Joshua’s Summer of Growth

by on April 25, 2015

Joshua and his counselor

Joshua and his Camp Keff counselor at PJCC

by Diana Blank Epstein

Approaching the entrance of the PJCC, visitors are greeted with our guiding principles etched upon the pillars. One of these is Hachnasat Or’chim, which means “welcoming all” in Hebrew. I experienced this inclusivity up close when my husband and I registered our young son, who has special needs, for his very first “TYPICAL” camp experience—an experience that ended up exceeding all expectations.

Our family has enjoyed a long history with the PJCC. As young boys, my husband David and his brother attended camp when the PJCC was located in Belmont, and our daughter, Rachel, now 9, is a preschool graduate. That’s why this past summer my husband and I were overjoyed to witness Rachel and her 6-year old brother, Joshua, create their own positive memories at Camp Keff. Our son has autism and, like many children with ASD (autism spectrum disorder), he is constantly working on developing his language, fine motor and social skills with a variety of competing sensory needs.

When I first approached Camp Keff Director Ian Israel and mentioned our interest in camp, he encouraged us to register and extended the invitation to other special needs families as well. His welcoming approach and supportive attitude put our minds at ease since we wanted to do everything possible to ensure that Joshua had a safe, fun, and positive camp experience. Before camp started, two meetings were held to address Joshua’s needs. The first meeting included Joshua’s case manager from his Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) agency, Gateway. This is the agency responsible for providing Joshua with a one-to-one aide at all times during camp. Without this support, Joshua wouldn’t be able to attend camp since he sometimes runs off or engages in unsafe climbing. Gateway and Camp Keff developed a terrific team approach that was critical in helping day-to-day logistics run smoothly for Joshua and all staff involved.

The second meeting included David Neufeld, PhD, Director of Special Needs at Jewish Learning Works, Joshua’s assigned Camp Keff counselors, and Jenalyn Villanueva, the Kindercamp head unit. We discussed additional arrangements for making the camp process run as smoothly as possible.

Throughout the summer, Ian and his staff constantly reassured us that Joshua’s camp experience would be awesome and whatever came up, they would handle it. “We’ll go with the flow” was Ian’s mantra. Trust me, those words are meaningful for parents who carry the additional stress of having a child where so many elements are unpredictable. Knowing that we were leaving our boy in a setting where he was cared for, wanted, and welcomed, was a special gift my husband and I will always be appreciative of. From swinging on ropes and running obstacle courses to climbing rock walls, learning to swim, and initiating interactions with peers and counselors, we watched Joshua flourish and thrive. Although he couldn’t communicate this in words, he knew that at Camp Keff he felt accepted and loved for who he is. Just recently, his special education teacher told us that Joshua’s speech, attention, and class participation have significantly improved compared to the last school year, and we attribute this to his camp experience.

This Inclusive community went out of their way to welcome Joshua and made him feel like any other child experiencing the joys of summer camp.

And, as the parents of this lovely boy, this was perhaps the greatest gift of all.

 

Your New Workout: Interval Training

by on April 23, 2015

interval training pjcc

by Torre Pusey, PJCC Personal Trainer

Ready to take your workout to the next level? Want to burn more calories, burn more fat, see faster results, and be constantly challenged? Consider Interval Training.
Often referred to as HIIT, High Intensity Interval Training has become a powerful tool for the everyday gym user. HIIT workouts evolve around a simple concept: alternating bursts of intense activity with intervals of lighter training, such as taking a brisk walk injected with quick jogs.
HIIT workouts can be done anywhere and at any time. It isn’t necessarily about the exercise, the equipment, or the location. Just like the name suggests, the intensity must be high to receive the benefit. In other words, you have to be willing to work harder than usual and get a bit uncomfortable, but the payoff is worth it.

