On Tuesday, Oct. 20, the Raymond and Miriam Klein JCC and the Jacob and Esther Stiffel Senior Center celebrated their official beginning as a single agency, following the recent decentralization of the Jewish Community Centers of Philadelphia.
Steve Klein, son of the JCC's founders, described the agency as his parent's "pride and joy." He termed the milestone "an opportunity to improve the services of the agency — services that benefit us all."
The celebration also officially marked the beginning of Klein and Stiffel's operation as one financial entity, which includes responsibility for fundraising.
Federation, which funds approximately 40 percent of the center's operating budget, supports this new JCC model.
"This celebration marks an exciting new chapter in the history of two prominent social-service organizations. We are confident that Jewish community members in Northeast and South Philadelphia will reap the benefits, as both centers share strengths and resources to address the needs of the community," said Ira M. Schwartz, CEO.
Ande Adelman, Chief Community Development Officer of the Jewish Federation, addressed the crowd, saying: "Federation is thrilled to be part of the launching of this new enterprise for both Klein and Stiffel. These centers are a vital part of our Jewish community — and Federation is proud to be a partner in this new beginning."
Programs and services offered by the Klein JCC and Stiffel Senior Center will not be affected by the change, according to Andre Krug, president and chief executive officer of the new entity.
Ernest Kahn, a former Federation executive who oversaw the legal, fiscal and logistical process of decentralization, expressed confidence that the new beginning will strengthen the centers' ability to serve the needs of their individual neighborhoods.
The Gershman Y and Kaiserman JCC are also now operating as independent agencies.
Klein, located in Northeast Philadelphia and Stiffel, located in South Philadelphia are accredited senior centers, which focus on meeting the needs of seniors, many of whom are low-income. The Klein also offers academic, pre-school and after-school programs for the American and Russian community. The center runs a community kindergarten program and evening Russian language and culture classes for school-age children and adults. Klein also offers student basketball leagues and a fitness and aquatics center.
For Susan Hoffman, Stiffel Center site director, the event served a dual purpose: "We are here to celebrate not only our new beginning as a new agency, but also to reflect upon all of the vital services we provide to older people living in Philadelphia."
Mollie Kleiman, 85, a Stiffel Senior Center member for 20 years, said: "I think it's nice that we'll be joined with Klein."
She expressed enthusiasm that "now we'll be an even bigger family."
According to 82-year-old Sara Weingram, the Klein is her "second home."
Weingram began volunteering with the "Cook for a Friend" program there four years ago, and is an active participant in exercise and yoga classes. She said that she enjoys talking with people she otherwise wouldn't have met and summed up her feelings in one sentence: "The center is a beautiful place."
Krug said that the appreciation expressed by members demonstrate the vital importance of the programs offered by Stiffel and Klein — programs that he and Hoffman are committed to strengthening.
"Our centers give seniors a reason to get up in the morning," he commented.
Some 250 people attended the event announcing the new change, including community leaders and participants in Klein and Stiffel programs.
Music was provided by the Stiffel Swingers — a volunteer group of retired musicians from the Stiffel Center — and Klein's Fargenign Russian Choir. The kindergarten class at Klein also performed two songs during the event, which featured a dessert reception sponsored by Betty the Caterer.
The event included presentations by Krug; Gary Freedman, co-chair of the board of directors; Klein, Lyn Ross, co-chair of the Friends of Stiffel Senior Center; Ernest Kahn, president of the now-dissolved JCCs of Greater Philadelphia; and Manya Perel, volunteer and Klein JCC member.
Political leaders, including Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and U.S. Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz delivered statements of support. John Sabatini, Jr. attended the event as well as representatives from Brendan Boyle and Mike Stack's offices.
The new beginning brings with it some new challenges, as well as opportunities, noted Krug.
"Social services don't generate funds," he said. There is no limit to the demand for services, due in part to the aging of the population, he added.
"We have a core of volunteers who are committed to raising funds, and we are confident that together with the generous support of Federation, the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, and individual and corporate donors, that the Klein Community Center and the Stiffel Senior Center will continue to deliver high-quality, essential services to the elderly and to families in Philadelphia."
For more information, call Andre Krug at 215-698-7300 or e-mail him at: [email protected]