AJCC Stories and Interviews

Friday, December 1, 2017

Staff Spotlight: Paula Avchen

Paula Avchen has been an integral part of the AJCC’s preschool program for 20 years. She has a B.A. in education from the University of Denver, Colorado and has devoted her life to education—she holds three teaching credentials in education, has a clear credential to teach high school sociology, and is a licensed preschool director. Paula is very animated as she explains, “I’ve always been a teacher. I taught middle school 6-8th grade, in Chicago (where I grew up), as well as here in California. And even though I am licensed to teach in the public schools and could be a preschool director, I love what I do here at the J and want to stay in the classroom with the kids.”

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Posted by: Erika Silver Hillinger on Friday, December 1, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)



Sunday, October 1, 2017

Staff Spotlight: Rick Arciniaga

Rick Arciniaga is one of the friendly members of the AJCC accounting office, and as Controller, it’s his job to make sure that everything financial runs just the way it’s supposed to. He is so good at this job that you would think that he had always planned to be an accountant, but Rick says that he just fell into finance. “I was going to school,” Rick explains, “and I went to McDonald’s to earn some extra money. It was supposed to just be a summer stint to pay for a car, but I fell in love with the job. I really liked the fast pace, and this job became an opportunity to mold myself differently...

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Posted by: Erika Silver Hillinger on Sunday, October 1, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)



Friday, September 1, 2017

Staff Spotlight: John Reynoso

John Reynoso has been working at the AJCC for more than 17 years. Every banner, poster, and ad that you see around the J resulted from John’s creative talent. Although he is now a crucial part of the J’s marketing department, he didn’t start out to be a graphic designer...

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Posted by: Erika Silver Hillinger on Friday, September 1, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)



Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Staff Spotlight: Kedma Cantor

Even if you don’t get back to our preschool very often, you have likely seen Kedma Cantor offering challah baking workshops, hanging out by the pool with her kids, or even upstairs at the gym. Her friendly face, warm smile, and vast array of hats, are always a welcome sight. Kedma is from Manitoba, Canada, which, she explains, “is in the prairies. We have three months of 40 below weather. It’s quite a change from Long Beach!...

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Posted by: Erika Silver Hillinger on Tuesday, August 1, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)



Saturday, July 1, 2017

Staff Spotlight: Herlina Fraher

Herlina Fraher is one of the AJCC’s fabulous accountants. You have probably met her and her infectious laugh if you’ve ever had to go into the accounting office. Herlina has a wonderful way of putting everyone at ease. She grew up in Jakarta, Indonesia and after high school went to Cal State Long Beach as an exchange student. “I chose Long Beach,” she explains, “because my cousin was a professor at Cal State Long Beach. I was married very young, at 20, and the next year I had my son. I took some time off of college to take care of him and then went back to school when he was 5. I got my degree in accounting and went to work for Cemex, a Mexican multinational building materials company. I worked there for 6 years and met my current husband, Jack. I didn’t want to work in the same place as him, so I started temping and was eventually placed at the AJCC. I loved it here, so I stayed!”  

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Posted by: Erika Silver Hillinger on Saturday, July 1, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)



Thursday, June 1, 2017

Staff Spotlight: Leah Bleidistel

Leah Bleidistel is one of our dedicated staff members who first started coming to the Alpert JCC when she was a child. She went to camp here and attended many activities (including Hebrew High) that took place in the building. She loved the J and knew that when her oldest son, Michael, got to preschool age (he is now 22), I wanted him to go to the J. It was pure fortune that she also eventually started working here...

