Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Three O'Clock Throwbacks part of JCC's 40th anniversary

 

Cast photo of the ‘Oklahoma’ production in 1976, which features interviewees, Sherri Tarr (second row, third from left, in dark brown pigtails), Allison Levie (second row, fifth from left, in blond pigtails), and director Bonnie Freidman (in the back with long blond hair in front of the barn).

This year marks the Jewish Community Center of Greater Orlando’s 40th year of building community, strengthening family life and promoting Jewish values. To help celebrate the occasion, the JCC embarked upon a social media retrospective of “Three O’Clock Throwbacks.” Everyday for two months this spring, the JCC posted a “throwback” photo from sometime in the last 40 years at 3 p.m. on its Jewish Community Center of Greater Orlando Facebook page.

“Our goal with posting the Three O’Clock Throwbacks on Facebook was twofold,” explained Amy Schwartz, the JCC’s marketing director. “First, we thought it would be a great way to publicly celebrate the JCC’s history with a large number of people who may or may not still be connected to the JCC. And on a deeper level, we hoped that the process of posting and tagging photos would reconnect people with long-lost JCC friends.”

For Penny Gold, it did just that. “Our whole family loved the posted photos,” said Gold, whose family history with the JCC is strong. She, her husband, Barry, and her sons, Hunter, Parker and Tayler, all have worked at the JCC, and her youngest son Lander was a camper. Now, two of her grandchildren, Mason and Layla, go to Camp J.

“The throwbacks I loved the most were the Teens on Wheels. They brought back so many great memories of my boys participating in the program.” As a result of the throwbacks, “we have reconnected with many of the former counselors and are working on a counselor reunion.”

The Teens on Wheels selections were also popular with a former teen camper and lifeguard, David Villegas, who went to Camp J as a teen in the late 1990s. Villegas works in music and entertainment in Miami Beach.

“I miss the Teens on Wheels for sure,” Villegas said. “Life moves so fast. So when you get to see a picture from your past, it’s almost like déjà vu. All of the memories from that moment come rushing back, and it’s great to relive those experiences that helped make you who you are.”

While he’s not currently involved with JCC life, “I am sure one day my kids will be going to JCC summer camp.”

Es Cohen, who served as the JCC’s membership assistant and then director from 1988-2004, said “all the photos were awesome to see.” Her family history with the JCC is steep—sons Justin and Matt Presser grew up there, and Shayna’s Village, the JCC’s parenting center, was named for her daughter, Shayna Cai Presser, who passed away from a brain tumor at 17 months.

“Of course the ones of Justin and Matt were the best! They brought back memories of the fun times the boys had at the JCC. They’ve remained lifelong buddies with many of the friends they made there from all those years ago.”

Justin Presser now serves as an officer of the JCC’s Board of Directors.

Marni (Selber) Chepenik, another former JCC staff person, also appreciated the throwbacks. Chepenik has been involved with the JCC since she was in preschool. Now she serves on the JCC’s Parent Advisory Council, her husband Lee co-chairs the Golf Class, and her three children attend the JCC’s Richard S. Adler Early Childhood Learning Center and Camp J.

Chepenik especially appreciated the conversations that would result from a photo being posted. “It was not only fun to see the old pictures, but it was very neat to be able to see other people’s comments as well.”

The Three O’Clock Throwbacks reminded Ricki (Feldberg) Wieselthier, who attended the JCC camp in the 1980s, of what she called “the best summers.”

“It’s hard to believe they’re all grown up now. I am now Facebook friends with a lot of the people I went there with.”

Wieselthier enjoyed sharing the photos with her triplets, who all went to the JCC preschool, and are now active in BBYO.

The Three O’Clock Throwbacks also reached campers from the JCC’s first years.

“Facebook has been an incredible way to reconnect, and seeing the pictures from the past decades has been heartwarming,” said Sherri (Haberman) Tarr. “What is amazing is how many of those people I remember and am now friends with on Facebook.”

Tarr was born and raised in Orlando, but moved to Atlanta when she graduated from high school in 1983. Currently, Tarr serves as the Development Director of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans.

“I truly believe that it’s because I had such a close connection with the JCC, and that it taught me the value of Jewish community, that I work where I do now.”

Another camper from the JCC’s first years, Allison Levie, also found the throwbacks to be thrilling.

Allison Levie’s family moved from New York to Altamonte Springs in 1972, and became charter members of the JCC the following year. Seeing the daily throwbacks brought back vivid memories for Levie.

“When I close my eyes, I can still picture the layout of the old wooden house, its musty smell, and how cool it was to play inside of the airplane fuselage that was also on the property,” Levie recalled. “I also had one very distinct memory from the summer of 1973, when I won the end-of-camp award for ‘best all-around camper.’ Not sure what I did to deserve that title, but I was very proud!”

Teens on Wheels campers in 2004 visit the Carowinds amusement park in North Carolina. David Villegas is in the back all the way on the right.

Levie, who is now a member of the Congregation of Reform Judaism, appeared in a throwback photo from 1976 featuring the summer camp cast of “Oklahoma,” which was directed by Bonnie Friedman.

Due to the posting of the photo, Levie was able to reach out to Friedman on Facebook. “I had the opportunity to tell Bonnie Friedman how important she was to me at a certain time in my life. I looked to her as a second mother.”

The final throwback posted was not a photo, but the brochure from the JCC’s first summer camp, which began on July 9, 1973.

“I was a part of that first summer, but had not seen the flyer before, and I got a thrill from the activity descriptions and how relatively inexpensive camp was 40 years ago.”

Back then, camp cost $20 per week.

To check out all of the JCC’s Three O’Clock Throwbacks, visit http://www.facebook.com/orlandojcc, and scroll to the posts from March-May.

 

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