A Recurring Question
At The Jewish Center
The Jewish Community Center's slogan, "I Be-
long" probably would be more appropriate if it
were changed to "Why Belong?"
With 1996 at the doorstep, serious questions re-
mainfor the Jewish Center. Yes, there are issues
of renovations, strategies to lease space to outside
organizations, replacement of key personnel, in-
cluding an executive director. The bottom line
though: membership is showing a trickling de-
cline. It resembles a faucet with an annoying leak.
In the immediate past, the JCC has, among oth-
Opened its doors to the general public.
Brought in Bravo's, at its Maple/Drake facility.
Considered millions of dollars in building ren-
Has had a revolving door with its executive per-
Has farmed out some of its classes' to the Cen-
ter for Creative Studies.
It's not going to be new bricks, mortar and paint
that spell success. The management of depart-
ments by private enterprise isn't necessarily the
What is going to count the most is what hap-
pens on the inside with membership. Members
and the community need to be shown why a Jew-
ish Center is relevant to their lives.
Two examples come to mind. When it was nec-
essary for this community to have a parenting cen-
ter to address the needs of the changing Jewish
family, why wasn't it considered for the JCC? In-
stead, Shaarey Zedek took on the task within a
five-minute drive of the 340,000 sq.-foot JCC.
Most recently, when the community needed
to mourn Israel's fallen leader, the central address
became Adat Shalom. The synagogue did an ex-
cellent job of hosting the event. But why isn't our
JCC in a position of being a community focal point?
That word needs to be revisited. Then we'll
THE DETRO I T J EW IS H NEWS
For Social Services, 1996
A Year Of Living Dangerously
Government budget slashing is the order of the
day. Many believe the social safety net has out-
grown its usefulness and helped people become
dependent, rather than independent.
The answer, politicians say, is less government.
Certainly less federal government, for state and
local agencies know what's best for their con-
stituents — and more charity.
But "block granting" to the states is often just
a cover for big drops in federal funding. History
suggests the added efficiency of local and state
governments may be more wishful thinking than
reality. And the nation's philanthropic system is
already overburdened, the result of the growing
gap between rich and poor and the steady erosion
of programs in Washington.
Year-end statistics reveal a national drop in
charitable giving. If contributions to Jewish
federations are any indication, the Jewish
community has seen the same, as most annual
campaigns across the country are either flat or
Besides, the reality is more complex than po-
litical rhetoric suggests, for government long ago
began relying on private charities — through state
and federal grants – to do much of the work of
housing the homeless, feeding the poor, counsel-
ing the troubled and healing the sick.
If the "reform" of the "welfare" system seems
like a change that will affect people far removed
from our daily lives (if what comes to mind is the
image of a pregnant, minority, teen-age mother
who is having more children to collect more
welfare), let the party horns that will be blown
across the country on Sunday night to ring in 1996
be a wake-up call.
Given the realities of politics, look for sharp cuts
in programs that help the most vulnerable, and
least powerful, in the next few fiscal years. Then
look for far more sweeping cuts toward the end of
the projected seven-year effort to balance the
But as gradual as the change might be, make
no mistake; it will be revolutionary and it will
affect us all.
This will change the way we pay for our
children's education. It will affect the way we
pay our family's doctors' bills. This revolution is
about providing for our parents' and grand-
parents' needs as the money for long-term care
dries up. It's about potentially long waiting lists
for help at Jewish Family Service when a teen-
age daughter needs counseling for drugs or an
eating disorder or a brother with AIDS needs
support. It's about Federation setting up oversight
committees in anticipation of a more planful
The shift in money to the states through block
grants is meant to make government more re-
sponsive, but are you confident that your state
is one in which the priority will be to take care of
people? Or will the politically popular instinct to
get tough on crime win out?
For behind political chest thumping about
automatic sentencing is an expanding prison
population (2 million and growing) and the
need to build more jails. Will your state legislator
be able to stand up for social service needs over
getting tough on crime? Will he be able to explain
that the money spent to keep a first-time drug
offender in jail would be better spent to educate
or feed that offender's younger brother or sister
— or your mother in a nursing home?
If you're not sure, you may want to ask before
the political drama in Washington ends and the
action in Lansing heats up.
the land is liberated." Numbers
of mostly young Arabs in Gaza
cheer any new act of terror by
Finally, there is a country still
"I hated Hebrew school."
I cannot recall how many times technically at war with Israel,
I have heard my Jewish friends which pursues that war through
in their early twenties tell me surrogates, namely Hamas. Since
that all Judaism is to them is bad Iran is not part of any peace ne-
memories of Hebrew school and gotiations, there is no end in sight
restrictions on what they were al- of its money, moral and military
lowed to do as children — "you support of Hamas. They are a
can't eat that" or "you can't play major cause of the limitations of
baseball after school because it any peace and reason for our re-
interferes with Hebrew school." duced expectations in the light of
Many in the Jewish community reality. Yet, the peace process
are alarmed by the rising rate of must go on, the point of no return
intermarriage. "Continuity" is the has long been passed.
buzzword of the day. If this is tru-
ly a priority in the American Jew-
ish community, action must be
taken to highlight the positive as-
pects of Judaism, rather than
merely focusing on the restric-
I firmly believe that if Judaism The article on "Dec. 24th at the
is to thrive (let alone survive), it JCC" did a huge disservice to the
cannot merely contain restric- Jewish singles community. For
tions, but must provide joy the past four years I have at-
through positive experiences. It tended this dance, along with 300
is much harder to abandon some- or 400 other Jewish singles. The
thing that is meaningful and has parties have been a lot of fun with
provided good memories than it mingling, meeting new people,
is to walk away from something and dancing on a packed dance
seen as a burden.
floor. The article unfortunately
Assimilation and intermar- reported that the atmosphere is
riage occur in one family at a not fun because it catered only to
time. Reversing the current singles, so this year, couples were
trends require the same effort — encouraged to attend. This atti-
one family at a time. I encour- tude backfired and single people
age those of you who truly care who used to attend stayed home.
about "Jewish continuity" to con- I am glad there are singles events
tribute something to this en- available to meet other single
Jews. I can meet married people
Fred Lampert anywhere, but I meet most of the
Albany men that I date at events de-
signed for singles. The JCC spon-
sors three singles dances a year,
now these are going to be taken
I was shocked to read that the
organizers stress that everyone
Yes, the peace process must con- is welcome, not just Jews. Of
tinue. A majority of Jews inside course, everyone is welcome, but
and outside Israel support that why is this "stressed"? A lot of
process, which has already Jews, like me, still make the ex-
brought considerable political and tra effort to only date Jews. Un-
economic dividends. It may also til I read this article I thought the
be assumed that a majority of Jewish community supported us.
I go to the JCC expecting to meet
Arabs support this process.
If there is any caveat to con- Jews.
Bring back the Jewish singles
sider, it is a caution against too
high an expectation about a dances that have been successful
peace. There will be some peace, for 40 years. That is what singles
but much blood will still be want and our community needs.
spilled. Mr. Arafat still holds
speeches about a Jihad "until all