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Posted by: Erika Silver Hillinger on Thursday, June 1, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)



Monday, May 1, 2017

Staff Spotlight: Brandon Julian

Brandon Julian first came to the AJCC when he was 14 and volunteered for Gesher in the Game Room (now called Kids’ University). “I was a CIT first and then volunteered for a year.  Shortly after receiving the Chai Volunteer award, I was hired as a Jr. Counselor for Camp Komaroff.  I moved up quickly.  First I was a Jr. Counselor, then a Sr. counselor, and then my last summer before I went to college, I was the CIT coordinator. I went to college at Humboldt State in Northern California and got my degree in Child Development.  After college, I came back to Long Beach and was the CIT coordinator for one more summer...

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Posted by: Erika Silver Hillinger on Monday, May 1, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)



Saturday, April 1, 2017

Staff Spotlight: Ronnie Levine

Ronnie Levine is one of the tireless AJCC staff members who really makes this place run. She does so much for the J that it’s hard to know how she gets it all done. As Adult Program Coordinator, Ronnie helps with the Senior programs, the Jewish Life and Culture programs, and most of the special events, including the Jewish film festival, Purim Carnival, vendor fairs, and the upcoming Yom Ha’Atzmaut program. Most of the trifolds in the Promenade are Ronnie’s handiwork, and you can see her staffing many programs. Ronnie is truly an invaluable part of the AJCC team.

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Posted by: Erika Silver Hillinger on Saturday, April 1, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)



Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Staff Spotlight: Brandon Julian

Brandon Julian first came to the AJCC when he was 14 and volunteered for Gesher in the Game Room (now called Kids’ University). “I was a CIT first and then volunteered for a year.  Shortly after receiving the Chai Volunteer award, I was hired as a Jr. Counselor for Camp Komaroff.  I moved up quickly.  First I was a Jr. Counselor, then a Sr. counselor, and then my last summer before I went to college, I was the CIT coordinator. I went to college at Humboldt State in Northern California and got my degree in Child Development.  After college, I came back to Long Beach and was the CIT coordinator for one more summer...

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Posted by: Erika Silver Hillinger on Wednesday, March 1, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)



Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Staff Spotlight: Dana Schneider, Director of Camp and Young Adult Programs

Dana Schneider returned to the Alpert Jewish Community Center staff family last September as Director of Camp and Young Adult Programs. Dana grew up as an AJCC member in the old building. She attended Camp Kadimah, performed in Summer Stock, and participated in the youth and teen group. Dana visited Israel at age 15 with an AJCC group and developed great connections with her fellow travelers.  Once she left for Boston Conservatory and Wagner College, where she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Theater, she would return to Long Beach every summer to work at Camp Komaroff.

As Dana explains, “After college...

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Posted by: Erika Silver Hillinger on Wednesday, February 1, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)



Monday, January 30, 2017

Staff Spotlight: Erika Hillinger, Director of Marketing and Communications

Erika Hillinger has been a part of the Long Beach Jewish Community since she moved here in 1991. She grew up in Bakersfield, CA and knew only one other Jewish family. Her uncle sent her to Israel when she was 16, and the rest is history. When she went to UCLA for her undergraduate degree (World Literature, including Hebrew lit), she became an active member of UCLA Hillel, the Jewish Union, Israel Action Committee, and lived in the Westwood Bayit, a kosher and shomer Shabbat Jewish Co-op. When she graduated, she decided that she would like to continue her Jewish studies and entered a dual Ph.D. program in Social Ethics and Religion at USC/Hebrew Union College. While at USC, to pay her tuition, she taught English 101 in USC’s Freshman Writing Program. She received her MA in 1990 with an emphasis in Jewish Ethics and Feminist Ethics...

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Posted by: Unknown on Monday, January 30, 2017 at 8:00:00 am Comments (0)



Sunday, January 1, 2017

Staff Spotlight: Nicole Malina, Director of Development

Nicole Malina is one of the newer additions to our AJCC family. She grew up in New York in a very strongly Jewish identified family, and Jewish values were a very important part of her upbringing: Tzedakah, Tikkun Olam, and the value of welcoming the stranger were all very important to her family. These values have clearly remained important to her throughout her life. She had her Bat Mitzvah in Israel on Mount Scopus, and her B.A. is from NYU in Ethnic Studies with a focus on Judaic Studies.

