Choices and decisions that reverberate through the ages.
The tale of a multi-generational tradition is something that is interlaced into the foundation of space, time and family.
For the Pasternak family, the Mandell JCC has become a tradition now shared with four generations.
For 98-year old Silvia Pasternak, her connection to the JCC began in 1956. Working for the Jewish Federation, which was located on Niles Street in Hartford with the parking lot adjacent to the JCC, Silvia found herself drawn to the J. With many friends who were members, and the frequent meetings she held inside the building, Silvia found a special place for her family, one that would help her son Fred be more aware of the many Jewish traditions.
“It was wonderful how many Jewish-themed programs and social activities they offered – including ballroom dancing for pre-teens, which my son remembers well. The programs and camps I enrolled Fred in provided a solid foundation for all children to stay on the path of Judaism.”
Fred’s relationship with the JCC would prove to be a special twist of fate.
“The JCC community became my extended family. They served my needs in so many ways – socially, physically (the pool, gym), and culturally (theater).”
In 1972, Fred met the love of his life, Jane the very first day she came to West Hartford. It seemed only natural that Jane and Fred would enroll their son Mathew in the preschool and later Hillary and Brett. When Hillary was in the 2’s program, Jane mentioned to the director of the preschool that if the JCC was ever looking for substitutes she would be interested. That was 1984. That summer in August, Jane received a class list in the mail and her 35-year relationship with the Mandell JCC commenced.
“The JCC became so much more than just a building where I worked, and a school for my children. As they grew up, we had birthday parties there in the old “Attic,” which is now the marketing department. My boys were involved in the theater program, sports and camps. We loved watching them grow up at the J where they developed countless lasting relationships. It was truly a privilege raising them in this community.”
The Pasternak family continues to raise their families with a connection to the JCC.
“My oldest son Mathew’s life literally changed with his involvement at the JCC,” says Jane. “He worked with the vacation program in Kids Korner where he met the love of his life, Gennifer (Gen).”
“We met at the craft table,” recalls Gen, who was the Children’s Director and Assistant Camp Director before transitioning to the ECC in 2009, becoming ECC Director in 2019. “We both went to UMass and ended up living in the same dorm. We would return to work summers at Camp Shalom. Today, we have been married for 12 years. Two of our children, Hayden and Logan, are alumni of the preschool, and our youngest Ryan is now in the toddler program.”
“When I began working in the ECC, I immediately felt a sense of community and knew it was a place that I wanted to raise my future children. Matt still talks about going to visit his grandmother, Silvia, when he was in the ECC, and now our kids talk about visiting their nana, Jane. How special is that?”
“That was the biggest joy of my career at the JCC,” says Jane. Where else can a grandparent watch their grandchildren play and flourish first-hand.”
Jane’s daughter Hillary also remains connected to the Jewish community in Greater Hartford working as a Digital Media Manager at the Connecticut Jewish Ledger. Her son Brett lives in New York. All three of my children still keep in touch with friends they made during their years at the J.
Her son Brett lives in New York with his wife Danielle and their baby Johanna. He still keeps in touch with many of the friends he made during his years at the J and cherishes his visits to the J when he is in town.
“Having four generations involved in our Jewish community for over half a century is extraordinary,” says Jane. “During every conversation I have with my mother-in-law, she always asks about how things are going at the JCC – her connection and love for the J is a part of who she is.”
“I am so proud that my family continues to be part of the JCC family,” adds Silvia, who worked as executive assistant to the director at the Federation for over 50 years – also an exceptional milestone. “To see that I have 4th generation family members taking part in the JCC family just warms my heart. I am a member for life and look forward to hearing about the continued prosperity in all they do.”
Back – Gennifer, Ryan, Jane, Fred, Mathew; Front – Logan, Silvia, Hayden