Learn how the Gural JCC, Ramer Chesed Center joined forces


Two community organizations have joined forces to expand support. As of July 1, The Marion & Aaron Gural JCC has assumed operations at the Mark Ramer Chesed Center in order to provide more services.

The Chesed Center (chesed means kindness in Hebrew), was established in 2021 to honor Mark Ramer. He grew up in Poland, raised by two Holocaust survivors.

He moved to America in 1960, studying at Jamaica High School, Queens College and NYU Dental School, going onto a career in dentistry for 10 years and later real estate.

Ramer was president of the Jewish Center of Atlantic Beach and a president of JCC Global. After a trip to Mexico City visiting a Jewish community center, Ramer was inspired to duplicate the chesed center he saw there. He died in 2019.

Rabbi Simcha Lefkowitz, chief rabbi at Congregation Anshei Chesed in Hewlett, created the center under the Leon Mayer Fund, which started 30 years ago with the intention of providing food, clothing and other products to families in need.

Good360, a global organization donates clothing and goods to the Leon Mayer Fund, as well as local vendors and Walmart, said Shani Lefkowitz, Simcha’s wife and longtime volunteer with the organizations.

They also receive donations of linens and household appliances, to be given to families in need that visit the chesed center, at 15 Prospect Ave. in Hewlett.

Simcha reached out to the Stacey Feldman, executive director at the Gural JCC in early 2023 regarding the JCC taking the operational reins.

“I wanted to have this Chesed Center be within the confines of a larger organization,” Simcha said. “The JCC is very much strategically the organization in our area that would be able to bring this to a much higher level.”

The Gural JCC opened in 1979. It was formerly the Greater Five Towns YM&YMHA, then the JCC of the Greater Five Towns, before being named in honor of Marion and Aaron Gural in 2015.

The JCC provides educational, recreational and social services at the Cedarhurst location on 207 Grove Ave., as well as the Hamilton-Kerr Family Campus in Lawrence.

The Gural JCC and Chesed Center, combined forces in July, but a formal announcement of the JCC’s acquisition of the Chesed Center space is yet to come. Feldman was thrilled to gain such a great role in the operations of the center, she said.

“He’s done an amazing job,” Feldman said of Simcha’s management of the center. “We’re not changing anything, were just adding.”

She said that JCC and Chesed Center clients would now have accesses to services of both organizations including the JCC’s food pantry, social programs and the Chesed Center’s clothing sites.

Shani has been volunteering with the Leon Mayer Fund since its start, guiding people who register to pick up donations from the Chesed Center.

“It’s very, very rewarding when people come out with shopping bags,” Shani said.

She believes that the JCC’s role will add to the Chesed Center’s obvious impact, she said.
“It doesn’t need change, it needs more direction,” Shani said.

The Leon Mayer Fund will remain a part of the Chesed Center, as long as Simcha is a part of it, Feldman said, but he physical Chesed Center location is operated by the JCC now, Simcha said.

To get involved or register for Chesed Center and JCC services, go to LeonMayerFund.org or GuralJCC.org.