Fond Farewell To Jewish Community Center
WILKES-BARRE — Members of the local Jewish community on Sunday bid a fond farewell to the building that has housed the Jewish Community Center of Wyoming Valley for the past 60 years.
However, their mood was joyful for the most part, as they prepare to open a new state-of-the-art community center in Kingston next week.
The farewell ceremony at the South River Street center capped a day of celebration of the Jewish holiday Purim, also known as the Feast of Lots.
People packed the community center’s meeting room for the Purim Carnival, which included games, food, and a costume parade for children. A farewell ceremony, which featured a video that detailed the center’s history, concluded the day’s events.
David Schwager, a member of the Jewish Community Center board of directors, described the ceremony as “a closing of the gates.”
“We’re putting closure on the facility that’s been our home these many years,” Schwager said, speaking over happy chatter from families still enjoying the carnival.
However, while the events that formed happy memories took place in the building where the community gathered one last time Sunday, those memories center on the people involved more than any physical space, Schwager said.
For all its sentimental value, the Wilkes-Barre center is “a building that has served its useful life,” Schwager said.
The Sidney and Pauline Friedman Center for Jewish Life, on Third Avenue in Kingston, will feature greatly expanded parking, better accessibility for the disabled, “greener” more cost-efficient climate control and expanded facilities for recreation including a regulation-sized basketball court, he said.
Randi Chapin and her daughter, Sydney Chapin, traveled from their home in Drums to take part in the farewell ceremony.
They said they will miss the old community center but look forward to enjoying the new one. Sydney Chapin, who held a string of balloons that did not quite hide a shy smile, said some of her earliest childhood memories focus on visits to the center.
The Westmoreland Club will purchase the South River Street property once the community center’s move to its new home is completed, Schwager said.
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