JUNE 7, 2018, MARBLEHEAD – Izzi Abrams, an early childhood educator who co-chairs the Children’s Services at the Swampscott Public Library, was named the new president of the Jewish Community Center of the North Shore at its annual meeting last Sunday.
She replaced John Gilberg, who handed over the reins to Izzi Abrams after a two-year term. “I grew up in this building. I went to nursery school here, so for me being president was especially rewarding,” said Gilberg.
Abrams spoke of growing up in Worcester, where her father, Rabbi Abraham Kazis, served as her role model for taking leadership roles in the Jewish community. “He was a humble leader, a man of the people,” she said. “I hope to emulate him in engaging new members.”
Over the years, Abrams has been president of the local chapter of ORT (a non-profit global organization that provides education and skills training for needy Jewish communities); chair of the Holocaust Center and Youth to Israel Program; president of the Jewish Journal Board of Overseers and Chair of the JCCNS International Jewish Film Festival.
When Abrams, first arrived on the North Shore, she was approached by Bea Paul to join the JCC as an afternoon kindergarten enrichment teacher. Over the next 10 years, she continued to work at the JCC in various areas, including teen and adult services, eventually becoming Director of the Preschool. She retired in 1994 and now works the Swampscott Public Library.
Of becoming JCCNS President, she said, “I’ve come full circle.”
She stressed that the JCC is welcoming for all who want to be involved in giving back to an agency that has done so much for this community. “I invite you to join me on this journey,” she said to a standing ovation.
Rabbi Michael Ragozin, of Congregation Shirat Hayam, began the opening invocation on a personal note, remarking how much the JCCNS had become even more of a blessing to him after he tore his ACL.
He noticed the subtle nuances during his many months of recovery. “This is not just a place to rehab or workout. It’s about the people. The JCC is a promoter of relationships and community,” he said to the crowd of more than 100.
Gilberg said two of the biggest challenges he faced were balancing the needs of the many different groups that use the JCC — it is a school, workout center, summer camp, senior center and community source of Jewish programming — and keeping its financial boat afloat.
“I give kudos to Executive Director Marty Schneer, who manages all the J’s facets expertly,” Gilberg said. He credited CFO Tom Cheatham with anchoring the financial information and providing numbers “like we never had before.”
Annual revenue and net surplus both increased in 2017, and the endowment grew by $1.5 million, creeping closer to its $5 million goal. “My happiest moment will be when we hit that $5 million,” Gilberg said.
Schneer drew laughter introducing the new board and officer installation ceremony as “part of peaceful transition of leadership,” handing over the microphone to Barbara Schneider, Jewish Journal Publisher Emerita and JCCNS life-board member and past President, to do the honors.
She introduced Abrams as “our community’s cultural guru” and advised her, above all, to “have fun and do good.”
Bea Paul then presented Jason Garry, JCCNS Director of Facilities, with the Bea Paul Professional Staff Award. JCCNS Life Board Member Michael Eschelbacher presented Virginia Dodge, longtime JCCNS supporter and member, with the Samuel S. Stahl Community Service Award. Gilberg presented the Presidential Award to Kate Clayman, Heather Glick and Kate Urman.
New JCCNS Board of Directors members, whose two-year terms will expire in 2020, are: John Gilberg, Betsy Rooks, Shari Cashman, Anthony Chamay, Daniel Gelb, Peter Short, MD, Susan Syversen, Courtney Weisman, Sara Winer and Joseph Zang.
Joining President Abrams as officers are Vice Presidents Dr. Randall Patkin and Adam Forman; Treasurer Dr. Michael Goldstein MD, and Secretary Kate Clayman.