By Stephanie Dworkin, Katz JCC, Cherry Hill Marketing Director
Every Friday night, Amy and Barney Kaplan travel two miles from home to celebrate Shabbat with their daughter Sarah, son-in-law Jason and their grandsons, Brandon and Adam. They enjoy a traditional Shabbat dinner featuring what has become lovingly known as “Nana chicken,” challah, wine (grape juice for the kids) and Shabbat candles.
“They look forward to it, and they know it’s special,” Amy says proudly about her grandsons. “Brandon will often ask, ‘How many Shabbats away?’ to understand how far off something is.”
This importance placed on their weekly Shabbat ritual is a testament to the Kaplan’s dedication to Jewish life; not just within their family, but also to the Jewish community here in South Jersey.
This past year, the Kaplans announced the Amy and Barney Kaplan Endowment Fund for the Katz JCC, funded via the Jewish Community Foundation (JCF). The endowment provides funds for Jewish ritual and holiday programming, as well as adult Jewish education at the JCC.
“I feel strongly that there needs to be a place where Jews can gather regardless of their differences,” Amy says. “The JCC is a place for all Jews and we wanted to further enhance that mission.”
Both Amy and Barney are longtime supporters of and are deeply involved in the Katz JCC and Jewish South Jersey. Amy is a JCC past President, has served as a Vice President and is currently a Board Member. She has chaired the Festival of Arts, Books and Culture, served on various JCC committees and is the current chair of the JCC’s new Jewish Grandparenting Center. She also served for several years on the Board of the JCC Association of North America. Professionally, she is the Library Director at Congregation Beth El in Voorhees and regularly contributes to the Jewish Community Voice in this capacity.
Barney, an ophthalmologist with Eye Associates for over 40 years, has volunteered his time to the Board of Directors of both the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey and the Jewish Community Voice, where he also served for several years as President. He is a current JCRC board member and is a board member of Health Care Quality Strategies Inc. (HQSI), which has been an avid supporter of the JCC’s Festival of Arts, Books and Culture. Barney and Amy are also lifelong members of Congregation Beth Tikvah. They truly embody the Jewish concept of l’dor v’dor, as seen through their grown daughters, Sarah and Naomi, who grew up via Jewish life at the JCC, Camp Ramah and religious school, and are now raising their children through this lens.
“We want to focus on the joy of Jewish life, with knowledge of challenges faced in the past,” said Barney. A self-proclaimed history enthusiast, Barney has a particular interest in Holocaust history; the diaries written by his great-uncle, Chaim A. Kaplan, are considered by Holocaust scholars to be some of the most notable documentation of life in the Warsaw Ghetto from 1939-1942.
In 2019, the Kaplans sponsored a trip through their donor advised fund for 125 Jewish children from South Jersey religious schools to visit the Auschwitz exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York. Through the generosity of their fund, plans are underway to sponsor another trip for hundreds of Hebrew school students, as well as adult members of the community, to visit the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia this fall. Future JCC programs, including Jewish holiday gatherings and adult education courses, are also eligible to receive funding.
When prompted to think about why they wanted to support current and future generations via an endowment fund, words that came to mind were gratitude, legacy and continuity. “My father flew over 50 missions in the Army Air Force during WWII and was awarded five Purple Hearts for his service. When our girls were younger, he gave one to each of them and over the years, shared his experiences with them. This helped them understand the concept of serving something larger than yourself. The same theme applies here; we want to play a small role in something bigger than ourselves that is contributing to the greater good. We’re so proud to be a part of the JCC and to offer opportunities to help it continue to thrive for years to come.”