The welcoming chocolate chip cookies were everywhere, and so were the people who had come to rekindle old relationships or start new ones at the Barry and Florence Friedberg Jewish Community Center in Oceanside, which held its grand reopening ceremony on Sunday, 12 weeks after its main building had closed in preparation for Hurricane Sandy.
Newcomers or old-timers, the hundreds who attended the Sunday ceremony were glad to see the centrer back in full operation.
George Weiss, who served in the Marines in World War II, sat with Rhona Tannenbaum and Jerry Schnall, a Korean War sailor, at a small, round table, drinking coffee and noshing, discussing the importance of the JCC to the Oceanside community, and particularly to senior citizens. All said that they come to the JCC for the social activities.
“Without the wonderful programs that they have here where we can get together and socialize, I’d have to stay shut in at home, like I did when the JCC was out of operation,” Weiss said with a laugh. “Don’t want to stay at home.”
“We really missed it when this building was flooded,” Tannenbaum added. “You don’t know how much you miss the social activities until they’re gone.”
It took 12 weeks to restore the building, Arnie Preminger, the center’s president and CEO, told the Herald, although some of its services were provided in three trailers in the parking lot.
“We had four inches of saltwater and sludge throughout the building,” Preminger said. “There was nothing salvageable. Every wall, every floor had to be removed and put back in place.” The heating and electrical systems were destroyed. Only the pool and the gym survived, he said.
“We had to come back as soon as we could because this neighborhood needed some stability, and we provide that for Oceanside and the surrounding communities,” Preminger said.
Approximately 160 members were displaced by the storm and could not maintain their memberships, he explained, adding that the JCC is “working with them to bring them back with incentives and special rates.” All of the 400 staff members and 150 volunteers that run the programs are back, he said.
In addition to its adult and senior citizen programs, the JCC serves 500 children in its early-childhood centers and another 1,200 in its kindergarten to teen and camp programs.
Nancy Hollander, who runs the camp programs, watched the children and adults enjoying an arts and crafts experience and summed up the center’s mission. “It’s all about kids, their families and the seniors,” she said. “That’s why we had to come back.”