A Place To Call Home


The JCC of the Greater Five Towns, which has organized and run programs in South Shore synagogues and public schools for the past 26 years, has announced that it expects to sign a 99-year lease later this year that would allow it to build its first home on two acres of property owned by Temple Israel in Lawrence.

Rina Shkolnik, the Y’s executive director, said plans call for the building of a two-story, 60,000-square-feet full-service Y that would contain a pool, exercise room, gymnasium, auditorium, classrooms, lounge and offices.

Michael Rattner, the Y’s president, said that although he expects it to take until the end of the year to sign the lease for the property, “there is already an agreement between us” and Temple Israel to lease the space.

Shkolnik said the new building’s size, when combined with the 31,000 square feet the Y is already renting from Temple Israel for use by its nursery and new day care program, “would be almost the size of the Mid-Island Y.”

The JCC of the Greater Five Towns Y has been running a nursery program for the past 16 years. Initially, it leased space from Temple Beth El in Cedarhurst. It moved to Temple Israel two years ago, and its lease there has options to renew through 2016.

“We will have the nursery as long as we lease the other space,” Shkolnik said.

The new building, which is expected to cost between $25 million and $30 million, will take about three years to build. Even as the Y is developing plans for its new building, it is preparing to open its new day care program in September for children from 3 months to 18 months. Enrollment will be limited initially to 16 children.

Rattner stressed that the Y’s relationship with Temple Israel, a Reform congregation, is strictly a business one. “They have the land and we need the space,” he said. “Temple Israel approached us because it has a declining membership and the cost of managing the property is not declining. We were looking for a home for our nursery school. [The arrangement] is not unlike any other landlord-tenant relationship.”

Some members of the Orthodox community have heard “misleading information about our goals and vision,” Rattner said.

He was referring to reports that the Y was attempting to help the Reform congregation financially so that it could “move forward” and continue to function.

“If in fact because of the money we pay Temple Israel it can exist longer into the 21st century, that is their decision to make,” Rattner said. The Y serves 9,100 individuals from the Five Towns, Malverne, Lynbrook, West Hempstead, East Rockaway and part of Far Rockaway in Queens. It currently runs programs in 11 synagogues and seven public schools. Many of those sites will continue to be used even after the new building is erected because of the advanced age of the participants and the need to make it easier for them to attend.

“We offer classes mostly for older adults, Russian Jews, children and enrichment programs for child with special needs and for adults with disabilities,” Shkolnik said.

Plans call for the new Y building to be closed on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays.“We for the community we serve, we need to be closed on Shabbat,” Shkolnik explained. “This is the right thing to do and we feel strongly that we should be closed on Shabbat. … We are also a kosher facility.”

The Y would also have different hours for men and women to use the pool.

“We are not the only JCC that serves the Orthodox, Reform and haredi, and the way the other JCCs solved this issue we will solve it,” Shkolnik said. “Ninety-six percent of the children in our nursery school are Orthodox,” Carol Harrison, the Y’s board chairwoman, pointed out. “They can’t wait for us to build a full-service JCC where the mothers could drop off their children and then attend a lecture. There will be a world of opportunity for them at a full-service JCC.”