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Posted by: Erika Silver Hillinger on Sunday, January 1, 2017 at 8:00:00 am Comments (0)



Thursday, December 1, 2016

Staff Spotlight: Shlomit Jackson

Shlomit Jackson has been a part of the JCC since she was in high school and worked as a camp counselor. Beginning in high school, she also taught Hebrew and Judaic studies at various temples in the area. “I have always kept my close relationship with my faith and with Israel and my family. I can’t see myself doing anything else. When I had my daughter, Danielle, I became a member here again because I wanted her to be in the preschool (ECE). When my son, Noah, started here, it was the perfect time to start working again, and where better than the ECE? ...

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Posted by: Erika Silver Hillinger on Thursday, December 1, 2016 at 8:00:00 am Comments (0)



Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Staff Spotlight: Susan Mathieu

When Susan Mathieu was a teenager, her family came to the JCC pool every day. She loved growing up here at the J, and she participated in the teen programs, including camp and Summer Stock (she was in Bye Bye Birdie where she had one line!). In those days, the teens had a senate which trained them for leadership roles in the community. “The senate program was my foundation for leadership. I was also a camp counselor for five summers when we had the resident camp, Camp Kadimah. There was a program called CLEW, (Center Leadership Educational Workshop) where they taught the teens to be leaders. We traveled to different Jewish centers throughout the southwest and stayed in people’s homes, and they would come here and stay with us. It was a great exchange program...

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Posted by: Erika Silver Hillinger on Tuesday, November 1, 2016 at 8:00:00 am Comments (0)



Saturday, October 1, 2016

Staff Spotlight: Gayle Ehrenberg

Gayle Ehrenberg has been a part of the Alpert Jewish Community Center since she came here with friends when she was in middle school. She always thought it was a great place to hang out, and she enjoyed being a part of the community. When she had her first son, Asher, she enrolled him in the Early Childhood Education program, and that’s when the fun began! In 1999, Gayle was offered an administrative position with Lynne Rosenstein in the adult department. She has a degree in instrumental music (she plays the sax!) from Cal State Long Beach with an emphasis in Special Education, so it was natural that she eventually became a part of the ECE staff...

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Posted by: Erika Silver Hillinger on Saturday, October 1, 2016 at 8:00:00 am Comments (0)



Thursday, September 1, 2016

Staff Spotlight:: Susan Paletz

Susan Paletz grew up at the Long Beach JCC. She was involved with teen programs, summer stock (she made her debut as a bird) and she was extremely active in BBYO (BBG). She went to Chapman University Semester at Sea, a phenomenal experience traveling around the world for seven months. This experience, Susan explains, is “what really shaped me and motivated me to get involved with a non-profit. Seeing different cultures and different challenges that people around the world were facing really made an impression on me and I wanted to give back.” ...

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Posted by: Erika Silver Hillinger on Thursday, September 1, 2016 at 8:00:00 am Comments (0)



Monday, August 1, 2016

Staff Spotlight: Fred Johnson

Fred Johnson came to the AJCC this past January with a background in fitness and personal training consultation. Originally from Los Angeles, Fred has had a varied and fascinating career! Fred went to high school in Atlanta and got his Bachelor of Science degree in Sports Management from North Carolina State. From there he moved to San Diego and then played professional baseball in Japan for three years. After some injuries, he finally hung up the sneakers and cleats. Because of his own experiences with sports rehab, he developed a passion for personal training by learning about Occupational Therapy and Functional Sports Therapy. “That’s when I fell in love with the fitness industry,” Fred says. “And I got my certification in personal training from National Association of Sports Medicine.” ...

