The Light + Connection of Shabbat

The weekly ritual of Shabbat is an opportunity to slow down for a self-care moment. Chava Mirel, a local Jewish vocalist and prayer leader, calls it “a perfect nexus between joy and peace.”

Chava sees that peace and joy play out every week when she leads the J’s Tot Shabbat. Every Friday, families and their young children gather together to sing, dance, light candles, eat challah, and share the joy of Shabbat with one another.

“It’s the highlight of my week,” Chava says. “We leave behind the formalities of Shabbat and embrace the pure celebration aspect.” Parents bounce newborns in their arms, grandparents laugh as toddlers dance and play the drums—the room radiates joy.

“It doesn’t matter where I’m at emotionally, when I walk into that room, I feel loved,” Chava says. “I hope everyone feels that way too.”

Fan Yuan and Brian Sloan felt that warm connection when they moved to Mercer Island this past summer with their 7-month-old daughter, Kara. The J was one of their first stops, and Fan and Kara quickly became regulars at Tot Shabbat. Kara took to it right away, laughing and flapping her arms with the music. “It was the first time I saw her so excited like that,” Fan says.

Singing together is a part of Jewish tradition, and Tot Shabbat builds that foundation. It also encourages adults to reconnect to something they did as children but may not always make time for now, Chava says. Brian experienced how powerful that sense memory could be the first time he joined Fan and Kara at Tot Shabbat, and he found himself tearing up. “It reminded me of growing up,” he says. “All my Hebrew School memories came flooding back with the songs.”

That deep tradition of Shabbat—whether you celebrate every week or haven’t celebrated in years—is part of what Brian and Fan love about it. “It’s comfortable and a good way to ease into traditions,” he says. As they create their own family traditions, they see Tot Shabbat as a jumping off point to incorporate aspects of both of their heritages, from Shabbat dinners to Chinese New Year celebrations.

“I feel so strongly about Chinese traditions, just as much as I feel strongly about Jewish traditions, and I think it’s very important to keep them both in the family,” Fan says. “Brian grew up with these traditions and they made him who he is, and I want Kara to understand that.”

Fan and Brian are glad the J has quickly become part of their new tradition. “I feel like we found a big family here,” Fan says. They always feel welcome and accepted and part of a community—feelings that perfectly encapsulate Shabbat, Chava says.

“The lights of the Shabbat candles are symbolic of the light we see in each other’s eyes,” Chava says. “Shabbat is for connection with other people—that’s universal.”

Join us every Friday at the J on Mercer Island or at Crossroads Mall in Bellevue for Tot Shabbat 9:45 am.

P.S. You can help ensure programs like Tot Shabbat continue to be a welcoming place for families to make new friends and connect with their community and Jewish life by joining us at VISION 2020, our annual celebration and fundraiser on Saturday, January 11. Join us in strengthening connections and community! Get your tickets today.

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Welcoming a New Author Home

Author Karen Treiger at the Stroum Jewish Community CenterWhen first-time author Karen Treiger was ready to share her new book with the world, she knew the Stroum Jewish Community Center would be a meaningful venue. Karen has been connected to the J for 50 years — since she was a kid on the swim team — so it was exciting to return to the J as an adult, with her published book in hand.

“It felt like a homecoming, bringing my adult talents to this space,” Karen said. “This was the place where I grew up and was now being welcomed back as a new author. It was lovely.”

Karen’s book, “My Soul is Filled with Joy: A Holocaust Story,” chronicles her in-laws’ journey from their chance meeting in the forest outside the Treblinka Death Camp to their escape to America (read more about Karen’s book here). In the spring of 2019, on the eve of Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), she shared excerpts from the book with an intimate and thoughtful audience as part of the J’s Arts + Ideas season of author talks.

Karen wanted to share this Holocaust story with the J community because she believes it’s important to remind people of the stark contrast between our comfortable lives and the horrors people endured during the Holocaust. She hopes it encourages people to realize how lucky they are. Sharing these ideas at the J, in particular, was powerful for her because “it was on Mercer Island and at the JCC that I got my start as a person, and one of the messages of my book is that we should not take what we have in life for granted.”

The SJCC’s Arts + Ideas program brings a variety of artists to the stage — from world-renowned musicians and chefs to local stars — and Karen is grateful for the encouragement of local artists. “It makes our community one of support and help to our local talent,” she says. “It is very important for our local community to know what our own people are up to and what talents and fascinating projects we are all working on.”

Keep your eyes on our community to see what exciting new things are coming next!

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Faces of the J: Rockfeld Family

“The J has been an important part of our boys’ lives since the day we moved to Mercer Island (when our oldest was 1 year old, 10 years ago). They both attended ECS where they got their introduction to the J and Judaism and they met some of their best friends whose friendships continue today. From there, they participated in Dinky Dunkers, numerous summer camps, and J Explorers where dads and kids alike had a ton of fun at overnight camp. Finally, our entire family has participated in a number of J events including comedy shows, movies, and guest speakers. Our experience on Mercer Island and Seattle wouldn’t be the same without the friends and community we have gained through the J. They will last a lifetime!”

-Cindy & Scott Rockfeld


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Family + Community Connections at the J

The J is a place where generations of families come together to learn, laugh, play, and celebrate. The spirit of “l’dor v’dor”, from generation to generation, is felt throughout our community. From our grandparent and grandkid music class earlier this week led by Baby Jam to family traditions of attending Hanukkah parties or camp at the J.  

