall he began his ECC journey in the Leaf Room, and I gave birth to my second son, Ryan. After my first year, I realized how much I loved the community and I wanted to get more involved.  I started with signing up for committees and being Class Parent.  

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In early March of 2020, right before the world shut down, I was asked to be Co-ECC Parent Association President for the 2020-2021 school year. This was an interesting time. I remember wanting to take on the role but feeling anxious about what the future of JCP was going to look like. Would we even be in school? During the lockdown, I had many zoom calls to discuss the following school year. I was so impressed with how Rachel Mintz, our amazing ECC Director, handled the situation. She made it clear that opening up in person in September 2020 was her priority. Sure enough, we opened that September.  

The hard part of being ECC PA President during that time was seeing how JCP couldn’t do all of the things that we did pre-pandemic. Cocktail parties, dropping your kids off in the classroom, in-person celebrations–these were all put on hold until further notice. Despite these challenges, we found a lot of ways to get together outside and we were just so grateful that our kids were in school, in-person and for five days a week!

Fast forward to the 2021-2022 school year. Things slowly returned to normal and we began to enjoy so many of the things that were lost during the COVID days. I remember at the end of the year feeling a huge sense of sadness that I was no longer going to be a part of the ECC. In my two years as PA President, I became so intimately involved in the school and felt such a closeness with the community. I knew I still wanted to be a part of JCP and was thrilled when I was asked to join the board. It’s so exciting to see JCP growing and flourishing and I’m looking forward to seeing this organization continue to thrive!

Rachel Yedid, JCP Board Member

Andrew’s Story

As a native New Yorker, I have visited many synagogues in Manhattan and on Long Island. While my family spent many years at various congregations, I never felt that I fully embraced these communities. There were always visits on the High Holy Days and life cycle events, but I never felt a strong bond. Perhaps because they were so large and had such large populations. There was a personal connection that was missing.

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My wife, Betsy, is not Jewish, and while she hasn’t formally converted, Betsy has embraced Judaism in a way that I could have never have imagined. We always agreed that we would raise our children in the Jewish tradition; when it came to our children’s Jewish education, we wanted a community that could embrace our mixed family and appreciate all the values and principles that we believe in. Even in 2022, a mixed family can find it hard at a traditional reformed or conservative congregation. 

At JCP, we found a home and a community rooted in authentic values like kindness, loyalty, learning, empathy, resilience, curiosity, friendship, spirituality and collaboration.

While many Jewish organizations in this city have been around for decades, JCP has sprung up out of a need for community and education; it has created a unique and vibrant culture that can adapt to today’s world, affording everyone the ability to embrace Judaism. Even though JCP has grown out of programs for our children, it has now evolved into a community for all ages.

Andrew Cohen, JCP Board Member

Sasha’s Story

The role JCP plays in our life is incredibly full–it’s a connection to old friends and a foundation for new ones. This is the place, the people, and the community we are living with every single day.  It’s hard to completely capture the essence of JCP because it’s not the big things, but the little things that happen in your normal day to day life.  

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JCP is the kind of community where recently, when our 6-month-old son was hospitalized with RSV, we received genuine calls of concern and well wishing notes from endless people. When our daughter was out of school, her classmates called to check in and make sure she knew she was missed. She talked about it for the rest of the day.  

Our oldest, an ECC grad, is in 5th grade Hebrew school. He is back together with former classmates and loves being in the same community as his sister. JCP provides connection for them as he tells her stories of being in “their school.”

There’s also a likemindedness that is inherent to being in a Jewish environment that is unlike any other ECC. Ensuring strong Jewish communities is as important now as it’s always been. Raising our children with core values and traditions we had growing up while also having the opportunity to experience moments like Shabbat and High Holy Days through their eyes has been extremely special. 

Everything JCP does considers the whole family and our family benefits from that sentiment. We are proud to play a part in creating a warm and welcoming space and with your help can continue to find ways to support JCP’s growth efforts together. We encourage you to join us in doing so–you may find more than you knew you were looking for!  

Sasha Martinez, JCP Board Member

Jared’s Story

It’s not easy for our family to fit into a single Jewish community.  We cover a lot of bases.  We’re Ashkenazi and Sephardic, American and Colombian, primarily Spanish-speaking at home, and dedicated to living downtown.  And our kids went to an Episcopal day school! 

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So when we looked for a Jewish community and a Jewish education for our children, an inclusive environment where we could fit in was a high priority.  The fact that JCP was centered around like-minded families, with kids, made it particularly welcoming.

The JCP HSP has provided our children with an excellent foundation in Jewish religion and culture.  Our daughters’ Bat Mitzvah training with Rabbi Deena was profound, permanently binding them to their history and Jewish identity.  Our younger daughter is a competitive gymnast which made her lessons a challenge, but JCP successfully worked with us on a flexible program.  In a city where both parents and children are overwhelmed with commitments, JCP makes it easy for families to fulfill their sincere hope for Jewish continuity.

Jared Friedberg, JCP Board Member

Shari’s Story

I am a proud new member of JCP’s Board and am honored to support JCP with service, as I have always believed in the importance of having a Jewish community to call my own. It has been important to me to know that I can connect with a community when needed–good times and bad.

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I have always given to JCP without much thought–it is ingrained in me (ever since I was a kid) that we should be financially supportive of our Jewish community, at a minimum, for the activities they provide and in which my family and I partake.  But I have only recently realized how important it is to be a true donor–someone who values the surety of knowing this organization will always be around, and that it will continue to be an organization of which I want to be a part.

This community is important to me, so I give to sustain it and ensure its lasting presence for my family and me and everyone else who benefits so greatly from it.

Shari Coats, JCP Board Member

Manda’s Story

When learning of our relocation to the US and deciding to move to Tribeca we started our search for pre-schools.  We toured a few local institutions and when we walked in through the doors of JCP it was an instinctual knowing and sense of instant belonging–this was our place.

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Some things cannot be said, only felt. The ruach was palpable. We sensed a warm and loving environment for our kids–this was so important to us given that we were leaving all our family and friends behind with no one here in NYC. Despite there being an ocean between our physical home, we felt JCP bridged the divide, offering a familiar and comforting spiritual home.

No more than six months into our New York journey, coronavirus struck. Isolated and unable to travel back home for what was to be three years, we found our family in all our friends at JCP. We have vivid memories of chicken soup and Wissotsky tea deliveries from JCP’s Kindness Committee when our family all got COVID in February 2021–we felt cared for. It was overwhelming.

Graduating from the ECC was a special milestone, but we feared our journey had come to an end and we would have to leave this very nurturing nest.

Alas, we now can’t wait for weekly Hebrew School, Friday evening Shabbat and High Holidays, and our latest JCP addition, Babies and Blessings!

JCP and all of its offerings is the connective tissue to our life and our people downtown. Paying it forward means to us that other families can be equally if not more enriched through everything JCP has to offer throughout the cycles of life. We’ve made deep connections, friends for life and found our spiritual home.

Manda Greenblatt, JCP Board Member