Benefits of HIIT
The majority of HIIT workouts are less than 30 minutes and, if done three times a week, can produce amazing results. Additional benefits include:

  • Improved aerobic capacity
  • No need for special equipment
  • Increased metabolism
  • Lose weight, not muscle

Before trying any new exercise routine, remember that it’s always best to first check with your health care provider.

Your HIIT Workout
A Basic HIIT plan usually includes four levels with a rotation of heavy exercise and recovery (resting). HIIT workouts don’t have to be long and that feeling of “I can’t do any more!” usually lasts just a few seconds before you get to rest. Samples of HIIT exercises include jump rope, stationary bike, jumping jacks, sprinting, and Battle Ropes, and the levels are:

  • Light: exercise for 30 seconds, recovery for 90 seconds, repeat
  • Medium: exercise for 30 seconds, recovery for 60 seconds, Repeat
  • Heavy: exercise for 30 seconds, recovery 30 seconds, repeat
  • Extreme: exercise for 30 seconds, recovery for 15 seconds, repeat

Try each stage for two weeks. If the routine continues to be difficult, stretch it out a few days until you are ready to jump to the next level. Consequently, if you find a stage too easy, progress to the next level sooner or try a more challenging exercise.
For optimum results, work with a certified fitness professional to create a personalized HIIT training plan. HIIT requires effort and sweat, but stick with it and you’ll be rewarded with impressive results.

 

The Butterfly Project: Remembering Children of the Holocaust

by on April 19, 2015

butterfly project

Inspired by the book I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children’s Drawings and Poems from the Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944, the Butterfly Project was initiated by two teachers in the San Diego Jewish Academy in 2006 to remember the 1.5 million children who perished in the Holocaust.

The butterflies in our PJCC atrium were created by hands of all ages. Our youngest artists learned that every butterfly is unique, fragile and beautiful for its individuality.

Since the start of the project more than 200 communities have participate in countries including Israeli, Mexico, Canada, Austria, Cuba Tanzania, Morocco and Poland.

This type of community-based art goes hand-in-hand with the emotional work by Mi Polin, on display April 1 – June 25, 2015 in the PJCC Art Gallery.

Judaica Finds Life By Remembering The Past

by on April 14, 2015

mi-polin-625

This spring the PJCC Art Gallery is proud to present an exhibition highlighting the multifaceted projects of Mi Polin, (Hebrew for “From Poland”). Mi Polin, founded by the couple Helena Czernek and Aleksander Prugar, is the first post-war brand that designs and produces Judaica in Poland. Mi Polin’s mission is two-fold: to create a new contemporary look of Jewish ritual objects, and to prove that Jewish life in Poland is vibrant. They embrace the future by giving great reverence to the past.

The PJCC reached out via email with a few questions for Helena and Aleksander, who are based in Poland.

Can you give an overview of the work you create as Mi Polin?

We are a design studio specializing in contemporary Jewish design. We have three fields of activity: we design, produce and distribute top quality contemporary Judaica, using only the finest bronze, crystal, ceramics, or wood. We also provide promotional graphic design for Jewish
institutions; for example, we designed a logo and commemorative art project for the anniversary of Warsaw Getto uprising. Last, we run Jewish design workshops for all ages and faiths.

We’re struck by your Mezuzah from this Home project, where you visit Pre-war Polish Jewish homes to recreate a mezuzah (a prayer casing found on doorposts of Jewish homes) from the original doorframe a mezuzah once inhabited.

“This is a series of new mezuzot—bronze casts of mezuzah traces. When you affix the mezuzah to your doorframe, you fill the emptiness and give it a second life. Sitting untouched for many years, these mezuzot can now fulfill their holy function. This realization is about the past. It brings memory about pre-war Jewish Poland and is also about life because remembrance is
a proof of life.”

Mi Polin offers to custom-make a mezuzah from a relative’s ancestor’s home town. Has this genealogy project uncovered any memorable stories or connections?