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Posted by: Erika Silver Hillinger on Monday, August 1, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)



Friday, July 1, 2016

Staff Spotlight: Natalie Chernik

Natalie Chernik truly grew up at the Alpert JCC. She starting coming here in preschool at age 2 and participated in Camp Kadima until age 10. Her mom worked here as Joe Parmet’s (Executive Director from 1973 – 1998) assistant, and because Natalie would hang out after school here, Joe decided that it would be good to have an afterschool program for older kids (what is now Kids’ University). As a young teen, Natalie frequently volunteered at different events at the JCC, and she would help out serving water and coffee. When she was about 15, Susan Paletz asked if she wanted to work at summer camp. She said, “Sure!” and has been here ever since!...

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Posted by: Erika Silver Hillinger on Friday, July 1, 2016 at 8:00:00 am Comments (0)



Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Staff Spotlight: Irene Velasquez

Irene started working at the JCC in April 2012 and has been going full force ever since. She started in babysitting and then decided she would like to move into member services. In her second year here, Jeffrey Rips identified her potential and her wonderful ability to shine around people, and she became the customer service lead. Irene was trained on schedule and payroll, and then she became Customer Relations’ Supervisor. In 2013, she became a part of the membership department and she began to do tours and rentals.

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Posted by: Erika Silver Hillinger on Wednesday, June 1, 2016 at 8:00:00 am Comments (0)



Friday, April 1, 2016

Member Spotlight: Mike Henderson

After 17 years as one of the J’s most popular fitness trainers, Mike Henderson said a bittersweet goodbye last month as he and his wife, Marge, headed to Northern California and new adventures. More than 80 people gathered on Tuesday afternoon, March 15, to wish Mike a heartfelt Goodbye and Good Luck!  Many people expressed their gratitude for how much he helped them over the years, but along with the gratitude were stories about how they met Mike, how much Mike taught them, how Mike inspired them to keep going when it was the last thing they wanted to do. Some people had tears in their eyes as they expressed how much Mike means to them and how much they will miss his warmth and sense of humor. And more than one remarked on his great laugh.

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Posted by: Erika Silver Hillinger on Friday, April 1, 2016 at 8:00:00 am Comments (0)



Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Staff Spotlight: Alayna Cosores

We are proud to announce that, after an extensive search from all over the country,  Alayna Cosores has been named the Alpert JCC’s new ECE Director! Alayna grew up at the JCC, where she began attending the preschool when she was three. Alayna enjoyed her summers attending our summer camp programs and summer stock. In 1996, she joined the ECE staff with her first JCC job working as a Teachers’ Assistant in the afternoon preschool. She then became a Teacher when we moved to the new building in 1999.  She received her BA in Child Development from CSULB in 2003. Alayna also has her AA in Culinary Arts and loves to cook...

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Posted by: Erika Silver Hillinger on Tuesday, March 1, 2016 at 8:00:00 am Comments (0)



Monday, February 1, 2016

Staff Spotlight: Maureen Lawrence

Maureen Lawrence, or Ms. Maureen as she is known here at the J, has lived in Long Beach for 24 years and has been working at the JCC for almost 17 years. Ms. Maureen began here at the J as a Side by Side (now Yad B’Yad) teacher, and eventually became the Moving On teacher, a position she held for 10 years. About 3 years ago, Maureen was asked if she would be interested in doing the Movement program, and she was delighted. She brought to that her love for theater and music, adding “Music” to become the “Movement & Music” specialist...

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Posted by: Erika Silver Hillinger on Monday, February 1, 2016 at 8:00:00 am Comments (0)



Friday, January 1, 2016

Staff Spotlight: Ignacio Berumen

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Ignacio began his Aquatics career working for the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks and the American Red Cross 22 years ago. He joined the team at the Alpert JCC in October of 2014.

Although he enjoyed his time working for the City of LA, he jumped at the opportunity to work for the AJCC, where he says the position has “met and exceeded all my expectations.

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Posted by: Erika Silver Hillinger on Friday, January 1, 2016 at 8:00:00 am Comments (0)