Come Back Home

This year, the Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg’s Annual Campaign theme is “Come Back Home.”  Phil Bloom, this year’s campaign chair and a native of Harrisburg, has returned to our community after more than twenty years away. He immediately jumped in and became engaged in the community.

Phil demonstrates the special connection so many of us have with this community, with this city, and with its culture. Whether we grew up here, spent part of our lives here, or still live in Harrisburg, there is this special connection that if nurtured,  can be very rewarding.

So come visit, stop by, and say hello when you’re in town. Let us show you how we have changed, and yet how we have stayed the same. Let us share with you where our community is today, and share with us what you remember about living here and what your hopes are for this town.

Below you will find some more of the stories about the community and some of the ongoings here. Enjoy!

Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions, suggestions, concerns, or anything else to share.


Director of Development, Marketing, and Communications

The world is a classroom for students at the Brenner Family Early Learning Center, pictured here in the garden at the JCC.

Jr. Maccabi athletes brought home more than a dozen medals at this year's competition in Baltimore, Maryland.

Message from your Neighbor


I hope this newsletter finds everyone enjoying the crazy, hazy days of summer and starting to think about the upcoming Jewish high holidays.  Rosh Hashanah begins early this year on Sunday, September 9th!


Like me, perhaps some of you also have wonderful memories of being kids in Harrisburg during the Jewish high holidays.   In my family, we would go to shul at Kesher Israel Synagogue, and then congregate at the apartment of my Aunt Elkie (Koplovitz) z”l on Green Street.  Her apartment was not far from both Kesher Israel and Beth El Synagogues.  Sometimes we would enjoy a walk along the Susquehanna River, or at Italian Lake.  As I grew into adulthood, I would also enjoy having an opportunity to come back home to Harrisburg and visit people and places that were so instrumental during my younger years.


Now, I am entering “senior citizenhood” (how did that happen!), both my beloved parents (Maish & Harriet Raffel z”l) are gone, and sadly I don’t have a lot of reasons to come back to Harrisburg very often. Until my parents passed away, I was really not involved at all philanthropically with the Harrisburg Jewish community.  After my mother died in January 2008, and then my father passed away in April 2009, I then realized that I was now the next “link-in-the-chain” of Jewish history in Harrisburg since they were both gone.  I also realized how much I appreciated what my parents, and their generation in Harrisburg did for me, and indeed did for all of us as we were growing up.


So, I realized that now it was my turn, and I got involved.  I wanted to be as strong of a link-in-the-chain as I could so that I could both honor my parents’ prior efforts & sacrifice, and help secure the future for generations to follow in Harrisburg. Part of my involvement has been with the Haverim Donor Society.  This Society is an effort primarily of former Harrisburgers who want to financially help the Jewish institutions of the Harrisburg area.  Institutions like the Jewish Community Center, Green Hills, Kesher Israel and Beth El Synagogues, the Yeshiva Academy (Silver Academy), and so on.  Many of these institutions had a very profound impact on our lives and need to remain vital for current & future generations.


In 2017 the Haverim Donor Society Endowment Fund surpassed the $50,000 mark.  This allowed us to distribute $2,500 in grants for 2018 to 5 different organizations! You too can become a link-in-the-chain of Jewish history in Harrisburg! Contribute to the Haverim Donor Society Endowment Fund and make an impact on the Jewish community of Greater Harrisburg.  Below are the giving levels, and the levels of involvement for voting on grant proposals for 2019:


  • $180 (minimum)           -           1 Vote
  • $500                             -           2 Votes
  • $1,000                          -           3 Votes
  • $1,800                          -           4 Votes


As the Jewish New Year dawns this year, I hope that you will join me to help our Harrisburg Jewish community remain vibrant and impactful as it was for us when we were growing up.  If you have any questions, or need any additional information, please feel free to contact either Oren or myself.


Wishing you all a happy, healthy, prosperous 5779.  Shanah Tova,

David Raffel

What We've Been Up to...

Production Notes from Seussical


“The bathtub looks amazing,” says Terry Fisher, complimenting set creator Kreg Paul’s work in preparation for the show, Seussical Kids. “He’s so good.  It’s worth the wait.”


Procuring sets.  Securing royalty rights. Playing Stage mom.  It’s all in a day’s work for Terry, the show’s producer and staff liaison for the JCC Drama Department.  Terry has practically lived in theatres.  “I’ve been here for close to 30 years, and even before that I was always around it because my mom was always in shows.”  It’s fair to say that at this point, Terry knows the ins and outs of children’s theatre.


In between yelling out direction and adjustment from the house toward the stage during a Monday night rehearsal and wondering aloud where one of the actors is, Terry tells me all the tasks on her plate to prepare for the show. “I help to pick the play, hire the director, costume and set designers, and choreographer,” Terry says. “We’ve already picked next year’s play.” (FYI: it’s Shrek Jr.!)


With 35 actors in the show (the majority of whom are Jewish or members of the JCC), this is no small production.  “The average production is at least $7,000.  When you add up the cost for the staff, the sets, the costumes, the royalties just to be able to perform the show, and the sound, it gets to be a lot.  Without generous donations, we’d lose a lot of money.  Most theatres don’t make a lot of money.”  The drama department has paid directors, choreographers, stage managers, and sound engineers for each show.