“We were commissioned to do a mezuzah for a Polish-Jewish press journalist. We arrived to Sokołów and noticed the front part of the building was under reconstruction. When we came closer we saw that old door was replaced by a new, plastic one. We were shocked because we thought that we lost this mezuzah trace. Then we met a resident who told us that the door had been replaced on Friday and on Monday it would be taken to a dump. We found the original
doorframe with the mezuzah trace in the back yard! Imagine how lucky we were to find a doorpost of an 80 year-old building on the last possible day. Immediately we decided to take it with us. We transported it by bus, by bicycle and on our backs to Helena’s home 25 miles away. Now this doorpost is in our studio.

“Another story—we did a bronze cast of mezuzah trace that was found at doorpost of Szeroka 38 in Kazimierz. We found that the most notable resident of Szeroka 38 was a very famous rabbi Joel Sirkes (1561-1640), called BaCH from the title of his book Bait Chadash. He was a Chief Rabbi of Krakow and the head of yeshiva in 1618-1640. He was buried in Remuh Cemetery behind this building. Our documents show, and we are almost 100% sure, that this mezuzah was mounted by Rabbi Sirkes by himself! We already done casts from 15 cities in southeast Poland.”

Your exhibition at the PJCC will include a brand new series documenting a multi-faith holiday art installation. Can you explain the site-specific setting, project, and response to the piece?

“This year Hannukah and Christmas are near the same time and we wanted to create a holiday atmosphere common for all Jews and Christians of Poland. The place of the event was carefully selected. It was organized at Brzozowa Square placed in Kazimierz, the former Jewish district in Kraków. Before the war, this area was a place where Jews and Christians lived together. Jews lived in buildings at left side, Christians at right. In the middle was a square where these people used to meet every day.

“We prepared 500 Christmas and Hannukah ornaments cut from mirror plexiglass and hung them on trees in the middle of Brzozowa Square, resulting in bright, ecumenical Trees of Light (pictured above). To create a magical atmosphere we added fog. The final work looked beautiful and dreamlike. Mirror ornaments were bouncing light in every direction. We planned Trees of Light as a viral event. Photos of Trees of Light were shared via social media and have been seen by more than 40,000 people.”

Visit the Mi Polin (From Poland) Exhibit at the PJCC April 1 – June 25, 2015.

 

A Day in the Life of Matzah: Recipes for Passover

by on March 31, 2015

Having cleansed your pantry of all hametz, you are left with few options to fill your carb quota during Pesach (Passover). The challenge is to find new and exciting ways to use matzo in your meals. So, here are some ideas to add variety to your Passover meals.

Breakfast

matzo-granola-150Matzo Granola
If it is from Martha Stewart, it must be good! A delicious way to start the day.
(via Martha Stewart)

 

Lunch

matzah-grilled-cheese-150Matzo Grille Cheese
If anything can make matzo look tasty, it’s cheese! Here is and easy way to turn an old classic into a trendy lunch item.
(via Popsugar)

 

 

matzah-pizza-150Matzo Pizza 
Most likely we’ve all created a version of matzo pizza. But, hey, pizza is delicious on any crust!
(via Macaroni Kid / Gina Benezra)

 

Dinner

matzah-lasagna-150Matzah Lasagna
The fresh ingredients, including spinach and tomatoes, makes this lasagna not only tasty but also pleasing to the eye.
(via Matkonation / Danya Weiner)

 

Dessert

matzah-choc-chip-150Passover Chocolate Chip Cookies
It is hard to go wrong with chocolate chip cookies no matter what. These are no exception. Buttery and chocolatey, they will satisfy your sweet cravings.
(by Kathy Kersul-Wiener via Tori Avey)

 

matzah-smore-150Passover S’mores
S’Mores aren’t just for Lag B’omer! Add some chocolate and a marshmallow to your matzo and, BAM!, you have a dessert that will please kids of all ages!
(via Ingredients, Inc.)

