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Innovative program promotes observance among JCC members

Connecticut Jewish Ledger
WEST HARTFORD, Conn., April 3 (JTA) — An innovative program developed by the Stamford Jewish Community Center to foster the spirit of Jewish holidays is being used by JCCs across the country. “Our purpose is to promote observance of all Jewish holidays in a non-threatening way and at no cost to the participants,” said Claude Bernstein, founder of Traditions On Wheels. The program originated at the Stamford JCC in September 1993. After it received a JCC Association award for excellence in creating a Jewish ambiance at the center, Traditions On Wheels was replicated in more than a dozen other JCCs. Bernstein hopes that by the year 2000, the Tradition On Wheels program will be in 50 JCCs across the United States. The Jewish home is the theme of Stamford’s Traditions On Wheels this year. Elementary-aged children and their parents enjoy hands-on projects, such as preparing a Shabbat meal or learning how to make a mezuzah, that bring them closer to their heritage. “Traditions On Wheels are for everyone,” said Shelley Buxbaum, Jewish life director at the Stamford JCC. “Traditions On Wheels is a gateway to Judaism and something they can take home.” A recent program called “Sharing Shabbat,” like any Shabbat observance, was a time for family and friends to get together. “This is a nice outreach program,” said Seth Stein of Bridgeport. “To me Shabbat is a family holiday,” With guitar slung over her shoulder, Rabbi Lisa Silverstein, rabbinic intern at Temple Sinai in Stamford, enthusiastically led the 30 families attending “Sharing Shabbat” in prayer, song, and other Shabbat traditions. She started by emptying her pockets of change and in the spirit of tzedakah, dropped the bright coins into a blue charity box shaped like a house. She then encouraged everyone to participate in the Sabbath blessings: over the candles, children, sweet wine, and the challah. For Tatyana Borsukivich, who immigrated with her family from Ukraine less than a year ago, programs like Traditions on Wheels are important. “It’s nice to know customs of the religion and to teach your children,” she said in lilting English, smiling as the 4-year-old daughter of another recent Ukrainian immigrant danced to the songs she has learned at Gan Yeladim, a preschool sponsored by Chabad Lubavitch of Fairfield County. “We couldn’t study Judaism in the Ukraine,” said Tatyana.