Most of Terry’s work is in the lead-up to the show:  coordinating all the moving pieces for the day of the production.  “On the day of the show, it’s mostly encouraging the kids, getting them in costumes, and keeping them calm because they’re either excited or nervous.  But if I’ve done my job correctly, everything is pretty much in place by the time I arrive that day.”


Why go through all the hassle just for a kid’s show?  “I love watching the end result.  This is what I’ve done my whole life, working with kids.  And the kids love it.  They sing the songs on the bus and in aftercare.  All the parents come to see the show.  It’s amazing to watch these kids.”


We are grateful for the funding provided by the Lois Lehrman Grass Foundation which enables us to provide theatre programming.

If you wish to support this and other programming for the Harrisburg community, there are countless ways you can help. Learn about them here.


This year's Campaign Chair is Phil Bloom.  This year's campaign theme is Come Back Home in recognition of Phil's engagement upon his return.  it is meant to invite all those who have been involved in the Federation and JCC in the past to come back to the J -- see what we have done and how we have grown and yet how we continue to serve our community and its growing and diversifying needs. As Phil said in a recent Community Review article "The day I moved back I was home again, in a Jewish community, and welcomed with open arms.  Life is busy.  You might have a job, family, or other responsibilities.  And no matter what, you can always come back home, because we’re here and we welcome you with open arms."

This year's campaign ends on August 31, 2018. As of 7/20/18, we are 85% of the way to our goal.

Donate Now and help us to continue to
support our community through the Annual Campaign.

Jewish Group Home Provides Residents with
Independence and Community

Thirty years ago, several families approached Keystone Human Services about establishing a group home for their children, who had developmental disabilities, to have a better life led by Jewish values.


Keystone Human Services agreed and established the Jewish Group Homes. The pair of homes, which house seven residents, are run by KHS, and their Jewish values, culture, and components are directed by Jewish Family Service through a special committee representing agencies and organizations in Harrisburg’s Jewish community. JFS provides training on the Jewish components of the facilities, and Norman Gras oversees the Kashrut of the homes and coordinates the celebration of Shabbat and Jewish holidays.


“The goal of the home is to facilitate independent living, employment, and involvement in the community”, says Norman Gras. The residents are given quite a bit of latitude to “choose their own adventure. Many of the residents are employed by farms or Weis markets, they spend their time at libraries or by going to movies. They have a great taste for trying new cuisines. Some of them, anyway,” says Norman with a laugh.


The home is funded by the government, but a standalone fund of the Jewish Community Foundation exists to enhance Jewish Life at the home. “They’ve provided kosher utensils, special equipment for Passover” praising the community effort of inclusion, Norman continues, “There’s a lot of parent involvement. Andrea Weikert and Terri Travers from the Jewish Community Center are always reaching out to invite the Home residents to every entertaining event. They’ve all been given a membership to work out in the fitness center, free of charge.”  Andrea stated that “We love having them here. They are always welcome at our events and they add so much to our story.”


Jenny Kornfeld says that part of the committee’s duties include brainstorming. “We talk about ways to get the residents involved in community activities like the Jewish Film Festival. They are of course always welcome at any of the synagogues.” Over the past year, the Group Home residents have participated in Mitzvah Day, The Great Big Challah Bake at the JCC, PJ Library’s Groovy Art Party, and more.


This year, the staff attended The Silver Academy Model Seder to familiarize themselves with the customs and traditions of the holiday to make this important time of year more authentic for the Group Home residents. It was “wonderful…for the staff because they were able to watch and participate and understand what is needed to run a Seder,” Jenny said, noting the sheer amount of extra effort that is provided by staff to impart the best experience possible for the residents. “The staff is not usually Jewish so it’s a big learning curve. They clean the house for Passover and lead the Seder. They conduct Hanukkah and other holidays.”


Jenny says the goal and desire of the advisory committee is to “encourage the community to remember these residents when they are having events and to reach out to see if the residents would like to participate.” 


Brenner Family ELC students climb Masada as part of its HUUUUGE Yom Ha'atzmaut Celebration. ELC curriculum instills Jewish pride and knowledge in all its students.

Girls on the Run participants ran in a 5K at Hershey this year. Girls on the Run teaches pre-teen girls lessons on self-respect and healthy lifestyles.

Art, socializing, and more at JCC Sip N' Paint Nights!

Kol Haneshama performed at this year's Israel at 70 Celebration. Harrisburg's only Jewish chorus performs at several events and locations throughout each year.

40 Years Ago, Hebrew High was already producing young scholars and leaders in our community. Recognize anyone from the class of 1978?

  • Hebrew High was renamed "Sababa" in 2017.  "Sababa" is slang for 'cool' in Hebrew.
  • Sally Jo Bronner began as the new director of Sababa in 2017. In a 2017 Community Review article, Sally Jo said that she sees the program as a stepping stone to lifelong Jewish learning.  "The goal is to make it relevant.  We have to keep our kids Jewishly engaged, socially and educationally.  If we do that, they will want to attend."
  • Classes in the 2017-2018 school year included Jewish Soul Food, Jewish Photography, Reimagining Jewish Harrisburg, Israeli Cinema, and Being Jewish on a College Campus.

Families come together at the JCC for the 
2018 Daddy-Daughter Dance

Thank You! Questions, comments, or concerns?
Please contact Oren Yagil at 717-236-9555 x3299.