Longtime JCC member Linda Morgan recalls several occasions where generations of her family spent time at the J. She attended SJCC summer camp as a kid, and then her daughter and her granddaughters all followed in her footsteps. “There’s really nothing better,” she says. 

She also remembers attending a fitness class with both her mother and her daughter. “There were three generations of us in an aerobics class – it had nothing to do with Judaism, but it’s what got us here. It’s why we were here. And I’m kind of proud to have a JCC that has done this so successfully for so many people for so many years.” 

As the calendar turns to November and the holidays approach, the J has tons of activities and events to bring your family together. From School’s Out Camp to our family Hanukkah Concert + Celebration to a baseball flick for the whole family (just $5 for J members!), we hope you’ll continue to make the J part of your family’s tradition.

Here are some of the highlights coming up. For full calendar, CLICK HERE 


Sandra Bernhard: Music + Comedy 
Sat, Nov 2 | 8 pm 
The inimitable Sandra Bernhard’s “Quick Sand,” is a thrilling mix of comedy and rock ‘n’ roll, a raucous mix of political satire, pop culture commentary, and cabaret with The Sandyland Squad Band. Buy Tickets

Winter Class Registration Opens 
Mon, Nov 4 for SJCC members | Mon, Nov 11 for general public 
From favorites like gymnastics and karate to exciting new offerings from partners like Youth Theatre Northwest and Chess Wizards, we have tons of classes to keep your kids active and engaged this winter. Plus, we’re offering a new Winter Warm-Up mini-session so you can sample some winter classes before signing up for a full session. View enrichment lineup | View after school lineup 

Dinky Dunkers Registration Opens 
Mon, Nov 4 for SJCC members | Mon, Nov 11 for general public 
Dinky Dunkers youth basketball league is a great introduction for both girls and boys in kindergarten to third grade to learn basketball fundamentals and game strategies, as well as teamwork and sportsmanship in a safe, fun, and instructional environment. Practices start Jan 13; games run Jan 19-March 15. Learn more 

New to Town Happy Hour 
Tues, Nov 5 | 6:30 pm | Firefly Kitchens 
Learn about your gut health, snack on kraut, and jar your own in this hands-on fermentation 101 class. Afterward, join us at Reuben’s Brews for a locally handcrafted beer! Register

School’s Out J Camp 
Nov 11, 25, 26, 27 
When school’s out, J Camp is in! Join us for days of summer camp fun during the school year. Active group games, creative art projects, swimming, field trips, and special guests! Register

Museum Masterpieces in the U.S. (Part II) 
Nov 11-Dec 2 | 1-3 pm 
Art historian Kolya Rice discusses some of the greatest works of art housed in American museums. We’ll travel virtually to museums from Boston to LA to explore key concepts, themes, and analyses of art from around the world. Register

Movie Madness Marathon: SJFF Encores 
Sun, Nov 17 | 1 pm; 3:15 pm; 5 pm 
Three films, one day – binge on the best-of-fest from 2019 Seattle Jewish Film Festival. Single film tickets and all-day passes available. 


  • “Heading Home,” a family film about baseball in Israel. Tickets are just $5 for J members! Veggie hot dogs and ballpark food available for purchase. Buy Tickets 
  •  “Light of Hope,” an epic drama about the director of maternity home in WWII France. Buy Tickets 
  •  “The Tobacconist,” a coming-of-age buddy flick about Sigmund Freud. Buy Tickets

Osher @ the J: Black Holes are (Almost) Out of Sight 
Thurs, Nov 21 | noon bring your own lunch | 12:30 speaker 
Come learn about astronomical black holes, what they can (and can’t) do, and the part they play in the universe. Taught by UW professor emerita Julie Lutz, who does continuing research on stellar evolution. Register 

Chef Adeena Sussman Cookbook Talk + Tasting 
Thurs Nov 21 | 7 pm 
Chef Adeena Sussman, co-author of Chrissy Tiegen’s “Cravings,” is out with her first solo cookbook, “Sababa.” It’s personal and global, a tableau of regional flavors in its staggering and delicious variety — and it was named one of “The 13 Best Cookbooks of Fall 2019” by the New York Times. Buy Tickets

Hanukkah Concert + Celebration 
Sun, Dec 8 | 11 am activities/food | noon concert 
This Hanukkah, burn bright with us for a double-bill featuring Elana Jagoda and Chava Mirel – two nationally touring singers, guitarists, composers, prayer leaders, and recording artists. Plus: games, latkes, and activities for kids of all ages! Register 

Eight Nights: A Staged Reading 
Tues, Dec 10 | 7 pm 
The stories of eight immigrant/refugee families who inhabit the same apartment from 1949-2016. Staged reading performed by Book-It Repertory Theatre. Post-performance panel with playwright Jennifer MaiselBuy Tickets 

Hands on Hanukkah 
Sun, Dec 15 | 11 am-1 pm 
Hands-on crafts and activities for kids, at both Northgate Mall and Crossroads Mall. 

Hanukkah Meditation 
Thur, Dec 19 | 7 pm 
Our meditation series continues as we bring in the light of the holidays with Rabbi Olivier BenHaim. Register 

Kung Pao X-mas: ABE 
Wed, Dec 25 | 5 pm 
Join us for Chinese food and a movie as we watch ABE, a coming-of-age story where food heals and brings people together. Recommended for ages 12 and up. Buy Tickets 

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