 

For Fun

pepper--frog-150Bell Pepper Frogs
These were just too cute to leave out of the list. What a clever way to add plague decorations to the table.
(via The Foodies)

 

 

 Learn more about Passover and other Jewish holidays >>

 

Improving Your Memory

by on March 23, 2015

memory

“Memory is the mother of all wisdom.”
― AESCHYLUS

With advancing age, many adults worry not only about their health, but also about their memory. First, let us examine why we value our memory, and then look at some of the latest research in how to improve memory.

With the externalization of memory by cell phones, computers, digital photographs, books, and pencil and paper, one can wonder why we need our brains to remember anything at all. However, thousands of years ago the major way we passed along information was orally, which required focused attention and memory. Dating back 2500 years, the Iliad and the sequel, the Odyssey, were transmitted orally by the rhythm of the words. It is said that the Torah, or Five Books of Moses, was memorized by Moses, then taught to the leaders of the Hebrew people, and then passed on to the 1 million or so who left Egypt around 1500 BCE. The Torah chant or trope aided memorization, and may have even contributed to more precise interpretation. For 1000 years, not one word of Torah was recorded in the written word. The value of “knowing” the Torah in the mind was that it could be scanned quickly for reference and applied meaningfully to any life situation. Today, with the exception of some Torah and Talmudic scholars, few possess this skill. Although computers are useful memory tools, digitalized knowledge cannot be applied in situations requiring emotional awareness and response. For example, a musician who performs a piece from memory can evoke musical pathos or elation that extends beyond the printed notes.

There are scores of self-help books on improving memory. One that I recently enjoyed reading is Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by an investigative journalist, Joshua Foer. He states this about the process of improving his memory, “My experience has validated the old saw that practice makes perfect. But only if it’s the right kind of concentrated, self-conscious, deliberate practice.” The main technique he utilized was the “PAO system.” A specific person, action, or object is associated with a specific card in a deck, or a segment of poetry, or a number to be recalled. I won’t reveal the ending of the book, but the memory feat Joshua Foer was able to accomplish was quite extraordinary. Moreover, the tools he used can be learned by anyone.

There have been many medical studies to investigate memory loss and interventions to improve it. Despite early hopes that computerized brain games or taking gingko biloba could make a significant difference, follow up studies have not confirmed their long-term benefit. One novel medical study from UCLA (in the journal Aging, September 2014) showed actual Reversal of Cognitive Decline. In this study, 9 of 10 patients with early Alzheimer’s, or mild and subjective cognitive impairment improved within 3-6 months using a comprehensive program involving up to 36 interventions. The one patient who did not improve had advanced dementia. Patients who had quit their jobs because of poor memory were able to return to work. Notably absent from the regimen were prescription medicines. Although the program was personalized, here are some of the key components:

  1. Exercise 30-60 minutes, 4-6 times per week. (Exercise stimulates the growth of new neurons of the hippocampus, the memory center of the brain, and preserves existing neurons.)
  2. Eat a healthy diet. Eliminate simple carbohydrates, increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, and non-farmed fish.
  3. Reduce stress; meditate, practice yoga, or listen to music.
  4. Aim for 8 hours of sleep per night.
  5. Fast 12 hours per night including 3 hours prior to bedtime to reduce sugar and insulin levels. (The higher one’s glucose, the greater the risk for memory loss.)
  6. Supplements such as B12, Vitamin D, fish oil, and curcumin were individualized in this study.

Although none of the participants followed the protocol entirely, the results were still impressive. Dr. Dale Bredesen, the neurologist and author of the study, advises a full clinical trial to substantiate the findings.

I instruct my patients who have concerns about their memory to incorporate heart-healthy habits: “What is good for the heart is good for the brain.” Other measures that aid our memory that I have witnessed watching my 3-year-old granddaughters and 92- year-old mother include:

  1. Learn by song or rhyme. Think of the ABC song. Singing or chanting triggers additional nerve pathways to aid memorization and recall. Whenever I attend Shabbat services with my mother, chanting of a prayer aids her ability to remember it.
  2. When I observe my granddaughters learning a new word, they repeat the word out loud. When you meet a new person, try to state the name of the person 2-3 times to reinforce it in your memory bank.
  3. New experiences add links to memory circuitry. Socialize with others, take your children or grandchildren to the zoo, or travel to maximize the opportunity for memorable moments. Stay active.

In summary, keep yourself focused, exercise your mind, and practice a healthy lifestyle to stay sharp. Your personal memories are valuable because they define you. Protect them.

Jerry Saliman, MD is a volunteer internist at Samaritan House Medical Clinic in San Mateo. He retired from Kaiser South San Francisco after working there more than 30 years. While at Kaiser SSF, Dr. Saliman was also Chief of Patient Education. He received the 2012 “Lifetime Achievement Award” given by the Kaiser SSF Medical Staff.

Editing acknowledgement: Ellen Saliman

Neither the PJCC or our guest columnists provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please make your health care decisions in partnership with your health care provider

Breakthroughs In Molecular Imaging

by on March 5, 2015

The de la Zerda Group at the Stanford University School of Medicine is making strides in being able to idenify and characterize tumors in clinical settings. Adam de la Zerda
visited the PJCC to describe the revolutionary molecular imaging technique his team pioneered.

Adam was chosen as one of Forbes 30 Under 30 in Science in 2012 and 2014.

Functional Training: Taking Your Workouts To The Next Level

by on February 24, 2015

Chris-Nash-625

By Chris Nash, PJCC Personal Trainer

As a fitness professional for more than 15 years, I’ve witnessed many changes in the fitness industry. It used to be that gyms were limited to traditional equipment, such as bench and leg presses, that worked just one or two muscles at a time.

But in recent years, a growing trend is functional training. This is a classification of exercise that involves training the body for activities we perform on a daily basis; movements that require all your muscles to work together as they do in real life.

Does this sound strange? Perhaps, but Steve Jobs always said “Think different” and that’s what the fitness industry is doing. Traditional weights and machines have been around for decades and continue to serve an important purpose. However, with the introduction of functional training, you can now work several muscle groups at one time. Not only do you enjoy a well-rounded workout, but this form of exercise also keeps you from plateauing.

TRX is a good example of functional training. When it was first introduced to the public ten years ago, TRX had a profound effect on the fitness industry. TRX, which was developed for Navy Seal Training, involves using a set of straps as your anchor point and leveraging your own body weight as a form of resistance. TRX has been very well received and as a result, has opened doors to even more creative methods of training, such as Battle Ropes, Kettlebells, and other fitness tools, all offered at the PJCC.

As a trainer, functional training has changed me for the better. Not a day goes by that I don’t discover a new benefit from the different tools that I use. Better yet, my clients are getting stronger, experiencing effective workouts, and seeing results faster.

If you’d like to try out TRX, Battle Ropes, Kettlebells, etc., call the PJCC’s Fitness Desk at 650.378.2703 or check out the Fitness Schedule of ongoing classes.

The Case for Camp — Why Kids Need It Now More Than Ever

by on February 19, 2015

pjcc summer camp

By Peg L. Smith

Change is a part of life. It is often directly related to survival and can enrich one’s life in ways unexpected. Childhood is in essence a time of profound change and development. It is exciting and disquieting at the same time. When it comes to our children, we need to be sure that change is made for the better.

We’ve been so concentrated on the brain, we forget about the rest of our bodies. This change in focus has lead to an obesity rate that is unacceptable. Our kids are not as healthy as the Continue reading

Video: How We Think About Israel

by on February 13, 2015

Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman, of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, spoke at the PJCC recently. He gave us some wonderful insight into the thinking of both Israeli and American Jews. He provided us with a new way for the Jewish Community to think and talk about Israel. Get ready to be inspired!